Go ahead, sing it, “It feels like the first time…na, na, na, na…it feels like the very first time!” Ya baby! Sing it!! Opening day on the Peak. I’m not much of a singer, that is unless the whole Harry Connick Jr crooner thing is back in, but damn it, it feels like the first time every time I get back on that old horse the Whistler Peak Chair. Some wait for a lifetime, others for a season, maybe another day, or a sleepless night…just to get it on.
Think back…you remember the first time right? The cold hands, that nervous shiver, that look in her eyes…er, I mean, that works in surfing right? The wave for surfers is always a girl. I can still hear Greg Knoll in the Stacey Peralta big wave epic Riding Giants with his eyes deep and shaded after a lifetime of squinting in the Hawaiian sun hiding the tears talking about his first love, “…Waimea, she was my gal…” (If you haven’t seen it…I’m playing it right now at the shop.)
For me, this mountain is the same…I’m in love with her, with Whistler mountain. It’s a love affair that started when I was my son’s age in a brown striped polyester ski suit like we all wore in the 70’s, and those ridiculous metal Look bindings with nylon pull tabs sewn on the heel lifts. Rossi even had the old red white and blue Roosters on my 160cm Stratos. I couldn’t see her from the creek but I knew she was up there when we loaded into that giant barn at the base. I loved her through the Schneider stretch pants and matching padded sweaters of the early 80’s. I loved her through crushes and curly-haired tight jean dance parties a thousand miles away in prairie highschool gymnasiums in my “Move West Young Man” underwear shirt…remember when those underwear shirts with beer logos were cool? I loved her when I drove my first rusty-red Volkswagen Rabbit Turbo Diesel all the way to the west coast for the Easter long-weekend in University (and she, my car, didn’t make it back home over the new Coquihalla Highway). I loved her from afar, through dreams and ski movie premiers, through seasons in Fernie and Rocky Mountain winters and smiled from ear to ear the day my Regional Manager said the Whistler Store Manager was going on Mat leave for a year and would I be… “Yes.”
I loved her that opening day in the 97/98 season when I came back for good…what a year…and I rode the Peak to that crazy half-way off-load station some chairs used to have that let me off right before Whistler Bowl when the ‘upper’ Peak was closed. I loved her working weekends and 2-11 shifts, following Pete and Chad to their CD release party at the Hard Rock (yes, I was the guy on the crutches who won the guitar), to the back door pass nights at Garf’s with Johnny Two Doors and even through the original 2001 Whistler Film Festival premier of Ski Bums (the season I met my wife at Bill’s… and partied with Johnny Thrash and Crucial Mike at random when our Whistler crew hit Golden to hike the goods and reassure ourselves we shouldn’t move there when they opened the gondola and changed their name to Kicking Horse…one buddy did, but like so many others he’s back now.) I even loved her in my Whiskey 3 Whistler Sucks T-shirt. For 40 years, she’s has been there, right there, just there above those clouds, whispering my name, calling me to the Cirque, under the rope, a little left, over the edge, under the snow…right there.
My hands were still cold pouring chai tea from my old stainless thermos into the cup-lid on the ride back to Blackcomb alone on the Peak to Peak with a good book after falling in love with Whistler Mountain…for the first time…all over again. The first time.