Off and On / by Strain

Winter arrived early and strong in southwest BC: I got my first pow turns on October 3rd, got chased out of camp by two feet in the valley bottom on November 17th, and could barely breathe nor see on Blackcomb's opening day, the snow was so deep. And then, as fast as winter arrived, the jet turned off and the sky stayed blue for almost a month.

While my friends in Utah are still suffering from the early season doldrums, winter is back in full force in the Whistler area, providing badly needed powder for the Christmas vacation crowd and snow-starved locals. A combination of factors has led to the establishment of an uncharacteristically unstable coastal snowpack, making the new snowfall a maddening exercise in patience and restraint, as everyone is chomping at the bit to get out and into the gnar. Two BC skiers succumbed to injuries sustained after being caught in avalanches this week, a sobering reminder of the dangers that exist within our mountains.

Wanting to escape the holiday crowds at Whistler, but leery of the heightened avalanche risk, I headed out to a pillow zone off the Duffey Lake Road with the Surface Skis crew on a greybird photo / video mission. The lack of snowfall has left me with very little to shoot over the last month, and I was eager to get out for the first 'work' day of the season. The light was flat, but the snow was excellent and pillows well-developed, with plenty of protected stashes hiding in the forested shoulder of Joffre Mountain. Just another day in paradise...

Condolences to the friends and families of the two skiers that died doing what they love. May the powder be plentiful in the afterlife.