Embrace the silly season 

click to enlarge PHOTO FROM SHUTTERSTOCK - SPRING HAS SPRUNG Spring in Whistler is a state of mind, not exactly a time of year.
  • photo from shutterstock
  • SPRING HAS SPRUNG Spring in Whistler is a state of mind, not exactly a time of year.

It was a week I wish I'd worn another layer—skiing on what looked like a warm day but wasn't. I had been surprised by snow that was almost hail when I could barely find a cloud in the sky, basked in the heat of such ozone-challenged intensity I could actually hear pallid, winter skin start to sizzle like bacon on a griddle, skied shallow freshies and spring sandpaper crud...on the same run. I'd been rained on, blown on, snowed on and shone on, so I can't help being amused when I hear someone ask, "What's the weather going to be like for the next few days?"

In Tiny Town, that's practically like asking about the sound of one hand clapping—a Zen inquiry with no meaningful answer. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to answer, being the friendly local I am.

"Biblical" often comes to mind. Old Testament, of course, since a plague of locusts or a flood would pretty neatly round out the weather offerings.

"Does it really matter?" is probably too glib. But for someone who has travelled several thousand miles and dropped a couple thousand bucks to come slide here, it undoubtedly comes closer to capturing their reality—they'll make merry regardless of the day's weather...weathers.

"Epic" is a favourite dodge. Being a word that has lost any original meaning through commercialization and overuse, it captures their hopes and dreams and makes the inquisitive feel good about having a pass that works in so many places.

"The weather is a sinister and unknowable plot controlled by military-industrial terrorists. If I told you what it was going to be like, I'd have to kill you," seems too delusional even though it plays into the spirit of these troubled times.

Breaking into the song from Annie about the sun shining tomorrow just plain scares people. I think it's my voice. They get that look on their faces; you know the one. The look you get when a crazed street person won't stop following you.

What can a helpful local do? The only real answer is "Beats me. Whatever it is, enjoy it."

Because regardless of what the calendar says, regardless of the telltale metallic warble of varied thrushes and frantic buzzing of the first hummingbirds, regardless of the Easter pilgrims, regardless of the throngs of post-WSSF revellers, spring, in Whistler, is a state of mind, not exactly a time of year.

As a state of mind, spring works in explicable and profound ways on those who ski and board. It is the Silly Season.

For example, people suddenly show up at the resort who haven't been here all season long. I'm not referring to tourists who pop in for their annual visit. I mean folks from nearby, just down the hill and around the sound, semi-locals as they like to think of themselves, who bought some sort of pass and actually own skis manufactured sometime in the last decade but who haven't managed to show up until April, frantic to get their days in and justify both the pass they purchased last year and the one they're about to buy for next season. Silly Season Redux.

It's true. Spring, or perhaps the change to daylight saving time, has a negative intelligence effect on people. The dumbing of spring explains why people who have passionately slid down the mountain all season long suddenly stop coming and start swinging golf clubs, of all things. It explains why people who are smart enough to cover their skin to protect it from frostbite for three months can't remember to slap on sunscreen to avoid third-degree sunburns.

For those of you—OK, mostly tourists but some locals I know will recognize themselves—who are suffering from the dumbing of spring, here's the top 10 reasons to keep on doing what you've been doing since December.

No. 10: It's not golf. Say what you will, golf's still a stupid game. Mark Twain pegged it when he referred to the "sport" as a fine way to ruin a perfectly good walk. That being said, golf, like skiing, is a dying sport and one so off the sustainability-o-meter it does seem to go hand-in-hand with skiing.

no. 9: You get to wear fewer clothes. Spring skiing means T-shirts under fleeces, shorts under ski pants, sunglasses instead of goggles, the occasional helmet-less spree, light gloves instead of mitts. The freedom of movement—not to mention the refreshing feeling of unzipping pant legs and letting the breeze play over bare skin—is definitely worth the wait.

no. 8: Transitional snow. Warming days morph snow from ice to cream to corn to schmoo. Unless you're a rank beginner, most of those changes are easier to ski than fresh snow and way easier than ice. Yeah, it ain't powder but it sure is forgiving. Ski steeper slopes, carve faster turns, generally hit over your weight. It'll make you feel like a local politician in that regard, hitting over your weight, that is.

no. 7: Late powder. You can make book on it. Well, maybe not this year. There will be late dumps and powder days in April, maybe even May. But maybe not this year.

no. 6: Goggle tans. Or sunglass tans, your choice. Until you take the rest of your clothes off, you'll look like you've spent lots of idle time on some exotic beach. Best not to undress in front of a mirror though. The glare may be blinding.

no. 5: Weather. There's something really satisfying about ignoring the light drizzle falling in the valley and getting up through low clouds into blazing, warm sunshine for a day's skiing. It makes you feel god-like. And the views are psychedelic. Or was that the mushroom omelette?

no. 4: Bikinis. Yep, sooner or later you just know you're going to see one. Hopefully, it won't be on someone who has taken a high-speed fall and discovered what corn snow has in common with sandpaper.

no. 3: The Roundhouse deck. Or now, the Umbrella Bar. Since, this year, Blackcomb is closing first—wonder why?—the best sunning, people watching and wasting away an afternoon spot will be the deck looking out over Whistler and Glacier bowls. Where would you rather be on a sunny day? And the ultimate payoff has to be sliding down spring snow just ahead of sweep.

no. 2: An ice-cold beer. Sure it's refreshing during the winter, but oh baby, does it taste good in the hot sun-cool snow of spring. Après anywhere to reprise the experience.

no. 1: No crowds. Regardless of the persuasive validity of the previous nine reasons, you'll own the mountain. Habit is a hard thing to overcome and as sure as spring follows winter, most skiers will put their boards away and do something other than what they love by the time April turns into May. Their loss; your gain.


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