Ickscents

Before I left England, I was curious about what would happen to my voice during my time away. Would travel mould it into something more exotic and interesting? The short answer is "no". I still sound pretty much like I always did. The slightly longer answer, albeit only by 5 characters (including the space), is "sort of".

While my accent hasn't fundamentally changed, I have managed to pick up some weird little habits and twangs along the way. In America, these were mainly concious decisions resulting from locals genuinely not understanding what I was saying. I would start saying "wardur" instead of "worter" (water) and "tomaydo" instead of "tomarto" (tomato), just to avoid the blank stares. But despite how deliberate these compensations were, they've stuck pretty well. I still say "tamaydo" and "yoegurt" (yogurt) and "baysil" (basil) in a town perfectly capable of understanding the British pronunciations. It's weird.

More recently, the strong Australian presence in Whistler has given birth to a new twang. This has been less deliberate, more me admiring the way Australians speak and unconsciously trying to mimic them. I find myself asking customers if they would "lark some rarce on the sard" (like some rice on the side) with their chicken strips. Everything is a question in Australia, and my voice often follows that familiar upward path near the end of sentences.

My vocabulary has changed too, now a bastardised collection of slang from home, America, Canada and Australia. I'm far more likely to call someone a "douche" than a "wanker". I talk about trash and candy and parking lots and soda. I call toilets "washrooms" and before that "bathrooms" because those are the Canadian and American equivalents. I call chickens "chooks" like they do in Australia. Strangest of all, I affix "eh?" at the end of sentences where doing so doesn't make any sense, because that's what they do in Canada. It's not just a stereotype, they actually do that, and it's contagious as hell, eh?

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Blah blah blah intro bit nobody reads blah blah blah.


Big Red Express (left) and Franz's Chair (right). Franz's only opens a handful of times every year (during busy periods like Christmas, holiday weekends etc.) because it's horrifically slow and almost completely redundant with Big Red so close.


The Georgian flag on the memorial of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luger killed during the 2010 winter Olympic games in Whistler.


Beams.


Last week, I asked readers to identify the purpose of a mysterious vehicle I photographed somewhere on Blackcomb mountain. The truth is, it builds half-pipes. Half-pipes like the impressive 22-foot monster pictured above. Three readers entered correct guesses. The bronze medal goes to Owen, who suggested the machine was for "adjusting the curvature of the sloping snow", which is both correct and vague. Josh clinches silver for correctly guessing it makes half-pipes. The prestigious gold medal is awarded to my uncle Ian who skis enough to recognise a "piste basher with half-pipe cutter" any day of the week. Congratulations to all three winners! The prize is some genuine Whistler snow chipped from the actual half-pipe pictured above.

Honourable mention for Dave who guessed it made the snow fluffier.


Never before have I been so excited about such a minor bus schedule alteration. It basically means I can now catch a bus from outside my house which goes directly to the gondola. This is brilliant. Before I had to trudge five minutes through the village carrying all my ski stuff. Life was so hard back then.


It snowed an awful lot on Friday.


I've named the tree guarding the entrance to my house "Droopy McGee". Whenever it snows, Droopy McGee collects large volumes of snow and droops down to the exact level required to completely submerge anyone foolish/tired enough to walk beneath him carrying skis over their shoulder. This happens to me most mornings.

Alaska

Last month, I mentioned the possibility of doing a little trip up to Alaska later this year. Today, I applied cash cement to this plan by booking the ferry for the return leg, which means I'm actually going! I've already plotted one possible route, which you can view below. It begins and ends in Vancouver, moving anticlockwise through three Canadian provinces before arriving at the promised land, where I'll catch my ferry back down the coast. Geography fans might be distressed to find the British Isles floating in the Gulf of Alaska, but please don't panic: I moved them there for comparison purposes and promise to return them once I'm done.

Chivalry: Dead?

Something happened today that probably isn't worth blogging about, but I need to vent about it somewhere. Because that's what people do when things happen in 2012.

It's 9:30am. I step aboard the Whistler village gondola. Eight of us are jammed into a confined space, six perched against the wall facing inwards, two standing in the centre. Both standers are women. An Australian man offers up his seat to one of the women. Woman politely refuses but eventually accepts after multiple appeals. Man, now standing, starts running his mouth about men who fail to give up their seat for women. Man was taught that men who don't give up their seat to women are wimps. Man was taught this in Australia. I begin to wonder where this is going. Man confronts me. Man calls me a wimp. Man demands I offer up my seat to the second women. Atmosphere is toxic. Everyone else is silent. I refuse and ask man to please stop talking down to me. Man berates me for challenging him. Man claims members of my generation have no standards. Man repeatedly calls members of my generation "wimps" and "poofters". Man demands I "do the right thing" and offer up my seat. Women is clearly uncomfortable. I tell man to stop talking now. There is more I want to say, but picking a fight in a gondola carriage is like picking a fight in a lift. I just want to ski. Ideally into him, poles first, at speed.

Anyway, the whole thing got me thinking. I would always surrender my seat for the pregnant, the old, the obviously sick. No problem. But this women wasn't any of these things. She was probably in her thirties and was about to ski down a mountain. There was nothing to suggest she was any less capable of standing for twenty minutes than I was. Should I really have given my seat up for her? Was that "the right thing" to do? Don't we live in a society where most women would much rather stand once in a while, for the sake of being considered equal?

Either way, the guy was a prick.

