Maxed Out 

Winter 2004-05: a 4 with a bullet

By G.D. Maxwell

Okay, strike the set, pack up the moguls, blow kisses at all the instant locals heading back home to Ontario, Oz and detox. That’s a wrap.

In a year when the start of the season and its finale seemed to all happen within the same five-week period, a year that separated the skiers and boarders from the whining dilettantes, a year when "waterproof" took clear precedence over "breathable", a year when we were so enraged by all things pineapple the local bars had to remove piña coladas from their repertoire… in a year such as the one just inflicted on us, let us lick our wounds, count our blessings and pray to whatever or whomever we pray to when we’re wallowing in the bottomless pit of fear that we never live long enough to see another ski season like the one we are gathered here today to boot the hell out of town. Can I get an Amen? How about an Eh Dude?

And it all started out so promising. There was a period during the second week of March – a week when heated policy debates raged over whether to open the bike park early since there was nary a flake of snow on the lower third of the mountain and everybody had already gotten their bikes out – when it looked as though the single best day of the season was going to be December 9 th . Trying to sustain an upbeat attitude well into March on a fleeting memory of a single powder day in early December is a bit like trying to stay excited about – or possibly even remember – a real sustainability plan a’comin’ one of these days.

I will, however, right now and publicly take my share of responsibility for the foul season visited upon us this year. On that ill-fated ninth of December, having romped through several untracked powder laps off Harmony chair, I called Peak to Creek as last run. In the endorphin euphoria of skiing freshies off McConkey’s, everybody agreed and it wasn’t until we got to the top of the Saddle they realized the plan required them to hike to the peak.

Twenty minutes later, in the middle of high winds and a whiteout severe enough I almost got lost finding Bagel Bowl – I know this mountain like a one-handed man knows the back of his missing hand – we were skiing into the void. To be fair, there were no piste markers up there, or if there were, they were buried under drifting snow. But oh, what a void. In the lee of ridges, every turn was a faceshot. Through Bagel Bowl, once we found it, the snow was knee deep. Into the trees above Peak to Creek, we were thigh deep and pullin’ snorkels out of our packs. And across a bit of flats, I fell into a hole up to my chest.

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