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An 8 year old finds the biggest ski area in the Americas, Whistler-Blackcomb...10 full days..

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

April 14-23, 2011. Video of trip below..


First thanks to the many on this forum who counseled us wisely and the trip lived up to its billing and then some. Definitely for Dad, best mountain skied ever...for son, Blackcomb edges out his previous best places - Alta, Snowbasin, Lech-Zurs! (I loved whistler3dsolutions.com Google Earth ...its unmatched, too bad only on web and iphone! WB's own app is also pretty good and is Android compatible)


For those who love to ski the day they land and the day they leave, you can do that in WB if you live in NYC! Take the Cathay night flight, eta Vancouver 0130hrs, eta WB 0430 hrs..and like us, zero sleep for Dad, and 5 hours for 8 year old..on the mountain at 945am (it takes time to get gear and all that...) and we ended the day at 330pm , Dad had a splitting headache and son was bounced around in the serious dry powder, it was Day 1 and we are eastern skiers after all! Snowed almost non-stop day we arrived...


The rest, what can I say, Whistler Bowl, traverse to West Cirque, Little Whistler, Horseman, Symphony's Piccolo and bowls, West Bowl, gloom and doom, franz's meadow, franz's creek, peak to creek, dave murray, mcconkeys, piccolo face,paleface, GS, pakalolo , rough rider, heavenly basin, horstman runs, seventh heaven's cruisers and bowls, just spectacular. So much to ski..even the moguls were soft given the amount of snow. Whistler has such huge terrain, there is so much room to carve out your own run.


It snowed 8 nights of the 9 we were there, and 9 days out of 10 it snowed heavy on 5 and then flurries through the day in the Alpine (the above mid-mountain area). Yes, spring corn at the base..Utah quality dry soft powder in the Alpine, ice-cream wind-buffed often, and was it DEEP (and untracked found in gloom and doom, 3 days AFTER major snowfall, and Sapphire Bowl).


Skied top to bottom on Whistler - Saddle or West Cirque or West Bowl or Upper Peak to Creek to Whistler and once all the way down to creekside (all at least 6 miles and most of it downhill skiing..except Highway 86 and Expressway which are cat-tracks but pointed downhill!), super workout. It really is some mountain, got something for all, serious deadly intimidating terrain to incredibly steep and long, oh so long and wide groomed runs, to tree runs, massive terrain parks, and the Peak-to-Peak gondola really changes things..makes W and B basically one mountain (takes 25 mins to get to top of Whistler Roundhouse lodge via Gondola, and that is one ancient gondola! and 11 mins to go from W to B or vice versa). You want air, there are more places for air here than anywhere I think though this intermediate was not about to launch himself defying gravity...but for those who want, you have it in spades.


Just will highlight one place, taking the showcase T-bar, short bootpack to enter Blackcomb glacier from the top, and my boy dropped into Blowhole, Dad came around it and then we traversed over surf's up and closed areas (no fall zones) , Dad was almost kia on that traverse, only tracks were our friend Denis, my boy and me about 30-50yds behind! Anyway, then we entered Sapphire bowl, was untracked basically and perfect dry powder about a foot to a foot and half deep when we skied it.  BUT after that...I knew we were high up and could tell when traversing, if we slid off, its was kiss your rear goodbye time...especially as the glacier kept getting more vertically distant and I knew that was our final destination..anyway those Sapphire chutes after you ski the bowl are literally Vertical...son skied it nonchalantly and waited patiently (he complained later but gently..since he knew old man was in rough shape) while old man hugged the wall a few times..was too tired to make the turns and dig those edges in...but made it down...its a spectacularly beautiful area, experts come in from Spanky's ladder (that is a bootpack) into Sapphire, Diamond, Ruby bowls...this was no-fall pure expert terrain but so picturesque. Actually, got kicked around in deep snow so often that one gained confidence that falling on steeps had high probability of being low consequence but being bounced around destroyed the quads, the knees, the thighs, often hugged the mountain just because ran out of gas!


