Thursday, April 22, 2021

Ha Ling solo adventure

Disclaimer: Terry neither took nor edited these photos.

After last week's aborted attempt to hike Wasootch Ridge, I realized I needed conditioning - more hiking. Everyone else in the family had other plans for the day, so over the weekend I took myself to Ha Ling. First impression: wow it seems like the road to nowhere as you head towards. I worried the potholes would break the car. Second impression: I was surprised and delighted to find a parking spot in the parking lot. Third impression: nobody should hike in the mountains in April without decent ice cleats and yet a full half of my fellow travelers lacked them. As some careened down steep parts I feared I'd be knocked over like a bowling pin.

 This hike completely  kicked my behind - I played a guessing game about which body parts would be sore the next day. (Spoiler: more parts than I expected)  It was steep and challenging. All the scree at the top made me fear falling off the mountainside. During the hike, all the nice firm ice the cleats could dig into warmed up and became slush that provided no traction. The downhill was nearly as treacherous as the uphill was. It was AMAZING.

At the top, I was sitting on the rock ledge you can see on the bottom right of the above photo. The snow you see just above it is a relatively thin icing, the other side is just a massive cliff.

These are the mountains I could see during the entire hike once I got above the tree line.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Lake Louise, Take Two

 In deciding where we will ski all of next winter, we realized that a mountain we'd visited once, on one of the coldest days in a cold place, and where we'd finished on a really sour note - was not the way to make an informed decision.  So mid-March we tried again. As we pulled into the parking lot (the third lot entrance, meaning WAAAY to the back) we realized this would be nothing like what we'd experienced before.

It was so much warmer this time that Zoltan frequently complained of overheating. We discussed getting waterproof rain pants he could wear instead of his snowpants for warmer weather skiing.  Even with a much more crowded park we never waited more than 5 minutes to get on a lift. This could definitely be because most folks come to LL to ski the black diamonds, whereas we emphatically did not. However, we did not notice long lines at the other lifts, so perhaps not.

Even Alex enjoyed herself, and she's been a pill on ski trips since she came out of quarantine. I'm whispering this to avoid her notice in hopes she continues to enjoy skiing. 

I still think I prefer Sunshine, with its much wider range of greens and blues (recognizing the kids will likely move to blacks after a few more lessons) and its super fun powder. At this point, what we do next year is anyone's guess!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Elbow Trail to Snagmore Loop


Between skiing, bad weather, and some foolish promises to the kids, we have not hiked much lately. For this trip we had the constraints of needing to be relatively close to home and some cell service. We left the kids at home and hit Bragg Creek.

Ice cleats were 100% necessary, as the melting/freezing cycle was in full swing and the half of the path that wasn't a muddy mess was sheets of ice.  I started the hike wearing: T shirt, long sleeved T shirt, merino wool sweater, fleece, waterproof shell, hat and mittens.  I ended the hike wearing: Tshirt and shell. definitely tested the boundaries of my new backpack as I stuffed layer after layer in as we, and the world, warmed up.

It was a lovely little walk in the woods. There are some great mountain views along the ridge (which we encountered first, having gone the counterclockwise route) and the rest of the trail is foresty. We watched a couple of squirrels have their lunch - I'd never actually seen them eat before. The trail is very, very well marked, which is always a huge gold star in my book.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Being Jewish in Calgary

 There is not a large, thriving Jewish population in Calgary. That became abundantly clear last year during the frustrating Hunt for Hanukkah Candles, where when I finally found some (thank you Michaels) I went ahead about bought enough for all three years. Last year I also made my own matzah, having given up on even searching for it.

This year i decided to do better research. After all, there are three different synagogues in the city, AND a JCC - although they are all within about three miles of each other in a part of the city far, far from mine.  The research turned up solid gold: there is one Safeway grocery store, down in the neighborhood of other Jewishy things, that not only carries Matzah but actually has a Kosher food section!  

caveat: Terry did not take this picture and does not sanction its presence on the blog

Our pilgrimage took place this weekend. Upon entering the store we were met with this Wall O' Matzah,  and it only got better, with matzah meal for the matzah ball soup, or soup kits, or pre-made balls in broth in glass jars. Three kinds of horseradish.  Gefilte fish. They even had a full range of Passover candy.

