A month earlier, I had gone skiing near Seattle for the first time this season to get in shape for the trip to Whistler. On that beautiful clear day, I came down on a blue line few times and it had been the most successful ski day yet for me. As expected, it had prepared me well for the upcoming ski in Whistler where I had to ski beside cliffs in whiteout conditions.
My friend from Minnesota, Chaitanya wanted to ski near Seattle and we had decided to visit Whistler, Canada on a weekend of his convenience. The forecast for the weekend was pretty bad and I hadn’t booked anything other than the stay. We went ahead with the plans and left Seattle on friday afternoon. Chaitanya was getting excited looking at the colorful spring, so I decided to show him the Tulip garden at the Tulip festival in Mt Vernon. It was a huge field and was nice to see the rows of colorful flowers.
We then waited for around 25 mins at the border to enter Canada and made our next stop at Apna chat house in Surrey. I had heard that Surrey had one of the best chats in North America and I had selected the place for batting. My lunch included 12 pani-puris(the best I have had outside India), 2 vada pavs, 1 alu tikki(amazing well) and pieces of Paneer chilli. Chats being my favorite dishes, I thoroughly enjoyed it and decided for a second round while returning. We then drove through greater Vancouver to get on Highway 99 which lined the eastern coast of Howe Sound. It was a beautiful drive on the winding roads overlooking the expanse of waters and mountains rising from it. The forecast for the next two days was rainy, so I had made sure that we reach Whistler that evening to leave us with ample daylight.
We parked the car and decided to explore the town first. I loved the feel of the town. The architecture, huge snow covered mountains, creeks, bridges, lights, the moon and the laid-back attitude came together in a beautiful symphony to make the experience magical. We retired for the night and were excited for the skiing.
The next morning, we were ready with rented gear by 10 AM to take the lift to the Blackcomb mountain. Since we were late in the season, half of the mountain was closed and only one lift took us to the upper half of the mountain. The higher we went, the worse the visibility got. We did a warm up run by taking a green line and reached at the base of another lift which took us to Hortsmans’s hut, the highest point of the day. We were above the clouds and the view was quite good. We couldn’t see anything much other than the parts of the mountain. We started to descend and this is where the ordeal started. Soon the visibility got so low that we could only see few feet in distance. Since both were kind of amateurs, we had difficulty in navigating and assessing the slopes. We were scared especially due to the exposed sections the runs had. I might have hiked only once or twice in such conditions and I was a bit uncomfortable since skiing was not my forte. I fell few times but tried my best to stand and figure the way down. I kept looking at the markings on either side of the runs and ensured that I didn’t ski past them. I lead my friend for most of the route and waited for him whenever I got ahead enough that I couldn’t see him. With the help of flag markers and other skiiers path, we managed to come out in clear and then took a blue line down to the same ski lift. I checked the map and I realized that this was in a loop due to the closures. There was no way out from here, so we had to go back to Hortsman’s hut again and come down a different route. The visibility got even worse by now and the route which we had to take had even more exposed section. A fellow skier lead us for two narrow turns and then we were left again by ourselves in whiteout conditions.
Even though it was a blue line, I got quite adept in the conditions and started skiing fearlessly. I used to look at a marker, go way from it and find the marker on the other side and then repeat the exercise while skiing the slopes. I couldn’t even assess the immediate slope and sometimes mind tricked to assume the angle. I realized that the conditions and the urge to get out safely was actually helping me learn to ski efficiently. So I started enjoying the experience since it brought a sense adventure along with the sport. Finally after traversing few narrow sections and skiing for sometime we came into opening and took a blue line called Zig-Zag all the way to download gondola. Chaitanya decided to call it a day but I took the lift up for another run and throughly enjoyed coming down the Zig-Zag line. While coming down the gondola, a lady who frequented the mountain told that this was the worst weather she had skied in on the mountain and the first time that she had to ski with the help of markers. I was ok since I had enjoyed the experience but I couldn’t exactly experience the hugeness of the ski trails and the views. Nonetheless, it was quite an adventure. We didn’t do anything much for the day other than the visit to nearby Alexander falls and a bungee jumping bridge.
It was raining quite heavily the next morning and we left the town without doing much. The drive back was much more beautiful due to the hovering clouds and the richer greenery. We made a stop at Shannon falls and I loved the views of both the falls we visited. We then drove through Vancouver downtown and reached Apna chat house. I had Pani-puri, Chole kulche and tikki chat this time. The wait at the border was quite longer this time and we made it to Seattle by 6:30 PM. I think I will be visiting Whistler often as long as I am in PNW.
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