Spring Skiing on Washington
I have an aversion to saying that the recent teacher’s job action had an upside. However, the situation did give me a chance to spend a day skiing on Mount Washington with my grandchildren Nathan and Matthew. They normally ski weekends but I’ve made it a habit for years never to go near the Courtenay hill on weekends. I dislike the extended lift lineups and the extensive profanity uttered by some of the teen boarders I have to share a lift chair with. Also I tend to pick sunny days to ski which means keeping my eye on the weather reports. Since one of the teacher’s strike days landed on a sunny weekday I was on the road to Washington by 8:00 am.
Arriving at the day lodge parking area, I tracked the grandchildren and their parents Dorianne & Cory by texting via my iPhone to find out where on the hill they were. I love today’s technology. It’s so handy. Before cell phones you could ski for hours and not find someone you were to meet on the hill that day.
Earlier this ski season I discovered that Mount Washington had made a huge change to some of the lift technology. Their novice Green Zone area had all the traditional lifts removed and replaced with something called Magic Carpets. (See photos below). The total project, which included extensive slope recontouring, cost $3 million. The mountain is now being promoted as one of the easiest places to learn to ski and snowboard in North America.
In January I tried out the new lifts that resemble a moving sidewalk. They are similar to those one encounters in major airports except the conveyor is encased within a view-through plastic tube. Although I found the tunnel-like tubes somewhat claustrophobic, they certainly make it easy for beginners to access the ski runs without the problems associated boarding a chair lift when not in control of a pair of skis or snowboard.
My day with the grandchildren was great although they’re getting hard to keep up with, and it’s only their second year skiing. However, it’s more likely at my age I’m less willing to ski flat out on steep terrain.
PHOTO: Mount Washington’s new Magic Carpet conveyor lifts snake their way up the ski run.
Pat had a Royal Conservatory of Music Pedagogy symposium in Victoria last weekend. Since I always enjoy visiting the capital city I drove her down early in the morning. While the rest of the island north of the Malahat was soaking up several centimeters of H2O, I hoofed around the Inner Harbour in sunny spring-like weather. Japanese cherry trees were already coated in pink blossoms and yellow daffodils had taken centre stage in many gardens.
I made my traditional walk through the lobby of the stately Empress Hotel, which was sprinkled with Port Angeles refugees from the MV Coho who had embarked for a day in plagiarized London town by enjoying the establishment’s tea, jam-laden crumpets and crustless cucumber sandwiches.
I’ve never partaken in high-tea at the Empress. Must add it to my bucket list. Then again a couple of decades years ago I had lunch in the hotel’s Bengal Room, paid for by the school district superintendent’s expense account. We were on a quest to the halls of government in an attempt to extract some funding for a non-existent band room when I taught music at ADSS. Unfortunately the trip was a failure, the province being in a financial bind (sound familiar?) at the time. However, the buffet in the Bengal Room under the palms was delicious.
Whenever I’m in the capital I check out the film fare showing at the IMAX theatre in the Royal BC Museum. Something titled The Wildest Dream caught my fancy. Extremely interesting and beautifully edited, the 1 hour and 33 minute production (the museum’s normal Imax film run at 45-minutes) centred on George Mallory's final attempt to reach the summit Mount Everest in 1924. Based on the explorer's emotional letters to his wife Ruth, the production used previously unseen photos and film archive from 1924 (restored from the original nitrate) plus a dramatization of a modern-day expedition that retraced the original route taken by Mallory in 1924.
The modern-day expedition was led by renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker, whose life became inextricably linked with Mallory after he found his body on Everest in 1999. Using replica 1920s-era clothing and equipment, Anker set out to solve the great mystery of whether Mallory succeeded in making it to the summit of Everest before he died. The old film footage showed him just 800 feet from the summit before the clouds closed in and he disappeared into legend. I’ve always accepted that the New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Tenzing Norgay were the first to climb Everest in 1953. After seeing this film I’m not quite so sure. However, since Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine never made it down the mountain the world will never know.
After the film I toddled up Government Street to Munro’s, my favorite bookstore, to browse. I ended up purchasing a 600-page tome about Mallory’s Everest odyssey and a small 225-page book by my second favorite Canadian author and esteemed Vancouver Sun and Maclean’s columnist - Allan Fotheringham. For the record my favorite non-fiction writer is Peter Newman. A confession - I don’t read fiction. I see the movie instead.
Fotheringham has titled his smallish book Boy from Nowhere: A life in ninety-one countries. I started reading it while sitting on a park bench located in the Empress Hotel’s Rose Garden. The quick read is a kaleidoscopic of Fotheringham’s eight decades of writing columns and traveling the globe. Although a teensy bit self-promotional at times due to a substantial amount of name-dropping, I found many chapters absolutely fascinating and at times hilarious. Stories about the powerful and not so powerful in politics and business pepper the pages like willfully scattered IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices).
At the back of the book there is a list called Frothisms to help when reading Fotheringham works. Here are just a few – Pierre Easily Trendeau (PM Trudeau), Sparta of the Tundra or The Town That Fun Forgot (Ottawa), Valium West or Land of the Hot Tub (Vancouver), Da Preem (Prime Minister), The Jaw That Walked Like a Man (Mulroney), Canadian Broadcorping Castration (CBC), The Big Pickle (Toronto), The Granite Curtain (Rocky Mountains), The Excited States of America (USA), Air Arrogance (The Liberal Campaign Jet), The Tweed Curtain (Oak Bay BC), and Jurassic Clark (PM Joe Clark).
PHOTO (Above): Peering out of my living room window a few days ago I spotted one of Canada’s infamous submarines cruising slowly in and out of Nanoose Bay. I learned through the TV news it was the HMCS Victoria doing a torpedo-firing test.
If you follow the news you’re aware that Canada purchased four diesel-electric submarines from the United Kingdom back in 2000 for about $750 million. The purchase was declared to be a bargain-basement deal as the British had mothballed them unused. However, the good deal has not panned out as the bargain boats have so far run up repair costs in the billions of dollars and none have reached operational capability as a weapons-ready submarine. The Navy is hopeful HMCS Victoria will be the first. The sub’s sister ship is HMCS Corner Brook which had the misfortune last year of hitting the seabed during a training exercise off the BC coast. Repairs will keep her out of service until 2016.
Such appalling waste. The machinery of war sickens my psychic. Would it not be more prudent to spend such vast sums on expanding our modest fleet of icebreakers? That way protecting Canada’s sovereignty in our northern climes could be properly addressed with the bonus of some serious job expansion to build them. Adding insult to injury - apparently the British built subs were not designed to operate in Arctic waters.