Have you ever not been able to stop smiling for an entire week? To the point where you’re actually beaming and laughing so much, it’s as if someone has injected you with snow, plugged you into an electric socket and you’ve turned into this ecstatic snowboarding infatuated creature. Living in the mountains of British Columbia, guzzling Canadian beer, watching awesome sunrises from a balcony Jacuzzi and never wanting to go home and return to a normal life. Well this is more or less what appears to have happened to the majority of us here this week. Some are unsure if they ever want to go back.
The truth is, I actually only signed up for the course about four weeks ago. An impulsive decision (as always), but this time one that may hold such power and potential to change the way I’ll see things and act upon decisions forever. As utterly ridiculous and ludicrous as this may sound, there is something profound about being in the mountains. Mountains make you realise how tiny the human being is in comparison to the enormously overwhelming and breathtaking influence of nature that surrounds us here on a daily basis. You can’t help but admire the world’s beauty around you whilst riding the Ridge Rocket Express or the Powder Chair to the top of the cliff. Without sounding like a bad rendition of Wordsworth, never in my life have I appreciated the snow and the pine trees, or the infinitely beautiful snow-covered-pine-trees (or, ‘snow ghosts’ as they call them out here), quite so much. The grapefruit pink skyline that hovers just above the clouds, signing the end to a perfect bluebird day only encapsulates our newly found fixation with Big White.
Secondly, there is some kind of freedom out here. A sense of freedom within all the people in search for something new, something raw and something far more exhilarating than the job title, which previously filled their days. Everyone is excited, enthusiastic and above all, seriously passionate about skiing and snowboarding. Such an eclectic and international group of individuals from a wide range of backgrounds thrown together for the sole purpose of improving their skills on the slopes, and to eventually qualify for teaching. Ultimately, to be able to share with others this dynamic delight of snow surfing. Bonus = everyone is also here to have a good time.
For me, a snowboard instructor course is something I had always wanted to do. I never thought I would be able to afford it and also never thought I would have the chance to do it. The usual respectable structure of school, university, and career in ‘chosen university subject’ applied to me. I feel fortunate to have been exposed to a different way of life. A life in the mountains: where your offices are the vast white slopes and your peers are the instructors, students and down to earth citizens of the ski resort.
So how did we get to this point? As this is a diary entry, let’s start from the top. Arriving at the airport (slightly late, obviously), stumbling and dragging a heavy suitcase and snowboard across Terminal 5 looking for the rest of the team, I didn’t really know what to expect. Meeting a large group of men, channelling that snow-guy look of oversized hoodies; beanies and tattoos seemed a little intimidating at first. It wasn’t long before everyone was chatting and I instantly admired the common sense of happiness and eagerness for the months ahead. Finally, after checking everything in, I headed to the bar with Simon, Ravi and Chris (three complete strangers at this point) for a pint of beer to celebrate Chris’s 30th birthday. He was blissfully unaware at this moment that the real celebration was later to come. The flight flew by and the sense of adventure really hit when we landed in Vancouver airport. Arriving at Big White and walking into the apartment with my new roommate Becky, it felt a little like Christmas morning. Or an episode of MTV Cribs.
First snow day has arrived! After waking up in what felt like a reality TV show, meeting our other roommates: Philly, Michael and Emily for the first time over morning coffee, we headed to the village to collect our lift passes and start our introductions. Morale was high, and an encouraging welcoming speech from one of the leading instructors seemed to put us all at ease about difficulty of the course and the exams. A few of us were keen to head up to the mountain straight after the meeting and I was in for a treat. Canadian snow was entirely different to anything I had ever become accustomed to in the Alps. The runs were wide and luscious, lined with trees and my board was gliding over the fluffy white stuff underneath it with ease. To top it all off, I could probably count on my fingers the number of people who were sharing the mountain with us at any one time. An alien scene I had not experienced anywhere else.
Wednesday morning was one of the most insanely beautiful sunrises I have ever been fortunate enough to witness. Wide-awake at 5:30am due to jet lag, we submerged into the hot tub with a cup of tea to watch the golden sunlight rise above the thin layer of clouds which gathered below us in the valley. First full day of boarding! Another radiant ‘bluebird’ day as the Canadians call it over here (eh?) none of us could wait to race onto the high-flying chairlifts, navigating over the shimmering snow ghosts and deep white powder. Ant, Joey, Leigh and Sam took the whole group to the top of the mountain to check out the view. I cruised around with Becky and Simon for a while, practising our switch riding. This was particularly hilarious, especially as it was only Simon’s third or fourth day on skis. Later, we found a couple of disowned plastic sleds lying outside the apartments, so we decided to take them for a spin. Becky was like an Olympic bobsledder. I fell straight off the edge of the road.
Thursday arrived with much apprehension to start our lessons. A dense snow-filled cloud engulfed Big White, as we kissed goodbye to the sunshine and were told by many locals that this is how the resort earned its name. We were put into our snowboarding groups and met with our instructors. Our guy was called Fraser – a young Scottish dude who seemed to have found himself in the depths of snowy Canada. He was lively and passionate. He also enjoyed incorporating elements of yoga into snowboarding – which I liked a lot. We focused on the three core competencies: most of all becoming centred and mobile, using the skills of positioning and balance to help achieve this.
There was certainly one craze that became very clear to me upon immediate entry into Big White. Powder days = the best days. The days that had men, women and children of the snow-sporting universe dancing around their bedrooms, riddled with pure joy before ruthlessly embarking to the slopes to ride the fresh snow. Our lesson was no different. First run through the trees was exceedingly entertaining. Having never stepped foot on a snowboard in Canada before, no one had told me what to do when you’re waist deep in powder. After rolling around in it for a while, I guess I figured that one out on my own.
Friday night signalled our first big celebration of the week. Everyone seemed pretty eager to make it a decent one. Starting off the night in Santé Bar and Grill, Ant got the evening’s entertainment rolling by pulling out the ‘shot list’, stating that everyone should compete to complete every shot on the list before the end of the season. The night sustained this pattern and the celebration of Jaymez’s graduation and Chris’s 30th birthday gave ammunition to the shot list consumption. A sequel of drinking games organised by Ant and Joey, including a sensational dance-off, secured the night as one to remember.
Saturday was a day for some much-needed relaxation. On Sunday, we took our Australian (skier) roommate – Philly – out on the slopes to try snowboarding for the first time. It felt like such an accomplishment being able to teach, and actually see her get some turns in! We battled against the blizzard and some pretty steep moguls for the rest of the day, before returning to Snowshoe Sam’s for an amusing evening of dancing to some awkwardly mixed drum and bass. It was the ideal end to the perfect week. I went to bed feeling optimistic about what the next set of lessons would be like with an impatient desire to improve my snowboarding technique.