"Truly, it may be said that the outside of a mountain is good for the inside of a man."
- George Wherry
Sigh... It finally happened. Snow drought. All those winters that we patted ourselves on the back for our good weather fortune... and naively dismissed other places for their lack of the white stuff. The Alps, the Rockies, the Sierras even... what a joke, we thought as we grabbed our fat skis and headed out for yet another day of perfect pow turns.
But that was then. This is now. Suddenly we're not so smug anymore. Some of us are getting a little desperate even.
Where's the snow? What happened to the powder? This is so not Whistler! For the newcomers to the valley, our current conditions are nothing short of catastrophic. But for those of us who've been around a while, well, let's just say we've seen worse.
This is what I wrote last year at this same date:
"I'm not sure I totally believe in karma. But if it does exist, Whistler residents must have led some seriously virtuous lives in the past. Know what I mean? How else does one explain the bounty of white stuff that fell on our slopes in 2012?
Think about it. From the crazy-good March skiing last winter to the snow-Nirvana that visited us this past month, Whistler has been sumptuously blessed by Ullr in the last year. I'm not complaining mind you, just pointing out an interesting phenomenon."
Well, Ullr isn't smiling down on us so much this season. As for his blessings, they've been scant and short-lived. Which means that it's been up to us, mere humans, to make the Whistler winter season start as good as it can be.
And that got me thinking. Seeing as this is the giving time of the year, why not single out individuals and groups who have made a difference in this tough winter start? Call it the Whistler Mountain Culture Awards (WMCA), if you want. But these are the people and organizations that really make our little mountain community exceptional. Read on:
The W/B snowmaking and grooming crews: Back in the dark ages (before the advent of snowmaking), a slow winter start like this one would have spelled instant disaster. Think about it. We'd still be downloading right now... as for tapping the higher mountain terrain, it would be seriously slim pickings.
Thank goodness that's not the case anymore. Still, it bears reflecting on just how hard Doug MacFarlane's mountain crews have been working in recent weeks. The cold snap helped of co `urse. But it was the work-crews' (and their bosses') sense of urgency that really made things happen. Yes, it's artificial white stuff. And no, it's not powder, nor is it particularly soft. But what it does deliver — to both locals and visitors — is the chance to enjoy the rush of gravity-powered snowplay in a year where that might not happen otherwise. Great work team!
The W/B Lifties: They come from everywhere — Australia and Wales and Quebec and South Africa and Sweden and Scotland and... young men and women who travel from the four corners of the planet for a chance to spend a season (or two or three) living and working in Sea to Sky country. And they end up employed in what could be the most thankless job on the mountain.
Imagine spending the bulk of your day watching others do what you love doing most in the world. Imagine having to paint a smile on your face while listening to the powder raves of customers racing back up the mountain for yet another go at the goods. It's torture... there's no other word for it.
And yet — most of them still smile at our silly antics. I mean, there's nothing more welcoming on a stormy, wet morning than a liftie's genuinely happy face. I know. I know. They can get grumpy at times and some can even wax unfriendly at the end of their shifts. But generally speaking — wow! Their bonhomie and joie-de-vivre conquers all. This is one group of Whistlerites who can never get enough thanks.
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