Skiing in Canada 2007

Friday February 23, 2007

Who is Mountain Madness? We were to be asked that several times over the next two weeks. I guess the best answer is- a bunch of people who like to ski together. For two years we’d been dreaming of a ski trip to Canada. Our group of 9 gathered very early at the airport.

First we flew to Calgary. Andy took a Dramamine and fell asleep after watching a Star Wars DVD on my laptop.

Multiple crying babies made the flight unpleasant for the others. But I had my nose buried so deep in a good book (The Girls ( The Story Of Conjoined Twins ) by Lori Lansens) that I didn’t notice. In the book, set in Canada the girls travel to visit distant relatives in Slovakia. Their cousin gets Canada confused with the United States. He said, “they’re right by each other, they must be the same!” The girls replied, ‘Ít’s rather like Slovakia and Czechia.’ Canada and the states are like that. Close but with striking differences.

I finished my book with still a few hours of the looong flight left to go. 10 hours on a train or 10 hours on a plane to get to your ski vacation, what’s the difference? Not much.

Kindly women volunteers in cowboy hats greeted us. Cool. At the Calgary airport we collected two Dodge grand caravans. We had a two hour drive uneventful drive to Banff. As soon as we left Calgary we could see the big beautiful blue outlines of the Rocky Mountains in the distance.

It seems that I was to find out that everybody in Canada is immediately your best friend.

We were all extremely tired so decided to eat in the hotel restaurant. I was relieved. The thought of wandering around trying to agree on a restaurant with such a large group was rather dismaying. My concern would turn out to be unfounded. I really wanted a steak but I didn’t want a big one. I was relieved with the waiter said the steaks were 7 oz. That’s about how much I make for Allan and me but smaller than I expected. I ordered the rib eye, which hit the spot.

We found ourselves translating things to our Dutch friends. What a change of places! Normally it is the other way around. It was nice to give back.

Despite being extremely tired my sleep was fretful. I woke repeatedly and didn’t seem to ever sleep deeply. I got up at last after a bad dream in which multiple relatives had broken legs. And I had a recurring nightmare where my gym gets rid of all of it’s free weights.

Saturday February 24th , Norquay (Banff)

The first area was right outside Banff. Norquay is smallish but was perfect to start our holiday. As the day wore on it warmed up and turned the snow to slush. I remarked to Al that it was like trying to ski through chewing gum. I finished early and enjoyed listening to the singer in the lodge. I especially liked his rendition of “The Gales of November”.

That night I tried an elk burger. It was good but I swear it was a piece of garlicky lamb. Andy fell asleep before his food came. He’s really too big to carry anymore but somehow we managed to drunk walk him back to the hotel room.

Next to the restaurant I spied a Lulu Lemon store. Lulu Lemon makes yoga clothes that I’ve been lusting after for years. It’s a Canadian chain. As tired as I was there was no way I was going to pass up what could be my one and only opportunity to shop at Lulu Lemon. It was Saturday. The shop was already closed by the time I managed to get back there.

Sunday February 25th, Sunshine Village, Banff

The three of us, Al, Andy & I would go up in a quad chair so frequently a ‘single’ would ride up with us. Remember everyone is instantly your best friend in Canada. Anyway, inevitably we’d strike up a conversation with the single. I’d usually drill them on the resort as to familiarize myself with it.

My shins hurt. I hoped it wouldn’t last the whole trip.

We had lunch on the mountain in an inflatable igloo. Sunshine Village is in a national park so while it certainly can accommodate a great many skiers it can’t get permission to build any more permanent structures to house additional eating establishments.

There was a run called “wildfire” that I really liked. Wouldn’t that be just about the coolest job in the world- naming ski runs?

At the end of the day I tried a white hot chocolate. Al saw a brick sized Rice Krispie treat on someone else’s table. He asked me to see if they were selling them there. He wanted the Mountain Madness team to try them. I did and they did.

Bound and determined to visit the Lulu Lemon shop, I was let off there immediately after skiing. Extremely funky, skuzzy and with wild hair I took an armful of clothes into the changing room.

There was a cute boy on the floor refolding stacks of jazz pants. I asked him a few questions about the merchandise but he scurried away like a frightened wild animal. I guess he was just for decoration.

