Mark & Steve – Skiing Big White

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Mark and Steve talk about their recent ski trip to Big White in the B.C. Interior. They talk about winter driving, skiing and family.

Mark:     Hello again everyone.

Mark here with Steve for another installment of the EnglishLingQ podcast.

How’s it going tonight?

Steve:    Hi Mark.

Mark:    Hi.

Steve:    Not too bad.

We’re doing it via Skype, for a change, so we’re not sitting in the same room.

Hopefully the sound quality is good.

Mark:    We are looking at each other.

Steve:    We didn’t want to be together.

Mark:    We are looking at each other.

Steve:    Yeah.

We didn’t want to be in the same room, because we spent a whole week together skiing up in Big White and enough is enough.

Mark:    That’s for sure; although, we do have our video cams going.

Yeah, we were up at Big White; although, it was fairly white here in Vancouver too for the last, I don’t know, three weeks.

Steve:    I know.

For people who aren’t from here, it’s rather unusual for Vancouver to have so much snow with the result that the city was kind of paralyzed.

Mark:    I don’t know.

Steve:    You know what struck me as amazing?

The side roads, the smaller roads, were not cleared.

The city could not hire private contractors to clear the snow, because that would upset the union.

In other words, the city would be paralyzed, ambulances can’t get through, people can’t get to work, people can’t get to school; none of that matters.

In other words, they can only use union labor to clear the streets.

Isn’t that tremendous?

Mark:    Is that in fact the case?

Steve:    That’s the fact; that’s in fact the case.

It’s in fact the case…

Mark:    Because there are people with their own snowplows, but maybe they were only allowed to clear people’s driveways and not allowed to clear side streets.

Steve:    Exactly.

I played hockey tonight and one of our players on this Old-Timer’s Team his wife is a teacher.

They got a private contractor to clear the driveway, excuse me, to clear the parking lot, but they were not allowed to do the driveway, because that’s a union contract.

It’s unbelievable.

Mark:    Unbelievable.

Steve:    Fortunately, in Vancouver it does eventually rain and all the snow melts.

Mark:    Although, this time was…I mean it’s been over three weeks now with I don’t know how many successive snowfalls, which is unusual.

I mean I guess we had the most snow we’ve had since, I don’t know, 1970 or something.

I don’t know what the exact year was, but we certainly got more than our normal allotment and it lasted.

Steve:    But the issue is not so much how much we have over a month, it’s also the amount that falls at any one time and we have had major snowfalls in the past.

Mark:    Oh yeah, for sure.

Steve:    It seems to me there should be a system whereby they can use private contractors to keep the city going.

It’s amazing.

Mark:    Well, I know.

People act like it doesn’t snow here, but in fact it does.

Every year there’s at least one major snowfall and any time we get a major snowfall anyone on the side streets is out of luck for a few days.

Steve:    Right.

And that means no garbage collection and people have trouble getting to work and school and so forth.

Mark:    I know.

Steve:    But let’s leave that and let’s talk about our glorious week at Big White.

Maybe we should tell people, how do you get to Big White from Vancouver?

I mean let’s start with that.

Mark:    Yeah, well, Big White is about a five-hour drive from Vancouver in the interior of British Columbia and we drove there.

Theoretically, I guess we could have flown to Calona, which is the nearest city with an airport and driven the 45 minutes to Big White, but we…

Steve:    Which would have been a lot more expensive and a huge hassle.

I mean, realistically, we’re not going to fly Calona.

Mark:    No, exactly.

Steve:    But I was going to say that it consists of, basically, one-third is driving in the Frazer Valley, which is flat…

Mark:    …and essentially coastal, like a part of Vancouver, and…

Steve:    Right.

The roads are clear; it’s green in winter.

Then you have about an hour driving over the coastal mountains, which is the Kokahala Highway, where inevitably when you reach the peak, the pass, where you cross over into the interior of the continent, we get snow, avalanche and other difficult conditions.

Mark:    Right.

Steve:    That takes us to Merritt and then the next leg is about another hour on what’s known as the Connector, where you will once again go up into elevation, where you have wind and sometimes fog and lots of snow and it also sometimes can be difficult.

Mark:    Right.

Obviously, those are the two tricky parts of the drive.

Any time you’re driving in the interior during the winter you’re going to have snow and ice and all those fun things.

You hope that when you go through the mountains the conditions aren’t too bad and we were pretty lucky, I thought.

On the way out the roads were hard-packed snow and on the way back, actually, the conditions were quite good, except for that slushy snow on the way back through the coast mountains again.

Steve:    Well that’s the thing; we go through sort of different climatic zones.

Interior wet or heavy snow, interior dry around Merritt and then you’re, of course, moving into the coast.

We forgot to mention that once you get to Calona, of course, then you have that final leg, which is about 40 minutes, to drive again up into the mountains to Big White, where again you’re encountering heavy snowfall.

Mark:    Right.

Steve:    So just to finish off on the driving, I played hockey tonight with my Old-Timer’s group, 55 and over, one of our players on our team has a place in Big White; he drives every weekend.

