Saturday, 31 December 2011

Ski day 15: Hugs and basketball

Vert: 8,500 m    YTD cum vert: 75,960 m
Runs: 13    YTD cum runs: 192

Today as a SnowHost, I got to play "Tokyo Subway Stuffer", packing people into the morning gondola line. This results in high efficiency loading, less congestion around the gondola base, and really does get folks on the hill faster. All my best photos from the day are up on my other blog here, so I won't re-post them.

At the end of the day, I was at the top of the ski out thanking people for coming, wishing them a safe trip down and a happy new year. I was hugged by three women, too. There's a perk of my job I never was told about.

A brief basketball update:

I know at least one reader of my blog is interested in the goings on with my local basketball teams.

My girls won their Christmas tournament, beating teams from the University of Toronto, University of Victoria and Royal Military College. Toronto has spent 5 of the first 7 weeks in the season in the top 10 ranked teams in the country, up as high as 8th. UVic was a powerhouse last year but has not been ranked in the top 10 this year. In late November, in regular season play, we beat the University of British Columbia, who have not been ranked below 5th in the nation so far this season. We're in a VERY tough division, with 3 top 10 ranked teams vying for play off spots with us (Regina, Saskatchewan and Alberta). But things are looking good.

The boys lost all 3 games over Christmas against California NAIA schools, the Azuza Pacific Cougars (losing 96-58), the Concordia Irvine Eagles (110-67), and the Biola Eagles (80-65). On the bright side, Dino's star import Boris Bakovic played a bit. Josh Owens-Thomas continues to play well, getting 28 min/game and averaging 6.9 ppg. Daan Wiersum is playing much less, managing only 5.8 min/game and 0.5 ppg. But then our coach likes to play his seniors and keep his freshman players on the bench. A lot. The Dinos have not done well thus far in regular season play, and I think it will take a near miracle to get us into the playoffs. Maybe Boris' return will help. The coach has also brought up two folks who played for us last year to assist. Here's hoping.

Happy new year to all.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Ski day 14: Rescues

Vert: 5,435 m    YTD cum vert: 67,460 m
Runs: 12    YTD cum runs: 179

SnowHosts have a bunch of jobs, including greeting and helping people at the base area, helping folks plan their day up at the map board, doing mountain tours and helping out at the ski out.

But we also do something call "courtesy patrol" where we search the mountain for people in need of help. Help can range from giving advice on routes off the mountain, to where to eat lunch, to how to get from Point A to Point B without walking (mostly for snowboarders). But the most important help we offer is to riders in distress.

Today I was on courtesy patrol, and (at the time) leading a snowboarder to the best way to access the ski out from the Angel Chair. I happened upon an accident scene, mere seconds after the accident happened. One quick call and I had patrol on scene offering medical assistance within 4 minutes of my arriving at the scene. In fact, it took me longer to get my skis off, cross them to form an X, pull off my helmet and gloves, and call the accident in to dispatch, than it did for patrol to get there after the call.

Once patrol arrives, I'm at their beck and call to help in any way needed. Given the location of the accident, they asked me to stay uphill and direct riders away from the accident scene.
Patrol on scene
So for a rather chilly and breezy 25 minutes, I swept folks from the scene as another patroller with a toboggan arrived. They packed the young man up and took him to the infirmary. I hope he'll be OK, but as he and I discussed, I think he's going to miss playing a few of his upcoming hockey games.

See my other blog here for an update of conditions today.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Ski Day 13: Skiing while recovering from eating

Vert: 4,275 m   YTD cum vert: 62,025 m
Runs: 11    YTD cum runs: 167

The Christmas eve tradition in our house it to make lobster. I have posted about this before, and we're still at it.
Ben, of Ben & Jerry. Yes, we name them
A few years back I started a new tradition: the making of home made lobster stock with the shells on Christmas Day. This has now begat a Boxing day tradition: the making of lobster risotto...
Partially cooked
...with the fresh lobster stock...

...and the meat squeezed from the legs of the lobsters.


For today's ski report, see my other blog here. I played tourguide to 2 folks from Ontario today, so got a bit of skiing in and covered most of the mountain.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Ski day 12: Smiles on tour

Vert: 4,520 m   YTD cum vert: 57,750 m
Runs: 14    YTD cum runs: 156

I was SnowHosting today, and got to lead my first ever mountain tour, for 6 nice folks from Ontario. It helps a lot that I grew up and learned to ski in Ontario, because I know what their mountains are like and have skied many of them. There are many things that differentiate Western skiing from Eastern skiing.

