I didn’t actually believe I was going skiing until about 20 minutes before the unfamiliar fluorescent gear was strapped to my feet. In what world does someone without snow pants or winter tires think: “Tomorrow I will be waist deep in powder hoping my friends like me enough to wait at the bottom of the run?”
Well it happened. Yes all of it, the powder, the waiting at the bottom of the run, oh and them liking me…cuz without them I would have spent the day:
a) wallowing in regret over spending too much money on rentals
b) unable to feel my bum sledding in my glorified splash pants, or
c) taking risks on mixed colour laundry loads at home…like most weekends
The pieces of this surprise weekend adventure began to come together months ago when our adoptive Victoria parents mentioned a ski trip. The invite wasn’t a surprise. We’ve found ourselves enfolded into more than one Berends family tradition: the annual Cowichan Lake camping weekend, the annual Tofino surfing trip, Christmas Eve gift opening, Christmas Day Cribbage with Grandma and Grandpa…so mid-February skiing at Mount Washington seemed like the next logical step in our relationship. But we were the ones with cold feet. As much as we would like to think we are brave well-equipped northerners, the truth is: our city-slicken Ford Focus has 0 snow capability, our dusty “winter clothes” bin is 80% woolly hipster socks, and Saturdays off for Jakob are as rare as German hockey wins. So when Jakob said “we’re going skiing with the Berends next weekend!” I smiled and said, “well that seems highly unlikely.”
It was 4:00pm on Saturday when Jakob called me.
“Pack the bags!”
“Yup, I got us a truck.”
“I’ll need a pair of pants, my new hoodie, one pair of boxers…”
“Just one pair of boxers?”
“Ya it’s only one night.”
“What are you insane? Didn’t your mom teach you to always be prepared for unexpected diarrhea.”
“One will be fine.”
“I’m packing you two.”
No more than 3 hours later we were on the road munching A&W burgers in a borrowed Mazda B3000 with the “For Sale” sign tucked into the glove box.
“This is AMAZING,” I shouted through a mouth full of pickles and chicken, “your boss is so cool!”
Jakob’s response was more subdued. Maybe he was preoccupied with thoughts of all the things that could go wrong after borrowing a $15 000 vehicle for a spontaneous adventure.
I’d like to say that we arrived at the snow-covered chalet and were sipping red wine by 9:30 pm as planned, not sitting on the side of the road dialling tow truck numbers and looking up hotels in Qualicum Beach. Entire articles, books even, could be written on the possible reasons a truck that has just been through a mechanic’s shop would break-down. Some of these reasons may even include “transmission fluid” and “just forgot.” What is much more fascinating is that more than half of the people who got us out of this situation didn’t know us at all and the other half had much better things to do on a snowy Saturday evening than rescue two hopeful ski trip tag-alongs.
By 10:30 pm, an eighteen-year-old with a tow truck showed up. I sat in the warm cab watching the snow accumulate and staring at a passport application on his dash. Will it be awkward if I ask where he is traveling to? Is it going to be more awkward to spend the entire 30-minute ride to town in silence wondering where he is traveling to? Hmm it’s a renewal, guess he’s travelled before…is it weird if I casually ask him if he has travelled before?
My unnecessarily anxious conversation planning was interrupted.
“He’s from Burns Lake,” Jakob exclaimed, jumping into the cab beside me.
“What!” There’s nothing like the comfort of knowing that the guy who is hauling your borrowed-broken-down truck likely had the same optometrist as you.
“Yup, I lived there until I was 12,” he confirmed with a friendly smile.
I am pretty sure the next sentence was something about his upcoming trip to Australia and I suddenly felt like I had wasted a lot of time trying to figure out how to naturally segue into an icebreaking travel conversation.
“Sounds like you two have done some travelling recently, do you have any tips?”
I tried to contain my excitement.
While we were chatting-up a 24-hour tow truck driver, the man who was kind enough to lend us the truck was calling friends in Qualicum who might have some driveway space to spare. Meanwhile, Don Berends (a.k.a. Dad) was graciously braving a Mount Washington snowstorm to come pick us up.
By 11:00 we had the Mazda unloaded and were busy packing our pillows and spare underwear into the Berends truck. A blinding light shone in my eyes.
“You live around here?” the deep voice demanded with forced gruffness.
I was caught off guard, “uh no, we’re just leaving this truck here.”
“Can you tell me the name of the person who lives in this house?”
“Uh boss’s friend….we had a breakdown.”
I hadn’t felt so much interrogation anxiety since standing face-to-face with a fake-border guard in Uganda at midnight (but that’s another story.)
Noticing my panic, Don and Jakob came to my rescue and explained the situation to the overprotective neighbour. He lowered the flashlight.
“Oh okay good to hear my neighbour here is helpin’ you out. All this commotion here looked suspicious this time of night.”
I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that for someone else in someplace else, this whole interaction could have gone a different way.
Back on the road, Don was clearly unfazed by the steady falling snow. He seemed more worried about finding another decent parking spot than ending up in the ditch.
“I’ve landed planes in worse,” he reminded us.
It was well after midnight by the time we reached the chalet. The snow was past our knees and there was no sight of Don’s footprints from earlier.
“After all of that, I guess we’d better actually go skiing tomorrow,” I said to Jakob.
“Of course we are going skiing.”
“We still don’t have any gear,” I whispered aggressively, forgetting that optimists are rarely discouraged by reminders of reality.
We tiptoed past our sleeping friends and tucked ourselves into a borrowed bed. While Jakob dreamt of powder, I tossed and turned wondering if this one-day mountain adventure could possibly be worth it.
My regrets were silenced with hugs and fried eggs in the morning. Everyone wanted to hear what had happened and speculate on what kind of “bang” stops a sale-ready truck in its tracks.
Between sips of tea that I didn’t make for myself, I finally popped the question.
“So are we actually going skiing today?”
“Well of course you are going skiing today!” was the chorus response.
“There’s 55 cm of fresh powder!”
“We have lots of extra gear!”
Like a Canadian Cinderella, I tried on ski boots, until my heel finally found a snug fit. Jakob, Jordan, and Maarten were already geared up and waiting at the door.
The day really was magical. Life-long seasons pass holders told us it was the best day they had ever skied on Mount Washington.
Which left me with a new problem. How ever am I going to make up the ski-day-of-a-lifetime to all of these people?! So here I am writing a blog post, in the off chance that “Thank-you” can be better said with 1200 words than with two. But let’s be honest, what’s more likely is that you all weren’t waiting for a thank-you. Through the worst snow storms and the best ski days, family gives and loves no matter the conditions.
Ski Boots and binding adjustment……………………………………Mick
Skis, helmet, and goggles…………………………………………..Sarah
Snowpants and jacket…………………………………………….Elyssa (Who was kind enough to break her wrist to ensure there would be gear for me to borrow)
Gloves…………………………………………Jakob (Thanks for wearing the crappy ones)
Balaclava and long johns…………………………………………….Maarten (I’ll wash those first)
Unmatched excitement for us to arrive…Ella, Leah, and Hanna
Truck and problem solving……………..John
Snapchat updates during the breakdown……………………………………Andrew
Sacrificing med school studying to be there……..Beth
Tea and midnight taxi…………………..Don
Lunch and snacks……………………….Judith
Patience with my chairlift chatter…Jordan
A weekend we’ll never forget……The whole Berends family (Thanks for loving us like your own)