Before I’d felt like I’d been back at school two minutes, Reading Break arrived! And what does that mean? No classes for a week!! Technically I should have spent those precious nine days reading, right? Wrong. Apart from studying for midterms and catching up on work, I had great plans afoot.
So what do people in North America do on Reading Break? Well according to 22 Jump Street, every college student goes on one of these ludicrously debauched and drunken parties scattered along the beaches of California or Mexico. I briefly considered heading down to one and catching some much needed winter sun, until I saw the price-tag attached and decided to reconsider. Instead I thought I’d use my time more wisely, to improve on my skiing and explore the spectacular Rockies which are perched right on my doorstep.
At the ungodly hour of 5:30 in the morning, we rubbed the sleepy dust from our eyes and set off in haste for Fernie, a small town high up in the mountains and nestled between the border of Alberta and British Columbia. As we drove onwards, the sun gradually rose to illuminate the never-ending, rolling plains which surround Calgary and beyond. Interrupted only by an occasional cattle ranch or gas stop I soon understood why this is known as cowboy country. As we travelled higher up, the wild prairies soon gave way to dramatic mountain scenes. Traversing around boulder-filled valleys and evergreen forests, whilst surrounded by colossal peaks capped with glistening ice, the view never ceased to take my breath away.
When we finally arrived at Fernie Ski Resort, we couldn’t wait to get on that fresh pow. Unfortunately for us, however, the last few days had been unusually warm and so there was rather a lack of snow… a worrying lack. It wasn’t too bad for me, I was a beginner and spent my time practicing on the well groomed green slopes, without coming across too much ice or grass but it wasn’t so great for my far more experienced friends further up the mountain…
The next day, some of us made the decision to hold off on the skiing and opt for a more weather-appropriate alternative. I spent the morning being dragged, kicking and screaming, halfway up Mt Fernie (I honestly thought I was going to plunge to my death as we trekked up a steep, narrow and icy path). But despite that, it was a pleasant day exploring and I returned back to the hotel just as fulfilled as a day on the slopes. And thankfully, guess what happened later that night? It snowed!
We spent the next two days skiing to our hearts content (although many of the runs were still closed off, the resort was large enough that it didn’t limit our choices too much). At first, I had struggled to remember all the basics I had learnt previously. I was so petrified that I was going to fall over and never get up again. I was emotionally and physically drained. ‘Why on earth do people go skiing?’ I asked myself. Nevertheless I kept at it, building my confidence and improving my technique with the help of my friends. It was such a gratifying and exhilarating feeling. By the end of the trip, the boys took us to the top of the mountain and with a lot of falling and cursing on my behalf, we managed to ski all the way down (without breaking any bones or shedding any tears, I might add). Mission accomplished! I had so much fun!
It was with great reluctance that we had to head back to the hustle and bustle of city life on the last day. So before we set out on the road trip home we decided to have one last venture into the wilderness. It was a crisp and frosty morning, toe-numbingly cold, but the skies were bright blue and it was gloriously sunny. The perfect weather for a quick walk. We discovered a narrow path covered deep in untouched snow and we decided to follow its winding trail between the trunks of a pristine pine forest. This eventually gave way to a large open area, with a bubbling stream of clear, icy water running alongside it. We were surrounded on all sides by soaring, white mountains. The perfect opportunity for some snow angels, snow ball fights and photo-taking! It truly was unforgettable.
Needless to say I returned to Calgary absolutely knackered. However after a good long sleep, I definitely experienced a case of post-mountain blues. Although I am most certainly a ‘city person’ at heart, I now have an appreciation of why so many people choose to stay or live in the mountains: the views, the fresh air and the adventures. It is all so invigorating and life-affirming. When can I go again?
Until next time,