Last chance to go cross-country skiing this season. We opted for somewhere new: the Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley, a few miles south of Whistler. Just completed here are the tracks for the 2010 Winter Olympic cross-country events, as well as the ski jump. A beautiful warm sunny day greeted us as we headed up the Sea-to-Sky highway, turning off up the newly-paved Callaghan Valley road.
We rented our gear and set off. And encountered the downside of late season skiing: slush. It wasn’t too bad early in the day, but later it got really slushy and made it hard to keep control going round corners. And immediately after setting off we’re faced with a tight turn on a steep-ish hill, under the road and then another one, followed by a long hill, just to get to the green trail! Yikes! What an introduction. With the crummy snow and us not being warmed up yet it was quite a challenge. (I notice that since we visited, the blue trails we started on have been downgraded to green. Yeah right!) Then we relaxed on the Madeley Creek green trail, and worked at relaxing into our stride and getting a rhythm going. A very pleasant, if not very exciting, ski. We rounded the top corner and came back in towards the main area, settling into a nice stride. Woosh, woosh.
We reached the bottom of the Madeley Creek loop and stopped to gawk at the view: fantastic vistas over towards Metal Dome and Brandywine Mountain to our right, and away to the east was the awesome Black Tusk. Continuing on (past some bear footprints in the snow) we made our way south to the little Top of the World loop where we had lunch with uninterrupted views all round. Definitely the most spectacular lunch spot I’ve ever had while cross-country skiing. It was worth coming here just for that view! Look out for it when they cover the Olympics…
After lunch we carried on south down Lower Line, a nice long and fairly gentle downhill run. Turning at the bottom we then had our work cut out for us as we headed uphill along Mountain View. Fortunately it levelled off nicely after a while and sure enough we had great mountain views, as well as a good view down into the valley below. Then on back towards the central area again where we stopped to look at the ski jumps. To top it off, there was a group practicing their jumping. OK so they weren’t on the big jumps, but it was fun to watch these crazy skiers (including a good number of fearless kids!) slide downhill and go off a small ramp.
By now we were back at the beginning, and looking at the map we opted for one more visit to the Top of the World. Taking in one last view of Black Tusk, we headed on back through what was now heavy slush to return our ski gear. Feeling pleased to have got in another day’s XC skiing, we headed on home. Or at least, to Squamish where we couldn’t resist getting the usual massive helping of gelato. It was there that we made a startling realization. We had forgotten sunscreen and after a warm sunny day in the snow, we now looked like pink pandas. Oops. (It was so bad I peeled within three days!)
After gelato came coffee and then a refreshing stop at Shannon Falls to take a peek at the waterfall, in reasonable flow. With afternoon light, it made for nice photos anyway. Then home.
All in all quite a day out.