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.
As I finally open wordpress and go to write this post, I see that my last post was published on February 13th. Have I really not written anything in that long? Sorry all, it’s been a hectic couple of months, and the list of posts I have to write is growing by the day. Like most people who work in an office, I often find that when I come home from work the last thing I want to do is get back on the computer. So I go out and do fun things, which I then need to write about, but don’t want to. Thus, the circle continues. It’s hard to do anything creative when you’re not in the mood, but today the sun is shining, I have a spare hour and I remembered that I actually really like writing! So here’s what you missed since February 13th…
My parents came to visit!
At about the time of my last post, I was floating through my days thinking of nothing but seeing my parents come through arrivals at YVR on February 27th. I’m sure I annoyed everyone I spoke to, as most of my sentences started with ‘when my parents are here…’ This year I had someone to wait at the airport with, and my brother and I got there early and made a sign, as is our tradition. I hadn’t seen them since I went home for Christmas 14 months earlier, and this was the longest I’d ever been without seeing them. They stayed for 10 days and I was able to take a fair few days off work to spend time with them. It was their second trip to Vancouver to see me, but the first time they were here to see my brother. This meant we did some of the things that we did the last time they came (Granville Island, walks along the seawall) but also lots of new things too, like driving up to Squamish for lunch, hiking at Lighthouse Park, watching a Canucks game (we lost, obvs) and most exciting of all, skiing! My amazing and very talented ski/snowboard instructor friend gave the entire family ski lessons at Grouse Mountain, which I really enjoyed as I could finally show everyone my winter playground!
When the 10 days were up, I went down to Seattle with my parents for a couple of days, and then they flew from there down to sunny California to finish off their North American adventure. As last time, it was really sad to see them leave, but was helped by knowing I’ll be going back to see them again at some point this year. I just found a great cheap flight with Virgin Atlantic (yes!) for the first week of October, so will hopefully be booking that in the next couple of weeks!
The first time I strapped my shaking and slightly numb feet into a snowboard, I was a 16 year old sixth form student trying something new on a school trip. My friend and I decided to rock the boat and snowboard by ourselves instead of ski with the rest of our group. We wanted to be the cool kids, and we sure felt cool riding (read: tumbling) down the slopes of Austria. The bruises, the pain and the inability to sit down for a month were worth every second of my five days on the snow, which living in the UK was the most I was entitled to. I knew my vision of becoming a professional snowboarder was blurry at best, but I would have done anything to settle for even owning a board of my own. Eight years later, and today was the day I finally walked into The Boardroom on West 4th Avenue, and purchased my very own 2009 Rossingol Amber, less than half price in the clearance section. I will admit to having a girl moment and buying the pretty bindings instead of the functional ones (who could resist a colour called Cherrybomb?), but I can’t wait to try them out this weekend.
This post isn’t really about me fulfilling a dream of buying a snowboard, it’s about me fulfilling a dream. Period. I know everything I write seems to be telling people to live their dreams and do things they always wanted to, but this time I really mean it. That thing you thought you would never be able to do…why can’t you? I didn’t decide to move my life half way across the world just so I could be within 30 minutes of a mountain and therefore justify buying a snowboard. That’s not my message; the big move was something I planned to do anyway. The newly purchased snowboard was an innocent bystander in my Canadian adventure, and I’d forgotten how much I really, really wanted to own one until I watched the incredibly helpful girl in the shop wrestle with my Cherrybomb bindings. I was so focussed on everything else I’ve been working towards that I completely forgot about my original, smaller and (some may say) more realistic goal. Now I’ve remembered, I’m not going to let go of this creeping sense of euphoria until this post is published and I’ve done my bit to convince you all to get out there and TRY. You don’t even have to achieve anything, just try. In the words of Dr. Pepper himself, what’s the worst that could happen? One day you could end up being one of the cool kids too. Maybe I’ll let you join my gang…
It’s that time of year again. Gossip Girl is back from its mid-season hiatus (nearly), the weather has turned that much wetter, and people the world over are writing down their goals and dream for the year ahead. I am no different, and this year I spent the flight from Dallas to Vancouver writing my very own list for 2012. Least year’s list was comprised of philisophical (and dare I say vague) life goals for my first year living abroad, and now I’m settling in for my second year in Vancouver I’ve decided to be a little more specific.
1. Keep a diary. Nice and simple. I haven’t kept a diary for a few years now, and I think it’s about time I started writing again. That, and the pretty notebooks in Cath Kidston were just too flowery to resist.
2. Travel. Specifically within Canada. And specifically to the Rockies (think Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise). I only took three days of vacation from work from February to December 2011, which was mainly because I was focussed on settling in and getting to know Vancouver, and my job. Now I’ve been in my role for a year (almost) I’m in a much better place to plan my holidays a little more strategically and make sure I see more of Canada in 2012. After all, that’s why I’m living here.
3. Save money.Easier said than done, but as well as focussing on travelling I would also like to end the year with some savings in the bank. I do have a number in mind, and I’m not going to tell you.
4. Ski/snowboard more.The first thing I tell friends and family about Vancouver is the close proximity to the mountains, but I only spent 4 days on the snow last season. Granted, I had just arrived in the country, but this year I’m going to make the most of my evenings and weekends and head for the slopes. In fact, I have already booked a series of snowboarding lessons for February; every Monday evening after work I’ll be heading to Grouse Mountain for a 2 hour group lesson, followed by a social session in the bar.
5. Have a targeted approach to work. I love my job and I like to think I always give 100%, but this year I’m going to be much more strategic with my projects and plans. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done all the time, but I can pick my battles and make sure I focus on building on my strengths and improving my weaknesses to really make the most of my 2012.
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, Grouse and Seymour. Respectively a 28km, 12km, and 18km drive from Downtown Vancouver, snow has never been more accessible to me.
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.