Mark:    No way!

Steve:    He’s like 59 and he says, yeah, it’s not a problem.

I finish work around 5:00, I drive up there.

I get there about 8:00 or so, I have time for a glass of wine and a little snack and I go to bed.

Then I ski all day Sunday, excuse me, all day Saturday, I ski Sunday until 2:00, I jump in the car and I drive home and he does that every weekend.

Mark:    Unreal!

Steve:    Unreal.

I said have you ever encountered any bad weather?

He said, well yeah, once it took me 11 hours, but he said most of the time, no problem.

He drives an Audi all-wheel drive.

Mark:    Right.

Steve:    He says you have to have ice tires, not snow tires.

He says because snow is not a problem, ice is a problem.

Mark:    Yeah.

Because they plow, they’re always plowing, so there’s no snow accumulation on the roads.

Steve:    Well you can drive in snow.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    The issue is ice and there is ice.

He said the most dangerous stretch to him was approaching Merritt, because sometimes it’s warmer as you’re coming down and there’s black ice.

He said the worst thing is people who drive with cruise control.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    And if you hit black ice with cruise control you’re in the ditch, because you can’t react.

You’re just in the ditch, done, so he says that’s very often the problem.

He says there are cars like Jeeps, which have a relatively narrow wheel base relative to the height and size of the car.

Bad; those guys are in the ditch.

He had a lot of information about how to do that.

I mean he drives it every weekend; every weekend he drives 10 hours in order to ski 10.

Not 10 hours, whatever he manages to ski.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    So he’s quite a dedicated skier.

Mark:    That’s for sure.

Steve:    Yeah.

Mark:    I don’t think I’d like to drive that every weekend.

Steve:    Well, you know, the only way you could do that is if you were a member of LingQ and you were listening to our language content while driving.

Mark:    Like, for instance, this podcast, I mean that would get anybody through.

Steve:    You could listen three or four times and improve your English.

Mark:    That’s right.

Steve:    Alright, so that gets us to Big White and, now, what was our weather?

We skied what, five days?

Mark:    Yeah.

We were there, we skied five days.

Sometimes at this time of year, because Big White is quite a rocky mountain, they need quite a bit of snow before you cover up all the exposed rocks and so on.

But this time, for the most part, it was pretty good, because Christmas is a bit early for the ski season.

Steve:    What did they have, about two and a half meters, 250 centimeters?

What did they have, do you know?

Mark:    No.

I think they said they had 150 centimeters.

Steve:    150?

Mark:    I think probably at 200 all the rocks are covered up.

Steve:    You know the day we left there was a big dump the night before.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    So the day we left would have been an excellent day.

Then the fellow in our dressing room was saying that the following day they had another big dump and that the absolute best skiing is happening right now.

Mark:    Is that right?

Steve:    Yeah.

Mark:    Yeah.

I mean it’s just been snowing like crazy here.

Even in Vancouver all weekend I guess it was snowing.

But, yeah, it looked pretty good as we were driving out with knee-deep powder.

Steve:    I know.

How was our temperature up there this year?

Mark:    I don’t know, I guess it varies.

It’s usually…

Steve:    In the 20s we were, mostly, minus 10 to minus 17-18?

Mark:    Yeah, I think so.

During the day it was minus 5 to minus 15.

Steve:    Well we had a couple days where it was minus 17 or so with the wind.

Mark:    Yeah, plus with the wind and everything.

There were some days where some members of our party weren’t too keen on venturing out, but as long as you’re dressed for it.

Actually, I mean the conditions are very good there for skiing compared to so many other places.

I mean it’s light interior snow and…

Steve:    …long runs…

Mark:    …and not too busy.

Steve:    The crowds aren’t very heavy.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    Except for the one day where it was so windy they had a number of the runs shut down so that the lifts were a bit busier, but by enlarge it’s a five minute wait; sometimes there’s no wait at all.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    Much of the time there was no wait.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    You just ski down, your thighs are burning and you just go right on the chairlift and go back up again.

Mark:    Yeah and this is their busiest time of year.

I mean from Christmas to New Year’s is their busiest time of year; at all ski resorts, actually.

Steve:    And, of course, the nice thing at Big White is it’s what they call a ski-in, ski-out resort.

They have chalets and little three-four story apartments and so forth all around the hill and wherever you are you just throw your skis on and start skiing.

Then you go back home and take your skis off and you walk into your place and you can go to the bathroom or have lunch and then go back out again.

Mark:    Yeah, that’s what’s so great about Big White compared to any other ski hill I’ve ever been to is the convenience of being, essentially, on the hill.

You’re living on the hill, so you step out of your door, you ski down to the lift, you ski for a while and then ski down the run to your place and, as you say, have some lunch, warm up and out you go again.

I’ve never been to another resort quite like that.

A lot of the time you’re walking to the chairlift to take you up the mountain to ski and you’re not going to come all the way back down again to have lunch or warm up.

You’re up on the hill and you’re going in somewhere to have lunch and it’s just a different experience at Big White.

