Hat on Top, Coat Below


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Whistler and Stuff

February 18, 2004

I don’t usually have that “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation” feeling but this time I sure need something to help me settle back in to home and work. As much as I travel, you’d think I’d have this reentry stuff down. But no, I’m struggling to figure out how to sort through all the mail and tasks and chores that accumulated while I was gone. I’m doing stuff, but I feel rather disconnected from all my normal routines. I’m hoping that getting the trip out of my head and onto the screen will help clear some space in my brain to plug back in. (If you want to skip ahead and just look at the pictures, they’re all here.)

We spent the entire first day of our vacation getting from Detroit to Whistler via Seattle. Sure, flying into Vancouver direct would have been quicker, but that was more expensive at the time we bought the tickets and skiing is pricey enough as it is. Next time, though, I’m going to make sure to have a snack at Sea-Tac before we get in the rental car because being hungry and sitting in bumper to bumper stop and go traffic on Saturday afternoon with no restaurants in sight did not make for a good welcome to vacation experience. I have never been so happy to see a mall in my life– all malls have food, it’s the law. Sure, maybe an all-you-can-eat buffet wasn’t the best choice diet-wise but immediate access to food was the priority at that point. After refueling, it was on to Mr. Karen’s sister Kathy’s for a quick stop to look at their great new (well, new to us since our last visit there) house before heading on up into Canada.

I wanted to stop at the currency exchange at the border except it wasn’t until it was too late that we realized that unlike in Sarnia where we do most of our border crossing, the place to stop was before customs and immigration, not after. I fretted about it for some kilometers (think metric!) before it dawned on me that I could get Canadian money out of an ATM. Duh. Why I didn’t think of that earlier I don’t know, especially since I have done exactly that on trips to Toronto and of course got all our yen in Japan out of machines instead of at a currency exchange. (And as is turned out, most places we went in Whistler accepted USD, which Mr. Karen told me they would but I didn’t want to count on, nor did I want to be the ugly American who can’t be bothered to adapt to local customs, except taking USD seems to be a local custom there so I was all fretful about nothing which is a lesson you’d think I’d have learned by now but evidently I haven’t.)

My initial impression of Whistler was not favorable. There were too many people, too many cars, too much commotion, and too little space. On the plus side, it was Canada, so that meant easy access to Sprite Ice and Aero bars and Smarties and Lush products. The condo we stayed in was odd and cramped. The sales literature we found in a closet when looking for a place to stash excess furniture so as not to not trip over something every time we turned around described it as having a “unique three level floor plan”. Well, yes, it did. There were thirteen unique steps from the front door to the main level, then it was around a corner and up five more unique steps to the bathroom, then another corner and nine more unique steps up to the bedroom. Oh, yes, I counted them. It gave me something to do to distract myself while dragging my ski-weary body up and down them several times a day.

I was happier the next morning when it got light and I spotted the mountain out the window. It did exist; I was going to get to ski. They’d had some snow, as we could see on the deck of the condo (which was at least as big as the bedroom; if the weather had been nicer I might have put the dresser out there to free up some space inside). It was grey and cloudy at the base but by the time we got off the lift we were in sun, looking down on the clouds and marveling at how cool the surrounding mountains looked poking up from the layer of white. (Well, I was marveling at the view and taking picture after picture; Mr. Karen was probably marveling at how many pictures I could take of the same thing.) Because the forecast for more snow didn’t look good, we’d decided to wear our powder skis that day to take advantage of what there was. At first I wasn’t sure that was the right call, but soon we found the trees and the crud and it worked out fine.

