An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Winter still affecting summer events?

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So we’re still being hampered by the huge amounts of snow and the elongated winter that made it one of the best ever… officially.

It’s on record! Not for the first time, planned events have had to be rescheduled due to there being snow on courses, etc. This time it’s the turn of the ‘Salomon 5 Peaks’ trail running series. Usually always held on Whistler Mountain, it’s being diverted to the equally stunning Blackcomb slopes that have had the luxury of facing the sun more and in turn, have a little less snow covering their trails.

This event is an annual event in a series that takes place across Canada and competition is localised to individual provinces – in our case, British Columbia. Each event comes with its own set of challenges and there usually a few events to capture a wide audience, bringing those talented, eager and those who are just downright keen to the wonderful world of trail running. Each is set atop of a local mountain (clue is in the ‘5 Peaks’ title!) and when not watching diligently for ones safe footing over rock, root and shale, gives great opportunity to soak up the awesome mountain vistas. By all accounts this weekend should also provide yet another challenge to deal with as part of the course is still covered in snow. Trust me, both ascending and descending with any kind of technique, style or flair is damn near impossible!

For anyone interested in the resort statistics, this past week saw the one millionth rider hit the bike park. This was a landmark as it shows Whistler bike park to be the first facility of its kind to reach the one million rider mark and shows what a very long way the park has come in regards to its investment, infrastructure and management since its infancy some 12 years ago with its four trails.

It’s one of the very few bike parks that attracts visitors from as far as Europe on a frequent basis – not least the French. I mention France as they somewhat understandably feel that perhaps they have more than enough mountainous slopes and terrain to keep most of them happy over in their homeland during their winter months. The same can also be said of their summer biking terrain, however, those who are true mountain biking devotees will accept that the occasional pilgrimage across the ‘pond’ to these Canadian shores is in their interest. High praise indeed!

The summer of fun, or more specifically, the Whistler concert series laid on by the Whistler Arts Council (aided by a huge increase in it’s budget this year from the Whistler Municipality) has continued to shine with two more very busy and popular shows this past weekend. This coming weekend, one more name some of you may well be familiar with is the ‘Barenaked Ladies, who will be live on the stage on Sunday night. As ever, this will be a very busy night around the Olympic Celebration Plaza.

As a quick an aside – As I was doing my early morning 10km run in my Vibram Five Fingers (VFF’s to those in the know!), I was a little perplexed to turn, after having seen a good few branches and tons of red berries all across the trail, to see a huge great bear climbing this tiny little ‘tree’. In my opinion the odds were stacked against the dwindling tree, which looked more like a branch, as the bear (easily weighing in excess of 250lbs) seemingly scrambled across any branch that seemingly held any more berries on it. Logic suggested that it could only be a matter of time before both tree and bear came crashing down to earth. Thankfully, unable to take this all in at once, I’d subconsciously managed to keep on running, otherwise I would have been X – Marked the spot amongst the bear and the berries!

All good reason to run without earphones in, recognise that fallen trees and branches probably indicate recent bear activity (especially when littered with berries!), by all means take in the wicked views as you move around the valley but keep your wits about you!! Me, on the other hand, got a little spooked (just a little mind) and had myself a great start to my day. Nothing beats a close up bear sighting early in the day to set you up. It’s not every day you get to see bears in their own habitat roaming around naturally…unless of course you live in Whistler!