A tale of two mornings — early season extremes at Whistler Blackcomb 

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"Tradition is the illusion of permanence."

- Woody Allen

The rain was playing blues on my metal roof. It was warm outside, way warmer than it should be at this time of the year. Certainly didn't feel like the first day of the season. No matter — the decision had already been made. Tradition would be respected. Early tee time at the gondola.

I slipped quietly down the stairs. Stopped by the car to grab some gear, nodded at a couple of fellow-crazies trudging by — they looked like they were already soaked, it was raining even harder now — thought about my warm, comfy bed and the Murakami novel I was leaving behind for this absurd outing, sighed once, and nearly turned back.

But I knew it was useless. It was Opening Day. Didn't matter that this was the boniest opening in decades and the only sliding we'd be doing this day would be on artificial turf. Didn't matter that we'd been spoiled rotten the last few years with fresh snow and been blessed with peak-to-valley runs from day one. Or that these soppy conditions would never get us on the hill at any other time of the year. THIS WAS OPENING DAY.

I shrugged. Took a long sip of coffee. And another. Sighed again. Did I really want to do this? Did I really want to put myself through the misery of a monsoon morning simply to say I was there? At the head of the line on Opening Day? Sure I did, and I started walking through the still-dark morning towards the Creekside gondola. Me, my skis and my big golf umbrella.

Okay, so it was a bit of an eccentric look. Big deal. I mean it's one thing to stand in line, in the dark and the cold, and wait for two hours for the lift to start running. But to wait in line, in the dark, in the cold... only to get pissed on by this bestial Pacific disturbance with no protection? No way. I didn't care if I looked like a wimp. I was a Whistlerite. I knew how to stay dry.

Picture it: Six-thirty in the morning, raining so hard now it's bouncing off the paving stones. A small group of die-hards stand, sit, shuffle in the gondola line-up. There's maybe 50 of them, maybe a few bodies more. Some have tarps, some have ponchos — most are just happy to stand in the downpour in their brand new Goretex ensembles praying that their gear will handle to the challenge. It's a male-dominated crowd, for sure. Most in the early to mid-twenties. There's a lot of testosterone in the air. Some serious posing. But there are exceptions.

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