Finally stopped snowing yesterday, and now we have a sunny day today. A balmy 1 degree c!!! The roads are all clear, and some are even dry.
After working for a couple of days, we have a couple off, so today we went back to Lake Louise Skifield, as it is so close.
We both had sore feet for a start, and for half the morning I forgot how to snowboard, but by the afternoon we were both zooming around. We got to ride the gondola, which was warm, but a little crazy, as you put your board in a little pocket on the outside, and it looks like they will fall out… but of course they never do.
My favourite run was from Ptarmigan lift, pretty much straight down beside the lift, through the trees. They have selectively cleared the trees, so you are definitely zooming between the trees, but at least they’re not all squished together. It requires a bit of concentration, and leg work, but makes for a fun afternoon, swooshing one way then the other, grabbing branches when needed, and finding hidden pockets of powder.
On the other side of the valley, down from Larch Lift, there is another area, a bit more closely wooded, with a relatively flat traverse through the trees. This was a bit crazier, and there was more powder that was untouched at the bottom. The downside to this was that if you went off the track a bit, or took a wrong turn, you ended up thigh deep in powder, and usually floundering around, unable to get up. It was funny, but very hard work. Hopefully we have some good videos of zipping through the trees, and Dale will put them up later! One good thing about falling over is that you lie there, and if you’re lucky, you get to see a super cute little squirrel running around a tree above you!! That’s a good thing about trees, there are squirrels.
After last ride up at 4, we zoomed down to the car, and headed home to change. We then drove over to Banff, where they are having a film festival evening on Wednesday evenings, at a local pub. Go, get food, watch cool movies. The moon was coming up as we were driving, huge and round, and lighting up the snow on the surrounding mountains. It was very pretty.
Our car has cruise control, which I never saw the use for before the americas, and the massive long, pretty straight highways. I drove for 40 minutes before I needed to change my speed at all.
We are living in Field for the next four weeks. We are working a few days a week in return for accommodation, at a little hostel called Fireweed. It is cute and tidy, and we get our own house to live in while here. It is great, nice and tidy, and super warm – as in we can sit around in t-shirts, while it is snowing outside. Much better than any of the hostels we have stayed in so far.
Field is a good location, right in the middle of the rockies, 20mins drive to Lake Louise Skifield, and between 1-2hrs drive to get to like four other skifields. We are surrounded by steep mountains, trees, and a lot of snow (and squirrels, and elk!). Field is just near the border of British Columbia and Alberta. An hours drive will get us to Banff. The roads are good for being covered in snow most of the time, the road by Field is the main Highway that heads east, so it is quite big, and they clear it regularly. Occasionally gets closed for avalanche control.
Sunday we woke very late, nice to have a permanent place to stay, and getting a decent sleep in. We were a bit sore from boarding, but I went for a run anyway. Met the elk again, they were wandering along the back road out of town. There was sun around, so the whole thing was lovely and pretty, and I could see mountains everywhere.
After breakfasting (at lunchtime), and getting sorted, we headed back to Lake Louise, this time to look at he actual lake. It is quite pretty. It is mostly frozen over this time of year, and covered in a layer of snow. They had brushed the snow of the closest part of the lake, and had set up a free ice rink, complete with Ice Castle. That was very pretty!
There is a massive hotel, the Fairmont Lake Louise Chateau, probably quite fancy, sitting at the end of the lake. We walked up to the other end, stepping off the path occasionally for the horse and sleigh that went past occasionally.
There were also people cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. At the end of the easy track was a waterfall, all frozen and solid, and a deep icy blue colour.
Monday was work day, and the hostel work is pretty easy. Shovelling 20+ cm of snow is not fun. We have to keep our place clear, the hostel, carpark, and then 6-7 other places around town – just walkways and footpaths. A little bit is easy and quick. A lot is not. Especially if all 30cm of snow from the roof has slid off and landed on the path. A good workout though.
Today we awoke early, and and got ready to head up to Lake Louise skiifield. Craig, the owner of the hostel, had offered to take us skiing, and show us around the mountain.
