Sunset on Snowboarding

February 13, 2008

Declan YVR Airport

Well, another holiday is at an end, and one that saw significantly improved boarding from all concerned. Dave quickly got to the level that he was scaring us with talks of blacks diamonds and chair-lifts, Pease was soon gliding down perfectly good mountains with a grace that could only be described as ‘surprising’ and Dec, even Dec, embraced the radicalism of heel edges and turning.

As for myself, there’s no doubting that I’m still a skier at heart. For all the 8 days fun I had boarding, I still think the best time I spent was a day skiing down Blackcomb (aided, admittedly, my utterly outstanding snow and coming halfway through the holiday). However, for the first time I started really enjoying myself on a board and can accept that there are definitely benefits to both modes of descent. I can’t see myself ever getting to Dave dark-side levels (he’s now fully ‘2-edges good, 4-edges bad’), but another year of boarding should get me to a state where I could pick up either a board or skis and expect to come out equally successfully.

And, let’s face it, at least it’s not fucking telemarking.


Day 8.

February 11, 2008

Day 8 started with the combined hangover of the Irish and Aggletonian contingent of our happy group. As such, Dave and I headed up the mountain for a few quick runs. The snow was lovely, but the weather was pretty ropey. The high wind at the top, and the heavy snow at all levels was making things a bit tricky. After a couple of satisfying runs, we met Dec at the top of the Whistler Gondola for lunch.

After lunch, the three of us rode down to the middle station again. Dave continued down the mountain for a massage, and the previous evening’s booze took its toll on Dec, who gondolised his way beck down the mountain.  The weather was still pretty shoddy, but I figured that I had a couple more runs in me before heading off the hill.

The gondola back up to the top was a revelation. The snow suddenly stopped, revealing the lovely sunny day that had been struggling to get out for the previous few hours. Wary of the weather reports, though, lots of people chose to stay away. All that was left, seemingly, was me, a couple of inches of fresh powder, and the hill. For those few hours, there could conceivably have been nobody left in the world, and for those few hours, I didn’t care. I went on to enjoy three beautiful runs down to the middle station—each on an essentially empty, freshly snowed-upon piste—for the rest of the afternoon. It was quite simply one of the finest afternoons of my life. Although my less-than-rapid riding style—I’ve referred to it as “Boarding Miss Daisy”—probably isn’t terribly exciting to watch, I had the time of my life, gently meandering down wide, open, powdery pistes without anyone to watch out for, without anyone watching out for me, without any bloody skiers, without a care in the world.

The final time I got down to the middle station, to find the way back up was closed for the day, I was genuinely upset. I knew there and then that the stacked coincidences of Bingo’s hangover, Dec’s—well—hangover, Dave’s massage, the heavy snow in the morning, the beautiful afternoon, and the lack of people may never happen again. I’ll probably never have an afternoon on a snowboard that perfect again. But I had that one afternoon, and I loved every second of it.


Never trust me. Never.

February 10, 2008

And this is why.


How am I supposed to enjoy myself here when all it does is snow?

February 8, 2008

I must be the unluckiest person in the world. I came here to enjoy a bit of boarding and banter with my chums. But instead of nice boarding conditions, all it does is bloody well snow. How am I supposed to enjoy a nice run down a nice well-groomed piste when 20 cm of fresh powder fell overnight?

Even as I write this post, after a day of repeatedly boarding Whistler top-to-bottom, it’s snowing heavily at the village altitude. Knowing my luck, it’ll be snowing even heavier up the mountain. It’s been doing nothing but snowing now for three days solid. Maybe if I’m lucky there’ll be no snow tomorrow, but I’m not holding my breath. I hate Whistler 🙂


Days 3 & 4 – a brief synopsis

February 7, 2008

Day 3 was just about perfect, in all honesty.  Although critics may knock us for a certain lack of the exploratory spirit, we absolutely caned the shit out of one run in particular. While Dec warmed up on the Middle Station nursery slope, Bingo, Dave and I went to the top. The weather at the top of the Whistler Gondola was pretty rough; a very strong, cold wind, and so much snow that it was hard to see.  Once we got over that though, we found  a run with only a few people on it, and the most perfect powder for boarding on / over / through. We had a lazy run down it stopping every now and then to exchange our views. We seemed pretty unanimous in agreeing that this was the best boarding we’d done to date. Back down to the Middle Station to pick Dec up, we headed back to the top unanimous in that we’d do exactly the same run again.  We did, for most of the day. With a constant stream of pretty heavy snow, the run got better through the day. We ended up going all the way to the bottom of the mountain, where we found an Irish pub (on which I shall keep my views muted) and  got a few drinks in. All in all, a perfect day. It took more than one conversation with Bingo to wipe the smile off of my face, so that speaks volumes.

