Saved by an iPhone: Getting Lost on Top of Whistler – Vancouver Olympics 2010

I am now back from Vancouver after having an incredible time at the Olympics! It was awe-inspiring to see the massive scale of the Olympics and the incredible unity of everyone from all over the world. The whole trip has been an incredible adventure but one particular story I feel compelled to tell first – getting lost on top of Whistler!

So late Saturday night we came-up with a great idea – “Let’s go to Whistler in the morning!” It was our only opportunity to do it and we wanted to see the Olympic festivities in Whistler first-hand as well as ski on what is considered to be one of the best and most-challenging mountains in the world. So we called the Pan Pacific Coast Lines who had seats available and by 8:30AM on Sunday we were on our way to Whistler!

The drive up to Whistler was beautiful showcasing some of the incredible wilderness British Columbia has to offer. From serene lakes to snow-capped mountains there is something magical about British Columbia that you just have to see to believe! In some ways the views are almost “too perfect” – a similar phenomenon that I also have encountered in New Zealand.

Once we got all our gear on we headed for the Gondola. The mountain is so big that you have to first take a Gondola essentially halfway up the mountain and then take chair lifts from there. It can take over thirty minutes to ski down the mountain and my first lesson from Whistler was that it can be extremely tiring skiing for thirty minutes – especially some of the challenging, steep slopes the mountain has.

Okay – so you’re probably saying now “enough of the back story – give us the good stuff!”

So here is how we got lost.

During one of our runs we intended to go down a blue-square called Ridge Runner and connect-up with another blue-square called Twist and Shout. At Whistler a blue-square is like a black diamond at most other ski resorts and black diamonds were like nothing I had ever seen before! Well…if you look at the map below – we made a wrong turn! The bright-green dot shows where we started…the red dot shows where we ended-up.

Just to give you a better idea of where we were on the mountain – take a look at the diagram below…once again the red dot shows where we ended-up.

We had decided to continue to go right until we hit another course. As you can see from the map above that would actually lead us off of the ski mountain and into the freezing wilderness of British Colombia. It all happened so fast! First we were skiing down a nice open slope – then a member of the group led us towards some trees, we all followed but soon we hit a hill that was so steep it resembled a cliff. We looked at it and thought…I think we are off the course!

Indeed we were and we had to take-off our gear and slide down the hill on our butts after throwing our skis to the bottom. The walking was exhausting as we were treading on deep soft snow meaning our boots would sink through a few feet before connecting with the ground. After about twenty minutes of walking it was getting ridiculous – we all agreed – we were lost!

That’s when we had a great idea…I wonder if our iPhones work here? The two of us that had iPhones both had perfect signal. One of the people I was with had downloaded a mountain map with GPS coordinates so we were able to locate exactly where we were! Immediately we saw that we were just about to completely leave Whistler behind and trek into the wilderness. Now we knew the direction…but we also found-out some bad news – to get back down we would have to ski a double-black diamond.

Did I mention I haven’t gone skiing in ten years? Yes – so after doing only blue-squares and finally starting to get the hang of it again I am about to go down a double-black diamond on a mountain many deem more challenging than the Swiss Alps. Yikes!

Well, we did it needless to say! That doesn’t mean it was pretty. I am fairly certain I fell most of the way and I’ll tell you this – falling on a double-black diamond in Whistler is a bit like falling off a cliff. During some of my tumbles I was afraid I would actually turn-into a giant snowball and barrel down the hill collecting trees and squirrels along the way!

It was the most amazing feeling to reach the next course – once we got to the bottom we all remarked “it just feels amazing to be alive!” While we did get out of this one there was a good five minutes before we went to the iPhone where we thought we may be spending the night out there if we didn’t figure-out where we’re going!

So for those of you who are lost in the woods, on top of a mountain and don’t know how to get back…there’s an app for that!

All and all it was a fantastic day with amazing skiing and some great food, drinks, and live music in the Olympic Village at Whistler!

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton