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"We encourage it, it's a great experience, a healthy experience, and truly an adventure," says Brownlie. "But the important thing is education. How do you ensure that the people taking that step have the tools, have the knowledge, have the partner, so that they do it safely? That's what it's all about, is the education. That's a challenge for any [resort], it's a challenge for our community."
Though there has been an open gate policy with BC Parks — indeed, this is part of Blackcomb's agreement for t-bar access to the Blackcomb Glacier — offering a backcountry guiding service as an extension of Extremely Canadian's inbounds programs represents a step forward toward emphasizing guiding as the proper means to exploring what lies beyond patrolled terrain. It's a model that has been established in Europe for some time, throughout the Alps and especially in non-patrolled lift-accessed terrain such as La Grave. The point being that if you want to go somewhere, you have to have a guide — unless you really, really know what you're doing.
But that's not really the culture here yet; backcountry guiding hasn't developed in the same way, and many travellers, says Read, haven't even begun to consider what is possible within the Spearhead Range.
Whistler, says Read, has "easily the best lift-accessed backcountry in North America — there's no question that at alpine and tree-line, there's very little that compares," adding that he'd be happier than a clam working and living in the Spearhead Range for the rest of his days (especially now that he has a two-and-a-half-year-old son).
"From a guiding perspective," says Read over a tea at The Lift's steamy Nesters locale, "there's an incredibly broad range of options relative to hazards, to conditions, to abilities (in the Spearhead). . . . In terms of challenging terrain, one of the (Extremely Canadian) edicts is to tactically challenge your guests by terrain and coach them through it. The Spearhead Range has close to endless opportunities that function effectively in all conditions."
Hot tub time machine: Bela Lugosi is dead and Kurt Cobain is still alive (a.k.a an alternative history of Extremely Canadian)
The hazy and at times somewhat strange story of how Extremely Canadian got its start is an important part of the puzzle when it comes to understanding how backcountry guiding developed for Whistler Blackcomb. Extremely Canadian grew out of that strange conflux of passion and impulsiveness that drove the '90s here in Whistler, when smaller, start-up guiding and teaching outfits operated independently on what were two distinct and separate mountains. It also grew out of a need to put Canada on the map, and to think in world-class terms; to grasp that the local talent that lay all but latent here in the Sea to Sky could be showcased alongside the brash glamour of the American "extreme skiers" and the European ski mountaineers. So locals and visitors beware: it's time to rewind the time machine to the early '90s...
May 23, 2013, 5:02 AM
Locals frustrated by damage to village; police log 17 cases of mischief over one night More...
May 23, 2013, 5:01 AM
Task handed to EPI Committee for attention More...
May 23, 2013, 5:00 AM
Work to begin this summer in an effort to update hall, improve customer service More...