I was a touch unsure how good the snow was going to be at Mt. Washington last week. I also thought it might be warm, relatively speaking, for skiing and snowboarding. Well, I was wrong about all of that.
There was so much snow, and the first day we got there, it was cold. Minus 3C, but with a windchill into the minus double digits. When our young people jumped out of the minivans, they were still dressed for the coast. Within thirty seconds, bags were being raided to find as much warm clothing as possible. I’m telling the truth when I say one person managed to put on 5 hoodies! Snow dazed!
It was such fun to be out in the snow with a group wanting to learn to ski and ride. They had boundless energy and enthusiasm – even after the lessons started, and they realized how challenging it can be at first. Two out of fifteen had had a previous lesson, and it showed. These two were carving steady S turns pretty quickly, and some of the others, newbies, weren’t too far behind.
I’m happy to report my return to snowboarding was a triumph, if measured by how many times I saved myself after catching an edge. No falls, but plenty of wobbles. Danger is my middle name. Or is it safety?
The tube park was a big hit. Safe and speedy fun for creaky kids of all ages, the young ones had a blast, and I had a go or two, enduring gentle mocking for not wanting to be spun around as I was sent on my way.
If you’re ever on Vancouver Island in the winter, and you’re missing some alpine action, I can highly recommend Mt. Washington. It’s a quiet hill, even when they said it was a busy day, compared to other places, and very well run, with friendly and helpful staff from the rental shop all the way to the lifts. As well as the downhill action, you can also choose to xc ski or snowshoe on what looked to be well maintained trails.
Since returning, on a high and in a snow daze, I’ve been asked by students over and over “when can we go again?” I think we’re working on that…
Teacher: Goodness! Are you alright? What happened?
Student: I fell over!
Teacher: But your arm is okay? Yes? Tell me the story!
Student: Well, I was going down the hill, and then I fell over!
We took a group of grade 5/6 students to WinSport, formerly Canada Olympic Park, at the west edge of Calgary. What an opportunity! Cold and sunny, not too windy, so what’s not to like? Three days of ski or snowboard instruction – why, that’s almost as good as three days in a classroom with Mr. PlaidCamper…
The rest of my week has been spent writing report cards, so the post is from the mouths of students. I started off with the tale of the broken arm – that’s what we thought when Ski Patrol radioed in and said there’d been an accident. Fortunately, ice , sympathy and time revealed no more than soreness and what I hoped would be quite the tale. We’ll do some work on embellishment and tall stories next week in class, because what you read above is the story D told me – he fell over.
Let’s try another one:
Student: When I was living in Nigeria, I had a dream about playing in snow. Today I will try snowboarding. God has given me a gift from my dream.
Teacher: That’s lovely, J – but do you think you could push your foot a little harder into your boot?
Student: I think I need smaller feet, Mr. PC.
Teacher: An interesting idea J, but perhaps we’ll try the next boot size up first?
J did get a larger size up, and he did spend three days learning to snowboard. Or three days playing in the snow. His first Canadian winter, and he’s embracing it!
How about P, who has ASD and loves Star Wars:
Student: Can I keep the boots? I’m like a stormtrooper on a snowboard. When I go home, I’m making lego Darth Vader on skis.
Teacher: Would Darth prefer snowboarding?
Student: No, he skis and Han Solo snowboards.
Fair enough. I’m looking forward to that movie.
Here are a few more snippets from students, and I have to say they thoroughly enjoyed their time on the “mountain”!
My butt hurts!
Can I switch to skiing? (After seeing a skier blast by)
Can I switch to snowboarding? (Snowboarder blasted by)
My board is the wrong colour – I need a blue one! (We did establish that colour likely wasn’t the issue, and that getting up and trying again helps…)
My butt hurts!
Can we eat this snow?
Are you really related to Shaun White, Mr. PC? (Not exactly, but there are similarities, don’t you think?)
But Shaun White has hair!
My butt hurts!
Can we come back next week?
Oh, how I wish we could be back there next week. Seeing students fall over, flail around a bit, realize they’ll have to pick themselves up, and then do so with a smile and a laugh, really gives me hope. Their character is revealed, and they start to realize that work, effort and play can, sometimes, be pretty much the same thing.
Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story, and have a wonderful weekend!
Who wouldn’t want to go slush-boarding in the sunshine?