The first is vertical per run. This is the first year that my vertical per run has dropped below 400 m (1,300 feet). Last year my average vertical per run was 560 m (1,837 vertical feet) in 850 runs. Folks from ontario are used to at most 210 m (750 feet) per run. So my tour group was impressed but very tired at the end of only 10 runs.

The second thing that differentiates our skiing is snow. Ontario has mostly man made snow. Sunshine has no man made snow (except on the last tiny bit of the ski out). Ontario skiers don't get the "deep powder" experience that we westerners get all the time. So it was seriously fun taking them to a special stash of untracked powder we Snowhosts know of but save for tours. I even let them all get first turns in 20 cm (boot top deep) powder. The expressions on their face during and after the run were worth the price of admission. One fell, laughing her head off the whole time. They all had an awesome time.

The really funny part is that today wasn't a great day (see my other blog here for a report on the ski conditions). But it was great for them. And that's why I'm a SnowHost.

No pictures today as my camera batteries died on the first photo.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Dec 23: Ski Day 11, and Christmas presents to us

Vert: 7,755 m   YTD cum vert: 53,230 m
Runs: 16    YTD cum runs: 142

KC and I took the last 3 days to give ourselves a Christmas present and finally move us (and our cat) into our new house, spending our first night here a mere 129 days after we took possession. There is still much to do. Ignoring our art (about 20 unpacked boxes), we still have at least a dozen boxes not yet unpacked. Despite the construction of a new bedroom closet...
Red doors. Cool. stuff still resides in 3 different chests of drawers and now 4 closets. We still have much to organize, despite adding an entry closet this week, too.
The new Pax wardrobe/front closet -- already full
The hardwood in the little bathroom looks great.
Still work to be done, but the floor rocks
The living room with furniture looks much better than without furniture.
We still have lots to do. There's boxes to unpack, clothes to organize, a kitchen to re-arrange, lights to get and install, lights to replace, a kitchen to re-work, art to unpack and hang, a West Wing to clear out, and much, much more. But...
We    Are    Now   Home
To celebrate, we took a day off to go skiing, a snow report for which can be seen on my other blog here.

I'm SnowHosting tomorrow, again Tuesday and next Friday. Christmas is always busy on the hills with guests from all over the world. Today we rode chairs with folks from Denmark, Birmingham and San Diego.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Ski day 10: Powder again

Vert: 6,800 m    YTD cum vert: 45,475 m
Runs: 14    YTD cum runs: 126

We were in Calgary on Sunday and missed a day of dumping snow. I'm OK with that now since I can go get it on Monday. And while the weekend warriors got most of the fresh lines, there were still a few to go around, like these in Bye Bye Bowl.
There's a rock band in the middle, but it's otherwise great
KC and I both had separate huge crashes today. I went barreling into a powder field and wasn't aware of the lip on the entrance; I took air and planted it doing about 40 km/hr. KC was coming down on the right side of the photo above and got caught in a track and tumbled in the deep powder. Took her a while to get up, too.

See my other blog for more photos and a better snow report.

The next few days are moving days for us. Tomorrow, we have to go back to town to get some stuff, then we spend Wednesday & Thursday moving out of the West Wing and into the house. I'll post some photos Wednesday of the hardwood repairs.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Ski Day 9: Windy

Vert: 4,635 m   YTD cum vert: 38,365 m
Runs: 10    YTD cum runs: 112

Man, it was blowing stink today up at Sunshine. The winds at Kananaskis Ridgetop at 7 AM had already broken 135 km/hr. Today was a SnowHost day for me, and I worked the ticket and stairs area for a few hours, then got some runs off the newly opened Goat's Eye that were soft just like velvet. But this afternoon, chairs closed like storm doors in the winds. We didn't have any tour customers this afternoon, so we did touring practice (I did OK, but made one mistake in picking a gathering point).

KC fought for an hour to get Coldplay tickets this morning while I was off having fun working.  She now dislikes Ticketmaster as much as I do.

See photos from today on the hill at my other blog here.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Ski Day 8: More powder, and a brief house update

Vert: 5,180 m    YTD cum vert: 34,040 m
Runs: 19    YTD cum runs: 102

We were late arriving today as we spent some time at home trying to get half-decent tickets for Coldplay through the various pre-sales I knew were on. I had lots of opportunities to get nosebleed seats. Big whoop.

So we got to the hill just before lunch, and there was still plenty of powder around from the snow that fell last night. We arrived at 11:15 and parked closer than we ever do when we get there at 8:45 on a Saturday. So at least one reason there was still a lot of powder around was a lack of crowd. Gotta love mid-week skiing.
KC crashing the trees 
Me coming out of the trees
See my other blog at for a full snow report.

