On Thu, 2002-10-03 at 20:18, Sharon Heller wrote:
> I have a ticket to Seattle for the end of Feb...
>
> Should I ski in the WA Cascades or drive up to Whistler, or take a hop
to
> Calgary? Or, drive into the BC rockies many hours to Okanagan resorts,
> Whitewater or Red?
>
<snip>
> On a serious budget, so lodging gotta be cheap.

Personally, I would blow off Whistler and head to interior BC. Was at
Whistler in '96 and thought it was nice but lacked character. A bigger
version of Vail if you like that sort of scene. Personally, I don't as
you will read later.

Haven't been to Crystal but have heard many good things about it so I
liked someone's suggestion of hitting Crystal both coming and going back
into Seattle.

In late February '99, a friend of mine and I flew into Spokane for two
weeks of sliding (I stand upright while she drags her knuckles)
dependent only on where the snow was. We decided to drive north out of
Spokane to Red.

Wasn't much snow around as one goes up the Columbia River. Customs was a
joke and still not much snow but it was getting dark. We started
climbing and still not much snow. Then *MUCH* snow as we realized they
were no longer using street signs on the sides of the street but were
hanging them up above the street. :-)

I heard about Red in the early 90's when flying back from Banff. At that
time they had triple and quadruple diamonds on some of their trails. Now
they are back to single and double diamonds. While the single diamonds
are fun, some of the double diamonds require some creative problem
solving. A favorite of mind was a cat track which had various black
trails dropping off it. I dropped off onto a double and was going why is
this a double diamond. The trail essentially ended with a 8-12' cliff
drop into a glade. Hmmm. Low key almost to the point of making MRG look
fancier. They were supposed to be putting in a resort hotel which would
wreck the ski club ambience (actually it was a private ski club) for a
while.

Stayed between the mountain and Ross, the town Red overlooks.

Was raining the next day all the way to the summit so we didn't ski. The
mountains are low so rain is not uncommon as well as fog. Drove to
Nelson to see the town and also stop by Whitewater. Saw a sign saying
that chains were required. Yeah right as we made the left turn to
Nelson.

Nelson was charming and more interesting from a touron's point of view.
Stopped at Whitewater to check out the scene but couldn't because of the
fog and rain. Cafeteria however was amazing. The best down-to-earth
cooking I have run across at a ski area or just dining for that matter.
Only problem was that the servings were a bit heavy for one skier.

Next day was slightly miserable and we needed to head west. A four hour
drive to Apex. A smaller mountain of 1800' but *no one* was there. It
seemed as though the 20 or so cars there had rented the mountain for
themselves. Mountain skied big though I was having a truly lousy day.
The village, again with no one there, had a western theme. Fun mountain
that I would definitely go back to again.

Met friend's family for three days. First day was at Big White also
known as Big Whiteout to the locals. Not whiteout because of the snow
but because they get fogged in alot. Was unimpressed with the mountain
with the caveat that the poma/t-bar on the backside bowl wasn't open.
Seems as though the patrol had been blowing avalanches either that year
or the year befrore and, oops, took out the tow when an avalanche became
bigger than expected. Mountain wasn't that challenging for me but
knuckle draggers should love it. Recall many widely spaced glades with
stubs, i.e. hits. Pitch wasn't steep enough for skiers but the boarders
did well in it.

Strange scenery at Big White. Reminded me of Pennsylvania which is not a
kind comment. Just rolling hills. Granted these hills had vertical drops
of over 2000 to the valley floor but not the crags that I enjoy seeing
in mountains. Big White is an old volcano and just sticks up higher than
than rest of the area. Because of the vertical drop to the valley floor,
staying in Okanagan is like staying in Reno or Denver but skiing up in
the mountains. What it is doing where you are staying has little bearing
on what is going on up on the mountain.

