Ok so its 2 weeks in and this is the first email. I know I know, I`m just a work-shy slacker. Sadly my laptop died, I took all that time getting it sorted – latest software, webcam so I can make skype video calls, things to read on it, music, videos, a rather nice little mouse, blog authoring software. I arrive at Fernie, power-on and the git thing refuses to boot up. I spent the next week begging favours from people so that I can try and download stuff to make an attempt to fix it. Now that was tricky – I went to a local supermarket, "do you have windows vista or xp". The magnificent reply was "dude we don`t even get music CD`s to sell here". Bugger. I`ve now finally admitted defeat and started using an Internet cafe – and me a supposed IT guy too. So I`m going to be a little light on certain bits – video, pics etc.
My first impressions on arrival was that I`m being set up, everyone is just too friendly. Even the bus driver picking the group up from Calgary airport (one of the cleanest I`ve ever been in) seemed as though he was on drugs, or maybe after a massive tip. Too much european travel can do that to you I guess.
The planned 4 hour journey from Calgary to Fernie took a bit more than that as we were caught behind an accident though most of bus was too tired to notice. We arrived at about 10pm, straight into the house with my 5 new companions for the next 6 weeks and after a brief exploration of the house crashed out.
Next day was veg or orientation day. We were taken on a tour of the town and had all the snowboard shops pointed out (again everyone in the shops were suspiciously friendly, must be trying to flog me something I don`t want). Then a bit of a talk on various bits and pieces and then up to the mountain for ski lift passes and a first look at what we`d be hitting the next day. Not bad, some of the the runs looked almost vertical from down the bottom but we`re assured we`ll be doing them by the end of the 6 weeks.
The skiers and snowboarders are divided and then split by number of weeks of experience. Then for the next couple of days we`re touring round the mountain receiving some initial instruction by Aubrey – one of the 2 instructors that will take us boarders. Half way through the first day and I`m thinking that I`m already at the limit of my skills. Either I`ve picked the exact right course or I`m in way over my head.
Still, we had a rest day and then out with Jeff for the next 3 days, he`s the free-style specialist so there`s a lot of jumping around on the board – all about showing us how static we are on the board and that we`re not weight centred. Good job I wear impact shorts and a helmet else I`d be in the Emergency Room having either my head or anus closely examined. Then it`s back to Aubrey for some other technique stuff and heading on up for some work through the trees – the advice was good enough, aim for the gaps but not always applied correctly in my case.
On course-days we have breakfast and evening meals with the rest of the course people at the lodge (you stay in either one of the rented houses or the 100+ person lodge). There seems to be a lot of timing needed for when you turn up to be fed, there`s a lot of Uni gap-year type people staying in the lodge so particularly in the mornings it can get to be a bit of a scrum with a lot of peanut butter knives splayed everywhere.
The house is pretty decent, split over 3 floors with 1 person in the basement and the other 5 on the top floor. The housemates are 4:2 male to female with all the blokes being from the uk and the women from Canada and Germany.
I`ve now been to my first Ice-hockey game – the local team are called the Ghostriders. It`s very fast and a bit confusing until the basic rules are pointed out to you. The number of subs coming on and off the ice is unbelievable, most players only stay on the ice for 45-60 seconds at a time. I was a little disappointed that there were no fisticuffs, but by all accounts so were the local spectators.
Last night was a street hockey game but I limited myself to observer rather than participating as I`m looking out for my ankle after getting just a little too flash with a trick Aubrey taught us. A handstand whereby you wheelie the snowboard and have both hands trailing in the snow behind you for balance. My moment came after about 20-30 metres (odd looking at the snow upside down trying to steer) when I slammed the board down to brake and both ankles protested mightily at being such a fool. Still hopefully all will be well for Saturday when we heard up the mountain on split-boards to prepare for the back-country trip. No, I`ve never heard of them either so I`ll let you know what they`re like….