Training for skiing requires a certain amount of faith. The season starts fresh in May, skips through June and July, and hits August with both barrels blazing. Come September, longer hours go and harder work begins in earnest, and by the time mid-October rolls around, some of us are asking ourselves what the heck we've been doing with the last six months, as we recall the halcyon days of April. All that keeps us going into the dark of November is the siren call of snow. We spend our few remaining hours every day after training, sleeping, eating, working, and learning, obsessively checking weather forecasts and watching snowcams like hawks, waiting for the first of that heavenly white stuff to fall into our backyards.
Some years, this faith is stretched to the breaking point. I can recall, one January evening in high school, going for a run with temperatures around -15, and not a flake on the ground. On the other hand, I can also recall piling out of a van during a teacher's strike in mid-October, and charging to the snow from the Mackenzie King Estate. It's these early season skis in the Gatineau Park I have always savoured the most; using rock skis, confined to the grassy shoulder beside the road, greeting the intrepid cyclists who've decided to brave the few centimetres of slush on the parkway. There's something special about knowing that the first ski of the season has been at home, not an exhausting journey to frigid northern Quebec or, more extremely, the powder of Western Canada. Those journeys can come later.
It was with anticipation of this kind of ski that I woke up this morning, November 5th, and looked out the window. The weatherman had been forecasting "wet flurries" for the last few days, and the weather yesterday was miserable - cold rain and ice pellets on the end of my afternoon workout, and a freezing, soaking wait for the bus from Carleton during which I kept repeating the time-honoured mantra of Ottawa skiers - "This must be snow in the Park." Sadly, I could see nothing but rain outside, but kept hopes high, grabbed the rock skis, met Karl and Megan in the Park, and we drove up to P10.
It was a good thing we did! After a starting climb of slush and grass, the snow became almost a full coverage of the side - perfect skiing. Well, perfect enough for early November. The Champlain T was like a winter wonderland, with good skiing most of the way up to the Lookouts and out towards Black's. Though it was a bit warm and wet, the overcast sky kept the snow from melting, letting us all ski to our little hearts' content. Finally now, we know that even if the snow melts for the moment - winter's coming back.