Day 5 – Winnipeg to Calipher Lake

Left Winnipeg around 10am and headed East towards Ontario. Fergus was still very tired so we stopped at Falcon Lake about an hour out of Winnipeg so he could have a nap. I wandered around the very busy beach and sat and read my Canadian Lonely Planet guide for a while before going down the pier for a look and then back to the car. Continued on our way through dramatically different landscape than we have driven through the last few days. The long straight prairies were replaced with winding roads, lots and lots of lakes, hills, deep green forest, swamps and small lake fishing resorts. We stopped briefly at a rest stop for lunch but we were mobbed by bugs so cut it short. Stopped briefly in Nester falls to watch some Pelicans frolicking in the falls before heading to Calipher Lake Provintial Park. I had looked at campsites here but never booked so we went to the park gate to enquire and managed to get a lakeside camping spot. We were also able to borrow life jackets free of charge. 

Found campsite 28 and set up camp for the night. We were right on the lake surrounded by huge trees, a beach to the right of our site and a jetty to the left. Our spot is on the cover of the campsite guide so it must be one of the best!Blew up the kayak and had a paddle around the bay.  Unfortunately it seems we left our fin at Clear Lake so we went around in circles a lot! Will have to find another on EBay. Cooked a lovely meal of couscous with tomato & onions and a couple of sausages and sat in the sun on one of our 3 picnic tables. Fergus made a few smores for dessert. (Marshmellows & chocolate melted between a cracker. Read for a bit, then taught Fergus how to play last card and had a few games of that. Watched a Terrapin very slowly lay some eggs on shore before scurrying off back to the water. 

Went to the beach for a while and chilled out on the sand, didn’t go swimming as it was so cold and the water brown and murky. Watched a very pretty Orange and yellow sunset and decided to use the free canoes and got out about 5 metres before Fergus decided is was too dark! Returned to the camp, had a shower and settled into bed and watched The Long Way Round, a documentary about Euan McGregor and Charlie Boorman travelling across the world on motorbikes. Their trip makes ours look tiny but it seemed fitting all the same.

50 days, 5 resorts and a million laughs…

This is the first time since we started traveling that I have felt really down. I feel like something is missing, something special has ended and there is a void in the pit of my stomach. The ski season is over.​I always knew I would have a wee cry and be upset when the ski season ended and to be honest I was getting a bit sick of skiing and only made the effort to go up if the weather was good whereas at the beginning of the season I would go, rain, hail or shine but I am feeling very sad that I can no longer jump on the bus and head up the mountain for a few hours before work or spend the morning skiing and the afternoon at Trappers having a few drinks or watching a band.2016/17 was such a great season and doing this was the best thing I have ever done and something I have wanted to do all my life. Sunshine Village is a very special place, the staff, many we know personally have made it such a great place to be. From the instructor who taught Fergus to ski to our mate Mitch from rentals, they have all made it a season to remember.Goat’s Eye, Standish, Angel, Wawa, Divide, Teepee and Strawberry are words we used often and everyone knew where you were talking about. In the future these words will always evoke a good memory when they are randomly and most probably very infrequently used. We had our own language up there, one everyone understood.I’m so glad Fergus has enjoyed it too. Back at the start of November he had never even been to a ski resort and I remember laughing at him trying to walk in ski boots for the first time, roll on 7 months and he is nearly as fast as me and is flying over big jumps and down black runs with ease. I’m glad I have been able to introduce the sport I love to the man I love.Slush Cup 89 was the best way to end a cracker season, the sun was out, the tunes were pumping and Trappers was packed full of revellers all wanting to cheers to a great season. It definitely went out with a bang!So today I packed up my boots, wiped down my skis, put them into storage and cleaned out my rucksack of things skiing related and stored them away in a memory box.

Yes, it is sad but we still have another Canadian ski season ahead of us, an amazing Summer full of travel and adventure and we have met some lifelong friends skiing this season at Sunshine.Sunshine village will always have a special place in my heart.
 

