365 photos [316 - 322]

What began as quite a mundane week rapidly spiralled into something slightly more interesting with the help of a few hundred new unsolicited roommates. You'll see.


Whistler mountain officially closed for the season on Sunday. The conditions were dismal but I felt compelled to ski anyway just to say I skied opening and closing days. It was sad riding into the village for the final time, but not completely devastating since Blackcomb stays open for another month so there's plenty more skiing to be had. Whistler mountain: thanks for the good times, you're awesome.


It's become a bit of a self-imposed tradition to give away one of my photos to someone awesome everywhere I visit, mainly because I'm grateful for their help, but also because I like the idea of my photos being on people's walls all around the world. I gave this one to Pat, who really helped me out when I first arrived in Whistler back in October.


I've started getting cheques in the post from my various tax returns, this one from the state of New York.


Bluecomb more like!!!


Ant and Deck. The uprising began on Tuesday, when I noticed the first ant crawling up the wall beside my bed. I didn't think much of it. Several more appeared the following day, enough to reveal their source, a small opening in the ceiling near the light fitting. I didn't think much of it. By Thursday, the situation demanded that I thought something of it. I was awoken in the morning by ants parachuting from the ceiling onto my face. When I looked down at the floor beside my bed there were about 30 running around in circles. Behind the cupboard were another 200 or so. Some had wings, some didn't, but none appeared to utilize them. They just ran around in circles, climbing over their fallen comrades until their energy ran out and they themselves fell. Twitching ant carcasses got everywhere, all over the floor, all over my stuff. When I finally complained about it to my landlady that afternoon, she insisted I relocate to one of her other properties, which I did that very evening. Crazy.


The sum total of my earthly possessions deposited outside my new house. Moving house made me realise how much shit I've accumulated since leaving England ten months ago. Some serious shedding needs to take place before New Zealand.


A better view of my new house. I already much prefer it to my old house, mainly because there aren't ants everywhere, but also because it's so close to Whistler village. My commute to work is now a four minute walk instead of a twenty minute bus journey, a huge time and money saver. Thanks, ants. Thants.

Slopestyle

Friday was my last ever day volunteering on the mountain. The event was the WSI slopestyle finals, an international competition attracting many of the world's top freeskiers. For those unaware, the idea behind slopestyle (an Olympic sport, as of 2011) is to ski down a slope stylishly. Namely, by doing crazy tricks on massive jumps and rails without falling over and requiring medical attention. A panel of judges stationed in towers overlooking the course score each run and the highest scoring rider after two runs is crowned the winner.

My job was to stand beside a jump and keep an eye out for several things. Firstly, intruders. Only athletes, coaches and photographers with valid press passes were allowed on the course for reasons of safety and distraction, everyone else had to be shooed away. Secondly, fallers. Whenever a competitor fell badly on the jump above mine, I had to attend the scene, help gather their equipment, check if they were okay, and radio for ski patrol if necessary. Whenever a competitor fell badly on my jump, I had to stand in front of the take-off and wave my arms about to prevent a pileup. Thirdly, damage to the course. If I noticed my jump or the landing area was looking rough, I could radio for a maintenance crew to zip down the course and smooth it out.

In reality, I did hardly any of these things. I stood in the glorious afternoon sunshine and watched as competitor after competitor soared past my field of vision, twirling and swooping and flipping and swearing loudly. They were literally feet away from me, close enough to touch if I had the inclination/mental instability. It was incredible.

The thing I loved most about the day - and, more generally, the thing I love most about travel - was that feeling of being quite intimately involved with something so drastically different from my normal, day-to-day life that I felt like an imposter. How did I possibly end up here? I know almost nothing about freeskiing, yet here I am handing a pair of skis to some guy with four X Games golds and 17,000 followers on Twitter. That's what travel is all about: fleeting glimpses into the lives of others you'd otherwise have no reason to ever encounter. Interesting, passionate people who live completely different lives and walk in completely different circles to you. I love that.

Photos.


The red jackets gather.


Unusually for April, we received 20cm of fresh snow overnight, potentially the last big dump of the season. Fresh snow was good news for slopestyle as it softened up the previously bulletproof course.


After putting some fences up at the bottom, it was time to regroup at the top of the course. We rode Catskinner up, a slow three-seater overlooking Blackcomb's HL park, where the competition was being held.


The penultimate feature, a massive jump overlooked by one of the judges' towers. The final feature, a 24 foot (!!!) super quarter pipe is also visible behind the chair on the left.


My feature, a so-called "channel gap" that allows skiers to transfer between two huge jumps mid-air.


The feature above mine, two "canons". Most competitors opted for the left canon without the gap, and who could blame them? Terrifying.


