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Western Bureau Report #5: Spring Skiing on the West Coast
By:  Tom McCarthy   (2004/05/12)

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Allow me to describe the scene in Vancouver right now (or, should I say, Van-groovy, as it is known to many cool cats on the Coast.)

The town is moving into what I can already tell is its finest season. The first sign, and a very obvious one, are the ostentatious cruise ships, which began their appearances at the Canada Place docks last week. These boats are so flamboyant that they sometimes defy understanding. Massive shiny structures dwarfing the surrounding buildings, many of them sticking out past the docks due to their size, with names proudly displayed in giant letters on their sides: Celebrity X Cruises, Holland America Line, etc.

Another sign are the beaches and bikepaths. I happen to be living on Beach Ave currently, which is, as the name suggests, on the beaches around English Bay. The beaches are coming alive, with people playing, sunning, or displaying themselves. The paths are congested with new rollerbladers (although that trend may have passed somewhat in the East, apparently it's still hip out here.)

The cars are also coming out. Vancouverites, like many Canadians, hide their fancy cars for the winter. Only here, cars last so long that 'fancy car' takes on a whole new meaning. While riding a bike on Sunday, we passed a '59 Buick LeSabre, black with orange flames spouting from its massive grill. My building houses an aqua Chevy convertible, early 60's, with brown leather interior.

Nobody in this oblivious dream-world of a town has any idea that up on the mountains there lies several feet of the white stuff, in wait for any discerning Eastern ex-pat who hasn't yet been influenced by Vancouver's love for summer sports above all. Any Vancouverite could look up to the mountains on a clear day and still see the white caps on the peaks overlooking Burrard Inlet; apparently, no-one does, and those who do are sitting on patios inhaling atmosphere and beer, and therefore are not swayed.

I am swayed. I am going to ski up there till the snow is gone, till the rain has washed away the snow to the rivers and down into the nearby ocean. The snow is dirty now, but still deep, and a good consistency for spring skiing- soft, but still firm enough to glide. The sun acts now as the groomer, melting my previous day's tracks and flattening them back into the trail.

In fact, snow stays SO late out here that my racing season isn't even officially over! I am the designated skier in one of the West Coast's series of ski-to-sea relay races. This one is at Mt. Baker in Washington State. I am the ski leg, and the first leg of eight, as the race winds down the mountain to the town of Bellingham, ending in an ocean kayak. (www.bellingham.com/skitosea/) The rest of the team is a bunch of firemen I've never met. It might be interesting.

As you reluctantly pick up your running shoes, clean your road bike, fix the rollerskis you barely survived on till the snow came last season, or portage your canoe, think of us in Vancouver and plan a vacation out here, in the spring sometime. Let me know; I'd be happy to show you around.

 
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