On November 25 at 7:00 I was sitting in a plane bound for Kelowna, BC and my final destination was the Silverstar resort near Vernon. Needless to said that going to BC, skiing at altitude and racing in November for the first time, while missing a week of class, was an interesting position to be in. I had not flown for about 10 years and my seat was next to the window overlooking the wing. I do not mention this because of a fear of flying, although my constant peering out the window might have suggested otherwise during the flight. I simply found the contrast between getting away from school and thinking about a lot of physics that early in the morning quite amusing. (I'm a 1 year Mech. Eng student at Ottawa U). I can already hear the 'Oh, another skiing engineer' type of comment from a lot of people but that's ok. Megan, Lyndsay, Ed, Wayne, Craig (physicist) and I have gotten used to it and besides being one of the best represented professional fields in skiing, how many people can claim that their academic pursuits can be directly applied to their sport. The love of numbers does not confine one to obscure labs and cubicles.
At this date I would usually have been praying to our yeti for snow but thanks to an early training camp in Montmorency and the early snow in Ottawa, the anxiousness to see snow had passed almost before it had arrived. At the same time one of the goals of my trip was somewhat undermined. I was leaving snowy Ottawa to find other snow on the other side of the country. This meant I couldn't brag about how good skiing felt compared to rollerskiing in cold rain when I came back. I decided that experience in travel, altitude training and having a good time were now the sole reasons justifying my escape to the West coast. From then on there was nothing notable until we got to Silverstar.
Many people had told me that the village was just like wonderland and they were right. The most obvious reason is the architecture and decoration of the stores and homes. Let's just say that in any typical suburb they would well stand out. As a whole though I felt like I was walking through some Disney movie. The best reason why this is wonderland has more to do with the lifestyle one can pursue in Silverstar. As soon as you have come up the mountain by car or shuttle, any mode of transportation that has an engine is optional. Every house and hotel I saw had xc skiing from the doorstep and alpine from a very reasonable walk. Trails got you everywhere from house to town to other houses and they were all well groomed. Skiing down the main stretch was very pleasant and provided a contrast to the typical out in the bush type of setting for skiing.
Unlike other years Silverstar was not blessed with abundant snow before our arrival and even if skiing was good, I would not have described it as great. There were patches of dirt and pebbles on the lower trails and it was obvious that the groomers did not have the same level of expertise as our Gatineau Park groomers do for low snow conditions. Decent skis could still be used with caution and that is what we did. On the plus side we had a whole week of skiing in daylight with Vauhti carrot and no obligations towards school or work. Because of the altitude we skied in the morning with occasional very short skis in the afternoon. Time management had to deal with eating, sleeping, training and general discussion. We were so proficient at this that the television was only needed for two movies and about 3 other hours during our 7 day stay. Megan played an essential role in the playback of the two movies as the tv automatically muted itself every 30 seconds or so. She was in charge of re-activating the sound, with us reminding her to do so as quickly as possible when she got tired.
And then came the race days. The temperature dropped, it started snowing and we had a strict schedule to follow. The 15 km freestyle race was a brutal reminder of why we were here. It can be described in these words: cold, dry, very slow, altitude and a tough course with plenty of climbing and no noteworthy recovery. For people living and training at sea level as ourselves, the first altitude races of the season have results that appear to be very random. This year they turned out to be on the bad side of things. The field was deep and fast whereas we were not exactly on the top of our game. Nothing to worry about in November but it's always nice to start out strong. The Sunday was classic sprints and besides Alana, Sheila and Megan we all had results on par with historic XC Ottawa sprint results. By this I mean we at least got a good training opportunity during the qualifications.
On the Monday Alana and I came back to Ottawa in preparation for the examination period and the rest of the team set out to Canmore for the second set of races. I learned while arriving at the Kelowna airport that when I re-booked my flights following the announcement that Canmore was postponed, I had chosen a flight with a 5 hour wait in the D terminal of Calgary airport which I know quite well now. Overall this was a very pleasant experience and I look forward to a good season of racing. I know there are no pictures and that would be because my camera stayed in its protective case for the entire trip. I will have to work on that.