The next one up, two adjacent rails.


Some events boys "slipping" the landing areas. Slipping is where you ski sideways to smooth out any ruts and bumps in the snow. We all had to slip between rounds.


Dying the lips.


The public congregated on hills adjacent to the course to get a good view of the action.


Lots of skis.


Here they come...

























Gus Kenworthy (USA) ended up winning it, with James Woods (UK!) second and Joss Christensen (USA) third.

365 photos [309 - 315]

To continue the analogy I used a couple of weeks ago about winter and spring having a fight, winter has since been admitted to hospital with numerous broken bones and internal bleeding after spring and summer cornered him in an alleyway with rolling pins and beat the living snow out of him. The bears are waking up, coats are thinning, and no one can really be bothered to ski anymore.


This week was the TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival, an annual 10-day string of ski competitions, parties, concerts, and free junk being handed out in the streets to celebrate the end of the winter ski season.


Monster Energy was one of the major sponsors of the festival. Ironically, being given so much of the stuff just reminded me of how much I dislike it.


The free concerts took place in skiers plaza, creating a lovely atmosphere to ski down into. It also meant there was a huge amount of pressure not to stack embarrassingly since the crowd had an excellent view of the slope.


I turned 23 on Wednesday. Lawrence sent me a hilarious card and my first paper book in a while, ironically named after the temperature at which paper catches fire. Actually, is that ironic? Probably not.


Thursday marked my last ever shift at the GMC Race Centre, which closed for the season on Sunday. While I'm grateful for the extra day off this now affords me, I still felt quite sombre announcing "Racers ready. 3.. 2.. 1.. GO!" for the very last time, after literally hundreds of repetitions over the last 20 weeks.


Anna Segal doing something ridiculous at the WSI slopestyle finals on Blackcomb mountain. I had one last volunteering day to fill before the end of the season, so I signed up to work at the event without really knowing what to expect. One of the best decisions I've made in a long time. Separate blog entry to follow...


I conducted an official post-mortem examination on my Kindle which sadly passed away last week. The cause of death was revealed to be me standing on it.

365 photos [295 - 308]

I've been blissfully preoccupied with matters unrelated to blogging this past week and never got round to doing photos. Let's crank out a rare DOUBLE UPDATE to get myself back on track.


Village Gate bus stop at dusk. I estimate 99% of bus riders in Whistler are between 18 and 30. It often feels like being back at university.


Horstman T-bar, one of only three such lifts on either mountain.


Glacier Chair doing what it does best: transporting skiers uphill. Incidentally, this is the only thing it does.


The sun dressed up as a ghost trying to scare Blackcomb mountain. Wooooo!


Two mates from university, Rob and Sophie, arrived in Canada on Thursday for a grand reunion. Here we are at Horseshoe Bay, just north of Vancouver, where I'd agreed to meet them after work. We spent three days together on a mini-roadtrip around the beautiful Vancouver Island and the rest of the time in Whistler. It was an amazing week which generated far too many hilarious stories to tell here. More pictures to follow soon...


The sun sets on my 300th day abroad. We'd driven four hours from Nanaimo on the east coast to Tofino on the west in a vehicle we rented from a company called "Rent-a-Wreck". Fantastic.


Rob definitely not posing in front of some scenery at my request.


Victoria is the unlikely capital of British Columbia (Vancouver would have been the obvious choice with six times the population. Probably decided by the same guy who decided Canberra should be the capital of Australia and that Wednesday should have a "D" in it) and so houses all the parliamentary buildings. Impressive at night in a Disney kind of way.


Our ferry passes another on the way back to the mainland. I wonder if there was a guy on the opposite deck taking a near-identical picture for his own blog.


We spent most of Monday night helping some random guys we met in the hostel remove their boss's truck from a ditch they'd mistakenly entered while joyriding in the snow. A long story that concluded with a glorious ride into Whistler village for celebratory drinks. Two rode in the cabin and four in the open-top cargo hold. Probably illegal and definitely cold, but a great experience nonetheless!


The gang heading up Whistler Village Gondola for Rob's second day on the hill. He did pretty bloody well considering he'd never skied before and had me for a teacher.


Struggling to retrace our steps home from the previous night. Difficult even with the benefits of sunlight and sobriety.


Sophie's last day in Whistler, sitting on my favourite bench in the world overlooking a partially thawed Green Lake.


If you stood on a book in 1992, you became slightly taller. If you stand on a book in 2012, the top half of every page goes invisible. Normally I'd sulk for days about this sort of thing, but I've had such a lovely week I'm finding it hard to grumble about anything. You have to put these things in perspective.

R.I.P. Kindle - loyal book servant of 16 months - I'll miss you.