WHISTLER, BC – Today's ski tour included some of the best runs I’ve ever, or possibly will ever, experience: Whistler Bowl and the Peak Chair.
Admittedly, my first taste of the Peak Chair came yesterday during a white-out wind storm. The light was dangerously flat and the only discernable features were the many cliff banks that define the area. The poor visibility made the chair ride a bit horrifying as massive slabs of rock would materialize out of the mist and snow, then drop away into nothing. It made me wonder just how high up I really was.
Going down was like reverse blindness, just piercing white in every direction. Feeling my way down a combination of deep pow and the crests of mammoth moguls was disorientating. However, through the maelstrom it was easy to know how good this area could be.
Whistler Bowl: one of the greatest runs you'll ever experience.
Rising above the clouds, the Peak Chair area was draped in sun and snow alike. After waiting in line for the area to open, it was finally time to experience what I previewed a day earlier.
The Peak Chair accesses four glory bowls. Each one is jammed with steeps, chutes, cirques, couloirs, glades, cliffs, and all manner of intermediate and extreme terrain. From left to right there’s Glacier Bowl, Whistler Bowl, and West Bowl.
It’s a hard decision when you reach the top and throngs of people are scattering in every direction trying to get the freshest tracks on the best lines. But you have to make a quick choice since more people are following close behind, ready to grab your perfect line before you can.
I decided to go with what I vaguely knew, Whistler Bowl. Straight up, the bowl is typical alpine fare, meaning it’s wide open and loaded with snow all the way down to the tree line. You can follow the bowl into gladed areas called Doom & Gloom and Frog’s Hollow, but that means taking two chairs back to the top, burning a full fresh run.
Not knowing, I began to follow a sharp traverse leading skier’s right, heading under the lift line, high up in the bowl. What I didn’t know is that the traverse led to a tight couloir known as the Coffin. You can’t turn, you have to air over a few drops, and it’s straight down.
Will Colford, on the tail end of a white ghost.
I opted out, angry for wasting time. Somehow I found myself on the ridge separating Whistler Bowl and Glacier Bowl. Looking at the steep, never-ending line I had to double check if the area was actually open. It was.
In 19 years of skiing and snowboarding, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve experienced a run like this, and one of those times was cat skiing. It just kept dropping away as my edge sunk deeper into the fluff. A skier came on my left and crossed my line with a slash. I blew through his sluff like a fireman running out of a burning building. I was painted with snow and took a hard breath in. It felt like breathing for the first time.
The run began to mellow as I came into the Saddle. My adrenaline level began to drop as my euphoria level began to rise. I looked back at my line in admiration for only a second because more skiers and riders began pouring over the crest. It reminded me of the scene in the Lion King with the stampeding water buffalo.
Back in the lift line, everyone was silent with glee. I am told on a normal day you only get one run before it’s all tracked. I managed to get three, all fresh.
The Peak Chair takes skiers and snowboarders to the top of Whistler mountain, but today it might as well have been the top of the world.
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