Skiing

Skiing is something that has always interested me. From watching Ski Sunday and the Olympics, it has always looked so elegant and graceful. That was until I strapped planks to the bottom of my feet. As normal in our mainly snow free country, dry slope skiing is the usual start for the basic beginner. It was for me and Kay, at the festival park in Stoke on Trent. I was fine while we had the lessons, but it all turned horribly wrong when we tried it without the instructor. Falling forward is never a good idea when skiing anyway, but it is definitely not much fun on a dry slope. In the fracture clinic the following Wednesday I discover that I have a broken 4th metacarpal ( bones in the back of your hand ). It was not that bit of my hand that was hurting the most, it was the middle finger all around the knuckle. It was only on closer inspection of the Xray that the doctor, in their usual humorous way, says 'you see those five bones in you knuckle ? well that should only be one bone'.

I had my first experience of snow skiing in February 2000, with a visit to Banff in Canada. Skiing in Canada I could not believe the scale of things when I actually got to this country. The mountains soar up from all around, making the small town feel like it enclosed by huge walls. The cold is also extreme compared to the gulf stream encased world of the United Kingdom. To leave a nice warm aircraft in the middle of the afternoon and walk out into a foot of snow and -13° C is quite a shock. We arrived in Calgary just after a very heavy snow fall. If that had been an airport in Britain, there is no way it would have been open, but lucky for us it was. The hotel that we stayed in had an outdoor hot tub. This was great for removing the stiffness of the days skiing ( or falling in my case ). But how strange to have a water temperature in the mid 20's and an air temperature below freezing. If you risk getting your hair wet in the nice hot water, you also risk snapping it off if you leave your head out of it for too long. There is no chance that it will dry, but it will freeze. You must be very careful at night, as the streets of Banff can be filled with danger. I'm not talking about the local hooligans, but more the local wildlife. Elk have a habit of strolling into town to see what juicy leftovers there are lying about suitable for an evening meal. A cougar has also been seen in the area, causing some concern for the locals and tourists alike.

The first experience of snow skiing was so good that we are planning to go again. Same area, but different hotel. Canada was such a great place to visit. Friendly people, great food and beer almost like home. What more could you ask for.


The ski areas where I like to fall down a lot

(Clicking on a trail map will take you to some photos)

Lake Louise

The Lake Louise ski area is really the home of the tri area idea. It is probably the biggest of the resorts, with the back bowl area, and offers a great variety of skiing. The ski and board school start here on Thursday and Monday mornings. This does mean that the area can get overrun and very busy. It is still one of the best areas to learn at because of the big nursery area and gentle beginners slopes. Having said that there are still plenty of places to fall over as I found out again this year.


Sunshine Village

Sunshine Village is perhaps the biggest of the three areas. Unlike Louise and Norquay, you cannot jump straight off the coach and strap on your skis. This is because there is a 20 minute gondola ride from the base station to the village itself. Once you are in the village there are some great trails and the opportunity to ski in another state. Get on the Continental divide lift in Alberta and get off it in British Columbia. I've now fallen over in two parts of Canada.


Mount Norquay

Norquay is the smallest of the tri-area and one of the most underrated. The runs are not particularly long, but they can be some of the more difficult. It is as though the designers of the area have decided on a level for the run and then said, "here we go lets scare them to death". This is because the beginning of each run is at the next level up. The steepness of the first 50m on some of the blue runs would grace many a black. If you join any of the schools you will come to Norquay on your third day. If you are a complete beginner, it will still be a daunting place. One of the highlights of Norquay is the floodlit skiing on Friday nights.


Nakiska

Nakiska was the great find of the holiday. For the rest of the crew it was their 4th time in this area and the first time anybody has mentioned Nakiska. I have to say I hope it stays that way because the skiing was superb. Wide trails, deserted Piste and manicured snow, what more could you want. Nakiska was actually the site of the alpine events of the 1988 Olympic games. It has been computer designed and would be a wonderful place to learn. The trails were fairly long with a wide variety of terrain which really helps your skiing improve.


Following the links below will take you to the web pages dedicated to the holidays of the last few years.

Two Weeks on the Piste - Ski Holiday January 2001

Frozen Assets - Ski Holiday February 2002

Link to Banff, Lake Louise web site