Skiing Under Starlight

Last Sunday I had the chance to ski at night. No, I’m not a good skiier.

Nothing is more enticing when someone dangles the prospect of doing something unexpected in front of you, and night skiing was definitely one of them. At nine the night have fallen for a few hours when the trip organizer suggested we ski in the dark.

There was a second’s hesitation owing to losing my headlamp and then in my mind I said Yes. 

Stuffed as turkeys after dinner and desert potluck, we skinned up in the night with new legs, our skis striking the white snow like twin exclamation marks. The red self described gigantic match someone had brought fizzled with danger like a live stick of dynamite, which threw an eerie red light onto our path. At nine I learned that the moon had not yet risen, but that stars pricked the fabric of the night like a bed of needles. Reaching our destination, we fell onto the snow, cooling our warm, tired muscles. Turning our eyes to the sky, the conversation drummed up naturally like a sparse verbal rain, no more filling the vast empty space above us than a drop of water in a bathtub.

 

But to the skiing.
It was the nicest few hundred metres of skiing that day (or technically, night). Using headlamps, we formed our own mini ski resort, minus blinding floodlights. We scurried down the slope with small scoops of alternating skis -right ski, left ski. The night, which at first appeared more static than day, proved dynamic, alive. The run stretched on in the starlight as if we were following the path of light to the ends of the earth. The lack of shadow made the trees and slopes more forgiving. By the time we were nearing the end, it felt like a much longer period than the space of ten minutes had passed because of an invisible speed barrier.

 

The red burning match burned out after fifteen minutes. But the feeling that we had been initiated into something by doing it under starlight made something inside of us burn brighter.

Who Knew Our Mountain Still Had It?

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Junk shots from opening weekend

Cypress isn’t a huge hill but you wouldn’t know it from the response it received on opening weekend.

So many people still believed in snow.

Less than 50% of the mountain has been open on Cypress- more like 5%- last year and the mountain’s more vigorous runs were also mostly not in commission last year as well. That makes the two years that I’ve bought season’s passes there the worst ones in recent memory.

Sure, there was no snow during the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. And as a lady in line told me, the cycle of cold and hot weather repeats every fourish years. If you calculate it correctly, you can avoid wasting money on those drier, hotter years – but I knew no such thing as a newbie.

The fact is, lots of people believed in the snow more than I. Or rather, I was in some way like everybody there  – perhaps more jaded than cautiously optimistic, but magnetically drawn nonetheless, to an “need” that none of us can explain.

But you still wouldn’t show up on opening weekend unless you believed in snow.

There were two runs open. One of them was the bunny hill. The other started up top as three forks joining into one. One was green and the other two were blue, the skiier’s right being the home of a park.

Moms, dads, teens, friends, out of towns, married-for-fifty-years, tots, were all out in their brightest gear.

A thick coating of manmade. A natural coating on the surrounding rocks and shrubbery. An icing sugar dusting on the tops of trees. And slick ice just underneath the surface.

Still, people were tearing it up.

Now I don’t know the percentage of people who were returning skiiers and riders and who had been loyal to Cypress for decades and who were just embarking on their first year, but everyone seemed to have the same level of zeal. Traffic only got worse around 2 pm, after the lunchers and late starters joined the pack. The lift lines got so bad only the singles line was tenable.

If the weather is anything to go by, skiiers and riders can be optimistic. With sunshine as bright as a spotlight, it was about as perfect visibility as it could get.

IMG_3989

Slap on a 2015/2016 sticker and we’re good to go (Last year’s passes were rolled over for a small fee and reused instead of re-printed due to the dismal season)

IMG_3958

Hour long lineup snaking through the lodge

IMG_3960Quick snap of snow cover 

Pre-Trip – Beginner Skiing/Winter Camping

IMAG5229

Throwback to last year-telemark skis + beginner skiier 

I haven’t camped or hung out with some of the people who make me feel my best, whose company I enjoy no matter what, for over a month. The kind of people who loosen the constraints society has put on them and enjoy being wet and cold. Just kidding-no one enjoys being wet and cold. And now, having worn the same jacket for 2 years, I’m a bit worried it’s no longer waterproof. That does not bode well for skiing and then camping in the snow in about -8 degrees celcius. Gear should be gotten if it gets in the way of your pursuits. After not sleeping for the better half of my first camping trips, I’m more than thankful for my thick sleeping bag. Although its bulkiness is counterintuitive for longer trips, I haven’t yet progressed to that stage, so it suits me just fine right now.

 

Although I truly truly love writing and being warm and cozy as I do that, I’ve been quite depressed without the company of wild minded people and the special quality of mountain air. Outdoors – what drew me to it was how it seem to shed the boundaries of everyday life. But what I’m realizing now is to go forward, there are endless things you can do in the city to prepare for them. And I’ve done none of it. Being warm and cozy, I’ve not had the penchant to move, or write.

 

But – and this is a big but – every time I go back to the thought of being outside, away from the city, as far as my unseasoned legs will take me – a world of opportunities and thoughts open up. Literally an entire mental world is opened up. I didn’t even know that my brain had a whole other compartment – and what a diservice it would be to let it atrophy. It’s not even that I have ideals –  I must go outside for X days a year because it’s good for me – it’s a compulsion, a need.

