Last year, 20-year-old Trace Cooke fulfilled a dream. After struggling through the European portion of the Freeride World Qualifier tour, he took second at the last North American event, earning a spot on the 2016 Freeride World Tour. But long before he hit international success, Cooke's home hill, B.C.’s Whitewater Ski Resort, was his personal proving ground.
1. Bathtub: One of my favorite stashes. This is a zone my best buddies and I have gone to since we were old enough to ski without our parents. It’s just beyond the boundary, skier’s right of Catch Basin. The name Bathtub was coined by some of my older buds but I honestly don’t understand the relevance. When someone asks me if I’m keen to make the walk— about a 30-minute sidestep—I never think twice. Essentially it’s two 500-meter finger chutes peppered with cliffs, edges, and drops. Bathtub is a backcountry playground. I have had some of the best runs of my life there.
2. Faceplant: It’s about a five-minute sidestep into the Trash Chute Range, which used to be out of bounds before 2013. There’s a perfect view from the top of the Summit chair. Once patrol flips the sign to open, it’s the place to be. It typically holds the last remaining powder from the previous storm. It’s a 200-meter open shot filled with hundreds of pillows. I haven’t made it to the bottom without laughing. After pillow heaven, you can choose from several gladed runs that deposit you at the new Glory Ridge chair.
3. Terra Ratta: My go-to hidden gem on a powder day. Skier’s left of the Summit chair, it stretches hundreds of meters wide until the next glade. There are sneaky entrances and famous signature lines, each a straight vertical descent to the base of the Summit chair. Hot laps all day. It’s steep, technical tree skiing with blind cliffs. The second I drop in off the Gold Pan Cat Track and into the steeps of Terra Ratta, it’s a high-speed, nonstop adrenaline rush from top to bottom.
4. Ymir Peak: This 1.5-hour-long backcountry tour is life-changing to ski. Once you see “The Peak” it will never leave you. It’s steep and gnarly. You are just a dot to anyone who spots you descending. When atop it, you can barely make out the lodge. A few steep jump turns, then you have to find the tight exit point and entrance into Kuba's Chute. Traverse hard skier’s right and drop into the chute. After a few slashes in Kuba's you can begin to catch your breath from the drop-in and carve some long mellow turns in Ymir Bowl.
5. The Blast: Launch the most thrilling hits on the entire mountain, one by one: Pigeon's Ass, The Dragon, The Road Gap, and The Caution Gap. Bonus: Get pow-day cheers from the chair.
> Faceplant takes
its name from a Nelson Brewing Company winter ale. The run matches the taste: smooth and complex.
> When Trace isn't sending it at Whitewater and on the FWT, he models…ski models, that is. Look for him in web edits, in print, and, hopefully, on the podium.
By Paddy O'Connell