Maxed Out 

Spring's regenerative powers tested


Spring forward. Yeah, I know. We did that a couple of weeks ago, plunging ourselves back into morning darkness to save a bit of electricity later in the day. I'm referring more to springing forward into spring, the season. There is - or perhaps more accurately, always has been - salvation in spring, born out of the sense of renewal that accompanies the season of hope.

For much of my life, when I lived in the temperate climes of the U.S. southwest, spring was the gentlest of seasons. It started mildly in early February and lingered well into May, at which point it gave way to the next season, known locally as Stinkin' Hot.

When I moved to Montreal, spring seemed to arrive in February as well. Unfortunately it only lasted about three days, generally over a weekend. The fabled February thaw would melt mountains of snow. Downtown intersections would become giant, flavourless Slurpees as old newspapers and the excrement of three quarters of a million dogs plugged sewer grates like so much hair at the bottom of a huge shower.

By the time Monday rolled around, spring-like conditions were nowhere to be found, having been replaced by an Arctic front and -40 temperatures. No longer needing waders to traverse intersections, you needed ice skates or crampons instead as they froze solid from curb to curb. Tow trucks and body shops counted on this seasonal perversion to see them through to the summer vacation demolition derby, still many long months away.

But there is no parallel to spring in Whistler. Spring in Whistler means you can ski powder one day and be mosquito food the next. While it seems impossible to comprehend we're just a few short weeks away from shuttering Whistler Mountain - and while we're on that subject, note to management: as useful as the Peak 2 Peak is, if it means you're going to shut down Whistler first each season let's just blow the damn thing up - the signs of spring are everywhere.

Birds, other than those with antifreeze for blood, are returning, more each day. The valley's lakes have iced off in what must be close to record breaking time. At the north end of Alta Lake they're fighting it out for the best nesting sites, cutting deals, establishing their pecking order. The Canada Geese have built a colony on the west side of the marsh, very posh, and have erected a gate to keep the Mallards and other riff raff on the other side. The Mallards, Mergansers and Goldeneyes have, in turn, infuriated the geese by refusing to recognize the sanctity of their gate, actually scooting through it on occasion, resulting in much honking and wing flapping by the geese.

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