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In spring, when a ski hill turns to mush

Spring is a wonderful time of year. Naturally, it’s a whole lot more wonderful when it actually comes in springtime instead of the middle of winter.

Spring is a wonderful time of year. Naturally, it’s a whole lot more wonderful when it actually comes in springtime instead of the middle of winter. Especially at ski resorts where, ironically, winter – snow, and lots of it – is crucially important to whether you have what can generally be called a good year as opposed to what many people have recently been muttering as they examine the bottoms of their skis after a day on the slopes. What they’ve been muttering is: shite!

So the true millennium season may, barring late snow storms of mythical proportions, go down in the books as The Year People Who Live On the East Coast All Finally Decided to Join Their Friends In Arizona Because It Didn’t Snow in the West. Also known locally as The Year of the Rock Ski.

I was pondering this the other morning and decided I really had to get back up and ski. Truth be known, I was whining about needing to go skiing. It sounded uncomfortably similar to a junkie whining about needing a fix or a Captain of Industry whining about needing federal and provincial subsidies to "level the playing field." Let’s face it, all whining sounds about the same when you come right down to it.

Like all Quixotic adventures, I felt I needed more rationale than just, "I wanna go skiing," to justify what was a patently irrational act. That’s when I remembered I still had most of Whistler Bowl and Shale Slope to go if I was going to map and name all the moguls over four metres high before they melt into slush.

I tore the office apart trying to find where I’d stashed the list of 200 additional mogul names I’d come up with after I’d exhausted all the Canadian Prime Ministers, famous Canadian explorers, wacky B.C. Premiers, easily-recognizable first-nations-native-aboriginal peoples, prominent union heads with no proven ties to organized crime – both of them – everyone I’d gone to school with my whole life, and the complete database of Whistler-Blackcomb passholders, past and present. That pretty much took care of naming Blackcomb’s moguls and about half of Whistler’s.

I’d saved the entire executive of Intrawest for the largest, gnarliest, most ice-axe worthy moguls near the entrance of Whistler Bowl. I’m sure any of you who have gone into the Bowl recently know exactly which mogul I have in mind for Joe "Kahuna" Houssian. I’m not sure whether I’m going to formally name it "Hey Joe" or Houssian’s Drop"; I may run a contest if I can’t make a decision next time I screw up the courage to ski its north face.

Anyway, I found the list, slathered on enough sun screen to protect the men’s and women’s Olympic Beach Volleyball team, unzipped all the vent zips on the lightest gear I have and picked through my skis to see if any of them had enough base left for another day. I knew skiing on one K2 Four and one Volkl P9 was going to look weird but every other ski I own is either in the shop for emergency edge transplants or awaiting the Red Cross’s humanitarian air-drop of P-Tex candles Wild Willies is expecting later this week.

I had a leg in my ski pants and was balancing on one foot, ripping at hidden Velcro to try and open up the other leg before I fell over, when Zippy the Dog came into the bedroom and looked up at me with that complex dog-look, part "What in the world are you doing?" and part "Let’s play." I was immediately stricken with guilt. Zippy needed to go adventuring a whole lot worse than I needed to go map Houssian’s Drop.

Zippy’s been suffering a front paw-claw injury lately. He either caught an edge gamboling through the woods up at Joffre Lake last week or bent it back too far trying to master opening the fridge so he could eat everything inside, Tupperware included. Whatever the cause, he’s been on the lay-low list for a few days. Zippy’s a Lab and Labs don’t do lay-low very well. Like girl’s bikes of old, Labs have three speeds: Eat; Sleep; Go Like Hell. Moderation is unknown at any speed.

The last time we had to moderate Zippy’s activity was when we – forgive me, boy – changed his sex life forever, an act about which we do not speak, at least not when he’s present. The vet told us to keep him calm for 10 days and walk him on a leash. He might as well have said, "Teach him how to drive and enrol him in astronaut training school."

Any self-respecting dog has about the same relationship to leashes that any self-respecting man has to neckties. We’ll only wear them if absolutely forced to and, given half a chance, they get taken off faster than a wedding ring at a party full of "escorts".

The first day, Zippy was pretty good about the leash. Then the anesthetic wore off. Quickly, he began to associate even the sight of the leash with his favourite new game. This involved running around the house, knocking everything off every flat surface with his tail and remaining just out of reach until we gave up all hope of catching him.

In 10 days, he chewed through three leashes, the last one made of three-eighths inch chain, and ran me from the top of Alpine Way down to Highway 99 where I finally caught him hitching a ride into town. Bad dog.

But given his current ailment, coupled with his keen desire to go tear around the ’hood, I thought it was a good idea to at least take a leash along. He may have guilted me into an outing but I can’t blame him for what happened next. I’m not sure exactly when the rogue thought-fragment entered my mind but the next thing I knew, I was dragging out my cross-country skis. I was going to go cross-country skiing on the Valley Trail with a crazy dog.

The last time I even tried to go cross-country skiing, it was a different millennium. I have almost the same relationship to cross-country skiing as I do to tofu, the only saving grace being I don’t actually have to put my cross-country skis into my mouth.

I’ll spare you the sordid details of exactly what happened next but I will tell you this. Never, never under any circumstances, should you clip yourself into skis while holding onto a leash that’s attached to a 65 pound – 43.6 hectare – dog who gets EXCITED at the mere sight of other dogs. Especially when the other dogs are several hundred yards – 189 kilos – further down the trail.

To the woman pulling the very small child in a red, plastic sled, I am very, very sorry. I pray your child will not fear dogs her entire life.