THE GREAT WHITE WAIT: Mark Welgos patience is rewarded in Canada
Here I was in Revelstoke, British Columbia, the powder capital of the world, with no snow. Great… after driving 1500 miles in two days I was bummed. Back in Aspen, where I had just departed from, the conditions were perfect and it left me wondering why I had even left.
Revelstoke’s early season snow was followed by a long cold dry spell, which created weak facet layering at the foundation of the snow pack similar to what we experience almost every year in Colorado. All the new snow that did fall a week before I arrived had avalanched, leaving crowns and debris on most of the lines in the backcountry. Above average temperatures for the five days before our arrival, put the icing on the cake for not the most ideal skiing conditions.
My mission by heading up to Revelstoke was to ski some big lines in perfect powder snow. Anyone who skis knows that this is more than wishful thinking, but I always remain positive. I figured that by spending a little less than a month in the Revelstoke area, good conditions would eventually arrive.
So what do you do while you’re waiting for the big dump? Down days were spent in Nelson playing card games, soaking in hot springs, rocking out to a Rage Against the Machine tribute band, and routinely checking www.snow-forecast.com for any chance of snow. Life in interior British Columbia is very relaxed. No one there cares about how important or rich you are, instead the main concern is the people you surround yourself with and what can you contribute. As the days rolled on and the heat destroyed the snowpack, motivation and any hope of skiing big lines diminished. Then, a week and a half into the trip, my prayers were answered: snow was in the forecast. I packed up my bags and headed north to Revelstoke, a four-hour drive.
The drive took me through the beautiful Crescent Valley and up to the Galena Bay Ferry, which crossed the upper Arrow Lake 50 km south of Revelstoke. My late night arrival brought me to the town’s very crowded hostel. The next morning I awoke to a vicious snowstorm. Skiers up in BC talk about the magical reset button. This button, when pressed, takes the worst imaginable skiing conditions and, with little effort, refreshes everything. All it takes to set off this button is a 20 cm storm, and as it turned out the first day I was in Revelstoke the reset button was on and I was chomping at the bit.
My first run on the resort was ridiculous. We hiked from the top of the lift for 20 minutes and was on top of a wide couloir. The winds were wicked and I got low trying to prevent being blown into the couloir. I strapped on my skis, buckled everything tight and heaved myself into the vertigo of whiteness. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see; all I could feel was the snow slamming into my face. I tried to yell, but every time I opened my mouth the snow choked me. Any previous thought of wondering why I travelled such a great distance for nothing was soon washed away with cascading turns.
The best was yet to come. After skiing the short couloir, we cut hard to reach a col that would allow us to drop off the other side of the ridge. From there, we put in a boot pack that gained a broad ridge in the trees. Once again we strapped in and set off into the unknown. What we stumbled across was a freeskiing paradise. There were perfect tree lines and cliffs of all sizes with loaded landings. It was deep and I was in heaven—effortless turns were interrupted only by cliff drops and clean landings.
Snow continued to fall for the rest of my trip in Revelstoke. Stormy weather and high avalanche hazards made the possibility of skiing big lines impossible. This didn’t matter, though. The waiting game paid off, patience was rewarded, the tree skiing was amazing and memories will prevail...”Oh Canada”.... I’ll be back!
Mark Welgos is based out of Aspen, Colorado. He has made a name for himself on the US Freeskiing circuit with his incredibly smooth style, consistent line choices and, above all, his penchant for big airs.