Monday, March 8, 2021

The Buy Nothing Group

 One major silver lining of COVID is the development of local Buy Nothing groups. Through ours, I have rid our house of outgrown kids' clothes, snowshoes, cookware, toys and games. We have acquired other cookware, food items, a white board just when ours died, and - most importantly - school supplies the night they became necessary.

When Alex mentioned in the late afternoon that she needed two balloons for science class the next day, I took a deep breath. We're trying to limit our trips to stores, and we don't have any balloons. In comes the Buy Nothing group. I asked if anyone had balloons. A few people did. One of whom said she was running out to the wine store and would drop off the balloons while she was out. Jokingly, I asked her to drop off some wine as well. 

Later in the evening she writes back that she had dropped them off in a bag at our doorstep. I go out to pick it up. In the bag, in addition to the balloons, is a bottle of wine. My heart is so overfull.

Friday, March 5, 2021


To finish the trifecta of "SkiBig3" we headed to Sunshine Village on Sunday.  The weather was nearly the exact same as the day before, so perfectly cold, although the sun never came out and the wind howled (although the wind may have only seemed stronger due to nothing blocking it).

We'd noted the warnings about getting there early for parking, and pulled into a spot at right about the middle of the lot at 8:00am. Upon the sage guidance of the gentleman directing traffic, the first folks ready with their gear (Terry and Zoltan) went to (1) buy the kids' tickets as the adults had ours from Costco and (2) get into line for the gondola up to the lifts. 

I'll just say it took 1.5 hours from getting into line to getting off the gondola at the top and leave it there.  Although, needless to say, we were pretty grumpy.  Later in the day we rationalized that waiting for 1.5 hours, then basically not at all, is actually a better deal than waiting between 10-30 minutes for every run. 

In the wake of Norquay's surprises we had done quite a bit of research on Sunshine and had a solid game plan. We started with a recommended green run that was this big bowl and the snow was beautiful powder and it was so much fun!  The lift was short and the runs shorter but the longest we waited in line was 5 minutes.  And the trails are barely trails - there is so much open expanse it's pretty close to "well, everything over that way will be green, everything over that way is blue. Just get down to the bottom however you feel." The guides Sunshine puts out are spot on - we read one that tracked what it called "light blues" and for the runs we did it ran perfectly true.  We got up and down each run so quickly that our legs were on fire by 2pm and we decided to call it a day.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Mt. Norquay

We have a mission to try the main ski mountains in the area this year, to choose the contenders for next year's season pass (only one will win this contest!) To that end, we booked an airbnb in Canmore and had plans/reservations at Norquay and Sunshine.

Saturday was Norquay. From the trail maps things looked beautifully simply laid out - one lift appeared to have trails that were mostly black; one had mostly blue, one mostly green, etc.  We generally start off on green. The lift had five different lines that converge right at the end. We waiting in line 15-30 minutes for each run. After a few runs we decided to try the blue. We followed the route marked "easiest run" - so presumably the easiest blue route down. It was pretty challenging.  It was even more of a surprise because we had tried all the green runs on the "green" lift and none of them were what I'd call a "dark green" - so it was a significant jump.

One thing I found fascinating is the dedication to moguls that seemed to dominate the majority of runs - there was even a green run of moguls - something I had never seen before.  Zoltan enjoyed trying them out and getting a feel for what it's like, and I am sure he'll enjoy moguls even more as he progresses.

All in all, the skiing wasn't very fun and we cut the day short.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Chester Lake

 The fog was so thick I am pretty sure there should have been additional mountains in view.  The hike was a bit of a slog - the "snowshoe" path had significantly more elevation gain than the "cross country ski" track (which is also the summertime normal path). Terry didn't even bother to take photos with the nice camera.

The good news was the day was icky enough to keep folks at home, so even though we didn't arrive until around 11am there was plenty of parking.  It's a really popular snowshoe trail but the snowshoes were not needed as long as we stayed on the trail. It might have been icy but we had our ice cleats on from the beginning so we wouldn't know. There was one steep part that we "sledded" down on our behinds.

Guess we'll have to go back with better weather!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Lake Louise, negative 30 degrees

The kids have a 5 day weekend (one has a 6 day weekend but I put in a dentist appointment, bwa-ha-ha). So, Terry and I took off Thursday - the first day of this holiday - and we booked a ski day. Due to COVID and being working adults who have to ask for time off and coordinate with others in our respective offices to do so, we were loath to try to reschedule when the weather report threatened below-negative-thirty for the day.