Old friends from school days flew in from the UK last week, keen to have a little winter fun, and ski and ride some epic Western Canadian mountains. Well, the best laid plans…
The June weather was spectacular and – wait a minute! June highs in late March and early April? Hmm. Clinging to glasses half full, we hit the slopes at Louise and were rewarded with some big laughs and trying conditions – as in, have you ever tried to snowboard through melting ice cream? I know many skiers and riders enjoy spring conditions, and there is often a close to perfect window where air temperatures and snow conditions combine for a magical experience. It was a particularly small window that day, and it had been closed firmly by the time we were on the hill. Never mind.
So the downhill wasn’t great, but we did meet some interesting people. Spring skiers are different. I like to wear short pants, at the beach, amongst strangers, or when cameras aren’t working. But not so much on skis or a snowboard. Each to their own. Same applies for going topless – be my guest, but perhaps not on the slopes?
We had a lovely conversation with a rider who shared a chairlift with us on Saturday afternoon. As always, we were happy to share the chair, but less interested in his generous offer to share what he was smoking. The elevation at Louise is pretty impressive, but I’d wager few got higher than our chairlift companion that afternoon:
Dave: I’m Dave from Edmonton. Look! Trees, hehehe. You drive up today? Want some?
Us: Hi Dave, we’re PlaidCampers, drove up from Calgary yesterday. Thanks, but no thanks.
Dave: I’m Dave. Look! The mountains, they’re big, hehehe. Like mountains. Want some? I’m in construction. How about you? You from Edmonton?
Us: No, thanks, it’s all yours. Calgary, we drove up from Calgary, yesterday.
Dave: Yeah, I like Edmonton, and working outdoors. I’m in construction. Hehehe. Look! It’s sunny today. Bright. Hehehe. Want some?
Variations on this theme all the way up.
Us: Very kind, but we’re good. You ready to get off here? We’re lifting the safety bar (please don’t fall off…) Been great chatting, Dave, and you take care now.
Dave: That’s me! Dave! From Edmonton. Saving the rest of this for later…look at these mountains, hehehe. Have a good, um, good, um…
Dave: (slide-drifting from the chair) Yeah! Day, hehehe!
I hope Dave had a friend helping him get back to Edmonton. Hehehe.
Earlier in the day, we were heading down an easy green when we realized it was too easy, too flat, and the waves of slush we were throwing up were getting smaller and smaller as our slush-boarding got slower and slower. No problem! No thinking from me either. Quick as a flash (that’s not true, more like with the last gasp of forward momentum) I turned right and tipped over the edge into a promising looking black chute, fearless in possession of all that local knowledge. Oh yes.
The chute was fine for 30 metres or so, then as the trees thinned, so did the snow. Large rocks leapt out in front of me, patches of mud and grey grass suddenly appeared, and the snow banks collapsed and twisted every which way. I was a PlaidCamper pinball, at the mercy of gravity and my own dim wits. No high score on that play, but I was grinning at the stupidity and the ride as I emerged unscathed. I had yet to meet Dave, but looking back, I think he’d have wanted some.
We spent a chunk of time stopping for coffee, having lunch on the deck at Temple “beach”, soaking up the warm sun, marvelling at how none of us were injured this year, and fending off a very determined Clark’s Nutcracker. Do they even like vegetable soup?
We surfed – by mid afternoon it wasn’t even ice cream, more the remnants of a slushy cup – down to the parking lot and took a pleasant spring afternoon drive back to our lodgings in Canmore.
Dinner and drinks out in Canmore rounded off a great day. Glasses far more than half full, the arrival of spring, splendid scenery, great company, and all of us intact after a middling season on the hill. Not too bad. High on slush-boarding, hehehe…
Thanks for reading, and, as always, please feel free to comment or share a story!
(Most of the photos this week are from earlier trips to Louise – not fair to take photos of Dave, short pants skiers, or topless bods, I didn’t bother with the slush, or the soup, and there was absolutely no chance I could hold a camera and be a human pinball…)
Weekend mountains! They really help keep things in perspective…
Busy report card season or not, you have to play! We went to Louise last weekend, speeding (within posted limits) out of the city, across the prairies, through the foothills, and into the mountains. Poetry. It is a thrill every single time, and every single time we pass Castle Mountain, I say it is one of my favourites. This time around, the light was soft, fading fast, and Mrs PlaidCamper took a couple of photographs:
We mixed up our snow activities, opting to snowshoe on Saturday (more on that another time), and snowboard on Sunday. Saturday was bright and cold, whereas Sunday had a little more cloud cover and mist. It is great to see the mountains under perfect blue skies, but there are different moods created in other conditions.
