Happy New Year. As those of you in the UK were celebrating New Year, or having an early night as the case may be, we were on the bus coming back from skiing. The concept of time and time zones is fascinating and occasionally a little odd. The bus driver suggested that Canadians will always be younger than Brits, any year ending 7 hours later so Brits as a direct consequence being 7 hours older. He was an unusual bus driver.
And apologies for being off the air for 4 days. I can only blame it on lack of mental energy. After having Monday off from skiing we than had 4 days skiing in very cold conditions and with very large crowds of people.
Temperatures have been so low that it was too cold to take hands out of gloves for photos. Too cold for the camera and other electronic devices to work properly. My watch/altimeter, which I carried in an outer pocket, lost power and went haywire as the battery got so cold it stopped working. An electronic device Tim was carrying stopped working. My hands got so cold I had to go into the Ski Lodge after every run to warm them up. Ice formed on my beard so I invested in a neoprene face mask. Ruth’s goggles got ice on the inside. On New Year’s Eve the upper lifts were stopped because it was too cold, the wind chill taking the -34oC at the top of the mountain to dangerous levels.
And the crowds? Banff seems to be a destination of choice for Christmas and the New Year for Brits, Canadians and other nationalities. Until just before Christmas weekend there had been no queues for the lifts, suddenly there was anything up to 20 minutes wait. The popular pistes were thronged with skiers and snowboarders, many of them on a once-a-year skiing-and-partying bash. At the pinch points and steep icy bits there were prostrate bodies everywhere. Fortunately my level of incompetence has been honed to a point where I managed to avoid them all. I had a couple of near-misses with people, mainly snowboarders it must be said, zooming up behind me and getting too close for comfort. One boarder cut across my path so close that the back of his board went under the tip of my ski. Not everyone got away so lightly. When I was on the chair lift I watched a snow boarder take out a young skier on one of the runs I do regularly. The skiing is good here but if I came purely for the skiing I would not choose to come Christmas week if I could avoid it.
But it is clear that this is also about partying. The restaurants in the Ski Lodge are packed. My guess is that some people do one run, go to the restaurant, sit in the comfy chairs for the rest of the day swapping stories about their exploits and achievements, do one more run, and then go home. In the evenings Banff is thronged. Shops are open until 21.00 and many folk are obviously here for the up-market price-tags, the glitzy windows of many of the shops in the main street exuding opulence. It reminded me of Verbier in Switzerland which has the same kind of feel. I bought Enfys a watch there once in a shop with three branches, New York, Venice and Verbier.
New Year’s Eve and it was definitely party time. The well-off in their furs were replaced by youngsters in virtually nothing. One lad was walking along with his mates in only a thin white shirt though he was wearing a tie which might have helped, and he also wore trousers of course. The temperature had dropped below -20oC by this time. I don’t know how some of the girls survived.
But there was no hint of aggravation, hassle, violence, drunkenness. No sign of the police patrolling the streets. No bouncers at the entrance to the pubs, clubs and restaurants. All a very stark contrast with Grey Britain where I suspect police leave is cancelled on New Year’s Eve and extra bouncers are recruited. This is not confined to the big cities as the small market towns, certainly in Wales and I suspect in England too, can be very problematic. Britain is grey not just in terms of the weather but in terms of attitudes and behaviour. Not that everything in Banff is perfect and idyllic. I’m told that there will frozen alcohol-related deposits on the pavements this morning.
New Year’s Day and the blue skies are again in evidence. Still below -20oC. Day off again today. Not sure what we will do yet but a visit to the launderette is on the cards. I know, we shouldn’t be so focused on enjoying ourselves. I may take the camera for a walk.