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Five ways to deal with a too-long winter

What can a person do when winter never ends? When the snow falls as often as gas prices rise? When it’s dozens of degrees colder than it’s supposed to be?

What can a person do when winter never ends? When the snow falls as often as gas prices rise? When it’s dozens of degrees colder than it’s supposed to be? Well, we all have choices, and I’m not including banging your forehead against the table repetitively until real spring comes. That would just be fruitless, futile and eventually fatal.

The Sensible Approach: Accept that when it comes to weather, the abnormal has become the normal. Go about our business with tolerance, patience and a positive attitude that hoodwinks us into believing that things will get actually better sooner or later. Sure, sure.

The Grouchy Approach: Grumble about “the stupid weather” as we shovel the walk for the gazillionth time, get our cars stuck and freeze our ears off. We blame it on global warming, the Harper government, the Stelmach government, the motormouth TV weather person, Al Gore, the Middle East, the Far East, Eastern Canada and Sarah Palin because she’s from Alaska and is somehow sending all her bad weather our way by putting a really bad reality show on television.

The Escape Approach: Many lucky Canucks, who, because of advancing age or Lotto Canada don’t have to work, turn into snowbirds and head south to avoid the wacked-out climatology. Thing is, lately they often find stupid weather wherever they go. And it’s here waiting for them when they get back.

The Dumb Approach: In a word: skiing. This is a purely personal category on account of while I used to know and love occasional skiing back when snow was first invented, the very thought of skiing now presents itself as a physically demanding, potentially dangerous activity that I haven’t tried since my rotten kids were in the ski club a decade or more ago.

But operating under the theory that one might as well make the best of the 2011 wicked winter-that-would-never-end, and in a moment of weakness, I somehow let my friend Dave talk me into going skiing.

I dug around and scrounged enough equipment, throwing together my son’s boots, my daughter’s skis and some bent poles I don’t remember seeing before and found myself one chilly foggy morning out at Canyon Ski Hill flailing around in the dead of winter of March.

I was covered in snow, exhausted and my feet hurt and I hadn’t even made it to the lift. I had forgotten that I don’t ski anymore, and it made me think way back to my first time skiing at this very hill, when I was in junior high and the road down to the lodge was a ridiculously treacherous trail carved into the steep side of the river valley and required insanity and a snow caterpillar machine to negotiate.

My ski boots then were thick leather lumps with an “inner” and “outer” boot, for the purpose of making them twice as hard to put on and twice as uncomfortable. It was like jamming your feet into those grey cement cinder blocks — the kind we boomers used to use to build bookshelves for our college apartments.

This was before buckles were installed on ski boots, so you would have to struggle to tighten a full set of thick nylon laces on the inner boot, before doing it all over again on the outer boot. Several hours later, fingers bleeding, sweat pouring from your brow, and your feet already cramped and aching, you finally stand up and stomp like Frankenstein out to your skis, your feet weighing about 400 pounds (35 km metric) each.

I still remember my first skis were Gresvig — a name no one had ever heard of. They were a second-hand pair of wooden boards about 15 feet long (40 metres metric) with a wire binding wrapped around the heel of the boot and a lever half way up the ski that you snapped down to secure your boot, just before falling over sideways into the snow.

My poles were also about twice as long as they are today, the early ski equipment theory apparently based on the notion that the longer, more awkward and more painful, the better.

At that time, the lodge was situated where a house is now, part way down the Canyon road. That meant when you first put your skis on, you had to ski down a tricky section of the run, just to get to the start of the treacherous T-bar tow. Which to someone learning to ski was a serious flaw in the design.

And speaking of design, the lodge was built right into the hill at the side of one of the two runs, and it had a low flat roof. This unusual combination added up a number of occasions when certain daredevil skiers built the snow up just right and would come zooming down The Bowl, ski right onto the roof of the lodge, and come flying off the other side, landing half way down the run to the T-bar. This activity was not encouraged by the owners, which, of course, made it even more essential to pull off.

Being a rookie skier for a very long time, I was personally not of sufficient daredevil skill or audacity to ever try the Lodge Roof Stunt, but I personally witnessed it on more than one occasion. Maybe that’s why the skis were so long in those days.

Nonetheless, skiing at Canyon was great fun and eventually — obviously due to some clerical error in judgment — I became a ski patrol for a season or two.

But here I am in the throes of the present, a long time between trips down life’s Black Diamond runs, and my fibreglass boots have one buckle, my polycarbonfibre skis are one-third the length of the old wooden Gresvigs, and I’m shuffling towards a comfy chair lift that will take us to the top of a beautifully groomed and relatively non-lethal run.

I managed to remember how to ski badly and made it through the enjoyable Canyon day with a new appreciation for winter and an approach to dealing with the wickedest weather ever that wasn’t so dumb after all.

One thing I didn’t realize, however, is how many different aging muscles skiing tends to beat up on.

So now I’m going to try The Smart Approach: I plan to spend the rest of the winter of 2011 in the nearest hot tub.

Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.