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Riding British Columbia Powder
By Jason Cossman

Whistler Blackcomb is a ski bumís Mecca. With over 8100 skiable acres, a full vertical mile, and more than 200 trails, there is enough terrain to keep you away from the office for days on end. Whistler Blackcomb is located about 100km north of Vancouver. That makes it about a 3 hour drive from where we live (Bellingham, WA). We try to make it up at least once every winter.

My friends and I rode for three days at Whistler Blackcomb in January. We arrived Thursday night. We hit the slopes early Friday morning.  Most of the time was spent on Harmony and Symphony chairs. There was fog and it was snowing. You could barely see up top. I dropped into what I thought was a smooth, easy grade of fresh powder. But, the ground dropped out from under me, and I cartwheeled. My goggles flew off, and snow went down my back. I decided to take it a little bit easier afterwards. The group watched trail marker signs, and stayed between them, trying not to let the ground bite. One guy tried a 360 off an eight foot cliff. Unfortunately, nobody got a pic. We ended around 3:30p.

It snowed all night. We rose at 6a on Saturday morning. I jumped out of the bunk and my legs felt strong. I was excited to get up the hill.  We caught the 7:15a gondola and watched the snow topped spruce trees roll by as we rubbed the sleepiness out of our eyes. We unloaded at the lodge and wolfed down some grub.

The bell rang at 8:15. The first lifts were running. We hit the trails that lead to Emerald Express. The snow fall and the white out from the day before had given way to fresh powder, begging to be carved up. Eventually, we worked our way back to Harmony and Symphony. There was a great piece of terrain right off the main track. We surveyed the giant, undulating, rolling hills. Then we pointed and went. It felt like sailing on snow. We were gliding through the open bowl. There were very few trees and very few riders. Dom, Andy, Sadie, and I cruised.  

Post lunch, it was just Dom and I. We continued to ride. At about 4p, we took the Peak to Peak to Blackcomb. The Peak to Peak traverses two mountains (Whistler and Blackcomb) and is about 2000 ft. above ground at its highest point. 

After a quick warm up at the Blackcomb Lodge we bombed all the way down on a blue square leg burner. We had to watch out for spaceship cat track groomers crawling up the hill as the sun began to set. The sky was pink and orange. We worked on going fast and not stopping. It was a good, long day.

Sunday morning came. There were no takers for fresh tracks, except Dom, of course. So we started the day the way we ended the last. Him and I, ready to shred. It was sunny and you could see forever, a bluebird day. There were miles and miles of snow-capped peaks. We gobbled some grub, and we hit the snowy trail. It was cold outside, minus 16 Celsius.

We bee-lined to Peak Chair (the granddaddy lift that leads to the top of Whistler Mountain). We traversed Peak to Creek. The top was really icy and it was tough to find a groove. My hips were stiff from the two previous days of riding and it was still early in the morning. We kept moving south, over a hump that shielded the wind, and we arrived at a bowl that had good powder and only one or two tracks. So, we carved it up and left our mark.

By the time we were at mid-mountain I had gotten a little ahead of Dom. I stopped and waited where two trails merge. I looked down and saw one of the trails was Franz Run, a personal favorite. I dropped maybe ten or twenty feet down, thinking Dom saw me. He didnít. He cruised past and stayed on the green trail towards the Red Chair. I donít keep a trail map on me. I just figured weíd meet up wherever the trails led us.

I tore down Franz Run and arrived at Whistler Creekside gondola. I had gone from top to bottom. It was 10am. I looked at the big trail map sign at the bottom of Creekside and realized my faux pas. I was far away from where Dom went. And he was my ride home. I didnít have my cell phone on me. I guess Iíll be taking the Greyhound home. I might as well enjoy some riding in the meantime.

I waited a half hour at the bottom to catch a gondola. Once up top, I got out of the gondola and scanned the Red Chair lift line. No Dom. Turns out heíd left just moments earlier, but Iíll get to that later. I figured Iíd head to the familiar stomping grounds, and work my way back to Symphony. If I was going to find Dom, over there would be my best chance.

So I rode alone for a bit, struck up some good lift conversation, and about two or three hours later I found Dom in the singles line at Symphony. Turns out he had waited at Red for about a half hour, then headed back to the lodge and got a cup of coffee, thinking I might turn up there.

Dom had a great idea as we rode up the Symphony lift. ďSee those people hiking up to that ridge? Letís go up there!Ē he exclaimed. We hiked for about forty five minutes or an hour. The minus 16 Celsius felt like a warm spring day by the time we got up to the top. The sun and the freezing temps had hardened most of the mountain, but up here, there was so much powder that the cold couldnít do anything to crunch it up.  We carved through powder that was knee deep.

We rode until about 3:15p. It was another hallmark day. We had maximized the ride time during our long weekend. There was a sense of accomplishment.

We drove back to Bellingham on Sunday night. I rolled into work on Monday morning feeling great. It is amazing what good friends, fresh air, and going fast does for oneís spirit. 

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