Every year before winter, a number of travellers with a keen scent for snow, appear in ski towns across Canada’s western provinces. They’re French Canadians, Europeans and, perhaps in larger numbers, Australians.
Emily Kemp, a freelance reporter for the Revelstoke Mountaineer, is the author of the new eBook, How To Survive A Canadian Ski Season. The ebook, a how-to guide aimed at her fellow Aussie adventurers, is the result of knowledge she gained during her two ski seasons in Banff and Revelstoke.
The procession of ski seasons is underway in Revelstoke now. Winter has come with a full heart, sprinkling its love all over town. Newcomers have arrived and taken to The Stoke list. Locals have performed their first tedious driveway shovelling and Revelstoke Mountain Resort embraces what looks to be an early season windfall of snow and visitors.
Revelstoke locals are familiar with the influx of foreign ski bums now. They come, they go. They come again. But Revelstoke is a regional town and it struggles, like many others, with the economy, fluctuations in jobs and available housing. Fresh snow hounds new to the hunt fall upon hard times across Canada when they realise their magical journey abroad is just another difficult lesson in life.
In her eBook, Emily interviews a number of Australians and Canadians to create a rounded view of what ski season in Canada is like. These travellers are what Emily describes as seasonaires, chasing experiences in exotic destinations for the length of a season. They’re also people who come to Canada with high hopes of living the dream, but get bogged down in the everyday stressors of finding winter accommodation and a flexible, well-paying job.
Benjamin Stanzel from Victoria, Australia, contributed his ski season experience to the eBook. Stanzel enjoyed last winter at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort in Golden, B.C., but it was his first season and he discovered the difficulties of juggling skiing and working.
“I did the worst and worked too much and didn’t ski enough,” Stanzel said. “I worked five days a week and two nights.”
Daisy Ng from Brisbane, Australia, did a season at Whistler. She saw the disappointment some people felt, forced home early after over-extending their budget and she tried hard not to do the same.
“After the three months [of winter] I decided I was going to stay for summer, another winter and had plans to travel the USA at the end of the season, and that’s when I decided to start prioritising what I spent my money on,” Ng said.
For Australians, ski season is an addiction. Winter is something many have discovered after a lifetime of what seems like eternal summer, compared to Canada’s distinct four seasons. Their fascination with snow is similar to the Canadian reaction to kangaroos or Aussie beaches — wonderment.
Basil Santamaria, from Sydney, is one Australian who, after multiple seasons chasing powder, has decided to make Canada his home.
For several years he traversed the slopes of Whitewater Ski Resort at Nelson, the lesser-known ski resort of Hemlock Valley, and in 2010/11, he did his last season at Sun Peaks Ski Resort.
Now he has moved to Vancouver to pursue a full-time job and has applied for permanent residency. But he still remembers taking his dad to the top of Sun Peaks’s highest mountain, Mt. Tod, and seeing his dad realise for the first time why his son chose that life.
“He told me he never really understood why I loved being there [until then],” Basil said. “It’s a five mile (eight kilometre) ski to the bottom and he tears up whenever he talks about visiting me there. It’s hard on both him and mum, with me living in Canada.”
Canada: its culture, its epic scenery, its way of life has formed a life-long love affair, and tug of war, in the hearts of many Aussies. And it will continue to do, for the many more that take on this life journey.