A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: HOODnDIGS

The end of a fabulous season

Staying at Jackie's

sunny

Friday 24th April

With nothing much left to do before we leave Canada, today we had a lie in and read snowboard magazines. We got up for a leisurely breakfast (Jackie is spoiling Christian by making bacon croissants for him) and then organised bags, e-mails and other such things for our imminent departure.

The world's biggest cuckoo clock
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Jackie's landlord had lots of people to show round that afternoon and seemed to have no qualms with throwing her out of her own home for 6 hours. And so at 2pm we left to get out of the way. Chris and I closed our bank account, filled up the truck for the long drive to Calgary, picked up sale forms so that Jackie can sell the truck on our behalf and bought a couple of Kimberley mementos for ourselves, including pj's and a christmas tree decoration (I will try and get one from every place I visit from now on).

One of Kimberley's happy hydrants
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Chris and Jackie, Jackie's step father and wife (yes, exactly the same names, I know, confusing) kindly invited us over for dinner, seeing as we were banished from our home. They are a really welcoming couple and we had great BBQ food, a giggle and a beer. Christian made friends with their dogs, Earl and Dozer,who were happy to show off and roll about for his benefit. This evening we watched "A lot like love" this was far less scary for me and I got to bed just fine.

Saturday 25th April

The lovely landlord obviously didn't think the 6 hours of homelessness had put us out enough yesterday and so this morning we had to get up early to vacate for his 9am showing. We went down to the local coffee shop and grabbed some snacks from the bakery next door. We spent a lovely 2 hours dosing ourselves with caffeine and chatting about everything and nothing (the amount of chat being directly proportional to the amount of caffeine); it was a bit like being in Friends.

Back home, we undertook the delicate task of weighing our luggage. With a limit of 2 bags each, of up to 23kg, plus an extra bag for snowboards, you would think that we wouldn't have a problem getting our stuff home. However, we spent a happy hour with Chris and Jackie's bathroom scales moving a book here, a heavy sock there, to make sure every bag was under weight.

Meanwhile, Jackie was upstairs making haystacks (yummy dollops for oats and coconut stuck together with chocolate and the all important PB) that we ate whilst watching The Trail. This is not a film to watch unless you have tasty snacks to distract you or you have a penchant for bad acting. After the film we were all in need of some decent entertainment and so Jackie took her last chance to play some Little Big Planet and she's getting good.

I also dropped a quick call to Mum to say happy birthday but she was apparently out somewhere living it up, so I guess she was already having a happy birthday.

Sunday 26th April

We're hitting the road again. We got up at about 9 and were out by 11. Troy was packed to the max with people, luggage and things from Jackie's mum's shop. We were starting the drive to Calgary and Jackie had a few stops planned along the way, to keep us all entertained.

Fraggle Rock
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First stop: Fraggle Rock! Seeing as Christian is too young to understand quite how exciting this stop was, he took the photos. To be fair to him, it was just a rock with a signpost, but it did look a bit like the original home to the Fraggles and Dozers (workin', workin', workin'). Next stop and equallly exciting for all of us, was to see a roadside llama. The only one unimpressed was the llama himself; we couldn't even coax him over with food. To be fair though if he had understood Christian and Jackie's rather offensive description of his anatomy (bunny ears, a small horse head, bad hair and creepy human toenails) he had every right not to want to talk to us.

Llamas
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Now on to Fernie and just a quick stop at the Red Tree Lodge to show Jackie where we used to live. In Sparwood, just round the corner, however, was the worlds biggest truck. So, we took a break and ignored the no climbing signs in order to get pictures of us up by the drivers hatch. It really was huge, it made Troy look very unimpressive. So, having added a height complex to our already flakey truck's list of ailments we got back on the road.

Sparwood's giant truck
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We went through Crow's nest pass, a cool looking valley between the mountains, and stopped at the Frank slide. This was an old town that had been buried under a landslide in 1903. Over 70 people had died after they had been warned not to build a town their by the natives who called it the mountain that walked. We walked round and clambered over rocks the size of small houses, over a mile from their origin on the mountain face. The one hundred million tons of limestone rocks would have poured down at about 120 miles an hour, causing their devistation in just over a minute and a half. It was both scary and awesome that all that potential power and destruction sits above our heads out here almost every day. Moral of the story, don't undermine a mountain next to your back yard.

Sitting on a boulder at the Frank Slide
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Juice, chips and haystacks kept us going until our next stop, a very pretty waterfall. It was at this stop that I decided to take lots of photos, trip over a rock and lose the car keys. But the panic was short-lived and Christian went back to where I fell over the rock and there they were. Our final port-of-call before getting into Calgary was the fantasticly named Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. This was the site of a cliff that natives forced the Buffalo over. Unfortunately, this practice was so effective and the natives naievely belived that these sacred animals would never leave the plains, that it resulted more or less in their extinction in these parts. Aside from the cliff we also got to see its inhabitants, lots of marmots. We all loved watching and photographing them, but Christian liked them most and made friends with one little guy who he managed to get right up close to whilst he preened himself.

A marmot
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The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
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Back on the road, and before dark we arrived in Calgary. Chris had made us a fantastic dinner of pork mince in cabbage leaves and a chicken and mint curry. It was delicious. We watched a cheery documentary on war and then went to bed.

Monday 27th April

Got up this morning at Chris' house and drove into town to try and sell, or at least fix the truck. We were offered a couple of grand by this one dealership but the grumbly sounds and flashing warning lights were obviously having an impact on this figure, so fixing it seemed like our best bet. We bought the necessary parts and as a pre-empive thank you to Chris for all the fixing he was about to do, we took them out to lunch. Chris had chosen a Vietnamese restaurant with a spicy chicken or beef noodle soup that was supposed to give you a natural high from the spices. Anything to reduce the car-related stress I had been feeling for the past week, I thought, and tucked in.

Back home Chris started changing our spark plugs.We tried to help but found the best we could do was stay out of the way. So instead we sat inside, making cups of tea and pampering Lucy the cat. Not quite the last day we had forseen, but hopeful that it would at least result in a more saleable truck.

