Bring on the (gun)powder - West Coast style 2005

By Ian Harford

Most of us remember the day for the attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament, but skiers from Seattle and Vancouver on North America's west coast will mark 5th November 2005 in their calendars for a different reason.

After a poor season last year, the Cascades and Rockies were hit in October by a big dump of snow, with Whistler the region's premier resort opening its Blackcomb runs earlier than ever - you&'ve guessed it - on Guy Fawkes Day.

I hadn&'t taken too much notice. Popping over to Seattle, more than 6,000 miles away isn't quite like jumping on a flight to Geneva for some fresh snow in Chamonix. But the email which suddenly flashed up on my inbox the day after bonfire night changed all that.

"Fancy coming over for Thanksgiving, Dad? I've four days holiday coming up and could do with a bit of help, moving all the gear into my new flat; and by the way, we could go up to Whistler. There should be some snow."

Chloe had gone to work in Seattle for a start up, zillow.com just six weeks before and had been waiting for her furniture and belongings. After a quick sea passage to New York, her crate was trundling its way slowly across America by train; and was due to arrive by Thanksgiving.

Sadly Lindsay couldn't make it because of work pressures, but a £330 bargain ticket offer via Expedia to cover a 9 day break clinched it for me.

For the record it&'s a 4-5 hours journey by car from Seattle and the three days skiing on Whistler mountain - opened the day we arrived - proved spectacular. Plenty of snow in the top sections, great runs on Harmony Ridge and the Peak and off piste and a good dose of sunshine. [See Photo]. Plus 3 brand new pairs of rental skis to test; the Volkl Unlimited AC4 was our favourite. All topped off with pumpkin pie with friends in the apartment. Who could ask for anything more?

Back in Seattle and Monday night, it was down to the Mountaineers Club for a lecture on snow caves and back country survival skills; and to hear the latest crack. Doug, the volunteer tutor, had been ski touring with a group on Mount Baker, on the US border the weekend before and lost a ski in five feet of powder snow! Could there be a new record on the horizon this year to beat the mountain's planetary record of 1998/9 when there was 95 feet of snowfall?

Two days were left before my departure, so the flat had to take preference now! Obtaining clearance for the crate from the Customs Office - so hidden from view in the docklands that we dubbed it "Seattle&'s best kept secret" - was the first task. Then down to IKEA for a desk, chair and table. 36 hours later we had most of it installed and the crate unpacked.

No wonder Chloe looked pleased as she gazed out from her new apartment across Lake Union to the Cascades and Mount Baker's snowy peak beyond. [See Photo]. "There's more powder coming and we're still not yet in December", she smiled. "Yes", I replied, "I&'m off tomorrow. I may be a while but I sure will be back."

Click on an image below for a larger picture.

Picture of Chloe in Seattle looking at Lake Union
Chloe in Seattle looking at Lake Union
with the Cascades in the background
Picture of Ian on Whistler Mountain
Ian on Whistler Mountain, Canada,
at 1,850 metres, 27 November

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