The first stirrings of Spring. Here – in Whistler – there are many snowy days still likely to come. The snowpack is as high as it gets, with many opportunities – still – to play in it. In truth, it will be months (ok, perhaps even well into Summer) before we can truly find “good dirt” high in the Alpine. But the signs are here…
- the first black bear sleepily wandering into our backyard
- the first ptarmigans crankily warning us away from their hidden nests
- the first pollen sneezes
- the throngs of Spring Break fair-weather skiers
- the palatable restlessness of locals itching to hose off their bikes, surfboards, and hikers
And, true to the calendar, the urge to reflect back on the season that is (in my mind) beginning to end.
It started with the usual anticipation and fluttering excitement of a town hell bent on worshiping Ullr in whatever pagan form we could muster the time, money, and energy on. The whoop whoop rush of getting gear together, passes paid for, and winter jobs aligned in this snow sport crazy town.
Of course – being the second pandemic year (the first year having endured the whole mountain being shut down March 29) there was also the nail biting/opinion flinging/science bending/fear mongering/ society splitting insanity that came with a once in a century full-on pandemic. There were open scraps with the Mother Ship (Vail) in regard to their handling of vaccine passports and treatment of long time local employees: yes…It Got Ugly. Most everyone was pretty sure the mountain would be shut down again but, like lemmings, we could not resist the pull of the cliffs…
As for me – well – I had my own private little anxiety. Early last season I tore my ACL in a backcountry incident (hidden root, early season, binding didn’t release) and lost the whole season. Although I had spent the better part of the year in various sorts of rehab (as best as I could mid-pandemic) and was able to muster a running event in the Fall, skiing spooked me. Call it post-trauma, or whatever, but I now see how injuries can be as difficult – or more difficult – to heal in your mind & memories, as the actual physical injury.
Faking it till I was making it, I marched out on the slopes determined that I was NOT going to let this get in my way. Of course, it didn’t take long until my mind/body disconnect resulted in a crash, pain, and tears of frustration. Although I swore high and low I would NEVER, EVER give in and wear one of those big, ugly, expensive, useless braces the physio and doctors recommended (why would I when, of course, I would work harder, longer, and force my rehab go faster than any of them anticipated), I had to give up my veil of stubbornness and get one of the damn things. It was that, or likely tear up the three remaining ligaments: my choice.
I have to admit: getting that big, ugly, expensive, useless brace was one of the wisest things I have ever decided (or should I say been forced) to do, never mind the kicking and screaming all the way to the physio’s office. First day out, it made all the difference in the world. That should’ve been the end of it, but it wasn’t: I have spent the entire season slowly and surely getting back into skiing. Some steps forward, some steps back…but mostly forward motion.
Yesterday, I hit 52 days (of skiing). Yes…52 days in spite of the pandemic, in spite of an injury. I am so very, very grateful.
A good mix of resort, backcountry (including 4 overnight hut trips = 14 days worth with my friend J), and pure up-hill skinning for the loving sweat of it. I am so very, very grateful.
The snowpack was Big. We had several significant rain/warming incidences followed by cold, long periods of no new snowfall, followed again by huge dumps and fluctuating freezing levels. Persistent layers of instability in the snowpack made for a twitchy and often potentially dangerous mix of avalanche conditions depending on when and where you were. Digging snow pits to assess conditions, stalking Avalanche Canada reports, and constantly assessing the other signs was definitely part of our days in the backcountry. Being pretty new to this sport – and naturally a Nervous Nelly – I found this layered onto my already anxious-about-my-knee state. But…reflecting back, it all went well: we were cautious, we were lucky, we had long, beautiful, adventurous hours in the mountains. I am so very, very grateful.
Our youngest son coached one day a week, worked in a restaurant at night, and has skied/boarded more days than I can even count. Yes, I love that he is living the ski bum life. I am so very, very grateful.
A blended family, our oldest son and youngest daughter came for Christmas (our eldest “girl”, living & working in Vermont, stayed put with travel still being so difficult) but we have booked flights to see her in the summer. It was another peaceful COVID holiday and we were blessed (or lucked out) to Not “catch the Vid”. What more could we ask of Santa? I am so very, very grateful.
Whistler was NOT shut down. Christmas was a whirlwind of Omicron and “everyone” had “it”. Still, the vax rates were sky high, and the case numbers came down enough that, not only did the mountain stay open, but…mask mandates were lifted across the province. I am so very, very grateful.
My husband found a good Doc who was able to help him with his knee struggles. The joy of seeing a man who has worked so hard in his life be able to live his own, albeit late, ski bum life is amazing. I am so very, very grateful.
My running coaches fully supported and fed me a schedule that encouraged a good mix of skiing and running, letting skiing take the lead. I feel encouraged, rested, ready to switch seasons and hit dirt trails again in the near future (although for a while I may have to drive to them). I am so very, very grateful.
As the next chapter of this year opens, I am praying for Peace in the Ukraine. Praying for Peace on this planet. We all need to do better…
Wishing you a wonderful Spring, Peace, and Happy Trails wherever they lead you. Thank you for reading my Reflections on a season to remember.