Haven’t had time to post much this week, but here’s a good Globe & Mail article that should get you stoked for some summer skiing and snowboarding at Whistler.
It is the middle of July. It’s 15 C. The sky is a radiant blue, the sun soars overhead.
We’re going skiing.
High up on Blackcomb Mountain at Whistler, bumping and bouncing on a rocky road in a red school bus along with about 30 people, the mix of families and punk teenagers – “Who’s got the rolling papers?” –is all a bit surreal.
“Hel-lo, everybody” bellows the driver. “My name is Johnnie. Welcome to my Big Red Express to heaven.”
Johnnie does not exaggerate, as he ferries skiers and snowboarders between the top of the Solar Coaster Express on Blackcomb to the last link to the Horstman Glacier, the 7th Heaven Express. The journey already is a wonder, as we rise away from the hum of the mountain’s base busy with horse rides, kids bungee bouncing and people on patios drinking beer with their lunch, steadily climbing a terrain free of snow, where black bears munch on fauna, and red bursts of Indian paintbrush flowers dot the landscape.
When Johnnie’s Big Red Express reaches the top of 7th Heaven, we step over to a nearby dimension: Winter in the middle of summer. “It’s another beautiful day,” says one liftie.
The expanse of the Horstman Glacier is a playground for anyone looking for something a little different in summer from the rigours of mountain biking on Whistler Mountain or golfing one of the courses below in the valley – and for anyone a tad too impatient to wait for November and December to get back on their boards.
“Skiing in summer – how can you beat that? Get a goggle tan,” smiles Mike Unrau, a father of two young boys who drove up for the day from Chilliwack, east of Vancouver. “We’ve skied all over the Okanagan and thought we’d try something different.”
The boys are digging it. Ryan, 9, isn’t the least worried about a spill on skis while wearing a T-shirt and shorts.
It’s a real delight to make these turns on the glacier, soft and wet, a touch tricky but a rush too, a kind of surfing on snow. The air is warm and the whole thing is a trip: the snow under the craggy rocks at the peak of Blackcomb with only a couple hundred people around, and a lot of them, like Ryan, in T-shirts. The vibe is relaxed; there’s lots of time to sit under an umbrella with food and drink, or on the patio at the Horstman Hut with its sprawling vista of the Coast Mountains.