When I went to elementary school, I learned that the Earth’s axis is slightly tilted in relation to its orbit around the Sun. I also learned that because the Earth orbits the Sun at a slant, we have seasons. And I learned that the seasons change on the 21st of March, June, September and December.
I have since learned that the 21st is close to the astronomical calculation, but the 21st is not always the first day of the new season.
Today, March 20th, is the astronomical first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It is known as the spring equinox or the vernal equinox. If you imagine a line above the equator, the spring equinox occurs when the sun crosses that line from south to north. That is the astronomical definition of Spring.
In Calgary, with snowbanks everywhere, it still looks like winter even though yesterday was the last official day of winter.
Yesterday, we drove to the mountains to ski at Sunshine Village. It’s not spring there either, although the temperatures are warmer than they were in January. The snow, however, is perfect winter snow—not the slushy stuff that will come with spring skiing.
Here we are leaving the gondola station at 1,660 metres (5,450 feet) looking out the frosty Plexiglas of the gondola.
Leaving the gondola base
That’s the parking lot below, only half full at ten in the morning. It’s a weekday so it will only fill to the end of the parking lot. On weekends, the cars are backed down the road and shuttle buses take you to the gondola station.
We always ski on weekdays.
Here we are arriving at the top gondola station in the Village, at 2,159 metres or 7,082 feet.
Arriving at the Village
There is another station below this where you can get off for Goat’s Eye Mountain, but in the mornings, it’s always icy over there. So if we do ski Goat’s Eye, we wait until the afternoon. By then the sun has softened the snow and it’s nicer skiing.
Yesterday’s forecast was for a mix of sun and cloud and the morning started off sunny.
sunny at Sunshine in the morning
Closer to lunch, we headed to the top of Divide.
On the Divide Chair
Now we are on the Divide chair. To the left are the Teepee Town and Angel chairs.
For a short time, the Divide chair crosses from Alberta into British Columbia. I didn’t get my camera out fast enough so I missed the sign that says “Welcome to Beautiful British Columbia” but I did get the sign welcoming us back to Alberta.
Welcome Back to Sunny Alberta
The joke is that sometimes you are riding this chair in a whiteout when the “sunny Alberta” sign comes into view.
Now we are at the top of Divide at an elevation of 2,730 metres or 8,960 feet, and the clouds are moving in.
Top of Divide
The light was flat, so we only did one run here and then skied all the way back down to the Village. We did one more run on Standish (where the light was better) and then we went to the Sunshine Mountain Lounge and the Chimney Corner for lunch . . .
Sunshine Mountain Lodge
. . . where I get to take off my boots (ahhhhh)
. . . and fuel up on that great Canadian delicacy, poutine.
After lunch, the light was still iffy, and Goat’s Eye looked socked in, so we stayed at the Village, and skied the Wawa Bowl.
Tin Can Alley
One of my favourite runs is here, Tin Can Alley.
Now we are riding down. Those are my skis on the outside of the gondola.
going down on the gondola
The temperature rose to 4 degrees Celsius (39 Fahrenheit) in the Village, with no wind, so the air was spring-like. But the snow was winter-like and perfect. So that was our last official day of astronomical winter.
The other way of determining the seasons is called the Meteorological Method. In this case, meteorologists base the seasons on annual temperature cycles.
Spring is defined as March, April and May.
Summer is June, July and August
Fall is September, October and November.
And Winter is December, January and February.
Kind of makes more sense. But I still think back to my elementary school days—and the 21st.
What is spring for you? Is it the beginning of March? Or not until the 21st? Is it snow melting? Or tulips and daffodils pushing up through the soil? Do you like spring skiing? Or would you prefer to start a garden?
Thank goodness for “snow angels” – the people who shovel your sidewalk while they are out shoveling their own.
In this weather, sidewalks often need to be shoveled more than once a day so we seem to be taking turns with the neighbours. Sometimes snow shoveling becomes a “meet the neighbours” activity.
This is what our backyard looks like.
There’s a firepit under that heap of snow . . . much like the firepit in the backyard at Aunt Myra’s in A WEDDING AND A WHITE CHRISTMAS.
Of course, the mountains are benefiting from all this snow. Yesterday, we drove to Banff to ski at Sunshine Village.
Starting out, the car temperature gauge said minus 24 (- 11 F). As we crossed Morley Flats, the temperature rose suddenly to minus 17 (1 F) and the road filled with fog and blowing snow. Traffic slowed and almost everyone was driving with four-way flashers on. I could see the flashers about 8 car lengths ahead. It was as if the cars were “holding hands” as we inched through the fog. Fortunately, that only lasted about fifteen minutes and then we got back to good visibility.
By the time we reached the Bourgeau parking lot at Sunshine’s base, the temperature had dropped back down to minus 24, and there was hardly anyone there. Too cold, I guess.
The gondola whisked us up the mountain in about 17 minutes and when we exited at the Village, the temperature was closer to minus 15 (5 F). So warm, I took off my neoprene mask. And the skies were sunny.