Lucy the cat
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So, leaving Chris in the driveway with his wrench in hand, we went to the airport with Jackie. The old silver card trick was still working a treat and even though the bathroom scales seem to have been less accurate than those at the airport, our misdemenour was overlooked and we now had plenty of time to enjoy the lounge. We said our thank yous and goodbyes to Jackie, our final big Canadian farewell, and then crossed the security line between our Canadian adventure and home. We tried again to eat as much as we could in the lounge, however there was less on offer here. But before we knew it, the flight time had arrived and we were starting the long flight home.

Between the films and sleeping, I felt the excitement of returning to England and the prospect of catching up with our friends and family over the coming weeks. It is time to go home now, but the past 5 months have been such an amazing experience full of friends and memories that will last a lifetime. The little town of Kimberley will always be our Canadian home.

Posted by HOODnDIGS 05:53 Archived in Canada Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

On the road

Our road trip to Lake Louise and Banff

all seasons in one day

Saturday 18th April – sunny but cool

Today we finally moved out of our home and had to say goodbye to our little place in Kimberley. We helped shift some furniture for the landlords and then David, Susan and Grant waved us off. With a brief stop off at Jackie's to say goodbye, we jumped in the truck to start our road trip to Lake Louise.

The view at Canal Flats
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Along the way we saw some cool views. At Canal Flats I put on my brave, all-terrain hat and drove up a sandy bank to see the beautiful view over the water there. Along the road we saw plenty of hoodoos (soft rock that has been eroded into spires). We even drove out of our way to see Lake Windermere, though not as out of the way as you may think, we didn't quite get to the Lake District; this Lake Windermere can be found near Invermere and Radium in BC.

Mini Golf - why does it keep coming back?
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After a long drive, we stopped at Fairmont for a game of crazy golf. Our competitive natures and lack of golfing skills resulted in a certain degree of frustration, especially when we hit the ball up a sloped course only to have it roll back to the very same spot 8 times! But it was fun and we were entertained by the owners son who kept playing us his rather un-tuneful whistle. Our final stop along the trip was Numa Falls a very pretty waterfall under a treacherously snowy bridge.

Numa Falls
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With only 20km to go Troy decided to have a bit of a fit and the truck started to shake whilst we were driving. Not a good sign, but we had to get there, so on I went. When we eventually got to Lake Louise, there was no room at the hostel, but there was room at the Inn! So we stayed at the Lake Louise Inn, home to the pub in which we had spent many a merry evening with the other Nonstoppers last year. Slightly over our budget, the room was very nice (except for the gift on the balcony) but there was nowhere to cook so we'd be spending more on dinner. We went out for pizza at a familiar restaurant, saving our leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.

Sunday 19th April – overcast -3

This morning a crow tried to steal our frozen spaghetti bolognese off our balcony, but Christian scared him away. Good job, we can't afford another dinner out just yet. First stop, the garage,where we put oil in the truck. It seemed very mechanicesque of us and we hoped it would fix the shaky problem.

For our first day riding at Lake Louise we wanted to check out their park as we had heard good things. Our Kimberley passes worked at the lifts, no questions asked, and so we got a free day's riding (making up for last night's expensive hotel). We checked out the park and hit a couple of jumps, a hip and a wall ride. The only kicker we were happy hitting was still pretty big and scary but we had fun getting the adrenaline going.

We rode on the front side of the hill, lapping the park, for most of the day. There are lots of cut out jumps on the way down, where we practised little spins and grabs. It reminded us of last year's riding and it was encouraging to see how much better we have got. At the bottom of the main runs there was a splash pool.We saw lots of people fall in and many more just sail over, but it was too cold a day to take the risk so we just watched.

During the day we saw Lisa and Paul from Kimberley and said Hi. Now that Kimberley is closed all the skiers and riders from there will spend their weekends coming up this way for the last patches of snow. Back at the hostel we had our frozen spag bol for dinner and a night in with Ali McBeal and Whitelines, much more in line with our planned spending.

Monday 20th April – Overcast and flat light

Back to Lake Louise, but our Kimberley passes didn’t work today. We were expecting to pay full price as we have heard horror stories from others about how unhelpful other resorts (esp Lake Louise) can be about helping out visiting instructors, but we were pleasantly surprised. The staff were really kind and helpful and got us half price day passes. Today the park was closed in Lake Louise and so we checked out the rest of the hill.

Christian resting on the hill
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We went right over the back to warm up on the blue runs, but somehow we ended up in the Rock Gardens. As you can probably guess from the name, this was not the smoothest of runs, in fact it was a descent, spattered with snow-topped boulders. It was good fun looking for jumps off the various rocks. With lots of blind landings, we had to spot most of the jumps for each other and a few didn't go quite as planned (resulting in a nice base shot (hole) in the tail of Christian's board). But we left the far side of the Rock Garden unharmed and were ready for a new challenge. Sadly this was presented to us in the form of a very long, very slow flat, so it was with tired legs that we went up the chair to get to the "Ultimate Steeps".

This was my choice of runs. I love steep, powdery downhills and with little terrain to challenge our riding in Kimberley, I wanted to take the opportunity to hit something fast and scary. No jumping for Christian, but he was happy to do something different. To actually get to the top of this set of runs (all double diamonds) we had to take a very steep button lift. So steep in fact that they ran ropes along the floor down either side of it, because, if you fell off you would be sliding down fast and would need them to grab on to. Some part of it actually felt like I was being dragged up a wall and reminded me how much I used to hate drag lifts. The top was cold and windy and the run we chose was certainly steep, but not tough enough to stop us. We had a good run down only to find it ended on another long flat. We will have good leg muscles by the end of today.

The Ultimate Steeps
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At the end of the day we jumped in the truck, which was still sounding rather ill. We checked the tire pressure in the hope that Troy would be impressed at our care and knowledge and start behaving, but sadly this theory did not work and he was now giving out funny smells. We drove to Banff via the scenic route and looked between all the trees for bears or moose but couldn't find any. We did see some very nice mountains though, and lots of trees and the Bow river. After 5 months in Canada we are getting a little too accustomed to the stunning scenery and even sometimes choose reading a magasine over looking out the window (though not often).

