An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Spring has finally sprung... or has it?

It’s what many of us here have been secretly pining for. We all reminisce about these days fondly as our thoughts turn to warmer sunnier days. Of course, spring doesn’t naturally mean it’ll be well represented by sunshine and birds a’ tweeting, but that’s the hope right!

Winter in Whistler is nothing short of spectacular if you’re a snow enthusiast and into your outdoor activities. However, it is a long, very long, season here, especially compared to most other ski resorts. The season usually starts around mid-late November and runs until nearly the end of June if you include the glacier ski camps. That’s a lot of cold, wet months. Some absolutely epic powder days that this year have just kept coming and coming and have put many a great grin on the avid boarder and skier who eats, sleeps and drinks (usually too much too often) powder turns, face-shots and any opportunity to play in the good old white stuff.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s beautiful, stunning in fact! A true winter wonderland and combined with some of the best skiing and boarding terrain in North America that has seen this town win accolade after accolade for most of the last couple of decades and a relatively big purpose built resort town nestling in it’s bosom, it’s hard to beat. There does come a time though when some of us begin to yearn for warmer, sunnier and drier days….I know I do!

So the temperatures have begun to rise. The valley roads and paths have all but shed themselves of their winter coats or are at least trying to. There’s even patches of grass to be seen (not very green grass, but grass all the same) and with every day that now passes in the valley, we lose a little bit more snow as the rising temperatures beat it back into submission for yet another year, or at least another 6-7 months before we start over again. It’s quite a different story in the alpine mind. The snow base is a hefty 3.5 meters deep as I write this and it wouldn’t be a big stretch at this stage to suggest that a fair bit of the snow pack at the peaks, may well go year round until it starts to snow upon high again, probably around early to mid October. That said, a few weeks of hot conditions on the hills can change things very quickly!

So although I do not want to wish goodbye to this winter season jut yet, I for one am glad to have some of the valley trails and roads back again to allow myself and others to run at will. It would also be a nice thought to be able to look forward to some mountain running and hiking, but if last year was anything to go by, it’ll be late into August before that becomes realistic – especially the way things are going this season.

In the meantime though, the sunnier days are definitely leaving their indelible mark. There are the usual array of very ‘funny’ helmet and goggle tans (I’ve had my share) amongst many of the locals and even a number of visitors are developing their own tans. This also means that the sun’s UV rays are growing increasingly stronger and everyone should be taking more care than they probably are. Sun screen should be a must, but we all know how that one goes, eh?! It won’t be too long before some of the locals are carrying a few tins of something stronger than a good sports drink in their back pack. Perhaps hiking to earn their turns and justifying their efforts by quenching their thirst in the sun. Obviously this isn’t exactly how mountain safety would dictate you should venture out and they would no doubt cite that a beeper and shovel would be more adequate for their ‘needs’.

When all is said and done though, although there are the best part of three months of skiing and riding left, operations and planning are beginning to wind down as various winter activities, such as early morning ‘fresh tracks’ breakfasts and the ‘tube park’ managers have already announced their closing dates, placing some finalities to some of the proceedings – spoilsports!

I guess in time, we should yet again turn our thoughts to our ursine friends who are presently still tucked up nice and warm in their cozy little caves. It won’t be too long now before they start to yawn and stretch and their thoughts turn to feeding their bellies, but not just yet. There’s simply far too much snow covering their dwellings for now, but once the snow line gradually starts to recede up the mountain and unearths the bushes and grass, gradually they will come.

Spring skiing conditions are here though. That doesn’t always mean sun and it will sometimes bring rain and cloud to spoil the views. The light fluffy powder may not fall upon our mountains for much longer as it warms, but there will be many, many more days to practise our turns and we should take full advantage of every one that comes. For some of us though, we just ask that it clears down in the valley allowing for a full range of activities, both on the hill and down below. After all, spring is much famed in its late season for one’s ability to ski, mountain bike and golf here all in one day. What a day! Phew!