Alta states 

Changing times – Whistler at the crossroads


"You can't step into the same river twice."

- Heraclitus


It feels a bit surreal to be packing up my things. Skis, boots, poles, touring gear, parkas, pants, gloves, hats, rainwear, rucksacks. I can't believe how much stuff I've accumulated over the winter. Can't believe I've got to cram all this gear into my car for my reluctant return to the city. Coffee pot and bean grinder and channel changer and computer and iPod speakers and magazines and books. Lots of books. And memories too. So many memories - both positive and negative. But mostly positive...

Yes, it's true. The experiment is over. My full-time Whistler residency status is done (at least until next winter). And my heart mourns.

No surprise there. For the first time in 30 years, I was able to call this magical mountain valley my home again. For six wonderful months I was allowed to call myself a Whistler local. Didn't matter that I was living through one of the worst nightmares imaginable. Didn't matter that I was alone and facing an uphill climb almost too steep to imagine. At least I was in Whistler.

It was my version of total escape. All I wanted to do was ski and forget. I wanted to come home so tired at the end of the day that I would fall immediately into the dreamless sleep of the truly exhausted. I wanted to push my aching body to its limits. Wanted to feel the physicality of snowplay at its most fundamental level. I wanted to not remember.

And the mountains delivered. From the moment I set my bags down in my Creekside apartment back in November, the skies parted and the snow began to fall. Opening Day on Whistler Mountain was one of the best in memory. Out of shape and out of sorts, I nonetheless jumped into the action like it was the middle of the season. And like so many other locals, I paid the price dearly.

Sore thighs and aching back; pulled muscles and blacked-out toes - being a full-time Whistler local was just like I remembered it. My days became a blur of powder turns. Four, five, six days in a row. Screaming body parts and broken gear. I was in Snoweater heaven. And the white stuff kept falling. Twenty-five centimetres overnight. Then another 30 the next day. And another 20 the night after that. It was epic. By the beginning of December, my buddies and I were skiing forest lines that didn't usually open up until mid-winter. And it looked like there was no end in sight.

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