Sunshine and Aioli Chips

January 27, 2009

In my quest to ski 100 days this year, I’ve just logged two more fine, fine, superfine days at Whistler.

After hearing nothing but English accents over Christmas, this time the village was humming with Americans drawn north for the Martin Luther King Jr long weekend. Many of the US visitors I spoke to while riding the lifts planned to extend their stay a further day in honour of the presidential inauguration of Barrack Obama.  And a good thing that is too since our American cousins have a reputation for working harder and taking fewer holidays – only half of what most Canadians enjoy – than anywhere else in the developed world.

Owing to a temperature inversion, the weather in the alpine was truly bizarre. The higher you went, the warmer the breezes blew. At +12C at the top of Blackcomb, it was April in January. Thankfully, I’d been warned to pack sunscreen.

Despite the inversion, snow conditions remain surprisingly good. Those in search of mile-long runs will find plenty of groomed terrain to cruise from top to bottom.

Following an email tip I recently received, on my way home I stopped by Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler’s Creekside neighbourhood to sample the fries at Jordan’s Crossing Lounge. Savouring “pommes frites” is a long-established family road trip tradition. A large take out box cost $6 and came with mayo aioli sauce. A rich aroma of garlic and olive oil filled the car and made the drive much easier to take, as did the warmth of the sun. The perfect way to sugarcoat the tedium of a commute.

Whistler Olympic Park offers a Nordic preview

January 15, 2009

Access: Whistler Olympic/Paralympic Park lies 10 kilometres (6 miles) above Highway 99 on a paved access road 6.5 kilometres (4 miles)  south of Whistler and 115 kilometres (69 miles) north of Vancouver. For full details on the park, including Web-cam images, visit www.whistlerolympicpark.com/ or check out the Callghan Valley chapter in my all-season, all-activities guide, The Whistler Book. Information on neighbouring Callaghan Country is at www.callaghancountry.com/. Cross Country Connection (www.crosscountryconnection.ca/ ) offers equipment rentals, guided tours, and lessons at both Whistler Olympic/Paralympic Park and Lost Lake Park in Whistler. Details on West Coast Nordic Club activities at WOPP are posted at www.members.shaw.ca/coastnordic/.

On a pre-Christmas day when ferocious Arctic outflow winds whipped clouds of snow from Powder Mountain’s summit, barely a breath of air blew through Whistler Olympic/Paralympic Park, nestled in the evergreen Callaghan Valley below. A peace that surpassed all understanding prevailed along the cross-country ski trails and snowshoeing routes that spiral out from the park’s newly completed day lodge. Parents on skis pulled infants in sleds while older siblings outfitted in brightly coloured fleece practised their snowplow techniques. As they sped past, the kids looked as if candy apples were plastered on their ruddy cheeks.

Despite the calm scenery, Colin Bell, the park’s events and range coordinator, was busy getting ready for an onslaught of International Ski Federation–sanctioned contests in 2009. Four World Cup ski jumping, biathlon, and cross-country ski events are slated there before the end of January. First up, though, was a Continental Cup Nordic-combined race held mid-December, which involved both cross-country skiing and jumping.

In Bell’s opinion, the unique layout of the new park will benefit Nordic-combined contestants the most. “This is the first Winter Olympics where all four Nordic disciplines will be held in one place,” he said. “At past games there would always be at least one stand-alone venue, typically ski jumping. Nordic-combined competitors always had to travel from one site to another, which put added strain on coaches and wax technicians. Whistler is unique.”

Biathlon is the sport closest to Bell’s heart. The 29-year-old grew up in Prince Edward Island before moving to Alberta in his teens to pursue his passion for cross-country skiing and shooting. “As a kid, I found biathlons were more mentally stimulating than simple mind-numbing, three-hour ski races,” he said. Bell demonstrated how biathletes ski with a modified 22-calibre rifle harnessed on their backs. At intervals during a ski race, competitors must pause and take aim through a nonmagnified sight at targets in a specially designed range adjacent to the trails.

This winter, under Bell’s guidance, the park has partnered with the West Coast Nordic Club based in North Vancouver. The aim is to boost participation by introducing Nordic sports, including biathlon, to youngsters-albeit toting air rifles instead of real ones.

Long known as an icebox, the Callaghan Valley-a feature destination in my guide, The Whistler Book- was chosen as the 2010 Winter Games’ Nordic site for its deep, fluffy snow and-thanks to a buffering forest-light winds, an absolute necessity for ski jumping. With 28 different medal events scheduled there, the park will be the busiest Olympic venue by far. And with a mitt-full of pre-Olympic World Cup contests coming up, Bell said that 2009 will be the best chance to see athletes in action at close range. “The admission price is right: absolutely free.”

The feeling among many of those enjoying the warmth of the new day lodge was that Whistler Olympic/Paralympic Park may well prove to be the most significant legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Not only does the site provide a much-needed companion cross-country ski destination to Whistler’s Lost Lake Park, come summer the trails will do double duty for mountain bikers as well. Local skier Julia Smart said that while she thought the Lost Lake trails were “adequate”, she enjoyed the wider variety on offer in the Callaghan. “Skate skiers, in particular, will enjoy the feeling of not being cramped between the lakeshore and the forest,” she said.

