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Max’s Helpful Five

By G.D. Maxwell Hear that whooshing noise all day Tuesday? It probably sounded a lot louder and more harsh through your Happy New Year hangover haze but sober or suffering, it was an unmistakably soothing sound.

By G.D. Maxwell

Hear that whooshing noise all day Tuesday? It probably sounded a lot louder and more harsh through your Happy New Year hangover haze but sober or suffering, it was an unmistakably soothing sound. It was, of course, the sound of several thousand cars headed south, their weary occupants schlepping back to their own new year nightmares of work, school, routine and the dreaded anticipation of credit card bills, reminding them of the good times they had in Whistler, memories sure to carry them through the macaroni and cheese days of January.

I’d be up on the mountain celebrating if I weren’t both exhausted and recovering from a cold bug graciously offered me by a co-worker or one of the multitude of visitors who coughed questions in my direction over the past two weeks. Both maladies are the easily foreseen results of the Mothercorp’s enlightened new management policy of (a) hiring fewer people this year, leading to (b) mandatory overtime, which led in turn to (c) a toxic cocktail of stress, exhaustion and rundown immune systems, yielding (d) illness and seriously pissed off employees. I’m sure late night meetings with union organizers didn’t help matters but hey, that’s a chapter yet to be written.

Or my woes could be the result of the substandard housing I’m living in. I never realized it was substandard before councillor Milner so graciously pointed it out to me. In fact, I always thought it was pretty nice. Sure, it’s been around for almost 40 years but it was well-built and rustically finished with knotty cedar walls and a real stone fireplace. Its two bedrooms are admittedly too small for queen size beds but it’s easier to snuggle my Perfect Partner in a double anyway.

There’s no arguing though, the whole package, upstairs and down is well under 3,500 square feet. In case you missed his comments, councillor Milner says houses under 3,500 square feet are slums. In countering councillor Melamed’s efforts to keep our few mature neighbourhoods from falling prey to the Monsta Home Syndrome, councillor Milner argued such draconian measures as capping house size at 3,500 square feet would lead to the "slumification" of Whistler. I guess that makes all the condos in the village and on the benchlands slummy housing projects or maybe, could they be, ghettos? Wow, thanks for saving our bacon, Ted.

Anyway, it was a record Christmas in Whistler despite the best efforts of the Muslim fringe to knock North America off its axis. Several days there were so many people on Whistler and Blackcomb they didn’t need grooming because they’d been skied smooth. In an effort to shepherd so many folks through what could have been a crushing experience, Intrawest’s Division of Helpful Hints dreamed up and publicized a new holiday trinity: Get Up, Stay Up, Eat Smart.

Get Up urged visitors to hit the lifts early or, better still, go up for Fresh Tracks, the patented breakfast free-for-all. From all observations, this was highly successful. Early lift lines were filled with drunken revellers coming home from bars, mistakenly thinking they were lined up for taxis. Stay Up tried to encourage people to ski the alpine and avoid mid-mountain lifts. This too worked well, much to the dismay of everyone trying to pick their way past the carnage in Whistler and Harmony Bowls.

And Eat Smart? Does it really matter? When there are 27,000 people on the mountains I’d have to start hallucinating before I’d be brave enough to step into one of the restaurants. I’d rather smoke al Qaeda fighters out of caves than get near the Roundhouse when there are that many hungry people trying to get fed.

As good as those tips were, they didn’t go far enough. People love receiving the gift of wisdom. That’s why advice columns, top-10 lists, Martha Stewart and Cosmo are so popular. In that spirit, here’s Max’s Helpful Five, useful information for tourists and locals alike.

#5. Rent skis. I don’t get it. Every day I see people who have just spent thousands of dollars to fly here, rent a condo, buy lift tickets, book themselves and their kids into ski school, drop a wad in our local restaurants and then show up at the mountain with 200cm skis that look like linguini and belong in a sacrificial fire.

Ski technology is changing so fast, anything older than about three years is almost antique. Sure, you can enjoy skiing on antiques – you can enjoy driving Model A Fords. But is that why you’re here? Rent skis; it’s easier than ever now that there’s some real competition in town. Who knows, you may be better than you thought.

#4. Lose the white ski suit. There used to be a hard and fast rule in ladies’ fashion: no white shoes before Easter or after Labour Day. It only made sense. It does even more so when it comes to ski clothes. There’s the obvious visibility factor. It’s always nice when Ski Patrol can see you lying in pain instead of having to listen for your moans. But there’s also the fallout factor. The mechanical equipment you ride is lubricated. Water dripping off it doesn’t show on most colours. White, on the other hand, shows everything that comes in contact with it, from sneezes to mayo dripping off your burger. And if you knew what the backside of your white pants looked like, trust me, you’d never wear them in public.

#3. Picnic. If you’re coming from home, stuff a pack with some cheese, a little pâ t é, a baguette, fruit and a crisp bottle of white wine. When the hordes head in to line up, find a nice spot with a view toward the Tantalus or up-valley toward Pemberton and enjoy a leisurely lunch. If that’s too much work, Chef Bernard or Auntie Em will fix you a nice box lunch to take with you.

#2. Forget your poles, ski with a staff. A 10-12 foot length of bamboo will aid your holiday skiing immensely. You’d be surprised how easily you’ll adjust to making turns using a motion not unlike that employed paddling a kayak and how much safer you’ll feel establishing a "defensive" zone six feet on either side of you.

#1. Don’t go. I lied. This tip is for locals only. Get out of town or, if you have to stay, hunker down and wait for the crowds to disperse. Go snowshoeing up to Rainbow lake or cross-country ski into Cheakamus. Fly a kite on Duffey lake or go shopping in Squamton. This isn’t how you want to think of the mountains anyway. Remember, the doldrums of January are just around the corner.