Maxed out 

In case you missed it

By G.D. Maxwell

What a week. First winter arrives bringing one of this season’s rare opportunities to catch what many of us fondly remember as "powder skiing." The take-it-when-you-can-get-it attitude that is Whistler found many businesses abandoned and cars parked helter-skelter as locals rushed to the mountains desperately trying to remember where they’d stored their powder straps and how to ski snow above their ankles.

Then Crazy Canuck Dave Irwin critically injures himself preparing for a skiercross in Banff. Dave, who thrilled the ski world with death-defying performances during his years with the White Circus – including several spectacular crashes still included in many highlight reels – did a slow tumble on a bunny slope at Sunshine. Although he was wearing a helmet at the time, Dave suffered severe bruising of the brain, is in a coma, on life support and has about a 33 per cent chance of coming back to us more or less intact. Fight Dave; we’re pulling for you.

But this bizarre tragedy underscores two important points. Helmets, while making even the dorkiest skier look radical, probably provide more mental comfort than real protection and, like hockey padding or four-wheel-drive SUV’s for example, may well incline their wearers to take chances they probably shouldn’t. The other point should be obvious: never ski easy runs. Like highways in Saskatchewan, easy runs lull you into not paying attention and not using good form. Get high; stay high; ski hard.

Lost in the shuffle of the week’s news, you might have understandably missed the announcement coming from Intrawest’s head office about their plans to change the name of Blackcomb Mountain. It seems Whistler-Blackcomb, at least in the travel business, is a bit of a mouthful. I can understand this. It’s a lot like those hyphenated last names that were all the rage a couple of decades ago. Their proponents undoubtedly thought they lent an aura of sophistication and lingering independence to their decision to cop-out and get married. The rest of us just thought they looked dorky and showed an inability to make a choice. In the literal world of computers that has come to dominate our lives since, having a hyphenated last name simply means your reservation always gets lost. But I digress.

Confidential sources from within the belly of the beast say the move to rename Blackcomb is being spearheaded by none other than Joe "I liked it so much I bought the mountain" Houssian. Citing a long history of renaming nearby mountains – called originally by the local indigenous population "The Mountains" but in a language so guttural it makes Yiddish sound less like throat-clearing and more like parlour talk – Joe decided one of the names had to go.

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