Day 4  started slowly, but ratcheted up pretty significantly. Again, it had been snowing all night.  After finding a crappy piste, we found ourselves mid-morning having done pretty much no boarding. We decided to try to run top-to-bottom of the Whistler gondola as many times as we could. We did it a bunch of times. Each time, the run was clear, the powder deep, the company great, and the boarding excellent. After Dec disappeared in the afternoon for a foot massage (he’d previously used the wonders of the interweb to diagnose the cause of his numb toe as a stroke), Bingo, Dave and I tried to get in as many top-to-bottom runs as we could, stopping as little as we could. After a couple of runs, only stopping twice, we went for one more go.  On reflection, maybe I shouldn’t have.  In between the jet lag and the aftershocks of my previous appalling mood, I haven’t slept very well for the last week. Before the final run, I was mentally exhausted. Thankfully, as a consequence of playing rugby as a prop, I’ve trained for most of my life for short bursts of extreme effort, followed by a bit of rest. This training renders the muscles which I possess almost entirely unsuitable for the sustained effort of snowboarding. My legs were pretty much shot, and I wasn’t having too good a time of things.  Either way, I reached Whistler Village exhausted but happy, and ready for a good rest. I got back to the chateau, and had a good nap for a couple of hours.

Since then, it’s been snowing really heavily at the village altitude. We’re going to try to get out as soon as possible today to enjoy the fresh powder, on hopefully fresher legs. Dave just offered me a quick beer before we hit the slopes. Although I didn’t reply, he’s reading this as I type. In response, I shall offer to hit Dave before he offers me another beer. Life’s OK.


Photo of the holiday so far…

February 5, 2008



Day 2 – un jour non-Declanique

February 5, 2008

After another night with next to no sleep (making it four in a row now), on a slightly overcast morning, we four, we happy four, we band of mothers, set off up the Whistler Gondola for another day of green run-based silliness. With Dec now able to turn in both directions following his lesson [after 7 days of boarding, we’ve found out that he’s not actually a goofy after all, but has ambitiously been learning to ride switch before brushing up on his natural stance], we were full of expectation.

We headed down an innocuous-looking green run, about 20 metres down which Dec realised that he couldn’t yet turn on steeper hills. He set off back down the mountain in the gondola to sod around on the nursery slope before his lesson in the afternoon. With no Dec,the remaining three of us got some good runs under our belt. It was beautiful. Fairly empty pistes, ok weather, and great snow led to what was for me the best morning of boarding I’ve had yet. At one point, I felt that rather than being some bloke who could turn in both directions, then traverse for a bit, just fleetingly I felt like an actual snowboarder. Not a good one, but a boarder nonetheless.

We checked in on Dec a few times, caught him with an ok Attenborough-style piece-to-camera which I will upload as soon as I work out how*, and then gondolated down the mountain for a light lunch. Dec went off for his lesson, and Aggleton picked out an interesting-looking run for the afternoon. It was his worst idea yet. Apart from a few sections, the whole of the run was on flat, meandering traverses. It was horrible. Just dreadful. After having got down from the top of the whistler gondola to the middle station in about 15-20 minutes in the morning, it took us about 3 1/2 hours to get down from the top of Little Whistler to the same place. The only plus was that [purely out of necessity, as my thighs were on fire] I started riding a bit of switch. I even got a few turns in. We headed back down the mountain in the gondola from the middle station. and back to the hotel to meet Dec. There, I picked up some more shitty news just to keep my rolling foul mood really topped up, and went out for dinner.

Upon our return, I fell asleep in a chair in front of the tv—the first time I’ve fallen asleep trouble-free in five nights—and woke up to find that everyone else had gone to bed. Not one to break with tradition, though, as soon as I got into bed, I had a rotten night of sleep, which brings us all up to the present; me laying here in bed writing blog posts at 5am.

Who knows what else today holds? We’ve only got 5 eggs left, so I’m envisaging a fight for breakfast. Should be fun to watch, if nothing else. Hopefully, the four of us can enjoy the boarding together. As much as I enjoyed yesterday morning, I’m here primarily not to board, but to spend time with my three friends with whom I’ve undertaken this ridiculous transatlantic endeavour. Hopefully, today will see more of that.

*I’ve worked out how.


And so it begins

February 5, 2008

I woke up yesterday still consumed by a particularly foul mood. Not even the picture postcard surroundings, puerile banter, and relentlessly, terrifyingly happy Canadians had done much to cheer me up. So it was with no small amount of insouciance that I got back into my boarding gear, tied on those bloody boots, waited for Dave and Bingo, and then made my way with the boys to the Whistler gondola.

We had planned a fairly unambitious first day back; a trip to the top of the Whistler gondola, no chair lifts, certainly no drag lifts, and then the easiest route back down the mountain. It seemed like a good plan…

Heading up the side of the mountain, my demeanour soon started to lift. I was back. I’m not a natural boarder by any stretch, and I’ve only been once (it’s hard to count this), but it’s something I really enjoy doing. Strapping a plank to one’s feet and hurtling down a mountain isn’t something that anyone should be able to do, yet it’s something at which I’m ok. The physical discipline of boarding is enjoyable enough to me; add in the magnificent scenery and the cameraderie, and it becomes a splendid pursuit. To not enjoy the gondola ride up the side of Whistler on a beautiful sunny day with a freshly-waxed board, and three great friends would be simply inhuman.

