Guest Author: Brian Hockenstein
Powder is to skiers what a fine wine is to a foodie. You may ski a hundred days a year or you may ski just a handful but when everything lines up and the snow gods deliver, this is your time to shine. There's something about carving a line down the fresh canvas of an untouched mountain face that is just universal. Is it the freedom? The feeling of floating on top of that pillow-ey goodness? Who's to say. One thing is for sure though, to get the most out of those ever elusive powder days you're gonna need a plan or you just might spend the whole day chasing other skiers' tracks and faceshots.
Here's a handy-dandy list of tips designed to help you get the most out of that sweet, sweet pow day at Whistler Blackcomb, whether it's your first or you've lost track trying to count them all.
Kevin Sansalone finds deep winter on Whistler Blackcomb. PHOTO BRIAN HOCKENSTEIN
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare
As in most things in life, preparation is of the utmost importance. Everyone has their favorite sources for weather forecasts but it's always a good bet to check a few and then make your own conclusions. The Alpine Forecast on the Whistler.com website is a great place to start as it's hyper-localized to our home mountain.
Is it going to be warm, as so often is the case on the South Coast, or do you need to prepare yourself for frigid temps? Dressing properly - layers people! - could make or break your day. You don't want to be cold, that's for sure, but you also don't want to overdress and be a hot sweaty mess before you even drop into that first run.
To get out on the right foot make sure you set your alarm nice and early, have your lift tickets sorted out in advance and make sure you know when and where you are meeting your crew.
Insider Tip: Lift tickets sorted means you have them in hand, activated, ready to roll through the turnstile - there's nothing worse than hanging up the line on a powder day. Whistler Blackcomb's RFID tickets are super easy to use once you have them - stash them in a jacket pocket on your left side by themselves (no phone, no wallet, nothing to cause interference) and you'll be laughing all the way to the gondy.
2. A good crew is key
Speaking of which, having a good crew on a pow day might be the most important part of the whole equation. Things to think about here are going to include; Do you all have the same goals for the day (ie. getting big alpine laps vs taking is a bit easier on the lower mountain)? Do you all ski or ride at approximately the same pace (there's nothing wrong with pushing yourself a bit but no one wants to hold back the group, or be held back)? And how important is your significant other to your immediate future? (Insider tips on skiing with your significant other here).
Helen Schettini shows her pow style (possible only with preparation). PHOTO BRIAN HOCKENSTEIN
3. Have a plan of attack
Do you know the mountain like the back of your hand and have all your secret stashes already picked out or are you new to the resort and need a guiding hand to find that sweet pow? Knowing where to head on the hill is key and this can only either come with experience or with the help of someone who has it, so make sure you're nice to that new friend of yours and they just might let you tag along and show you around. Otherwise, it can be a good idea to keep your eyes open on those non-powder days and try to remember where that sweet stash of trees just off the run was - scoping out runs in advance of the big dump is half the fun!
4. Stopping to eat is for the weak
When the pow hits you don't want to be wasting an hour inside the lodge waiting for lunch because everyone decides to eat at once. So those who know rarely stop skiing until the end of the day. How is this possible you ask? Well a hearty breakfast and a few well-placed snacks in your pockets is a good bet, that's for sure. Just don't be the goof who tries to pack a bunch of bananas and ends up with a fruit smoothie in their pocket! Energy bars go a long way here. Alternately, eat early or eat late if you have to stop.
5. Move fast, move smart
Fresh pow can only be skied once, right? So to get the most from your day you are going to want to move as fast as you can around the mountain. Now I'm not suggesting you rush so much that you miss out on actually having a good time but at the same time a big powder day is not the time to be standing around at the end of every run trying to run a democratic vote between eight people on where to head next. Again, this is where a good plan comes into place and can make or break your day.
Insider Tip: While ski patrol prepares the upper mountain to open, exploring mid mountain is a great way to get away from the crowds.
Rider Kevin Sansalone guns through the glades. PHOTO BRIAN HOCKENSTEIN
6. No friends on a powder day?
There's an old saying in the ski world that there are no friends on a powder day. Now you may disagree with me here but personally I think this is a load of baloney. Yes, of course I don't want to be waiting around all day for that one friend who just can't seem to figure out how to set his alarm but at the same time, after years of research (read: shredding pow!) I have come to the conclusion that in fact the opposite is true. Friends on a pow day are everything, I mean if you don't have someone to hoot and holler your way down the run with, and then relive it all between high-fives and back-slaps on the next chairlift up, then what's the point?!
7. Après powder
And of course that brings us to the end of the day and one of the most key parts of the powder day experience, après! Once your crew has slayed the mighty beast you're gonna want to head to one of the many amazing après-ski spots around town, get yourself a seat around a firepit and relive it all over beers and of course the famous Canadian Caesar. Somewhere in between tall-tales of perfectly landed twenty foot cliffs (I saw you bail off that five footer buddy!) and perfectly executed figure eights (really? I didn't know tomahawking all the way down that run counted as a figure eight!) that magical glow of a perfect day will blanket you in its warm embrace and you can lean back, let that smile spread across your face and start planning it all again for the next day.
Now go get some!!
Follow up with this read on how to ride Whistler like a local, and to get the jump on your pow day preparations, including lift tickets and accommodation (no driving after après!) visit the folks who know skiing at Whistler.com