backTurns All Year year-round skiing                

Year-round skier:  Jonathan Wong

How I got started skiing year-round:  In the 1998-99 season we had a tremendous snow-pack in the South Coast Mountains and, having dabbled in some June and July skiing in previous years, I decided to keep going for amusement. Having completed the first 12 months, I thought it would be great fun to keep going the next year. By the third continuous season, however, the whole scheme was starting to get rather stressful. I would spend the entire months of July, August and September phoning everyone I know asking if they wanted to go skiing.
  Since a lot of people (even in this enlightened age) tend to stop skiing when the lift areas shut down in May, it was really hard to find ski partners. I would gain a momentary respite when I'd completed, say, August, and then would be faced with going through the same anxious procedure again for September. Somehow I made it through the third season and went merrily into the 4th. I think it was during that season I found out that, with our weird new warm climate, it might not snow in October, either. The prospect of a sport surface built on old rock hard snowfields that had not seen new snow since early May was pretty frightening but I managed to stay the course.
   Finally, in year 5, having gone through yet another summer of hopeless phone calls, e-mailing, and the sacrifice of leather telemark boots to pagan snow deities, I was faced with the tandem shut-down of two local 4wd roads which access late/early season ski areas. Unbowed by the fact that the provincial government was apparently going to stop my streak, I made one final brazen trip hiking for hours into the Helm Meadows area near Black Tusk to get a couple of miserable 500 foot runs near the toe of the Helm Glacier. The 1:25 ski/walk ratio was just too much. I did the math and, at a mere 58 months....I was done.
   Of course, I was just skiing up near Mount Cheam on the weekend and, having started in October this year, I started thinking....No. I'm not going there.
Criteria for what counts as a ski trip:  I recently heard some crazy story about folks who just bounce off a couple of turns on nordic skis at the base of a snowfield once a month and call it done. I'd like to think you've got to put in some kind of run (say at least a couple of hundred feet) and link together a few turns. It's a free (heel?) world though. As far as I know, there's no European Federation of Turns All Year Professionals that you need to get accreditation through.
Biggest threat to my streak:  Apparently, it was me the whole time.
Type of equipment I use:  I have fallen far from grace, having just half a pair of telemark boots left in the closet. Now I just use plain old alpine touring gear. If you're looking for ski/binding suggestions, I'd suggest getting something very light. You might have to carry your gear a really long way.
Strategy for skiing through the low season:
1. Get a four wheel drive high clearance vehicle. The strange thing is that, to make turns all year round, you will need to make a significant personal contribution to global warming. You may even help bring an end to your own streak at some point. How ironic.
2. Find the right spots.
3. Meet the right people. This is the true crux of year round skiing. Avoid regular, run of the mill, highly skilled backcountry skiers. You need crazy eccentric out of the mainstream types to keep your streak going. Try hanging out at art schools.
Worst and best backcountry ski trips:  Worst: I've skied up (if you can call it that), the Blackwall Peak Road in Manning Park twice in a decade (once just last month because I obviously have developed amnesia) and can't really recommend the area other than for looking at flowers and such-like. There are really NICE flowers there, though, and if this site was called "Alpine Vegetation Year Round", that particular spot would go to the top of my list.
   Best: Whenever we go ski touring or mountain biking, my friend Dave ends the day by saying, "that was the best ski trip/mountain bike ride ever!" So I guess it would have been two weeks ago on Mount Baker since that's the last time I skied with Dave.


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