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Pique n' your interest

Take a time out

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Although it’s probably there for safety reasons, the sound of the bell that rings every time a chairlift starts up always reminds me of the opening bell of a boxing match.

When said chairlift is all that stands between you and 30 centimetres of fresh powder, the boxing analogy is even more appropriate. The battle has begun.

Last season was unusual for Whistler in that the powder days tended to happen at all at once, and were separated by long dry stretches. When we did get snow, high winds and low visibility often kept the alpine closed for days at a time.

The result was an elevated state of skier and snowboarder anxiety, verging on the edge of panic. People waiting for buses and congregating in lift corrals knew they only had a matter of hours to gorge themselves on powder before all the best lines would be tracked out. The stress was palpable.

That anxiety triggered a thinly veiled form of powder rage that would sometimes boil over. Angry words and nasty looks were exchanged. Snowballs were thrown. Friends turned on friends like the tribe turned on Piggy in Lord of the Flies.

It’s an interesting and sometimes frightening phenomenon, and though I’d like to pretend that I’m immune to the mass hysteria that gives birth to powder rage, I’ve found myself muttering under my breath on more than one occasion, wishing everybody ahead of me in line would disappear.

Rather than focusing on the positive, e.g. a veritable s–load of new snow to play in, I focused on the negatives – e.g. the lift lines are too long, somebody poached my favourite line, and it’s all going to be tracked out by noon. Negative statements were usually followed by idle threats to move to the Interior, or empty promises to invest in some backcountry gear.

Simply put, powder is an addiction. There’s no other way to explain why so many people are willing to sacrifice so much time and money, risking life and limb, just to ski or ride a few lines of fresh stuff.

Some guys move to small ski towns in the middle of winter knowing full well that the ratio of men to women is 2 to 1 or worse, and they’re in for a long and lonely winter. Why? Because powder is better than sex.

Some of those ski towns are found in the state of Utah, which means powder is also better than drugs, alcohol and fast dancing.

The worst thing about this powder addiction is that there doesn’t seem to be a cure – not that anybody would take one if it existed.

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