Thursday April 6, 2006

three days out @ whistler (aka Helmet Cam field trip)

Did I tell you that I was up in Bristish Columbia, Canada for a few days last week? Me and Grellan went out to get in a few late-season days at Whistler. Actually, kind of a weird story how we got out there... Grellan met this random girl on Craigslist while looking for a ride to VT one weekend (whole story here), she ended up skiing with us for a day, and then randomly invited us to come to Whistler with her where she had a free place to stay and cheap lift tickets thanks to this conference KJ had to go to.

So, of course Grellan and I were like "free place to stay? Sure!" Booked some pretty cheap flights out there ($350 direct!) and ordered some 1/3 price lift tickets ("Um, yes I'm with the bioinformatics groups at Boston University...") and met KJ out out at Whistler late late late Wednesday night.

(Longer story = took a $200 cab from the airport -> Whistler, driven by this crazy cab driver who talked and talked and talked about Global Warming for the entire 2 hour drive. Wish wish wish I took a video of his ramblings.)

Anyway, so yeah, the conference... Keystone Symposium on Stem Cells? Sounds good to me. Now, I'll be honest with you here, you're not going to see a lot or skiing photos - ah, the weather was kind of shitty (overcast, foggy, rainy) and we spent most of our time ripping though the park (we so rad!) or too hungover to worry about taking on-snow glamour shots.

Day 1 (Thursday) was our best day - the sun was out in the morning and the snow was choppy, but rideable. No pics. Sorry. We made runs w/ KJ and her conference-friend James (dude on the left).

Here we are apres ski style - not sure if you've ever been to Whistler, but for a huuuge mountain, everything starts and ends at these two lifts at the bottom (one for Whistler, one for Blackcomb). The apres ski scene consists of three or four bars that form a horseshoe around the lifts (one of the few things I remembered from my last trip out here in 2000/01 with Bobby.L + Neel.C).

Okay okay... moving on. Us. At Longhorn's apres ski scene. Nachos. And..

... Crispy Rib Pickins (which taste *exactly* like the stuff that's always left stuck on a George Foreman Grill)

Hotel room = free. Dinner = free. KJ left us with her Symposium bag and her "Kathy Jo" nametag as tools for us to use to sneak our way into the conference buffet. Security was pretty weak (backwards nametag and a smile) allowing us access to all-you-can-eat chicken skewers and beef-on-a-stick.

I guess we look like scientists, or lab assistants, or post docs or whatever the kids are calling them these days. After dinner all the Scientists show off their "research posters" - literally huge posters hung on the walls - science fair style - illustrating things like "Hematopoetic stem cell transplantation in zebrafish" (no dur) and "DC34+DC38-Rhodamine123low phenotype enriches forprimitive human hematopoietic stem cells" and "1P06, the chicken oct-3/4 homolog controls the Chicken Embryonic Stem cells pluripotency".

All these research findings started making sense after 2-3 free beers (cue: "Girl, I don't care if your data is flawed" pickup lines)

A little math break here: 2-3 drinks @ apres ski + 2-3 drinks at dinner = post-poster cocktail party in the Hilton hot tub, Really, the only way to do this up is to throw on your complementary Hilton bathroom + slippers, pour oneself a tumbler of Makers Mark, slide into your finest Helmet Cam and head on down to the jacuzzi.

We managed to make some new jacuzzi friends (saucy French girls + some guy with a mullet), sampled both the indoor and outdoor jacuzzis, swam a lap or two and dusted off a bottle of Maker's Mark before Ross the Hotel Manager informed us that the hot tub closed two hours ago (and for KJ, "I believe I told you this last night when I had to ask you to leave.")

Huh. So we grabbed our bathrobes and slippers...

... and headed into town - through the hotel and out into the village - looking for something to do. (KJ did *not* get written up for indecent exposure)

Thursday night so it wasn't super packed, but there was a crowd at Maxx Fish (and plus they were kind enough to let us in with our robes).

They'd be foolish not to, especially since we were the stars of a hit reality-television show on MTV (or so we told these high school girls).

KJ and Shawdee making friends for Jacuzzi Round 3.

ps: Shawdee = another random conference friend.

It got a little rowdy. We ran up a tab. Someone must have paid it (me?). James was pouring tequila shots.

KJ, sorry I bit your face.

Shadee, please... PG-13.

After party was back at the Hilton (room 312, where the players dwell). Somehow Stoughton Joe managed to track us down (yes, from Stoughton, MA)

(We later found this guy passed out in a chair near the elevator. James says he also saw him running around the hallways trying to find his way home. Lost hotel key = no access to the elevator!)

Grellan brought on his best B- game. Someone passed out in front of their laptop (hint: not me).