The beautiful scenery
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Tonight we treated ourselves to a really posh dinner out. Steve, Ardouin and Rich had raved about this place called the Saltlik last year and so I'd looked it up and we were heading there. It was a bit like being back in London, going out for a really nice meal and spending money just on the 2 of us. The Saltlik is mainly a steak restaurant and so that is what we both went for. It was delicious and we were both so full up that the dessert menu got left to one side. We took a stroll through town on the way back to the hostel in order to digest a little and nosey at the shops to visit tomorrow.

Saltliks
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Tuesday 21st April – hot and sunny +17

Being now based in Banff, we went to Sunshine Village today. It is a resort about 20 minutes drive from town and is pretty big, with a dozen or more lifts. I had heard rumours that the resort is pretty exposed and can get quite cold , harsh and windy. But it was still worth checking out and boy were we glad we did. The base is serviced by a long gondola that takes you all the way up to the resort. Once up on the hill their are hotels and eateries to keep you catered for during the day. So we started our day with some brekkie in the day lodge, whilst we checked out the trail map.

Up the Sunshine gondola
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We started with a couple of warm up runs and found that unlike Kimberley, Sunshine was full of wide open spaces and in some places even seemed to be above the tree line and was very exposed. But this wasn't a problem for us today, the sun was shining and it gave us amazing views of the mountains, bigger and higher than anything in Kimberley or even Fernie. We played about, getting familiar with the runs, and I almost rode over a barely frozen resevoir (but fortunately spotted it just in time). But I could tell Christian's feet were itching to check out the park. Rumour had it that Sunshine had an awesome park, with loads of features, and hopefully something for all abilities.

On the boundary between BC and Alberta, with the park in the background
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So over we went to check out the park, and once we did, that was our day filled. We spent all our time, down to the last run, lapping the park and playing on all it's features. There were loads of hits, including kickers, hips, basic rails and boxes, buoys that had been built into the snow so you could bonk them and loads more that we didn't even have time to test out. We did some more filming and tried to catch on camera at least some of the new things we were learning.

On about our 3rd lap we saw Mike Jones from Fernie who has come to Sunshine to retake a module of his level 3 exam that he sat earlier in the season. He was with some friends and they all seemed equally excited by what the park had to offer. Next we bumped into instructor Steve from Fernie who was playing in the park with some of this years Nonstoppers. We finished the day on a total high. The sun had been beaming down for hours, the snow, slushily ideal for trying new tricks and we had been catching up with old friends along the way.

Disappointed that the day had to end, we drove back into town. But as we were still full of energy we went on a walk around town. We found some good pressies, checked out the snowboard shops and bought another suitcase to cram in all our latest purchases for the way home. I found myself a snowboard magazine that was all about female snowboarders and Christian found himself some great stickers (Christian has a minor, but ever worsening addiction to stickers).

A plan for what to do with our old boards and stickers
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In the evening we made dinner in the tiny kitchen at the hostel. There is barely enough room to prepare a dinner for 2, but with 3 people already eating their dinner at the table and another 2 who started cooking just after us it ended up being a slightly over-snug occasion and something we would probably avoid repeating. Before bed we watched a snowboard movie and got psyched up with all the things we could do in the park tomorrow.

Wednesday 22nd April – cold and very windy

Today's riding was a nasty shock after yesterday's fantastic conditions. We bought our passes and then headed up the long 8-man gondola for the 20-minute ride to the top. The wind was really blowing and our little gondola was getting shaken about on it's wire, to the extent that the lift kept being stopped for long periods of time in the hope that it would die down.

40 minutes later we reached the top of the lift, only to find that most of the lifts were shut, including the one up to the park. The ground was hard and icy and little terrain was accessible. We went up the nearest lift anyway just to see what it was like up there. Christian soon found out how hard the ground was as he tumbled off the first jump and so we took it very cautiously down to the bottom. Second run and we bumped into Mike again. We rode down with him and his friend and watched him trying a bit of buttering on the flats, it looked like the safest thing to do on this ice. We agreed it really wasn't that much fun out here and went in for a drink together. As Christian and I were very indifferent about continuing in these conditions, I asked if we could defer our lift pass for tomorrow. Amazingly, Guest Services said yes and so after a drink and a chat with Mike we went back down the hill early to chill out and get warm.

Inside the Banff Springs Hotel
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We spent a few hours chilling in our room, reading magazines and relaxing until we started feeling hungry. We took a stroll to the Banff Springs Hotel and had a nosey at it's grand environs before going into town. With all good intentions to go to the supermarket and make dinner in the tiny hostel kitchen, we found ourselves stood outside a nice looking little restaurant called Coyotes. In we went for a delicious dinner and then home for bed.

Dinner at Coyote's on Caribou Street
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Thursday 23rd April - chilly with occasional sun, -8

This morning we looked out of the window and a layer of snow was covering the ground. The sun was already shining but hopefully there was more of the white stuff up the mountain. After digging out the flat bed and loading up the truck, we headed up the hill for our last day at Sunshine.

Despite the promising weather down in town, it was still hard up the hill, but at least it wasn't windy and all the hill was open. Some warm-up runs confirmed that the ground was bullet-proof and unappealing. We found some flat space and toyed with buttering, trying to balance on the nose and tail of our boards.

Desperate to get a few of our latest moves out of our park-rat bag, we thought we'd go and check out the state of the funpark. Like everywhere else, the ground was rock hard. This doesn't really put you in the frame of mind for hucking your bones off an icy lip to try something you know will probably go wrong, resulting in you catapulting your body across the ground in a way that would make a champion stone-skimmer jealous. Regardless of this wise instinct we thought we might as well finish riding through the park, which resulted in me flying off a hip and bashing my bum on the glassy concrete.

Hobbling (or whatever the equivalent of hobbling would be whilst strapped to a snowboard) back down to the bottom, we agreed that the park was a very bad idea and something else was in order. My first thought involved a hot chocolate and a chilled donut-shaped cushion, but instead we ended up playing with some more buttering and trying half cabs (switch 180 spins off an ollie). I realise the description of this is probably just as incomprehensible to most of you as the name, but that is how I felt too at the beginning of the season. Christian has got me trying all sorts of odd things and though I'm still not totally clear what all of them are I can apparently do some of them quite well!!

