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The secrets are out

Finestone and Hodder bring a rock climbing-type guide to Whistler-Blackcomb’s advanced terrain


By G.D. Maxwell

Book Review: Ski & Snowboard Guide to Whistler Blackcomb: Advanced/Expert Edition by Brian Finestone and Kevin Hodder

Where the heck is Winky Pop? Or Bernie’s Bumps? Or Calvin and Hobbes? Where does the Grey Zone end and CBC begin? How do you get to Teetering? Shall I bring trunks if I meet you at Hot Tub?

One of the great ironies about skiing and riding at Whistler-Blackcomb is the relative anonymity of the two biggest ski hills in North America. A number of years ago, I was struck with the results of Snow Country’s annual reader poll. While Whistler-Blackcomb was their favourite and got the highest marks for terrain, almost no one could name their fav run on either mountain.

And it’s a syndrome not unknown to locals either. I’ve lost track of the number of times someone’s told me, "You’ve just gotta ski this run I found. Don’t know what it’s called but here’s how you get to it."

Brian Finestone and Kevin Hodder had heard the same thing. They’d dealt with confused, lost, frustrated people trying to make the most of their holiday in paradise but unable to decipher the all-too-crowded, two-dimensional mountain maps.

So they wrote the book on skiing and riding Whistler and Blackcomb’s best, steepest, scariest and most harrowing terrain. And they’re willing to take the heat for ratting out the locals’ best kept secrets.

"I had one friend whose take on the book was, ‘Oh, that’s it; it’s over.’" Brian explained. "But when I pointed out to him nothing in the book would ever change the fact that a local has an overwhelming advantage and all we’d done was put a name to the runs these guys could see from the chairs and slopes anyway, he admitted it probably wouldn’t really matter."

But it most definitely will matter to anyone who’s remotely interested in where they’ve been skiing, where they should be skiing, and, most importantly, how to go about getting the most out of their time at these two overwhelming mountains.

Using crisp aerial photos, a logical approach and realistic evaluations of the skills needed, the risks involved and the contraindicative conditions, Brian and Kevin lay bare the best terrain on Whistler and Blackcomb. Anyone with even minimal logistical skills can glean the information they need to efficiently tackle both mountains, find the fabled runs and slide into après with tales too good to believe. And if they lack even that skill, the book includes a Must-Do list for both mountains.

But the guide embraces more than just a show-and-tell description of single, double and triple black diamond runs. It outlines the avalanche control sequence on both mountains. It educates on mountain signage, etiquette, weather patterns and hazards. It guides you to epic link-ups of runs and zones on both mountains. Hell, it even tells you how to make the most of your time in the pipes and parks.

Taking their inspiration from rock climbing guides that allow good climbers to access great routes in terrain they’ve never seen before, Brian and Kevin have penned a guide that’s likely to become a must-have for visitors and locals alike. Not content to shine the light of knowledge on the best expert terrain, they’re hard at work on a companion guide to beginner and intermediate slopes.

But for now, I’ll head off to my favourite part of Whistler Mountain looking for the two distinct runs that are Doom and Gloom. And all these years I just thought that was the whole area below the terminal moraine at the bottom of Whistler Bowl.

Ski & Snowboard Guide to Whistler Blackcomb: Advanced/Expert Edition is available locally at Armchair Books, Can-Ski, Escape Route and most other gear shops. Around $23, worth every penny and a damn good thing to stuff into anyone’s stocking.