I scored the cutest outfit- black reversible boot cut pants with a pink floral stripe around the hips. And a matching top that was on sale, probably because you needed a PhD to put it on. There are so many wrong permutations of how you can put your head and arms through the straps that crossed the back. I skipped happily back to the hotel. Al bought some chocolate fudge for the Mountain Madness people to try.

I enjoyed an Epson salt bath to sooth my weary legs which were beginning to hate me.

That night we dined in five star splendor at the Saltlik. I sat next to Bart whose job it was to pick up the tab. [We rotated putting expenses on all our credit cards so that the burden wouldn’t be too great on any one of us. A final reckoning would be made at the end]. Anyway, Bart finally leaned over and asked me just HOW MANY people would be serving us tonight?

So we counted.

  1. The coat check girl.
  2. The greeter/seater.
  3. Shane, our official waiter.
  4. Someone to fill our water glasses.
  5. Yet another (or was it more?) to bring the piping hot plates of delicious food.
  6. There was someone to bring the bread & starters.

And while I was the only one I could not resist ordering the berry crumble for dessert. It was with great difficulty I refrained from licking the last drops from the bottom of the individual caste iron frying pan it was served in. And then there was coffee that was so good you could taste the beans.

Allan and I had somehow become the ringleaders ordering all these various serving persons about. So I asked him, ‘Would you dare be so picky and demanding at home?’ He said, ‘No.’ In no time we had tapped into our inner spoilt prima donnas that had been there since conception. We even sent Andy’s French fries back because they had too much pepper.

Andy fell asleep at the restaurant, again.

Monday February 26, Lake Louise Banff

Today was the third ski area within driving distance of Banff. We’d packed the cars with all our stuff in the morning so that directly after skiing we could drive to Golden, the next stop on our itinerary.

The snow was groomed. It was like skiing on corrugated ice, which was fine for me. Since I’d learned to ski on an artificial surface I had learned how to really dig my edges in.

We charted our way down to lunch via run #34. It looked easy enough. We encountered a sign that read, ‘Marginal Conditions. Not recommended.’ Well, if it was really bad they would have closed it off entirely, right? I felt invincible so I sped on ahead of the others.

Stupidly.

We hit a slope of ice. I thought, ‘Fine. I’ll just side slip like I’ve been taught to do when I get somewhere I don’t think I can handle.’

Andy zipped down ahead out of sight so I released Al to go find him. The other guys were coaching us more unskilled skiers down. Ollie assured me that I could make I turn so I tried…and failed.

I sat down on my skis [never, ever do this on ice]. In a moment I saw the trees rushing at me.

But everything I thought to do at the speed I was traveling at seemed even more dangerous than the situation I was already in.

I thought, ‘I must dig in my edges.’ So with my hand I tilted the back of my ski into the icy slope. It slowed me down somewhat. What slowed me down even more was Bart putting his foot out and stopping me completely.

Thank you, Bart.

The adrenaline surge was incredible. I wanted to go! I was unhurt, shaken but not scarred so I skied the rest of the way much more aggressively than I had been.

When we sat down for lunch I realized that I’d scooped up gobs of ice and my back was full of the stuff- like when a baby has diarrhea out the top of the back of their diaper.

We’d scored some cushy comfy seats for lunch. After some tasty combine-your-own-pasta, I decided that I’d had enough excitement for one day and didn’t ski anymore that afternoon.

But I didn’t say this until another woman in our group said she’d decided not to ski that afternoon either. We weren’t very happy with the inferior equipment we’d rented at Lake Louise.

The approach to Golden did not look promising. But Golden tries harder, because it has too.

Everyone enjoyed the hotel hot tub. Andy loved the small indoor pool. I went to find the extra pillows that are stashed inevitably away in every hotel room but when I went to put them on the bed I saw that each bed already had 6 (!!!) pillows.

I looked in the city restaurant guide and noted that the Golden Grizzly- just across the street had won an award. Al and I loved the informal honky-tonk atmosphere. I ordered salmon.

