Maxed Out 

The ski season finally begins

Well, now that summer seems to have finally arrived in Whistler – just in time for the solstice – it’s time to pack away winter clothes and ski gear and... go skiing? Just writing the words seems perverse; actually contemplating the act reminds me uncomfortably of some drug-induced, tangential, fairy-tale reality triggered by a misguided suggestion or question at a moment of reduced capacity, an ill-spoken word launching the totally unprepared mind into a topsy-turvy Wonderland where everything seems to be not exactly as it should.

The reduced capacity was mine, the White Rabbit was the editor of a ski magazine. Huddled in Phoenix, Arizona – Motto: Hot enough for ya? – wondering how in the world any place can have 19 days of 100°F plus heat in the month of May, a month when Whistleratics awoke to the sound of avalanche bombs being lobbed for the first few weeks, I was fantasizing cool thoughts. I wanted to get back in time for a last day or two in Harmony Bowl. I wanted to ski naked, to roll in snow and feel goosebumps crawling under my skin. Okay, maybe not naked.

"Ya wanna go skiing in Argentina?" the voice at the other end of the line said.

"How much and when?" I answered.

"Two weeks, free and you get paid," I thought I heard him say.

"This is a joke, right?"

He could have dangled heli-skiing in a retrofitted Russian Army helicopter in Kamchatka or polar bear wrestling at the north pole at that particular moment and I would have said sure. Promising a taste of winter to a desert-dweller in the summer has roughly the same effect travel brochures of the Caribbean have on Canadians in deepest, darkest February.

It wasn’t until I hung up that I began to believe it was all just an elaborate practical joke. Skiing in Argentina? I searched for everything I knew about Argentina. Long, narrow country at the bottom of South America. No, that’s Chile. No, wait a minute, that’s Argentina too. No wonder I get them confused. Governments that yo-yo between charismatic dictators and military juntas led by deranged generals. No, that’s Chile. Or maybe that’s Argentina too. Gauchos, pampas, tango, that’s gotta be Argentina. Safe haven for retired Nazis? Oh yeah, that’s Argentina for sure. Or maybe Paraguay. Better be safe; remember not to ask any old guy what he did during the war. "I vas a gaucho on the Pampas." Wasn’t Madonna the first lady down there? Don’t cry for me, Argentina. That’s about it if you don’t include Patagonia which may also be in Chile which, come to think of it is where ski racers and itinerant ski patrollers go to ski in the summer. Did he say Argentina? Do they have mountains in Argentina?

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