Left Merritt, made our way through Kelowna on the shores of beautiful Lake Okanogan then onto Big White ski resort. Arrived at dusk and had a look around, seemed like a cool spot and it even had a man-made ice climbing wall to accompany the skate rink and tubing park. Later we met a kiwi guy from Waipa named Tu who offered to have us stay at his place, we decided to take him up on his offer however he didn’t finish work until 9pm so we grabbed dinner at the local ski bum pub called Snowshoe Sam’s. We both had the chicken parmigiana special then played a few rounds of Pool (I won both games, just saying). Back at Tu’s place we had a few beers then crashed on a mattress in the lounge. Scout wasn't allowed inside and it was going to be -15 degrees celsius overnight so we cracked a heat pad for him and made him two hot water bottles as well giving him a few blankets to snuggle into. We were a little concerned about him throughout the night.
Left Tu’s early, then went and made breakfast in the car park while Scout had a run around / thaw out. We had a hell of a time getting our ski boots on as the plastic had gotten so cold overnight it had become solid and inflexible. Twenty minutes later with our boots finally on we left Scout in the Dodge and caught the yellow gondola up to the base of the ski hill. The place was clearly set up for families but we still had a great day. We both recall the awesome rolling almost luge like hills within the slopes that had you getting air almost every time without really trying to. I was however having trouble again with my second set of ski boots they were killing my feet leaving them numb and sore. I would have to do something about that before skiing again.
Tu had offered for us to stay once more but we were too tired to socialise so had dinner back at the pub; this time 50 cent wings! We ordered twenty and some fries, then a played a few more games of pool to kill time (Will was getting better I needed more practise damit). In need of a shower we asked at the hostel and the girl said no problem just go and use them for free! Ace. Then we parked in the back corner of the parking lot next to some other RV’s and settled in for the chilly night at about 8pm.
Left Big White after breakfast and made our way to Rossland the home of Red Mountain ski hill. On the way we stopped for lunch by a river, I can’t remember what we had to eat but when we tried to give Scout his left over breakfast he berried it under the snow; good one Scout! Later we arrived at Rossland and went supermarket shopping. Then I tried to rectify my uncomfortable boots by buying some Superfeet innersoles, I had my fingers crossed that they would do the trick this uncomfortable boot business was getting old. That evening we found a hidden spot behind some huge snow banks to park for the night up at Red Mountain. Cooking dinner was a difficult process in the cold and the three dish meal I had planned didn't help. The steak ended up basically raw and our hands frozen. Doing the dishes was just as bad as the water was freezing onto the plates before we could dry them.
Too tired from skiing at Big White to ski like we had planned on this day we decided to go snow shoeing instead. I hired some modern snow shoes from the ski hill while Will had his traditional ones he'd brought in Colorado. Not wanting to do some lame prefabricated trail with all the other tourists we headed up the highway in search of some safe back country. It needed to be safe from avalanches as the snow pack was incredibly unstable and we were hearing daily about people getting caught in avalanches with over seven deaths all ready in the season. We didn't have avalanche beacons and didn’t want to add to the statistics. We found a spot where a group of skinners were just starting out known as Nancy Green Summit but really just an old nicely pitched forestry block. We loaded up with ham and cheese sandwiches, muesli bars and hot chocolate for lunch as well as some extra clothes. This was our first time going on a proper snow shoe hike and Scout was coming along too. We tried to do the right thing and kept off the freshly made skinning tracks but the going was slow and even with our snow shoes we both fell through the snow up to our wastes several times. It was super fun though other than the fact that we were wishing we had skis with skins instead of snow shoes so we could enjoy the ride back down. We made it to a high lookout point after lunch then lunged our way back down with Will slipping a few times in his old school snow shoes unlike mine that had inbuilt crampons.
Toothpaste frozen, dishwashing liquid frozen, cooking oil semi frozen, milk almost frozen and huge 23L water tank almost solid. It was cold! Even now I still think that these were some of the coldest days we experienced on the whole trip. The blue sky was gone replaced by low grey clouds and snow flurries. We put on almost everything we had and got ready to ski down the hill. There wasn't much of a slope but the 3m of untouched powder between the young trees made it more than worth it. Scout had trouble keeping pace and snow kept balling up between his webbed toes causing him to stop and chew at them. Walking back up the road with our blood pumping we started stripping off the layers! For the next two runs we left Scout and a bunch of clothing behind in the Dodge and had a wicked time. By 3pm we were done and headed back down to Rossland then over to Trail (name of the town) for a soak in the hot tub of the recreation centre. Rec centres with their hot tubs, sauna's, steam rooms and showers all for around $6 each were truly a god send. That night we slept at the Walmart in town.
