My new home for the season

Trip Start Apr 23, 2005
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Trip End Mar 31, 2006


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Where I stayed

Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Saturday, October 29, 2005

Skiing, partying, sleeping and eating - That is all I have done for the last 4 months - hence no travelpod. But after a mind-blowing powder day at an awesome hill called kicking horse yesterday, I have to take the day off because I'm too sore to do anything but sit at home. So here's a brief run-down of my last for months:

After a big drive back from Fernie with Ange to drop the car off, we spent a few days seeing the sights of Vancouver and deciding what to do with our next few months. I got offers from Fernie and Sunshine and decided to go with the Sunshine Trail Crew job as I would get to ski more. I booked a flight to Calgary and arrived in Banff (an amazing tourist town in the middle of the Canadian Rockies) on the 29th October. My new boss was organising some accomodation for me so I gave him a quick call and he pointed me to the HI hostel and told me to come up to Sunshine the next day to sign my contract and get everything in order. I caught the staff bus from the hostel at 7am the next morning and arrived at the base of the mountain at about 7:30am. Sunshine's village is situated way up at around 2000m and is accessable only by a huge 3 section gondola (world's fastest) or an access road which quickly becomes unusable for normal vehicles as the snow comes down. I got up to the village and found mountain operations (located in the dilapidated top station of the old gondola) where I met my new boss, Adam Towers and most of the Trail Crew. Instead of doing paperwork, my boss handed me an old pair of Ski pants, a torn gortex jacket and a backpack and told me to get changed - I was going to work. I got changed and was bundled onto the back of a truck with the rest of the crew and headed off to Goat's Eye Mountain where we spent the day hiking around and erecting plastic snow fences.

A lot of this won't make much sense without an idea of the layout of the resort, so have a look at the trail map below. Sunshine is made up 3 main mountains which surround the village:

Lookout mountain (2720m top lifted point)
Mount Standish (and Wawa next to it)
Goats Eye Mountain (Named for the mountain goats and an eye shaped rock formation on it's Northen face)

Having travelled for 6 months I was in reasonable shape, but nothing could prepare me for the physical demands of my new job. This is hard bloody labour. We would spend our days setting up fences, pounding steel posts into rock, hauling the steel and fences around the mountain and trekking up and down the hill to get to where we were working. Instead of meeting new people and having fun, I spent my first work night eating a massive dinner and falling asleep.

Over the next few weeks I learnt all about my new job as a snow farmer - that's right, I'm a farmer. The Trail crew's main job is to set-up, maintain and eventually pull down 27km of plastic snow fence which is used to catch the massive snow drifts that make up most of the trails above the treeline. They work by creating a barrier for the snow laden wind which often sweeps across the alpine areas (above tree line) of the resort. The wind passes over the fence and bends down towards the ground, dropping much of the snow at the same time. After a good windy storm, it's not uncommon to find drifts of snow 1-2m deep and 4-5m wide running the entire length of the fence - and this can happen in one night. Job satisfaction has never been better than the instant gratification of setting up a fence one day, and finding a drift of these proportions sitting there the next. Even more amazing is the realisation that most of the alpine areas and all of Goats Eye would be completely unskiable without the snow fences. All the snow would be blown off the mountain and into the next valley by the first decent wind to come along.

More to come on this, but check out my next post for some of the party action in Canmore.
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