Growing up in Saskatchewan, mountains are in short supply. It may therefore be surprising that I learned to downhill ski a mere hour’s drive from home. The “ski hill” was called Riverside, and was basically a few shortish runs cut into the side of a deep river valley, just off Highway 3. There was no chairlift but there were a couple rope tows of the variety that propel you uphill by pushing your bum (complicated for a child of six; I lost my balance and fell and of course the next one came along and hit me in the head). Riverside closed while I was six or seven, and the next closest ski hill, Table Mountain, sucked (at least, I thought so, but that may have been because the first time I went there with my class they made us stay on level ground in ski school the entire time and didn’t even let us go down the bunny hill ONCE during our whole trip, so it was a total waste of time and my parents’ money). Once I was in junior high, I decided the cool thing to do was to try snowboarding, so that’s what I did (poorly). My downhill career was over.
Until two years ago, that is. I picked skiing up again pretty damn quickly (if I do say so myself) and have been spending a few days each winter on Cypress Mountain since. I’d like to toot my own horn and claim I’m a natural, but since I used to cross-country ski competitively (Saskatchewan having more rolling hills and open plains than mountains), I’ve always been pretty comfortable on skis, whether I’m being propelled by the force of my “excellent” Nordic technique, or by gravity, pulling me headlong down a mountain side.
This year my TC and I decided to get season’s passes to Cypress Mountain and it has been GREAT (having a car also helps). Not only have I done as much skiing this winter as the past two winters combined, season’s passes take the pressure off needing to have a “good” ski day every time in order to get your money’s worth. It also makes a couple hours of night skiing an easier and more worthwhile proposition.
Like Monday night, for example. Water repairs that were supposed to be finished in my building at 4:00 p.m. were still ongoing when I got home from work that evening. We were thirsty and had no way to prepare dinner without water, so we said screw it, and went skiing. Passes let you do that. While we were eating dinner in the Cypress Creek Lodge (at the Crazy Raven Bar & Grill, fancy schmancy), I joked to TC that our situation would make us sound like rich d-bags: We’ve had the WORST day! The workmen STILL weren’t finished in our CONDO, so we just HAD to hit the SLOPES!
For those of you that haven’t tried it, night skiing at Cypress is amazing. The open runs are lit like a football field so you can see just fine, and as you’re coming down the hill the windows of the Lodge are lit up like Santa’s workshop. There are hardly any people (so you can go super fast!) and the lifts are pretty quiet (it’s VERY romantic). We spent just under a couple hours on the mountain but got in as much skiing as we sometimes do when we come for a day. SO MUCH FUN!
Being a bit of a novice myself, you’d think I wouldn’t already have pet peeves about other mountain users, but I do. The snowboarders! The SNOWBOARDERS! Fun to watch but hard to share a hill with! I guess because I’m not riding myself I’m not as good at sensing what the snowboarders around me are doing and anticipating where I need to go, so when I’m near one I’m always wary. They also seem to like to descend in large groups, and when a swarm of snowboarders pass you on a mountainside it feels like you’ve been surrounded by a motorcycle gang. I also don’t understand people who plop themselves down in the middle of narrow parts of the run. What the heck? It’s a ski hill, not a campground! Move to the side, bucko! Jeez. Kids these days.
I am also terrified most of the time when I ski. I love it, but it is terrifying. Optically, anything more difficult than a green run appears to be a vertical cliff face when I’m at the top of it, and my perception doesn’t change much until I’m safely on level ground again. A gorgeous run like Cypress’ “Horizon” is enough to give me a panic attack.
Very minor complaints (and the terror I feel when on anything but the greenest of green runs) aside, I am loving my season on the slopes. The facilities are great. The views are gorgeous. And the skiing is good. Even when it’s bad, it’s pretty damn good.
[P.S. In case you’re wondering about my competitive Nordic career, rest assured I was a solid third place in the provincial standings for my age category. A solid third out of three registered racers (one of whom was my second cousin). Solid.]