April 23, 2013 | Posted in:Uncategorized

Border Patrol Agent: Hi, identification please.
[Hand BPA passports]

BPA: So, what brings you to Canada?

Greg: We are going skiing! (Both of us with huge grins on our faces.)

BPA: Okay, how long are you staying?

Greg: Until Sunday, so two nights.

BPA: Are you bringing any mace, bear spray, firearms, or any other illicit materials with you?

Greg: No.

BPA: Where are you coming from?

Greg: Philadelphia.

Me: Seattle.

[BPA now looks slightly puzzled]

BPA:  How long have you known each other?

Greg: …um a couple of days.

BPA: And how did you meet?

Greg: …An Internet forum for backcountry skiing.

[BPA with a now very confused look on her face]

BPA: Okay…Um, who does the car belong to?

Greg: It is a rental car

BPA: Of course it is. Where will you be staying?

Greg: At a family friends house in Pemberton.

BPA: And how do you know them?

Greg: My family has taken ski lessons from them for the past 10 years.

Me: I don’t know them.

BPA: Alright. Are they Canadian citizens?

Greg: Um, no I don’t think so. They are German and I don’t think they have naturalized.

[BPA now completely confused and slightly flustered]

BPA: Okay then.  Are you bringing any mace, bear spray, firearms, or any other illicit materials with you?

Greg: No.

[A long pause]

BPA: I guess just pull in over there and head inside.

We went inside where we got pretty much the same line of questions. I think they even took the time to look up the TAY forum to make sure we weren’t lying. Well, I guess we did lie. We had only met mere minutes before, not “a couple of days”.  But that wasn’t even the icing on the cake. Once we were clear of the border, Greg looks over at me and says, “I am really glad we didn’t get searched… I just picked up this weed in Seattle.  This shit is way better than anything I can find back home!”

Paraphrasing most of the conversation, I think you get a sense of how bizarre this trip began. We hit the border at 8:30 pm on Friday, after leaving my car in Sumas –less than four hours since I left work and ultimately made the decision to head to Canada.  Greg was on vacation and hunting for good snow. I was itching to get out, and I hadn’t had much luck finding anyone else who wanted to brave the less-than-ideal weather forecasted for the Cascades.

We were heading to Pemberton to stay with Uli and Brigitte – A retired German couple who had moved to Canada to live their dream. Now in their 15th year as ski instructors, countless tales of biking and canoe trips, a seemingly endless supply of homemade wine, a garden full of fresh vegetables, and a spectacular view of Mount Currie; it is safe to say that they are very much living their dream to the fullest.  I have to admit that I felt a little awkward arriving at their house late Friday night. I had never met them and I was packed for a night of camping at the car. It was after all a very last minute plan. While I couldn’t shake a lingering feeling like I was imposing, Uli and Brigitte were incredibly friendly and their hospitality was warm and welcoming. They treated us to a very traditional German breakfast of homemade bread, delicious cheese, homemade jam, yogurt and granola—the perfect start to a day of touring.

Speaking of touring, on Saturday, Greg and I headed to Joffre Lakes, an area he had visited previously with a guide. There was intermittent snow and low clouds all day. Visibility was okay and we were only marginally prepared. When we hit the third and final lake on the approach, I was breathless. Though the clouds and flat light made for marginal pictures, you will have to take my word that the scene was breathtaking, Blue glacial ice loomed over us, clinging to the rock wall, marking the way to Mt Matier.

We opted to head right of the hanging glacier and made our way up Slalok Mountain. Experience, snowpack, and time dictated our approach.  We ultimately booted most of the way up a couloir on the NW face of Slalok but ended up bailing before the top. The snow was variable and I was starting to get concerned about wind slabs in the upper snowpack. Visibility was dropping, and our late start in the morning meant even though we had not gone too far; it was already getting on in the afternoon. Greg was largely relying on my decisions, so I decided to call it.  

In hindsight, we could have easily kept going, but being so far away from home, there were enough factors at play that I was happy with what we had accomplished. The snow was good. Pockets of fresh pow, mixed with an occasional crust. Once we exited the couloir, the lower apron made for some super fun high speed turns back to the lake.

A quick skin across the upper lake, and we stopped one last time to enjoy the view. The rest of the ride out was typical spring slush. The ride out twisted through the trees and rode like a mellow bobsled track. It was fun going the whole way! Back at the car, we enjoyed a beer in the sun before heading back to our German hosts for delicious burgers made from fresh organic beef. Not a bad day!

The trip was capped off on Sunday by an unexpected but welcome surprise. Uli and Brigitte had two comp tickets left for Whistler. They practically insisted we take them, claiming they had no need for them anymore.

We awoke to fresh snow and another delicious German breakfast. Armed with our touring gear and no real plans, we packed the car and headed to Whistler.  A free lift ticket takes away from the pressure of making the most of your day. If I am going to pay $100 bucks, dammit I am going to get the most of my day on the mountain.  Sunday, if they snow sucked; we could leave whenever we wanted.

The snow was…interesting. It was still snowing and the fresh snow sat atop a bulletproof crust. Just enough snow had fallen to hide any obstacles, but not enough to really hold an edge.  We were able to find pockets of good snow in the alpine but we were both about tired of it by 2 or so. Then, we saw a bunch of people hiking out Blackcomb glacier and we decided to check it out. We did after all bring our touring gear with us to the resort. We might as well put it to use.

We headed through the gate and found ourselves in Garibaldi Provincial Park. A quick skin out to The Spearhead and we were greeted by endless bowls of untracked powder. Greg and I were stoked. The only downside was the time. It was already 3 and even though we wanted to stay out there until the sun went down, we knew that we still had a 5-6 hour drive ahead of us. So, we opted for a quick run down the NE face of The Spearhead and headed back toward Blackcomb. Our last run, a bowl that dropped in to Blackcomb Glacier, was absolutely incredible. Not to mention, we could follow the trail all the way down to the base of the mountain. My legs were a bit tired by the end, but it was an awesome way to end the day and weekend!

We hopped in the car, and headed back to the border.  The sun was out and we had the pleasure of a sunny drive down the sea-to-sky highway, a feat that has escaped me the last few times I made the trek to Whistler.
No trouble at the border and my car was thankfully still where I had left it. All in all, not a bad weekend!

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