Friday, 30 March 2012

Ski day 61: Fun SnowHosting duties

YTD cum vert: 387,980 m   YTD cum runs: 834

You should read about the snow conditions today over on my other blog here first.

We do all kinds of jobs as SnowHosts, and today I was fortunate to do one of the most fun ones: a VIP tour. For some (including today's), our constraints are off and we can take people anywhere their little heart desires (except of course the Dive or the Wild West, both of which require special equipment we don't carry).

My VIP? Someone with their own Wikipedia page and his family, all very good skiers.

However, the logistics of the day were entertaining. I was working Map Board in the village for the morning, and just as I was skiing in to commence my duties, my phone rang with my VIP tour assignment. I was to intercept the guests at ~11 AM, ski from 11-1:30, take them for lunch, then ski with them after lunch, too.

However, they were late, as VIPs sometimes are, for very good reasons. They arrived at 12:45. So my day started standing for 2 hrs in front of the Ski School office, saying hi to people, waiting for my guests. Mostly in a raging blizzard, sometimes in a swirling white out, but I had to wait.

Around here, I should mention that the ski suits they give us are very good.

So I was only able to manage 2 quick runs with the family before lunch. Fortunately, the viz was good enough to get them up near the top of the mountain, and we got some nice powder runs in.

Then we ate lunch. For 90 minutes.

So at 3 PM, I was able to get them back out. My guests wanted gnarley, so I headed to Goat's Eye. Sadly, the red signs were on the South Side Chutes, but we had fun on some good tree runs -- right up to the moment where he had to do a live interview by phone with TSN. Smack dab in the middle of the Scapegoat run.

We just made last chair on Goat's Eye, and when we got to the top, the Chutes had miraculously opened. In we went to a rockingly great run through boot top or better fields of untracked powder, which my guest loved.

I was sad we only got in 5 runs with them, but really glad I was able to show them a tiny slice of the best that Sunshine has to offer.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Silence is golden?

My mother always taught me that if I didn't have something useful to say, put my tongue between my teeth and bite. Now, my friends will tell you that I've never been really that good at heeding that particular bit of advice. But I haven't really had much to write about recently, so my blog has been silent for a few weeks. Here's some small things to catch up on.

Today was ski day 58 for me. I'm up to over 369,000 vertical metres (1.2 MM vertical feet) and 800 runs. Last year, I only did 54 days, but I got in a LOT of vert (461,000 vertical meters, or 1.5 MM vertical feet). My vert per day this year is low because of snow hosting, but even the days I'm not hosting aren't 10,000 days. Ah well. It's a marathon, not a sprint.


My girls competed in the Canadian National University Basketball championships and placed 4th in the nation, which impressed the heck out of me. That's better than the men's team did. They won their first game in the tournament by trouncing Regina, who had a 22-1 record (and beat us 3 times during the regular season). We won that game because for 3 quarters, we ran a killer, up tempo game and got up 20 points. We slacked off in the 4th quarter, and Regina fought back to within 6, but they were too deep in a hole to get out of (we had them 41-22 at the half).

But we lost the next two games (against Windsor, who went on to win the championships, and Ottawa) because we didn't play an up-tempo game. We played a slow, churning game and we're not good at that.

Ah well. Fourth in the nation is pretty damn good, if you ask me. I was proud.


This week, we kicked off our next reno project. We received plans for our new kitchen, and met with several contractors to "get this party started". We have a bunch of hoops to jump through, so expect to be starting in mid-July, just after Stampede. We picked then because my brother is (finally) coming out to visit with his family for Stampede. I have to find a mountain for him to climb...


Last May was Amsterdam. This May it's:
The Carolinas (with a lot of stops along the way).

(I have to work on my branding). We're going on a big lap of the South East USA, with stops in Devil's Tower, Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands of South Dakota, Kansas City, Memphis (both to eat BBQ), Atlanta, Charleston, Cape Hatteras, Washington DC, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smokey Mountains and then home -- just in time for me to go to Montreal for the Grand Prix.

Retirement rocks.


My posts are not complete without photos. So here are some critters that have been visiting us recently.

