Wednesday, March 30, 2005

"This is the highlight of my life"

The quote is not me, but some kid (probably early teens) at the bottom of the first pitch of Currie bowl today. I think he was overstating things a little, but not much.

Yes, they finally opened Currie. With about a meter of fresh snow, it would have been worth waiting at least half an hour. As it turned out, I had to wait about two minutes, and still had a position at the front of the pack.

When the patroller gave the starting signal, it was as much of a madhouse as last time. Once again, I made it into the first run ahead of the crowds. This time was even better - there was no icy base, the snow was fresher, lighter, and deeper than pretty much anything this season, definately the deepest set of four or five turns I've had all season.

It was stupifyingly good - the kind of experience that leaves you grinning like an idiot (which is an easy expression for me).

Actually Thomas, my snowboarding "routes" aren't NZ at all. They are Lake Louise and Fernie (in a good year).

I was going to write how his mistake with homophones was appropriate, given how much moving around I've done, but I can't be bothered, and as anyone knows, I'm the brother who's good with words and other brainy stuff, and he's the brother that's good at fixing things (any excuse to use your fancy tool set, right bro?), doing things, and dealing with people.

Man, today was great. It was very tiring, especially when I fell over and was left wallowing in the powder, but in a good way.

The first run through Currie Bowl today was quite possibly my run of the season. It was that good. I once again understand why people spend large amounts of money on cat or heli skiing. If only...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

If this is wrong, baby, I don't want to be right.

Well, let's see if I can write about half the things I thought I wanted to write about today before I go to sleep.

Yesterday sucked, as I think I mentioned.

Today on the other hand, I was woken up by the sweet sweet sound of Tim's voice (that sounds a little weird, but I have a standing request in with him for a wakeup visit whenever there is more than 10cm of new snow, so when I work out that my dreams haven't been invaded by disembodied Australian voices and realise that I should wake up because there's fresh snow, I am happy.

Anyway, I get on about the seventh chair, and after a few stops and starts we make it to the top. Everyone dismounts, stoked that we've got some very light snow on top of the heavier stuff we had earlier this week. I sit down and buckle in.

Or at least I try to. Somewhere between finishing riding on Sunday and trying to strap in on Tuesday, the ratchet / buckle for the ankle strap on my back binding broke / fell off.


I felt like Charlie Brown right after Lucy yanks the football away. I thought I was going to get something good, and then BAM! It was ripped from my grasp when I was so close I could smell it.

I strap my toes in, and proceed to ride down the cat track (the shamefully signposted "easiest way down"). This is very frustrating, but I get down and head into the crowded rentals / repairs shop.

The repair guy puts a replacement ratchet on for me, and it costs $8. Tragedy! I don't have any money (I kinda used my jacket semi-emergency $20 for necessities like noodles, frozen corn, and cereal with marshmallow bits in it). I'm getting out my season pass, to use as an IOU, when the lady behind me in the line offers to pay for it.

I owe some serious KITS (KIndness To Strangers) to the world. Sure, $8 isn't much - an hours work for me at the salt mine (which has changed its mind again about my employment status - seriously, my job situation is as variable as a variable thing in an indecisive mood). Less for most middle aged people with real jobs. It's even less for a Calgreedian (rich people from, well, that's pretty obvious, who buy up vast tracts of ski towns for weekend homes). But that's not the point, it was a totally uncalled for and gratuitous act of niceness.

It made my day a lot better. Not just because I got to ride, but because it gave a boost to my opinion of human nature.

So I'd like to offer a big Thank You to the repair-shop-line-lady, and I guess I owe someone, somewhere, somewhen.

The rest of the day was mostly beautiful soft snow. As always, tracked out fast, but if you're willing to hike, and head into the trees, there were always a few fresh turns to be had. The high traffic areas on the lower mountain (cat tracks out from the good stuff) were kinda yucky, and getting worse as the day went on,

Work on the other hand started off yucky and got worse. The hotel is too warm, the work is all the bad parts of housekeeping and none of the good parts, etc, etc. I dislike my job, and really hope I get replaced / released again (since I'm only getting 2 hours a night, it's not a huge loss to my back pocket).
And now it's bed time since the word is that they will open the bowls tomorrow, and even if they don't, it's snowing a little, so it will still be fun.

