Just getting to Big White was an adventure. First there was a five-movie flight to Vancouver, followed by a night in a great hotel overlooking the Pacific and surrounded by snow-covered mountains. The only problem was, we were all so tired I nearly feel asleep eating my dinner – a big steak followed by an even bigger pile of pancakes – with maple syrup, of course. The journey up to the resort looked easy.
We had to go through three small towns and it was only about an inch on the map. Six hours later I’d learned my first lesson about Canada: it’s massive, it’s empty and it’s very beautiful. We hardly saw another car on the road. The resort was just as impressive – a cute, purpose-built town with lots of bars and restaurants and some interesting shops (mental note – check these out later!). The ski hire was slick with tons of choice, and I walked out with a nice pair of Roxys. But our apartment topped everything – I’m sure it was bigger than our house – the walk-in wardrobe in my bedroom was bigger than my whole room back home. My parents had a fab steamroom in their bathroom and the TV was ginormous. Then I discovered the hot tub on the balcony – heaven! And to top it all, everywhere was ski-in and ski-out. Double heaven!
The next morning the serious stuff got started. The Flight School crew met under the clock tower at 10am. There were only three of us, plus our instructor Paul. One boy was my age and Russian but lived in Seattle. The other boy was 15 and a very good skier, but he did live in a ski resort in Colorado and had a half-pipe in his back garden, and he wasn’t even that much better than me! My most embarrassing moment was on that day.
Paul had persuaded us to try a double black with moguls the size of Volkswagens. I went first, before I lost my nerve and went head over heels, losing both skis, poles and goggles. I got back on my feet before Paul raced down to me, though – no way was I going to be a wimp! We all egged each other on that day, as no one would admit to not wanting to give something a go.
Paul, who was 22, was a great instructor and really helped us, but it never felt like we were having a lesson – it was just fun. We went everywhere, hurtled down the most terrifying slopes, jumped everything, went through the woods and spent a lot of time in the ski park. The first time I dropped into the half-pipe I was really nervous. Turning at the top was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but I got better and better and by the end of the week I was pretty confident.
We skied for two hours each morning and two hours after lunch, flat-out for five days. It was tiring but I felt really proud of myself and think I got a lot better and learned a lot. It was by far the best holiday I’ve ever had. We were told that we were there at the second-busiest time of the year (the busiest being Christmas), but the longest I queued for a lift was five minutes, and that was only once at the main drag straight after lunch.
The rest of the time you could ski straight onto the lifts. And the slopes were so much wider and less crowded than I was used to from trips to France and Austria. Sometimes it felt as if we were the only people on the mountain. You could do a whole run and not see anybody else. My 12-year-old brother had decided to take up boarding, and by the end of the week was pretty good – for him, anyway! My little sister, who’s six, couldn’t quite believe the instructors spoke English and weren’t grumpy all the time. She loved it too. Some of the best bits were when we all went out at night, to the outdoor ice skating and the tube run, where you went down a slope on giant rubber rings – we all held onto each other and screamed our heads off all the way down. I even agreed to go on a horse-drawn sleigh ride. My sister liked it but I was just cold. I even went night-skiing with my dad, which I’d never done before. Two runs were floodlit and it felt weird skiing in the dark, but it was really good. We ate in some nice restaurants some evenings and the lunches of soup and sandwiches with everything in them were brilliant. I also loved the hot chocolate with dollops of cream. The only bad thing I can think of is that they made me wear a truly disgusting red helmet with a Wendy’s Hamburgers sticker on it. Revolting! Next year I want to come back to Canada and ski Big White again. It’s the best. (Hope you’re reading this, Dad!)