March 29, 2023

A Personal Account

For years I have drooled about taking some time and heading out to Whistler, British Columbia. Fortunately for me, that time recently presented itself to me through a trip provided by my dad and step mom! It had been about ten years since I had been out of the country (I believe the last time Rachel was pregnant with Selby), and all of a sudden I spent a week in Belize and a week in Canada within the span of one month! I guess that you can say I am an avid international traveler these days. In all honesty the vacations were absolutely amazing, but as noted in previous discussions, they created some anxiety and stress. I am not here to talk about that though. I want to tell you how amazing my trip was. 

I never skied until I was a teenager. I was one of five kids, and my dad was self-employed, so there was not much spare time or money left for skiing. The first time I went skiing was with a childhood friend and his family to Vermont when I was in 7th or 8th grade. I took to it pretty naturally, and I have always enjoyed any sort of outdoor activity, especially one that involves exercise and adrenaline. The addictive personality lends itself well to these types of things. Over the course of my teens I skied once or twice a year on the East Coast with friends and family, but it was always pretty casual. It was not until I went to college at the University of Colorado that I did any real skiing, and that really changed my perception of the sport.

There was no ice, the mountains were massive, the terrain was daunting, the area was absolutely beautiful, and my skiing skills progressed faster than they ever had. I did not stay out there for long, but the skiing bug had bit me big time. When I moved back home I continued to ski a fair amount. I took frequent trips to New York, Vermont, (sadly) Pennsylvania, and Utah over the next few years. I tried to teach Rachel to ski, but she was very apprehensive, and it was not until years later that she told me she hated it. She said that she was scared shitless every time we went skiing, and that she only did it to make me happy. By this point we were married and she had already won me over, so she no longer had to pretend to like doing things she did not want to do. Shortly after this, we had kids and skiing was no longer a thing for me. I did not make the time for it, and my priorities were elsewhere.

Literally a week before the world shut down for the pandemic, I decided that it was time to take Selby skiing. She was six years old, and I wanted to get her started early. Rachel and Tillie came along for the trip to Wyndham Mountain in New York. Once we got Selby suited up with her skis on, Tillie (who was three at the time) NEEDED to ski. There was no convincing her otherwise. Needless to say, my patience and lack of having eight arms provided myself and the two girls with a failed attempt at skiing. It was too much for everyone to handle, and I knew that I had bitten off more than I could chew. Rachel also refused to ski, so that added to the complexity. By the next week, the pandemic was in full swing, and the world had shut down. Up until two weeks ago, that was the last time I had skied. The girls and Rachel have never been on a mountain since.

A few months ago my dad called me and asked if I wanted to go skiing. He recently had both of his knees replaced, and he wanted to put them to good use. I expected a day trip to the Poconos or a few days up North, but he said that he and my stepmom were planning a trip to Whistler with her kids, and that he wanted me to go with them. Say no more, I was in! I packed up all of my old gear, purchased a new helmet, tuned my skis, and headed off to one of the most amazing skiing experiences of my life. I have skied a fair amount of mountains and locations, but none of them compared to Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia. 

I have skied everywhere from the Poconos, to New York, to Vermont, to Utah, to Aspen, to the front range in Colorado, but nothing was as expansive or mesmerizing as the mountains in British Columbia. Generally speaking, with most commercial skiing you have trails and designated skiable terrain on every mountain. Rules are that you must stay within the ropes or ski off-piste at your own risk. In Whistler, everything was skiable. When riding the lift and observing the mountain in front of you, there was no area untouched. There were groomed runs to the top of the mountains for beginners, but everything off of those trails was skiable if you wanted to ski it. Nothing was off limits, and the entire mountain was “on-piste” so to speak. You could get off the lift, ski a couple hundred yards on a groomer and then dip off trail to a cliff, cornice, glade run, or essential backcountry with no risk of getting your pass revoked or being chased by ski patrol. The terrain was endless.

They had chair lifts that brought you to every elevation and portion of the mountain that was skiable. If you wanted to ski bowls they had lifts or t-bars that brought you incredibly close to the ridge, and then they groomed a path to hike or skin the rest of the way up to the top. They even built a gondola that brought you from the peak of Whistler to the peak of Blackcomb in eleven minutes. It was a skier’s paradise. You could wake up and ski non-stop from 9am until 4pm with minimal lines and zero headaches. The staff was friendly and pleasant, the patrons were all respectful, the mountains were incredibly clean, and the views were breathtaking. I think I may have spent more time sending my wife photos than I did skiing.

Although I had not skied in a few years, I settled back in relatively quickly (other than some sore legs and tight ski boots). I had forgotten how much I enjoyed skiing, and just how amazing a day on the mountain can be for both your mind and your body. I can vividly recall the first time I went skiing, and just how magical of an experience that was for me. I want to share that experience with Selby and Tillie. Whether it is something they want to do more regularly, or they are content skiing once a year, my goal is to make that happen. I want to get outside with them and spend a little quality time on the mountain. Whistler was the spark that I needed to remind me of the value of these life experiences. This is something that I want to share with my girls. Just as my dad continues to do with me, all these years later.

- Tyler Grace