Sometimes the Big Lessons come at us in surprising places. Like in the back of a snowcat. Skiing hard with a small group in the wilds of British Columbia can shine a surprising amount of light on life, which isn’t at all what I expected to take away from carving up powder for a week in the Monashees with a bunch of sweaty strangers.
LIFE LESSON No. 1: Don’t Trust First Impressions
The directions to Mustang Powder Lodge say to meet at the Skyline Esso Truck Stop on the TransCanada Highway, 20 minutes east of something called Sicamous. Meet at a gas station. What is this, you think, a college road trip? But you show up anyway, because you’re hungry for British Columbia powder. You park beside the gigantic snowbanks, where somebody tosses your skis into the belly of an old Blue Bird school bus. For the second time, you’re concerned about the quality of your upcoming ski vacation. Then the Italians show up—six rowdy guys piling out of a rental car in matching fur toques like something Jack London wore while mushing huskies in the Yukon. They’re laughing too loud and yelling, “Macaroni! Pavarotti!” These men, you realize, will be among your shoulder-to-shoulder companions on a snowcat for the next five days.
The old bus, with you aboard, barrels up a snowy road until its end, where you toss your luggage into snowcats for a 90-minute ride up into darkness. Awkward conversation with seatmates fogs the windows. Your unsure feeling lingers. Either that or you’re a little carsick.
Finally the cat stops at 5,750 feet, at the door of a welcoming timber-frame lodge softly glowing in the wilderness. And you think, Oh. And your seatmates—now that they’ve finally arrived from Vermont and Colorado and Seattle, and each now with a Mt. Begbie Ale in hand—well, you can practically see their armor of formality and self-importance peeling away. The tables in the dining room are set with organic rack of lamb; jazz softly falls from the big timber rafters.
The next morning, you look out the windows and see that the Esso truck stop—or for that matter any other sign of man—is nowhere in sight. Instead there is only the startling Monashee range dressed in the blue morning light. The snowcat is already outside clearing its throat, ready to take you still higher, just a few feet from the steaming hot tub that’s ready to embrace you upon your return. And you think, Ah. Yes. OK. Maybe I have been a little judgmental. Maybe this place will do just fine.