When you think of Canada, especially if the thoughts are of winter, you undoubtedly think of snow. From photographs I have created a few “false memories” from my time in Canada between ‘88 and ’91. The main one that springs to mind was created from seeing photos of my Mum battling through 4ft deep snow in Lethbridge! My first actual memories from Canada are from when we (Dad & kids) visited Calgary for Christmas in 1998. Both of these examples involve plenty of snow!
In 2010, Vancouver is set to host Canada’s second Winter Olympic Games, having hosted their first in 1988 in my city of birth; Calgary. As things stand, I could well be here for the next Winter Olympics. As well as the two Canadian Winter Olympic events, I was also skiing in Italy, near Turin, when they hosted their Winter Olympics in 2006.
As well as deciphering that I seem to have an entirely coincidental bond with the Winter Olympics, you can probably also work out that (since snow is important to the Winter Olympic Games) Vancouver receives a fair amount of snow.
Richmond however, despite being very near to Vancouver, receives much less snow than the surrounding areas. Like Severn Beach, Richmond is a “below sea level” location on the waterfront. The slightly higher temperatures cause most of the snow to fall as rain over Richmond.
Fortunately, unlike Severn Beach, (as well as having culture and scenery) Richmond does occasionally see snow. The average snowfall is around 30cm a year, which eclipses most of the UK but is nothing when compared to the areas of Canada further from the coast or much higher up in the Rocky Mountains.
If I had been trying to avoid the snow for a few more weeks, my flight would have been perfect. Richmond had just had a long period of rain, washing away the snow from the New Year, and the UK began to see snow a few days after I had left! For the first few weeks I was devastated that I would be missing out on snow for the year, despite hopes of seeing some since November.
My trip to Whistler was graced by snow late on the first day and we saw 18cm fall overnight! Suddenly I realised the extent to which I had missed out on snow in the UK. I used to be ridiculed by friends when stating that the slushy sleet falling in Bristol wasn’t anything like “real” snow! I was so right! After snowboarding through the falling flakes for the second half of the day, we visited the village of Whistler in the evening and walked about the winter wonderland. Never before had a creamy hot chocolate seemed so desirable and appropriate!
To my amazement however, many of the people on the trip were not only not excited by the snow, but some positively loathed it! Whines of “it is so annoying” and “I hate snow” were common from certain members of the group and I was shocked. Granted, these particular “Scrooges” ("Bah Humbug!") were teens who probably think that everything “sucks” but it still got me thinking.
Do Vancouverites, and Canadians in general, come to loathe snow in the same way that we view rain? I mean from time to time it can be exciting and fun but the norm is to complain about it. Is this because we have had plenty of rain throughout our lives so have “seen enough” or are there other reasons? Is it also possible to hate seeing the sun after too long growing up around it and look forward to rain? Would we sooner change our viewpoints if the opposite extremities were to occur?
My argument to try and explain why I was still excited by snow aged 19 (“grow up”) was that I had seen hardly any throughout my life and the equivalent point in their lives for snowfall was early childhood so they had been able to throw snowballs, build snow families and make snow angels. Furthermore I added that global warming could well bring an end to snow and so the group members should make the most of it while they can. Who knows how long we have left of snow in this world?
The number of times that I have seen a decent amount of snowfall in my lifetime could be counted on my fingers! Fortunately I am not easily dissuaded from activities via peer pressure and I continued on with my “snowboard angels” and general excitement.
Shovelling snow from the Bowen's drive
Two days after the trip, the snow (travelling south) hit Richmond. Enough snow fell in one night to get me off work for 3 days (can’t rake leaves in snow...) and so I was able to rest up (since my weekend had been just as busy as my week!) and play in the snow some more. I spent one morning with Virginia shovelling the driveway, watching movies and taking Rosie for a walk through the 5-inch-deep snow along the dike.
The strange thing is that I was one of a very small minority to get the day (or a few days) off of work because of snow. An inch falls in Bristol and schools are panic closed! Here, the town continued to function normally as if nothing had happened. I imagine this also happens to a greater degree in the areas where even more snow falls each year!
My challenge for this week (and the rest of my life) is to never take snow for granted. This shouldn’t be too hard when you consider that moments where driving conditions worsen and front doors block shut are easily forgotten whenever snow capped mountain forests come in to view, either whizzing down a ski slope; walking through the winter snow under blue skies on a crisp, cool day; or curling up in a fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate as the snow flutters past the log cabin window.
Maybe with time I can come to appreciate the rain more too...