It’s a little after seven in the morning, and I feel like an overgrown fifth-grader in my boots and snow pants, waiting for a cup of coffee at Fix Café – not just because the outfit reminds me of growing up in Toronto’s winters, but because the level of excitement I feel (forget butterflies, it’s more like jumping beans) is one I haven’t experienced since I was a kid. I am going to do something today I have never done before – an activity my mother told me was reserved for the rich. I am going to ski.
Ahead of me, I hear two Australians complaining that it had rained all night.
“It looks awful out there,” one of them says.
I survey the scene. I see white snow, untouched by human feet. I see an absence of billboards, flashy colors or advertisements. I see majestic trees reaching up, up, up into the heavens. I have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
In fact, that morning, waking up in my room at Nita Lake Lodge, I was amazed by the beauty surrounding me. As the sun rose, I sat near the fire and watched the shapes around the frozen lake take form: a mountain in the distance, then firs and pines and then, across the lake, warm lights from the windows of a few small homes.
“I came for winter one year, and I never left."
I’d heard this already. It’s what Shannon Hearn, the owner of Whistler Winter Wear, had told me when he suited me up in my rented gear the night before. He’d confirmed my size in advance and then met me at the hotel with an armful of different ski suits to choose from.
“This one’s very you,” he’d said, referring to a cute red and black ensemble, and then told me they were expecting more snow.
“It’s going to be epic,” he’d said, but it’s not until later, as I ride up the mountain in a cable car, the air becoming impossibly crisp and clean, and look down at all that new snow that I begin to understand what he’d meant. Epic. Yes, indeed.
I’m in a group with four other adults, all of us first-timers. As we practice walking sideways at an incline with our skis on, tiny children whiz by us, some as young as three years old. Perplexingly, their instructors yell behind them, “Pizza! Pizza!” or “French fries!” I wish I could breeze down the mountain like them, without fear. At this rate, I’d settle for a slice of pizza. But then, halfway through the day, it dawns on me that these are kid-friendly terms for ski positions. Aha! By the afternoon, I’m speeding right down that bunny hill. I only fall a few times.
By the end of my first day, I’m more relaxed than I have been in recent memory. Whistler seems to have that effect on people, though the Scandinavian baths don’t hurt either.
That night, after an unforgettable meal at Araxi, I settle in with a glass of wine in Nita’s lounge. I can barely keep my eyes open, and yet I’m fighting to stay awake because I’m rarely this happy just to be, and I want to let every drop of it soak in.