Guest Author: Mikey Nixon
The mountains have a funny way of bringing people full circle. As the seasons shift through the years, mentors become the mentored; the peaks that once scared you become the places that redeem you; and, after time makes its steady march, you find yourself carrying your mom’s skis to the lift instead of the other way around.
My obsession with snowboarding took me on a path from Calgary, AB, through the mountains of Interior BC and eventually landed me in Whistler about seven years ago. As is the case with almost every ski bum, I don’t see my family nearly as much as I’d like. And while my mom, who still lives in Calgary, isn’t too far away in the grand scheme of things, we’ve only been able to organize three visits since I moved here.
On her last visit, she came in August and we went for a day of sightseeing on Whistler Blackcomb, enjoying a full day of mountain vistas and filling in some of the details that the letters, emails and phonecalls had failed to cover over the years (you can read Mikey’s account of that trip here). To borrow a phrase from mountain culture, we crushed it out there. So it seemed only natural to set up her next visit in the winter and go skiing together. It worked out really well, so I figured I’d share The Eight Stages of Going on a Whistler Ski Date with your Mom:
One of my earliest memories, which at this point is just a memory of a memory, is my mom defrosting my frozen feet with her hands at a now-defunct ski lodge in the Canadian Rockies. I was howling sweet bloody murder, drowning out the din of conversation in the ski hill cafeteria while my mom did her best to calm me down. And while I may not have been having the nicest time of my life that day, my mom and the rest of my family worked really hard to make sure the mountains were always a huge part of our family existence.
It worked, maybe a little too well. Growing up skiing with my mom, my dad, my stepmom and my two brothers instilled a love for the mountains within me that’s only gotten stronger over the last three decades. I hightailed it to Fernie, BC the year after finishing high school and have spent every winter in a mountain town ever since.
Organizing a Visit
This can often prove to be the most difficult part of the journey. But you just have to stay strong, push through the logistics and make it happen.
Last time my mom visited me in Whistler during Crankworx, which meant that the village was at max capacity. She loved it, but I was happy that she chose to come in early December this time around. It’s a great time of year to visit, with most of the destination visitors sticking closer to home before the holidays.
One Day of Sightseeing
Like I said, my mom and I went sightseeing in the alpine last time she was here. The wildflowers were out, the marmots were whistlin’ and Cheakamaus Lake was glowing aquamarine. It was nice, to be sure. But I really wanted my mom to see what this place looks like in the winter.
We were in the midst of the deep freeze while she was here: -20 in the alpine. But we went up anyways and enjoyed the low December light striking the sea of peaks on a perfectly sunny day.
Picking the Day
I figured it wasn’t too far-fetched to time our ski day with a fresh dusting of snow. Sure, my mom just turned 70, she hadn’t skied in four years and she lost a lung to cancer a few years ago. But she was confident that she could handle whatever the mountain had to offer.
The forecast looked promising, with 4-6 cms predicted the night before our chosen day. Fresh snow, but nothing too taxing for an older set of legs and lung.
Getting the Gear
Gone are the days of skinny skis that take years of experience to master. The new technology makes skiing a lot easier than it used to be, which bodes well for anyone who hasn’t been out in a while. And the ability to rent skis or boards right in town is handy if you don’t own a set or want to travel with them.
We went to the rental store at the base of Blackcomb Mountain and asked for a pair of forgiving mid-fat skis, ones that would float in the soft snow but still hold an edge on the groomed runs. They set us up, sweetening the deal with the most comfortable ski boots my mom had ever tried on.
Hittin’ the Slopes
I set the alarm nice and early, hoping that the forecast would hold and we could get up in time to enjoy 4-8 cms sitting on top of perfectly-groomed runs. We only got 2 cms of new snow, so we figured that was a good enough excuse to take our time getting to the lifts.
But once we got up there, we really strutted our stuff. My mom looked like she hadn’t missed a beat over the years, linking turns together with the exact same style I remember from such a long time ago. And it’s safe to say I’ve progressed over the years as well (I try not to cry in the daylodge anymore).
That 2cms proved to be the perfect amount of new snow for my mom, especially since the sun seemed to come out whenever we needed it to.
Ok, so I might have enjoyed this Whistler tradition more than my mom did. We went to the Handlebar Après Bar in the Upper Village and my mom asked for a sample of the house red, deciding upon its arrival that it was the perfect quantity for celebratory libations.
Classic mom move.
Either way, she had something to cheers with and it really cushioned the blow when I picked up the bar tab like an adult at the end of the day.
Huge thanks to Whistler Blackcomb for helping set up the day of skiing and a huge shout-out to all the moms, dads, brothers, sisters and everyone else who takes the time to get their loved ones out in the mountains….
BC Family Day is just around the corner, it might just be the time to take your Mom, Dad or grandparents skiing. Check out our Insider’s Guide to green runs for cruisey lap ideas, and if you have a non-skier in the family we can help with ski-free ideas too.