Tag Archive | skiing

The Search for the Missing Winter (hint: it’s not in Vancouver)

To say it’s been a mild winter on the West Coast is putting it lightly. Temperatures have hovered in double figures, our heating is now off during the day and I ate brunch outside on a patio this weekend. Down in the city it’s been amazing to have spring arrive so early, but it’s not so welcome in the mountains. All three local resorts have suspended their winter operations, and it sounds like Whistler might not be far behind. I have a season pass at Grouse Mountain and managed to make it up three times before they closed. If I’m honest, February has been so busy that I would barely have had time to make it up once a week anyway, but that doesn’t stop me feeling a bit cheated by Mother Nature. Nowhere near as cheated as the resorts must feel I’m sure, especially as there’s nothing they can do about it. Grouse have offered winter pass holders unlimited ziplining and tours of the viewing platform at the top of their wind turbine which I actually think is a pretty cool gesture and one I can’t wait to take advantage of. Unlimited ziplining! 

This still leaves me with the issue of a snowboard and no snow, a problem that I had to go further afield to solve. The man and I decided to swap sunny Vancouver for snowy Vernon over the February long weekend, and guess what. We found winter! When we arrived at our Air BnB apartment our host told us that the area is experiencing record snowfall – the highest in 83 years. Unfair, much? Although it was a particularly warm weekend (such is life), there was still lots of snow on the ground. We walked in it, hiked in it and finally snowboarded and skied in it when we took a trip to Silver Star Mountain Resort.

The stunning view of Kalamalka Lake from our Air BnB balcony

The stunning view of Kalamalka Lake from our Air BnB balcony in Coldstream

marmitetomaple_davesnow

Snow Puppy!

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Things I love about Vancouver #1: The Mountains

There are lots of things I love about living in Vancouver, and I think it’s time for me to start telling you about them. These things will be listed in no particular order, and I’m going to start with the mountains.  Mountains are a source of Canadian pride across the country, and in Vancouver we have the North Shore mountain range right on our doorstep.  I’m writing this whilst looking out of my living room window at the bright lights of the three ski/snowboard resorts of Cypress[1], Grouse[2] and Seymour[3]. Respectively a 28km, 12km, and 18km drive from Downtown Vancouver, snow has never been more accessible to me.

Looking down on Vancouver from Grouse Mountain . The world's best view?

For anyone living in the UK a skiing/snowboarding trip either consists of a 2 hour session at an indoor snow dome or a week long holiday to Europe. In Vancouver I can jump on a bus outside my house and be at the base of Grouse Mountain in under an hour. Seymour and Cypress are a little further away, but all doable in 2 hours or less. Slightly further afield the world famous resort of Whistler-Blackcomb is a mere 2.5 hours on the Greyhound. And mountain pursuits don’t just stop at skiing and snowboarding. Activities include snowshoeing, hiking, ice skating, tubing and even sleigh rides.  This year saw the winter season extended at all resorts, with Grouse Mountain staying open until Canada Day (July 1st)! Grouse is also open during the summer months when visitors can enjoy mountain ziplines, paragliding, eco-tours and various wildlife habitats and demonstrations.

In Vancouver the mountains have another secret talent, as they act as a barometer. Every morning I sit and eat my cereal whilst looking out the window to see how clear the mountains are. If I can make out the lines of the ski runs I know it’s going to be a sunny day, whereas if I can’t even see the peaks then I pick up my umbrella on the way out the door. Unfortunately for me, it’s usually the latter.  On the days where I can see them, they have a secondary use as a compass. Wherever I am in Vancouver I just look for the mountains and I know I’m facing north. Ish. This is particularly useful in the grid that is Downtown.

Last but not least, I can also use the mountains as a clock. Right now the they’re pitch black, and I can’t even see the lights at Grouse Mountain anymore. This means that it’s late enough for them to be turned off, and therefore late enough for me to be in bed. And with that I shall go.

No one knows you’re up there…

In my last post I mentioned that telling other people about my Canadian adventure was making it seem all too real, however nothing could prepare me for the trauma that was to take grip after watching Adam Green’s Frozen (2010)[1] on DVD last week.  Without giving anything away for those of you who haven’t seen it, Frozen tells the tragic tale of three skier/snowboarders who find themselves stuck on a ski lift after the slope has been closed down for the week.  If you don’t want to know what happens when someone jumps off a ski lift, don’t watch this film (or look at the back of the DVD case).  It’s not pretty.

Funnily enough, despite moving to Canada it wasn’t the thought of actually being stuck on a ski lift that terrified the living daylights out of me (I’m planning on going snowboarding a few times but I’m not doing a full on ski season), more the knowledge that if I was to find myself in a sticky situation, my family would be a 10 hour flight away.  I will of course be in the more than capable hands of my horror film obsessed boyfriend (who knows all the rules and would make sure I won my fight for survival as the final girl), but the thought of being in a different country to my family just makes breaking a limb, getting burgled or catching some sort of airborne illness seem all the more terrifying.  Of course, these are minor ailments compared to being stuck on a ski lift for 5 days and nights (depending on the airborne illness), but still.

Frozen (2010): How not to end a Sunday on the slopes

Realistically I am fully aware that Vancouver is really not that far, and a 10 hour flight is nothing compared to the likes of Australia or New Zealand.  On a bad day it can take me 5 hours to drive to my parents’ house from home, and the fastest I could get to Edinburgh on a coach is 11hrs 50 minutes.  Unfortunately such logic and rational thinking does not always prevail at 4am in the dark when one is convinced they can hear wolves in the kitchen.

After thinking for far too long about endless ‘what could go wrong’ scenarios, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is: anything.  Indeed, anything could go wrong in Vancouver, but it could also go wrong in Southampton (my house). Or Ipswich (my parents’ house).  Or anywhere else in the UK at any time whilst I’m getting on with my everyday life.  And if I was on a bus in Edinburgh when the unthinkable happened, it would take me even longer to get home than from Vancouver.  Worrying about what could happen abroad is silly, unnecessary and counterproductive, and I hereby resign to move on from this phase of the emigration thought process.

Saying that, maybe I’ll walk the Grouse Grind[2] up to the top of the mountain instead of taking the chair lift when I first go snowboarding, just in case. No point tempting fate is there?


[1] Frozen is out on DVD in the UK now: www.frozen-film.com

[2] The Grouse Grind is a 2.9km trail up the face of Grouse Mountain: http://www.grousemountain.com/Winter/vancouver-bc-hiking-trails-trips/