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Guide to Blackcomb

With the 2010 Winter Olympics around the corner, all eyes are on Whistler Blackcomb. The masses will descend on Whistler Mountain, where the official events will take place. Which means Blackcomb will be the place to ski.
By Kevin Arnold
posted: 08/05/2009
Resort Awards, Best Overall: Whistler Blackcomb BC
Photo by: Jordan Maney

Locals know that Blackcomb outperforms its better-known neighbor when it comes to off-piste terrain and jibbing. Plus, Blackcomb’s lift lines are shorter, its park and pipe bigger, and its backcountry steeper. And with the new Peak-to-Peak gondola—a record-setting 2.73-mile-long feat of engineering—now connecting the two mountains, you can easily zip over to the big W. But with Blackcomb’s terrain, why bother?

Quick Tip: To avoid the morning jam where the Excalibur gondola spills onto the Excelerator chair, take the Wizard quad and Solar Coaster Express—it’s colder, but way faster.

Start Here: While waiting for patrol to open the high alpine, lap steep lines on Jersey Cream Bowl below the Jersey Cream Express. From the bottom of the bowl, cut right and nab the lower section of The Bite, a 500-vertical-foot shot.

Must Hit: Ride the Horstman T-bar, and then skate to the top of Couloir Extreme, Blackcomb’s 42-degree test piece. If it’s already bumped out, stay high and drop in skier’s left of the main gulch to the less visited False Face.

The Stash: Off Seventh Heaven chair, join the pilgrimage of intermediates poling on the cat track. But instead of dropping into the standard runs, stay high at the first switchback and head straight for a gap in the fence that leads to Lakeside Bowl, a rocky, open powder shot followed by tight trees.

Powder Day:  Take the Glacier Express and get in line to climb Spanky’s Ladder, the only point of access to Blackcomb’s epic back bowls. Start with the ridgeline traverse to Ruby Bowl, a high-speed leg burner. Then hit one of the main lines down Diamond Bowl for more of the same.

Three Days Later:  Head to Sapphire Chutes, which are shaded from the sun and guarded behind an intimidating entrance. To get there, climb Spanky’s and take the high right traverse across Garnet Bowl. Straightline the entrance to reach the chutes. Then the farther right you go, the steeper the lines.

Park and Pipe:  Blackcomb is littered with jumps. Take the Catskinner chair to access the Nintendo Terrain Park—home to over 70 rails—and Highest Level Terrain Park, which requires a special waiver and a helmet to ride.

Backcountry Access:  The safest exit into the backcountry is on the far side of Blackcomb Glacier, where you’ll pass through a transceiver check gate and then skin into the Spearhead range. Check Whistler Blackcomb’s website to hire a guide and to see the latest avalanche report.

Weather:  Last season Blackcomb notched over 33 feet of snow. The place doesn’t lack for powder days, especially in January and February. What it does lack is bluebird—gray skies are the norm.

Après:  There are plenty of après spots in the village, but none quite like the Garibaldi Lift Company, located above the Whistler gondola. Share a plate of nachos or the infamous sex-cheese tapa and a pitcher of Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale.

Fuel:  For cheap eats, grab a burger and fries smothered in cheese and gravy at Splitz Grill. For a spendier meal, shell out for the crusted ahi tuna and warm goat-cheese salad at Trattoria di Umberto.

Up All Night:  Start your night with the locals at the Cinnamon Bear in the Hilton Hotel. Then take it to Garfinkel’s, which gets the top DJs and bands that come through town.

Digs:  Thanks to the slipping Canadian dollar and a weak economy, the Nita Lake Lodge—Whistler’s newest hotel—is offering sweet deals for its opening season. Rooms start at $207—not bad for a town where you’re usually lucky to get a closet for that price (nitalakelodge.com). 

Elevation: 7,494 feet Vertical Drop: 5,280 feet Snowfall: 400 inches Acres: 3,414 Info: whistlerblackcomb.com

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