Photos by Kali Salmas
by Kali Salmas, Grade 11 boarder
Waking up to a beeping noise near my head, I stretched and immediately contracted into a ball within my sleeping bag as I felt the frigid air on my body. I had literally dreamed of this moment – I had woken up multiple times after dreaming that this morning had already arrived. I woke the other three girls in our tent and started packing my things into my backpack. We emerged from the tent, finished packing and took apart our temporary home.
Everything was going perfectly – then we got to the tent poles. While trying to pull them apart, we discovered that they were frozen together! With some teamwork and warm breath we managed to make our way out of camp only an hour and a half after we had woken up!
The 4am wake-up was the final exam of a week-long experience I am sure I will never forget. However, the entire trip leading up to this “alpine start” was incredible!
A few days before the end of spring break, a group of dedicated students met at Derby and loaded onto a bus to travel “beyond Hope” (the small community in the Fraser Valley, not the emotional state). We stayed in cabins the first two nights and learned to ski with telemark skis – which is way harder than it looks – and about avalanche safety. The highlight of that first day of skiing was definitely putting the skins on the skis at the bottom of the bunny hill and hiking back up. Not having used skins before, I was worried about sliding back down the hill and crashing into everyone behind me. Thankfully, the skins did their job and allowed us to get up the hill.
Now, as a native Albertan, I was thrilled when I discovered that joining Outdoor Leadership meant I would get to spend a week in the snow – I was not disappointed. Once we had skied to the meadow that was to serve as our campsite, we set up our tents and dug snow kitchens. These kitchens were where we spent the majority of our time on the trip – well, the time that wasn’t spent skiing or sleeping, that is.
The second day of the trip, we skied up a large hill and learned about avalanche safety. One of the guides, named Phil, instructed us to dig a meter and a half into the snow to create a large block detatched from the surrounding snow. He then taught us how to determine the weather of the past winter by looking at layers in the snow and how to find out the likelihood of a skier-triggered avalanche. The snow was so well packed that it took the weight of four boys jumping to trigger a mini-avalanche out of the snow block!
Afterwards, the more advanced skiers (and a snowshoe-er) skinned their way up a second hill while the others made their way back to camp. At the top, we took a moment to take in the view before we took off our skins and zipped down the hill.
Though the trip was rather short – especially the skiing portion of it – I will never forget it. There’s something about spending two nights in a tent curled around a hot water bottle and getting as close as possible to the other girls that really makes you bond, even if it is just in a small way.
There were a few things I learned from this trip in particular that I advise people of if they are planning on doing Outdoor Leadership in the future:
- It doesn’t matter where you are from; don’t get cocky about the cold. Pack warm and don’t expect to get the warmest sleep of your life. Hot water bottles become cold after about 6 hours.
- Backcountry skiing is harder than skiing on a ski hill. Fresh tracks the whole weekend however, is pretty fun.
- Make sure to put the skins ON your skis at night because if it snows, you will have to scrape the frost off the bottoms with a plastic bag before you can put the skins back on.
- Keep your stuff together.
- Go into the trip with a positive attitude. You will have a good time so long as you stay happy/positive.
- Don’t be afraid to come out of your shell. Even if you don’t know many people on the trip take this opportunity to get to know the other people for who they really are while you’re away from the crowds and stress of school.