Monday, March 28, 2005

It's the end of the year as we know it - Part II

Once again, it's the end of the year as we know it.

Yesterday's "powder day" quickly turned into wet sticky rubbish (although I did have some very nice runs before it was ruined).

Edouard rang the house from the mountain and said it's not worth coming up.

I should find something clever to say. But I'm kinda tired (my room is pretty much a furnace).

It's the end of the year as we know it - Part II

Once again, it's the end of the year as we know it.

Yesterday's "powder day" quickly turned into wet sticky rubbish (although I did have some very nice runs before it was ruined).

Edouard rang the house from the mountain and said it's not worth coming up.

I should find something clever to say. But I'm kinda tired (my room is pretty much a furnace).

Saturday, March 26, 2005

extremecarving (dot com) and extreme precipitation.

We had house guests during the week, one of whom was Patrice from so he showed us some of his videos.

Wow. These crazy Swiss guys (how's that for breaking national stereotypes?) have snowboards that they can get up at such an angle that their heads are pretty much on the snow. It's truly impressive stuff.

Inspired by the extreme carvers, and finally (mostly) over my head-cold, I went up the mountain yesterday. I got nowhere near the kind of angles the Swiss guys do, but it was a fun half-day of trying to carve. It's nowhere near as much fun as powder, but since the one out-of bounds place I went had a thick layer of windcrust on top, it was all about high speed.

We've also got the first "intense precipitation" warning from ski patrol for the season. I'm hoping this means an epic day tommorow.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Taking a Sickie

Today is a sick day. Not that I have a job to be sick from, but whatever. I woke up this morning to discover that a horde of gremlins had taken up residence in my body.

This press release from Gremlin Prime Minister Grack should explain.

"Due to growing unemployment in the Gremlin population (the rapid growth of Mozilla Firefox put many Microsoft specialist gremlins out of work) we decided to embark on work creation projects. As such, we are pleased to announce that formerly unemployed gremlins are now working in Richard's body on such vital projects as sanderpapering his throat, building a damn in his sinuses, and squeezing his brain."

Urrgh, basically folks, I'm sick, and I don't like it. It's not a very familiar feeling for me, and as a measure of how much it's affected me, I went to the library today and didn't get any books out! Not even a paperback thriller. Yes, walking to town took that much out of me. Yuck.

In unrelated news:

The French Parliament votes to make it possible to extend the working week past 35 hours. Nationwide strikes break out. You gotta love those wacky French people, non?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Another Powder Day.

We recieved 9cms of snow overnight (according to the relatively reliable, if slightly optimistic,

Not enough to trigger my 10cm rule (the dry season version of the 30cm rule), but on top of the snow we've received over the last few days, more than enough to ensure a fun day.

There were a few icy patches in exposed spots and in high-traffic areas. I fell over and slid on my stomach (the famous superman bail) for several meters on the way out from one of the bowls.

But the top of the mountain was awesome.

Yeah, I'm running out of things to say. I rode until my legs hurt too much, then came home. It's how more days should have been this season.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


We picked up another 8cm or so over the night of the 17th/18th.

The hordes were not there, and they missed out. Yesterday's tracked powder was covered with a nice layer of new snow. If riding powder is like playing in the clouds, riding covered leftovers is like playing in the clouds during a "mild patch of turbulence" - ever notice how you never hit severe turbulence? The plane can be bouncing up and down like a cat on a trampoline, and "murgle and gentlemurgh, captain murgle speaking, mild turbulence".

But when you're in control (well, mostly), riding bumpy powder is a lot of fun. It's a lot of work, especially if you pulled a calf muscle yesterday. But hey, a second good day in as many weeks? It's like Christmas... actually, it's better than Christmas, we only got one good day then.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


Well that was a great day.

37cms of fresh powder.

We arrived at the hill to see a bigger lineup than pretty much any day since opening day. Pretty much anyone in town who wasn't working, or dead, was up the hill today. They opened the hill in stages, so things got tracked pretty quick, on the upside, there was plenty of opportunity to pick up fresh lines.