A House Update:

I should have taken pictures yesterday, as the hardwood was installed in the living room, and they started putting it down in the bathroom, too. We move the couch and some other living room furniture from the West Wing to the house, and checked to confirm that my furniture layout that works on paper will in fact work in real life. Today, hardwood installation was to have been completed. All that is now left is a bit of touch up painting, one missing light fixture, and the re-installation of the toilet that was removed to install the hardwood.

We sorted out the plan to move everything else from The West Wing to the house, and we will be installed by the evening of December 22nd. I ski the 23rd, and SnowHost the 24th, so our Christmas present to ourselves is to spend the first nights in our new home.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Ski Day 7: In and out, up and down

Vert: 6,130 m    YTD cum vert: 28,860 m
Runs: 17    YTD cum runs: 83

The day started off sunny and a bit warmer than yesterday.
Middle World Cup Downhill
But clouds rolled in as the day progressed...
Cirrus and lenticulars to start
...then it pretty much socked in just after lunch with high clouds that did a real number on the viz.
Divide from the top of Standish
So while we spent the morning playing in the powder that still remained from Sunday's night's snowfall, we spent the afternoon down low having fun at Wawa crashing trees and at Standish crashing moguls on shorter runs. My rule of thumb is that every mogul run I do takes at least 2 runs off my run count for the day, and at this early point in the season, it's more like 3 or 4. So we didn't stay long. It did however start to clear up about 3:30.
Blue sky over Wawa Ridge (from the top of Standish)
See a full snow report on my other blog at

Monday, 12 December 2011

Ski Day 6: Chilly powder

Vert: 7,295 m    YTD cum vert: 22,730 m
Runs: 20    YTD cum runs: 66

Finally a "full" day of skiing, after several abbreviated days.

It snowed on Sunday but we chose to skip skiing and work on the house. It was overcast with no viz anyway, and according to the radar I kept looking at, most of the snow was falling to the east anyway. For instance, at the West Wing, we probably had 8 cm; at our house 10 min up the road, it was more like 4 cm. But the snow crept into the mountains as the afternoon progressed yesterday according to the radar, and Sunshine was reporting 7 cm on the report this AM. Plus, it was another bright blue sky day. Hmmn... blue sky plus powder? A good combo.
Acres of fluff
A small cloud kept wrapping itself around the top of Divide. It wasn't thick enough to spoil the viz, and it made for some very nifty runs.
Riding the chair up into it 
The view from in it 
Down into the gray 
KC crashing turns below it
We found tons of untracked powder all day, with depths ranging from 5 cm to 10 cm. Looks like it fell with very little wind, as there was no buildup near any snowfence I saw.

The only downside to 5-10 cm is that it can hide hazards without giving them enough coverage to be safe. Accordingly, we hit some rocks today. In addition, it felt pretty cold. It was only -13° to -8° in the afternoon, which isn't cold in my books. But it sure felt chilly.

Last night up on the hill was the Sunshine Staff Christmas Party. I thought about going but chose not to for various reasons. Everyone I talked to today all really enjoyed it, and said they did a great job with the food and the party itself. Next year.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Ski Day 5: Real SnowHosting

Vert: 4,410 m    YTD cum vert: 15,435 m
Runs: 15    YTD cum runs: 46

So my first day SnowHosting was a training day. My second day was filling in for others on training, and was only a half day fill for the morning. Today was my first real day.

I started this morning at the Map Board in the Village. I was really glad we skied yesterday, as the primary questions we get there are "where's the best conditions?" and "I'm rusty and would like to start somewhere easy". So for 2 hrs, I helped folks plan their day to get the best conditions, getting time for a one run break.
Early AM on Strawberry
At 11 it's lunch for us at the Staff Cafeteria, since at 11:45 it's time to start gathering for tours. We had a couple of tour groups today, so we went on a 2½ mountain tour showing off powder stashes and the best routes around the mountain to some guests in from Denmark.
World Cup Downhill 
Top of Angel 
Tin Can Alley looking at why Goat's Eye isn't open
At the end of the tour, I got 15 minutes off to warm up at Goat's Eye Garden before it was time to head to Jackrabbit.

Our job there is the prevent people getting mad at us. Despite 2 signs there, a lot of folks don't know how to access the ski out, and it's our job to point them in the right direction (while stopping them from going on runs that look like the ski out but are in fact uphill slogs that involve walking. People who have to walk uphill get mad at us. Especially snowboarders). So for an hour from 3 to 4, I helped about 300 guests find their way down, re-connecting with some of the people I helped at the map board this morning.

Then it was a patrol run down the ski out, where I found downed signage to fix and stranded guests who were walking down the ski out to help.