Nice town, the folks at 3-below(bar/restaurant alongside the movie theater) really were great with my boy..if you visit, get a ctail or meal there, its the locals hangout...chat with alex, pri, or louie the owners...they were great with an 8 year old and his apres apple juice, cartoons on one TV! and diet-restricted meals...excellent knowledgeable physical therapists too (Mike Fishman of Back in Action helped me with baseball and golf ball size spasm lumps on my calves and shins after day 1's pounding..!)


Whistler did seem to have more women there than any other ski town I have been to, though was informed by local denizen, men and women alike, that was because of the Telus festival, ordinarily it does suffer from the usual shortage found in ski towns..just an fyi.


Very diet conscious, even on-mountain lodges have gluten free food sections, and restaurants and grocery stores stock good quality organic foods - note for parents and others who are adherents to such...Note Snowbasin lodges still far better on the whole for ambience, cleanliness and food quality but the diet offerings for allergic folks etc much better..


Ski school is not bad and has an interesting program called Ski Adventures for kids, can be good, my son had a good time but because he is such a good big-mountain skier - that is his forte, difficult terrain, and he is skinny (43lbs), he ran into a 12 year old who was about 100 lbs heavier from the UK who was not too thrilled having his thunder stolen (this kid has been coming to WB for 5 years, and it was my boy's first time) but on the other hand there were others in the group who were quite nice and friendly. Its just he was the youngest and probably the most "versatile" amongst the skiers, the other 9 year olds and 10 year olds were nice ... just pointing out, WB markets Ski Adventures, its a 5-day thing, same instructor and same group of kids but you lose the flexibility (they have levels, expert is level 6 which is where they planted my son day 0, after one instructor saw him ski). So I would say, the daily ski groups are a worthy alternative and usually at level 6 smaller groups, and Ski Adventures can be great too, but usually bigger groups in the week we were there, laying it out as I saw it. 


I would say its a bit of a hit or miss, since they have over 1000 instructors, and my son and I have been unusually fortunate and lucky to have skied with and educated by Klaus Mair(Lech-Zurs), Tom Cadora and Shelly W(Alta),  Adrian S(Sunshine Village)Kurt and Bridger (Solitude), Kristine (DV), Chuck Seymour(Catamount,NY) and Epic's own eminence grise 4ster(Jim Foster, Snowbasin), so this cast of characters is hard to top on any dimension, and inadvertently am omitting a few most likely. Then a stroke of luck hit, ran into a Denis Ebacher...what a guy...instructor of the instructors , he was helping out the group lessons, he skied with me and then agreed to ski with my boy as we hit it off, and boy did they hit it off...highlight of this father's trip was when this uber-ski-guru of WB and trainer of several canadian olympian downhillers "Dax, it is an honor to ski with you".

If you go to WB and can ski with Denis E, grab that opportunity.


Finally, we left on the redeye back to NYC so skied till about noon on last day too! And got to see the spectacular vistas on the sea-to-sky highway to Vancouver...

Direct flights from Vancouver to NYC are on Cathay Pacific, that is what we took.


It really is quite a place...as a friend once told me "Before you die, you must go to Whistler", well, she was right and I am glad I had the privilege of taking my boy there...



PS: We did experience very light rain at the base on the last day, April 23..only time from what I can recall, it snowed at the base mostly..


Edited by dustyfog - 5/1/11 at 7:16pm
post #2 of 6

One of the few places I haven't been :( 

I guess I gotta put it on my list!

Great report & video.



post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Perspectives on Steepness at Whistler-Blackcomb: ANYONE WITH MORE KNOWLEDGE ABOUT THE EMBEDDED QUESTIONS BELOW, Please offer your perspective. This is a narrative with a query. I found pics on web, and should help fix the location.





