Valdez becomes Whistler...
Mountain House becomes the Whistler Restaurant Tour
(As Told By Steve and Andree)
I've climbed up two Cascade volcanoes, but never expected a volcano to interrupt a ski trip. Well Mt Redoubt and other factors led to an early melt in Valdez, and the super smart decision by Margaret to relocate our "Alaska" trip to Whistler, BC. With the lift access to 7,500 ft we managed to find great snow still in May.
Margaret knew where to find the great snow, but this time it was Steve, who has a spot in Blackcomb, who knew all the restaurants. Plus, it was off-off-off season and every restaurant was running a fixed price extravaganza that left a few more Canadian dollars available for wine list explorations.
Whistler was in the midst of restaurant special offer pig-out discount frenzy. They were offering deals - we targeted them with efficient trip planning. Juicy steak at Ric's Grill, Monk's Grill and Hy's, fantastic Sushi at Sushi Village, great Italian at Umberto's,and $5
burgers and cheap beer at Merlins. Ok.. so Merlins wasn't the high point, but still beat eating dehydrated pizza with melted snow.
Back to Andree:
The first days, however, we couldn’t tell if we were in Alaska or Canada. Visibility was zero, which led to many zen-like climbs. If you can’t see where you are and can’t see where you’re going, you are forced to be in the moment. We followed Margaret just to know where down was, and stopped when she stopped because sometimes she would say amazing things like: “There used to be a huge pile of rocks just there; I bet if we wait a moment they’ll come back.”
Oh yeah, and the skiing kinda worked too. Steep enough for one of the party to relate the "You are the strangest child" stories of a mother's despair. Deep enough to shock us all that it was as late as May. Body bag bowl, Decker, Hussume (better in May than it was in February), Disease Ridge, the Showcase T-bar, "The Stupids", Hibachi Ridge (via heli) all kept us entertained.
And Back to Andree:
On the third day the weather cleared a bit. We boot packed up to Hussume Couloir. On the way up, I kept thinking of my urban and urbane mother who, each time I would request a Christmas present from Patagonia instead of Bergdorf Goodman would declare, “You are the STRANGEST child!” Spending one’s holiday climbing up this nearly vertical wall of snow had me thinking she might have been right, but once in the couloir, we had first tracks on perfect snow, and I was feeling like the luckiest girl on the planet.
Next day the weather was still fine, and Margaret led us to the top of a cliff, which she declared “just perfect.” As I was trying to figure out a very polite way of saying There Is No Way in Hell That I Am Going To...
…she said, "with a rope"
…Oh, ok, with a rope. So we rappelled down this cliff/wall/crazy something off the aptly named Disease Ridge. When Steve reached the ledge where the steepness eased an itty bit, he in inimitable British fashion remarked, “Humm well now, that was quite sporting!” I think that’s proper English for “that was frigging gnarly dude!” At this point, I had to have a talk with myself about making a turn: self talked back, I side-slipped, talked to self, self talked back, and finally a turn…
We made it back to the gondola which would take us back to civilization 20 seconds before it closed. OK everyone, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is on me tonight.
Between rappelling into Disease Ridge and heli-touring on Hibachi Ridge there was plenty of calorific burn-through to prepare us for the food. All fantastic fun and a great experience, but as a Brit the most enthusiastic I could be was to state "that was rather sporting" (don't tell them I actually had fun). When does the ski season start again???
The last day brought perfect blue skies and calm winds and a heli drop to the middle of nowhere Hibachi Ridge. We skied and skinned and skied and skinned all day in our own private amusement park full of velvety snow. Then right on time at the end of the day the heli fetched us for a return to Prosciutto and pasta and veal and Brunello. Ah the simple life.
*For video footage and more pictures, check out "Good Things Happen When Valdez Becomes Whistler" at: