In the ski world, Whistler/Blackcomb is king. Legions of pro skiers make it their home, epic ski photography and films are endlessly streaming from the area, and sometimes it seems like half the freeski world is either in Whistler or on their way there. Exactly one year ago this week, Whistler's kingdom was on the world stage for the Winter Olympics.
Since I'd never been to Whistler before, it seemed like a perfect time to find out if the place lived up to all the hype. So I hopped a ride from the BC interior with skier and filmmaker Anthony Bonello, who was rushing to make a flight to Kashmir, India, to film a Salomon Freeski TV episode.
I arrived in Whistler on the one-year anniversary of the Opening Ceremonies -- last year's volunteers were gamely sporting their uniforms to show they still had plenty of Olympic pride.
For local skiers, despite the huge Olympic rings in Whistler Village, not too much has changed since the Games, except that the Athlete's Village is now home to a large, shiny new hostel and affordable housing for locals.
After an amazing early season and one of the snowiest November/December on record with over 250 inches, January had been a little dry. But as luck would have it, the dry spell was about to end. It began with untracked stashes of hero snow under tidy cliff drops on the upper mountain and perfectly pitched glades. I ran into pro skiers Ingrid Backstrom and Ian MacIntosh in the lift line (case in point of the mountain's lore), and they too agreed: The skiing was getting good.
Over the next few days, storms pounded the ski area, dropping 44 more inches, pillows grew huge, and all those legendary pow lines were slayed, refilled and skied again. The famed alpine terrain off Spanky's and Chainsaw Ridge on Blackcomb, along with the Peak Chair on Whistler offered plenty of entertainment.
So I felt just fine about celebrating a classic Whistler pow dump with some other Whistler classics: après caesars (vodka and clamato juice with an array of pickeled vegetable adornments and slices of beef jerky) at Merlin's Bar, followed by a visit to Sushi Village for some deadly sake margaritas and sushi, all of which also lived up to their king-size reputations.