We rode a couple of times on the new Teepee Town heated chair. Once you are aboard, you pull down the orange cover to block the wind. It’s a much nicer ride up than taking the Angel chair which is always windy and cold.
After a couple runs to warm up, we went right to the top of Divide.
The thing I like most about skiing is being outside in the sunshine. When you get a clear day with all that white, I don’t care how cold it is.
Mother Nature gave us a break after lunch, sending the temp all the way up to minus 9 (16 F) Quite pleasant!
Do you enjoy the sunshine on a snowy winter day? Are you dressed nice and warm for the cold weather? Are you a snow angel?
On a ski hill, a whiteout is a condition where visibility is limited and contrast is almost non-existent. No sun, so no shadows. It’s an odd sensation to be slipping down the hill, hoping the terrain will stay smooth.
Today at Sunshine, the cloud covered the top of Angel. We thought of staying low on Wawa, but the lift line there was discouraging. So we went up Angel and into the mist. The top part was tricky, and then visibility improved as we dropped lower. At times it was snowing, making it even harder to see. However, the temperature was mild, hovering right around freezing. There was no wind. And the snow was perfect.
Rolf at the top of Angel
me, closer to the bottom of the hill
Taking a break at Trapper’s
Finally, at the end of the day, the sun came out. This is the ski-out as it passes the Turn Station.
And on the way back to Calgary, a hail storm.
Though I would have preferred more Sun at Sunshine, it was a relaxing day away from the routine.
Yes, it’s the middle of January and you have not seen any goals or intentions from me. Or any thought at all of what I’m planning for the new year. I’m still thinking about it, and I guess I’m not really making resolutions. Mostly, I’m continuing to do what I’ve already been doing. Like skiing.
Last Monday, I was skiing at Sunshine in cold weather. Normally, I like skiing. It makes the winter enjoyable. But on this particular day, I needed my mask and I didn’t think to bring it.
Yes, mask. When it’s really cold, we wear these neoprene masks. Combined with your goggles and helmet, your whole face is protected from the elements. So, no mask, but I did have mitt warmers. I always carry a package of disposable mitt warmers in my jacket.
Those of you from southern climes probably wonder what mitt warmers are.
They are made of iron, water, cellulose, vermiculite, activated carbon and salt, and they come sealed in plastic. Once you open the package, exposing them to air, they make heat. I don’t know why, they just do. Drop one in each mitt and soon your hands are warm.
As well as being cold, it was also misty, so the visibility was not that great. By lunchtime, my toes were cold and I was feeling tired.
After lunch, it was a different story. We rode up the new high-speed quad chairlift, the Tee Pee town chair. Here, we are enclosed in orange bubble covers and have heated seats. At the top of the lift, we schuss* over to the Divide chair, which takes us to the top of the mountain.
(*a straight high-speed run on skis)
above the inversion
Look down there at all that fog!
Up here, it was beautiful and sunny and, compared to the bottom, warm! Normally, the air temperature decreases as altitude increases. On this day, Sunshine was experiencing a temperature inversion, so the temperature increased as we rode up the Divide chair.
Other resolutions/goals/plans/intentions for this year
Each morning on waking, I want to take a few moments to think about what I am grateful for. I will name three things, and treasure them. And then get out of bed.
I will keep line dancing.
I will drink lattes and create new worlds and publish at least one new book this year. Maybe two.
In the summer, I will fly east to Ontario. And later in the summer, I will drive west to Whistler.
And I will enjoy being a new grandmother and loving this little guy.
I think it’s going to be a great year.
Pen from istockphoto.com #000014549265 Teddy bear from bigstockphoto.com #112866962
Yesterday we were skiing at Sunshine Village in Banff, Alberta, Canada. The snow was good. The temperature was mild. And the sun was out for most of the day with only a few cloudy stretches. As an added bonus, it turned out to be “Aussie Day”.
We boarded the high-speed 8 passenger gondola here, at the Bourgeau Parking lot.
The trip takes about 18 minutes to go up 1,640 feet to the upper Village, which is at an elevation of 5,440 feet.
As we stepped off the gondola we saw this sign.
Australia Day, January 26, is the official national day of Australia. Sunshine Village staff are from many different countries. As well as Canadians, there are young people from the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
As part of the festivities for Aussie Day, there is a parade down Strawberry. We didn’t catch the parade, but we saw several costumed skiers on different trails. And since much of the Australian Aussie Day is celebrated at beaches down under, we saw a few Aussies skiing in T-shirts. A few brave fellows were shirtless. Fortunately for them, the temperature hovered around minus 1 to plus 1 Celsius. It’s usually much, much colder in January.
This is a view of the Village from the Strawberry Face.
This is a view of Goat’s Eye Mountain from about the middle of Mount Standish.
This is the high-speed quad, the Great Divide Express, at the top of Lookout Mountain, an elevation of 8,954 feet.
And this is a healthy lunch:
bread pudding and ice cream served at the Chimney Corner Lounge.
I hope all of our visiting Aussies had a good time on their day!