On B.C. peaks, it’s looking like a snow party
This winter, the ski hills are alive with the sound of partying—and nowhere more so than at Big White Ski Resort, outside Kelowna in the Central Okanagan, as well as at Panorama Mountain Village, near Invermere in the East Kootenay. The fact that both peaks are celebrating golden anniversaries is no small snowballs. Just look what happened at 50th birthday parties at Apex, Sun Peaks, and Fernie last winter. Nature blessed them—and the rest of B.C’s winter-sport resorts, for that matter—with enough snow to last well into the summer, long after the last turns had been carved by everyone except ski-all-year zealots.
Early indications from field observations, such as the fact that fireweed dropped seeds three weeks early on Silver Star Mountain above Vernon, suggest that a fantastic winter lies ahead; whether such prognostications pan out remains to be seen. Regardless, good things are in the works on the North Shore, where snow guns are already firing up at Cypress and Grouse mountains. (Cypress recorded its earliest opening ever on November 8 last year.) December 1 is the target date for Mount Seymour to do some firing up of its own when the new Mystery Peak chair lift switches on.
When interviewed at the recent Vancouver Snow Show, Cypress Mountain sales and marketing director Joffrey Koeman was particularly excited about two installations among the 20 new features added to the freestyle terrain parks on Mount Strachan. Aerial antics will spike with the arrival of a Katal Landing Pad—a jumbo air bag—in the Patio Park adjacent to the day lodge, where high flyers can practise going big with less fear of injury. Over at the learning area, a kid’s carousel will help youngsters get comfortable with sliding on snow while being towed in circles at less than dizzying speeds. (See cypressmountain.com/.)
At the other end of the speed spectrum, Apex Mountain general manager James Shalman outlined to the Straight how workers at the South Okanagan destination spent the summer fashioning a new ski-cross and boardercross track, complete with five-metre-high walls on some of the banked turns, certain to generate excitement comparable to sliding up the terrain park’s school bus, installed as if it had crash-landed nose-first into the lower slopes of Beaconsfield Mountain. “Apex has long been a training ground for aspiring freestyle skiers,” said Shalman. “The new Spruce Hollow ’cross installation is a significant, fun course that we designed as a give-back to intermediate-level, noncompetitive skiers and riders.”
Shalman estimated that it will take about a minute to complete a run, with room for as many as four racers on course at any one time. Get out the elbow pads (www.apexresort.com/ ).
According to Vancouver-based Canadian Freestyle Ski Association head coach Jeremy Cooper, his organization is working to minimize mayhem wherever snow sliders gather. As he explained to the Straight, the association—which offers development programs to skiers aged 6 to 21—is partnering with the SafeStart advanced safety-awareness and safety-skills program targeted specifically at 15- to 18-year-old skiers, an error–prone demographic if ever there was one. “Although SafeStart has been involved in Canadian workplaces since the 1990s, it’s new to sport. We’ve enrolled all our up-and-coming terrain-park and half-pipe provincial team riders, like the North Shore’s Michael Granger, in something we think will help sharpen their decision-making skills not just on the slopes but in their lives in general too.” (More details can be found at freestyleski.com/.)
With a nod to protection of a different kind, Mountain Equipment Co-op announced in October that it will support the U.S.–based environmental initiative Protect Our Winters, or POW, whose goal is to enlist the winter-sports community in the fight against climate change (protectourwinters.org/ ). To kick off the partnership, Protect Our Winters is launching a new membership drive. Mountain Equipment Co-op will match every dollar that is donated to POW from Canada, to a maximum of $10,000. Learn more at MEC’s daylong Snowfest Vancouver event (www.mec.ca/ ) on Saturday (November 10).
Wonder is the buzzword this year at Whistler Blackcomb, where a number of marvel-themed initiatives are in play both on-slope and on-line. Six “wonder routes” now interlace the mountains. Designed to showcase unique aspects of the twin peaks, these self-guided tours and trails include the Top of the World Route, with views from the four highest peaks; the Steeps Sampler, spotlighting the steepest runs; the Size Matters Route, showing the longest runs; and the Gold Medal Route, noting points of interest from the 2010 Winter Olympics. For inspiration, look no further than the two episodes of the seven-part “Wonder Reels” video series posted on WB’s website (wonder.whistlerblackcomb.com/). If you feel enchanted enough to record your experiences in pictures, the site is set up for posting images.
Now, let it snow.