In our search for restaurants we’d come upon The Timbermill. Al and I noted the booths and the Bob Evans ambiance and told the others that it would be a good choice for breakfast. It was. The nine of us taxed the single waitress, but she was game. I finally managed to enjoy my favorite breakfast of eggs and oatmeal. I don’t know, the day just doesn’t seem to go right for me if it doesn’t begin with eggs.

We rented our skis from a multi-purpose shop. There was a coffee corner, a side for climbing gear and another side for skiing stuff.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the toaster oven on the floor of the skiing side was for warming ski boots as part of the custom fittings they offered.

Several times on our trip we’d been asked if we’d been to Kicking Horse yet. It seemed to be many people’s favorite. This ratcheted up our expectations at bit.

We bought one day lift tickets- not sure that the snow would be good enough here or that the area was big enough to hold our interest for the 3 days we were planning to stay in Golden.

It was cold on the first ride to the top. We skied down to a café called the ‘Yurt.’ I looked over at Andy and saw that he was crying. ‘Had we burned him out on skiing?’ I thought. No. His gloves had gotten wet and we hadn’t noticed. So I have him my mittens and dry liners and I switched to my gloves.

I loved the run down to the Yurt called ‘Dutch Treat’ where it was a gentle slope through the trees. I was glad that my shins had stopped hurting.

In the Yurt you could see people who had been skiing off piste. Their avalanche transmitters were visible once they took off their ski jackets.

Several things struck me. First, everybody could ski. In Michigan and Austria where I’ve skied before I am constantly being run into by some kid being taught by it’s parents. Another thing was that the music being piped onto the slopes was really really nice.

Kicking Horse is arranged a bit like a woven basket. Some runs are the upright reeds and there’s a long gently run that is like the running reed that crosses the uprights.

I wanted to take a lesson but they weren’t really set up for an individual one like I wanted.

Since I learned to ski on what amounts to astro turf, moguls (bumps) , powder and such all mystify me.

When we got back to the hotel I took an Epson salt bath. I wondered how in the world would I make it to 8 o’clock for dinner?

Andy fell asleep during dinner. We were seated on a wall bench so we just made a nest of our jackets and let him crash there.

Wednesday, February 28th, -Kicking Horse, the 2nd day

On the way we stopped at the grocery to get Andy something to eat. He had been falling asleep before we could get any dinner into him.

We had breakfast once we got to the resort. I was very relieved to find that they did have eggs on the menu. It was a white out outside which boded well for the rest of the day. New snow would be fun. Andy had appropriated my mittens the day before so I just had to put up with my cold hands.

We enjoyed lunch at the top of the mountain. But the visibility wasn’t that great.

The guys had mapped an easy route down for me and another less adventurous skier in our group. The men and one other lady wanted to try some ridge/bowl skiing. I was tired, cold and didn’t want to do that.

Everything was fine until we came to a run called ‘Show Off.’ I thought I’d skied on everything for the last 4 days so I could handle this too.

Half the slope was ice the other half was bumps! After I got going – I was unsuccessfully trying to get into a rhythm- I knew I could be of absolutely no help in getting the other person down so I just tried to save myself. Once again I lost confidence on a turn and went flying- or skidding. One of my skis popped off immediately.

When I finally slid to a stop, I tried to assess the situation. Not easy to do with so much adrenaline coursing through my veins. I wasn’t hurt.

One ski off and one ski on, my poles & one ski 50 feet up the mountain on an icy slope, I decided to crawl back up to my other ski. It was very slippery, sweaty going. The other lady, Suzanne, tried to slide my ski down to me but the sprung binding preventing that from happening.

The resort wasn’t very crowded but eventually someone came by and brought me my ski and poles. He also helped me back up on my feet. 5 days of skiing in a row had made me very tired.

We met up with the rest of our group. I followed the others to a bumpy slope which I grumpily made my way down.

We swung by McDonald’s on the way back so that Andy could have something surefire to eat.

At dinner we went to a very nice restaurant where I was served by the world’s worst waitress named Cheryl. My food came about 45 minutes after everybody elses. I didn’t want the complimentary drink or dessert she offered as an apology so I let someone else in the group have my free dessert.

Thursday, March 1 Golden-Kicking Horse, 3rd day

Enjoying eggs and oatmeal for breakfast in the hotel in the morning started me off on the right foot like it always does.