Don’t be intimidated by the fact that the park was built with elite-level athletes in mind. When it comes to recreation, the park’s 50 kilometres (30 miles) of cross-country skiing-groomed for both track and classic skate styles-plus 25 kilometres (15 miles) of snowshoe trails offer a variety of challenges suited to all ability levels. Exploring them on skis, snowshoes, or simply on foot in warm snow boots offers a tranquil winter outing. Got a dog? The Pooched Trail is designed especially for those who enjoy sharing time in the outdoors with their pets.

For those in search of a more challenging experience, a park day pass also gives access to trails in neighbouring, privately operated Callaghan Country’s wilderness adventure area. “Their trails are very different,” said Bell, “more extreme, while ours are more recreational and within easy reach of bathrooms. The options here range from Callaghan Country’s backcountry lodge to our Olympic venue. It’s unlike anywhere else in the world.”

While the mountain peaks that surround the new Nordic centre will command your attention on the uphill approach, views of Whistler Mountain’s west face and, further south, the iconic Black Tusk-a volcanic remnant that thrusts skyward in Garibaldi Provincial Park-reward visitors on the descent. Short of the panoramic views of Vancouver from the lookout along Cypress Bowl Road on the North Shore, this is the most scenic drive on offer near the Olympic venues. And surely the most peaceful.


Text CR Jack Christie
Photo CR Louise Christie
Original Article: http://www.straight.com/article-177022/whistler-olympic-park-offers-nordic-preview?

KING OF STORMS RETAINS WHISTLER CROWN

January 12, 2009

JORDAN MANLEY WINS DEEP WINTER PHOTO CHALLENGE FOR SECOND YEAR IN A ROW

Pro photographer Jordan Manley has proven his talents once again, winning the Deep Winter Photo Challenge for a second year in a row and receiving accolades for the ARC’TERYX Image of the Show. His photos ranged from close-ups of patrol dynamite to skiers bursting through powder filled trees to macro shots as intricate as a skier reflected in an icicle.

Chad Sayers, Dave Short and I had a great three days putting our ideas together. Fortunately we had new snow prior-to and during the event, said Manley, who won the $3,000 first prize. “Of course the weather is always a challenge at this time of year, but that is the point after all. It pushed us to be as creative as possible and keep our heads down, plugging away, trying to pull together a compelling show. I tried to tell the story about not just skiing in Whistler at this time of year, but also about the work that Whistler Blackcomb Ski Patrol has been doing to keep the resort safe during a season when Mother Nature has showed us who’s boss, not just in Whistler but throughout North America. “

This year’s pro photographer roster included snowboard photographers Crispin Cannon and Brian Hockenstein and ski photographers Andrew Bradley and Dan Carr. They wowed the Whistler crowd with fantastic slideshows that truly captured the essence of winter at Whistler Blackcomb. Cannon and Hockenstein placed second and third respectively winning $3,000 in prize money between the two of them. Their “a day in the life” themed slide shows were both entertaining and comical.

“The Deep Winter Photo Challenge was the perfect early warm-up for the season. It was the most nerve-wracking, exhausting and fun project I’ve done,” said Cannon, whose slide show featured stop-motion photography; a very time-consuming method that plays out almost like a movie. “There is so much pressure knowing no matter what, everyone is going to see your successes and failures. My crew and I took three 18-hour days to make it happen and we are all proud of what we accomplished. Congratulations to Jordan, the show was inspiring.”

The judging line-up included iconic photographers Dano Pendygrasse, Paul Morrison and Eric Berger, as well as Tom Duguid of Arc’Teryx and Mike Berard, who is photo editor of SBC Skier Magazine and works at Origin Design.

“The third annual Deep Winter Photo Challenge was another big success. Great photography and excellent slideshows entertained the sellout crowd,” said Morrison, who won the first ever ‘King of Storms’ title. “Jordan Manley proved to be a worthy winner once more. All the competitors worked extremely hard in tough conditions and deserve the thanks of everyone in attendance for five great presentations.”

Inspired by the awesome storms that often rage through the Coast Mountains each January, dumping perfect powder onto Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, the GORE-TEX Deep Winter Experience has stormed into town, January 9-18. In addition to the photo challenge, the event features ski clinics, avalanche awareness tours and GORE-TEX discounts.

The Deep Winter Photo Challenge, presented by Arc’Teryx (check out the National Post article I wrote on Arc’Teryx posted elsewhere on this site) is the signature event.  Visit whistlerblackcomb.com/deepwinter for more info.

Meanwhile, check out this podcast to learn some powder skiing and riding tips from Whistler Blackcomb’s Ski and Snowboard School, as well as view an interview and images from Jordan Manley’s winning entry in last year’s Deep Winter Experience.