Buttering
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After riding we started the drive back to Kimberley, with considerably less stops along the way than 5 days ago. Troy was still misbehaving and I was just crossing my fingers that the drive wasn't making matters worse. Apart from a herd of goats stopping us in our tracks whilst they looked for potential grassy snacks on the highway, and the continuous grumble from Troy that kept me on edge, the journey was uneventful. We were staying at Jackie's that night and it was lovely to see her after nearly a week away. True to style, we had a movie night and watched Untracable. If you are a wimp like me, this is a scary movie and not to be watched before bedtime especially if you will have to be alone (even if that is only for the 20 seconds it takes you to go to the bathroom). I got scared and Christian and Jackie had to convince me that I wouldn't be murdered in my sleep, before I would reluctantly go to bed.

Posted by HOODnDIGS 14:14 Archived in Canada Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Lazy Easter and leaving our home

Moving out of 132 Stemwinder Drive

sunny 7 °C

Saturday 11th April - pleasant (not that we saw any of it)

After our fun and money spending in Fernie, we needed a day of relaxing, organising and not spending any money. We started packing away some of our stuff ready for the move out next week. Christian also did some more work looking into universities in Australia. He has narrowed down a shortlist of about 8 courses across 4 universities in Sydney and now knows all the details about them and the application process. Chris may look into some Melbourne unis as well, but maybe once we get home to the UK.

Sunday 12th April - fresh and sunny

After another morning of laundry, tidying and packing things away I started going a little stir crazy. At 3 I told Christian that I had to get out soon or I was going to explode all over the house I had just cleaned. He very wisely agreed we ought to take a break, so we went for a walk to the Marysville falls.

Mark Creek
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Marysville is a small town that neighbours Kimberley and in between the two is a river with a waterfall. It had been mentioned to us before, but this was the first occasion where we had found the time to check it out. With the temperatures rising, the falls had thawed and spring run-off was pouring over the rocks.

Marysville Falls
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I chose to take the scenic (and slightly dangerous) route and instead of sticking to the fenced off path clambered over the rocks in the river and peered over the edge of the big falls. Again we climbed down off the beaten track on the other side of the falls to get a better view. Then I found a good route back; up a very steep bank, through wood chip, with a bit of a cliff below. “Just hang on to the trees” I told Christian. After all I’d feel pretty bad if he fell off a cliff following me.

Getting the best view
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Monday 13th April

Today was pretty relaxed. We did some chores and lots of catching up on the travel blog, but nothing too strenuous. Thinking the truck was pretty much a done deal, we texted Leo to say he could have it, but, horror of horrors, he can't buy it. Aagghh this could be a big problem!! That will keep us busy tomorrow.

Tuesday 14th April - fresh and sunny but snowed at night

So today our first chore was to attempt to sell the truck: we spoke to dealerships, updated our posters round town with a better price, put a clearer sign on the truck, spoke to people we saw and made a group on Facebook. Hopefully we can sort it out with one of these avenues! If there are no other offers, one of the dealerships said they can sell it on our behalf.

This evening Jackie came over for dinner and 2 movies. She too has been packing up her home but also has done some job hunting and so was very happy to crack open a bottle of red wine with me. Jackie also kindly fixed the holes in the wall from our antlers; it’s good to know a carpenter (especially one that is also awesome at cooking peanut butter-based treats).

Wednesday 15th April - very sunny morning but barely went outside

Today was filled with more tidying and packing and so as a treat, Christian, Jackie and I agreed that if we got a decent amount done, we would drive to Cranbrook in the evening and go to the cinema. So at about 6:30pm we ventured out of the house for only the third time since Saturday and bought tickets to "I love you, man". As we are currently unemployed, we couldn't justify buying Easter eggs for each other, but bought a huge bag of Mini Eggs for us all to eat at the cinema seeing as they are now half price. When the film was over we were all still quite awake and it was only 9:20 and so in a moment of wreckless abandon we snuck into the other screen and watched Fast and Furious as well. Both films were really good, one super funny and the other full of action, and a bargain at only 4 bucks a show.

Thursday 16th April - sunny and warm

The back of our house, spring has arrived
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With the packing and cleaning pretty much done we had some time on our hands today. We did a quick food shop at Overwaitea so we can make a massive spag bol tonight to last us for the next few days. Then this afternoon we went for a walk behind our house. It was bright and sunny and all the snow is melting, making the ground all soggy and getting into our shoes. Again I took us on a strange route through the trees and snow, climbing up banks and getting us even wetter. But it did the job of providing us with some daylight and exercise before getting back to chores.

On our walk
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Christian has got me addicted to an online game called the missile game, so whenever I am meant to be checking my e-mails or writing travel blog, he keeps hearing the familiar theme tune and sees my head ducking and weaving behind my computer screen as I try to guide my missle through a chamber of moving holes. He's no better as he is constantly playing line rider, and that has no music so he probably gets away with it far more often.

Friday 17th April

Today we finished off the last bits of packing and cleaning that couldn't have been done before. Laundry done, bathroom cleaned and all our food boxed up for our travels. In the evening we did yet more movies with Jackie (Eagle vs Shark – very silly, from New Zealand, need I say more) and she made us peanut butter brownies to take with us on our road trip, super yum!

Tonight we spent our last night in our Kimberley home. We will miss this place.

Posted by HOODnDIGS 11:02 Archived in Canada Tagged packing Comments (0)

Hot dog, jumping lots, all pass level 2

Our visit to Fernie

sunny

Tuesday 7th April - hot 17 degrees

This morning we went to Cranbrook airport to surprise Vaughan before he flew to the States. Liana, Jackie and Naomi were all there as well to give him a surprise send off. Unfortunately they needed to bolt off quick because Liana was skivving a meeting. Sarah and I grabbed a coffee with him and sat to chat until he had to board his plane. We said our farewells before jumping into Troy and driving on to Fernie.

We arrived about lunchtime and bumped into Mike and Liz within minutes. They were both finishing up their lunch and so we took a moment to get sorted and grab some food before all heading up together to go riding. It was a suprisingly hot day and we were all thinking that our thick jackets were probably too much. The snow was going slushy but it was a considerable improvement compared to the bullet-proof conditions we had last visit. It was nice to be riding with people who had been in Fernie all season as we could be shown the jumps that were good this year and where was better at this time of year. The terrain has changed quite a bit since last season and there are loads of new jumps that we had lots of fun hitting.

