Posts Tagged With: Skiing

Weekend in Whiteout Whistler

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.

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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Categories: Adventure, Canada, Outdoors, Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Skiing – The best sport ever

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It has been long since the last blog but it’s worth the wait, as I had one of my best days in my life at Greek peak mountain resort near Ithaca. Little did I know that Skiing would become the sport I enjoy the most. Owing to the winter, I have been indulged in sports related to ice since the past few days: Ice Skating, Ice Hockey and Skiing. I wanted to make the most of this harsh winter and was thus waiting for an opportunity to go Skiing.
Greek Peak is the only best option since it’s located at a distance of 23 miles in North-East of Ithaca. Cornell’s International student organization (ISSO) comes up with trips like this over the year. They announced about the Skiing lessons trip for which I had no second thoughts about enrolling in. Since the roads were slippery and dangerous I did not want to rent out a car and drive, so ISSO’s trip came at the right time. Finally, from my group of friends, only Akhil(my classmate at Cornell) and I were confirmed our spots for skiing lessons. Akhil had mistakenly enrolled for Snowboarding which was a lot tougher.

On Feb 22, Sunday at 8.50am we left for Greek Peak from Collegetown in a decent Swarthout bus. The view of white layer on almost everything around looked serene and made up for the rear seats (near the restroom) in the bus. We spotted the shaved mountains with chair lifts and I was excited to try Skiing for the first time. At the rental equipment center, I rented a jumbo locker, shoes(which took me 3 tries to get the right one), Ski, Ski Poles, helmet and went out to the mountains. The shoes were like the ones Iron man wears, bulky and very tough to walk but provided amazing safety.

We were told that Skiing lessons would start at 12 PM which gave us around 1.5 hours of free time to try stuff by ourselves. According to people, it was perfect weather for skiing: temperature in +ve Fahrenheit and a bright day. There were many slopes on the hill ranging from beginner to expert mode and they had chair lifts to take them to take to the appropriate locations. I got on the skis and looking around and eavesdropping for guidance I managed to ski for a certain distance. However, it was tough to climb up the short slope again and again. I felt it impossible to get up from a fall without taking off the skis or a helping hand. After a few attempts at skiing, I proceeded to try a simple track called Boardwalk which was pretty steep for a beginner. It had an escalator kind of set up which took us till the top of the slope. Taking a leap of faith I started downhill. Unfortunately for me, a guy had fallen on the track and as I did not know how to make a turn yet, I went and rammed into him. In the following attempt I fell again as I couldn’t stop at the bottom of the slope.

Till the instruction began, I just kept trying by myself. The gloves I took were not waterproof, so every-time I fell, I almost smeared the whole gloves with ice which wet it again and again. Soon the cold bit my fingers and I had a very difficult time with my cold fingers the whole day. Skiing lessons started around 12 PM, and our instructor Dave, taught us very basic things – posture, techniques to get on the skis and to ski, turn and stop(wedge). We then went to a slope which was simpler than the Boardwalk. My trials at skiing were relatively successful here, as I managed to make S-turns while skiing downhill. Along with another person of the team, I was selected to try the Alpha slope, where I enjoyed the most.

 

Alpha Slope:
The chair lift to the top of Alpha slope did not work as I had expected. The lift is in constant rotation to increase the throughput. So people had to actually get on and off the slow moving chair lift. Sitting on the chair lift watching others ski and snowboard was an experience in itself. However I really had a hard time getting out of the moving chair lift on skis. It took around 4 tries to perfect the alight without a fall. Once we reached on top of the slope, Dave instructed us to go for S turns if we thought we were picking up too much speed.

I understood the importance of his advice only while the skiing down the slope. Taking his advice I started with S turns and managed to reach half way without a fall. Then I lost control as the slope was too steep. I guess I fell because I brought my skis closer maybe in the effort for turning. The fact that falling on ice doesn’t hurt much was enough to keep me trying. Making a right turn was almost natural but I had difficulty while turning left.  I tried again and this time I managed to come down the slope without a fall. The feeling of gliding rapidly on the slope is just fantastic. One has to keep his body balanced, and his speed in check. The experience was thrilling, and skiing on the slopes a number of times was the part of the day i cherished the most.

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It soon neared 4 PM. We returned the equipment after a quick photo session. After my experience with the heavy ski shoes, my huge Quechua trekking shoes felt light like slippers. It was a beautiful experience seeing kids skiing confidently, and even the handicapped people having their share of joy. At the end of my experience, the only part that hurt was my wrist. We left Greek Peak with a hearty smile and a healthy body. It was the best experience I have had since I arrived in US. Oh wait, my day hasn’t ended yet. I still have my Salsa classes to look up to in the evening.

Anyways, here are the few tips I found/learned to be helpful for beginners:

  • Carry waterproof gloves.
  • Take lessons from an experienced skier initially to get your techniques right.
  • Layer up, keep yourself protected from cold. Although you are in constant action you will feel cold.
  • I felt that making the turns was easier than to wedge while coming to a stop. So choose whichever comfortable.

Nikhil Navali

Categories: Adventure, Ithaca | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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