Opening Day Whistler Blackcomb
Anticipation. Photo by Mitch Winton/ Coast Mountain Photography

Damn it feels good to be back on skis.

Winter is truly here, and like every dedicated snow eater, who is patiently waiting for Whistler Blackcomb’s Opening Day, I have my priorities.

Skiing. Touring. Powder.

With the start of the season looking good so far (knocking on wood as I write this), many diehard skiers and snowboarders have been taking to the backcountry for early season turns. Marching along gravel roads and through the mud in your ski boots for hours before climbing up for a few dozen turns takes a special kind of dedication, or for some simply a pent-up appetite for sliding. My favourite question when I’m asked about these missions — ski days that offer little reward for a lot of effort — is “was it worth it?” The answer is always “of course, because skiing.”

Opening Day Whistler Blackcomb
Prime conditions on Whistler Mountain’s opening day in 2011.

Whistler locals seem to have a sort of love/hate relationship with Opening Day. Many grizzled veterans would rather still lie on a beach in Hawaii, patiently waiting for the base to thicken and the crowds to thin after the hoopla of the opening weekend quiets down. Why head up to dodge rocks on limited terrain with thousands of other people getting in your way in the lift line?

A few years ago when we had some of the strongest openings (i.e. copious amounts of snow) I would proudly arrive at the Whistler Gondola lineup in cold, dark morning hours and await the first upload for the winter. I was adamant that the first few tracks on Ratfink would be from my skis, not those of others. In the subsequent years I drifted from my Opening Day tradition, leaving the honour of the first gondola to the local high school kids, who somehow managed to convince their parents that taking a day off school for Opening Day is an accepted practice.

Opening Day Whistler Blackcomb
The front of the gondola line forms as much as two nights prior to opening

I came back to attending Opening Day for my work as a member of the local media, but it wasn’t long before I realized that I wanted to be there all along. Opening Day isn’t about how much fresh is up there or logging days on the season pass. It’s about greeting old friends in the lift line you haven’t seen since April. It’s taking your shitty old rock skis because the coverage probably isn’t the best yet. It’s feeling the sensation of sliding again and remembering how much fun winter can bring. And if you’re into the whole Instagram/Snapchat/social media thing, bragging to the rest of the world about how amazing it all feels.

There’s over 180 days to the Whistler Blackcomb season, so if you can’t get out of work or bed on Thursday (Nov. 19) there’s no big loss. But you’ll likely have to hear about it from everybody else.

Happy Opening Day 2015.