Monday, 14 January 2013

Day 2-4: Up the Mountain

So today (Friday) was an even earlier start!! We were going to head up to Lake Louise one of the 3 ski areas surrounding Banff which is an hour bus ride away. We were due to catch the Bus up there at 8 am which meant breakfast at 7 am so we were up at 6.30 am! Painful any day of the week but even worse when you're still recovering from jet-lag! Unsurprisingly the journey was pretty subdued but it was breathtaking. We left town when it was still dark and watched the sun rise over the Rockies. Beautiful doesn't do the view justice, it was awe-inspiring. The sky was cloudless, the sun shining and the powder fresh, like heaps of icing sugar but there was one drawback: it was seriously cold! When I say cold I mean freezing at -25 degrees celcius! We stumbled off the bus and into the lodge to get on our gear. Putting on a brand new pair of ski boots is not fun and takes so much effort!! It got to the point where I didn't actually think I'd stuff my feet inside them, but we got there in the end and let's just say with the combination of cold and how tight they are that time, about 9 am was the last time I felt my toes until the end of the day!!

We had just enough time before the start of lessons to do one run. We took the glacier chair up the mountain and that was when I started to get cold!! I managed to avoid a faceplant when getting off and we set off and everything came flooding back! I had forgotten the joy of carving tracks into fresh powder, the crunch of the snow under the skis and the feeling of freedom. I got down and back to the lodge in one piece to meet up with Anna and the rest of the group. There are 8 of us, me, Steph, Stephen, Scott, Lewis, Charlie, Tristan and Olivia, or 9 if you count Anna, and we very quickly merged into a very close if a little dysfunctional family!! The day was spent doing a tour of the area and getting our ski legs back. It being a week day the pistes were pretty much empty so there was plenty of space for awkward turns and some ninja moves to prevent embarrassing falls! The conditions were perfect, a blue cloudless sky with the sun shining down, the snow was lightly packed but with a light dusting of powder that rose up in clouds every time we turned or skidded to a halt. The views from the tops of the lifts are just stunning, but the drawback of the beautiful weather is that temperatures are so low that taking pictures risks getting frostbite!! There was no proper instruction just a few helpful hints along the way and a good day skiing but I was cold. By the end of the day both my hands and feet were both painful and numb from new boots and cold and were only restored to normality by a long soak in the hot tub! We returned to Irwin's for dinner and then bed.

On Saturday we were off to Mount Norquay, the smallest of the 3 ski areas and only a 10 minute bus ride away. Lessons were due to to be from 9-3 so we got a bit of a lie-in compared to the day before. If possible it felt even colder than when we were at Lake Louise, a higher percentage of the pistes are in the shade so although the sun was shining just as brightly and the weather was just as beautiful, the temperature was lower than the previous day and as it progressed my extremities got colder and colder, they went numb then painful and then a weird combination of the two until it got to the point where I was sobbing, convinced I'd got frostbite and cursing the flimsy mittens I'd dared to think would keep my hands toasty warm!! Less whining, more explaining!! Although Norquay is small, it is home to some of the more difficult terrain of the 3 ski areas, this meant that we, as skier still finding their feet, were limited to a small number of runs so the day was a little on the repetitive side and I personally did not enjoy it as much as Lake Louise, but that might have been because of the aforementioned issues with hands!! This was the first day we had any actual instruction or criticism. We were working on turns which are meant to trace out as equal linked c shapes. We were told to ski down a slope and then at the bottom classify our turns into 1 of 3 categories, c's, zig-zag or banana. Scott and I defied all 3 and invented a new category dubbed 'the extended 'zig-zag'. We then spent time trying to correct mistakes and to execute the perfect turn. Not many us us managed to succeed but we all improved!! The day had several high points including when Scott made friends with some  little kids on the chairlift. They liked him so much that they then tried to abandon their own ski school group and tag along with ours!!

We finished at 3 and then returned to Irwin's for a technical session (which will happen each week) this week it included info about what we need to bring to the mountain, the best way to enjoy our time out here and some team-building games which were a tad awkward to say the least!! I then went straight out into town to buy a pair of boot-gloves(sexiest things on the planet but help keep feet warm) and the warmest pair of mittens I could find in Banff!! there was no way I was going to have another day like that! Then hot-tub time again to warm up (I think this will fast become a daily ritual!!) before supper and a session to choose our extra activities for the 11 weeks. Included in the price course are 25 credits which can be put towards different activities, each of which costs a different number of credits so, for example, tubing at Mount Norquay costs 2 credits, dog-sledding costs 16 credits and so on. Extra credits could be bought for 10 dollars each or if you didn't spend all of them, they could be sold to friends! I spent only 21 credits, choosing dog-sledding, an ice-hockey match in the local town of Canmore, a visit to Banff Hot springs (more hot-tub time!!) and tubing at Mount Norquay. I then sold my other credits, making back some of the money I made from the afternoons purchases! I was nearly dead on my feet so headed off to bed ready for the next busy day!

On Sunday we headed out to Sunshine Village and yet another cold  but beautiful day!! This was the last day in our current group and our last day with Anna and all of us were feeling a little on the sad side at being split up :'(. We took the gondola up to what is known as 'The Village', dumped our gear at the lodge and then headed out. While most other groups headed up towards the top of the mountain our group headed down, it being a weekend the upper pistes were much more crowded than they had been on Friday, the lower pistes were emptier though and we had a great morning until the wind picked up and the temperature dropped even further and all of us were feeling it!! We decided to take a break for hot chocolate at one of the smaller cabins that are dotted around near to all the main gondola and chairlifts. No rest for the wicked though, as we discussed stance and ways to improve it and how this linked into what we worked on the previous day, how stance can help improve turns and so on. I should mention at this point that today's entertainment was yet again provided by Scott who turned up horrendously hungover after many games of beer-pong the night before, as the day went on he got worse and worse until the point where he couldn't turn without faceplanting!! After spending the morning lower-down in the area, in the afternoon we headed up to the top. At the top of one of the lifts called Goat's-Eye the view is just stunning, you are surrounded by the peaks of the mountains, and you just feel on top of the world!! It's breathtaking. We then skied down to the middle station of the Gondola before taking it down the rest of the way. Back to the hotel, hot-tub, dinner and then pre-drinks before the launch party!!    

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