Okay, now let's fast forward to 10:20am. Hungover. And we didn't even kick the Maker's.

Back to the few mountain pics I have - we met up with James around 10:45, got some delicious breakfast bagels from Mogules and explored some of the more remote parts of Blackcomb. You need to take two lifts and a T-bar to make it all the way to the summit. T-bar = worst thing ever on a snowboard. I won't mention which of the three of us took a digger and got dragged by the by for like 20 feet.

From the top of the t-bar is a quick 10 minute hike to the backside of the mountain. Wish I took some more pics (or got some helmet cam footage), especially of this one chute that was about a 45 degree pitch down 500 yards or so (like Tuckerman's Ravine steep). Anyway, here's the sign that awaits you right before you drop down the backside of the mountain. Moderate = safe enough, no?

This is what is looks like on the summit, 360 degrees around. Crappy pic, I know. Why don't I shoot more video???

We rode a bunch of both Whistler and Blackcomb, but visibility was best described as "poor". Like can-only-see-5-feet–in-front-of-you shitty.

This video was actually taken heading up the front-face of Blackcomb, but it gives you a good idea of how shallow the visilbity was. And it was worse on the back bowls I was talking about a minute ago. On the backside, there were all these plain orange and blue markers - I had to ask on the ski patrol guys what they were for (Answer: "Visibility"). When we rode a few hundred years further down the mountain, the fog was so sick that we literally had no idea where we were going, what direction we were facing or whether we were still even on the trail. Just follow the markers. [video]

By the way, third-to-last run of the day and my brand new bindings break. These are top-of-the line Burton Cartel OLS - like $270 - not cheap bindings. Girl at the shop told me she's seen a bunch break this way ("Oh, there must have been a bad batch of plastics") but this is like my 3rd bad experience with Burton products in like two seasons. I always though their cheaper-line of goods was shitty, but I'm losing faith in their high-end stuff as well.

Day 2 apres ski = back to the Long Horn. Call us stalkers, but we managed to run into the Canadian colleagues of the East Coast Bacardi girls that we ran into last weekend.

And sitting next to us was a whole table of crunked kids who just finished a moutain-wide pub crawl in celebration of #321's birthday. Girls dancing in ski boots = hot? [video]

Day 3 = Saturday = our last day. Shitty weather, but I took the helmet cam out anyway (footage coming soon, I swear - it's a pain in the ass to edit!). KJ took this before we headed out - I either look badass (Solid Snake style!) or retarded... not sure which one.

We spent a bunch of time in the park, tried to hit the run that's planned for the Men's Downhill in the 2008 Olympics (@ Whistler). End of the day we met up at Garabildi Lift Company, another one of the apres ski bars in the horseshoe. Much classier crowd than Cuzzins @ Mt. Snow (sorry, VT).

We ordered up the last thing you'd probably want to hand in an expense receipt for. (er, average)

As a special thanks to KJ for all the freebees (hotel + tickets + dinners), Grellan and I took her out to the nicest (?) restaurant in Whistler - The Bearfoot Bistro. Actually, the only reason we even knew of the place is because some dude Grellan knows recommended it (cause he read about it in GQ or something? Ha!)

Anyway, the deal is that when you order a bottle of champagne, the sommelier will take you downstairs and let you open the thing with a sword. No joke! Okay, technically it's a sabre (one blade) and you don't do it in the beheading-style that I imagined, but rather in a flick-of-the-wrist style. We let KJ at it. [video]

Once you slice the top off the bottle, you get to keep it as a souvenir. You keep the top, they keep the bottle - which you get to autograph before they add it to their collection. We left a few shoutouts to stem cells, Shadee, Stoughton Joe, and Grellan's phat tricks.

Post dinner, KJ crashed and me + Grell went back to Maxx Fish. More crowded this time around - some dbags wearing their goggles, two two girls on the left dancing on stage. Uneventful.

Sunday morning and we packed up to head out. We said our final goodbyes to Ross (Hotel Manager) - he and KJ were BFF by the time we left, I apologized for the hot tub incident and setting the fire alarm off in #312 (those Duraflame sure get smokey!). I also said my final goodbyes to the Sweet Sweet Elevator Lady.

Hilton -> bus -> Vancouver airport -> 11:30am flight back to JFK.

This bus is RAD!

And that's it. Grellan and KJ showing off their battle wounds. Grellan from a digger in the snowboard park, KJ from a hottub throwdown. Huh. The flight back was uneventful - I read my NYTimes ($10 Canadian!!) and neglected to edit the helmet cam videos I took... next time I swear!

Thu 4/6 @ 10:57 PM | # link| Comments (5)
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