The familiar Fernie terrain - this time with slush
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We rode all afternoon and after a few hours of the heat we needed to ditch a layer. Mike and Liz decided to call it a day. Leaving our layers with Liz, Sarah and I headed up for a final, unburdened run before heading into the Griz for a beer. We met up with instructor Steve and a couple of the other nonstoppers from this year. We sat around in t-shirts in the sun, which obviously lead to us starting to get sunburnt. Silly English tourists.

Beer in the Griz and in the sun
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We went back to the hostel to instantly be greeted by our hotelier, Frank, offering us a rum and coke. We are staying in a place not far from where we stayed last season. It was recommended to us by Liz who is also staying there. We sat with Frank for a while, drinking and chatting to Florian the German who used to live in the hostel a while back. Eventually the rum began to disappear and rather than calling it quits Frank offered us a free pizza and chicken wings. With this on order he ran off to the liquor store for more rum and a powerful drink called Yukon Jack. What a great hostel we thought and sat and enjoyed drinks in the sun with Florian and Jeremie, a guest from Quebec.

Pizza (A P pizza with: prawns, peppers, pepperoni and pineapple) and wings in the process of digestion we headed up to the comunal balcony next to Liz's room to drink some free champagne. Frank is in the process of remodelling the hostel and having accidentally woken Liz one morning during a hangover, gave her a bottle of champers to apologize. Sipping our free bubbly from plastic cups we made our plans for the evening and talked til the sun went down.

Our first stop was the Pub. Having only got a couple of slices of pizza (something about free pizza, lots of people kept appearing) we decided some more food was necessary. And so we sat eating our slightly healthier meals whilst watching Hot Dog the movie. Tomorrow is Hot Dog day in Fernie a yearly clebration where everyone on the hill dresses in retro clothing and gets drunk. It is named after the movie we were watching, a very cheesy 80's ski movie, complete with ridiculous characters in stupendous outfits.

Once the novelty of the movie wore off we started on the Jaeger Bombs. For the uninitiated that is a shot of Jaegermeister dropped into a glass of redbull and then chugged, or casually sipped if you are Sarah, who thinks the taste is too good to drink it fast. Once the bombs were dropped we hit the road to the next bar, El Dorado's. One of my favourite bars from last season has been re-named 'The Underground' due to its basement location. A shockingly unimaginative title if you ask me. Unfortunately the atmosphere has gone the same way as the name, downhill. It may be because of no longer knowing everyone in the bar or the rapid rate at which the prices have increased but after the second round of Jaeger bombs were done, we were happy to move on.

JAEGER BOMBS!!!!
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We headed on to the Central, the place where Sarah and I had first gone out together, only to find it had not only become a bar called "A bar named Sue" (Who names things in this place?) but had also closed down. So we decided to try out the Royal, that was still firmly in place and not called anything weird, however, it was shut. So with no options remaining we tried out a bar which was not there last time we were in Fernie. It is called the Bulldog, a good respectable name, and was really rather nice. We settled into our next round of bombs and it wasn't long til we were chatting with the barman, the very friendly bouncer and some of the other guests. One of whom was Jeramie, the Quebecois guy staying in our hostel. The night continued on with more drinks lots of chatting and laughter and even a game of bar mat flipping. However the fun had to come to an end sometime as we needed to get our beauty sleep ready for a brightly-coloured hot dog day tomorrow.

Wednesday 8th April - hot 17 degrees

HOT DOOOOOG!!!!!! We had been very pleased to hear that hot dog day fell the day before my retake as it didn't take much excusing to get us to go. Also having brought increadibly garish pants all the way from England I was glad to get to use them for their intended purpose. Ugliness. Having just been through two days of retro dress ups at Kimberley and a third retro day on staff day, this was becoming common place for us. However Kimberley didn't quite get the same turnout that Fernie does. We had a smattering of people in ugly outfits getting better on the second day of Spring Splash. Fernie had a sea of neon. There were only a handful of people wandering around in the throng of tight onesies looking confused and out of place in their normal gear. Everyone joins in, and the outfits are outstanding. Liz's outfit summed it up perfectly. Another hot dog day veteran, Liz had bought her outfit months in advance, but worthwhile it was. It was a bright pink, super tight onesie (so tight she had to open the pockets zippers just to squeeze in) with patches of neon green and zebra stripes all over it.

All three Hotdoggers
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Sarah was not feeling the best this morning and after assuming it was a hangover I was corrected to find out that it was from too much red bull. Apparently she can't drink more than a can of red bull without feeling it the next day, something she neglected to mention prior to our four rounds of jaeger bombs. So we took the day slow and whilst we had no intention of drinking, I joined Sarah on this one as I had my retake the next day, we were more than happy to gawk at the outfits being paraded around today. Wallaby is the hot dog headquaters and we remembered that from last year. So we slid over to see an even bigger crowd than last year huddled around the recently erected kicker. The crowd was awash with colours and tight or just ridiculous outfits, and as the steadily more inebriated people crowded to watch, the braver souls threw themselves off the kick. There were some intense old skool moves being busted out, even from the skiiers and no end of crowd pleasing backflips. We were enjoying the riding though and so after watching some impressive bails after a bad kicker reshape we carried on boarding until the end of the day.

Snowboarding in our retro gear
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There was something else very special about today. It was mine and Sarah's 1 year anniversary. We had gone out together for the first time one year ago today, and in Fernie so we were excited to be back here to celebrate it. We had been planning to go back to The Central, which is where we had had dinner on our first night together. However, as we had discovered last night, this was no longer an option. So instead we went for a nice walk around Fernie and then had a romantic dinner in The Curry Bowl. It was delicious food, as we had remembered, and there was plenty left to enjoy again later. We finished off the evening by buying some chocolate and watching an episode of Red Dwarf online. Who says romance is dead?

Dinner in the Currie Bowl
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Thursday 9th April - sunny 14 degrees

The day after Hot Dog day was mine and Liz's level two riding retake. There were a number of people from this year's Nonstop course doing the exam and a few people retaking the exam. I was put into a group with Liz and was put with Ryan as my evaluator. Ryan is a level 4 instructor who took us during the Nonstop course and is very friendly. The day went really well and really quickly, mostly thanks to the relaxed atmosphere. We had bright sunshine and good quality snow and by the end of the day we were getting quite hot. Ryan was so laidback as well that when it came time to step up to the plate and demo my riding, I was so chilled out that I didn't freak out or over do anything. Liz felt the same way, having retaken her exam a number of times, she was suprised at how relaxed the whole thing was.

