Alta States 

Notes on a new season


"I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution with thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of 'em Zen Lunatics..."

- Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums


I can't help it. Labour Day is barely behind us and already I'm thinking of snow. I suppose it's hardwired in me. Love of winter I mean. Crazy, isn't it? While most others view September rain as the harbinger of something nasty and mean - of a season to endure rather than to enjoy - I get fully charged at this time of the year. And I know I'm not alone.

Memories of great winters come and gone. Powder crystals tickling your nostrils; snowflakes finding their way into hidden crevasses in your clothing. The absolute thrill of shrugging off the chains of everyday life and becoming Icarus-borne. If only for a moment. Free flying downhill with eyes ablaze and reason on hold. Pure existence! Wet and cold and yet lusting for more. Always another descent to be had. One last climb before sunset. One last run before shutting it down for another day.

Can you feel it too?

Permission to be kids. Consent to be silly. Approval even. That's what sliding on snow is all about. The last bastion of the free-born. The first link to the gods. A connection to the mountains of our minds... It's all there.

Winter at Whistler is transformative. Crazy. Wild. Dangerous even. But oh, so seductive. It's changed the lives of countless visitors. Made lifelong addicts of even the most cynical. It's what this town's reputation was built on. It's how its future will be determined. Mountains, you know. Not shops. Not lifts-to-nowhere. And certainly not yapping residents too blind to see their own good fortune.

Told ya this kind of weather gets me going.

Still, I wonder how excited our current decision-makers become at this time of the year. Do they realize just how magical winter really is at Whistler? Or have they become so inured to its unique charms that they've forgotten why they came here in the first place? Sometimes I wonder.

Interesting times at Whistler. With the winter season looming (and economic indicators suggesting things might get REALLY tight in the next few months), it behoves us to take a quick inventory of our blessings and realize just how distinctive (and special) our mountain lifestyle really is. Particularly when the snow flies.

As Romain Gary wrote in his classic '60s novel The Ski Bum: "The ski bums were always better looking, they took bigger risks, they had more glamour, there was an air of adventure about them..."

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