PANORAMA 

In March, the house packed up and went to Panorama ski resort in BC for a couple of nights. Before I start, let me tell you about our travel buddies/flatmates.

  • Carris – English, beautiful girlfriend of Sean and travel guru.
  • Sean – English, boyfriend of Carris and a mean cook/baker.
  • Kurt – Australian, older brother of Zeke and the maker of the amazing video below.
  • Zeke – Australian, Kurt’s not so little brother and the loudest in the house.
  • Tate – Canadian, amazing at almost every Winter sport and longtime Banff resident.

Through being Banff locals we got lift tickets for $69 a day and accommodation on the mountain for $9 a room! Awesome!

Day 1
Fergus, Tate, Kurt, Zeke and I left early in the day on the Wednesday but found out early on our trip would be longer due to the  93 being closed for avalanche control. We stopped in Lake Louise for a sausage roll before continuing up the Trans Canada through Yoho National Park to Golden. 

 On the way we stopped at The Natural Bridge, a rock formation that spans the Kicking Horse river just past Field. The boys meandered down the path in deep snow and along the side of the icy river to go into the cave under the bridge, it looked wonderful in there but I didn’t want to fall into the feeezing river so Fergus and I stayed on the bridge above.We continued on, beers in hand, music blaring, through the gorge to Golden and on to the 95 to Invermere. Stopped for some Timbits before climbing up the hill to PanoramaAfter checking into the Pine Inn we unpacked and headed down to the store on the old town gondola to get supplies (beer and Yagermister). 

Suituated in BC’s Purcell mountains, Panorama has nearly 3000 acres of terrain, 6 chairlifts and Canada’s largest slopeside hot pools as well as shops, cafes and bars.After a few drinks in our rooms we headed for the T-bar, a bar within crawling distance to our lodge! Had a few beers and played some pool (I kicked everyone’s arse!) and chatted. After a while Carris and Sean turned up (Carris had to work in the morning) and we enjoyed a hilarious game of musical bingo which I was rubbish at and by the end I didn’t know if the game was still on every time a song came on! After that we hit up the dance floor and showed off our dance moves, it was so fun. 

Later on it turned a bit fuzzy, I know I had 3 shoeys (drinking beer out of someone’s shoe) and it was a pretty late and messy night…….

Day 2

After a lovely breakfast of bacon and egg sandwiches cooked in our room on a camping stove by Carris and Sean we warily made our way up to the chairlift a mere 10 metres from the lodge.

Headed right up the very top via 2 chairlifts and started our day.  Started on a mogully black run where there was a lot of stopping, falling over, laughing and general hungover shenanegins. Lost Kurt and Zeke after the second run and found out later they had retired back to the room. It was very icy over the whole mountain which made it hard work but it was sunny so we were rewarded with amazing views of the valley and surrounding mountain ranges. 

Relaxed on the deck chairs up the top at the Summit hut and had coffee. It was a lazy day but most of us skied right up until near closing time. Later in the afternoon we hit the hot pools. The one large and two smaller pools ranging from 35-40 degrees were so relaxing after a day on the slopes despite loud children splashing about and the boys throwing balls and squirting water at each other, it was rather nice. Boys will be boys!There is a free shuttle bus that takes people to and from Invermere nearby so jumped on that and headed down the mountain to town to get dinner. It was a long journey on a windy road, we were tired and some were a bit green round the gills. The bus driver kindly recommended a place called The New Station Pub to us which ended up being very nice. It is right on Lake Invermere and we saw a lovely sunset over the lake and mountains.Had a big dinner as many of us hadn’t eaten lunch. I had the Chicken Souvlaki which was yum! Had a few drinks and walked up to town to look around while waiting for the bus. Not much to see in Invermere. We were even stopped by local security asking why we were loitering around at 10:30 pm in town! We all look like friendly folk, I think….

Day 3

Headed back up the mountain again in the morning, another lovely day but the mountain was still icy up the top. Did a few runs up the top before sticking lower down where the snow was slightly softer. Had lunch and beers (it was St Patrick’s day so Guinness all round) down at the main building and chilled out for a bit in the sun.Did a few more runs up the top and through the park before calling it a day. The terrain was great and the mountain has long, wide tree runs and wasn’t busy at all, it was just a pity the snow wasn’t great but for $69 who can complain really.

