Jul 1, 2006 | Marmot, Summer 2006

‘Boomer Crazies’ LOVE The Outback

A black diamond skier, Mark Proudfoot craves the steep and the deep. And up until this year, his hometown mountain couldn't deliver. Then the Outback happened.

A black diamond skier, Mark Proudfoot craves the steep and the deep. And up until this year, his hometown mountain couldn’t deliver. Then the Outback happened.

The brand, spanking new $3.5 million Boomerang Quad stood idle during its debut season in 2004-05, as the snow on the new face never got deep enough. The Boomerang is Canada’s first double offload chairlift, and opened up 162 hectares (400 acres) of new black diamond and double black diamond terrain on the mountain.

It’s the best thing the Resort ever did, in Proudfoot’s eyes. Proudfoot, 20, is a business student at the University of Victoria, but he grew up in the Comox Valley, at the bottom of Mount Washington. He learned to ski at Mount Washington.

“I don’t think any other mountain around here has any more to offer an expert skier,” he said. Proudfoot was already familiar with the north face territory, having done some back-country skiing there in the past.

“We always skied back there before the chairlift was there. It was always stuff we had to hike to; and now it’s all opened up.“It was a lot bigger than I thought it would be.”

Proudfoot skied 20 times last year, many of those days in powder. He said that’s a slow year for him. “Usually it’s around 100 times.”

He skis with a big group of friends, and stays at home with his parents in Courtenay. One friend does own a chalet at Mount Washington, and they’ll sometimes stay there. “It’s good when we can all make it home,” he said.   Continued on page A15

“That’s where we usually meet up, is Mount Washington.”

With the near-record snowfall the Resort received came a pile of perfect powder days. And because the Outback is on the leeward side of the mountain, it received its fair share.

“It just loads up,” says Brent Curtain, Resort Publications Director. And that, says Proudfoot, is exactly what Mount Washington needed. “It was kind of neat because everyone was lined up at the top and waiting for (the powder). Before, if it was a powder day, the powder would last for half an hour.

“Sometimes they kept the suspense going because it took them a long time to open (the run),” he said, “so you could ski powder in the middle of the day.” Even at Whistler, the powder is usually gone in an hour, Proudfoot added.

Curtain returned to Mount Washington last fall after working and traveling abroad. Also a powder hound, he was eager to try out the new terrain, and wasn’t disappointed. “I got out there tons,” he said.

“A lot of my days were spent on the back side. The quality of skiing was amazing.” Curtain said 100 per cent of the feedback he received about the Outback terrain was positive. “If anything, it was a bit of an ego-bruiser for some,” he said.

Opening up the backside of the mountain was not only a good thing for skiers looking for a challenge, it also freed up terrain on the front side, giving beginners and intermediates more room to breathe.

There were no real hiccups with the Boomerang in its first full season of operation, Curtain said. There was a lot more avalanche control on the backside, though.

“There were no significant accidents or avalanches. It’s all avalanche controlled, so there’s no real danger there,” he said.

There were also fewer skiers and snowboarders going out of bounds or attempting back-country excursions, he added. “Because of the quality of terrain they don’t need to go out of bounds to get that experience anymore.”

The Boomerang was busy at the beginning of the season, as the curious wanted to take a peek. Although the terrain is labeled double black diamond, there are some areas an intermediate skier could negotiate. The problem, said Curtain, is that none of it is groomed. And that can be disconcerting for a skier used to groomed runs.

“We do recommend if you’re an intermediate skier you’re probably best to wait before going on the back side.”

Not sure if you’re good enough for the Boomerang? If you can ski down Powder Face on the front side without too many issues, you’re ready for the Outback, he said. And take a buddy along who knows the new terrain.

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