Monday, January 14, 2013

Subdued Sublimation - Cold comes in many forms, I don't discrimiate

It’s nearly impossible to remove the opening days of the Winter season from the vibrant emotions attached to it. The anticipation that leaves you awake well beyond the last light. The love and passion that go into meticulously accumulating and arranging every last piece of gear you’ll want or need. And of course the release of indescribable joy when those first flakes of snow make the journey from under your feet up onto your face. A signal that another season has indeed begun.  A Baptism of sorts as we once again find purpose in why we are here.

I have a hard time remembering an October where I wasn’t trudging through the mud with fellow miscreants. Chasing promises of a freezing level that had dropped just low enough to give the illusion of snow on the highest of slopes. We would leave behind more base material than tracks in our wake, but still brought smiles back with us. Hints of things to come.

Wet, sloppy, and despertate in Squamish
Photo: Aaron Schwartz
Still it is very hard to ignore the realities of this situation. We were essentially torturing ourselves with the promise of snow, when we knew the reality of rock, slop, and blisters was all that awaited. I know why we did it, and I am in no way saying that I would never do it again. But this year I sought a change, something real, something that could serve to truly celebrate the coming Winter.

So as the first massive storms of the season churned across the Pacific and made landfall on the coast of British Columbia, I chose to wait for them not in the high alpine of the Coastal Range. Instead I packed up the car, put Whistler in the rearview and set my sites on the coast of Vancouver Island.

With only 24 hours to go until Whistler-Blackcomb was set to open the floodgates upon its slopes. I found myself pulling neoprene to skin, rubbing wax to resin, and paddling out to greet the first Winter storms on water rather than rock. 

Walking out to check the surf ,  cold cold surf
Photo: Alex Guiry
There was no illusion of something better to come as we had experienced on our past pre-season tours. The Fall swell was in full swing, and the waves were pumping. All the while we watched as the sky turned from grey to black, and opened up on us. The wind began to bite as the rain intensified, and the waves got cranked up right along with it. Winter was here, and even though we couldn’t see a flake of snow in sight, we knew it.

Northwest waves, don't knock em' until you've tried em
Photo: Andrew Narkawitz
With every wave, every duck dive, and even every bail; frigid water washed over my face and with it the excitement in greeting a new season. Face shots had been replaced by cold buckets of PNW surf, but it was impossible to mistake that same feeling of cleansing as purpose was once again made clear. We were here to ride out the storm that Mother Nature had afforded us, and ride we would.

Less than 12 hours after stepping out of the water. I found myself having ridden the storm back to Whistler. Standing at the base of the mountain, surrounded by hundreds of like-minded riders, feeling the same icy rain continue to fall upon our shoulders, and watching as the first light broke on the 12/13 season.  It was finally on, and at the same time had already begun.

First Turns of the season at Whistler-Blackcomb
Photo: Andrew Strain