Packed up the cars and headed on our way home. Stopped at Radium Hot Springs for a dip before carrying on through the gorge on the 93 to Castle Junction. The road had been closed for avalanche control as I mentioned earlier and we could see why as we travelled through there. There were reminants of avalanches all along the road. Up on the mountains you could see where the snow had fallen and on the road where it had been cleared. It was an amazing piece of roadway and driving over the passes and through the valleys really makes you appreciate the scale and beauty of the Canadian Rockies. I really hope to do the drive again in the Summer as there were so many viewpoints and things to do along the way we didn’t stop at. A weekend I will always remember, thanks guys!

Here is a GoPro video Kurt made of our trip.Muppets go to Panorama

SKIING! – This is what we came to Canada for!

Stunning first day at Sunshine Village.

The Resort

Sunshine Village ski resort opened on November 3rd, the earliest opening day for 30 years! That tells me this season is going to be a cracker one.
Sunshine consists of 3 mountains, Mt Standish, Goats Eye and Lookout Mountain. It’s a lot bigger that any ski area in NZ but smaller that the big ones in Europe. You jump on a high-speed Gondola at the base and travel 20 minutes to the Village where there are 3 lodges, Lookout Lodge where there are restaurants and shops, Old Sunshine Lodge which is a pub/restaurant and Sunshine Mountain Lodge which is a ski in/ski out hotel. Sunshine Trail Maps

There are 12 lifts including 2 magic carpets and a luxury express bubble chair with heated seats. 

We have season passes which were just under $1000. Really cheap when you use them a lot which we will. I also get half the cost back through work if I say until the end of the season!Not the nicest of photos…..

Gear

I had my trusty Head Great One skis and Scott poles sent over from the UK at a cost of £130. Even though my skis are 2010 they are in great shape and always preform wether it be ice or deep powder. After a wax and sharpen at Snowtips in Banff where I get a 25% discount, they were ready to go.  Head Great Ones

I invested in new boots this year and am so glad I did so. Ski boots are so important to both comfort and performance and getting them mounded you your feet is also a must. They are not cheap though, mine were $369.00.

I researched for ages on the internet at the best womans boots from 2015 and 2016. I wanted the right flex for my skill level and of course a comfortable boot! In the end I had a pair in mind and went to Sports Experts in Canmore and funnily enough they had a selection of last year’s boots on sale and had one pair of Atomic Hawx 90 left in my size! After a few days breaking them in they are by far the most comfortable ski boots I have ever owned!Alomic Hawx 90

Ski School

Fergus had his first skiing lesson on the Sunday after the resort opened. He was so lucky there was only 2 of them in his all day lesson. Him and a lady from the Gold Coast. I went up and down Stawberry a few times (the small lift near the bunny slope) so I could watch his progress. First day of lessons

​I have to say, Fergus has taken to skiing a lot faster than I ever did. On his first day he went down a Green run on Stawberry and the second day we went up together I took him all over the mountains. Some runs he wasn’t fond of but he’s definately faster and more confident each day we go. I’m so very proud of him.Fergus and I on the bubble chair Stunning day!

I can also feel myself improving, it’s been 2 weeks since Sunshine opened and I’ve been 5 times. The snow has been wonderful, 8-10cm of fresh powder has fallen this week and it’s just fab to ski on.

Dreams do come true…

Lake Louise, Norquay and Nakiska open soon and we will go out and explore those resorts but Sunshine will be home for the next 6-7 months. I cannot believe I can ski every 3-4 days, I have been wanting this all my life, it’s true, it’s never too late to live your dreams.Ski bunnies – my flatmate Carris & I

Whistler – Home of the 2010 Winter Olympics

As a lifetime skier, there are mountain resorts I have heard about that make me foam at the mouth! To me Whistler and Aspen are those places. Yes, I have been fortunate enough to ski many of the big resorts in Europe and they are amazing but the Canadian and American resorts have always felt like the big daddies of the ski world. Aged 5 learning to ski in Queesntown, NZ.