Being a weekend we didn't want to ski Red Mountain, though it didn't look that busy. Instead we spent the day doing laundry and mucking around town. The laundromat in Rossland was the probably the nicest one we had been into and offered a quiet warm place with a bathroom to escape the constant snow fall. In the afternoon Will replaced the broken flasher in the Dodge so our indicators worked again, just mildly important for others to know where we were going aye. Then we slept the night back at our favourite hidden spot up on Red Mountain. We had an early night ready for skiing and had the ski boots on the dash ready to warm up with the heater in the morning.
Day 7 (Monday, 3rd Mar) - Skied Red Mountain
Coldest skiing day of my life, serious cold going up on the slow second chair fingers like chunks of ice, googles totally frozen over couldn't see anything, layer of ice formed over our jackets and pants. Will wanted to do a steep black run through the trees first up, I wasn't happy. We had words and decided to ski apart... Will had a great day and so did I after a warm up in the cafe I met theses two old codgers on the chairlift. Turns out they were veteran ski patrollers and Reno even had a run named after him. They showed me all the secret pow spots that weren't too steep and skied at my kind of pace. I didn’t even have any problems with my boots! We met up with Will right at the end of the day and did a few runs. We both agree that this was one of our favourite ski fields where else do you get powder like that and 360 degree all mountain terrain.
No idea what we did that morning but photos tell me we left Red Mountain at 3pm. That afternoon we drove north to the town of Nelson home to Whitewater ski hill. Snow was coming down and we heard on the radio that we had made it through just before the road was closed after a parked petrol tanker trailer started sliding down the highway. We were again exhausted after skiing the day before so decided that the next day would be a rest day too. As dusk fell we were on the look out for a place to park for the night, ideally one where Scout could be outside without us having to worry about traffic or people. I had this bright idea after our success with snowmobile club cabins back in Oregon to try that again so I looked up the local club. The GPS seemed to find the road and away we went. The road narrowed but was freshly plowed so we continued until we reached the crest of the hill and two other parked cars that didn't look at all like their owners belonged to a snowmobile club. I went down the other side of the hill to investigate meanwhile a young women pulled up behind Will still in the Dodge and explained that we are in her driveway. What? "It's easiest if you just go down to the house" Jessica explained. We followed her down and learnt that her father Jim is actually an ex kiwi though he wasn't home. We explained our story and over the phone Jim suggested we park back down the hill at the entrance to an old train bridge. We took his advice and found the spot a few minutes later, it even fit the bill so Scout could run free. As we were cooking dinner we received a message from the O’Conner's who had found our kiwi-panam facebook page and they ended up inviting us over for dinner one night.
Woke up to rain in the morning so stayed in bed most of the day and wondered weather it would be raining or snowing up at the ski hill. Later that afternoon we made a trip into town. I grabbed a few things from Walmart while Will took part of the dash off in order to repair our 12v socket which had recently stopped working. We needed it to work so we could charge the iPhone and iPad which we used as the speed odometer and GPS. That evening we had tickets to a mountain film festival put on my some students. It was an epic show and reinspired us to make a movie about our journey. After the films were over we drove up to Whitewater to camp while huge chunky wet snow (but not rain!) fell around us.
Day 10 (Thursday, 6th Mar) - Skied Whitewater
Woke up to the sound of a groomer going past, fresh snow still falling as we were getting ready. Lost Scout for a while and discovered he was having fun in the lift line 300m away. We chucked him in the Dodge and hit the slopes. Snow was wet and thick unlike anything I’ve skied in before it was exhausting to turn in and I felt frustrated going down the steep Glory Ridge runs. Will meanwhile was having a wicked time and filmed a few runs on the gopro. After lunch back at the Dodge we hit the more mellow slopes off the Silver King chair with plenty of fresh lines through the trees to be had. I was still not loving my skis and made Will swap with me. After a biding adjustment I was on Wills much fatter skis and had a few sweet runs before they called last lift. Will thought it was all in my head though and found my skis “just fine”… gurrr. That avo we went to the Nelson rec centre for a hot tub and shower so we looked presentable for dinner at the O’Conner house. It was lovely to meet the family and reminisce about New Zealand over some good food and wine. Scout was also enjoying having some outside play time with their three dogs. As the evening was winding down Jim and his wife Veronica offered to put us up for the night to which we gratefully accepted.
