Thursday, November 26, 2020

Lac des Arcs - 51° 03' 08" N 115° 10' 19" W

It's known locally as Wild Ice. It is a phenomena that occurs for only a few days a year, early in the winter.  It is when we have a sustained deep dip in temperatures as winter approaches, causing lakes to freeze before the first snow fall, thick and safe enough to skate on.  From a distance, it looks like water with the surrounding mountains reflecting on the ice.

This year we had that cold snap, so a flurry of posts to the local Facebook group began to appear, as anticipated as the first few kernels of popcorn on a saucepan over a fire.

"Get your skates sharpened.  It's at least 8 cm think at Gap Lake."

"Has anyone tested Lac Des Arc?"

When we felt it was safe (because those who are too keen and too early can and sometimes do fall through), we made arrangements to meet Rick and Sue early, while the morning air still held some bite.  The days are getting noticeably shorter, making it feel that much more of an intrusion on time that should be spent in bed, or huddled at the kitchen table with both hands wrapped around a warm first mug o' tea.  Driving along the secondary highway, the one that doesn't carry all the tourist traffic, with headlights still necessary to the agreed-upon meeting place, we pull into the deserted parking lot and kill the engine.  From the back of the van we remove the bag of skates, the hockey sticks and a milk crate to sit on at the water's (ice, really) edge.  

Rick and Sue are only a few minutes behind us.  We strategize about where to plop ourselves and equipment so as not to damage the skate blades by using them to wobble over rocks and to not have to penguin-walk too far in our shoes on slippery ice.  Although the sky above us is now light, we will still feel cloaked in darkness until the sun makes it's way above the peaks that create the Bow valley and it's not-warm-enough beams reach us.

Kate on Gap Lake


It is a magical feeling skating across a lake.  Through the ice you can see the lake bed - rocks, mud, weeds and sometimes, the odd fish.  The ice doesn't freeze exactly smooth and the imperfections cause a bumpity-bump feeling as you glide along.  Moving away from shore feels odd and an on-shore breeze holds us back more than you think it should.  Our legs feel stiff and heavy to start with, for the first twenty or thirty strides.  As we get further out, muscle memory takes over and we are able to take longer, smoother glides.  There is hardly anyone else on the whole lake and we feel very alive and humble and in awe of the beauty of this little nook in the mountains.

Feeling very Canadian at Lac des Arcs

This part of Canada is a wondrous place - and not just in the middle of summer.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Canmore Nordic Centre - 51° 5' 25" N 115° 23' 16" W

At the moment, Huntsville, Ontario is snowless and it has ended up benefitting us.  

In September, Kate had noticed a posting on a Canmore facebook group that was looking for someone to billet two athletes who wanted to get an early start to their cross country skiing training.  As we live just down the road from the Nordic Centre (where athletes from all over Canada come to kick and glide over 110 kilometres of well-groomed trails) and no prospect of visitors to occupy our two guest bedrooms, we offered to take in these unknown teenagers.

Several e-mails, phone calls and text messages later, we were primed to expect a 15- and 17-year-old from an area we had just visited in September.

Sophie and Mya at the Nordic Centre

Having Mya and Sophie has been delightful.  Enthusiastic, helpful and good company, Kate and I are very much enjoying their company.  They both train very hard - working out 3 - 4 hours a day.  Although they have prescribed workouts from their coach in Ontario, they are self-motivated and manage their schoolwork, music practice (Mya plays the flute) and dryland and ski training with no nagging or reminding required on our part.  They proven they can both eat like true athletes, contrary to their visible lack of body fat.  Kate, acting as a surrogate-Italian mama, plies them with overflowing bowls of dinner which they happily plow through.

They always seemed to have something to do and Kate and I appreciated having them around to occupy our COVID-restricted time and attention.  Even though the Nordic Centre is very close (as the crow flies), we offered to drive them when they needed to get there as it was pretty much uphill the whole way.  When the girls weren't training, they were always keen to tag along on our adventures.  We managed to get to Lake Louise for two days of recreational cross-country skiing.  We did a hike up Sulphur Mountain and happily rode the gondola down - no charge for us locals and our "kids."  We did a few pizza nights, sing-a-long nights and although we didn't socialize with anyone outside the house, we had lots of fun as a group.

Top of Sulphur Mountain - great weather!

Being good billetters, we are helping them with homework when we can.  One of Sophie's homework assignments was to identify and gauge the mood of music played in the soundtrack of Lord of the Rings.  As Fellowship of the Rings was available on Netflix, we decided to make it a movie night.  As the credits started to roll, Kate quipped, "... and that's it?!?" She didn't realize that the movie we had just watched was one of THREE.  Luckily, we had two more nights before they had to head home and dedicated ourselves to getting through all eleven hours of cinema before they had to go back to Ontario.

We now have a reason to keep up with the Ontario Cross-Country Age Group standings.


We were happy to have you stay with us and you are welcome back any time.  Just give us some warning so we can have enough groceries in the fridge.