With so much time away, I’m not ready physically but the one thing we can all do is be ready mentally. To embrace the experience and not force interpretations and to be present.

PS The local is just Red Heather-it’s actually insanely easy. However I really have not been active so with an overnight pack on my back and skis on my feet, it will be interesting. Anyways, my greatest regret is being too worried to pack my camera. I think it’ll freeze overnight. It’ll be amazing.

 

 

 

Black Friday and You: Beginner Skiier/Rider Edition

DSC_0468

Ahh..who doesn’t love the snowboarders’ scramble at the top of green runs?

Yes, it’s almost Black Friday and things are going to be crazy. So many things that you don’t need will be on sale. And then you will buy them. For sure. Now let me help: Admittedly, I’m broke, but there’s still something valid to say about purchasing gear anyways, and I’m here to talk about buying stuff to get you started in skiing or snowboarding if you’ve never done it. Though I haven’t got much authority, I’ve seen enough for my third year being a shitty snowboarder. And there’s a part of me that now goes: you don’t need that to do X (death defying, don’t try this at home extreme outdoor) activity!

If you want to get started skiing and snowboarding on Black Friday because of the sport’s exorbitant cost has kept you at bay, great.

But do you really need that as an excuse?
Not necessary.

Let me explain.

THE EQUIPMENT

Scenario one: Person has no ski or board equipment and either buys $XXX set up or is too poor

Results: Person spends a lot of money and tries the sport (Yay) or person believes the cost is too high and never tries to ski or ride.

In this case, skis and boards are pretty expensive equipment but if one is willing to ask around, they will surely find some cheap used skis or boards for sale, or some to borrow. No huge $$$ is dropped, allowing those who can’t afford to plunk down the green for gear tearing down the slopes.

Verdict: You don’t need new gear or expensive gear to get started.

THE CLOTHING

Scenario Two: Person believes they don’t have proper clothing to do skiing or snowboarding and again does not participate.

Results: Person who has money drops $$$ for jackets far above their needs and might even sacrifice looks to do it ($$$ jackets aren’t necessarily filled with flashy graphics; they’re usually monotone and not fun anyways) Or person drops $$$ for nice looking graphics, but only because they think they need that expensive of a jacket anyways to stay warm and decided what the heck, they might as well take fashion into account.

Meanwhile, the person who doesn’t seem it worthy to drop cash on outerwear that costs as much as your hardware again vetos the sport with the reason: I’ll die from frostbite.

Reality: You COULD ski in jeans. It’s really not advisable and I’ve never tried it, but technically, you could. You won’t die. And in fact, even with things that seem to require more strategy (ie, camping), you can get away with lots in many situations. I’m just a beginner at camping, but I can tell you that most people I camp with don’t have expensive gear, and moreover, they do just fine with what they have. Pile on 5 sweaters. Wear that 1980’s heavy ski jacket. These things will not prevent you from going out and getting a learning experience; in fact, you could learn to use them just fine. Until you outgrow this advice – then good on you, you’ve gone out meagrely prepared and come back with more knowledge than you would have in your armchair.

Verdict: Go ski in jeans and a raincoat and shitty ass skis/board.

THE PASS

This is a sore point with me, so I’m not going to go into great detail. Do your research well. Believe what seasoned skiers and riders say to you because they will most definitely give you their most honest, heartfelt opinion on what ski resorts are the best fit, their favourite, or the best deal. Not listening them will result in disappointment. True story. Not really – there’s always next season. And trust me, they’ll be bad snow seasons. The naive “all snow is great snow” attitude you had coming in will disappear fast.

Scenario Three: Person can’t decide between paying per lift ticket or buying season’s pass, or can only justify paying a few lift tickets a year, and decides not to pick up something else.

Results: Person with $$$ does whatever they want. But the person who is not so financially blessed will either likely buy the cheapest season’s pass they can find, or pay per ticket, which gets harder and harder to justify. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Paying per ticket could end up costing more than a season’s pass. On the other hand, there are usually lots of discounts on single or multiple tickets. Do your research. Sometimes it could be cheaper to just pay per ticket rather than buy a season’s pass due to midday or afternoon discount tickets. Maybe purchasing tickets with a group will lead to a coveted group discount. Maybe you even know some employees that could lend you their employee discount. I’ve gotten free tickets just for volunteering (Though, mind you, I’ll probably never use them: snowfall is bad and smaller resorts are more likely to reward you, whereas big money making resorts are more intent on convincing you to reward yourself.) Most of all, make the most out of whatever you choose. Don’t spend time thinking about what you could or should or would have done, just enjoy the moment and ski and ride

Verdict: Get yourself on a mountain.

