Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Break Roadtrip: Day 6-8

Day 6: Golden, BC to Revelstoke, BC. Ski Revelstoke.

We got up early in the morning, drank some Kicking Horse coffee and second helpings of last night's breakfast tacos and headed to the place ski movies are made, Revelstoke, BC. Aside from just having a cool sounding name, Revelstoke also boasts the largest vertical drop of any resort in North America. It has only one gondola and two lifts but tons of access including both heli and cat skiing that take off from the same base. 


After spending the morning breaking the cardinal rule of not teaching your girlfriend to ski, for the second time this season, I headed back up the lift to do some exploring in the early afternoon. I took the Stoke Chair up to the top and made my way under the lift on the South facing slopes through some seemingly endless glades. Unfortunately, it had gotten warm the day before the there was a nasty melt-freeze crust over everything. 

Having had enough of this nastinesss, I headed back up Stoke and traversed towards the North side of the mountain, where the snow was substantially better. I did a couple of laps on lower entrance to the North Bowl and then the day was already over.

We got off the mountain and walked around downtown Revelstoke for a bit and headed to our sledneck hotel a little out of town. There were actually twice as many snowmobiles in the parking lot as cars so we knew it would be a fun place to stay. Hot tub, narrated version of Billy Madison on the boob tube, and sweet powder dreams.

More Revy tomorrow...

Day 7: Ski Revelstoke Pow

The plan was to ski Revelstoke powder but we were skeptical at first. It was really warm at the bottom and it had snowed but not a ton. We rode the Stoke lift first thing and it was crazy windy the whole way up. Fortunately, all the snow was being loaded into the North Bowl area. We did a few laps in the same spots as the day before, except with knee deep powder.

Right before lunch, we took the boot pack left of the top of the chair and dropped into the run called “Drop In” and over to Greeley Bowl. More powder. The visibility and wind up high and rain down low were making for some nasty weather once we got below the bowls.

After some man-fuel pulled pork sandwiches, we grabbed the gondola back up and headed to the bottom of Stoke chair, only to find out that the wind had picked up to about 50-60mph. We tried skiing through the glades below the gondola but the snow was brutal.

We took the gondola up one last time in hopes they would open the Stoke chair back up and as we cruised up, it was just reopening. In the course of lunch and one run off the gondola, the whole upper mountain had been refilled with snow. The wind move about and additional 6-8 inches of smoky powder onto the slopes and I was in ski heaven!

After they kicked us off the mountain, we headed down and checked out Mt. Begbie Brewing Company, got some cheap wings and beer (yes, cheap beer), and more hot tub.

The combination of the mountain and town made Revelstoke my favorite stop on the trip.

Day 8: Drive from Revelstoke, BC to Vernon, BC to ski Silverstar, and then drive to Kelowna.

We got up early and begrudgingly left Revelstoke. We drove for a while along side some beautiful lakes before ending up in Vernon. We made it up to Silverstar around 10-ish and were really hoping for a good powder day. There was a ton of untouched snow but as soon as we got out there, we discovered a thick crust over the top of everything. Had the sun come out and made it slushy is could have still been a great day but as it was, it was miserable.

To make things worse, Silverstar was flat and the end of every run was a long, flat traverse that took way to much time and energy. We gave an honest effort to find some good snow, skiing every side and angle of the mountain but nothing was good. We headed in for lunch and called it.

The village at the base was probably the best part of the day. We had a bomb lunch in a cool bistro called Bugaboo and walked around a little. It would be a pretty cool place to get stranded for a few days. Just wish the snow was better.

We left fairly early and headed towards Kelowna. On the way, we stopped at a pretentious winery on the way but we were clearly too low brow with our ski pants and beanies. Once we arrived in Kelowna, we decided to cut the trip a day short and head back to Seattle on the account of unfavorable weather. 

Overall this was an amazing trip and I would recommend almost every single one of these towns and resorts. I cannot wait to go back!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Spring Break Roadtrip: Day 4-5

Day 4: Drive from Fernie, BC to Golden, BC

In preparation for Day 4 at Castle Mountain, we took our skis to a local shop to get waxed. The shop told us that they would be ready before it closed in the evening but when we showed up, a hour before closing, the shop was already closed. So with our skis being held hostage behind locked doors that didn’t open again until 9am the next morning, we decided to change our plans and spend the day driving through Kootenay and Banff National Parks. 

