“Sorry about all the snow,” I say sarcastically to my sister, as we slide onto the snow-covered chairlift, which has accumulated another centimetre or so from its trip down from the top of White Pass.
Looking up, Fernie Alpine Resort’s dramatic rock face is missing today, but in return for the lack of views we’re graced with dizzying, unrelenting, huge snowflakes. As the chairlift climbs, skiers below are heard (via happy hoots and hollers) before they’re seen carving up the powder.
In the white void, my sister turns to me, a mischievous grin on her face, “So…why do you think this is called White Pass?” she asks. We laugh as we prepare to make another lap, our turns from the previous run already filled in by the Griz.
It’s become an annual tradition for the two of us – a springtime getaway to Fernie Alpine Resort to re-connect from our busy lives and have some laughs. But whereas we imagine we’ll be soaking up the sun and basking under bluebird skies, we inevitably always (and without complaint) land on a surprise powder weekend. The “too much snow” annual getaway.
Too much snow – Is there really such a thing?
My sister and I have been skiing together for over 30 years – first in our parents and grandparents’ backyards, making our way schussing around local golf courses, eventually graduating to the tow ropes and T-bars of Paskapoo (Canada Olympic Park), Silver Star and other Alberta and B.C. resorts.
Recreational skiing has always been important to the women in our family – including my grandmother (pictured below, second from left, back row, with her schoolmates in Germany), and my mom, who ended up in Calgary to get closer to the slopes.
My sister and I went to after school ski lessons, skied and learned together from our parents, eventually going through the “I’ll meet you at the car later” phase of our teenage years, when the appeal of skiing with friends trumped family time for a while. But we stuck with it. Eventually, careers started: I moved to Toronto and my sister to Vancouver. Skiing took a backseat for a few years, with only the occasional day out during Christmas holidays.
The mountains and familiarity of the west drew me back to Alberta, and a few years later, my sister moved back to Calgary too. Joyfully, I fell back into skiing, making the trek down Highway 3 to Fernie and other great resorts as often as I could.
Today, our sister ski retreats to Fernie are a welcome pause button to the demands of city life, where we get to fly down the mountain and reminisce about powder day wipeouts and the amazing ski fashion of the 80s (Zinka, anyone?). As any skier knows, when you’re surrounded by good company, snowflakes and fresh snow, it’s easy to be in the moment.
Calgary poet Keith Worthington (who knows about the skiing antics of my sister and me all too well) perhaps sums it up best in his poem “Nakiska”: “Carve another turn. Life is simple when all I do is carve another turn.”
And so we do.