About three weeks ago, I got my first Pfizer vaccine. It was almost anticlimactic. The drugstore had phoned us to set up our appointments. No waiting on the phone, no online forms. We just showed up—and no crowds. Hopefully, the booster shot will be as easy.
After a long locked-down winter, spring has finally hit the prairies. As is usual for Calgary, the daytime temperature fluctuates. We are anywhere from 0 Celsius to 17. Except for the in-town ski hill, Canada Olympic Park (COP), the snow in the city has melted.
But in the mountains, we are at that wonderful time of year when the skiing is perfect. It’s winter snow, but with springtime air temperatures. We were at Sunshine Village yesterday with the best conditions ever.
This is what the sky looked like. Not a cloud in sight.
Of course, still COVID, so must mask. I wore my black one today. At this point, I have several colours to choose from. Even when I get my booster shot, it will be masking as usual.
This sign was by the Standish lift. (Standish lift because it goes up Mt. Standish.)
The Wawash reference is to the Wawa Bowl.
And this is the pause that refreshes.
It was above freezing so you get warm quickly, and thirsty. Besides the water, I also had some Earl Grey tea . . . and a great view of the mountain from the Chimney Corner Lounge.
We picked the right day, going yesterday. Today, it’s socked in at the hill. But, in the city, it’s already up to 14 degrees and the sun is shining.
The robins have returned and when I saw some early this morning, they looked bigger than usual. But, they’re not. When it’s cold, they puff up their feathers to stay warm. (It’s called rousing.)
Although we could still get another snowstorm, things are looking good. The trees are budding and the tulips are poking up.
Wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying the signs of spring.
Last Wednesday we went skiing at Sunshine Village for the first time this season. And, for me, for the first time in three years. Almost one year ago, I got my new hip.
For a whole year before my surgery, I could hardly walk, let alone ski.
My surgeon told me it was okay to ski since I already know how. (Probably not a good idea to take up skiing after a hip replacement, but who knows?)
So, new hip. And also, COVID-19 restrictions.
You have to wear a mask in the lineups. Although, on a Wednesday in January, there aren’t a lot of people there. Still, there are times you might be within six feet of someone else. So, masks. The gondolas can carry six people, but you only ride up with your own group, which was just me and Rolf.
Sunshine Village with COVID-19 restrictions: This is what Sunshine has to say:
Face coverings or face masks are mandatory to ride, or wait for, any of the lifts. The face covering can be a non-medical mask, a face warmer or a buff, and resort staff will be monitoring visitors for compliance.
Wearing a mask was not a big hardship. I mean, consider all the other stuff we have to wear – helmets, goggles, layers and layers of clothing. Rolf only wore his mask in the lineups. I found it easier to just keep it on. And bonus, it blocked the wind from hitting my nose.
view from the top of Standish
We had good temperatures, about minus 8 throughout the day. This is a “Canadian nice” for January. It was a bit windy on the lifts but that’s usual. The snow was good with good coverage.
And the sun was shining. In the morning, there was only one tiny little cloud in the sky. By late afternoon, more clouds showed up.
lots of sunshine at Sunshine Village
Rolf stayed with me on my first run to make sure I was okay. Of course, I remembered how to ski. It’s like remembering how to ride a bicycle. But it felt different on my operative side. I guess some of those muscles are still weak. I don’t notice the weakness with walking, but making turns, I do notice it. Plus, it just felt weird. A strange sensation. By the end of the day, that strangeness went away and I was just tired, as you usually are after a good day of skiing.
On the website – skibanff.com – we learned that there were designated shelters set up for skiers and boarders to warm up in and to eat lunch while remaining seated. There are hosts on duty to manage capacity and to disinfect tables.
There’s no table service anywhere on the hill, but lots of Grab and Go food and beverages that you can purchase and take into one of the shelters. The usual eateries, like Trappers and the Day Lodge, have food for sale. There is also a Tenn Roof Co. Taco Truck.
We had heard that the Chimney Corner Lounge was only open to hotel guests, and we were disappointed because we always eat there. But, turns out, the Chimney Corner was open on Wednesday—with hardly anyone in there.
empty Chimney Corner Lounge
The greeter is behind plexiglass. You give your name and phone number in case they need it for COVID-19 tracing. Through a slot in the plexiglass, she passes you a tall bottle of water and glasses and napkin-wrapped cutlery.
Then you pick a table. Probably two-thirds of the tables have been removed. A QR code is laminated onto the table. You use your phone to check out the menu.
Then go back to the front, order, and they give you a pager. When your food is ready, you go to a pickup window.
pick up food here
So, it’s all done without wait staff.
We both got the Beef Burger—Alberta Chuck, Bourbon BBQ Sauce, Smoked Cheddar, Crisp Lettuce, Tomato and Garlic Aioli. And we each got a cup of the spicy Tomato Bisque plus a big order of fries. I love ski food.
In the morning, I was on Angel and Standish. After lunch, I skied another hour and a half with more time on Standish, then another run on Angel and then I went to the easy hill—Strawberry. Meanwhile, Rolf went up the Divide and did moguls.
By late afternoon, more clouds showed up.
At this time of year, the sun falls behind the mountains early, so the light is better up high. Right now, the lifts only run until four o’clock. Later in the season, they will go till four-thirty.
I was done by three o’clock. Rolf skied almost another hour more, almost until the lifts turned off.
In the meantime, I went to the Java Lift Coffee Bar for my usual half-sweet vanilla latte – and a butter tart. Yum! Then I sat outside and enjoyed the fresh air, and the sunshine, and the peace.
I hope you are coping with the restrictions of COVID-19 and I hope you are getting lots of Outdoor Time!
winter decoration in the Chimney Corner Lounge
QR image on phone from Depositphotos #14697937 All other images from Suzanne’s trusty phone
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.