Savour the summer 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY VINCE SHULEY - Enjoy Don't let the summer pass without some alpine moments like this. Pemberton, B.C.
  • Photo by Vince Shuley
  • Enjoy Don't let the summer pass without some alpine moments like this. Pemberton, B.C.

It was in August 2008 when I finally made the call to embrace summer again. I was working at a ski resort in Chile living in cramped staff accommodation and taking every opportunity to ditch work shifts consisting of teaching disinterested Brazilians how to slide down the bunny slope. It was a great season in the south; plenty of one-metre snowstorms followed by bluebird days, loads of windy outings exploring the nearby backcountry and no shortage of piscola-fuelled parties. It was my sixth winter back-to-back, bouncing between hemispheres twice a year to chase the ski seasons. For many career ski instructors, that was—and still is—the path to economic sustainability.

I remember meeting one of the top-ranked French ski instructors at this Chilean ski school. The talk around the locker room was he had worked 60 seasons; two per year for 30 years. Thirty years of no summer! His family travelled with him and everything. While my six consecutive winters paled in comparison, I knew I didn't have the patience nor career desire to walk down that path.

With my application for Permanent Residency firmly submitted to the Candian government, at the end of that winter season in Chile I told my ski school director that I wasn't coming back. No more packing my life into a backpack and ski bag to drag through endless airport connections. Time to put down some roots.

Ten years later, I can't imagine missing this time of year in Whistler. To mark this momentous occasion, here are a few ways I've managed maximize the much-too-short Canadian summers.

Two-wheeled fun

Like many Whistlerites, I let my mountain bikes appropriate the majority of my summer playtime. Morning pedals up the West Side, evening Garbo laps, full-day epics at all ends of the Sea to Sky. Mountain biking has been around for decades now, but any old-schooler will tell you that there's never been a better time to try this sport. The bikes are more awesome than ever to ride (both uphill and downhill) and there are trails for every ability and style of rider. New bikes are unfortunately also more expensive than ever, but the used market can get you going. It still amazes me the number of people I meet who've never tried mountain biking in Whistler, but every year more friends hear the call.

Try at least one new summer thing, every year

It's easy to get caught up in your favourite activity all summer long, and that's OK. But we'd all be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn't at least give some of the other forms of recreation a chance to see if we like them. One of my favourite experiences from last summer was trying my hand at trials moto. ("I got 99 problems and trials ain't one," Pique, Oct. 18, 2018). There's just something about trying an unfamiliar endeavour that involves a new set of skills. The steep part of the learning curve—when you start to get it and want to practice more until you really get it—can be some of the most rewarding time spent outside. Some activities that are still on my list are kitesurfing, paragliding, canyoning and sailing. These all sound expensive and complicated to get into, but there are development programs for beginners all over the Sea to Sky, such as the Whistler Sailing Association and Aerial Kiteboarding in Squamish.

Hit the road

We all want to get the most of summer at home, but don't miss the opportunity to check out the rest of this beautiful province. Yes, the weekend lineups for BC Ferries suck. But as long as you're organized and arrive early or book ahead, sitting on the top deck during a ferry ride to Nanaimo, Langdale and Bowen Island can be one of the more memorable parts of your trip. Journeys stateside can be hectic at the border but well worth the hassle to explore more of the Pacific Northwest. On my list here is exploring trails around Bellingham and Chuckanut and touring breweries on the Oregon Coast.

Appreciate the alpine

It can sometimes seem a little difficult to convince a skier to walk up a mountain just to walk back down it again, but summer days in the alpine are where it's at. The alpine zones of Whistler Blackcomb and Sea to Sky Gondola can get uncomfortably busy within a half hour's stroll from the lodge, but beyond that the crowds thin to a trickle quite quickly. Pack a sandwich, plenty of water and a puffy jacket and you can still get a backcountry experience without schlepping all the way from the valley. One of my favourite hikes from last year was scrambling to the top of Mt. Habrich in Squamish. My friends and I probably passed about five people on the entire all-day loop.

The clock is ticking. The time for summer is now. Time to maximize.

Vince Shuley is ready to go play outside again. For questions, comments or suggestions for The Outsider email vince@vinceshuley.com or Instagram @whis_vince

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