As we broke for lunch I met up with Sarah to finish off our doggy bagged dinner from The Pub and discuss how the morning had gone. I told her how nice it was feeling and that I seem to have impressed Ryan with my freestyle ability. We were only doing straight airs to practice pressure control but he appeared genuinely impressed. She had spent the morning reading some Whitelines in the coffee shop and then checking out the hill by herself. Far from being lonely she seemed to be enjoying herself alot and was happy to hear about my progress.

The afternoon of the exam went equally well and I recieved minimal feedback. I had learnt from my experience with Cam that this is a good thing, as the CASI guys only seem to tell you when your doing things wrong, so you don't get too cocky. We had a short while to kill while Ryan wrote up our evaluations and got everything ready on his end. So we headed into the daylodge for a cool drink and a chill out. But, eventually the time came to hear our results. Again I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Both Liz and I had passed no problems. Oddly my only bit of feedback was to be a little more aggressive as I was a very laidback rider, apparently I had taken Cam's suggestion to relax a little too seriously. Still I was chuffed to be done and be a full fledged level 2 instructor. And without further delay marched straight to the Griz for a beer.

A newly crowned level 2 instructor, complete with CASI badge
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As we were done earlier than expected Sarah was not there yet. She had hit the new side in the afternoon and bumped into Steve and Rachel, two of this year's Nonstop crew. She rode with them for the rest of the day, hitting up lots of jumps. When she got back she was extatic to hear my news and we excitedly told each other about our afternoons. Sarah had found it particularly nice to ride with a girl who likes to jump. Also telling me about her massive air and how she got a good stalefish and a roast beef, two of the most complicated grabs we have tried.

Whilst drinking we not only bumped into Dan from Kimberley, who was riding for the day with some mates, but also made friends with another of the retakers. He was a guy called George who was doing his instructors course in Jasper and had gone on a road trip to Fernie to retake his level 2, via Whistler. Now for those of you who don't know Canadian geography very well, Jasper to Fernie is a roughly six hour drive. Whistler to Fernie is more like thirteen. So he had to go fairly out of his way to go there. He was travelling with two friends who had also been based in Jasper all season and had made the 13 hour drive (and all in one day mind you) with him. We chatted for a while and made a plan to meet up with them later that night in the pub.

The celebrations continued further when Frank at the hostel gave us beers and Yukon Jack when we got in. Unfortunately the relaxed, happy atmosphere was briefly disturbed when Sarah locked the keys in the truck. Luckily she managed to sweet talk a nice mechanic who broke in and got them out for us. Ah, the benefits of staying right next to a Dodge dealership. So after drinking, breaking and entering, and showering we headed over to the Pub for some eating. However, it wasn't long before we realised that there was also the expectation of singing. As the karaoke got started we were coaxed up on stage to do a rendition of American Pie (The Don Maclean version, not the version where Madonna lip syncs a murdered version of it).

Yukon Jack is a powerful brew
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We were very happy to escape from being asked again but not all of our party was so inclined. Liz was happy to stick around and sing the night away. So the rest of us agreed to move onto the Bulldog and meet up with her later. We drunk and chatted and listened to the live band for many hours with no sign of Liz. So, not wanting to spend our evening waiting around we decided to check out the Royal again. Closed. Again. Fernie was really suffering from not having many people around at this time in the season. And so with that piece of news we agreed to call it a night and go home for bed ready to ride together the next day. This was of course the moment that Liz turned up. However, we made our excuses and headed home none the less. But now Sarah was too tired to walk. It's at this moment that peoples love of stealling shopping trolleys and abandoning them on the street came in mighty handy. So with Sarah in trolley, George, Sean and Luke hanging onto the edges and me giving the trolley a running start down the hill, we headed home.

Karaoke. Never a good idea
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Friday 10th April - Still hot and sunny, about 15 degrees

We picked up the guys we met last night from their hostel just across from ours and went up the hill together. However, it was a much less fun day as so many people have turned up on holiday for the Easter weekend. Having had a relatively empty resort and perfect conditions yesterday, it was disappointing to find that there is so little space to yourself in the Lizard bowl, which makes hitting jumps a little dangerous. Still we did our best to have fun in the crowded resort, but after a while we decided to try and find a less crowded part of the mountain. We thought the park was worth a try as few people ever go in there and the weekend crowds are typically familys with kids.

Big air in Lizard bowl...you can't tell, but its big
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So we stopped off in the park to try some rails and use some advice from Liz. She has become a bit of a pro in this area as she works at Milton Keynes. Due to the shortness of the slope at MK there is very little to do but jib around on the rails and it is also a very quick slope to lap. However, it was too hot to keep hiking the park and so we went down for some lunch. We headed into Kelseys for a laziness-inducing lunch before heading up with the guys in the afternoon. Apparently the lunch was too much for Liz who decided to sit in the sun before going home. We showed the guys cedar bowl and had fun and more space, as the masses were still on the front. But it was not too much longer before the sun and food got to us all and we called it a day. We dropped the guys in town and then started the drive back to Kimberley.

Big lazy air
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Posted by HOODnDIGS 10:57 Archived in Canada Tagged lodging Comments (0)

Slush and sunshine for a soggy send-off

Spring Splash - the final weekend at Kimberley

sunny 13 °C

Saturday 4th April - very warm

Today was special for two reasons. It was our first day out of work and so now we were effectively on holiday. But, on a larger scale, it was also Spring Splash in Kimberley. Spring Splash is a two day celebration of an awesome season held in the final weekend of the resort being open. Today was the day they held the Dummy Downhill that we had been building the super tanker for, as well as many other games happening throughout the day.

Spring Splash was also apparently a good enough excuse to warrant dressing up in retro gear. This had been our reason for visiting the thrift store the day before. So knowing that we would be dressing up for both days we had bought ourselves two outfits with accessories. So as Sarah donned a snug blue one-piece with large wide shoulders and mustard neck scarf I slipped into a pair of yellow and sky blue dungarees with a tie-die and neon t-shirt underneath.