 

The days of the mythical uber thick and waterproof expensive winter onesie are over. Hand me downs, cheap thrills, and my-neighbour-lent-it-to-me-permanently are in. Though being flashy is awesome, it’s not a requirement to ski or ride. You could wear a trashbag and ski or ride just fine (just don’t do this without clothes underneath). No googles? No problem: sunglasses work just as well. No waterproof layers? Well, just wear enough not to freeze. And don’t fall. If you plan to do that a lot, and don’t have waterproof layers, check the forecast to make sure you won’t freeze to death. You’ll have so much fun you won’t notice. Yes, there are lots of situations where you’ll need waterproof everything, but don’t sweat the beginner stuff.

If you do, you might just end up sweating  lot more under that -35 degree, quadruple layer onesie.

Go seek the mountains.

 

 

 

 

Berry Fun

goldenberrygirl

1.6 hours

Photoshop=after school destress

Took the berry shot this morning thinking about Christmas. The branch sticking out just begged to be sat on by a miniature person. And of course, the light would be golden for such a day.

Warm/Cold Light

DSC_0536e

DSC_0547A little disappointedly, I found out that yesterday’s conditions – what some called bluebird – were the exception rather than the norm. Can you edit a photo taken in cloudy conditions to make it look like it was endless sunshine? I don’t know, but I should still be happy with the challenge of editing these! I’d like to edit parts of the photo individually but that just seems a little daunting and a lot of work, since even though I did that to some of yesterday’s photos, the lighting was so great my work was minor. Anyways. I have not been in the park this winter; anxiety has made me really stiff and awkward. But they opened up a fantastic swath of snow between runs that allowed for more speed. Cautiously, I ventured onto it when the speed caught me off guard and threw off my anxiety for a few seconds. It was glorious – it was the reason why I decided to snowboard. I could regain a little of the old side hitting, too. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.

 

Children’s Lit Volunteering/Ramblings

DSC_0477DSC_0479(view from on the way to volunteering; forgot to focus, evidently)

So, the five-week Thursdays story writing with kids is over, and so is Nanowrimo-just kidding, I never even started so I might as well have stopped. More randomness. Nothing makes much sense when you’re this tired, so I apologize for my rapidly declining prose. At least it was fun to escape out of this world and into another for a while – the same thing the kids got working on their stories. Only they took five hours to complete the whole thing, complete with illustrations. Kids these days.

 

That morning, winter came in full force. Our wheels barely seemed anchored to the ground as gale force winds threatened to levitate our car. Snow drifted in the air but never seemed to collect, leaving us shivering in the eerie dimlit car.

“Want to play I Spy?” I asked just as the engine gave a  muffled groan. I heard Brian yelp and gravity shift as our tires laboured to find traction on an icy turn.

{edit: Story has been editted here: https://lawnchairair.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/editting/)}

“When are we getting off the highway?”

“In ten hours.”

Brian gulped.

Continue reading

Red Heather Shenanigans

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

It wasn’t the powder day I was looking for to kick off the season but it was a good time. Last year an exceptional skier patiently and kindly led a trip to Red Heather on a dreamy powder day. She never left our side. This time I learned how frustrating it can be to induct eager people to the sport while being surrounded by people zooming down enjoying the powder. I frustrated myself with flat/up and down terrain that made for good ski learning but impossible snowboarding but I didn’t fool myself by thinking that I didn’t have my own incompetencies, either. Going quickly I could hide my lack of skill behind reckless riding but going more slowly, I showed my uncanny knack for sinking into powder/inability to turn with a heavy backpack and feel in control. The skiiers eventually had a great time learning to ski – I could see the same joy I felt last year learning to ski. Though not a snowboarding-heavy day, it was still a jam packed day. We visited five gas station at six in the morning before we found a working pump. On the way back, we saved 20 minutes of hiking by packing our 4 bodies, skis and bags into the back of a truck with two girls who kindly offered to truck us down. I can’t say I was too thrilled by the safety of sitting on top of somebody’s lap, with my head hitting the ceiling and a window on one side, and skis on the other. But to be honest, it was a little funny and a huge reprieve after a  3:30 AM wake up time. We arrived back in the city at 7:30 PM after under $5 dinners at the best cheap samosas restaurant in the town.

 

It doesn’t feel official to me yet – being a beginner trip, we stuck to conditions very similar to skiing in your backyard, if it were to snow – but it’s a start. And maybe it will never feel “official” to me until I push my boundaries or improve my skills, which are pretty darn limited to making it down a mountain. And doubly not in powder-I sank my nose like a chip coming down for the dip and had to pull myself out every time I tried to turn. It did sprinkle a little on us-but it wasn’t the luscious heavy flakes that turn any landscape into a snow globe. In those kinds of conditions, it really feels like winter in the only thing you know. After an unseasonably warm summer and autumn, I feel unadapted to the cold. It seems unreal that elsewhere people are in their normal winter-time mood, where snow isn’t an oddity and arrives like clockwork, and are anticipating a long and assured winter. I feel like I need to shake off my El Nino qualms, for if I fear, I won’t progress.

It’s probably the most interesting day of the season I’ve ever had, despite how it feels. Outdoors, in the backcountry; mellow as our spot may be, it’s a special spot, a reminder of how conditions exist in a wild variety everywhere, how there’s snow if you hike for it, how skill takes patience and practice but moreover passion.

Here’s to the first day of the season.