My blog has been sorely neglected for the past few months :( That snow storm in November squeezed the life out of any further cycling in 2012 and , if it wasn’t for MG and her coffeeneuring challenge, it is unlikely that I would have even attempted that last ride in the snow. It was an interesting experience, to be sure, but it was way too bumpy, slow and slippery for my liking. So I had to resort to my fallback activities – gym workouts and squash – to get my exercise-induced endorphin kicks. It’s not all bad though. I miss biking, but winter in Alberta let’s me do my other favourite outdoor sport – downhill skiing.
The local ski hill (Snow Valley) opened a few weeks after that November storm and I have been able to get out once or twice a week. It’s a small hill and not any sort of cardio challenge, unless I walk up instead of taking the chair – and it will be a cold day in hell before that happens – but it is great for practicing technique. And, of course, for staying in touch with all the other Club bikers who have traded 2 wheels for 2 skis until next April. After all, my biking friends are all members of the Rocky Mountain Seniors Ski Club, which, in the summer, is known as a ski club with a major biking problem. In winter, though, we ski.
My first mountain trip of this year was to my all time favourite hill: Sun Peaks Resort, about 60 km from Kamloops, B.C. Sixty of our Club members spent 4 days last week skiing in great conditions – lots of snow, warm weather and, for one day at least, sunshine. After last year’s arctic temperatures, this year we got to enjoy a much more skiable climate.
The trade off seemed to be the howling wind for the first 2 days. It was so bad at the top of the mountain that the Burfield and Crystal chairs were both shut down for Monday and Tuesday. Talking with a local in the Sunburst Lodge, he said that it is the first time he can remember both chairs being closed for 2 consecutive days. Didn’t bother me much though. I don’t ski off the Burfield (a long, painfully slow chair – 25 minutes from bottom to top on a good day – with mostly double black runs) and I was sure that Crystal would be open for at least 1 of our 4 days there. So I spent a foggy and warm Monday and a sunny and warm Tuesday playing off the Sundance, Sunburst and Morrisey lifts. My biggest disappointment on Monday was realizing that, after 1 picture, I had loaded the wrong SD card in my camera – a 16 meg instead of 16 gig! Big difference there :( Luckily, I had a spare 2 gig in my netbook back in my room so I was able to take pictures for the last 3 days.
Being a gadget geek, I also brought along my gps watch that I use for cycling. It’s great for tracking where I went all day, as well as distance and elevation skied, speed, etc. I don’t bother with the HR monitor though – I don’t ski hard enough to push my cardio. All it would be measuring is the fear spikes when I do something I shouldn’t be doing.
On Wednesday, the wind had died down so we finally got to ski off the Crystal chair. This is one of the higher chairs on the mountain and I expected the runs to be wind-polished armour plate after the past 2 days but I was wrong. The mild temps had left the snow nice and soft and it was great skiing, the best condition I have seen those runs in my 6 years there. So we got to enjoy the snow ghosts – the eerie looking snow encrusted trees at the verge of treeline – and actually ski the runs without being in a semi-controlled skid down the usual hardpack. The only negative was a 15-minute wait on the chair while the maintenance crew fixed a minor breakdown, but we were out of the wind and in the sun so we didn’t mind hanging there and resting our legs.
One of the best things about skiing mid-week is the lack of people on the slopes. Coffee time in the Sunburst lodge seemed to be just seniors and Aussies and there was rarely more than a 2 chair wait at any of the lifts. Most times, we were able to ski right onto the chair. Yes, we are spoiled!
On Thursday, our final day there, my group started with a few runs off the Sundance chair but since it was cloudy, with no sun on any of the slopes, Tony and I skied over to the Morrisey chair. It faces north and never gets much sun anyway. On dull days, the layout of the Morrisey blue runs – all of which are cut through groves of trees – provides better definition in flat light. We ended up skiing the rest of the day there. I didn’t even go in for lunch, just kept skiing right through until 3 p.m. My gps said that I descended over 10,000 metres elevation and over 63 kilometres downhill. Not a bad day for our last day there. The 10-hour bus trip back to Edmonton on Friday seemed to pass a lot quicker than the incoming trip the previous Sunday, probably because my exhausted body was thankful for the rest!