The Snow report told us that there had been 17cm new snow overnight, which was very exciting! We packed up our gear, and stepped out the door. Silly me, didn’t even think that 17cm on the field meant we would likely have snow too, and there’s a chance it was over 17cm! I stepped out of the house, and was exceptionally surprised that there was Snow all over the cars, snow all over the steps and snow everywhere!
We piled into the van, and zoomed off over the snow covered roads to Lake Louise skifield, only 20 minutes drive away! Talk about convenient. There was snow everywhere, and we sorted ourselves out and managed to get on the lifts before 9am. It snowed most of the day.
The runs were ridiculous, it was everything I had dreamed of, boarding in Canada. There was powder, there were trees, and we got to go swoosh swoosh through them, with powder flying everywhere. There were times it was so deep, you just floundered around if you fell over, and one time I almost got sucked in by a tree – a depression forms around the trunk, but the snow keeps getting higher, and if you fall down by the trunk it can be very hard to get out, especially if you go headfirst! I got stuck near a tree, but luckily only a small one. Only crashed into one other tree that I remember, so that’s good.
My app told me we boarded over 21km today, quite a distance! And I didn’t even track all the runs. I’m sure we’re gonna have sore everything tomorrow, but it was epic and amazing.
As if that wasn’t enough for the day, Craig texted me just after dark, to let me know there was a herd of elk wandering through the snow near the house. I could see them out the window. We threw our snow gear back on, and crept around the snow piles to look at them. They wander around town at night some times, apparently. The are quite large, but wander relatively easily through quite deep snow. In some places, you couldn’t see their legs, just their body, as the snow is so deep. They were scraping the snow away to get at the grass below, and delicately nibbling the trees. Some had pawed away an amount of snow in a circle, and then sat down in the hole they had made, so only their heads were visible above the snow. Perhaps this is warm for them!
It was very hard to get any photos, as it was dark.
We woke early to perhaps 10cm new snow? It was very exciting!!! Here was the Canada we had been looking for!!! Turns out everywhere else in Canada was what I had come here for, Vancouver has probably the most mild climate of all of it. Not sure how much, but the motel/gas station owner was out with his little plow, clearing his driveway. He also cleared off our car, which was nice.
We didn’t stop at many places on the way, mostly because it is winter, and so many things are closed, simply cause it is not that fun to do in snow. There were a few places with Kayak hire, walking, trail rides. All probably quite hard in 2 feet of snow.
We drove through Salmon Arm, Sicamous. There were lots of pretty little lakes, all smooth and white, and streams, with some bits frozen and some not. I think we stopped in Sicamous and bought me some snow boots, amazing things they are. I was concerned they wouldn’t be what I wanted, but when we stopped in Revelstoke for lunch, it turns out most people are wearing some sort of variation of them. so, good boots! I guess this is cause there is always snow on the ground in winter, and you have to plow your driveway and footpath, and the snow gets piled into piles at the edges of driveways and roads. You need a waterproof and comfortable boot that is reasonably tall, so the snow can’t get in. They are delishuz, like wearing slippers, but they are mildly waterproof, and I can galavant in the snow without it getting in.
Revelstoke was quite pretty, and it was snowing with big fat soft flakes. We had lunch at a delishuz little cafe, while watching the flakes gently float down. The drive from Revelstoke to Golden was over a pass, and was a wee bit scary, only slid the car a little. The road was covered in a layer of packed snow, and parts were very slippery. But we made it in the end. Stopped in Golden to get groceries, then continued on to Field, an itty bitty town about an hour east of Golden.
We totally crossed a time zone somewhere in there, so we were an hour later arriving than we thought we would be. Apparently there was a sign, but it was tiny, and probably covered in snow, like many of the signs.
Arrival into Field was quiet, soft flakes floating everywhere, and light snow on the road. The town is just adorable, with snug little houses everywhere, and a soft blanket of snow on everything. Many of the houses have holiday lights, and it was all lovely. We are working in a little hostel, and have our own little house down the road. The place we’re staying is lovely, modern and warm, you can sit in your comfortable living room, and watch the snowdrifts outside.
