Always thinking about Skiing?

There we are, it’s the off season for skiing and we’re thinking about skiing. What’s with that?

Why is it we are so in to a sport that we can’t stop thinking about it? Our friends and family who don’t participate in the same sport must think we’re a little loopy.

The truth is, it’s our passion. We love everything about skiing and it’s always on our mind. Ski equipment, ski technique, ski resorts, ski chalets, Après-ski, ski parties, ski buddies, ski steeps, ski bumps, … you get the picture. It’s just fun and we’re passionate about it.

There was a period in time about half way through a skiing season where we thought of the brilliant idea to add-up the cost of skiing. Woe, that was a mistake. Between the ski trips, equipment, lift passes & tickets, lessons, sessions, clothing, clothing, clothing (did we mention clothing?), and travel expenses, it really did add up. But this is not a stock of a company where we’re expecting a Cash-on-Cash return of 25%. It’s not a investment of money or time to see what kind of return on investment is possible. The actual return-on-investment is measured in many other ways.

Return on Investment

Just start adding up all the laughs we had with friends, the new ski resorts we’ve experienced across the globe, helping a friend or family member discover skiing for the first time, or saving someone on the slope from imminent danger. It is an excellent Return-on-investment. There’s been countless conversations where skiers have mentioned that skiing changed their lives. Skiing has that uncanny ability to transform us into a different dimension (Beam me up Scotty). It is an environment where the cool winter winds sweep our cares away.

There we are at the top of a snowy pitch and a small grin emerges from the corner of our mouth. We glance over at our ski buddies and complete a quick adjustment of our ski goggles. We take a hard grip of your ski poles and pump out a couple quick breaths – “Well boys, see ya at the bottom!” The feeling of ripping down a familiar or unfamiliar slope with your buddies is like no other. You’re not thinking about the latest stock price or chipping the ice off your front step. It’s a time to become fully immersed in the moment and that focus, that concentration is Zen or Buddha Yoga like.

The thrill of exerting yourself and turning from side to side feeling that outside ski bend to carve up the slope. The skis bend so much, they rebound us to the other side of the slope like a five-year old on a bungie cord. Some days, the slopes are groomed to corduroy-carpet but some days we’re lucky enough to wake up to a blanket of fresh powder (aka: Pow). When this happens, a giggly feeling comes over us and everything becomes quiet. A peaceful calm and quietness comes over us so much so that we feel alive and in-our-element. The snow is billowing past you, up and over your shoulders. You’re trying to keep you mouth closed because the snow is pushing up against your face so much you can hardly breath (it’s a good thing). Bumps are not a problem, drop offs and curves seem easy. Following your friend in their path seems like a white-out from the car ride up to the resort. By the time you get to the lift line, your hand is sore from the seven high-fives you’ve been giving your friends at the bottom of the run. Nirvana !

Kayla Doering
Snow School Director at Mansfield Ski Club, Ontario-Canada

Now, try this : Explain this to your friend who doesn’t ski and then listen to the replies.. It’s a challenge to explain this to someone who has never experienced it on even on the slightest of levels. Do yourself and that friend a favour – Introduce them to the sport of skiing. It will change their life.

The Excursion of a Life Time

It was 1988 and the Winter Olympics were in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The job after university was Systems Analyst just outside Calgary at the Lodge at Kananaskis. A great time of year and the experience of a life time. There were many days where we would call in “well” because we had to go to “a meeting” for the day right next door (2 minutes away) at the Olympic mountain – Naskisa Ski Resort. Imagine having all your ski gear set out the night before because the snow report for the next day was as follows:

Nakiska in the Kananaskis valley reports a 120 inch base with flurries forecasted for the next 24 hours. Accumulations expected to exceed 36 inches. Starting Monday at 11pm, Highway 40 will be closed until further notice. For everyone’s safety, no public access to the ski hill until the RCMP open the highways.

Mountain FM – Canmore, Alberta

We cried for our friends in Calgary, but our tears were tears-of-joy as we were the first ones on the hill waiting at 8:01am to catch the first lift ride up the mountain.