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It's been a mixed week. Work became unbearable almost to the point of quitting and finding something (anything) else to pay the rent. On a more positive note, I had the best two days on the mountain I've had all season, and my New Zealand work visa was approved! The latter means my trip has officially been extended until at least January 2013. That is, assuming I don't shatter my pelvis skiing and have to fly home or anything awful like that. Photos.


Blackcomb from Whistler.


A misty morning in Whistler village. Peak 2 Peak hangs in the background, capsules glistening in the sun like pearls on some giant necklace.


Quiz time. Can you guess what this peculiar-looking machine does? There's a tube of FIRE PASTE up for grabs for whoever gets closest. Just kidding, you really think they let me through customs with that? No. FIRE PASTE contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. Seriously though, any ideas?


Happy boy.


In Canada, you have to pay for caller ID. That means whenever anyone calls you, their number is always listed as "Unknown", even if they're in your phonebook. What a load of bollocks. It only costs $10 a month for that and voicemail (alas, voicemail isn't free either) but I absolutely refuse to pay on principle.


Ducks.


A skier heads for the trees on Jolly Green Giant 

Where's Josh Been?

Did you notice that new thing underneath the Blog Archive? On the right. Yeah.

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I've taken 4977 photographs since leaving England 245 days ago. That's an average of 20.3 per day. Just think, for every photo I've published on this blog, there exist 19 blurry, badly framed, overexposed photos sitting on my hard drive that will never see the light of day. The moral is this: if you want people to think you're good at photography, take a shit load of photos.


It's the 20th annual WinterPRIDE week. Quite similar to most other weeks, but with more rainbow flags and more being called things like "honey" by male customers.


I don't know why there were so many snow guns so close together, but their synchronised activation would have buried this poor snowboarder in seconds.


I'm still trading mail across the Atlantic with Josh. This latest delivery contained the usual assortment of receipts, crudely drawn penises and pokemon cards, as well as a pack of Portuguese football stickers and some fantastic stuff he found in the loft of his new house. Getting mail from Josh always makes my day. Thanks Josh ♥


Oh so now they tell me. If I'd have known that metal cylinder I found half-buried in the snow the other day was an "avalauncher rocket", I probably wouldn't have whacked it repeatedly with my ski poles.


A skier does something bloody awesome in Whistler park.


Alaska plans are under way. Pictured is the network of Greyhound buses across western Canada I intend to utilize. Unfortunately, they don't extend northwards beyond Whitehorse, a town about 300 miles from the Alaskan border and a further 300 miles to the nearest big city. Bridging that gap might require some ingenuity...


My third pair of ski gloves in tatters. I've had rotten luck with ski gloves. I found my first pair in a box of free stuff at my hostel in San Francisco. My second pair was donated to me by Nicole, an aussie leaving Whistler and shedding her unnecessary luggage. My third was left behind in an expensive hotel room housekept by my friend Jess. All have now been destroyed. Perhaps god is telling me to stop being so cheap and actually buy a new pair.

A quick thought

Sometimes I wonder why I'm working in a deli. Why should I have to take abuse from an old Filipino woman when I don't clean the slicer right? I shouldn't have to take this, I think to myself, I've got a degree. I've got a good degree from a good university. I shouldn't have to take this.

But then I think to myself, what a load of bullshit. Just because I have a degree, it doesn't mean the world owes me anything. I chose to work here because it suited the lifestyle I wanted. I get to ski every day and I'm saving enough money to get me round the rest of the world. That's all I need right now. I'm happy.

So I just clean the slicer again properly.

Peak to Vollie

As previously eluded to in last week's batch of photos, I worked on the mountain last weekend. The event was the annual "Peak to Valley" race, one of the longest recreational ski races in the world. It began on Whistler peak and ended over five kilometres downhill in Creekside. My volunteer work is usually restricted to Thursdays at the race centre, but since Peak to Valley is such a massive event, they had to draft bodies from the whole department. I had a wicked time. Have some photos.


We got to ride the gondola at 6:45am, almost two hours before the general public. Seeing the mountain so empty and serene on a Saturday morning was bizarre. Even the flags were chilled out.


The red jackets gather.


We stopped off at the alpine shop to grab some equipment.


The course was split into four sections and I was assigned the peak section. Great, because it meant I had the best views and got to ride peak chair all day long.


Peak chair.


This photo does the view piss-all justice.


Unloading.


The race start was a short traverse away from the actual peak, on Whistler Saddle.


Arriving at the Saddle.


Building the start tent.


Racers had to weave between 180 pairs of gates or face disqualification. Setting these gates was a challenge. The vollies had to ski down carrying bundles of ten gates each (heavy as balls) and pass them individually to the course setter, an important man with little patience.


During the race itself - which lasted about three hours - it was my job to repeatedly ski down the peak section doing course maintenance. Jobs like fixing gates when they fell over, "sideslipping" to move snow away from the ruts, and shooing (not to be confused with "shooting") members of the public when they skied too close to the course.


What a beautiful day.


Lovely.


Black Tusk from afar.


Inuksuk.


Tourists.


The commute from peak chair to the start got more and more beautiful as the day progressed. Impossible to ski without a massive smile on your face.


Ski towards the light, Simon.


Woah.


The course opener skied the course waving a huge flag with a cowbell on it.


The start tent. The red material was rotting and exerted powerful fumes on each racer.


Replacement gates and snow drills.


Dyeing.


Racer 64 hits it hard.


Arriving at the saddle.


There's always one, isn't there? Can you guess the nationality?


Of course.