The title says it all really doesn’t it? Last weekend M and I and a couple of friends headed to Whistler Olympic Park (WOP), where, as the name states, some of the 2010 winter Olympic events were held, including (surprise surprise) cross country skiing. I have classic cross country skied (or attempted) for a couple of winters now, although I didn’t really get into it properly until last year when I bought my own skis instead of borrowing some rather retro skis.
Whistler tends to conjure up images of mountains and downhill skiing or boarding. And that image isn’t wrong.
But when you think of cross country skiing, you tend to think flat, with a few gentle rolling hills. I don’t think there’s a lot of flat near Whistler.
The whole system for cross country skiing in BC is a little different to what I was used to in Sweden. First off, you have to PAY! WTF? Yea, I know, I got spoiled living in Sweden where you can access the majority of x-country tracks for free. Well, I guess tax-payer money covered it, so it felt free. Here, for a day at WOP, you pay about $25. And the truth is, I’m not gonna x-country ski for a whole day. A couple of hours maybe, but not an 8 hour day. I think they could easily halve the price they charge, or give you a cheaper morning only or afternoon only option.
Secondly, they grade the tracks here, the same as you have for downhill skiing, which is pretty nice actually, as then you get an idea of what you might be getting into. It starts with double green for ultra beginners and kids. Well, the number of downhills ending in turns at the bottom in the double green runs surprised me, and sure as heck would have put me off had I actually been a beginner. We also tried a green run. Only one year ago, this single green run would have sent me crying and carrying my skis – and it’s still aimed at beginners! There was so much downhill in it, you literally spent a good deal of your time out of the tracks snow ploughing (not an easy feat on skis that are only about 5cm wide) just to make it down. It’s not that it’s so steep, it’s just that it goes on for ages, so when you stay in the tracks (which I did) you build up SO MUCH speed – and there is no way to control this if you stay in the tracks (ok, you can lift one ski out and snow plough with one ski out and one ski in the track but this sends me rolling down the hill like a snow ball). I handled this ok, but my friends, who really were beginners (for one person, this was her first time ever on any skis), were a little unexcited by this.
Thirdly, I encountered a few idiots. Given the number of people out there using the tracks, it was inevitable a few idiots slipped in amongst them. First set of (accidental) semi-idiots (ok, the word idiot is too harsh for this group), were some snow shoers, who were walking on the edge of the tracks as I hurtled down a long hill IN the tracks they were walking on. Collision fast approaching. “Tracks!’… my scream wasn’t loud enough, darn. “TRACKS!!!!!”. Ah, that did it. The snow shoers hopped over right in front of me to clear the tracks. Phew! Collision averted, as I whipped past them apologising for screaming at them. Second set of complete idiots, some older couple standing at the end of the tracks, right where the track disappears at the end of a downhill section and you have to free-style it (not easy on classic skis). They stood about 6m from the end of the tracks, on a green run, which is slated for beginners. Not a smart move guys. I sailed past and called out, “That’s probably not a good place to stop guys” and unbelievably got a shirty, terse answer. Sweet, stand there when absolute beginners out of control come ripping down there and act like ten pin bowling pins, I don’t care. But someone’s going to get hurt.
But these must have been the crispest, cleanest, best cut x-country tracks I have ever been in (SO much better than the tjej vasa tracks in Sweden last year that all but melted away before I got on them), and wow it makes a difference! I wish my Swedish cross country girls could have been here to try it out too.
Thinking of heading out later today for a little more x-country action at Cypress mountain…