Here’s a confession—with over 20 years of skiing on Whistler Blackcomb I’ve never done a Fresh Tracks breakfast. I always thought it was just a tourist thing, something designed to fleece people out of an extra couple of dollars. Then last weekend, with 35 cm of fresh snow in the alpine and some hard-charging friends up from Vancouver, I bought the ticket and took the ride.
Here’s how it works—the first 650 people with a Fresh Tracks ticket that line up at the Whistler Village Gondola get to upload an hour before the rest of the world. Up top, those early risers are served a buffet breakfast in the Roundhouse lodge while waiting for ski patrol to give the all clear. The moment the general public starts uploading in the valley the Fresh Trackers start riding from the top… on a totally empty, untracked mountain.
We went the morning after a big storm. The alpine regions hadn’t opened the day prior which meant 35 cm of untouched snow up high. With conditions like these the first trick to Fresh Tracks is to arrive early, like 6am. Although the upload isn’t until 7:30 there’s no way of telling if you are among the first 650 in line. Fresh Tracks tickets can be used any day so many locals will squirrel away a couple in order to be ready to go on big snow days. The line-up can form mighty quickly so get there early, get up top, get your food, and get ready.
There’s an inherent peace and stillness to every sunrise. On top of Whistler Mountain all that is magnified. Sit close to an east-facing window while you shovel down your breakfast buffet (which has really good variety considering we’re at 6000ft elevation) and bask in the oranges and pinks as the sky ignites and another day fires into being. This little calm before the pow won’t last long so eat fast and enjoy the scenery because once patrol drops the ropes and rings the “all clear” bell you’ve got about 30 minutes before the hoard arrives. Make haste.
The first run of a Fresh Tracks morning has an eerie, end-of-the-world feel to it (especially with those ski patrol avalanche bombs booming from the alpine ridges). Perfectly empty runs beckon and a carpet of fresh corduroy lays in wait. Ripping your favourite ski trail totally alone is a Zen-like experience.
Smart Fresh Trackers will speed directly to either Big Red and Emerald chairs to ensure they get one more lap before the general populace arrives. Laying some turns down underneath the top part of the Village Gondola is highly recommended—let the up-loaders know what they’ve been missing.
And then, with two laps of perfect solitude already under our belts, the day begins. My friends and I hit Peak Chair, waited a few minutes for patrol to finish the avy control, and literally dove right into that 35 cm of high alpine blower pow, the stuff white dreams are made of. Two laps of Peak brought our day total to 5 untracked runs and it wasn’t even noon. Looks like all those “tourists” are smarter than I am— Fresh Tracks is awesome.