There was new snow!

Al and I got to take off – just the two off us. Andy was happy to hang out with the other dare devils.

Falling in the powder was fun. It slows you down but you don’t care when you lose it because it’s like landing in a big pile of feathers.

The bumps we’d done the day before were much more enjoyable after a good night’s sleep. The thing is is that the surface has little relationship to what is underneath. So your feet are constantly registering the surprise of hard earth falling out from below you.

For lunch I took the tuna steak out of it’s bun and crumbled it up over my Caesar salad. That and a bottle of fruit juice made the perfect lunch.

That night we dined in Golden’s best kept secret. It was odd little steak house hidden in another hotel.

Friday March 2, Transfer day

We stopped at Revelstoke for coffee. Revelstoke is a very promising resort. Right now they are in the planning stage. The others took a gander at the plans and said they want to come back in 5-10 years. Right now the village is lined with upscale coffee houses. We enjoyed and I found some magic cookie bars for the others to try.

We made our way through Roger’s pass stopping at ‘Home’ restaurant in Sorrento overlooking Shuswap lake.

There was no snow on the ground as we approached Kamloops. But as we ascended up to the resort of Sun Peaks things began to look more promising. When we were only about 20 minutes away from our destination there appeared to be enough of a base for skiing.

We didn’t start off for dinner until late. Andy didn’t want to go. I think he’d been car sick at some point but I was too out of it to really know. I didn’t really feel up to a late dinner either. So all three of us stayed in the room. Al insisted that I eat something so when prodded I blurted out the first thing that came into my head which was spaghetti and meatballs. He gamely went out and found me some and brought it back to the room. It was very good.

Saturday- March 3rd, Day 1 Kamloops-Sun Peaks

Breakfast was not included with the room. We all had the continental buffet. I looked longingly a the scrambled eggs on the hot breakfast buffet but could not bring myself to pay the additional CDN$8.50 for them. I helped myself to another toasted bagel with peanut butter to insure that I got enough protein in.

Sun Peaks is spread over 3 mountains. The connections are so well thought out that you don’t even notice. It’s like it’s all one big area.

I think that when I’m tired that I ski better.

Everything went smoothly. I didn’t force turns. The 1.5 inches of new snow helped. The scenery at ‘The Top of the World’ was unbelievably beautiful. Everything looked so perfect, like a fakey movie set.

I enjoyed a salad with brie over trout for lunch. Suzanne treated us to chocolate covered marshmallows for her birthday. We were unable to get reservations for dinner until 9:30 so I got carry out fish and chips.

Sunday March 4th, Day 2 Kamloops-Sun Peaks

I took the next morning off from skiing. Andy and I and Suzanne and her sister was planning to take a dog sled tour in the afternoon.

You hear about how much these dogs like to pull but you just don’t get it until you see it. They are really quite small. I found their diet of meat, fat and a little rice interesting.

The scenery was extraordinarily gorgeous. After helping hitch up the dogs, Andy and I rode in the box while Josette (who ran the tours) mushed. We sped through pine trees heavily frosted with new snow.

That night we didn’t take any chances and ate in the hotel steak house. I had the most amazingly wonderful rib eye with an enormous baked potato. Kylie- our Australian waitress said she’d never seen anything so big. I thought but didn’t say, ‘poor thing.’

Monday, March 5th– transfer day to Whistler

It took me about 45 minutes to pack for the three of us. It was snowing when we left. I offered Andy a Dramamine but he refused on the grounds that he didn’t like the taste. I’d already popped it out of it’s blister pack so I took it myself. I fell asleep. And had creepy/trippy dreams about Kachinka dolls and evil curses.

For lunch I ordered a buffalo burger. I do believe it had not long ago been intimately acquainted with a freezer and then a microwave.

We found that making a dinner reservation for 9 at a decent hour was impossible. We ended up at a sports bar [Earl’s] with a bunch of high tables pushed together all hodge-podge & willy-nilly. I lost count of the number of big screen TV’s. The ubiquitous curling was on.

Bart told me that at home no one would believe that he’d gotten his black eye in a flight. He’d fallen the last day Sun Peaks and blackened his eye. But in Whistler no one believed that he hadn’t gotten his black eye in a fight!