Our Outfits
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We spent most of the morning riding with Vaughan, continuing to snowboard like we had for most of the season, except now with more old school tricks. Most of the way through the morning we headed down to the base of the hill as Vaughan was meeting up with his cousins. Down the bottom we met up with Jackie dressed in a snazzy red and blue onsite, however, more surprising was to see Eric again. He had said last night that he was leaving to Fernie today and would not be coming back. Apparently he had driven as far as Marysville (5 min out of Kimberley) before deciding to come back again. And so we headed up, the gang, all back together.

The gang, still together
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After a few more runs were done we decided to take a break for a lunch of BBQ cooked Cheese burgers. We sat around for a while enjoying the burgers and the sunshine. One of the other games that was happening today was the Dummy Duct tape challenge. Where one person has to duct tape their partner to a wall. Two teams have three minutes to compete against each other and the person who stays up the longest wins. Sarah and Jackie decided to try and compete against Phil and Anali. So after only two and a half minutes (because we were ski school) and most of a roll of duct tape, the boxes Sarah and Anali were standing on were removed. At first nothing happened but after a few tense minutes one side of Sarah's tape began to peel of, Anali, however was looking fine. Slowly but surely every piece of tape on one side of Sarah was breaking off from the wall. This was over. And then without warning Anali's tape collapsed and she fell to the floor. Sarah was the winner and was awarded with a lovely bandana, Anali as runner up was awarded with a toilet roll holder. The obvious prize for a duct tape challenge.

Stuck to the wall
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The next event for us to watch was the Dummy downhill. There were about 20 contestants entered all having made their own dummies which were to be pushed down the mountain over a hastily built kicker and into the parking lot, all cars having been removed. They were of various sizes and complexities but they all included a degree of creativity and the desire to see their hard work smashed into the concrete.

Our super tanker was due to go out third but due to its size was being driven up the hill rather than carried like all the others. As such it was not ready to be launched and so was skipped. In the meantime everyone else's dummies were being launched. There were some very well made creations and some which absolutely flew off of the jump. Highlights would have to be: The Dukes of Hazzard car made from a spray painted fridge which got absolutely obliterated when it landed; The space ship which wasn't attached to its base and so as the speed built up it launched off separately; and one of the very first ones made to look like a downhill ski racer which landed on its feet and everyone was waiting to get hit in the back of the head by another dummy.

Our tanker ended up taking so long to get up the hill that it was launched last and as it had been on display since noon was being anxiously awaited. Finally it was ready to go and as the commentator announced that they were pouring a strange liquid into it, it was pushed off. As it was a tanker piloted by Somalian Pirates we had made a series of hoses running through the boat, that, when a bucket at the back was filled would pipe coloured water or 'oil' out of the sides. And so it thundered down the run and began banking towards the edge of the jump run in. And then it happened. About 2/3 of the way down the slope it hit the edge of the run in and crashed. Well I say crashed but really it rolled about four times bouncing down the hill as it did so. Then the wind got into the cracks and the cardboard was torn from the wooden skeleton. It continued to tumble disintegrating as it went until it was a mere pile of painted papier mache and wasted time. Still we won the award for most impressive crash.

The super tanker, thundering towards oblivion
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RCR had hired for our entertainment, two band to perform live at spring splash on both days. The first was a relatively ordinary cover band called RETRObution. As you can imagine from the name they played a collection of old classics and were uninterestingly good. They did however wear very colourful suits making them a little more respectable. Unfortunately they played the same exact set list on both days meaning they got a little repetitive.

The other band was much more interesting and entertaining however. I say band but really it was only one man playing enough instruments to be his own band. His name was Shane Philips and he was an awesome didgeridoo player. Its not often that you see someone playing a didgeridoo that well, more unlikely to see them playing it well in Canada. And I don't think I have ever seen anyone else play a didgeridoo whilst strumming a guitar and using his feet to play drums. All of them being played very well simultaneously. In Canada.

Dancing in the sunshine
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Both bands gave off a very relaxed vibe and we steadily drank and danced our way into a great party vibe. Drinking so much inf act that when it came to driving ourselves home we were all hammered and so got Naomi (the only underage instructor) to drive us to Anna's house. Via the liquor store. At Anna's we ate pizza whilst playing drinking games and continued the party on. Eventually there were so many people that we didn't know, that we decided it best to head off to the Edge.

The live, and unusual music continued at the Edge. Here we found the Mudmen, a Canadian band that feature the normal guitarist, drummer, bass player, lead singer, bagpipers. Yup, two very large angry looking bag piping twins in kilts. The music was somewhat more screamy thrashy than the mellow tones of earlier and so we didn't hang around for too long. We had been partying for most of the day and knew that tomorrow would only find more partying. So we called it a night. Vaughan was pretty wasted by this point and so we had a bit of a mission convincing him that it really was time to go, but eventually he succumbed, and probably for the best. Luckily for Vaughan he had an easy 10 min walk home along normal roads, we on the other hand had to walk all the way back up the hill which took most of an hour. Knowing that it would take this long and how tired we were we took the shortcut. Famous last words. The shortcut was shorter, it was also steeper, more snow covered, icier and bereft of any handholds. I'm not sure it actually got us home any sooner but we did get there eventually. Phew, ready for another day of it tomorrow!

Sunday 5th April - quite a hot day

The second day of spring splash began quite a bit slower than the first. We were feeling quite delicate and didn't think that there was going to be much happening before about 1:30. So we decided to have a bit more of a lie in and then drive up to the resort for lunch time. We weren't just lazy, we were taking the truck so that we could clear out our locker as well. It was the last day of the resort being open and everything had to go.

We got up to the splash pool sign in sheet with minutes to spare before it was shut. For the second day of spring splash the main event was an 80ft (ok that was what we were told, maybe 50ft) puddle that people could attempt to ride over. And we wanted a turn. Unfortunately we were too late. We had thought that the sign in closed at 12 so we called Vaughan and Jackie to ask them to sign up on our behalf as we weren't going to make it in. Their response was that we needed to be there to sign a waiver but we had until 1:30. So with no rush needed we headed in to sign ourselves up. However apparently the sign in time had been extended so that more people would sign up but then they had reached the limit before the second deadline. Obviously there are only a set number of people who can ride over a pool, and 73 is the exact right amount.

