It's a common site at the Blackcomb Glacier gate: a well-compacted laneway from dozens sometimes even hundreds of skiers curls out towards the Spearhead Traverse. With furry carpets firmly glued to the bases of your boards, you begin your first hike of what will be another awesome day in the backcountry.
Then you notice the holes. Half a foot deep (sometimes deeper) and about the size of an average ski or snowboard boot, the smooth pavement of the highway looks as though it's been shelled by an airstrike, now perforated with gaping craters. Rather than spend the next 20 minutes balancing on the edges of said craters and keeping your tips from catching on the walls, you eject yourself onto the untracked uphill snow and start breaking trail, frustrated with now having to work twice as hard. You mutter under your breath about the inconsiderate souls who chose the path of least resistance, kicking boots into the compacted trail on their way to ski a beyond-boundary line.
When we ski the resort, there are a certain set of unwritten rules that keep things civil amongst the skiing and riding populace. Like alternating lift lines. The Europeans have trouble believing their eyes when they see hundreds of people courteously taking turns as four lines merge into two, then two into one. In the resorts of skiing's Motherland, pushing with elbows is fair game.
But as civilized as our lift lines are in North America (snowball pelting notwithstanding), there are still places where people ignore the simple courtesies. The hundreds of people waiting for Spanky's Ladder to open are quick to voice their disapproval of the one guy who skis right past them, forming his own path into the Gemstone Bowls. But his desire for powder seems to be worth pissing off a hundred people for a short time. It's no surprise when you see that guy get pushed back down the hill by the mob, all to the hoots and hollers from those dutifully waiting their turn.
Things are a bit different on the other side of the boundary, where there are far fewer people to compete with for access to the best lines. If you are boot packing on your way to DOA or Disease Ridge on Blackcomb, you have a choice. Take one for the team and break trail, or choose the easier route and start booting into the already compacted skin track. For a little extra effort of slogging away at your own path, you can stand atop the East Col with the satisfaction that you are setting an example for the greater good, rather than just taking the easiest option at the expense of others. By carving your own path, you are not just avoiding making yourself look like that guy, you are working for your turns as much as everyone else who chooses to cross the boundary.
We're all out there for the same thing. The least we can do is set an example for those unaccustomed to skin track ethics.
Vince Shuley enjoys breaking trail and has an optimistic outlook on Whistler's skin tracks. For questions, comments or suggestions to The Outsider email firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @vinceshuley