The weather was clearer the next few days, so that meant taking more pictures because the view was different. I liked the mountains. I hadn’t done a lot of research for this trip and had it in my head that Whistler and Blackcomb were two separate destinations, but they’re not. You can easily ski from one to the other and they even share a base area. I liked the terrain; it’s big and nicely laid out. I wasn’t enamored of the main base, where it was hard to find a simple lunch and public restrooms, but the on-mountain facilities were pretty good. I was a bit disappointed that the cafeterias didn’t stock wacky Canadian potato chip flavors like dill pickle and ketchup, but they did somewhat make up for it with elephantine blueberry muffins and family size servings of poutine with real cheese curds.

By ski day four, I was tired and the snow was tired so I decided to do something a little different and go on a photo safari. I’d collect pictures of as many different “kids load this side” signs as I could. We’d been noticing them all week and documenting them seemed like a fine way to structure my day. I made up a whole story to tell people about how if I got more pictures of these than anyone else in my group I’d get a free lunch, but no one asked. Perhaps people were afraid to talk to a possible mentally unbalanced person, because who else takes pictures in the lift line? I scored ten in all; these are my favorites.

I liked the village a little better as the week went on. The grocery store was always too crowded and the overall feel was a little fancy for me to feel entirely comfortable, but it was easy to overlook that because of the sushi. Sushi, sushi, everywhere. We ate at three different sushi places over the five nights we were in town and all were wonderful. It made me wish we lived closer to the ocean so I could have good sushi a lot more often (except the proximity to the water makes for heavy wet snow and I don’t like that so maybe my fantasy life should include a private jet so I can have the best of all places).

Thursday was another travel day, but we only had to get ourselves from Whistler back down to Kathy’s house in Washington. We slept in and took our time, stopping to admire the scenic views along the B.C. coast and check out the bay in Bellingham.

Friday our three nephews had to go to school but Kathy came with us up to Mt. Baker. She ended up not skiing because her sun allergy was really giving her trouble but says she had a fine time sitting in the lodge and reading while Mr. Karen and I explored the mountain. It was nice to be at a place that was blessedly uncrowded after jostling with the masses at Whistler-Blackcomb. Of course, I took some pictures. Somewhere along the way I lost my mittens. (No pie for me.) We backtracked all over the mountain and checked at lost and found to no avail. Bummer. Mr. Karen gave those to me when I first started skiing. At least I’d gotten years of good use out of them before they went missing. Perhaps they’ve gone on to have a fabulous life without me, like I imagine the hat and sunglasses I lost (separately) in France did.

Saturday all of us (except the dog) headed to Mt. Baker. It rained almost the whole drive up, only turning to snow about 30 vertical feet below the ski slopes. But hey, finally some new snow! Mr. Karen and I started the day with our oldest nephew, who’s a snowboarder, while our middle nephew took a snowboard lesson and our youngest nephew took a ski lesson with Kathy, and we split up and regrouped into different combinations all day. Mr. Kathy provided logistical and snack support throughout. The snow was wet and heavy and I got soaked through but it was a good day. Of course, since had to fly home the next day, more snow was predicted. Our snow timing has been really awful for the past couple years. Powder days; we need more powder days.

Sunday was another travel day. I made the stupid mistake of thinking because my boots with my feet still in them went through security just fine in Detroit that they would in Seattle. Nope. I got special attention from the TSA. I think I’m going to start wearing my bedroom slippers to the airport instead of just on the plane on long flights. Surely Polar Pairs aren’t a terrorist threat. The hassles inherent in air travel were lessened this time because we were unexpectedly upgraded to first class. I have no idea how or why, just that when we checked in our boarding passes were for row one. I didn’t trust that it actually was first class until the boarding announcement was made, having ridden on enough regional jets where rows one through four are no different than any other rows. But there we were in the big seats with the little table section in the armrest and the lunch served on china plates with metal forks and knives. It was a rare treat.

Now I’m back to the world of laundry and bills and customer demands for programming changes. You know I’d rather be skiing. Or eating sushi. Or eating sushi while skiing. I’ll have to content myself with rationing out the remaining Smarties and thinking ahead to my next trip to the mountains.


A little over a year ago, I got very expensive car wash.

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