Everyone was up and gone early while we slept in and then enjoyed a lazy day catching up on some blogging and talking to our parents on Skype. That afternoon we went snow shoeing with Jessica, her baby daughter and Jessica's friend Emma up the hill on the back of their property. It was a good little work out to keep our mussels from seizing up after skiing. We stayed with the O’Conner family again that night and made Apple crumble for desert.
Waved good bye to the O’Conners who had loaded us up with yum food to take with us and hit the road agin. Veronica had recommended the Ainsworth Hot Springs but as we approached them after only an hour of driving we decided to push on and see what other hot springs we could find. A Google search told us about two free natural springs off highway 31 just before the Upper Arrow Lake ferry crossing. The first one was a two mile walk from the road and the other was eight miles down a 4x4 road. Always on the look out for an adventure we chose the more difficult option and found the entrance easy enough. It looked like the trail had mainly been used by snowmobilers but we gave it a go in the Dodge with the chains on. Less than 2m in we knew driving in the Dodge was a no go and with the snow coming down we decided we weren’t really prepared to hike down there and spend the night. Instead we went to check out the other springs back down the road. Being a Saturday avo the trail head was packed with cars and snow was blowing around the grey sky. We talked to some chicks just putting on their skins and heading for the pools in all their top of the line back country gear but they said the trail was well packed and you could probably walk there. We decided to retreat to the empty turnout at the other trail head for the night and try the hot springs in the morning before the crowds.
Day 13 (Sunday, 9th Mar)
With our swimmers underneath our ski gear we set out to the St Leon hot springs with Scout. The weather had come out clear and we found the springs easily enough after only falling through the snow pack a few times. It wasn't quite what we had expected though there was one group camping in hammocks about 2 meters from the pool who had left all their stuff including beer bottles lying around. The pool itself wasn't super warm and it was a bit of a ramshackle place with plastic pipes and all sorts of different ropes holding everything in place. We spent about half an hour there before heading back up the trail. Just as we were breaking over the crest of the hill Will spotted a female moose and her calf. It was the first time we had seen a moose so I whipped out the iPhone for a photo while Will and Scout watched. Soon enough Scout ran towards them and the moose and calf bolted into the trees down the bank. Back at the Dodge we had radish sandwiches for lunch while admiring some enviable snowmobiles that had just arrived on the back of a pick up. Lunch over we hit the road and caught the free ferry across Upper Arrow Lake. The smooth lake reflected the surrounding mountains as we cruised across the water and chatted to some fellow Powder Highway road trippers. That evening we arrived in Revelstoke home to the ski resort of the same name. We wanted to go to the recommended pizza restaurant called The Village Idiot but it was packed out with a 45 minute wait for a table so we drove around and eventually agreed we on taco truck. It wasn't as good or as cheap as the California taco trucks we had had and the guy wasn't even Mexican he was a long haired ginger! After dinner we drove to the ski hill and camped with a few other RV's for the night. We both weren't sure how keen we were on skiing as the conditions looked icy but we would see...
Shitty icy conditions on the slopes, as well as both having super sore feet made us wonder why we had bothered. We went all the way to the bottom when I decided to hire different boots but when we got there I decided to toughen up and make do. We went back up for a few more runs and I was just getting into it when Will decided he'd had enough of the ice and went back to the Dodge. I had a few more turns down the only decent run then met Will back at the truck. The run all the way to the bottom was painfully long, slow and icy and now we had done it twice! I had the keys so Will was splayed out on the bonnet with half his gear off eating a muesli bar, I let Scout out then took a photo of my ski bum fiancé. We attempted to cook noodles for lunch but the cooker hadn't been working very well and was taking ages to heat anything so after our crappy ski day and half cooked lunch we hit the Revelstoke rec centre hot tub and showers before moving on.
Went to a dingy old laundromat in Golden and while waiting for the washing we pulled the cooker to bits to figure out what was going on. Good old You-Tube told us what it was likely to be and how to fix it. It took about twenty goes using various techniques to finally pull out the inner cleaning wire that the You-Tube guy pulled with ease but after a good clean and a filter change we put it all back together on the bonnet. Our one and only way to cook food was back in action with vengeance!
Next stop Banff National Park
Rochelle & Will