Learning to Survival Ski 2016 March 5-6

As sometimes happens, there’s a couple of people who want to try skiing. Not Alpine Touring with the expensive bindings, and not Tele, where they actually know how, but just a bit of survival skiing. So we head off to Red Heather Meadows, and just to make it a bit more interesting, we will tent up there in the snow. As instructors we are Roland, who’s done it all before but mostly can’t remember, my Carla who used to be quite graceful and competent but who has misplaced her mojo somewhere, and then there’s Lucy who has been scared badly on some lift-serviced hill far away, and Other Carla, the snowboarder, who is trying to decide if she wants to ski. We drive to the upper parking lot, no chains required, an ominous sign. Is summer coming already?

We are not alone. The Veenstras are up there, along with Fenya the Toddler, and various complicated devices. Christian has brought his lurk, which is something that was used before ski poles got invented. And he has a large machine for hauling a sleeping toddler. They have a friend visiting from Denmark who is OK but not particularly graceful on skis (Line and Christian are graceful; Fenya doesn’t seem to ski yet).

Then there was a group of VOC elves, heading for the Elfin Shelter. They seem to be having trouble staying in a single group, but maybe they know what they were doing. We didn’t see them again so we don’t know what kind of fun they had.

In due course our group arrives at the picnic shelter and puts up our tents. The brochure said something about lovely powder, but we’re not so sure as it rained a bit on the way up, so maybe heavy coastal powder would be more accurate. We head up the meadows for something easy. I explain how you need to know where “down” is because that’s where your skis want to go, and you mostly want to avoid that and traverse at this confidence-building stage. The traverses improve a lot with practice, and the occasional turn sometimes works. We do a couple of runs in the sun, but the sun is getting low and nasty crust is forming in the shade and wherever the sun angle is too low. So we pack it in for the day and cook our nourishing food in the picnic shelter. The highlight of our meal is something that looks like hamster bedding, but tastes much, much better. We are joined by a group of Venture Scouts, and find that two of their leaders were VOC Members from way back, and they reminisce about building the Harrison Hut, and skiing across Garibaldi Lake. Christian fires up his ukulele and exercises the song book a bit. We go to bed.

Soon the storm arrives. Much loud noises as entire buckets of rain were dumped on our tent. Then snow avalanching down the walls of the tent. Then more rain. At 3:30am there’s a lull in the storm and Carla announces that she is getting soaked. For some reason Carla seems to attract water. So we pack up and head 30m to the “emergency” shelter to enjoy the wood-burning heater, dry off, and wait for morning.

The beginner skiers are apprehensive; the crustiness from last night has a few cm of wet snow on it; we think conditions are not optimal enough for us, so we decide to head down. Should the beginners wear skins? Lets try without, and see what happens. It seems that Lucy “I can snowplow anything”, Other Carla “I could do this easily with a snowboard” my Carla “I think I can parallel a bit”, and myself “Maybe if I do my boots up, that would help”, all actually enjoyed the ski down to the parking lot, and improved a lot. Success! When you go survival skiing, survival = success! We get home in time for an afternoon nap.

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One Response to Learning to Survival Ski 2016 March 5-6

  1. Vincent Chan-Ying says:

    Happy to hear everything went relatively smooth for this trip! I’m sure you and many others would love to hear the trials and tribulations my crew faced with our push to Elfin hut hahaha

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