Adapt or perish — dealing with the fast-changing face of snowsports 

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"It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you can't go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

- C.S. Lewis

Can you believe it? Only two months till Opening Day and the start of snowsliding season. Where did the days go? I mean, can it really be that close?

Given Whistler's über-warm summer, it is hard to believe that snow could start falling in the high country within the next few weeks. But it will. Our clear sunny days will slowly give way to sombre half-lit ones. Rainfall will become ubiquitous once again. And we'll all suffer from S.A.D. to one degree or another.

But not for long. For high up in the alpine, a stain of white will soon appear on the rocks, grow, recede, and then start to spread again. Steadily, irrevocably, it will creep its way ever downward, softening everything in its path, gradually turning a nasty environment into a surprisingly friendly one. And then one morning we'll all wake up and voila — just like magic, our little mountain valley will once more be transformed into the snowsliding playground we've all come to know and love.

I know. I know. Given the 21st century's myriad sports choices, waxing nostalgic for a particular sport in a particular season seems, hmm... anachronistic? But I can't help it. It's just so hard-wired in me. From the moment I could ski, mid-September was always switchover time. You know, when talk of summer adventures shifted over to preparations for the coming winter.

That was before mountain biking of course. And windsurfing, and kite sailing, and parapenting and sports climbing and rafting and paddleboarding and... Ouf! When I was a kid, skiing was pretty much the only adrenaline game in town (unless of course you were into cars). Maybe that's why we all got so excited in early fall.

Dryland training really meant something back then. You got together with your ski club mates two, three days a week (and for most of Sunday) and worked hard to prepare your body for the rigours of the coming season. It wasn't all that scientific. In fact, most of what we did would be dismissed by modern sports trainers as woefully "unspecific." But it was demanding.

Skis, you see, didn't turn by themselves in those days. As for boot support, forget about it. It was all you — muscles, sinews, guts — and it took everything you had to force those old planks into the falline. But that was just the beginning. For once you steered them downhill, well, it took even more strength to get them to turn right or left. Skiing, in other words, was not for the wimp... or the weak. We did a lot of deep squats and stair climbs and piggy-back sprints because of that. Probably too much. As my coach loved to say: "If it doesn't hurt, you're not doing it right."

Now that I think about it, those dryland sessions weren't just about preparing physically for the coming ski season. No. They were a re-affirmation of your membership in the tribe. All that sweat and effort — all that pain and agony and screaming quads and endless sit-ups — it was like a rite of passage... yet another way to share your passion for sliding on snow with like-minded crazies. And it worked.

My home hill, as a kid, was Mont Sainte-Anne. A mere pimple by Whistler standards, the Quebec City dowager still boasts a robust 2,000 feet (610 metres) of vertical (roughly equivalent to skiing from mid-station at Creekside) and is considered one of the more demanding hills east of the Rockies. Once upon a time, Ste. Anne also boasted a really vigorous tribe of snowsliders.



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