I am definitely the chilly-Chelsea of the group. To be sure to stave off frostbite I wore: (top) wool base layer, fitted merino wool sweater, flannel shirt to divert the itchiness and a very heavy wool sweater, of course topped with a warm ski jacket; (bottom) wool base layer, Polartec fleece ski pants from 20 years ago when I last skied, and insulated ski pants. And alpaca wool socks. A balaclava with COVID-y mask underneath and my helmet and goggles, plus new Columbia mittens with their reflective technology (and hand warmers in the tip of each mitten) finished off the look. One important lesson we learned last week skiing - cotton masks soak and freeze. Go with synthetics when you are looking at severe weather.

We were trying out the farthest slope from home - Lake Louise, clocking in at exactly 2 hours away. Between being mid-week and the forecast, the place was empty. We got a sweet parking spot we'll never see again, just 2 rows over from the reserved section. When we arrived the lifts hadn't opened yet even though we got there an hour after the slope normally would have opened. We also got coupons for free hot cocoa for the kids as a reward for braving the weather.

By 10:30 the first lift opened, and by the time we re-geared and got out there it was a bit later. We knew there was a whole back mountain area and the resort was huge, so we weren't sure about things like where to leave water and lunches and such that we had been doing, if we were to bring any. So we took a tiny backpack with a Contigo of cocoa and a couple of snacks, and the various items of gear that got shed at different times. We planned to eat a hot meal at one of the cafes. And away we went.

This was our first ski outside Nakiska and ... wow. The runs were longer, there was no ice anywhere, and what felt like a million more options although that could be misleading because half the runs are black diamond, which nobody is ready for. The views are stunning. We were super bundled up although we had a few setbacks with fogging goggles, chilly toes that required hand warmers (and thus the ordeal of removing and then replacing ski boots). We actually managed a pretty normal day of skiing. On one run, the powder was so thick I worried not about slipping on ice - the normal east coast issue - but about a ski getting stuck in a thick mound of snow.  I estimate that all the time we spent going inside to warm up or drink a hot beverage would probably translate to lift lines in a future visit;  so the general experience of how many runs we could get in is relatively accurate, minus the slow start. there was literally no line at any time.

The downside, and this was huge:  to get from the back mountain to the front you can ski various runs or you can traverse a run called "ski-out" that appears to go sort of around the mountain and return to the base area. It is 2.5 miles. Nowhere is it explained that you will be walking on level or even uphill ground for about 1/3 of that trip - until you are already about 100 feet into the journey. It was hot and miserable and really ended the day on the wrong foot :-(

Sunday, February 7, 2021


 We've been skiing the last 6 Saturdays, and have learned quite a bit. We learned that when Nakiska is packed with people and we leave when it closes, it can take longer to get home than if we had gone to Lake Louise. We learned that when it is -25 outside, there are no lines for any lifts and no traffic getting home.  Those who did not ski before December learned how to get down a Blue slope in reasonably good shape.

 Now that the 6 weeks of lessons we signed the kids up for are over, we have plans to try each of the other three major slopes in the area (thanks Costco for the discount lift tickets to exactly these three mountains!)  We also won't go quite so often. We'll have Saturdays we sleep in, and Saturdays we go  hiking - as well as Saturdays to ski. Now that the Superbowl is going on right this very minute, football crowds out no more Sundays - we'll have whole weekends we can decide what to do on a whim!

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

How we spent the break

We solved puzzles - well, Terry and Alex worked on them.

We played games. There are always new games among the Hanukkah and Christmas gifts and this year was no different.  Throw, throw burrito is even more fun than it looked and as we were gifted the large/outdoor version, are very excited to take this camping with us in the summer.

We (the kids) built gingerbread worlds - after making the gingerbread from scratch. It's a great recipe and remained delicious even after it started to go stale.

We skied, thanks to dad/Papa, who gifted the kids lessons for Hanukkah. Lynne and Terry skied for the first time in over 17 years!

We cooked, baked, read, watched movies. Kids went sledding. We had intentions to go ice skating but didn't make it out of the house that day. One of us listened to several entire podcast series.

The kids went five days without leaving the property (almost not going outside at all, but they did refill the bird feeder and take our trash).

We started the new year with a hike and a promise to get out way more often. Of course, the grumpy teenager ranted that a hike was the epitome of starting the year off on the wrong foot. It will be a delight to throw all this back at her when she is an adult - hahahahaha!