The Making of a Mountain

It’s not your average night at an average Royal Canadian Legion. And definitely not a typical public meeting to tell the locals about a gigantic ski resort development proposed for nearly undeveloped wilderness in their backyard. Instead of the usual few vets and their pals quietly visiting over rye or rum and Cokes, Branch No. … More »

A Facelift for Louise

North America’s larger ski resorts are often thought of as cash-generating mechanisms for bloodless corporate interests, but in many cases they’re operated by individuals for whom the mountain is something deeply personal. by GEORGE KOCH in Winter 2016 issue Lake Louise, owned by Calgary entrepreneur and former mountain guide Charlie Locke and his family, is … More »

Fly or Drive?

“Don’t be silly! You’d be mad to drive all that way.” _By GEORGE KOCH My friend Matty from Portland, Oregon, was screeching at the news that I was planning to drive from Calgary to Whistler (through the hinterland via the notoriously sinuous Duffy Lake Road of course) for a mere five-day visit to do some spring skiing … More »

Ski it or text it?

By George Koch in Fall 2013 issue The Blackcomb groomer was chock-a-block with the usual peak-Christmas-holiday rainbow of skiing and boarding styles, velocities and attentiveness, and I was applying all my collision-avoidance tactics. Suddenly far down the run a brightly clad skier shot out of the woods airborne, landing on the hard surface and traversing … More »

Cat vs. Heli: We All Win

by George Koch in Western View from Winter 2012 issue As an international ski writer who spends virtually all winter on the slopes (it’s charming how many people I meet think that’s not a lie), I’m frequently asked whether I prefer heli-skiing or snowcat skiing. Canadian, European and American skiers are equally curious, although coming at it from different angles. Europeans, for … More »

Mountain Forecast: firings with periods of litigation

Sunshine Village’s firing last winter of seven ski patrollers, including two of its senior-most personnel, hit the skiing world like a string of explosives shattering a cornice. The appearance of heavy-handed ski resort owners protecting a wayward family member by punishing hard-working and public-spirited employees seemed like a ready-made morality tale. It stirred popular passions, becoming the topic of innumerable chairlift-ride, lunchtime … More »

In science we trust

Several readers responded to my article of two years earlier (Is it all doom and gloom? – Fall 2007) that had circumspectly raised questions about (okay, joyously heaped scorn upon) the dire predictions of global warming believers. The letters were breathtaking in their scientific rigour and commitment to intellectual diversity. The one termed me “misguided … More »

Getting the message across

This winter the usual early-season snows largely bypassed Whistler- Blackcomb even as Victoria and Vancouver suffered havoc. Extended cold, a rain crust, a dangerous layer of faceted crystals and lastly heavy wind-loaded snowfalls created what avalanche expert Chris Stethem later described as a once-in-30-years “continental snowpack”—shallow and dangerous, akin to the Alberta Rockies. “We found … More »

Golden Dreams

Alert readers will recall my chronicling of the Kicking Horse story since it began as a glimmer in the eye of Vancouver skier-visionary Oberto Oberti. I was an instant convert on the late spring day in 1998 when Oberti and local heli-skiing operator Rudi Gertsch flew me onto a peak thousands of feet above the … More »

The Making of a Mountain

Helicopters stood in silence, flags fluttered and people milled about on the broad plateau beneath Saddle Mountain, chatting or munching smoked salmon and other treats from a vast buffet spread on improvised tables carved from the compact spring snow. Mike Wiegele stood in the stiff April breeze and officially announced that Saddle Mountain Resort had … More »