Tales from the bunny hill and be­yond

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - TRAVEL - By Ge­off Kir­byson

WHEN a young skier wants to get gnarly on the slopes, there’s only one so­lu­tion — strap on a snow­board.

You can carve your way down the moun­tain on the lat­est high­tech skis, but there’s a cer­tain “surfer dude” vibe you only give off on a board.

That was the de­ci­sion my son, Alex, 14, made when we went out to visit his cousins in Cal­gary two weeks ago for our (al­most) an­nual trip to the moun­tains. He had surfed a cou­ple of years ago in Hawaii and used to ride his skate­board to school, so he fig­ured it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.

Those are two ad­van­tages I didn’t have when I first learned to snow­board 20 years ago.

First, it was all so new there were no in­struc­tors. We’d all go to the top of the hill, wipe out get­ting off the chair­lift and then try and surf our way down the hill, paus­ing only to laugh at the in­cred­i­ble head-smack­ing wipe­outs we all had.

No­body gave a sec­ond thought to head in­juries then. If you didn’t know what you were do­ing — and we didn’t — it was easy to catch an edge and whack the back of your head one nanosec­ond later. I’m con­vinced our group suf­fered mul­ti­ple con­cus­sions and didn’t even know it. Wait, what? Alex’s in­struc­tor was Robin Ed­wards, a na­tive of Scot­land who has been teach­ing snow­board­ing for 10 years, the last two years at Sun­shine.

He says his youngest stu­dents are about seven or eight, most of whom have started off on skis. He is quick to point out ski­ing and snow­board­ing are very sim­i­lar ac­tiv­i­ties with a cou­ple of key dif­fer­ences.

“We’re us­ing grav­ity in the same way to pull us down the hill and we’re us­ing edg­ing in the same way. What’s played a role, too, she says.

That’s not to ig­nore the fact the sheer num­ber of snow­board­ers have en­abled many ski hills to pull in record prof­its over the past two decades.

Gal­lagher says no mat­ter how long you’ve skied, if you’re a flat­lander, there’s noth­ing wrong with tak­ing a les­son when get back into the thin moun­tain air.

“You can get bad habits when you do your own thing. When you get tired, you get lazy and then you start us­ing parts of your body that you shouldn’t and you can get in­jured,” she says.

“Lessons are a great re­fresher. As you get older, you need to adapt to what your body can do. You’re less flex­i­ble and when you fall re­ally badly, it hurts more and you’re out for longer.”

Even though West­ern Canada has been un­usu­ally warm for the bet­ter part of two months, you’d never know it once you get on the gon­dola at Sun­shine. The re­sort has had sev­eral ma­jor dumps of snow while peo­ple are sun­ning them­selves some 90 min­utes away in Cal­gary.

“We’re so lucky to have had snow for so long. It can be way above zero (de­grees) and you’re still ski­ing. It’s amaz­ing,” Gal­lagher says.

Sun­shine will re­main open un­til the Vic­to­ria Day long week­end.

JILL KIR­BYSON

There are few sport­ing sit­u­a­tions as mis­er­able as go­ing up windy day in the mid­dle of win­ter. Un­doubt­edly, it af­fected some of the ac­tiv­ity off the Teepee Town Vil­lage in Banff over the years, but that will soon change. The 36-year-old chair­lift — the cold­est and slow­est on the moun­tain — was re­cently torn down and con­struc­tion has be­gun on what will be Canada’s first heated chair­lift. With seat­ing for four, it will fea­ture heated seats, tinted bub­ble cover and foot rests. “This kind of chair­lift is huge in Europe,” says Lind­say Gal­lagher, me­dia and mar­ket­ing co-or­di­na­tor at Sun­shine. “Ski­ing is an ex­pen­sive sport. It’s nice to be able to put in a new lift to say ‘thank you’ to our cus­tomers.”

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