As we slipped our way around the icy Mount Norquay parking lot and I fumbled with coats, gloves, hats, and dickies, I muttered to myself my disdain for winter and its various activities.
“Why do I live on the prairies, where winter is nearly 8 months long?,” I thought. “I’m a coastal kid, where winter is on the mountains. A season you can visit if you want, but you don’t have to live with.”
Even then I didn’t visit often.The last time I rode on snow was 2004. I took some snowboarding lessons. Before that it had been easily 6+ years since I had skied with radio station ski teams.
Winter sports and I weren’t always so divorced. In my teens we spent winters at Mount Baker, and I did night skiing in high school on the North Shore hills in Vancouver. So I had been on snow a lot in the past, but, really, before this Sunday scramble across the frozen parking lot, I had ridden down a hill on only one occasion in nearly 20 years.
I turned away from the sport because it’s expensive, you’re cold and wet, there’s a lot of gear to move around, and well, you have to have winter to ski and I don’t like winter.
And yet there I was, packing my bundled kids through the slippery Mount Norquay parking lot and heading into the rental shop to pick up our gear for the day.
It was my idea, this 2 day winter ski break in Banff. The boys had 2 professional days and instead of staying home and being bored, I organized a trip to Banff where we would dip in the Upper Hot Springs, hopefully skate on Lake Louise or Lake Minnewanka, maybe climb up Johnston Canyon, and go skiing at Mount Norquay.
Charlie had some ski lessons with his kindergarten class this year and took to the sport easily. Zacharie had the same lessons a few years back, and last year took some with our community association. The boys like the sport, but I’ve always been hesitant because expensive, cold, wet, gear, winter.
But being a parent means pleasing the kids, and in this case a mountain escape was on the agenda.
I wasn’t feeling well the night before our visit to Norquay. I was in bed before 7 with a fever and was resigned to not skiing, and instead spending the afternoon watching my boys go up and down the bunny hill carpet for an hour or so before warming up with hot chocolate.
Then Dave, our host at Norquay, mentioned he had arranged an instructor for me. I hemmed and hawed, and next thing you know I was in the rental room shoving my feet into the stiff ski boots, juggling poles and walking over to the chair lift.Now I’m a helicopter-ish parent in the sense that I like to watch my kids. Sure, maybe I’m there to be a security blanket for them, but I really and truly like to see them try new things, succeed, and make new accomplishments. I beam with pride. So I negotiated with my instructor that we would watch the boys take a few laps of their course to make sure they were comfortable before heading out on our own.
I waved goodbye to the boys and rode the chair up the easy green lift. David, my instructor, would hang behind and offer any pointers cutting me some slack on my first turns in twenty years. The slopes were a little icy, the first cut had me wincing that a knee would buckle, but by the bottom I was hooked.
The brisk wind on my face, the easy pumping of left and right, the rush of going a little too fast. Suddenly I was 16 again and racing my brother down Daytona at Mount Baker. It truly was ‘like riding a bike.’ Once I realized I could do it, and my body remembered how to do it, we quickly accelerated to some steeper blue runs. No problem. I was gliding and turning and shushing with a huge grin.
Then the thigh burn.
45 minutes was enough for me to know that a) I could do it b) I liked to do it c) my life was about to get a lot more expensive.
David and I circled back to find the boys who had progressed through their lessons enough to make their first turns off a real chairlift. They flew down the hill.
That night, as the boys rested after a very full weekend of activities, I poked through Kijiji and Craigslist pricing out equipment. It looks like we’ve just become a ski family.
Disclosure: This trip was provided to me by Banff Lake Louise Tourism