Friday we did some training, re cleaning the hostel and checking people in, and it was pretty run of the mill. The hostel is very nice though, so it looks lovely when it is all clean. We also get to shovel after it snows, which is fun, if it is not too much. I’m sure the enjoyment of shovelling snow will wear off pretty quick, I’m sure it will just take a big dump to make it less fun.
One thing here in Canada, and in the USA, that reallyannoys me, is how they don’t list tax in their prices. Most prices you see, or they quote you, are before tax. So you look at the cost of your burger, and you go, yah, that’s good, that’s a good price for a burger. Then they add tax and you’re surprised.
Or when you buy a car. Hey, that’s the cost of the car, but now you have to pay tax on top of that! Here, let me give you a quote for your car chains. Great, good price for car chains. At the counter, oh wait, they’re actually more than that.
I guess if you’re used to it, it would be fine. But I seem to forget every time, and then am sad when things always cost more.
We woke up kinda late, checked out, then continued on our Journey towards Chase. We headed up past the Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, and Duffy Lake. The roads were clear for the first bit, but the road climbed for the first half hour, until we were driving through a desolate winter wonderland, surrounded by nothing but super tall trees, nothing but mountains and trees for miles, laden with snow, with snowy pillow drifts on the sides of the road, and massive cliffs all around, only occasionally visible through the cloud. It was quite magical. I don’t think anyone lives in that area, we only saw a couple of other cars, and most of the ones we saw were parked, and I assume the owners were snowshoeing/snowboarding in the foofy white wilderness.
The land changed a bit as we went on, we came to a dryer area, that didn’t have much snow, but lots of yellow grasses and scrubby bush. Then we moved through farmland area, no trees, but snow as far as the eye could see, laying smooth and white over flat fields. The occasional lot of cows, or group of shaggy ponies. Lots of signs alerting of leaping deer, but we didn’t see any ourselves.
My favourite part was the rivers and lakes. At the base of the mountain would be a massive flat white stretch, where a lake had frozen over, and then been covered in a uniform layer of white. Most were smooth and untouched, but one had lines and footprints, where dog sledding teams had been running.
The rivers that were still running were pretty, snow covering the rocks around it, and snow lining the banks, if it was a slower moving river, often there would be ice at the edges, and would sometimes grow outwards onto the river; the odd opaque patch, and if it was big enough, would also have snow on top of it.
We went past a really wide slow moving river, that had ice flows, slowly moving and jostling down.
We stopped at the eastern end of Seton Lake, it was very pretty, with blue-green waters, and (more) mountains in the background.
We then went to Lillooet for lunch. Set off towards Kamloops after that, and heading through the valleys, we could see lots of cloud. It was lightly snowing when we left Lillooet, and we passed an area full of limestone (but called Marble Canyon Park) which apparently has a large stickyup cliff and some lakes, but it was snowy, so we didn’t get to see. At one point we passed a mine, with steps cut out of the hillside. We saw sun for a few moments, but it was snowing quite a fair bit by the time we passed Kamloops, and Chase.
Luckily I got behind a group of cars, and just followed them. It was getting dark by this time, so I got to drive in the dark and snow, and am very glad we have our car instead of a 2wd :). The headlights lit up the flurries of snow, and snow was blowing all over the road from the passing cars. You don’t need to use the windscreen wipers much when its snowing, even if it is snowing hard. Just the occasional brush is fine.
I think it is still falling now, but we made it to Chase by 5.30pm, and now are snuggled up in a little motel room. We shall see how much snow there is tomorrow, and probably won’t have an early start, will wait until they have cleared the roads (if they need it). We have another pass to go over tomorrow, between Revelstoke and Golden, which I hear is quite interesting.
It was interesting to hear peoples responses to my blog, good to know people are reading it! I read something the other day about blogging, and it said you should try and personalise it, rather than being a dry list of things you have done. Add emotions, thoughts, feelings, so that’s what I try and do. Kinda like a journal thing.
