FRESH TRACKS – March 29, 2024

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This week we look forward to a cosmic phenomenon, recognize world-beating Canadian racers, scan the old-fashioned future of lift lines, anticipate summer in the mountains and are reminded that eastern snowpacks can still be deadly.


We’ve all had ski days to remember, days when it felt like heavenly bodies have lined up just right to create something special. Skiers in Quebec’s Eastern Townships will enjoy that feeling on April 8, but it won’t be a metaphor. The resorts will be on the dark side of the moon during the upcoming solar eclipse. At around 3 p.m. the moon will start to pass in front of the sun, casting a shadow of darkness over the resorts for about two hours, with just over three minutes of “totality” when the sun will be completely obstructed. Mont Sutton, Orford, Owl’s Head, and Bromont, all have special events scheduled, with Sutton planning to be open for skiing, in addition to the pedestrian lift access also available at the other resorts. 


What’s old will be new again at Whistler next year, as staff take scanning guns in hand and apply human intelligence to the task of checking lift passes. The retirement of the RFID gates will be welcome to anyone who could never remember to keep their pass in an empty pocket. Now that lift corrals will no longer need to be designed around scanning gates, skiers might even see a return to tapering mazes with merging lines, instead of the mosh pit scenario that often takes shape in front of the scanning gates. The move is part of a shift to new Mobile Pass and Mobile Lift Tickets, which are electronic passes that reside within the “one-stop” My Epic app on smartphones. Anyone worried about not being allowed to load a chair because they took too many selfies and drained their battery will be relieved to know that physical cards will still be available. 


Canadian women occupied all levels of the podium at the Ski Cross World Cup race in Veysonnaz, Switzerland, in mid-March. It’s the second time Canadian women have not let anyone else on the podium in a Ski Cross event, and the first since 2010. Top spot went to Whistler’s Marielle Thompson, who last week finished her season by being crowned the this year’s overall leader and winner of the Crystal Globe. Thompson and her teammates won their third consecutive Nations Cup title, as the strongest Ski Cross team on the World Cup circuit. It’s the 11th time Canada has claimed the title in the last 17 years. 


Marcus Goguen linked what was likely the largest double drop in Freeride World Tour History this week, touching down only briefly between two huge cliff faces on the Bec des Rosses face at Verbier, Switzerland. The result was good enough to secure a second-place finish in seasonal rankings for the 19-year-old Whistler skier, who is in just his second season on the FWT. 


As the end of the ski season comes into view at Panorama, the resort is looking ahead to summer and the opening of two new attractions for summer visitors. The soon-to-be launched elevated mountain coaster and aerial adventure park will add to the slate of activities that already includes whitewater rafting, a waterslide complex, golfing, kids camps and a downhill bike park. The bike park will open for weekends starting on Victoria Day weekend, with full summer operations beginning later in June. 


The reality of avalanche hazards in east mountains was on tragic display this week with the deaths of three men in the Chic Choc mountains on Quebec’s Gaspé peninsula. A group of four men from the Eastern Townships area were riding snowbikes (essentially upright and skinny snowmobiles) when one of the party triggered a 2.5-level slide that enveloped two others in the party. The fourth, who had been off to the side filming video, was able to call for help but all three had succumbed to injuries or suffocation by the time firefighters and the police avalanche team were able to uncover them three hours later. The area had received almost half a metre of snow in the preceding week, with temperatures warming above freezing on Tuesday, the day of the accident.

Ski Canada Staff
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