OUT THERE: Deep Dreams

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
January 28th, 2010

Out There is a column for the Telegraph that focuses on adventures outside of the Mountain Kingdom [editor’s note: is there anything beyond Wedding Cake corner and the Nancy Green Junction? We’ve all heard the rumours, but I thought they were just rural myths…] Without sounding too Star Trek-like, our mission is to seek out new life and boldly go where probably lots of people have gone before, and maybe a few spots where they haven’t. This week Andrew Zwicker stays fairly close to home and checks in for a visit with Big Red Cats..


Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that perfect skiing moment. Call me Kreskin, but you probably imagined deep, untracked snow, good friends, maybe a snowy day in that sweet spot of ‘not-too-warm-and-not-too-cold’. Last week I achieved what, for me, was that ultimate split second in time where your ski experience is exactly as you have dreamed.

As with every one of the many moments that wouldn’t have happened without my Blackberry, it all started when I got a late evening vibration from my little electronic friend. I glanced at the clock. It was 11:00pm on a Saturday night. Given that Berry usually brings me work, I hesitated to check the alert. Thankfully I did and noticed an e-mail from Paula at Big Red Cats letting me know that they had an empty cat seat open the next morning if I was interested. It’s not every day you get invited out for cat skiing, so plans were quickly made to be ready at 8:00am the next morning.

Falling asleep shortly afterwards, I fell into one of those rare ‘awake dreams’, as I call them, perhaps a version of a lucid dream where I’m the director and star. In what seemed like mere seconds after my head hit the couch, I was standing at the top of a big open glade pushing off into super deep white fluffy goodness. As if my dream was on some kind of PVR I was able to slow down time just as I dove into each turn. As my knee dropped into the most perfect of big long powder arcs, time slowed to a near standstill. Each chunk of powder flew up from my forward knee towards my face as I dodged them one by one–like Neo–in ultra slow motion, occasionally taking some in the face just because I could.

Dropping the next knee, time slowed further still and just as I felt every crystal of snow bow and give way to my fat twin tips the sky began flashing a bright red 6:00am and I was snapped out of my dream by the harshest of alarms.

Not three hours later, an intense feeling of déjà-vu would set in. Exiting the comfy confines of the 14 seat cat on top of Mount Pluto and strapping in to my bindings, I once again stood on the precipice of a 1,600 vertical foot blank slate of virgin snow just waiting for me to carve my free-heel signature into it. The clouds were low and the light flat and ominous. The big fat flakes floating around in the sky were a bit of a head trip, and I wondered if I was still asleep and trapped inside some kind of fairytale snow-globe. The resplendent odour of the 300 pound Eastern European monolith of a man who was riding in the cat with us quickly reminded me I was firmly grounded in reality. As we geared up, I casually shuffled to the left wanting desperately to get back into my happy and decidedly stench-free place.

Looking down over the convex crest toward a consistent 35 degree, generally open slope populated with the charred remains of a forest fire, my stoke meter was nearly maxing out. The Zen-like silence that encapsulated me as I got firmly entrenched in my happy place once more was as peaceful as your everyday downtown Tokyo isolation chamber, with markedly better scenery. A hundred metres down slope, my skis rising up to float on the surface, I dropped my left knee and arced behind a black trunk. In an instant I was right back in my dream.

The slicing of the steel edge through thousands of snow crystals, the clouds of snow slapping the chest of my jacket, the joyful cough of a mouth full of snow, the creak of my ten year old T2’s as they flexed into the turn and the well-worn billows as they un-flexed out of the turn. Letting out a Keanu-worthy ‘Whooaaaah’, I dropped into the next turn. Time sped up again and the individual sounds came as one beautiful ‘ski-mphony’, if you will. Each turn sped up into the next until I came back to reality, 42 turns into the best run of the season. I hit the cat road and loaded up for the next trip up the hill.

Was I on some kind of hypnotic drug that day? Not unless there is some unknown high-inducing material out there in the ether that only appears just as the border line between dreams and reality merge with one another.

Was the terrain the steepest, funnest or most challenging I’ve ever skied? No, but while chalking up ten runs of knee deep powder on perfectly untracked lines in a near silent environment only broken by the laughs, hoots and hollers of my 13 new ski buddies, the simple pleasures of that perfect turn through untracked powder seemed that much easier to appreciate. With the noise of grinding lift motors, squeaky sheaves, beeping groomers , barking snowmobiles, humming highways below and the general buzz of hundreds of other people surrounding you removed from the scenario, the most basic of basic skiing pleasures were that much more amplified and the blurring of lines between dreams of the perfect ski day and actually living them become hard to distinguish.

Deep dreams indeed.

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