March 2, 2014
The temperature at the Millwoods Golf Course was -34 an hour before departure, but that didn’t stop our Australian Member, David Burrows, from greeting every vehicle, directing Members to the appropriate bus and presenting them with their parking permit.
Many Members pitched in to quickly load the buses, with bus 1 departing almost exactly on time at 6:45 AM followed by bus 2 promptly departing at 7:00 AM. Both buses stopped at Red Deer Donut Mill, Nanton Flying J Truck Stop, Fernie Tims, the Border, and Super 1 Foods in Whitefish MT, before arriving at Whitefish Mountain Resort at 6:15 pm. (bus 1) and 6:45 pm. (bus 2). Separating the buses by 15 minutes helped immensely with rest stops.
Arrival at Big Mountain Resort.
Jason Forrest, their Group Sales Manager, was there to meet the bus and to direct our tour participants to the check-in area. Then he assisted Members in getting to their building including arranging for a small shuttle to get our Members to Edleweiss, the condo farthest from the bus – about 300 metres. Unloading the bus went quickly despite heavy snow. Temperatures were much warmer than Edmonton. It was about -6 when we were unloading.
First bus Members arrived at the Welcome Reception shortly after 7 pm and by 8 everyone was there having a great time. Special thanks for Donna and Jim Vine who sorted out the various options for lift tickets and then spent more than an hour disbursing them to our Members. The reception featured very good pulled pork sliders, quesadillas, nachos and two free drinks all provided by the resort at no cost. While we were munching and drinking, Jason Forrest welcomed the group and introduced a hill ambassador (Mike from Kentucky), who outlined the procedure for joining the hill ambassadors in the morning. The vast majority of members indicated that they would join a tour. Then Link, a level 3 ski instructor and senior skier, (level 3 is the top level in the USA,) talked to the group about the value of lessons for older skiers. The ski school offered group discount lessons and many of our Members formed groups and accepted their offer.
Monday, March 3 – Ski Day 1
A huge snowfall overnight met us as we left our condos and headed toward the hill. Most Members headed up Lift 3 for a quick warmup and then headed for Lift 2 which is a high speed quad that goes further up the hill but not to the summit. Members did a few runs there until the Number 1 high-speed quad lift opened to carry us to the summit and the back-side runs. Many Members did take advantage of the hill ambassadors. They were shown the entire hill, at least from a distance, over at least an hour and a half.
If Members loved powder, they were in their element today. At the top there was a foot of fresh snow and even the lower areas had plenty of loose fluffy stuff. Apparently all the locals heard about it too because lift lineups were long all morning. By 1:00 pm. the fluffy white stuff was all piled up and the locals had left. Mid afternoon saw many members beginning to socialize in the hot tubs and bars or heading down to Whitefish Townsite for shopping and apres skiing activities. . . . and it was still snowing.
Tuesday, March 4 – Ski Day 2
It did indeed continue to snow all night and the morning greeted us with 8 inches of snow at the top and copious amounts at the bottom. All the Members were out in full force this morning and enjoyed the day immensely. Several Members took advantage of the free shuttle to Whitefish for apres ski festivities on Tuesday evening, which happened to be Shrove Tuesday. In Whitefish, this happens to be in conjunction with Mardi Gras weekend. Many ended up at the Bulldog Bar, one of Montana’s most favoured drinking and pub food establishments. The food and beverages were great and the decor was . . . well, just ask one of the Members who went there.
Wednesday, March 5 – Ski Day 3
What do you get when you combine 0 degrees Celsius with heavy precipitation? You get wet, and we all did. There was lots of powder but it was the wet and sticky kind, described by many Members as wet cement. That didn’t seem to stop our Members from getting out there and having a great time, at least for part of the day. We needed some big fans to blow away the fog however. By the afternoon, it had really socked in. That just gave us an excuse to retire early and prepare for the banquet.
And what a banquet it was. The buffalo meatloaf was amazing, as was the rainbow trout and then the banquet was topped off with apple pie and ice-cream for dessert. Simply delicious. In an informal poll taken at the banquet about 25 members indicated that they had taken the lessons offered at the Welcome Reception. A show of hands indicated that about 90% of the group went with a Snow Ambassador for the tour of the hill. Everyone agreed that this was a worthwhile endeavour as Big Mountain is just that and there are many places to explore.
Thursday, March 6 – Ski Day 4
More snow overnight, 23 cm to be precise, greeted us in the morning. There were predictions of rain that did not come to fruition thankfully. There was a bit of ice pellet precipitation in the morning, but not enough to dampen our enthusiasm. With mild temperatures, skiers had to be careful as the snow transitioned from powdery at the top to sticky near the bottom. The runs held up much better today and all ability levels had a great day. In the afternoon, the sun poked through the mist allowing us to view the valley below and to see what we skied in whiteout conditions previously. Skiing to exhaustion seemed to be the theme of day 4. Many of the Members went down to Whitefish for dinner before packing up for the trip home.
Members of the tour greatly appreciated the free Snow Bus which ferried us to and from town on a regular schedule.
Friday, March 7 – The Trip Home
All Members of the tour arrived early at their pick-up points to wait for the buses for the trip home. Both buses left approximately on-time with bus 2 leading the way by about 15 minutes. The border proved to be just as easy to cross going into Canada as it was going down to Montana. Each bus required about 15 minutes to clear customs. Our first coffee break was about an hour later in Fernie and both buses left on time for our lunch break in High River. An hour after arrival at High River, our appetites were satisfied at a wide variety of eateries and we were off to Edmonton. After a leg stretch at Red Deer, both buses arrived about 20 minutes early at Millwoods Golf Course where the buses were quickly unloaded and goodbyes exchanged. Another successful RMSSC tour was complete.
Tour Hosts: Lorne Woynarowich, Mike Tansey, Bob Larson, Stan Rust