Our “meeting” started from the base, where we were the first to load on the Silver Chair. Listening to the chair rumble over each tower as we ascended up the mountain, we were bursting with anticipation. Unloading off the Silver Chair, we quickly made our way down Easy Street to the Gold Chair. The Gold Chair was the chair that took the Olympians to the top of the Olympic Downhill course. Parts of that run were so steep, the staff needed crampons just to walk around.

Silver Chair – Nakiska, Kananaskis-Alberta

As we captured the Gold Chair, it became apparent that the temperature was changing and the wind reminded us we were in the mountains. We wanted to hit Tubo Traverse so we could catch Eagle Tail steeps. We were not disappointed. We really didn’t need to think about turning too much because the snow depth reduced out speed significantly. Normally, these runs were groomed and ready for the racers and general public, but not today. Two to three feet of fresh lite powder and we have found the perfect run…. or Did We !??!

Gold Chair – Nakiska, Kananaskis-Alberta
Nakiska – Kananaskis, Alberta

As we made our way down the slope, what we thought was going to be easy turned out to be a challenge for an unlikely reason. One of our skiers was 5’2″ tall. This is never an issue until we’re skiing on a steep pitch with 2-3 feet of fresh powder snow. The issue (and believe us, we’ve all had much worse problems) was the snow was too deep for our vertically challenged friend. She was drowning on the pitch. As we made our way down the slope, the oddest picture appeared beside us as our friend was having to HOP up and out of the snow in order to catch her breath. The slope was lengthy and stopping really wasn’t an option. By the time we all made it to the bottom of Eagle Tail, we were all pooped. It was only then we discovered the real danger that our friend was suffocating. All of our Scuba equipment was packed away for the winter, but it would have been handy to have that snorkel. Gluttons for punishment, we had to go back up and try it again. It was completely worth the lack of oxygen.

After an exhilarating day on the slopes, we headed back to the Lodge at Kananaskis for an apres cocktail. “Remember when I hit that bump”, “remember when we went through those trees and…”, “did you see the snow going over my head?”, “wasn’t it great when it was so quiet on the slope?”, “wait, wait !! – did you guys not see me drowning on the slope ? didn’t you see how wide-open my eyes were when I was hopping out of the snow just to catch a breath?

“Sorry, no friends on a powder day!”

At the time, the lounge at the hotel was called the Bighorn Lounge. Today, the name has been changed (to protect the innocent) and is now called the Blacktail Bar.

It doesn’t get any better than this

So, why do we think about skiing all the time? It’s experiences like that day at Nakiska in 1988 that spurs on a lifetime of seeking more time on the slopes. It’s very addicting and even an obsession to hit the slopes and experience all that the mountain has to offer.

So, no matter what time of year, chat about it; research it; socialize about it; prepare for it; train for it; and no matter what your definition of “IT” is, share your passion of skiing to the world. When people say: “You have an addition to the white powder“, just nod and say: “Yes, I know I’m obsessed but it’s a good thing.”

Nakiska – Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada 

  • Hours: 9am – 4pm 
  • Opens: Early December 
  • Closes: Mid-April 
  • Night Skiing: No 
  • Vertical: 735 m (2,412 ft)
  • Base Elevation: 1,525 m (5,003 ft)
  • Peak Elevation: 2,260 m (7,415 ft)
  • Acreage: 750 + 35 gladed acres
  • Average Snowfall: 250cm (98 in)
  • Snowmaking: 95% – Extensive 
  • Trails: 28 + glades 
  • Terrain: Beginner=16%, Intermediate=70%, Advanced/Expert=14% 
  • Longest Run: 3.3 km (2 miles)
  • Lifts: 2 Quads, 1 Triple, 1 Double, 2 Magic Carpets
  • Lift Capacity: ~8,620 people/hour 
  • Ski School: Group/Private/Learn-to-ski/Learn-to-Snowboard 
  • Racing: Dual slalom / Boardercross
  • Terrain Park: Yes
  • Daycare: Yes 
  • Equipment Rentals: Yes 
  • On-Mountain Accommodation: No (See Lodge at Kananaskis)

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