.: Ski XCOttawa.ca :: Skiing in Ottawa and Gatineau Park

Chic Choc Adventures
By:  Karl Saidla   (2001/05/10)


We wasted no time getting things off the ground in preparation for this winterís assault on the ski trails. In the first week of May, our first training camp of the year took place in the beautiful Chic-Chocs of the Gaspe. For those of you who are not familiar, this is one spectacular place, well worth a twelve hour drive,the price of a new transmission, and a mild case of food poisoning.( We will get back to this later). Team members who participated were Craig Storey, Tom McCarthy, and Karl Saidla. Two other well-established athletes were invited out of courtesy: Steve Bursey, and Ian Sinclair.

Let me briefly outline our week for the benefit of those wishing attempt something similar...

Securing transportation for five team members proved to be a challenge, but skillful negotiation resulted in the procurement of a most suitable Mercury wagon, with the front bumper and 2 hubcaps already removed for the prevention of unnecessary front bumper replacement and hubcap theft. The front door lock had also been removed, in order to prevent damage in the event of an attempted break in.

And so, at the crack of dawn, guest team member Bursey had the whip out and was encouraging our swift departure from the rendez-vous point at the Saidla estate. Well, actually, guest team member Bursey was nowhere to be seen half an hour after our strict departure deadline, and the rest of us were considering which method of punishment would be most suited to instilling some discipline in this chronic sufferer of tortoise nervosis.

Eventually, we did get the Mercury to the end of the driveway, at which point we realized that we had a minor clearance problem. Our heavily loaded monster machine would no doubt be dragging her tailpipe down the road if we did not get rid of some weight. Craig and Tom, ( the ones in charge of food) decided that approximately half of our food provisions were not actually required, so we fed them immediately to the Saidla guard dog, who was desperately underweight and in need of a good meal.

Generally speaking, the drive went smoothly, and we arrived at our destination in good spirits. The Americans who had arrived before us were also in good spirits, or rather, were in a very good mood thanks to low-quality spirits. The cabin was indeed a lively place, certainly much more lively than one would expect to find a three-hour drive past the middle of nowhere. Picture a rustic cabin, but picture it filled with some of the following items. A home theater, concert quality stereo equipment and speakers, a live band playing a fantastic version of Margaritaville, all being recorded on video camera, while wet ski boots were drying on a series of electric boot warmers evenly dispersed throughout the premises. The secret to a great vacation, they explained to us, was having access to a garbage truck in order to carry your essential equipment, and a separate people carrying vehicle for loading up the hooligans. Our training camp was bound to be a dismal failure, as we had tried to place all our items inside of, and on top of, a Mercury Wagon.

Our training started early the next morning, around 1 pm. Some spectacular scenery beckoned, so on went the skis, and the mighty adventurers set off. After an arduous 15 minutes of lung-bursting uphill climbing, we stopped to take stock of our progress. Well, by this time, the parking lot was merely a speck in the distance, thanks to our wolf-like speed and prowess.

Satisfied and proud, we took about a half hour break to collect ourselves and refuel. Then we ventured onwards. We soon came to the steep pitches we were looking for. From then on the day was simple. Climb the aforesaid pitches with blazing speed and dogged determination, followed by effortless and elegant descents of perfectly linked tele-turns and free-flowing wonder.

Never before has one group of skiers displayed such ability and grace. The endless years of occasionally attempting something similar to a telemark turn on our racing skis finally came to fruition. Poetry in motion is all that could be said. The Americans were so impressed they dropped by with Warren Miller to shoot a few clips of our intrepid team for his latest film, Canadian Clutz Crew. For your information, we will also be featured in next yearís Banff Film Festival.

We thoroughly enjoyed about four days of this type of activity, and it became clear very quickly that our early season fitness was at a desirable level. Our only major difficulty occurred in trying to decide if our tray of chicken thighs, bought in Ottawa before the drive and two days of being preserved in the back of a Mercury was still fit to eat. As only 2 of the five members of our camp believed that the chicken most definitely was not fit for eating, we decided to boil the chicken thoroughly, and then proceed with abandon. This having been completed, the next thing to proceed with abandon was Ianís digestive system. Ian in fact, had to abandon the cabin to take up residence for one night in the outhouse. [Editor\'s Note - It remains unproven that the chicken was in fact the culprit. More likely sources of this bowel revolt include severe dehydration due to wearing a -20C big yellow fleece at +5 for 3 days on end, and the Blue flu.] Ian survived, and we all agreed that he was stronger for the experience.

The drive home felt longer than the drive out. Actually, it was longer, by about 8 hrs, thanks the Mercuryís transmission, which, within minutes of the celebrations in honour of the odometer reaching 300 000kms, decided that it was satisfied with this as a lifetime achievement. Demanding euthanasia, the Mercury shut down a few of its major life systems, leaving us stranded by the side of the road in St-Anne de something or other. Fortunately, we were right beside a world-famous poutine restaurant, so we were able to sample some French-Canadian delicacies while we pondered how to get home. In actual fact, the Mercury didnít make it home until the following weekend, but this was a secondary concern. [Editor\'s Note - We should mention how we got home. The jolly mechanic, after deciding for us that the train was too expensive and the bus wasn\'t coming soon enough for his garage to be rid of stinky Anglophones, called his wife. For a mere $50 a head she drove us all the way to Ottawa, dropped us on the doorstep of the Saidla manor, and then turned right around in order to arrive just in time for work the next morning. Now where some people who believed in our cause!] What was most important was getting the team members home in order to resume training for the rapidly approaching ski season.

All together, the first training camp of the year could most definitely be considered a success. We visited a beautiful part of the country, did some important early-season on snow training, made our film career debut, and put grey Mercury wagon out of its misery.

Pictures (Click on the images for a closer look)
A mint condition Mercury Sable wagon circa 1993. Notice that it comes with a front bumper, hub cabs, door locks and nothing strapped to the roof. This ones a real bargon at www.autotrader.com. Craig, Tom, Karl and Ian 15 mins from the car. Looking fresh before the 6 km uphill into Mine de la Madelaine.
Ian summitting at Mine de la Madelaine. Steve. In the far background the slopes of his greatest tele conquest.
Tom on a couple of good tough climbs. But as Tom points out with the bottle, it was Fantastic!
Tom playing it safe letting the guy with the protective gear lead the way Craig putting Megan\'s skis to good use as she was probably in surgey about the time this was taken.
"What do you say Tom, is it over? Those hills look bare." "I know, but I really want to ski it..."
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