So going up to Whistler in the Summer was a slight bummer but it gave me a taste of what resorts in Canada are like.


Fergus, Rosie, Yvonne and I got the train to the airport early in the morning and went to pick up what I thought was going to be a tiny 2 door car (that’s what I had booked) but they gave us a Jeep. Sweet!After a few wrong turns we were on our way, through the city, Stanley Park, over the Lions Gate Bridge and over to motorway 99.The motorway took us along the edge of the mountain, past the bay’s and islands of Horseshoe Bay and onwards up the side of Howe Sound. We stopped at Squamish for an A&W burger meal and to the supermarket to get some supplies for the afternoon. There is a rather impressive cliff called the Chief there that some people were climbing up! Just nuts! Heights are not my thing. As the mountains grew taller they also became more and more snow covered and from some parts of the windy but wide road we could see even higher snow and cloud covered peaks far into the distance. 

As we arrived into Whistler Village we could see the gondolas and chairlifts climbing to the tops of the ski resorts and all the lovely mountain lodges and hotels in front of us. I made a mental note there and then that we should do a season here.Once there we got tickets for the Peak to Peak gondola and the girl at the ticket counter very helpfully advised us to walk to the Blackcomb chairlift and go up that way as the queues are a lot shorter. So off we went over the Blackcomb and jumped on the quad chairlift.

It was weird being on a chairlift without skis and all my ski clothes on but it was nice with the breeze blowing and the warm sun beating down on us.  About halfway up the first chairlift a couple on a chair going down yelled over to us that there was a Black Bear up the hill a bit. Almost immediately we saw it sniffing around the grass and wild flowers. He wasn’t that big but I was glad I was above him and not in front! I was amazed I’d finally seen a Bear, I’d been watching out for them ever since we arrived on the West Coast. Very lucky!We hoped off at the top of that chair about halfway up the mountain and stopped for a few photos before carrying on up to the top. The views were incredible looking back over Whistler Village and over to the mountains beyond.

It was a bit cooler on the second chairlift but we got an even better view from the top of that one. There was a restaurant, hikes and the Peak to Peak Gondola station. We wandered around for a short while before (reluctantly for me) jumping on the big gondola. The Peak to Peak is the tallest and longest gondola of its kind. It’s not overly big compared to others I have been on in Europe but it has to be a bit lighter as a lot of the cable in the middle is unsupported! I didn’t want to look out the window or move around at first as I was terrified but after a few minutes I got over that and enjoyed the views which were utterly breathtaking. Once safely on Whistler mountain we wandered around the shops for a while before deciding to go right up the top of Whistler on the highest chairlift. I was cold already and it was no doubt going to get colder up the top where there was more snow and wind so Fergus bought me a The North Face Whistler hoodie which I absolutely LOVE!!We walked down the steep, dusty trail to the Peak Express chairlift that took us to the very top. It was quite scary as we were travelling high up over very steep rugged cliffs and Jaggered rocks and snow.Once up the top where it was quite chilly, we lined up to get a photo with the Ilanaaq the Inunnguaq, the 2010 Olympic Mascot. 

Walked around up the top for a while, admiring the view, took lots of photos, had a cup of tea and headed back down. 

Took a quick photo with the Olympic Rings before we got on the gondola all the way back down to Whistler Village. It was a nice spot to eat our very late lunch while watching the mountain bikers pass underneath us.


Once down we had a wander around town before heading out for a look at Hidden Lake. Sat there for a bit and watched people swimming, paddle boarding, tightrope walking, juggling, doing poi and relaxing. There were also all these tiny Toads migrating across the grass which was cute. A very lovely place.

On the way home Fergus and Rosie shared the driving while I managed the music. Listened to classic rock all the way back to the rental car company. Saw a lovely sunset over the bay’s on our way back.Got home and had dinner and a few glasses of wine before hitting the hay after an exhausting but wonderful day.