Highlights of the day:

After a couple of nice runs in the quickly tracked-out timber bowl, I join the small crowd waiting for Currie bowl to open. I'd heard the rumour that it was going to open soon, so I joined the slowly growing crowd. I was early enough to find a spot in the second row. For the next ten minutes, everyone talked to their neighbours and heckled the patroller.

Actually, that was mostly me. You see, according to one of those internet personality tests, I'm a "firecracker" - the classic heckler / troublemaker who can't stand authority who uses his ready wit for a variety of purposes.

I think I made the waiting more pleasant for people, there were plenty of laughs, and the patroller didn't mind too much. After I suggested rushing past the ropes (for the second time), I got into a conversation with some guy about how much people actually respect the patrollers.

And we do.

Big shouts to ski patrollers everywhere. We love you guys. Sure, we may bitch and moan about how you get all the best fresh lines, and are too slow to open up terrain for us, and you get to play with explosives, and cut the lift lines, and ski around all day.

Actually, we're jealous, and if you didn't stop us from getting ourselves killed, we'd have to dislike patrollers as much as we do ski-school instructors. Yes, I know that I'm qualified to be an instructor, but I'm not. So I'm doubley free to make jokes.

Anyway, I think the rope was about to come down.

A hundred and fifty powder-starved skiers and boarders are standing on the western edge of Currie bowl. We are waiting as patiently as we can. Some jiggle their legs to stay loose, others tighten thier bindings or adust the grip they have on thier poles. We discuss for the last time which fresh line we want, and how messy the traverse will be (most of us will be trying to squeeze onto a cat-track about ten feet wide).

A few at the downhill end jump the gun and drop into the bowl. There are cheers and jeers, and then the patroller gives the word, and we leap forward.

I duck under the rope and join the world's largest boardercross. For a few hectic meters, I avoid fallen and slow people, and try not to get in the way of those faster than me. It's more chaotic than rush hour in Rome.

Then I look to my right, and see that the first run is steep, deep, and far less crowded. I drop in and sink waist deep into light fresh untracked powder. It's beautiful, I'm floating down the hill. By the time I make it to the bottom of the first pitch, I have been overtaken by a few more aggressive riders. There's a slight uphill, but I've straightlined it from about halfway up. I will still have to walk a little, the deep snow is slowing everyone down.

Nobody is complaining though, in fact, there's more whooping and hollering than in a John Wayne film. I come to a stop and flick the board round so I don't slide backwards. I unclip one binding and jump step up the last few meters. I'm breathing hard already, it's the adrenaline rush, and the hard work of riding powder, and the sheer joy of it all.

I sit down, clip in again, and ride through more powder, and more powder.

Basically, today was a great day.

Happy St Patrick's Day.

St Patrick is a snowboarder!

How else would you explain 31cms of fresh snow overnight?

Well, there is apparantly an Irish myth that on the 17th of 18th, St Patrick's wife cleans up after the party they had in heaven, and brushes a last little bit of snow onto earth.

Well, I think that all the Norse Gods gatecrashed 17 Saint Street (Paddy's house) and jumped up and down on the floorboards or something.


St Patrick > The Griz

More later - got to shovel down my noodles and curry (breakfast of champions) and get ready to snowboard for the first time in a couple weeks.

Monday, March 14, 2005

This ain't Hollywood...

Reasons why Fernie ain't Hollywood:

1) Southern California has more snow than we do now.
2) In Hollywood, an awful disaster of a season would be turned around in a miracle dump of epic proportions. In Fernie, we get a couple of hours of wet slushy flakes, and then anotherwarm day.
3) There are no letters on the hill. There's no snow either.

Oh yeah, I just got laid off, again. This time it's permanent, unless I get called in this weekend. This is worse than Brad and Jen (nothing like delayed pop-culture references).

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Where did winter go?

It's not the end, yet. It's definately the beginning of the end or perhaps the end of the middle, or even the middle of the end, narrative structure is something that is imposed retrospectively on events.

Sure, it's also imposed pro-spectively (or whatever the opposite of retro is when you're speaking spectively), but there most people know the structure is imaginary (and the events might also not occur - an argument it is difficult to make about things that happened.

Wow, that was pretty intellectual. I guess I'm doing my bit to fight the image of snowboarders as "knuckle-dragging morons in baggy pants". That or I just miss university, where I was free to be clever whenever I felt like it.

