Expectations were pretty low early Wednesday morning, driving up to watch the Olympic Women’s Downhill at Whistler. Everyone had warned us—45-minute border waits, a Sea to Sky snarled with buses and event vehicles, lift-lines miles long and a village packed with crowds of every language. But it was the Olympics. We wanted to have our minds blown by Lindsey Vonn. It was worth the trouble.
So when we rolled up to an empty border crossing and, a few miles later and empty Sea to Sky, we were completely confused. Arriving at Whistler on a sunny, 7-inches-of-new day should have been like arriving at an international gong-show. This was the Olympics, and there were no ticket lines, no lift lines and no mad parades rushing through the village. There were still plenty of characters—skiers in skin tight, Finnish-flag one-pieces or snowboarders in jeans and wife-beaters, to name two specifics—but those come with the territory, both Whistler and Olympic. We got our tickets and hopped on the gondola.
Most of the course was closed to the public, but a friendly Whistler employee we met on the chair directed us to the corner with the best view. We squirmed our way through the crowd—many wearing Canadian and American flags for capes—and up against the race barrier.
I’m going to be honest—I’ve only seen downhill ski races on TV. They’ve always looked terrifyingly fast. In real life they’re ludicrous speed. And even with my non-racer background, I could tell the course looked tricky—the shady snow ice, the sunny snow mush. The first few racers hurtled past to me shaking my head in awe–and then we saw Lindsey. Even before we heard the time on the cat’s radio, we knew she had won it. If the other girls were rockets, she was a laser. I even wished for a second I had a cowbell to ring.
With Lindsey done, we had seven inches of sunny pow that required our undivided attention. The snow was great, somehow staying soft in the balmy weather, and nearly everywhere was go-able. We celebrated the victory first with some Crown, and then, heading to Blackcomb, with some deep turns, fun lines and respectable goggle tans. My amazement wouldn’t go away—somehow, on such an incredible day, both mountains stayed empty and we were still finding fresh turns when the lifts close at 3:30.
Now apres-ski, we sat back at a restaurant at the base of Whistler to enjoy the last of the sun. Just a few feet from us on the deck, set up as a backdrop for some TV announcer and bordered by two massive sleds, was a hot-tub brimming with bikini-clad girls. In front of us, mounded 6-inches high and guarded by two pitchers of beer, was the biggest plate of nachos I’ve ever seen.
So much for expectations. Thanks to Ryan Proctor and everyone at Whistler-Blackcomb. Pow turns, sunshine, and the fastest women in the world. It doesn’t get much more Olympic than that.