Next day was at Silver Star. Much more interesting mountain that Big
White IMHO but a strange mountain. Front side is small and had some
interesting playgrounds for lack of better terms but wasn't impressed.
Then went to the back side. Different case entirely. They were cutting a
new area that season called Vallaha which is now open but with out a
chair servicing it. A snowboard has to be careful at Silver Star as the
backside and front side are separated by a long flat spot. Truly
painful. As locals for best ways to get around the flat spots. Nice
thing is once over to the back side, there isn't any reason to come to
the front side until the days is over.

For the last day, we were deciding between Big White and Silver Star.
Thankfully the group decided to go to Silver Star. At the end of the
day, we drove to Nelson. A long drive on roads similar to Route 100.
Don't plan on making much speed and we had to take a ferry, free, across
one of the many lakes.

With Whitewater around the corner, had to finally ski there. Strange
hill as not much there. Well not much there inbounds. Wondered why we
saw all these cars and trucks along the access road as we were driving
up. Hmmm, why are we going into a cloud. Once in the parking lot, why
are we hearing both loud cracks and deep booms. We were some of the view
people at the lodge that didn't have shovels and avalanche transceivers.
While the inbrounds skiing is nice, they almost encourage you to go out
of bounds, hence the cars parked along the access road. Friends of mine
on another trip hooked up with a local to show them down to the access
road. Said it was a good run. :-) If you don't have avie gear, wouldn't
recommend that you make the trip to Whitewater unless you are looking
for a mellower day of skiing along with some great food.

Got up the next morning and drove to Fernie. Remember me saying about
needing chains and going "yeah, right"? Remember me saying something
about the terrain looking like Pennsylvania? Remember me saying
something about making the left turn to go to Nelson? Well this time we
were on the road that was the right turn that took us away from Nelson.
Climbed up above treeline to some scary avalanche terrain. Trying to
recall if we had to go through a tunnel or just snow sheds. Anyway I
found the crags I was looking for. Looked like some fun back country
skiing but would have to be careful of the avalanches and explosives.

Fernie was fun but limited. Great scenery. Couldn't explore that much
because of snowfall and avalanche danger. We were the year that were
being developed (I believe that the Lake Louise Consortium had bought
them - Guido should be able confirm) so they were building the hotel,
etc. Spent two days in Fernie.

One last day at Red.

Wee, a great ski trek. You were concerned about funds. We ate on the
mountain. Would eat out at night someplace, nothing fancy. Most of the
hotels we stayed at included either breakfast or a continental
breakfast. If not, we would eat in town. Requirements for the hotel was
that they had to have a hot tub and couldn't have cockroaches, i.e.
equivalent to a single diamond AAA hotel. Total land cost, excluding car
but including gas, for eleven or so days? $800 USD. Exchange rate was
about the same as now so it would be about $1200 CDN. Appears that those
that want to spend the $, be it CDN or USD, go to Whistler/Blackcomb.
Those that want the best bang for the buck, go to interior BC.

97-98 was a truly epic year so we were lucky in terms of the amount of
snow. As our Canadian lawyer friend recently said, Lake Louise gets
about 120" snow a year. That year they were reporting 240 so far when we
were there in late February, early March.

What we did miss was the "northern" tier of interior BC areas but one
only has so much time. Nancy Green's area, Sun Peaks, looks interesting
and is huge though not as large as Whistler/Blackcomb. After finally
meeting Guido out here in Tahoe, I found out about Fortress. Doesn't
look like much but appears to be similar to Whitewater. It isn't about
what is inbounds but what is OB.

Quick bit about what I like to ski. I'm a MRG shareholder (even after
that trip, I loved looking at and skiing the MRG terrain). My favorite
areas are MRG, Alta, and Red. Spent a week at Vail/Beaver Creek in the
early 90's. Similar experience to what I had at Whistler/Blackcomb. Nice
areas that I am glad that I have skied but would prefer to go other
places on my next vacation like back to Red or Alta. :-)

Would I go back again? You bet. Just hard to when living with Lake Tahoe
14 miles away.

~Tom
Yes, I've seen snow this season but am waiting for the snow to truly
start flying.

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