Tuesday March 6th, Whistler/Blackcomb, day 1

My day started right! I had eggs for breakfast. It was pretty warm at the bottom. We took the gondola up to Blackcomb. We skied some nice blue runs including one called Jersey Cream. After a hamburger lunch we rode up and up until we were on a T-bar which went up as far as possible. We shouldered our skies and walked up even higher! I felt so hard core. Even though I was huffing and puffing way behind the others. Eventually someone helped me carry my skis. It was windy but not cold, odd. At last we reached the summit and traversed a ridge to reach the top of a blue run.

Once at the bottom of the bowl I looked up and thought, ‘I did it!’

The rest of the way was slushy-mushy.

I sat in the hot tub while Andy swam in the open air pool. I went out and bought him a crepe just in case he didn’t make it dinner.

That night we dined at Rik’s. It was a bit too pretentious for my taste. I ordered cognac for after dinner.

I keep wondering what that smell is- I’m afraid it’s me.

Wednesday, March 7 – day 2 Whister/Blackcomb

It was really warm. So warm that it was raining down in the village. But we were reassured that there was +/- 9cm of new snow at the top.

Allan said that skiing in that warm, wet heavy snow was like trying to ski through Plaster of Paris.

Not only was there new snow at the top but it was still snowing. Eventually a lift we wanted to take up higher started running.

It was a miserable white out. I asked a boarder sitting next to me on the lift the quickest way back to the lodge.

Only by following the backs of Thomas’ skis could I make my way down the hill. Both my goggles and glasses kept steaming up from the strange weather.

Andy and I quit. We’d skied enough over the last 2 weeks. We took the gondola down and turned in our rental skis. I spotted a Nanaimo bar at the crepery when getting Andy another. It was something I’d been meaning to try. It was like a straight shot of sugar to my brain.

The hot tub had a view of the mountains. I watched the weather roll in from the hot tub. Way cool.

Andy had been picking up pennies that he’d find on the ground. Oh! To be 7 again and think you’re rich because you have a pocketful of money that jingles!

Thursday March 8, transfer day Vancouver

It was a pretty drive to Vancouver. British Columbia is very green and wet. We’d expected harshly cold weather when skiing but that never materialized.

In Vancouver we stayed at a cool/funky hotel in the heart of downtown.

Al took me walking so we could shop but I just didn’t have the energy. I tried a pick-me-up coffee and a scone at Tim Horton’s but all I wanted to do was take Andy back to the hotel swimming pool.

My heart just wasn’t into checking my e-mail either. The pool was charmingly set inside a conservatory. In one corner was a postage stamp size gym and in another corner were some yoga sticky mats.

By the time for dinner rolled around it was raining so we headed for the nearest restaurant “Milestones.”

They had a separate seasonal menu that cleverly combined ingredients. I was hoping I could pull it up on the internet later at home for inspiration. But alas it’s not there. I had a Cajun seafood dish. The shrimp were amazing!

Aaron was the last waiter we got to push around. I ordered cornbread muffins for everybody to try.

I slept poorly with all the city sounds.

Friday March 9

I woke early and put on my new Lulu Lemon yoga clothes. I went around the various workout rooms turning off TVs. Who wants the doom and gloom of the news with their morning exercise? Not.Me.

There was a scale in the ladies changing room. Of course I was shocked.

Our flight wasn’t until late afternoon so we drove to Lynn canyon where there’s a suspension bridge. Hiking in the cool rainforest Andy turned to me and said, “This place is nice, Canada.” After a roundabout quest in the rain we finally found Casa de Gelato.

This place had 200+ flavors of ice cream- some of them rather odd, like, pear & blue cheese or balsamic vinegar. The staff was eager for the 9 of us to try them all. What fun!

We blew the last of our CDN$ at the airport on diet A&W root beer, some English language magazines and a stuffed deer’s head for Andy’s room.

It took me a week to lose the seven pounds of bloat I accumulated on the trip. And nine days to get over the nine hour time difference. It was a trip of a lifetime. I wasn’t entirely pleased with my skiing ability so I’ve signed up for a fifth (!) year of skiing lessons on the artificial slope.