Someone once said — and I won't bore you with who might have said it — "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade." It was a twist on the Optimist's Motto, glass half-empty, half-full, Pollyanna Principle, glad game nonsense more aptly described in song by Monty Python's, everybody whistle along now, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
For those of us not particularly fond of lemonade, the more adult version suggests you take the lemons life's dealt you, grab the nearest bottle of tequila and either start pounding shooters or make margaritas.
Thus far — and I don't believe I'll be insulting anyone or revealing any secrets — this ski season has had many of us reaching for the tequila bottle... or quite possibly booking airline tickets to the heart of agave country. While this will be a memorable ski season, it is shaping up to be memorable in the same sense 1972, 1977, 1981 and a few others are. I'd be inclined to include 2005 in that list because of the biblical rains followed by nearly two months of desert-like conditions. But lest all hope fade away, let us remember that on St. Patrick's Day, 2005, it started to snow and we enjoyed roughly 35 memorable powder days in a row. Hope springs eternal... much as the garlic planted last fall is springing up in my garden bed.
While none of us can honestly say — OK, perhaps a few can — we wouldn't rather be skiing fresh powder up to our navels on a base several hundred centimetres deeper, all of us can say skiing is still better than sitting staring at a computer, which is what I'm doing right now. Acknowledging the less than stellar conditions is not to diss the experience of heading up Whistler or Blackcomb and sliding around on snow so well known and well worn we're all on a first name basis with it. And it with us. Au contraire, mon cher.
And so, as a public service, if not an act of personal salvation, herewith is a brief list of things to do if you've rolled into town hoping for the ski holiday of your life, only to be confronted with stories of people sliding down one of the horseshoes and ending up at the bottom looking a lot like a motorcyclist riding in shorts who's just experienced the road rash of a lifetime. Such are the metaphors that spring to mind when you're married to an emergency nurse.
1. Go skiing/boarding. I know what you're thinking. "Didn't he just say...." Yes, I did. But a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds — thanks, Ralph — and a bad day skiing is better than a good day golfing, or something like that. Just be mindful and ski powder.
Yes, powder. That's what we call that fine, granular stuff left behind by the groomers. Let us all pause a moment and give thanks for groomers. Not only do they give us the random night lights on the mountains we try and convince tourists are actually UFOs, they make skiing a life affirming, as opposed to life threatening, entertainment these days. In a civilized world, they'd all make more than the CEO this year. Don't hold your collective breath.
2. Have a picnic. Not your ants, mosquitoes and sand-in-your-sandwich kind of picnic. Have a picnic up on the mountain. Pack a bottle or two of crisp white wine or crisper champagne, a good baguette, great cheese, a few just-cooked asparagus spears wrapped in prosciutto, some wonderful chocolate and find a spot with a bit of sunshine, a great view — like that's hard to find — and all the ambience of the great outdoors. Face the sun, lean back on your stuck-in-the-snow skis, toast your companions and consider the lack of fresh or copious snow the First-World problem it really is. This will be the best memory you take home with you, trust me.
3. Take a hike, eh? Make your way over to the Symphony chair on Whistler. Ride it to the top. Look over toward the northeast — a bit left of you as you exit the chair. See the peak of Flute? See the track to the top? See how to get over to the base of it? Well, do that. Kick your skis off. Normally I'd tell you to hoist them over your shoulder, loosen your boots a bit and start hiking. Right now, the hoisting part is optional; you may prefer to walk back down rather than ski down although there is a relatively easy way down. Notice the word relatively in that sentence? Don't skip over it; it's an important word.
The views from atop Flute are well worth the 20ish-minute walk up, unless you suffer from any of the ailments that make physical exertion and moderate altitude contraindicated. Heck, there are even a few grand picnic spots up there. Did I mention the views?
4. Après, you près, we all près for.... Sorry, I couldn't resist. Under normal circumstances, après skiing — après for short — is one of the most important parts of any ski day. For starters, it is at après the Pollyanna Principle begins to obliterate the memories of the day best suppressed, the falls, the moments of panic, the occasional feeling you'd really rather be playing golf. Of course, this obliteration is enhanced by making margaritas out of lemons and tequila, to revisit a now recurring theme.
At times like these, après takes on a greater importance, not to mention possibly starting shortly after noon. OK, 11 a.m. when the bars open. Do not miss après under the mistaken impression you are indulging far too much. You are on holiday. If you live here, life's a holiday. This is important; pay attention.
Whistler is blessed with many locations to exercise your human right to après. Many of them have patios. This is a good thing. All of them have a marvelous selection of adult beverages. This is a better thing. You are shirking your responsibilities if you decide not to après. Don't be that person.
5. Finally, and I can't believe I'm writing this before the end of February, go for a bike ride. It might not be quite as easy to find a place renting bikes this time of year as it is in the summer, but it is by no means impossible. Quite a few trails close by are snow-free. If the idea of spending a few hours biking when you're supposed to be on a ski vacation seems a bit unsettling, think of the torture your selfies of (a) picnicking on the mountain, and (b) biking in the forest, both on the same day, will inflict on your friends back east still trying to find their cars in snow drifts.
No snow? No problem.