We started out by hitting the hot springs (see warm swimming pool fed by hot springs) in Radium Springs and then continued heading North. The entire day was filled with beautiful snow-covered mountain after snow-covered mountain, along with the occasional iced over lake or river. We stopped for coffee in the town of Banff which was essentially Whistler Village transplanted to a different location. 

We continued to Lake Louise which was completely frozen over. So frozen that my little brother decided he would do a handstand in the middle of the lake, because why not? 

Then Cally had a photo-sesh on the ice fortresses...

And then we headed towards Golden, BC and saw some sweet bighorn sheep chillin' by the road...

After arriving in Golden and checking out the area, we attempted to find our "Downtown Hostel". Our hostel was neither downtown, nor a hostel. Much more like a crackden with internet. An added bonus was that it was right next to the line for the freight train, which caused the entire house to shake each time in the middle of the night one went by (about every 30 minutes or so). 

 And on to the next day.

Day 5: Ski Kicking Horse, Change Hostels

We all woke up after a solid fifteen minutes worth of sleep, grabbed some Mackers breakfast and headed to the resort. Kicking Horse Resort is located about 15 minutes outside of Golden, BC in the Purcell Mountains and is the "Champagne Capital of Canada." We were not fortunate to experience this so called champagne powder but after a couple of deep powder days at Red Mountain and Fernie, we were OK with cruising groomers for a day (I guess...).  

Despite having no new snow and spring conditions, this resort was a blast. The entire upper mountain, accessed from either the gondola or the Stairway to Heaven lift is ridiculously steep. It consists of four giant steep bowls with a lot of chutes and a huge drop. In the morning we played in Crystal Bowl and off CPR ridge, before taking a hike to the Terminator Peak before lunch (they also have a peak named T2, kinda sweet). This was the longest run of the day and there were patches of good and bad snow on the way. It would be completely crazy on a powder day. 

After devouring some buffalo sausage mac and cheese, we headed back up the lift and up the Stairway to Heaven lift. We hiked up an actual stairway and traversed over to the top of White Wall. We dropped into a chute that was really the only place to drop into because of the enormous cornice over the top of it and made our way down to the bottom of the gondola. We headed back up and dropped into Feuz Bowl for a final lap.

While I can only speculate, I think this place on a powder day would rival anywhere I have ever been. Maybe next year. 

We got off the hill and went to a wolf "sanctuary", which was a Hollywood couple's wolf zoo used to raise awareness for the plight of the wolves. The whole thing had a weird feel to it but at least the wolves were really badass. Whether they would beat Liam Neeson in hand-to-paw combat is another story.

We left $12 poorer and headed to the Dreamcatcher Hostel for the night. This is the coolest stripclub converted to hostel I have ever stayed in and I highly recommend it to the swaths of travelers that are heading to Golden, BC as we speak. 

A bottle of wine, some music on the free jukebox and from the guest-biker-musician with the biker-musician name of Scotty Vaughn, and some killer breakfast tacos for dinner and it was bedtime. This time without feeling like the train was going to bust through the doors. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Break Roadtrip: Day 1-3

This Spring Break (yes, even ski bums can celebrate Spring Break), I am roadtripping through the Powder Highway in British Columbia. In an ideal world (in which I was filthy rich and didn't have to work) I would be dividing my time amongst the many heli-skiing, cat skiing, and world class ski resorts, however this time, just the latter is going to have to do.

In case you have a life and have not been watching the hourly snow reports for the Canadian Rockies, it has been absolutely dumping. It is barely halfway through March and most the resorts we are going to have already reported nearly 70 inches of new snow. So here it goes:

Day 1 - Drive from Seattle, WA to Rossland, BC

Yesterday morning we intended to get up early and drive the scenic route to Rossland, BC, home of Red Mountain. After waking up late and going on a quick run in sunny Seattle (yes one of the three days per year), we headed up Snoqualmie Pass towards Eastern Washington. About five miles ahead of us, a big natural slide happened and we got stuck waiting an hour and a half for the highway department to do avalanche control.

We eventually got through and continued driving North and East towards Canada, past beautiful Lake Chelan and along the Columbia. It took forever (because what kind of idiot takes the scenic route in the winter) and we didn't get to Rossland until late. Pretty but boring day.

Day 2- Ski Red Mountain and Drive to Fernie
We got up pretty early and made the long and scenic five minute drive from Rossland to Red MountainRed Mountain is made up of, well Red Mountain, and the bigger and the larger Granite Mountain.

