We slept in until eight. Luxurious. We ate breakfast downstairs, served by an enthusiastic Japanese woman who was very keen to refill my coffee every sip. We both had oats and then eggs: Dan had poached eggs, mine were fried, flipped, and hard. They must’ve cooked them in butter because they were perfectly crispy and salty and delicious.
Dan drove us to the Gondola Base for our ski day in Banff, our 300th day in Canada (unless I’ve completely stuffed up my consecutive day labelling, which is moderately likely). Ryland was able to get a discount on our tickets and the woman that sold them to us was quite happy to meet “Ryland’s friends”. The entire place sounds like it’s staffed by Australians, which is comforting. The sun was shining (appropriately, for the name) and we caught the high-speed gondola up the mountains, to Sunshine Village.
We started out at the Strawberry Express Quad chairlift and came down the Dell Valley green. The snow was icy, like what we first started learning to ski on in Ontario. Very different snow to Whistler on Monday. We tried Strawberry Face next, a blue run. We then worked our way across all the chairlifts: Standish Express, Wah Wah, Angel Express and even Jack Rabbit to get to Tee Pee Town – where Ryland and colleagues have spent a few weeks building a fort. We ate lunch early, and kept skiing straight after.
Daniel wanted to catch the Great Divide Express Quad chair lift; it goes right to the peak of Lookout Mountain. The view was magnificent; snow capped mountains line the horizon and the ski runs beneath you blanket across the landscape. We got to the top to see a sign: There are NO greens on this run. And no other way down than the 2 blacks and 2 blues, that honestly are all the same terrifyingly steep slope. The wind was blowing snow across the mountain side and my face was frozen (somehow my face guard got left at home, probably on the floor in the cupboard). I felt like crying. Daniel just happily points his skis straight downhill but I just haven’t got comfortable with sustained speed and steep slopes yet. I slid down sideways, on the edges of my skis, in between tight arcs of breath-holding turns. It wasn’t technically difficult. I knew I could do it. It was looking down the slope, facing a myriad possibility of open long bone fractures that took my breath away and made me turn my face to look away, up hill.
Eventually I got to the base, with much coaxing and encouragement from Dan. I was frustrated with myself and more annoyed with Daniel for making it look so bloody easy that I agreed to go back up, three more times! By the fourth time I only stopped once, halfway down.
We spent a good few runs doing Wah Wah Bowl and Tin Can Alley a few times each, as well as the Green Run 34. The latter has a long segment about halfway down that you need to speed down in order to reach the end. Dan, of course, just went for it. By the end of our day the visibility reduced so that you can’t see the two small hills in the middle, and without warning you feel almost airborne. All you see is white.
Things I learned today:
1. If I look at it, I ski towards it. I discovered this on the South Divide very steep blue from Lookout Mountain. I wanted to make sure I stayed on the blue run, and didn’t veer to the Bye Bye Bowl black diamond to the left, or the North Divide black diamond with moguls to the right. So I kept my eyes on the posts that had “29” in blue squares. And I kept skiing right into the posts with “29” in blue squares. Later, going down the fast bit of #34 I was watching the man in front, slowing down, when I realised I was heading right for him. I had to yell at myself, “Don’t look at him! Don’t look at him!” Just like with ice skating, as soon as I look at something, I move towards it.
2. My technique has improved. I’ve concluded this from how sore my legs aren’t. On our first few days of skiing this season my quads were cramping I’d tensed them so much. Today I’m a little sore, but after a hot shower I could go again. My muscle use must have got more efficient.
The ski out was probably the best part of our day; you see the setting sunshine warmly glow on the rocks and snow on the mountain opposite, your legs are tired and it’s a long ride back to the carpark.