Today one of my bosses (I have two, it's a very long story) was kind enough to give me the day off (well, I worked Sunday). I headed to Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort, which has been consistently rated the #1 ski resort in the world by Ski Magazine.
Late Spring (usually May) is where people like me can afford to enjoy an afternoon skiing, the prices are very reasonable, from 12:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. you can ride for only $32 but keep in mind only Blackcomb Mountain is open.
Blackcomb Mountain opened in 1980, under the partnership of Fortress Mountain Resorts, then a wholly owned subsidiary of Aspen Skiing Company, and the Federal Business Development Bank of Canada. The competition of this mountain was not initially appreciated by Whistler Mountain. Indeed, the mountain was considered “new kid on the block” into the early 1990s.
In 1996, Intrawest purchased Whistler to create Whistler-Blackcomb as it is known today.
To get out of the crowds and up to the goods on Blackcomb, I took the Excalibur Gondola and then the Excelerator Chair. From there I took my first stroll and I headed to Glacier and Cream Chairs.
To reach the real extremes above the treeline you need to take the Glacier Express. Unfortunately I don't have the skill enough to negotiate the fall-line runs.
Glacier Express and Jersey Cream Express Chairs
In my case I keep descending on an easy run towards Solar Coaster Chair. I am just starting but after these few times putting vertical miles on my legs I believe I will be able to triumph over my genetic klutziness.
Solar Coaster Express Chair
If giant parks and pipes are what you're seeking, look no further than Blackcomb Mountain. The Nintendo Terrain Park -- accessible from Jersey Cream Express, Solar Coaster Express and Catskinner Chair -- will satisfy the best freestyle riders and intermediate jibbers too. There is one section labeled the Highest Level but you need a special Highest Level Pass and wear a helmet.
Nintendo Terrain Park
A new gondola connecting Whislter and Blackcomb Mountains will be completed by December 2008. When completed, the lift will have a total length of 4.4 km (2.7 mi) and the longest unsupported span for a lift of its kind in the world at 3,024 m (9,921 ft), while also being the highest lift of its kind above the valley floor at 415 m (1,362 ft) above Fitzsimmons Creek. The new gondola will have a capacity of 28 persons per cabin, and 2050 persons per hour in each direction.
Blackcomb is known as "the long run mountain". It has way more green and blue runs, and they are really long, going top to bottom, which really gives you time to find your ski legs.
Over the past 60 years, Canada’s average temperature has increased 1.98 degrees, with six of the warmest years occurring in the last decade, according to a study from the University of Waterloo. This trend has been particularly evident along the coastline and at Whistler Blackcomb ski resort.
Arthur DeJong, the mountain’s planning and environmental resource manager, reports that glaciers surrounding the resort have lost half their mass. The Horstman Glacier—a premier destination because of its groomed and mogul runs—has decreased in size from 428 acres in 1890 to just 86 acres in 2006.
Then I took the chair to reach 7th Heaven Zone, where I was able to find an array of ways down. This is usually the busiest section of the resort, I don't blame people because 7th Heaven is really glorious and open.
7th Heaven Express Chair
Of course I took the green trail down, although it was a little bit more difficult than the typical green trail. This section of the mountain gets a lot of sun, so even on non-powder days the snow is soft and edgeable.
Whistler Mountain opened for skiing in February, 1966, with a gondola lift, double chairlift (the Red Chair) and T-bar. The new mountain won instant acclaim for its vertical drop, good snow conditions, and huge alpine area. The only problem at the time was the road—it was a dirt logging track, which was only plowed on Saturday, to the detriment of Friday travelers.
On 23 December 1995, the lift operator on the Quicksilver lift pressed the button to make a routine stop, to allow a fallen skier to get out of the way of the unloading ramp. Instead, the emergency brake activated, sending shockwaves down the cable. Grips on at least two of the chairs slipped, and caused chairs to slide down the cable and slam into each other. In all, eight were injured, and two were killed in one of the worst ski lift accidents in North America. the disaster ended up causing the bankruptcy of the lift’s manufacturer, Lift Engineering.
In 1996 the infamous ski lift was replaced with a gondola.
7th Heaven Express Chair
It's impossible to be anywhere on a trail on Whistler/Blackcomb and miss out on scenery. Every view is amazing, from Black Tusk in the distance to the lakes and village below, it doesn't matter which mountain you go to.
Blackcomb is the location of the world famous "Couloir Extreme" run, which is one of the top ten steep in-bounds runs in the world according to Skiing Magazine. Originally called the Saudan Couloir by local skiers even before it was part of the ski area, the company eventually had to drop the name when extreme skier Sylvain Saudan complained about the unauthorized use of his name.
Can you see the dots? Those are skiers!
If you come when Whistler Mountain is open, your ski pass is good as well, and there are chairs and trails that allow you to cross from Blackcomb to Whistler and viceversa.
Rainbow Mountain, Alta Lake, Lost Lake and Green Lake
Skiers looking for adventure often descend the narrow couloir to the west of Blackcomb Mountain which is known locally as "DOA." Skiers should be aware that permanent closures are found on the west face of the peak, primarily to protect skiers and riders on Xhiggie's Meadow from avalanches. A memorial ice axe belonging to extreme skier Trevor Peterson can be found bolted to the rocks just below the summit.
Whistler Mountain was known as London Mountain until the developers of the ski resort petitioned to have it renamed in the late 1960's. They didn't think London was a marketable name. Although hill-summits on the ridge connecting this flattish summit to the more alpine areas of Garibaldi Park are named Oboe, Piccolo and Flute, Whistler's name does not come from a musical instrument, but from the whistling marmot that can still be heard on its slopes
Driving Distance: 125 km (78 miles)