Chilled to the bone: Cold Canadian Rockies

Walking quickly keeps you warm. Or at least warm-er.

Its just turned January 1st 2012 and I am walking home as quickly as I can.
People tell you its cold in Banff, AB. When they say -25’C it is hard to grasp in real terms.

Back in 2008 I had just left Sidney AUS at +40’C and my first day teaching at Lake Louise was -45’C.
This was all within 48hrs and it was a big shock to the system.

Trying to pick up the pace with out sacrificing foot hold was hard. The pathways, although cleared by diligent home-owners and businesses, are often snow covered / ice covered death traps. There are plenty of stories of able bodied folk slipping on ice and ending up in hospital. Especially after a few beers.

“Got to get home, got to get home, got to get home”

I knew I should have put more layers on as I walked out the door that evening, it seemed quite warm at about 9pm and I was only panning on being out for a while.

When it is -25 to -35’C and the humidity is up… its fucking cold. Words strugel to convery how cold it feels. Your movements become stiff and restricted in a vein attempt to keep the heat in. Thouhgts slow down and the over whleming need for heat / warmth / shelter make themselves your primary goal.

In this kind of cold with a 20 minuet walk home I began to really focus on what I can only call survival. I had had a few drinks, was not wearing enough, the sidewalks were slippy as hell. A slightly missplaced foot could cause a slip, a knock to the head and hypothermia. But as I watched the black and white path eagle eyed, all I could manage to think was “get home, don’t fall”.

Maybe this seems extreme to others? Walking home on new years eve through a well know, large ski town should not be life or death. At one point in 2011 Banff was the coldest inhabited place on earth at -55’C. There are no homeless people in Banff.

The kind of cold you get here makes you with draw into the core of your body, you feel you legs chill to the point that they burn. Your toes and hands are long since forgotten to that numbing pain. I grip the sleeves of my jacket to keep air from entering. Teaching in the cold is bad enough. At least then you are wearing thermals, snow pants, helmet and hat, hand and toe warmers are issued to keep the frostbite numbers down, heath and safety and all that…

The temperature leeches everything from you and replaces all your energy and heat with icy coldness.

I finally reach my street, one of the furthest out the roads are cleared less often yet the traffic polishes the snow so it becomes an ice ring. Be careful I tell myself.

Manipulating the keys from my pocket to the door takes about a minuet. It is a long time to wait but having clenched my fists for so long they are now slow and unresponsive and my fingers are numb and seem inadequate while trying to turn the key. It feel like wearing gloves, big padded ones.

The heat hurts. It just does. But that is ok. I made it back. Inside I lose all my layers ASAP to replace the cold cold air with the warmth of the apartment.

In only a few minuets I feel my brain come back on line and I wonder what all the fuss was about. People in Canada do this every day. Tonight, I was one of those people.

But that cold, that enveloping bone chilling cold, it is an experience that makes you respect the Rockies and Canadians too. Why do people make a living here? why would you? Well… it all comes back to snowboarding. The snow here is dry, light and fluffy. It because of the cold it is like that. It is because of the cold, we get the good stuff… It is worth it. But some times…. damn…. it gets really really fucking cold.

Stay classy, and stay warm!


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