Seriously though. It came very close to happening. I was moments away from making the decision. This is how it all came to be.
I had recently just finished another great leg of the ski across BC with my hardcore sister in law Marta and was looking forward to a fun week ahead. Both my sisters and nieces and their family were coming to have fun at the local Silver Star ski resort for a few days. Of course the ski hill was a ways up the mountain and I would have to figure out how to get up there. Thankfully Marta’s husband Alex loves bikes and hooked up a great one for me to pedal up the mountain.
On the way up I got many weird looks and honks of support, as I suppose it’s not common for people to bike up the mountain in January. One of those honks turned out to be from a friend of mine who I used to fight fires with. It was great to see him and we made a plan to have dinner when I came back down the mountain. I ended up arriving at our rental cabin before the rest of the family who had become occupied buying supplies in town. Funny, considering some of them were concerned about me making it up in time for dinner.
It was so good to see everyone. We feasted and started making plans for the days ahead. I went tubing with my nieces and of course I avoided using the tow rope to get up the hill. I was able to walk up just as fast anyways. We also went toboganning. Chalk up another two modes of transportation to the list.
The following day my brother in law Dylan was up for joining me for some uphill skiing (skinning) and downhill telemark skiing. We set out from the cabin and climbed up all the way to the peak of the mountain. He was a much more experienced skier than I and gave me some tips on how to turn properly. This was my first time telemark skiing on groomed ski runs and without a backpack on. I wasn’t very good but I was able to control my descent without hurting myself.
It was a pleasure to ski with good company on open terrain. We skied all the way to the bottom skilift of the resort, which happens to reach a substantial distance below the village and ticketing area. From there we strapped back on the skins and started a somewhwat direct route up through a steep treed area. Before we reached the top of the first steep slope we were met by a ski patroller. He informed us that we were not allowed to be skinning up the mountain and kindly asked us to return back down the hill to the lift area. Neither of us were very comfortable telemark skiing in the steep and moguled terrain but we managed to get down. I’m sure the ski patroller was laughing at us all the way.
As we made it down to the lift area he informed us that we would need to get on his snowmobile to go to the ski patrol office. I said I can’t do that and told him what I was doing. He radioed his superior and told him the situation. Ten minutes later he came back and said that we could take the lift up with him in order to get to the office. Dylan and I again explained the situation. We pointed out that the lift is still powered by a motor and that is the whole reason why we hadn’t purchased lift tickets and were skinning up the mountain.
Unbeknownst to us at the time the entire ski patrol were getting a good laugh at our ridiculous made up story. They had heard many silly excuses before but this was just nonsense. I had told them my website but they hadn’t bothered to look at it yet.
A half hour later they returned to inform us of our three options. We could either go up on the snowmobile, take the ski lift, or they would call the Police to escort us off the mountain. Boomp bom bom bom, bom bom bom bom. My heart was pounding in my chest. This was by far the most fearful moment of the journey.
“Are you serious, are you sure there is no way we can figure out an alternative? I can ski down a service road and off your property pretty fast.” Apart from them thinking we were bullshit one of their main issues was liability. It was in their rules to not allow people to skin up the mountain and because we hadn’t purchased lift tickets we weren’t insured. The supervisor was also busy dealing with serious injuries and didn’t have the time or interest to deal with us. I can’t blame him and had no interest in wasting the ski patrol’s valuable resources. I just wanted to get out of there!
Dylan once again pleaded with them to reconsider and look at my website. One of the patrollers informed me of my options if I were to go on the run from the cops, or if they allowed me to leave their property and ski further down the mountain. It would likely have taken me a full 24 hours to get back up to the village to be with my family. I wasn’t happy about missing out on the precious little time with them. Not to mention the fact that I would be on the run from the cops and they would likely be waiting for me when I returned.
They left us alone for a few minutes and Dylan and I discussed the options. My heart was pounding out of my chest at the thought of being forced on a snowmobile or into a copcar but I was also excited about the idea of becoming a fugitive in the backcountry for such a ridiculous reason. You may know by now that I like a good adventure...
I looked to the edge of the forest, then to Dylan, then to the skilift hut. I thought to myself, ‘This might be my only chance to get away. They won’t put up a chase now but they may have to send out a search party later.’ It seemed like a big waste of resources and time. I decided to wait and see if a compromise could be found.
A while later the patroller returned to say that someone had looked at my website and realized that we weren’t bullshitting. Dylan could go up on the lift and buy us tickets. Then we might be allowed to skin back up the hill.
It took over an hour for him to go up, buy tickets, find some food for us, and ski back down. We enjoyed the much needed nourishment and waited for the go ahead for us to ski up. An hour or so later they finally came and said that we could skin up but that we would have to take the longest possible run to the top and do it within an hour. It would have been much faster to go straight up a black diamond but I guess they thought it would be safer if we were to go up a green circle.
They informed us that if we didn’t get to the top in time then they would force me on to a snowmobile and escort me off of the hill. I wasn’t going to allow that to happen without a good fight. They were pretty certain I wasn’t going to make it to the top in time. I wasn’t sure on the distance but knew I needed to start moving fast! I told Dylan that I was fine going solo but he was keen to join me for support.
Considering the fact that I had just skied about 300kmacross BC I was in much better shape than Dylan who was on skis for the first time that year. It wasn’t long before I left him in the dust. I couldn’t afford the time to wait for him and risk a confrontation with the ski patrol supervisor on a snowmobile. They wanted me to radio when I was at a lift halfway with the intention of getting me to stop and wait for them. I said hello to the liftee and continued on. I kept pushing as hard as could up the groomed slopes.
As it was getting dark I made the final few strides to where the ski run forked and my downhill victory run awaited. There was a bunch of ski patrollers waiting there who had heard the story. They were stoked I had made it and told me about the funny radio chatter that had taken place earlier. Moments later the snowmobile showed up with the supervisor and Dylan on it. The supervisor did his best to be stern and said he wanted to talk to us back at the office. He dropped Dylan off and whipped off down the hill on his motorized sled.
Dylan told me that the supervisor had been very serious about forcing me on to the sled. Dylan had told him that I wasn’t going to get on no matter what. An awkward conversation no doubt. It was a pleasant last ski down the hill while chatting with the other patrollers. We arrived at the office ready to receive a slap on the wrist (or a fine?) from the bossman.
The anal head patroller guy was busy dealing with what sounded like a very painful injury so we never did get to speak to him. After waiting around for a few minutes a pleasant lady came out to apologize for the inconvenience and ask if I would be okay answering some questions for their blog. I was happy to oblige. We returned home to the family who were relieved to see and make fun of us. I was okay with not being a fugitive.
A big thanks to Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) for making my ski across BC possible.