Monday, March 18, 2013

Squishing and Squelching in Squamish – Day 2: Cross-Country Skiing with Olympian Ghosts

I was up early and on the road, heading north, climbing steadily, immersed in steep rock faces and deep dramatic valleys. Of course, a constant patter of rain beat down, which, every time a car or truck passed, transformed into a whirling cloud of mist that blotted out everything except my excitement. I was heading to the Callaghan Valley and Whistler Olympic Park for a day of cross-country skiing.
In Squamish the landscape was bare, but as I drove more and more snow appeared until at the end, the snow banks beside the road towered over the car.

I met my instructor, Gary Baker, who looked and acted about two decades younger than his 75 years of age. He was amazingly fit and truly inspirational. We toured the biathlon shooting course, which was now empty, but I imagined the crowds roaring during the Olympics as the athletes skied furiously in and then had to settle their pounding hearts to squeeze off shots at the tiny targets. Large green Olympic rings gazed down benevolently from the slope above. Next, Gary gave me a lesson in cross-country skiing using the skating technique, which I had never tried before. I felt shaky and wobbly but he was a patient and excellent teacher. We ‘skated’ past the two Olympic ski jumps, which seemed to reach forever into the sky and were far more frightening than when I had seen them on television.

Then came the cherry on the sundae: I went off alone along the Mountain View trail using classic skis and technique. The rhythmic whoosh-whoosh of my skis kept cadence with the thump-thump of my heart as I glided along a sinuous trail in solitude. I could feel the ghosts of the svelte 2010-Winter-Olympic athletes racing past, and tried to increase my puffing senior’s pace.

Delicate snow sculptures hung in ravines and on trees. Everything was simple, silent and elegant. Even with the light rain and low glowering clouds, I found it incredibly beautiful, very relaxing and, well, spiritual. I was gliding along in the midst of nature’s ethereal art gallery.

Driving back to Squamish, with the car’s heat cranked up and windshield wipers beating steadily, I was in a pleasantly tired bliss. The Callaghan Valley was stunning and the Whistler Olympic Park an incredible legacy. I vowed to return … perhaps even under sunny skies.

If You Go
- More info: Adventure Centre (corner of #99 and Cleveland Ave, Squamish) &

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