A squirrel pulls a break and enter on the bird feeder
A herd of Pine Siskins on my feeder
My Clark's Nuctcrackers (who like suet)
A White Winged Crossbill (kinda rare)

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Drive Home: Part 2

It was +8° and raining when we awoke in Cranbrook this morning. The road reports all called for poor winter conditions on most of our choices of routes, but all were open, so we decided to go the fastest route I mentioned yesterday that looks like this:
The plan for the day
and is ~300 km and 4 hrs. Just as we got to Radium Hot Springs, they closed Hwy 93 through the Sinclair and Vermillion passes. But surprisingly, the Trans Canada was open, and road conditions were reportedly good until the Alberta border. So we continued north on this route:
The revised plan
It adds almost exactly 100 km to the route, so is ~400 km and 5 hrs.

Temps were in the +5° range, and the roads bare and wet (from rain) from Cranbrook to Golden. The roads stayed just fine to Field where it started snowing. As if by magic (or more likely, government maintenance intervention), the roads went from fine to horrible the moment you crossed the Alberta border, and we drove the last hour in a raging blizzard with sloppy, snow covered roads.
Between Lake Louise & Castle Junction
So in the end, this was our 2 day journey:
Could we have a more circuitous route?
According to Google Maps, it's 1,068 km, and 15 hrs 30 minutes of driving time. Vernon to Golden via the Trans Canada Highway is 300 km. The detour from Vernon to Nakusp to Nelson to Cranbrook to Golden is an 810 km detour, adding about 510 km to the commute.

Sadly, the two friends I know along our route (one in Cranbrook, one in Invermere) were unable to see us along our journey.

On the bright side, we saw 3 bald eagles, one deer, 5 bighorn sheep and a small herd of elk. And a whole lot of the BC countryside.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Traveling Western Canada in the Winter

Done our vacation at Big White for the year, it was time to head home. Our normal route is north to the Trans Canada Highway (TCH) then east, as shown in the map below.
The Normal Route
By this route, it's ~550 km and 8 hrs drive time.

However, the lovely snow we've been having in Big White has caused no end of grief for the TCH. Last night, when we were packing to leave, the TCH was closed for part of the route (between Sicamous and Revelstoke) due to avalanches that were being cleared, and closures/delayed openings were threatened for the part through the Rogers Pass from Revelstoke to Golden due to the avalanche danger. The alternative route here is pretty long; the Selkirk and Purcell mountains are in the way. It looks like this:
The South route
By this route, it's ~800 km and 11 hrs 45 min. Based on this, we figured taking this route we were committing to an overnight stop somewhere (crossing mountain passes at night is ill advised). We didn't like it.

When we woke up this morning, the TCH was still closed between Sicamous and Revelstoke, but the forecast opening (with moderate confidence) was several hours before we would get there. The section through the Rogers Pass was slated for opening around the time we would get there, too. So we headed north.

All the way we were getting regular updates that the road ahead was opening bit by bit. But we got to Vernon (just north of Kelowna) and found out that the Sicamous-Revelstoke stretch had now shut due to multiple avalanches, and wouldn't open until tomorrow. Oops. Now what?

Our two choices at this stage became pull a 180° turn and head right back the way we came to take the south route, or to cut across the mountains and try to avoid the closures, using a route via Nakusp that looks like this:
Big White to Vernon to Nakusp to Revelstoke to home
This route? 675 km and 10 hrs, 45 min. It takes a long time because there are two ferry crossings of Arrow Lake.
Guess where?
It's a pretty drive full of windy, twisty roads. We got to Arrow Lake and the ferry, and what a fun little thing that is. The lake is so narrow and the ferry ramp angled just enough that perhaps, just perhaps, with enough speed, you could jump it. James Bond could, anyway.
I figure about 300 km/hr ought to do it
The ferry is a cable ferry, running a 5 min crossing back and forth every 15 min.

Part the way across 
Getting closer. Cables visible.
Almost there. Packed with cars...
This lake is used for moving logs, too, and there was a boom full next to the ferry dock...

Dramatic log shot
...being pushed around by one of those little tug boats.

Out of focus, but still
The lake itself is very long (about 200 km).
The pole is artistic, don't you think?
There's room for ~20 cars, but we only had 4.
Have roof bullet, will travel
There's also an extensive on-board selection of local tourist information.
Pamphlet, anyone?
And you get to see the "outer workings" of the ship.
Cable pullies
We got to Nakusp, got back into cell service, and found out that the Rogers Pass was now closed and wasn't due to open until 6 PM or later. More oops. Now we had to head south, or go join the other stuck folks in Revelstoke. South we went, through fascinating little towns like Silverton.
I liked the building. Looked like a movie set.
So now we were on this route, expecting to overnight in Cranbrook:
Big White to Cranbrook via Nakusp
This route? 675 km, 10 hrs 15 min. Which is about how long it took us.

