Overlooking the Fitzsimmons Valley, Whistler Mountain, and Black Tusk on Day 2
With some high pressure in the short term forecast I decided that a last minute trip to Whistler was in order. We set out from Seattle at a pretty descent time. Of course, I had been in the mood for some quality Vancouver fare the entire drive up, so we stopped at one of my favorite places, Vij’s. It was a Friday night, as should be expected, we had to wait quite some time for our table. The food and service was amazing and I’m always impressed at Vij’s.
We arrived really late Friday night, and checked in to Blackcomb Lodge Ltd. I requested that the front desk not leave my skis out in the morning with everyone else’s and they were really good about this. They put a special note on my skis, saying “leave in locker”. I was very happy about this.
With a late arrival on Friday, and a later start on Saturday morning, I wanted a one-way lift ticket on Saturday to access the backcountry and Glacier. The one-way lift ticket is a little known secret at WB. They do not seem to advertise it, and I have never seen it mentioned on their web site. This is because it is considerably less expensive than all the other lift tickets and passes they sell. Even noticeably less than EDGE cards for WA and OR residents. Of course, there is also the simple fact that since you are only riding the lifts one time, just to get to the Glacier, it rightfully should in fact be noticeably cheaper than everything else.
After waiting in line for what seemed like 15 minutes, the attending clerk would not sell me a one-way ticket because I did not have my avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel in my backpack at that exact moment in time. I asked the clerk if she had even read the avalanche forecast for the day, and explained to her that there was no chance in hell of a avalanche in the next 48 hours.
She proceeded to tell me that their strict policy at WB is to only sell one-way lift tickets to people that have **ALL** back country gear present and in their back pack at the time of sale, regardless of current weather conditions.
I then explained to her that is a shitty policy, and that I do not have time to walk back to my room, grab the missing items, AND wait in line again for another 15 minutes, noting that the missing items will just slow me down on my uphill skin anyway. I have mountains to ski! She then told me she would be happy to sell me a half-day standard lift ticket at a price of $63.79 CAD. I asked her what the difference in price is between that and the one way lift ticket, and from what I remember, it was something like $10-$20 CAD. I told her that we wasted a lot of time discussing the one-way ticket, and that she should have offered this option to me much sooner.
On the way to the top of Blackcomb
I rode up as high as I could on Blackcomb, but the lifts and rope tows were not running to the Glacier. After skinning up the difference, I decided to make my way out towards the summit of Blackcomb Mountain. Much of the terrain up here in early December was wind effected from the first big winter storm that passed through, but at least it was new snow! Traversing through some deep wind deposits was proving difficult, but eventually I was able to make my way up to a nice col just a little below the summit where I was able to de-ski to setup a tripod and take some photos of the sun dipping below Black Tusk and Whistler Mountain across the valley.
I love being the only one up in an amazing, beautiful zone like this. With clouds starting to fill in the valley and the setting sun directly in front of me on the horizon, this was a classic, you had to be there moment. To summarize, it was epic. After spending a lot of time admiring my incredible alpine surroundings, it was time to ski down! Being the last guy off the backside of Blackcomb has it’s advantages on a day like this as there were very few skiers that had ventured back here this day because the lifts were not running to help folks get back here. Of course there was a lot of wind effected snow on my way down. It was still nice to be skiing fresh snow after a long summer of skiing on last years deposits. Some of the creeks in the lower valley on the way back to the cat track were not fully frozen over yet, nor completely covered with snow like they are later on in the winter. This added a little more time to my descent, navigating through the short stretches of water as I made my way to the cat track. I eventually had to navigate through some grooming machines that were already starting their evening shift back on the front side of Blackcomb. I arrived at the upper station of the Excalibur Gondola, which was still running. Naturally, the gondola operator was a little surprised to see me, though not too surprised. The air was starting to get frigid by this time of the evening. When I was removing one of my skis with my trusty K2 composite poles, the tip splintered into little fragments, and now I was left with two tipless poles, the first one had splintered long before on a previous outing some time ago! Back at Whistler Village I popped into my corner room at Blackcomb Lodge overlooking Amsterdam Pub and started out the evening with a Whistler Brewing Company Chestnut Ale.
We rode lifts and skied on both Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain and did the obligatory Peak-to-Peak ride early in the day. The snow conditions were only mediocre as the lower halves of each mountain were barely covered, or not covered at all.
As you could imagine, I wanted to get up as high as I could again to take advantage of the newer snow. I headed out to the Blackcomb Glacier again in time for sunset, and began the uphill skin again. With more time, I ventured out further than I had the day before.
I ended up making my way into the edge of Garibaldi Provincial Park, at the col that looks out to the rest of the Spearhead Range, the start of the Spearhead Traverse. Some folks were camped way below me taking in the sunset. However, with no low clouds hanging out in the Fitzsimmons Valley, the sunset would not be as incredible as the previous day. I had timed things just right, yet again.
skiers camped below on their first night of the Spearhead Traverse
I de-skied at the top of the col separating drainages and went for a little walk up and around to get a better view of some of the peaks I had been unable to see yesterday. Of course as I was making my way around I noticed the faintest glimmer of movement way out in the distance on a peak in the vicinity of Whistler Mountain. It was a skier and split-boarder starting an amazing decent in wind deposited powder. Wow.
Back at my skis I was wishing that I was about to drop into wind deposited powder too :-( Still, I had another fun and long ski descent in the last bits of light left in the day around 4:30pm. Navigating the creeks down lower once again, I quickly made my way back to the Gondola yet again.
Of course for après ski beers and dinner on our last evening we naturally had to visit GLC, Garibaldi Lift Company. We stayed just long enough to catch the beginning of the show next door where the skiers and boarders do jumps and maneuvers through hoops of fire.
While I was in Whistler I also made sure to pick up a 6 pack of Whistler Brewing Company’s Chestnut Ale to give to my favorite ski tech back in Seattle. There is something about this beer that I just love. While they call it Chestnut Ale, it reminds me of butterscotch (in a good way) it’s sooo good. Some places you find this beer will just hand you a bottle and expect you to drink out of it. I highly recommend that you drink this one of out of a glass if you find yourself in that situation. The nose on this beer is so wonderful; from a glass is a superior experience with this one.