I must say, I think it’s tremendous.

Steve:    Oh yeah.

When you go into these places for your lunch, if you can’t go home and you have to go to one of these restaurants, you walk in and it’s all steamy and the food is like…  You have to line up and you have no place to put your gear and you start getting sweaty now so that when you go back out now you’re cold.

Mark:    Having said that, we did that for a long time and were quite happy doing it at lots of other ski resorts, so it’s not that bad.

Steve:    No.

Mark:    But the ability to come home is just a real treat.

Steve:    Yeah.

Mark:    That’s a big part of the reason why we go to Big White, plus you’re more guaranteed with the weather.

You know at some of the coastal mountains it can be a little iffier, like at Whistler where they’re going to have the…

Steve:    Iffier, there’s a term; iffy, iffier.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    Anyway, it will be iffy at Whistler.

Mark:    At Whistler, where they’re going to have the skiing events for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

It tends to be more in the coastal climate zone, so while they might get more snow over the course of the winter, there’ll be warmer days where the snow will get heavier, where they might have rain for a while, which will melt some of the snow.

Steve:    Well the rain won’t be up at the higher elevations.

Mark:    No, that’s true, but I guess the snow conditions can be different; anyway, a heavier coastal snow as opposed to the interior where it’s colder and fluffier.

Steve:    Speaking of cold and winter, we also watched the World Junior Hockey Championship.

Mark:    Yeah, so if there are any Swedes listening…

Steve:    Yeah well, that’s right.

Well, first of all, we have to say that we enjoyed watching the game between the U.S.

and Canada.

Mark:    Absolutely.

Steve:    Because the U.S.

ahead 3-nothing and Canada came back to win 7 to 4.

The best game was the Canada-Russia game, which was an unbelievable game.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    A see-saw game and there were mistakes by both sides, but in the end it was…I mean it could have gone either way.

It was very lucky that Canada scored with six minutes to go.

Mark:    Six seconds, six seconds to go.

Steve:    Sorry, six seconds to go and then that led to overtime, in which there were no goals scored and then there was a shootout.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    That, to me, was the highlight of the tournament.

Because the game against Sweden, the Swedes, I think they had some serious discipline problems.

I think they came with a very lousy attitude and were very sort of…I don’t know what the word was, but they were diving, they were upset and whining.

Mark:    Well, I think they allowed themselves to be taken off their game by the Canadians.

The Canadians somehow were in their head; like they didn’t play their game.

Steve:    In their head.

It was nothing the Canadians did; the Swedes arrived with that attitude.

Mark:    Right.

So, yeah, at any rate, needless to say, as you can imagine Canada won the World Junior Championships.

Steve:    5-1…It was closer than 5-1.

Mark:    No one else in the world really cares about the World Junior Championships, hockey championships, but actually it’s a huge deal in Canada.

Steve:    It’s huge, it’s huge, 20,000 people at every game.

I mean Kazakhstan plays Latvia and 15,000 people show up, whereas if you went to Latvia they would only watch their own team.

Mark:    For sure.

Steve:    Even at that only 5,000 people show up.

Mark:    I know.

Steve:    But in Sweden it’s a big thing.

I was reading in the Swedish newspapers and a bunch of Swedish commentators, people were writing in to complain about how unfair the Canadians were and other childish stuff like that.

It was unbelievable, like the referee cost them the game.

I mean they had four straight power play opportunities and they didn’t score a goal.

Mark:    Right.

Steve:    But that was the ref’s fault?

Mark:    No.

Steve:    What, he should have given them eight straight penalties or power play opportunities?

Mark:    Well and the ref was Russian or something anyway.

Steve:    He was Russian.

Mark:    It’s not like it was a Canadian ref.

Steve:    Oh no, the Canadians buy the ref.

Mark:    Oh yeah, right.

Steve:    To the Swedes the Canadians buy the ref.

Anyway…but it’s amazing how people can see the same thing, the same game…

Mark:    For sure.

Steve:    …and depending on your perspective, whether you’re a Russian or an American or Czech or Swede or Canadian, you’ll see a completely different game.

Mark:    Yeah, I know, I know.

Steve:    It’s amazing.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    Such is the nature of human perception.

Mark:    That’s right, but that was quite exciting.

Other than that, my brother Eric and his family came out to join us up there this Christmas.

That’s the first time they’ve done that, so that was fun for all of us.

Steve:    And five grandchildren and we were playing games like Pictionary and charades.

Mark:    Yeah.

Steve:    A big meal every evening with all the many helpers in the kitchen.

Mark:    So, yeah, no, that was great and now we’re back at work.

Steve:    This is going to be the year of LingQ!

Mark:    That’s right.

With that, we’ll probably sign off.

Steve:    Alright.

We should also say, though, that this is our first LingQ podcast of 2009 and despite all the bleak, dire, predictions and stuff, we think 2009 is going to be a good year.

We wish everybody health, prosperity and happiness for 2009.

Mark:    Absolutely.

Happy New Year, we’ll talk to you next time.

Steve:    Okay, bye.

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