For the experts and not-so-expert to novices (like me)

Not sure if you folks  saw the video  above, but look at attached pics to get an idea of the extreme steepness of the sequence in the video from Blowhole in Blackcomb Glacier to the descent from Sapphire Bowl. Reason I have no film of the Sapphire Chute on that descent while Radical Dax (that was our friend Denis' name for him, , RDax came down without a problem and was waiting for a while at the bottom), his Dad, that is moi, actually lost his nerve and froze, and had to stop and hug the VERTICAL side of the mountain which was right under and above my uphill hand at least once, and stop a couple of times to get the energy to make a turn and then set my edge to reduce and stop slide!


This was the steepest pitch I did in Whistler and ever in my life, and frankly I saw some of the other major league extreme terrain in WB, (also other places in Utah, Alberta, Austria etc), many have entries and drop-ins that look and are very intimidating (the ones I did not do of course) and they were kind of near peaks which adds to the intimidation factor, but in terms of sheer steepness, I think in Whistler-Blackcomb or anywhere else, you would be hard pressed to find a steeper inbounds incline, having been a student of this, my guess is that the Sapphire Chutes are in the 50+ degree neighborhood, look at the pics...I stood on the lip of Couloir Extreme, False Face (scary, scary!), Couloir (Scary)and the Cornices above West Bowl, all very scary entries, but where I did enter, usually sidecut with traverse etc...(am no expert), but I assure you the Sapphire Chutes we stood on were VERTICAL compared to those slopes. So folks, who know or can measure via Google Earth, please advise, these chutes are amongst the steepest or no...Note folks mostly discuss the entry into Sapphire bowl via Spanky's ladder, but that is because the entries are technically challenging, narrow chutes, and steep, rock bands etc, so hard stuff but am focused on sheer steepness, we were in the bowl below them but I daresay the lower Sapphire Chutes are steeper by a hefty margin..
anyway, anyone knows better or has an inkling, Tony Crocker, SkiKing, WBSR etc etc, please do offer some perspective (Our best estimated route is marked in yellow )
Dax's route through Sapphire Chutes in WB.jpg


Pic above is from web, but I know its from the Ski and Snowboard Guide to WB Expert Edition, I have both Expert and Intermediate, stellar pieces of Ski, Sport, Geographical literature, get it, if you like mountains, ski areas, and its an absolute must have if going to WB.


The other I found on the web , sourced in some form, I believe to Unofficial WB but not sure since many pics look similar folks but it great picture and perfect picture for folks to gain perspective..

Sapphire Bowl and Chutes from the other side of the glacier


Anyway, anyone knows better, am very curious.

Edited by dustyfog - 5/8/11 at 4:00pm
post #4 of 6

I have no idea about the degree of the pitch, but yes that slope is very steep. It is also a sustained steepness for quite a few turns, unlike some 'steep' runs that really only require 1 or 2 tough turns.

I would say it is steeper than the runs you mention (so at least 50 degrees), however stuff like False Face on Blackcomb and Colouir/Cirque on Whistler have tougher entrances and/or have more exposure.

Normally people enter via the middle entrance from Spanky's Ladder, however the route you took is often quite good, especially the easy pitch from the top of the traverse to the top of the chutes.


Yes, the last photo is one of mine (cropped to remove watermark) .....


If anyone wants to see the Google Earth map that dustyfrog mentioned in their first post, check out my website



You will never look at a paper trail map again :D




post #5 of 6

Very nice TR, but would be nicer without the music in the video. Id rather hear your commentary.

post #6 of 6

Nice TR. For a kid, WB must be an absolute wonderland - nothing else in NA touches it for the combination of overall wow factor of size, terrain, lifts, village, apres etc. It's twice the size of Fail, but with actual vertical, and the potential for 5280 foot of vertical skiing.


After 40+ years of least coast skiing, I just made WB my home hill and have never looked back. OK, some days the visibility is shockingly bad, but otherwise it's everything a skier could ask for.


There's a good reason that WB and the surrounding areas are used for so much ski porn, as the amount of steep terrain and the availability of it is virtually unrivaled in North America. For sure I've seen some of the best skiing I've ever seen at WB.


Looks like you had a great trip - good on you! Next time before you go send a PM, as I have a couple of buds there it sounds like you'd probably love to ski with. Some of the names you may have heard of.

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