When we got to the top, the view was spectacular. Everyone was bounding around with a smile on their face, and—for the first time in days—my worries seemed behind me.

The boarding was great. The snow was soft and forgiving, and turning came back to me pretty much straight away. Dave was good, Aggles was significantly better than he was the first time we did this, and Dec—the toe-side taoiseach—was still so enamoured with the sight of the mountain that he decided to spend the whole day staring at it. The choice of the easiest route down the mountain was, however, not a good one. The Whistler map marks the easiest route, but perhaps a corollary should be included, namely “for skiers”. While I’m sure that seemingly endless flat traverses are fine for even the least talented of skiers, for me they’re hell. Not really being great at keeping up the necessary speed to glide long traverses on a board, and with no sticks to push along with, there’s no way of building up any momentum, so I have to kind of oscillate my way along the flat, trying to creep my board forward until I reach a bit with enough of a gradient to get me going again. It’s awful, and it hurts.

At lunch, Dec headed off for a private lesson, leaving me, Bingo, and Ginger for a few [gravity-assisted, this time] runs before heading back down the mountain to watch the superbowl. I stayed in the flat, in the hope of getting a bit of sleep, which meant that 5 hours later, after Dec’s return, when Dave and Aggles poured themselves back into the flat uttering gibberish, Dec and I were the only sober ones. All was not lost, though. Aggles had spotted a mexican restaurant—called Caramba!—which seemed like the perfect idea. We went there, ordered a round [of Corona], got seated amid the Mexican-themed decor, and had a look at the menu. Not one Mexican item on there. Unless you count pizza.

After a hearty [roast] dinner in which we found out two things about a drunken Dave—to keep your arms and legs clear of his mouth when he eats if he’s a bit tipsy, and that he’s got by a distance the worst chat-up lines ever invented—we retired back to our rooms. Andsotobed.


Without a paddle

February 3, 2008

My normally jocular friend Ant is somewhat down today and 10 hours sitting beside me in Economy probably hasn’t helped. So given his morose blog post I thought it necessary to come up with something cheerful.

We were chatting earlier about how amazing it is to have breakfast in London, lunch over Newfoundland and tea as we watch the sun set over a surprisingly cold looking Pacific. I’m writing this post from my seat on the coach that is winding its way from Vancouver north to Whistler along what is known as the Sea to Sky Highway. The road hugs the coast for around 70 miles before heading inland to Whistler-Blackcomb.

Looking out the bus window the views are nothing short of spectacular. Tall, snowy mountains tower over countless coves and inlets as small ferries chug back and forth as, what I imagine are geese, bob around close to the water’s edge. The views from the balconies of the expensive looking houses dotted precariously on the hillsides must be breathtaking.

Night is beginning to fall here in British Columbia and we’re still not at our hotel. We’ve been up for about 22 hours now and it’s starting to tell. Once we arrive we need to pick up our boards and maybe have a quick recce of the village. Ant has just turned around from the seat in front of me with a childish grin and declared that we are entering the town of Furry Creek. Maybe things are not that bad. Not bad at all.


An eight timezone grumble

February 3, 2008

We’re in Canada. Just waiting to leave Vancouver Airport on the Whistler Express, I can safely say that I’m in a bad mood. Considering the broad spectrum of bad moods in which I’ve found myself over the years—and there’s been a few—I can safely say that this stands proud atop all of them. It started a clear 18 hours before we took off, and shows no immediate signs of abating. Not even a 10 hour flight cheered me up. So, as overly long introductions go, what I’m trying to say is that by no means is this next passage written in anything approaching good humour. If that bothers you, I don’t care. Being a grumpy old sod affords me that luxury.

The trip for me started a bit earlier than it did for the other boys. Living on the opposite side of town from Heathrow, I stayed at Dec’s trendy West London flat on the Friday night. I bade farewell to my pad on the Essex Riviera with a spring in my step, and won’t be back until the best part of another two weeks have passed. Now that we’re stop-starting our way through the Vancouver traffic, this trip is starting to feel a bit real. Whatever happens in the next 11 days, it certainly promises to be a memorable trip. I’m glad to be away from England, I’m glad to be on holiday, I’m glad to be snowboarding again, and I’m glad to be here with the same bunch of close friends who made the last trip such an unforgettable experience. Yet this burgeoning contentedness finds itself overwhelmed by the rampant bad mood from which I’m trying—and failing—to extract myself. It’s a losing battle for now, but hopefully—maybe tomorrow—things will get better.

This is so frustrating. As much as I try to settle in to the journey, to enjoy watching a new city roll backward past me, to take in the spectacular scenery, and to sit back in eager anticipation of this trip to which I’ve looked forward so much, all I currently have on my mind is that I’m in a terrible mood. The trip last year allowed much time for pleasant introspection, contemplation, and enjoyment of the moment. Right now, I fear any second in which I may unwittingly slip into a moment of introspection, as behind that door lays Ant’s Bad Place. I suppose the best approach for now is to write about something a bit more upbeat; to take my mind off of the godawful funk in which I find myself mired.

Bugger. Can’t think of anything. As such, I’ll—mercifully, perhaps—end this post for now, and try to be more positive next time.