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!