We left Big White at 9 AM Pacific time and rolled into Cranbrook at 7 PM Pacific. But we went through a time zone change on the way, so arrived at 8 PM mountain. We found a hotel, checked in, then went out for dinner. I had picked a Greek restaurant in town that I had found on line. As we pulled up (at 8:30 PM local time on a Sunday night), they shut the lights off on the sign and we watched them turn the sign from Open to Closed.


So a quick check on my iPhone and I found a back up restaurant. We went there, and it too was closed (despite a sign saying open for take out from 5-9 PM Sundays). We ended up at East Side Marios. However, we were the only patrons in the whole place for the 90 minutes we were there.

To get home from Cranbrook tomorrow, this is the fastest route:
Cranbrook to home
300 km. ~4 hrs. However...

At this moment, a wicked snow storm is hitting Kootenay National Park. Parks is doing avalanche control on the road in the park tomorrow. Forecasts are for 30 cm of snow. The road is currently in poor winter driving conditions. It crosses two major passes (Sinclair and Vermillion). So there's a risk that we will wake up tomorrow and find the road closed (or worse, get to Invermere and the Kootenay Park turnoff and find the road closed). And if Hwy 93 closes, so will the TCH. This would be our only route around it all:
Cranbrook to home via Fernie and Calgary (almost)
500 km. 6 hrs, 20 min. On top of the 675 km and 10 hrs 15 min we have already done (to accomplish a 550 km, 8 hr drive).

Stay tuned for how this all ends.

And if you're coming to Cranbrook on a Sunday night, try to eat before 8:30 pm.

The end to one whacked out basketball season

In men's play, this weekend was the finals in the Canada West division of the CIS basketball championships. A stranger season could not have been had.

  • Traditional powerhouse University of British Columbia Thunderbirds finish out of the playoffs for the first time in god knows how long.
  • Season long Canada West second place University of Victoria Vikes, nationally ranked #5, place 4th in the Canada West Finals, leaving them out of the Canadian Final 8.
  • Season leaders of Canada West most of the season and the 2009/10 national champions University of Saskatchewan Huskies, nationally ranked #3, finish 3rd by beating the Vikes. However, due to the strange rules of seeding, it is unlikely that they will get the one wildcard berth to the Final 8 -- in part because they lost the Canada West final 4 tournament that they hosted.
  • Nationally ranked #4 Fraser Valley Cascades beat the Vikes to come in 2nd in Canada West. This earns them a seat at the Canadian Final 8.
  • Nationally ranked #7 University of Alberta Golden Bears, beaten twice in a row by my Dinos in January, take the Canada West title.
  • Speaking of my Dinos, they had a rather dismal 9 wins in their first 23 games of the season (including league and exhibition/tournament play) -- then went on to win 10 in a row, including 2 over Alberta, and one each over Saskatchewan and Victoria -- in the second half of the season. Credit the comeback to the return of 2 of 3 key players lost to injury early in the season.
No one I know or read could have predicted this outcome for Canada West.

Unfortunately, we all know Carelton University will take the nationals, so all will return to normal soon.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Ski day 49: Breaking 1,000,000 -- and snowshoeing

Vert: 8,660 m    YTD cum vert: 310,530 m (1,018,538 ft)
Runs: 20    YTD cum runs: 679

Last year, it took me 31 ski days to make 1,000,000 vertical feet, and it took until April 1st to do it. The year before that, 36 ski days and April 17th. In my 08/09 season, it was 33 ski days and May 16th. I'm not sure what these stats tell me other than (1) I'm getting less vert per day than before, and (2) I might break 2,000,000 this year...

And if skiing wasn't enough today, we also went on 5 km snowshoe through the forests of Big White at the end of the day.
Kickin' up the snow
We saw dudes on strange snow bike contraptions.
Tracked strangeness
We found lynx tracks.
10 cm tracks, back foot smaller than front
We "broke trail" -- if only for a moment.
Yours truly, up to my knees
But mostly we stuck to the trails and looked at cool wildlife tracks, while remembering how much work snowshoeing is.
Deep snow; deep tracks
You can read about our Big White week here.