Night Crawlers: The Late Shift in a Whistler Blackcomb Snowcat

The night wind gusts 40 to 70 kilometres an hour while the hammering snow plasters itself to the windshield faster than the wipers can keep up. Constantly watching for the orange bamboo reflectors marking the road, I slowly crawl upwards into the storm to carve a path into a powdery beyond. In the blowing, blinding darkness, I open up a doorway to the alpine wonderland and lay down fresh corduroy for the epic day ahead.

 

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Words and Photo: Jimmy Martinello

The vampire hours – heading out for an all-night affair of crawling, sliding and plowing through pillows of snow – where empty mountains are a wild place to be and every night is a mystery. Cruising into the darkness to discover what is in store; is it a starry night or a shit storm? Or is it what all groomers love the most, sweet and ultra-dry powder making tiller perfection while we lay down the magic carpet ride. This is what snow cats were made for.

The music and subwoofer pumps and time is flying through the obscurity like an unseen owl. Soon the storm is clearing, the sun is about to rise and the blackness of night crawlers comes to an end just as the valley readies to see what we’ve laid down and helped to shape – what the mountain canvas looks like for a new day.

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There is more to the preparatory ritual than simply the night crawlers of course, and huge recognition should go to everyone who is a part of getting Whistler Blackcomb open in the early morning hours and keeping it going all day. Ski Patrol kicking ass, lifties, maintenance, mechanics, cooks… there is a lot of heart and soul going into every day and night, that few will ever know unless they end up there themselves, crawling along in the vampire hours, finding the beauty, challenges and mystery that lie ahead every time you venture out into the night.

The morning brings endless rewards. Be patient and have fun sliding and turning in the winter wonderland. Rip, carve and shred it up because the night crawlers will be there, ready to wipe the slate clean with every sunset.

 


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