I usually enjoy the first hour or two of the day the most – empty slopes, morning light, and the best conditions on the snow. We had all that and different mountain views with the mist and clouds.
Unwritten report cards, sore legs, poor board technique, and other cares are all put aside for a short while when you can sit on the snow and take in the view. A little perspective, a reminder of just how lucky we are, and to enjoy the time you have while you can. Try and appreciate that often in life “we’ve really got a good thing going!” (D. Bowie “Hang on to Yourself”)
Something of an aside here, but I can’t let it go unremarked. Bowie’s passing is such a shock, and maybe a reminder to live as fully as possible. I think he did! He seemed so full of vitality and creativity, and often appeared to be enjoying himself enormously. “Don’t stay in a sad place, where they don’t care how you are…” (D. Bowie “Everyone Says ‘Hi'”) – this sentiment seems fine to me. If you know it, an upbeat little pop song to celebrate an interesting life.
Anyway, hopefully we are back to the mountains soon. They always work their magic.
I’ll keep it short this week. Thanks for reading, please feel free to comment or share a story, and keep your guy ropes secure.
Don’t panic, this isn’t turning into FaceBook or anything – but do find something else to do if you read the title and thought “No, he wouldn’t!” because yes, I would.
Not a strong narrative thread, simply how the past week went and why I’m so tired – in a good way.
Thursday evening and Friday morning: parent/student/teacher interviews! Time well spent, and often invaluable for students and parents, but listening to myself speak for eight hours on educational matters is hard – did I really mean to say that? Was I too honest? What was I saying at the start of this sentence? Are they asleep?
Once the Friday interviews wrapped up, it was into the car and out to the mountains for some snowshoeing and snowboarding. A cosy cabin in Field, about twenty minutes from the ski hill, meant an easy early start Saturday for the best of the first turns. Except that only happens if I remember to set the alarm. Old and tired without an alarm means an unexpected lie in. Oh well, must have needed it, and we took a short woodland hike instead through pretty woods above the cabin. Lots of creaking; I think it was the trees.
Sunday, alarm set, and a good early start to Louise! The lift lineups were nonexistent all day, and conditions were pretty pleasant on the slopes given poor snowfall the previous few days and strangely warm weather. Grey and overcast, with the mountains looming and slightly menacing without strong sunlight, but striking anyway. We searched for patches of blue, and found one at the top of the world. It didn’t last, but we weren’t blue with so much mountain to play in.
Back to Calgary Sunday night, and packing hurriedly for two days in Kananaskis country with a group of students. An outdoor challenge camp designed to develop collaborative skills and boost esteem, as well as encourage a love for the mountain environment. And if they have a laugh or two at their teacher failing to keep pace, then all the better…for them at least. Hiking, climbing, clambering, and singing (not me, not the last one, that would be cruel…)
Tuesday evening, hand over the camp students to a colleague, and back to the city and hurriedly unpack and find clean(ish) clothing for three days of learning to ski/snowboard with grade 5/6 students at Canada Olympic Park. So you’ve had hardly any sleep the previous couple days – those bunks at camp aren’t luxurious or quite full size – but you said you really wanted to go to Kananaskis and be part of the learn to ski program, so stop your whining old boy.
Have you ever tried to “assist” with teaching snowboarding to forty enthusiastic children? You will laugh, you might cry, you will be nimble and in fear for your life, and you will discover you aren’t as young as you once were. When your most gullible student asks “are you sure you’re 29 years old, Mr. Plaidcamper?”, the game is almost up.
What a week! I complained (to myself), I laughed (a lot), I pulled new muscles (still have some), I wobbled (in many different ways), and I had a blast. To observe how students love to be outside, love to be challenged, and often don’t even have a (formal?) sense that they’re in a learning environment when it is outdoors, is wonderful. The perseverance and problem solving skills they develop are transferable to other life settings, sometimes explicitly, but often implicitly, and they’ll have an enormous reserve to draw on when faced with necessary adversity later in their learning. It was an exhausting week, (and I couldn’t do it every week), but tired as I am, I suspect it keeps me young at heart. Why, I feel 29(ish)!
