The Uppers and Downers of Coldsmoke
A few Thursdays ago, Naheed Henderson, Susan Medville and I piled into a car and headed for Nelson. Naheed and Susan were heading to the Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Fest to coach ski clinics. I, on the other hand, had been convinced by my friend Martha Burley to compete in the King & Queen of Coldsmoke event…
(Images by Vince Shuley, Martha Burley and Holly Walker)
After ten hours of driving, a ferry ride and hot springs included, we pulled into Nelson, checked into our accommodation and looked outside at the intense snow falling. Why had I signed up for all four Coldsmoke events when I could just shred pow? Martha was convinced, it was going to be "fun" she said.
Vince Shuley Photo
Luckily we awoke to over a foot of fresh and it was still a day before the competitions began. We headed up to Whitewater to ski our little hearts out. Luckily we had local Steve Ogle to show us around and share a few secret spots with us. Face shots were had and we got back from skiing late with big smiles on our faces. Why were we doing the competition again?
We headed to the up race 'Randonee Rally' meeting and checked in. "So how many points for Coldsmoke do you get if you win the Open category vs. the Recreational category?" Martha cringed at my questioning, repeating to me it was all for "fun." I chose the Recreational category because I found the Open category too complicated and even the event organizers admitted to mixing up the course map colours… plus I needed my legs for the down race 'Powderkeg Slopestyle' that afternoon.
We then headed for dinner and met up with Vince Shuley and Graehem Bell who had cruised into town to shred pow and cover the events. They headed over for 'A Toast to the Kootenays' event and watch slideshows and films by Steve Ogle and Greg Hill. Martha and I chugged water and headed to bed, we had a big race ahead of us in the a.m.
The next morning we arrived at Whitewater just in time to check-in for the race, put on our skins and line-up at the start gate. Vince and Graeham lined up at the chairlifts to go shred a foot of fresh that had fallen. Honk! We were off! I waved Martha goodbye as she headed to the left on the Open course and I continued to the right with the Rec. group. By the time I reached the top, took my skins off and put my helmet on, I was ready to shred pow. Face shots were had and I got shouted at by the race officials "Groomer to your right!" Why would I ski a groomer for speed when the pow in the trees was so good!
Vince Shuley Photo
I waited at the finish for a long time for Martha to come through. She arrived with a big smile on her face. She had not only done the Open course, but had also done the Rec. course. A race official told her, and several other competitors, to go the wrong way… luckily she saw it as great training for her upcoming Patrouille des Glaciers ski mountaineering race!
Next was the Powderkeg Slopestyle, so after a quick lunch, I changed from ski touring boots to regular alpine boots and headed over to watch the groms launch 360's and front-flips off of features. Martha and I picked lines and bootpacked up the venue for another competition.
Graehem Bell enjoying the pow. Vince Shuley Photo
By 3:30pm, we were both finished, happy with our fun airs and pow lines and ready to call it a day. But wait, we had the Buff-EH and Hootenanny After Party to attend and we couldn't even leave if we wanted. The road was closed due to too much snow and a multi-car pile up! After an incredible feast and tons more prizes given away, we had to convince Vince and Graeham it was finally time to drive down to Nelson before Martha and I fell asleep.
The following morning we were craving some coffee, so headed over to the famous Oso Negro Coffee Company to get our morning upper. Sadly it was a Sunday and they opened late, so we headed up to Whitewater empty handed. The Saturday crowd was gone and good parking was to be found. We headed inside to put on our ski boots and find some coffee. Martha and I were saddened as we left the boys, they headed up the chair to go shred more pow. We went to the start of the Poker Run. It was a super fun ski tour where we collected 5 cards to make a poker hand. Some card dealing bias' may have gone to the best dressed, but hey, they did look sexy in swimsuits as wigged cross-dressers?
Is it on? Is it on? Holly Walker photo
The final event, which by far was the most laughs, was the Backcountry Olympics. Vince and Graeham agreed to join my team and we raced ski touring up the mountain in search of a buried beacon. Once found, we constructed a super sturdy rescue toboggan out of my K2 skis, poles and shovel, which all work extremely well together with a few additional wingnuts and ski straps. I then hopped on and the boys took me for quite the ride. We ended up passing a lot of other groups on our way down and finished in the top 5 teams. From there it was cook-off! We then had to light a fire, fry and eat an egg. We never knew that so much work could be so much fun!
Eggs cook off, backcountry Olympics. Photo Martha Burley
Once the four Coldsmoke competitions were complete, Martha and I high-fived and were happy to be done. Vince shouted at us to get on the chair and come up to shred one more lap of pow with Graeham and him. More pow sprayed our faces as we laughed and skied through the trees of Whitewater. And as we drove down the hill back into Nelson, I decided I would have to make it back next year for a little more cold smoke and a little less competition… The pow was too great to be missed.
Details at http://www.skiwhitewater.com/
This article is by Holly Walker. Skier and writer Holly Walker lives in Whistler when she is not traveling in search of perfect pow. She is sponsored by K2 Skis/Poles, Clif Bar, Dalbello Boots, Smith Optics and Pow Gloves.
Holly Walker gettin' some cold smoke after the festival.