Back at home in Kimberley the blue skies kept coming. We stumbled upon the gem of a partially frozen St Mary’s Lake. A fair drive up a quiet road, the lake was silent except for the occasional tumble of a rock.
We also accidentally discovered Kimberley has a big claim to fame, boasting the largest standing Cuckoo clock in the world. One night when walking through town, a slightly slurring local asked us for a loonie ($1) to show us something cool. The wooden clock which we hadn’t paid much attention to before started singing and a very Bavarian man with a Steiner of beer popped out from the top of the clock to greet us in song.
Another quirk of Kimberley is having one of only two manual bowling alleys in North America. In the basement of a bar in town is two bowling alleys which are without power. Instead you are given a score sheet and the responsibility of working out the score of each player. A ball boy is at the end of the alley organising the pins and returning the bowling balls once they have been played.
Having the responsibility of a car and house this winter has opened up my world to the responsibility of snow shovelling. Yes, it’s great having a driveway, but is there anything more Canadian, or warming for that matter, than going outside to scoop the snow off the driveway and begin to craft your own snow walls. It’s not long until the novelty wears off..
Likewise, I have been converted to the happy drawls of country music, the favourite genre of the local radio. With a southern twang and a unique sound, the slow lyrics of the country world have introduced me to many poignant confessions of love and anguish (“thats my girl, thats my world but that ain’t my truck”) as well as many words of wisdom (“Now I’m twenty five and I’m drinking wine with my wife at home/Got a couple of dogs and a couple of songs on the radio/And we sit around and we laugh about how we used to be/When all we cared about was turning sixteen”)
As the beginning of December rolled around and the snow began to settle, I met the team who would make up the snow school for winter 2019. The friendly group of locals and internationals quickly took form socialising at Sunday night bingo, sharing cheese and wine, Jam nights, Climbing sessions and ice hockey. The local hockey team is the Kimberley Dynamiters who are a force to be reckoned with. We watched happily as they beat their rivals 9-4 in a fierce and fast paced match at home. Maybe the loud cheers of the snow school carried them to victory.
A slow start to the season meant opening day was pushed back until December 15th and the vibe was vastly different to Whistler. The base of the resort has music playing and every face is familiar and friendly. As an army of red coat instructors dawned on the mountain to orientate themselves before teaching, it was a special moment to be part of. Each morning we meet at 8.45 for a morning meeting followed by making our way up the mountain on the first chair at 9am. After a few fast laps we meet back to be assigned our 10am lessons. As the red army congregates at the top of the first run of the day, preparing for the first lines on the snowy carpet, it is a moment which gives me goosebumps. I feel so lucky to have a great job and an office with a view.
Another privilege of being part of a small team is the variety in the work. In one week I can teach groups of children, adults, people who have never been on snow before and privates, which keeps me on my toes adapting lessons, games and techniques for each session. We can also be called upon to lead snow shoe or fat bike tours. As part of our training we got to take the snow shoes out for a good stomp around. In getting used to our tennis racket like footwear, we had a race through the powder, pushing and shoving to reach the finish line. A great team bonding experience. Both tours involve good amounts of chocolate which is a perk of the job!
In the first week of the mountain opening I took my level 1 Ski Instructor course. In three days we improved our own skiing and also learned the process to take someone from never skied before into a competent snow lover. Upon passing the course, now in addition to my snowboard teaching, I am dual certified and can teach both ski and snowboard which can lead to some quick footwear changes, but keeps my days even more lively. My lessons have been nothing short of a variety, but I am continuing to learn lots and embrace those exciting eureka moments.
At home, Jim returned one Friday night with a Christmas tree he had acquired roadside. Monique and I took up the challenge of decorating it on a budget, raiding the charity shops for mismatched festive cheer, making paper chains and constructing the whole thing whilst watching Christmas movies. Shortly after we hosted Joe and Jess for a pre Christmas meal with gifts, complete with ugly Christmas jumpers.
On Christmas Eve we hosted the snow school for a big pot luck dinner. Between the talented bunch, a beautiful spread appeared, many beverages were consumed and secret Santas (largely from the local dollar store) were swapped. As a result of such a fun evening, Christmas Day was a tough one for many. Throughout the week of festivities, Santa could be spotted on skis all around the resort, as well as Kimberley’s Mascot, the Powder Pig.
We said goodbye to 2018 in a special way, as 30 instructors took part in the torchlight parade. After dark and in an obscene amount of layers, we congregated at the chairlift to ascend the mountain. In the mountain top Kootenay Haus we prepared for our roles, skiing with lit flares in formation down the mountain. There was much anticipation, wooping and whistling as 8.55pm rolled around and we prepared to ski down. The slopes were icy and lit only by the blazing flares of our torches, however following one behind another we made it down to the cheering crowds, were fireworks went off behind us.
As the first month at the mountain draws to a close, I feel privileged to be part of something very special.