As I had mentioned in last month’s newsletter, I recently decided to take up the sport of downhill skiing. After a few reasonably successful downhill runs last year near London and Collingwood, I decided in January to take advantage of a 3-day Ski & Stay package at Boyne Highlands in northern Michigan. Having enjoyed (and survived) those high hills, I felt ready to tackle the mountains.
So, I joined about 30 very experienced members of the Bluewater International Ski Club for their trip to the Panorama Ski Resort near Invermere, BC. Since we were flying WestJet from Hamilton to Calgary, my plan was to spend a few days upon returning from Panorama with my daughter who lives in Calgary. My most convenient return flight arrangement from Calgary was to go to London. Therefore, my challenge was how to coordinate my transportation to and from two separate airports. Fortunately, fellow LOC and Ski Club member, Howie Boese, agreed to pick me up at the London airport where I would leave my vehicle and drive me to Hamilton. Problem solved. Thanks, Howie.
Upon arrival in Calgary, we all immediately loaded our luggage and ski equipment on a motor coach for the 4-hour drive to Panorama (after of course a mandatory stop at an Alberta liquor store). I have made this trip from Calgary to Banff on several occasions and am always excited and impressed with the approach of the snow-capped mountains. After an enjoyable scenic ride, our first stop was in Invermere where we overwhelmed their only grocery store when all aboard the bus raced through the store loading carts with the necessary provisions to stock our respective condo chalets for the week. I was extremely fortunate to be sharing a chalet with a couple who having done this all before had not only prepared a grocery shopping list for the three of us to purchase, but had also already planned to cook all the meals for the week. Just like home!
Panorama is a very beautiful place covered with lots of snow and nestled between several mountains. The chalets were very clean and comfortable and even included a very realistic and warm fireplace. That was extremely fortunate for me because on my very first day on the slopes, I had a little issue. What I didn’t realize was the significant difficulty rating difference between hills and mountains. A “green” slope is generally considered the easiest while a “blue” slope is considered to be more difficult. “Black diamond” slope are reserved for very experienced or even expert skiers. However, a “green” slope in the mountain is more like a “blue” slope back home. So, while I did reasonably well for the first hour or so on the “green” slopes, I somehow eventually lost an edge on my ski and slid sideways into a little bush on the side of the run which caught my ski and sort of twisted my right knee. My first thought was “Oh no, not on my first day”. It didn’t seem too bad but soon began to ache a little and so I decided not to aggravate it further by skiing any more that day.
Well, as it turned out, I spent the next day or so sharing the ice in the fridge between my knee and evening cocktails. The resort staff confirmed that there didn’t seem to be any serious damage but that it would be prudent to take it easy for a day or so. While I did eventually get out again on some milder slopes just to check it out, most of my time was spent walking around exploring the immediate area and taking in all the scenery.
After returning by bus to the Calgary airport, my daughter promptly picked me up. Needless to say, I spent an enjoyable and long overdue three days with her before returning to the airport to catch my 10:00 am flight back to London. Didn’t even pass my mind to call WestJet to check on the schedule status and so was a little surprised when told that all flights had been cancelled that day to Ontario because of a major freezing rain event. Luckily, I was able to arrange for a very nice room at the Marriott attached to the terminal which made for a convenient departure the next day. Returned to London to find my vehicle encased in a coating of ice. Although my knee issue seemed to be improving quite nicely, I did book an appointment for physio just in case and once again was advised that there was no likely significant damage and that with a little exercise and time, it should resolve itself. As an aside, I had asked the attendant whether he had ever skied. He replied that he had only tried once and gave it up citing an interesting analogy “that it was like driving a car downhill without brakes”.
All in all, the entire experience, apart from my slight mishap, was quite enjoyable. However, while I had tentatively considered joining the Ski Club on their second BC trip in early March, I decided instead to book a week back in the Boyne Highlands area to hopefully restore both my competence and confidence in preparation for perhaps another mountain experience next year.
Submitted by Les McDermott