Page 10 of 11
Among the 10 flyers kept under glass and framed on the wall, all salvaged from Extremely Canadian's 17-odd year history, was a particularly striking, yellow flyer. "ARE YOU GOING TO DIE?" the title read. My mind turned this over. Apparently this is no longer a marketing phrase for one of Whistler Blackcomb's flagship clinics, and according to Dunnigan, was never official to begin with. But I dug the spirit. It captures with precision Extremely Canadian's particularly Canuck blend of gallows humour.
Even though I have been riding Whistler Blackcomb for some 28-odd years, I nonetheless found myself spooked and puckered that morning. Thanks to my teenage years spent on 210cm skinnies, I still execute jump turns when the going get seriously steep. It's something that Chad Hendren, my Extremely Canadian inbounds instructor, is keen to correct.
"Just roll the ankles," says Chad, demonstrating to me the mysteries of the brocage turn, which involves leaning over the tips and swinging the tails around with a snappy motion. The result is the same as a jump turn — you are able to switch direction and descend within the width of your skis — but keeps your planks firmly planted on the snow. I slow down my pace; it's first thing in the morning, there's some dust on the somewhat soft crust, and we've been practicing brocage turns off lower Excelerator chutes with varying degrees of success. Now, we're standing at the rocky and exposed entrance to Stefan's Chute in West Bowl.
I have become a lazy-ass powder skier. I never ski this chute. Especially this year: the entrance is rocky and exposed, requiring samurai turns and/or some brocage-ankle action to slide in.
Chad leads the way with studious calm and flawless technique. Once you've skied La Grave, he says, Whistler is small potatoes. I can believe it. Chad speaks of rappelling clients into chutes steep enough to require platform-chopping in the pack ice. Even as a climber, I wonder how comfortable I would feel, not so much on the rappel, but skiing something steep enough that each turn must be executed with a steady eye for firm control. It's about exposure of the fatal variety: thou shalt not fall. It's a different form of riding than the mach-seven airplane turns in the high alpine, straightline chutes in pow, and pillow-bashing among steep trees — the kind of riding that us B.C. kindred excel at. It's all about executing perfect technique while your parts pucker up. If you are going to die, you're going to have time to think about it.
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