Making the decision to cancel a ski day due to challenging snow or extreme avalanche conditions is never easy, and has rarely, if ever happened. However, last week the weather gods conspired to throw a one-two punch the likes of which we’ve never before seen.
Even though the term is now grossly overused by weather experts reporting on yet another storm of the century, we experienced our own “weather bomb” last week in the form of a raging blizzard, ferocious winds, and trees raining down around us as we skied our first run. Having disembarked from the cat on Arriba Ridge, the wind and snow conspired to create whiteout conditions with winds strong enough to knock down the most resolute skier or boarder, we quickly gathered in a vain attempt to hear the instructions from our fearless lead guide. Realizing the futility of yelling over the tempest, Kevin used hand gestures and led us down the ridge over wind hammered snow and towering wind drifts. Once off the ridge, the winds calmed and we continued down to the first regroup. It was there, standing exposed on the cat road, where we became fully aware of our terrifying predicament. While watching the winds whip the trees to and fro, we heard a crack and a thud as a 40 footer came crashing down beside us. Another few degrees to the right and we would have been crushed. Kevin hastily instructed us to continue down through the trees as quickly as we could. During our mad dash to the pickup, the forest floor was littered with freshly fallen trees, giving the illusion we were on the set of a disaster movie.
While gathered at the pickup and reliving the experience, the winds were so intense that one of the cat windows snapped in half and blew inside. It was then that Kevin looked at me and said, “I’m pulling the pin!” Guests filed into the cat, sad they were going to miss a day of skiing, but relieved they were out of the maelstrom raging on the mountain. On the positive side, the day was not a total write-off. Joel and Lily quickly got to work building a luge course down the view slope which provided a massive playground for those brave (read foolish) enough to fly down the track on inner tubes, and endless entertainment for spectators. The kitchen and bartender kicked into high gear and lodge staff prepared an all-world game of lodge golf complete with creative new holes through the newly reno-ed lodge, and played in full costume.
In the days following, news spread that this was not an isolated event. Both Whitewater and Revelstoke ski areas closed that day due to high winds. To borrow from Winnie The Pooh – Happy Winds Day.