I bet that offhand comment got my mother all excited. I had hoped that working on her own doctorate (due at the end of 2006 I think) would stop her from nagging ;) encouraging me to try and get one myself.

But anyway, I've posted a couple of times about how the season is dying. We got another sign of the apocalypse (at least in terms of the ski season) today - the first fishermen came out of hibernation and waded bravely into the river.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

He's just like everyone else - puts his trousers on one leg at a time.

It's true, I am just like everyone else, I put my trousers on one leg at a time (well usually, sometimes I put them on both legs at once just to feel special).

Today, I put my trousers on one leg at a time.

No, this isn't a metaphor for me being an average man in an average life. I am building up to something.

Today, I put my trousers on one leg at a time. Unfortunately, I put them on backwards. Yep, you read that correctly.

Not my best effort.

In my defence, my work trousers are pretty much just polyester trackpants, and the differences between front and back are pretty minimal:

1) There is a small label at the back.
2) The hip pockets are much easier to access when trousers are pointing forward.

It was point two that finally (after an hour or so of checking email, watching TV, and having breakfast) alerted me to my error.

When I didn't know there was anything "wrong", the trousers were as comfortable as ever. As soon as I dropped my keys on the floor because my pockets had disappeared, all I could think about was that my trousers were on backwards, and it was horribly uncomfortable.

I'm sure there's a metaphor in there, if you are feeling cheated of a parable, but it's nearly time for "Trivial Pursuit" (some sort of of trivia competition as part of "Griz Days".

No, I'm not sure what's with all the "s, but whatever.

Griz Days are, ironically, a celebration of the mythical Griz (a human baby, raised by bears, who lives in the mountains and fires a giant musket into the sky to bring snow). Assuming that the legend is true, gun control has a lot to answer for.

Anyway, it's almost time for Tim and I to go and prove our trivial superiority. Usually we are rivals, it will be a nice change (for him) to benefit from my status as "trivia superhero", instead of being brutally punished by it.

Don't try and deny it Tim. The world knows who is trivia king, and who is a thirtycoughmumble-year-old pretender to the throne.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Slowly and surely, the mountain is dying. Every day, things get a little worse. It's not officially a terminal illness yet, but the doctors are not optimistic.

Ironically, as I write this, Queen are singing "every night and every day, another piece of you is washed away". Edouard found my Queen CD in early december, and it has been in the (3 CD) stereo ever since.

It's stil rideable up there, but there are big bare patches appearing everywhere. Thankfully, most of the main runs are still rideable, but Fernie's "Legendary Powder" is a legend only in the sense that it happened a long time ago and is rather implausible.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Well, I wasn't missing much

I went up the hill for the first time in a couple of weeks. I went up a little late (I'm still readjusting to going to sleep before 2am). By a stroke of luck, I got to the car park at almost exactly the same time as some of the people I work with.

I am a big fan of riding by myself. Especially on powder days (the few that this depressing dry winter has provided), it's great to go at your own pace, do what you want, and not have to worry about being cool, or anybody else. Riding alone is snowboarding in its purest form - a guy, a board, and a steep (or not) patch of snow.

But, on days like today, it's easier to ride with a group.

Today was slushy, choppy (you can see the moguls from town which is 5km away), and coverage is fading fast. It's fun for a while, but it's better to suffer through it in a group.

I discovered today that I am a big fraidy-cat. Actually, it's something I've known for a long time. Today just confirmed it. I actually hit a rail so slowly that I stalled at the top of the on-ramp. Sure, the snow was very sticky, but really, it's kind of sad that I checked my speed that much on the run in.

I also decided not to hit a 30 foot booter (a booter is basically just a ramp, I think)... twice! Yep, I even hiked up so I could chicken out again. I'm chicken of the year.

I just wasn't riding very well today. I wasn't riding badly (I nailed one smooooth nose-roll off a small bump and rode out switch - usually I slam the board down hard, jam my ankles, and pretty much stop), but I wasn't riding well. I was just kind of there.

Still, it was a nice change to get out of the house. It's ironic - the east of Canada, large parts of eastern USA, the California resorts, and Japan are all having epic snowfalls while our part of the world has had the dryest winter in 50 years (well, except for all that RAIN).

Ahh well, it's nearly summer anyway.

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