If you lived all your life at the North Pole, and never saw television, would you dream in colour? Ok, so we’re not exactly at the North Pole, but here in Vancouver we’re having real trouble relating to all the reports from the folks back home about weather so hot that the chicken is roasted before it finishes crossing the road. Sure, we have lots of experience to draw on, but it just feels a bit unreal.
Today starts like most others – sun grudgingly rising around 7:00 AM on a cold grey world with the promise of showers. Kirsty and I are out and about early (or as they say here “oat and aboat”. We’re on a mission. I’ve been concerned that the outside temperature gauge in the car may be jammed – surely it can’t be exactly 5 degrees C every day – so Kirsty has a plan that will resolve the question once and for all. “We should head out to Grouse Mountain. If the gauge still doesn’t change when we hit the snowline, we’ll know it’s broken.” Snowline? But – we don’t have the right clothes. “No worries – the dollar store has lots of winter gear and it’s way cheap.”
So, late morning finds us pulling on our shiny new snow gloves in a huge parking lot way over in the exclusive suburb of North Vancouver. There’s a small sign that says “This way to the Skyride”, and another larger one that advertises activities like zip line rides 5000 feet above Vancouver. In my mind’s eye, I see screaming tourists launching into the air for what must be at least a twenty-minute ride back over the bay to the cruise terminal. Hmm – maybe not.
We opt to take the gondola to the top of the mountain, rather than braving a hiking track aptly named the Grouse Grind. As we ascend, we chat excitedly about the sleigh rides that come free with our overpriced gondola tickets. I have visions of a big red sleigh with deep velvet cushions hitched behind a team of reindeer – though in Canada they may possibly use moose instead. The view from the window is amazing. Aw – look at all the trees frosted with snow. That’s so pretty. And look, aren’t those snowflakes drifting by? At last, we lurch to a stop and the doors open on a winter wonderland. There’s fresh deep snow everywhere. There’s the chalet, the ice rink, the ski slope and – is that the sleigh ride?
At this point I might perhaps mention that, when snow falls, like it’s doing now, it settles on, well, everything. There’s a sleigh all right, but it’s pulled by a tracked snowplough and every one of its open bench seats is covered with a thick layer of cold, frosty – you guessed it – snow. Not quite as we imagined, but hey, we’re here, and the weather’s getting heavier so we better take that ride before the blizzard closes in.
To our surprise, the benches are more or less dry once we dig the snow away, and even better, our iPhone cameras still function well enough to get a few happy snaps along the way. (Tip – if you need to take off your snow gloves so you can use your phone camera, and you’re a long ways from base on a sleigh pulled by a snowplough, it may be a good idea to clip said spare glove to your jacket. Just saying.)
Anyways, our frozen ride is actually a lot of fun and goes down as one of those once in a lifetime experiences. When it’s finished, we speculate briefly about hiring some snowboards, and even more briefly about trying ice-skating, before heading into the chalet to thaw out and search for some hot food. Then it’s time for some of the old tried and true alpine adventure activities like making footprints in the fresh snow, breaking icicles off the porch roof and looking through the gift shop.
All too soon, it’s time to catch the gondola back down the mountain. It’s a little disappointing that the fluffy snowflakes change into drizzling rain as we descend, and the world goes back to grey, but at least now, when we dream, it’ll be in white.