Skigress: Episode six

Living in a ski town is a funny thing. Experiences and sights that would usually seem extraordinary quickly become a matter of routine. You get spoilt. You ski only when the conditions are good, and your definition of "good" becomes more and more refined as the season marches on. You rarely bother with weekends. Weekends are too crowded. Weekends are for the suckers with real jobs who don't have any choice but to ski on weekends. You go up for a couple of laps then go home. It's too cold. The lines are too long. Your legs hurt. The visibility is bad. The snow is too icy. Too sticky. Too windblown. Too chopped up. Too slushy. You've developed a whole vocabulary to describe the inadequacies of snow. Who cares if you go home after two laps? It's free. It's not like you're paying $100 a pop like the plebs buying day tickets.

Perhaps that gives impression I'm having less fun than before, but that's not true. Skiing has become a regular fixture of my day-to-day routine, but that doesn't detract from the kick I still get out of it. A really good day on the hill is better than most other highs I've experienced.

Another thing you quickly get used to living in a ski town is the culture of injuries. Doing something relatively risky like skiing for a week or two on holiday is one thing, but doing it 60-100 times in five months is another entirely. Even if you're a very careful skier who always rides within his ability and who takes all the necessary precautions, basic probability is stacked against you. The chances of making it through a whole season without falling a few times, without hitting a rock, a tree, a fence, another skier, are pretty minimal. Naturally, I've had my fair share of knocks, but fortunately nothing serious yet. The worst crash I've had - a spectacular yard sale below Glacier chair - resulted in nothing more than a sore knee and a bleeding nose. A few days off the hill and I was fine. I would say "touch wood" at this point, but touching wood is exactly the kind of behaviour I'm trying to avoid here.

But like I said, injuries are really common. To give one example, a friend from work shares a house with five others. Four are skiers and two are snowboarders. At the time of writing, just one housemate hasn't required medical attention at some point. Two are currently unable to ride, one with a broken ankle, the other with a torn ACL. And this isn't a freak case: there are so many broken people in Whistler. I know people with fractured legs, arms, shoulders, backs, ribs. A couple of weeks ago my boss snapped his shin bone at work. Since then he's had three operations and incurred thousands of dollars of medical bills. Crutches, braces and slings are commonplace and worn almost as trophies. It's weird, but then again, it's not weird, because I'm used to it.

Wow, I've just rambled about almost nothing for four paragraphs. Perhaps next time I'll mention how my skiing is going! (well, thanks)

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About sixty more days until I leave Whistler. Until then, you'll just have to put up with more pictures of snow.

Specially trained dogs are employed by the mountain to assist with search and rescue missions. In return for their help, they get to ride snowmobiles all day.

I'm getting pretty good at tax returns, having completed four (US federal, NY state, Canadian federal, BC provincial) in the last week. I'm hoping to get back something like $600.

I stacked pretty hard on my ski pole on Tuesday. It bent 45 degrees but I managed to prise it back into a less embarrassing shape.

Arthur's Choice, a lovely tree run I discovered by accident while very lost.

Thursday was the hardest working day of my life. There was a massive storm and almost all the chairlifts shut down because of the wind. The Race Centre - where I normally work on Thursdays - became inaccessible to the public so I was reassigned to another project elsewhere on the mountain. I joined about 25 other displaced events volunteers in digging up a series of safety nets on the boardercross course that had been completely submerged overnight. We worked like ants and the ordeal only lasted about an hour and a half, but it was seriously hard work. The snow was up to my chest at times. I slept well that night.

There's so much going on in this photo it's hard to know where to start. It was taken from the edge of a cliff overlooking the Jersey Cream area of Blackcomb mountain. Beyond that, Whistler village is visible. I can actually make out the building I work in. Pretty amazing.

7th Heaven.

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It's snowed more in the last seven days than it did for the whole of February, almost two metres. And the storm is far from over, with another 170cm forecast over the next week. Just think about that for a second. Two metres of snow. That's taller than you. In a week! Needless to say I've had some of the best days of skiing all season.

The IGA boys - Miles, Dave, Me, Dan and Gerry - atop Flute Bowl. Flute is one of the highest points on Whistler mountain and isn't accessible by lifts, instead requiring a 20 minute hike. The hike puts most people off, so traffic is minimal and untouched snow is easy to find. The view was cracking.

A tiny section of the Blackcomb trail map. To give you some perspective, Whistler Blackcomb has over 200 different runs and this section includes only about 20. It's HUGE.

Two guys skiing through the village, only possible when it snows hard enough to overwhelm the legion of ploughs.

When you step inside this gondola carriage, your health increases back to 100%.

A birthday cake from one Japanese housemate to another. It wasn't complete at this stage and ended up looking even more brilliant.

I tried skeleton on Friday at Whistler Sliding Centre, the official venue for the sliding events during the 2010 Winter Olympics. I love the Olympics and remember staying up until 3am to watch Amy Williams win gold for Britain that year, so it felt cool being at the very same venue, sliding headfirst down the very same formation of ice, laying on one of the very same glorified baking trays. Unlike Amy, we began only a third of the way up the track and only reached speeds of 100 km/h, instead of 150 km/h. There was no real skill required (the term "sack of potatoes" was used more than once during the initiation) except to cling the fuck on and pray to the lord above for mercy. It was completely amazing!

Sometimes it looks like the bus stop is wearing a chef's hat. On the menu today: buses.

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Photos from week 39.

If I'm going to miss the bus, I might as well get a daily photo out of it.

My growing collection of beverage vessels.

Peak 2 Peak seen dangling from Blackcomb.

My skis riding Excalibur Gondola.

One busy morning outside Whistler Village Gondola. On powder days, the queue spills out of the maze and leaks all over the village.

I spent eight hours on Friday with some Ipswich mates (from left to right: Hopper, Lawrence, Josh, Chris, Pat, Keith) over Skype. We chatted, played games, drank, and generally had a gay (both senses) old time. I couldn't face beer at 1pm so opted for hot chocolate and Scotch instead, a surprisingly smooth combination that got me buzzed early enough to attract frowns from my housemates. Thanks to Josh for sharing his awesome new house with everyone!

Someone needs to invent an alarm clock that goes off really early on the condition that a certain amount of snow has fallen overnight. It would save me waking up late and seeing this outside my bedroom window. Ideally, it would play the Ski Sunday theme to really fire me up.

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Bloody hell it's March.

Snowcats asleep outside the alpine shop on Whistler. They're nocturnal creatures that trawl the landscape after the mountain closes each day, creating a lovely flat surface for tomorrow's skiers to ruin.

Icy thrones ascend to the top of 7th Heaven Express on Blackcomb. 7th Heaven is the highest lift on either mountain, reaching 7347 feet. Ironically, it's often the warmest place to ski in the mornings because of how it catches the sun.

One corner of the Re-Use-It Centre, an amazing charity shop that provides shelter from the horrendously inflated price tags of Whistler high street. I visited on Tuesday to pick up some new ski gloves ($3 compared to $69.99 + tax, the cheapest I could find anywhere else) and to donate some excess crap I'd rather not drag to New Zealand with me. I love the Re-Use-It Centre.

Tunnel stickers.

Siobhan and I working at the race centre on Thursday. She was covering for my boss who broke his leg (on shift) last week.

This is what I imagine public transport is like in heaven.

I skied past this sign expecting to be greeted by acclaimed British entertainer Sir Cliff Richard. Instead, I fell  from considerable height onto exposed rocks. The doctors say I'm lucky it was the geological formation.