Anyway, on with the story…
We spent another week or so in Vancouver, but didn’t do too much else; we went to dinner with James, Navi, Nicole and Michael, at a very yummy sushi place, which was great. We looked at cars, we went to a movie, we hung out in the backpackers.
We looked at a few cars, and then eventually bought one, a jeep cherokee 4wd, a bit more expensive than we wanted, but there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it, and it is great.
We spent a while standing shiftily at an ATM, while we took the money out of our account in $400 lots – the max you can get out of many of the atms is only $400 at a time, and the only way to get large amounts of cash is via an atm. We had to get the money getting in two lots, as NZ banks put a restriction on withdrawals at $2k per day via debit card. It was a pain in the bum, but we managed in the end.
The time between deciding we wanted the car, then picking it up was a bit stressful. Once we had picked it up, things started to get exciting, rather than being mostly boring or stressful in turns. Buying a car is not particularly easy! Well, if you want to make sure you get a good one. We could have bought a cheap crap car, and maybe it would have lasted us, maybe not. We spent a bit more time, and got a decent one. The worst part was going to look at cars was often a 1-2hr train/bus ride to get there, and then the same to get back, as most cars were out in the ‘burbs, and we didn’t have any other way to get around.
We took our large wodge of cash on the train, and then the bus, and then gave it to the seller guy. We walked down the road, sorted out insurance and license plates, then walked back and picked up our car! Excite!
In Canada, you literally have to have car insurance, as you have to get basic insurance to get licence plates for your car. The plates are given to you when you get insurance. It is good in a way, as it means all people driving with plates on have car insurance.
After picking up the car, we spent the day driving around and getting all the things we might need for a car and driving around in the snow. Took a while to find chains (to pick them up in Squamish, on the way tomorrow), and we had to find a cannister for the cooker, a bit of food, tarp and cable ties etc etc.
Finally made it back to town, where we loaded up some of our gear, and found a carpark to keep the car in overnight.
We got up super early the next day, and left the backpackers. I think we were on the road by 7.45am. We headed north from Vancouver, towards Whistler. The day was drizzly and grey, and as we climbed, it got misty and the visibility was reduced to very little.
After about 45 minutes, we were driving through a lovely sound, with darkened islands across the water, massive cliffs nearby, and lots of pine forest. We stopped at a pretty waterfall, and Dale saw a chipmunk. There was a bit of icy slush on the ground, which was interesting to know, the car didn’t seem to care about it.
We arrived in Squamish, to bald eagles soaring overhead. There are massive granite bluffs around the town, where a lot of people go rock climbing, in summer I assume. We picked up our tyre chains there, and practiced putting them on the car. Better to know how to do it, rather than trying to do it in a blizzard with mud and snow!
Leaving Squamish, we headed inland, and pretty soon found snow at the sides of the road, and small but various amounts of snow/slush on the road. A
bout 2 hours got us to Whistler. We found a free carpark, and wandered through the village. It is quite large, we started at the Olympic plaza, and made our way to the lifts. There are lots of shops, clothes, trinkets, hats, food. And many people, often in fluffy hats, and fluffy boots. We could tell we were getting closer to the lifts, as people in snow gear, and carrying boards/skis started appearing. I didn’t get any pics in the village, but it was cute, with log houses, and lights everywhere.
Whistler is huge. I had no idea. I should have known; they held Olympics there. At the bottom of the lift area, two lifts head up two separate mountains. Blackcomb on the left, and Whistler on the right. They have gondolas that head up each mountain, and a gondola that goes between the top of the two mountains, and is quite ridiculous. The total skifield area is over 8000 acres (in comparison, Whakapapa and Turoa together are about 2600 acres. Ridiculous. We could spend a week there and not get bored. Unfortunately we only had the afternoon, and we only managed a few runs… However, the runs were like 5k long each. They were so long. And we didn’t even go to the top of the mountain. And so many trails, trails everywhere through the trees the first run we had to keep stopping to check where we were. Also, trees!!!!! I have no good photos of us boarding, cause, we were boarding!
