Editorial: Snow day: Outdoor education for adults

by Andru McCracken, Editor


It’s what people from away think we do. They believe that in a mountain town, local people strike out into nature willy nilly, walking through the bush in humble awe, giving nature a chance to speak to them. Well… it happens occasionally, if only by accident.

When the snow finally came we were all thinking it: this was our chance to ski the new run on 5-Mile.

The snow had dumped all night and the following day was Thursday and 30 cm of new snow..

After 30 seconds of deliberation, a furrowed brow and just a hint of doubt, Laura called it.

I went to the office to proudly post a sign: “Snow Day,” it read.

If I knew then what I know now, it would have read Adult Outdoor Education Day.

I saw Dave across the street and invited him along. He was too busy.

“Once in a season,” I declared. “Now or never… too important to miss.”

Subsequent texts expounded the matter.

When we arrived at the turnoff to 5-Mile, Becky was waiting for us. The roads hadn’t been plowed. The snowfall was deep, and tracks showed someone had found their way into and, at great pains, out of the ditch.

We had come for the snow, so it didn’t make sense to gamble driving up to the bike park staging area. We put on our touring gear (climbing skis) and set on our adventure.

A foot and a half of new snow creates logistical challenges. Laura needed to adjust her boots at the bike park staging area and did so in a tire track where the snow was manageable.

That’s when Dave showed up, driving his wife’s Subaru like a maniac.

The good part was he caught up to us. The bad part was he nearly mowed us down keeping his hard won momentum up the snowy hillside. Well before impact he veered to miss us and embedded the small car convincingly in a snowbank.

The suicide car driver was incorporated into the party, as was Patricia, who turned up at about the same time Dave was ready.

Together we began the adventure, eastward to the new run.

We found a snowmobile track that helped us speed over the deep snow. It was a good group, talk of ski conditions, ski areas and avalanches helped us make good time.

On the wrong track.

Way past the new ski area, we realized our mistake.

Backtracking would take two to three minutes. It might seem sensible enough to the detached observer, but to the traveller, backtracking is tedious and uninteresting. Instead we’d just make a new track and gain some elevation through the bush.

There we were, the five of us, making our way through the woods on skis and skins, exploring the wilderness that surrounds our community. It struck me that we were exploring the landscape around us unmitigated by other people’s tracks and trails. Just us and the mountains.

It recalled earlier times.

The promise of fresh turns on the new run had lured us into exploring the physical world around us.

And it was good.

There are probably lots of really good reasons not to go off walking willy-nilly into the woods around Valemount, but at the moment I can’t think of any.

Compared to wayfinding through unfamiliar terrain, the skiing was okay. Walking through the woods without a trail (and getting back safely) – that’s the ticket right there.

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