As was explained by the exuberant local on the ultra long lift ride, this mountain has something for every taste. The South facing slopes have amazing glade and tree skiing, the backside has more mellow but tighter tree skiing, and the North facing slopes has steeper tree skiing. Additionally, if you want to ski Red Mountain, there are more steep tree runs.

Ok, you get it. This place is a complete skier's paradise. It didn't snow the night before we skied there, yet we had fresh powder all day. The locals were complaining about how busy it was. There were no lifts lines, at all.

Speaking of locals, I have never met a group so willing to take you to their spots than these folks. First run of the day some fifty-year old dude (who looked like "The Dude") took us off into an amazingly deep zone and then basically said "You're welcome" and took off.
A picture to make the mother nervous

After a morning of skiing the south and east facing slopes, we hit Red Mountain and the north facing slopes in the afternoon. By 3:30-ish things were a tiny bit tracked out and it was getting super warm so we called it a day. 

We got in the car and headed East towards Fernie over the Kootenay and Crowsnest passes. Absolutely stunning mountainous backdrop and tons of elk and deer for the viewing.

Got to the Raging Elk Hostel in Fernie, the coolest named hostel ever. We hung our very stinky gear up to dry, ate some dinner and got to sleep.

Day 3 - Ski Fernie

After free pancake breakfast and coffee (thank you Raging Elk), we got to the hill around 9AM. It was socked in up high but like the honey badger, we don't give a shit. We started off the Timber Express Lift and stuck in the trees to start the day. While it only snowed 4-5 inches, a lot of the stuff in the trees was at least knee deep.
This place is big
After a couple runs, we hopped on the White Pass lift which actually felt like you were ascending into skier heaven because it was so high up and the fog was so thick.

Jer's first T-bar
After several more laps, the sun started to peak out and we realized how big Fernie really is. It is made up of five massive bowls, accessed by ten lifts. Each bowl had its own character and features and while the stuff closest to the lift started to get tracked out, the farther we went to the sides, the more fresh lines we got.

After a delicious turkey sandwich lunch and a little sunshine, we headed up for a few last runs. Near the end of the day, the Polar Express Lift to the summit opened up and we hopped on. The terrain up there looked solid if there was more snow but there was tons of loose rock everywhere. That being said, the view from the top was completely worth it. We headed down, exhausted and completely satisfied.

Now off to the Northern Bar and Stage in Fernie for a Beatles cover band. Banff and Lake Louise in the AM. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

March Powder!

This last week has brought an absolutely insane storm to Whistler Blackcomb. With over 64 inches (that's 165cm for you Canucks), it feels much more like winter than spring. Keep it coming mother nature!

The last month has gone something like this.

It started snowing in late February...

Then it was sunny and beautiful....

And since then its dumped...


And dumped...

More days than not I woke up to this...

And then Marley got nailed by falling snow while taking a pee...

And now my legs hate me. Worth it!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lessons in Survival

If one were to equate teaching a significant other to ski to a popular movie title, it would most accurately be  "There Will Be Blood". Many of us out there have seen or witnessed such ill-advised behavior, but know little about it. Get educated.

A few factors must be in place before your survival is truly at risk.

First, you need the proper relationship. Today we focus on the boyfriend/girlfriend type. This relationship is crucial because it is one of the few that can elicit strong enough emotions for public meltdowns and screaming sessions (see also parent/child).

Next, you need one person with substantially more experience skiing than the other person.

Finally, you need poor judgment. Like this guy --------------> 

When these factors are present, continuing your current course of action is the rough equivalent to walking through a minefield.  You may get past the first few steps but eventually something is going to blow up in your face.

Keep reading for some tips to optimize your slim chances of survival.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why is the beer so expensive in Canada?

So you are planning this sweet trip up to Whistler for the long weekend. The hotel, gas (damn liters), and lift tickets (about $110) are all astronomically expensive, but hey, at least the beer is cheap right? You venture around looking for the best apres deals and you fail to find a place that serves anything better than a lager for $5. After the 12% tax and a tip for the pretty Australian waitress, you're up to $7 or $8.

Screw this, you say, lets just do like we always do, grab a case and get shmammered at the hotel room and then go hit on cougars in the Westin hotel bar (not where you're staying, obviously). You head over to Nestor's after hearing the nauseating commercials the whole ride up about how it is where the locals shop. You go to their liquor store and instant shock followed by depression sets in as you look at the Coors sticker on the fridge door and it says:
A taste of the Rockies ain't free, son.

All the Canadians stare at you as you get on your knees and scream, "Why?!?!?!?!?"

I shall tell you. If you keep reading that is.

Saturday, February 18, 2012