Not wanting to also miss out on seeing anyone ride the pool I stuck around with Jackie whilst Sarah did a run with Anali, her duct tape rival. She did, however, return in time to see all of the contestants hit the pool. It was great. There were some spectacular crashes, some failed trick attempts, some amazing successes and some people who went just a bit too far too fast and launched out of the pool and into the crowd. Of particular note was Vaughan's attempt, he got all the way to the end and then stopped and sank about a foot from the end. He quickly unstrapped and waded back into the pool so he could splash the spectators. Also memorable was Shaun's successful attempt. Shaun is a local to Kimberley but is actually British. The part that will stick in the memory is that he is a disabled paralympic bucket skier and so was hitting the pool in what looks like a special chair on a single ski.

Vaughan adding some New Jersey style to the comp
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Once the pool competition was over we were very excited to hear (twice) that they would be leaving the pool open for the public to use. This would be happening until Ski Patrol said that we had to stop. Awesome we got to try the pool after all and without everyone watching us too. I quickly ran inside to grab our boards and dumb my stuff. Me and Sarah had both picked up a second outfit from the thrift store that we could get wet in. So I madly rushed inside to get ready for the ensuing fun. However, ski patrol quickly marched over blockaded the pool. They may have been telling the truth but we certainly didn't expect ski patrol to stop us so soon. So to make up for it we went for a run down Boundary. Usually this would do little to replace an 80ft pool of water but as everyone was in the base area there were even fewer people on the mountain today.

Unfortunately the chair soon closed down for the last time and the Kimberley season came to an end. Still there was lots to do this afternoon, including watching our supervisor get his head shaved. Normally this would be a very uninteresting proceeding except that Dan had very long blonde hair and is well known for it. So to be shaving it down to as short as it goes was quite an occasion. We helped collect some money as he was shaving for charity before heading down to pack up our locker and put it in the truck. We made a quick detour to buy one of Shane Philips CDs and then drove off to have a much more relaxed evening than last night, with Jackie, Vaughan and a movie.

Monday 6th April - quite a hot day about 15 degrees

Now I realise that I just said that the chair had shut down, but I was lying. The chair would open again, but not to the public and only for one hour. Today was staff day in Kimberley and only the staff of the resort were allowed to ride today. And ride we did. The main chair was only open for an hour so we did one run on the front before heading to the back and doing laps of the Easter chair. We rode around for most of the morning with a load of the snowboard instructors doing all of our favourite jumps on the hill and riding all of the challenging runs undisturbed by Joe public.

All the staff in the pit
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However after a number of laps we decided to check out the sunpit for some beers. And it was packed. We had visited both sunpits a number of times as the season progressed and had never seen more than a handful of people in there, but today there were so many people that an extra level of seating had to be built. Good thing we had enough snow for it. Steve from rentals the man behind the sunpit had also built a 10-man shotski. Basically two extra long alpine skis bolted tail to tail with 10 shot glasses screwed to it. It was very interesting to watch so many drunk people try and be coordinated and an impressive drain on alcohol.

SHOTSKIIIIIII!!!!
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After a good while of sitting, chatting and drinking we overheard talk of an out of bounds kicker and decided to check it out with lots of the other instructors. I had decided, very last minute, to start recording all of us snowboarding to try and make into a film. So with only two days worth of film on camera and today left to record, I settled in as the camera man. Everyone began hitting it fairly cautiously but after a few tentative ride overs it seemed that it wasn't as bad as it looked and before long Sarah and I were trying out a range of grabs whilst the others began stepping up the spins and flips.

Trevor doing a trick with a complicated name
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After a good long while and a number of tricks being pushed just a little too far we decided to call it a day and head back to the pit. Unfortunately the relatively easy walk/ride here was an uphill hike after we were all tired on the way back. Sarah flexed her feminine whiles and managed to hook a lift with Dan on a snowmobile to get her back with minimal effort. However the rest of us began the long hike back. But then we heard it. The sound of another sled roaring up the back of the mountain. I quickly walked myself into prime hitch hiking range and was surprised to see Colin pull up beside me. Colin is a local and is friends with a number of the snowboard instructors. As such we have seen each other around a few times and he offered me a lift before I had to ask. It was a interesting ride back, Sarah being a small girl got to sit on the front of the sled whilst Dan sat/stood behind her and drove. Me, being a larger guy did not get this luxury. Instead I stood on one side of the sled and held one handlebar and a central loop between the two bars. This is know as riding tandem and is fairly easy and fun. However I wasn't quite expecting how much the sled would tilt as we went round corners, so much that I found my self running alongside at one point.

We all made it back to the pit alright and spent another hour or so chatting and drinking more as the sun began to sink in the sky. Kickers and empty slopes weren't the only draw of the day however, there was also the promise of a free meal. So, a little half cut, we rode down to the Stemwinder. The public apparently were already missing the hill as we saw a number of people skinning (walking up the hill on skis with special material on the base) in the opposite direction whilst walking their dogs. Not doubt expecting a relaxing ride down on an empty slope. But as we have noticed before, free food draws a crowd and all the staff were descending at once.

Chillin in the sunpit
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The dinner was much like the previous examples. A buffet of good food made to taste all the better by being extremely hungry. Two drinks came free with the meal and so the merriment went on long past the sunset. The same band from the weekend returned, RETRObution, unfortunately they had decided that we hadn't heard them enough and so were playing the same set that they had for the last two days. A little two dimensional methinks.

Still it was good music to dance to, and dance we did, up until final call when everyone broke apart in order to find a ride down to the Edge. Luckily RCR had though ahead and we hoped on the complimentary bus into town. The Edge was buzzing again although no bagpipers this time, instead just music we all recognised and liked. The drinks continued to flow, the music blasted and the dancing got worse (or better?) The whole night had been going well, until we realised that this would be the last time we would see most of the people who we had spent the whole season with. And so as the evening started to wind down the good byes began.

It was hard going to know that this was our last night with most people, but all the same we had faced saying goodbye to Eric already and we knew that we would be in Kimberley for a while longer so this wasn't goodbye to Jackie or Liana yet. So really it was mostly about Vaughan leaving the next day, and we had a surprise in store for him.

Posted by HOODnDIGS 10:55 Archived in Canada Tagged cruises Comments (0)

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