My day started at 8:15 and I finally got back to the parking lot at 4:20. Now I'm weary.

But it was fun.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Ski Day 4: Sunny thinness

Vert: 5,140 m    YTD cum vert: 11,025 m
Runs: 13    YTD cum runs: 31

I think KC is learning to like midweek skiing. Few crowds, no lines at our favourite lunch haunts, getting up "late" (a lizardly 8 AM wakeup call had us in the parking lot at 10:05), riding what you want and quitting when you feel like it.

Today was one of those days where we bailed early, mostly since the light was fading. It's impressive how low the sun is at 2 PM. We were riding Angel chair and the sun was barely above Standish Ridge. I guess it's one of the downsides of skiing in December.

Still, it was a beautifully sunny day, and we searched and found some nice powdery tracks. We started our day on Wawa, as I was checking out potential tour routes that I may have to guide one day in my role as SnowHost.
AM sun on Wawa
We were all over the mountain though didn't ride Standish today.
Obligatory shot from top of Divide
We found some great lines today, including over descending into TeePee Town. Here's some pictures taken from the Angel chair:
Lower OS Pitch; very nice 
Access to TP Bowl
As I mention over on my blog at Powderwatch, if you knew where to go, it was a great day. However, since we haven't had snow since last weekend, and need a bunch more, the coverage is starting to get thin in spots. So if you didn't know where to go, it was dicy in places.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Ski Day 3: Skiing the impossible

Vert: 755 m   YTD cum vert: 5,885 m
Runs: 5   YTD cum runs: 18

As a Sunshine lover and SnowHost, I rarely ski elsewhere. Sure, we have our annual trip to Big White, but since the 07/08 season, I have put in exactly one day elsewhere (Norquay) -- and on that day, I tried to go to Sunshine but it was closed due to high winds, so Norquay was a "back up plan". Today, I got to go somewhere few people do:
Fortress Mountain
Now there's a name that brings back fond memories for a lot of folks. Lots of people liked the place, and were sad when past owner RCR (owners of Lake Louise and others) shut it down. Banff Rail Company bought the place and nearly managed to run it for a year or so. Then it was taken over by a different owner group, though it has never re-opened. For the last few years, not much has been going on there. The owners argued with the Provincial Government over an old bridge on the access road. Movies have been shot there (including Inception), and the movie makers re-built the bridge. But on-going negotiations between the owner group and the Government have meant the place hasn't yet re-opened.

Well, it so happens I know one of the principles of the new owner group, and Rob kindly invited me to go up sled skiing with him today (the lifts don't operate at this point). What a kick; you get to ski your very own personal ski resort. Not only that, because they are currently shooting both a movie and a TV commercial up there...
Unhappy camera-jib equipped car's a personal ski area with groomed runs. I just wish the conditions were better (gosh, I'm demanding).

As I explain on my other blog at, there was a wind crust I had to avoid. We couldn't ski the old Frontside as that was in the way of the Nissan commercial being filmed. We couldn't ski the Farside because that was where "The Bourne Legacy" was being filmed. But the best snow was on the Backside anyway. How do I know this? Because as part of the safety protocol, they have two ski patrollers there supporting the various film shoots. They check conditions and assess avalanche hazard daily.

By the way, the two patrollers? Chris Chevalier and Rowan Harper, two of the folks involved in the issues at Sunshine last year. No, we didn't talk about any of that, nor do I find it interesting, and nor would I post about it even if I did.

So on the Backside, there was a bunch of blow in snow sitting on the crust which made for really sweet turns (so long as I didn't break through the crust). And as I was the only one skiing today, all the tracks were mine. Fresh, untracked pow every run. Since you may not remember Fortress, here's a trail map to look at.

I started out on Enchanted Forest (#29)...
Shame for the flat light
...which was sweet but still a little windblown. So Rob took me to Palisade (#20), which was super nice from top to bottom, so good that I took 3 runs on it.
Run 1 
Run 2 
Run 3
It was around here that Rob's snowmobile started to get unhappy with "Check Engine" lights on and blue smoke, so we had to call it a day even though it was only lunch.
The left side of Farside, and the Fortress
Near the base of the Backside Chair
The top of the old Curve T-Bar looking down the valley
The main part of the Farside
It's a very rare privilege to be able to ski Fortress, and I want to thank Rob for taking me up there. There's a chance that they will start a Cat Skiing operation there when all the movies are done in February. If they do, check it out. And cross your fingers that this little gem of a hill re-opens. Soon.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Ski Day 2: Blue Sky & Early Season Pow

