A northern world
February 23, 2004
BANFF, Alberta, Canada ” Hallelujah for skinny skis and rear-entry boots, little girls in hockey helmets and missing-toothed smiles, and ski resorts with dirt parking lots and Star Wars bars.
There are no timeshares here (er fractional ownership units, eh?), only one resort with “ski-in, ski-out” amenities (’70s style at that), and since Thursday, I’ve only spotted one couple in furs (“Muskrat Ave. is two blocks over,” one young passer-by pointed out to them).
One of the oldest restaurants in town, a fondue joint with a totem-pole-themed decor, has phones at each table just like old-school diners have personal jukeboxes. And this, I’m told in all laughing seriousness, is to facilitate swingin’. (Seriously. The owner’s into it, one waitress told me.)
Goodbye corporatized, capitalized ski country USA, hello Canadian Rockies old-school, Banff-style.
Just how I got here (on a free last-minute trip) I’ll get to much later, but to recap, it’s been a whirlwind over super-dry, chalky snow at three different resorts in three days since I arrived. Sunshine Village and the acclaimed “Delirium Dive” on Friday; Lake Louise and its ridiculously dwarfing vistas on Saturday; and Ski Banff at Norquay (“The Quay” to locs) with an impromptu run with one of the “Crazy Canucks” yesterday.
It feels light-years from Aspen. And thank God it is. You can only do so much to “package” skiing. At some time or another, said skier must click-in and turn.
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Canadians are a hockey-loving people, and this is evidenced everywhere I’ve been the last four days.
Games and eyes are on all the TVs, some skiers wear the sweaters (“jerseys” in Americana) of their beloved teams on the slopes, and last night, during a pool poach at the esteemed Banff Springs Hotel, several attendees of the Canadian Home Builders Association conference, in the midst of some boulder-sized shanks of Albertan roast beast, were sporting sweaters, too.
There’s even a mule deer outside my patio door, right now. Which is not unusual, either. See Jane, there, a quizzical and unabashed peeper, greeted me when I checked in Thursday and again Friday morning, standing between me and a view of Mount Norquay.
This may be Canada, but it’s still the Rockies with monster peaks, sweeping vistas and, as it turns out, skiers and snowboarders interested in just that.
Tomorrow, God willing, it’s off to Kicking Horse in British Columbia.