Last year, we visited Canada for the first time by going to Big White. While there, we experienced a very dense fog on our last day that prevented us from skiing. I learned that day that the resort’s nickname is Big White-Out. This year, we flew back into Kelowna but instead of going south through Kelowna and going 45 minutes east, we went north 45 minutes to Silver Star Ski Resort.
After last year’s near collapse of our plans, I took time, and Thea’s advice, and planned all our flights through the same airline: Air Canada. It actually wasn’t quite as easy as that. Using their system to get to Kelowna from OKC, I had a very limited selection. So, I tried from Dallas, Denver, Seattle and Chicago. They all went through the same limited flights. So I looked at flights from Calgary and Vancouver. From within Canada, there were flights into Kelowna every hour. But from the US, there were only two a day. So I looked at flights going from OKC to Calgary and then adding a flight to Kelowna. I couldn’t go straight there in the reservation system, but I could still get there in two steps. As I wondered why that was the case, the only reason that I could come up with was customs. There’s some restriction in the on-line reservation system where it comes to getting past customs. With this approach, I was able to get flights starting at 8-ish and getting to the resort around 7 p.m. As opposed to those other flights offered straight to Kelowna which had us starting before 7 a.m. and getting to the resort at 2 a.m. the next morning.
Leg one: OKC-DEN; no problem. Leg two: DEN-YYC; no problem. Breezed through customs in Calgary. Leg three: YYC-YLW; if there weren’t any problems, I probably wouldn’t be writing about it. We boarded the plane for the 1 hour hop on time. But due to weather conditions, we had to be de-iced. Because of weather delays to other flights, we were on the runway long enough that we had to be de-iced a second time. Then we taxied out only to find that the plane’s pipette was either faulty or blocked. They suspected that it was just iced over. So we went back for a third de-icing. We spent longer on the runway than we did in the air. The delays meant that we were an hour late for our shuttle service to the mountain. We looked around after we were deplaned but didn’t see anyone waiting for us. So, I called the shuttle service’s number and the operator walked me over to their airport location. The driver was there and ready to go. Final leg: YYC-Silver Star, no problemo. We checked in and even had time to get some groceries before going to bed.
Day One. No pressure to wake up. This was going to be a slow day no matter what. There’s no shortcuts to getting skis and boots rented and fitted. The morning started with a breakfast burrito at “Out of Bounds”. At the rental shop, we were behind a crush of school kids. They were pulling the non-scholastic renters out of line and expressing them through as quickly as they could but there were only so many people employed by the ski shop.
Our flight’s weather delay the previous night translated to two feet of fresh powder and almost no grooming on the slopes. Every year I go through the trepidation of wondering whether I remember how to do this. Skiing in loose powder is a bit different from packed powder. You have to be more balanced. You have to lean back into your turns. We bundled up, geared up, and went through a couple of green runs. As a last-minute addition to packing, I had added a set of extreme weather gloves. Basically space-suit EVA gloves. I add them to my packing about every other year and I’ve never unpacked them while on the trip. I went back into the hotel and got them. It was that cold.
It was all starting to feel natural again. Then I went down for the first time. I felt my right ski sink into the powdery snow and not come out. I was spun around and down. I got up and kept going. Then it happened again. I slowed down and got to the lift. On the next run, I was halfway down the hill when I felt my right ski again start to dive into the snow. This time, I kicked to get myself out of it before I fell. This is where physics and anatomy play an important role. Since your ankles are pretty much immobilized by the boot, and your knees, hopefully, don’t bend forward, the kick I did was pretty much from the hip only. And to do the kick at all, I had to bring my weight up to my left side, my uphill side. This is what skiers call “bad”. I did an out-of-control right turn to get my right ski, which I had just kicked free from the snow, back in touch with the mountain. I somehow managed to come to a complete stop and remained upright. The deep breath that I took in relief was cut short by a flush of warmth across my right hip. This did not feel good. We went down and back to the hotel room. I tried to do some stretches and lunges but my hip muscle was spasming painfully and keeping me off-balance. I was done skiing for the day.
Day two was bright and sunny but incredibly cold. We started early and since we already had our skis there wasn’t any delay getting on the slope. Except for breakfast, that is. I had a Uitsmijter at the Bulldog Cafe. We skied from 9:30 to 11:30. The runs had been groomed and I wasn’t feeling any pain from my day one experience. Then we rested for 15 minutes and thawed out. My neck gaiter and Thea’s balaclava were pretty frosty. We skied some more and stopped at about 2:30. By that time of day, we were both a little wobbly. It took a hot shower to warm us up.
Day three was overcast but warmer. At least the thermometer said that it was warmer. You couldn’t tell it. So we did the same as day two. Ski, rest, ski, rest, ski. We made it all the way to 3:00 when they started closing things down. I had designated this as Pizza Day. I even had my t-shirt with the vampire holding the no-garlic sign. We walked into HB Pizza and I said “I have a challenge for you.” The guy behind the counter was like…what? “I don’t put garlic in the sauce.” Maybe it’s a Canadian thing. The pizza place at Big White didn’t either. I had a Sweet Heat; chorizo, chili-pepper flakes, pineapple and banana peppers.
Day four was the same as our last day last year. It wasn’t fog this time though. There just wasn’t enough visibility with the amount of snow that was falling. So we were going to trade in our skis. Originally we were thinking about fat-biking. But after discussing things with the experts, we traded them in for snowshoes. Thea and I took a walk among the trees. Well, it started out among the trees and then it was along the “Bridle Path”. And it started out as a walk but turned into a two and a half mile hike.
And then we were headed back. Silver Star to Kelowna, YLW to YVR, Customs, YVR to DEN, DEN to OKC, then home. Almost home. First, stop at Taco Mayo for some tacos and a burrito. After a week of Canadian cooking, it had to be done.