It was very exciting, and there was so much terrain, tons of trees everywhere, and a lot of steep stuff, and a lot of super wide delisuz trails you could just go zooming down. It was fantastic to get boarding again.
We took the gondola from Whistler Mountain over to Blackcomb. It is quite a large gondola, it sweeps down the mountainside, then across and up the other side, and at its lowest point, is about 400metres above the valley floor. Quite a sight, when you look out the window to see where you are, and you are nearly half a kilometer up. Eeek! Apparently some of the gondolas have clear bottoms, so you can look down.
They close their lifts from about 3pm, which is early, but the sun goes down pretty early too. We made it to the bottom of Blackcomb, and then headed back to the car, packed up our gear, and then drove off into the night. We discovered that the lights on the car are a bit weird, and as the road was very wet, was hard to see. The center and edge lines of the road are very hard to see, and coupled with snow being over the edges of the road, and everyone elses lights, and the half rain/half snow, it was an awkward drive, but we did it slowly, and we only had about half an hour to go. We made it to quite a nice Motel in Pemberton, that had a lovely king bed, and a full kitchen, which was similar price to what we would have paid in Whistler, for a bunk bed. We had a relaxing night watching hockey on tv, then a long sleep.
I love hockey!! They zoom around the ice, smack into walls, each other, and can use their hands if needed. Also, if they feel it is necessary, they will have a bit of a punch up, if they have something to settle. The refs will watch for a bit, and will pull them apart if needed. But it seems a normal part of the game.
Didn’t do much over the next few days. Started car research, as we want to buy a car to head into the rockies. It seems kinda complicated.
Realise that I liked my life in Wellington, I miss my house, my cat, my job… I liked all of those things. And my family! Turns out I Like having my friends and family around. I think partly a little homesickness, partly not knowing many people, but also partly I think coz the weather is pretty grey and drizzly here. I have great memories of San Fran, but it was sunny and clear EVERY DAY we were there, which was a great start. Vancouver in Winter is grey and drizzly. Or grey. Or rainy. But thats ok,it is a fun city, I’ve enjoyed the things we’ve done, and travelling is pretty awsum, I would rather be travelling, than at home wishing I had travelled. Once we get a car, we will do some great adventuring. Also a bit of getting used to sharing accommodation with people, and the sometimes lack of personal space. But again, that will change soon.
Monday we attended a first aid course, as Dale needed to update his to finish his Dive Master, and I just needed to re-do.
New Years Eve we went ice skating in Robson square, which was very fun – ice is slippy! And was a little frustrating, as they decided to stop and clean the ice before we had even done a lap. They made everyone get off the ice, then bought out their little ice sucky machine, which I recognised from PvZ (Plants vs Zombies), and proceeded to scrape the ice, and then either melt the ice, or pour a layer of water over the top, which we then had to wait for it to ice over. That bit was boring, but once we got back on it was fun. There were, however, a lot of people! There were snowflakes in the ceiling, a live band playing, christmasy decorations up, and pretty coloured lights all over the place.
We spent New Years Eve, at a party in the suburbs, we had been invited by Dale’s friend James; they had worked together at Sidhe in Wellington. It was a really great night, with heaps of interesting and lovely people, and the whole evening went really quickly. I got dragged off to catch the last bus back home well before I wanted to. Downtown was still crazy busy, even at 3am, the streets were closed, and most seemed in such a good mood. The hostel was full of people still enjoying themselves, chatting and singing.
New years day was all about sleeping.
Mapmyrun told me that I have run 840km this year, which is quite exciting for me! Wouldn’t have thunk it, a couple of years ago, that I could manage to run regularly for a whole year. And turns out that I really like it.
The next day we examined a car, which seemed good, but the garage didn’t seem impressed. A bit sad, as there was a lot of bussing around and a lot of rain, but at least we’ve started! And now have some idea of what we’re looking for or not.