Vert: 3,605 m   YTD Cum Vert: 5,160 m
Runs: 10   YTD Cum Runs: 13

Today was my first official day actually SnowHosting (at least for part of it). I did the "meet & greet" part of our job at the Borgeau Base area, helping folks at the ticket window. While I was doing that...
Yours truly on the right
...KC (who came in early with me) was bagging first tracks on Divide.
Now there's a dream start to the day
As you can see, it snowed last night. As I mention in last night's post, we had to go to Calgary for the evening last night. KC left early to do some running around, and I went in after SnowHosting. On my way in, the weather was fine to Hwy 22, then from there to Westhills, it was a blizzard with snow covered roads and 50 km/hr. In town, KC got stuck in the Calgary traffic, which was paralyzed by the bad weather. The drive home was MUCH worse, with a blizzard the whole way, crappy viz and a LOT of snow on the roads. The traffic was light, which was fortunate, because plows had not been out and the lanes were missing. There was a semi-truck jackknifed on the highway. There were folks doing 40 km/hr. There were folks driving in the middle of the road. There was one plow. Fun times, and a 50 min drive turned into a 90 min "experience".

Unfortunately, the heavy snow stopped at Lac Des Arcs (I say "unfortunately" from a skiing perspective. It would have been nice if had not snowed at all from a driving perspective). But Sunshine and the rest of the mountains still got some, making yesterday's nice conditions very sweet indeed. Add to that a bluebird sunny day with little wind and moderate winter temps and you have the makings for a very sweet day indeed.
11:30 AM - Compare to the first tracks photo above
Sun, snow and no crowds
From way over on Standish at 1:30.
It was a great day. More snow allowing the opening of more terrain would have made it better. Now, looking at my stats, this is the earliest in the season we have ever skied (first days in the last 5 years: Dec 5, Dec 12, Dec 18, Dec 22 & Dec 30). So taking that into consideration, I'd call this a pretty awesome early season day.

Ski Day 1: Just a taste

Vert: 1,550 m
Runs: 3

This will be but a brief update as it is late and I am up early in the AM.

Saturday was my first day as a SnowHost at Sunshine Village, and as expected, it was an orientation/training/paperwork day. Your first day with new companies is always spent filling in forms and listening to managers, and Sunshine is no exception. But I also got a look see into all the back offices, and got tours through the Infirmary, Mountain Operations, all the rental places, and offices inside cubbyholes I never knew existed. Very cool, and I'll say, man, are the "offices" these folks use tiny. For instance, all the SnowHosts share a space the size of a broom closet.

Since my on-hill time was mostly orientation, we only took two runs to talk about on-hill tour planning and execution. I have posted a more detailed review of the ski conditions over on my other blog at, but I didn't have time when I wrote it to post pictures.
The terrain park, still a ways from opening 
The top half of Divide, in pretty nice shape 
A fuzzy Quartz Ridge from the top of Divide.
I had to run into Calgary tonight, and much to my surprise, ran into a huge blizzard just outside of the city. It dumped on the city for several hours, leaving me with about 6" of snow on my car, then I drove back through the same raging blizzard to get home. The roads sucked both ways, and I don't think I broke 80 km/hr all the way.

Tomorrow is my first actual SnowHosting workday. Should be fun!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

So close we can taste it

We left for Maui with work left to do on the house. Much was indeed done while we were gone, but alas, some is still ongoing.

The electrical was a bigger job than anyone imagined as the house appears to have been wired by a drunken monkey with schizophrenia high on LSD, using a roll of electrical tape and speaker wire. Every time the electrician tried to fix an obvious problem, a new one would be found. Examples:

  • Yesterday, for reasons we have not yet figured out, the light switches in the bedroom no longer control the bedroom light. They did the previous day. All that happened was that the electrician wired up a new light. In a different room. On a different circuit.
  • We had a 3 way switch wired incorrectly. It took over 2 hours for the electrician to find out what the guy had done. He had cross-wired hot wires with ground in one of the junctions. The "switch" was not opening and closing a circuit, it was just breaking the connection to ground. The circuit was hot at all times. Nothing short of a fire waiting to happen.

In addition to this obvious set of headaches, it turns out that while we now have a lot of lighting installed, we do not, in fact, have the light bulbs. The bulbs we need (MR-16's in a mix of 20W, 35W, 50W, shielded & unshielded) are sold out at all the shops in town including the newly opened Canadian Tire. The Canadian Tire lighting manager said he sold out within 4 days of opening 2 weeks ago, and now they're all on back order. Light bulbs are an hour's drive away.

Still, the final painting is underway, and our new hardwood has arrived so we can fix the floor. If I were an optimist, I'd say we can move in starting next week.

But it may be the week after. Or the week after that.