Thanks for reading, please feel free to comment or share a story, and keep your guy ropes secure.
“Why is it called Moose Meadow? We never see a moose in Moose Meadow!” whines a pouty PlaidCamper every time we head to and from Louise along the Bow Valley Parkway. That PlaidCamper, always asking silly questions. Just because he never sees a moose…
I saw a moose in Moose Meadow! I believe it may be the moose of Moose Meadow. Last Sunday, a little before noon, a splendid sunny day, crisp and clear, and there he was! A safe distance from the road, right in the middle of the meadow, chewing contentedly, and far enough away that we weren’t bothering him by stopping and watching for a few minutes. It made our day.
I snapped a few grainy shots, and these are the clearest – the most moose-like of the bunch.
It really is quite obvious why this place is called Moose Meadow – who would question that? It’s a beautiful patch. In fact, if you ever get the chance to travel along the Bow Valley Parkway, take it. Running parallel to the Trans-Canada, it is the slower and quieter (off season) way to connect Banff and Lake Louise. You might even see a moose!
A very brief post this week – I mostly wanted to share this little highlight from last weekend. Before finishing, and as we’re on an animal magic trip, I’ll go back to last week. The picture of the wolf or coyote that ended the previous post prompted a couple of questions, so here’s the story…
We were heading down a quiet run at Louise, our first turns of the day. I dropped left into a steep slope and stopped as fast as I could, digging in my heel edge and using my backside as a brake (pretty effective anchor there), because a large coyote (wolf?) was trotting across the slope, right to left. As I sat down, and Mrs PlaidCamper joined me, the wolf (coyote?) halted and stared up at us. Hmm. Now what?
Fortunately, he decided we weren’t very interesting, and turned away and headed towards the wooded fringe of the run. Quite sensibly, Mrs PlaidCamper proceeded down the hill, and I started to follow but couldn’t resist peeking into the trees as I passed the spot the coyote had disappeared. He was still there! Not very sensibly, I drifted past and below as slowly as possible, toe edge in, reaching for my phone and taking the indistinct pictures you see here. Not at all the right thing to do, but Snowboard PlaidCamper isn’t the smartest fellow…
Animal magic – you never can tell what you might see or when, and the surprises are always a delight!
Thanks for reading, and, as ever, please feel free to comment or share a story, and keep your guy ropes secure.
For many of us this past week, our determination to view the world positively has been tested, but perhaps a solution to this problem can be found outdoors.
I’m aiming to be in a happy place mentally and geographically this weekend (do you find the two are inextricably linked, or is that just me?) We will be snowboarding at Louise, our first outing of the new season, and I’ve only been looking forward to this for about six months. The snow pictures this week come from the previous season or two.
I’m likely getting on a bit to be so excited about stepping onto a plank of wood and launching myself down steep snowy slopes, but what can I say? I love it! Don’t go thinking I’m some sort of daredevil riding a snowboard (only in my head), it’s more like a slower version of Driving Miss Daisy, where Miss Daisy is shaking a fist and yelling at me to move over. I get down the mountain…
It’s definitely not the adrenaline rush. I find that when I’m on the board, being on the board is all I’m thinking about, if thinking is the right word here. Everything else has to drop away, and there’s the balance, the movement – leaning one way then the other – and all the little adjustments made on the fly as you navigate the terrain. Finding equilibrium. If you’re lucky enough to be first out on a powder day, and the sky is blue and the scenery is sparkling, then so much the better.
I smile on a snowboard – it may look like a grimace, but honestly, that is a smile. I love how fellow riders and skiers all appear to be happy. Faces are lit up, stories are shared in lift lineups, and the mood of the day is upbeat. I know there are risks and accidents, and some can be severe, but life is about risk and exploring boundaries (without trampling over your fellows along the way), so enjoy it as best you can while you can. If that means being an elderly(ish) snowboarder, well, off you go!
A bit of a selfish post here, so I’ll keep it brief. A weekend in the mountains riding my board at Louise – fresh air, good company, a cabin at the end of the day – definitely a happy place!
Thanks for reading! Do you find happiness and equilibrium on a snowboard? Maybe somewhere elsewhere? Please feel free to make a comment or share a story, have a happy weekend, and keep your guy ropes secure.