How to Enjoy a Real Winter
This year, I have been living in Québec. Winter here is very different to in England. When I first arrived, the thing I was most scared about was the winter. What would it be like to have 3 metres of snow? Would school ever be cancelled because the weather was so bad? And what on EARTH was I going to do for those 6 months?! As you might expect, I need not have worried. I'll explain why.
Here, snow is not a novelty - it's a part of every day life for half of the year. It is illegal to drive without winter tyres on your car between December and February. Nobody would even consider wearing any other footwear than solidly waterproof winter boots when there's snow on the ground. And perhaps most importantly, life goes on, regardless of the weather. Trains and buses continue as normal, people socialise and even better: a plethora of new sports take over. I think this makes Canada one of the best countries to live in, as there are few other places in the world where it's possible to enjoy the range of sports that the Canadians have.
Number 1 - skiing. For me, skiing means downhill skiing, in ski resorts, with ski lifts taking you up the mountain. Before arriving, I did not know that there were in fact other types of skiing. But for the purpose of this paragraph, I'm asking you to imagine a beautiful, sunny (but cold) blue-skied day, and you have taken a chairlift to the top of a mountain covered in freshly groomed snow. An hour seems like a few minutes, as you carve your way down a run to the bottom, and then do it all again, taking in the whole mountain over the course of the day. After some initial fear, a few group lessons, and the help of a sympathetic friend, I was on my way, and can honestly say it is my new favourite sport. After this experience, I will be making sure I travel to European ski resorts when I have the time and money.
Number 2 - ice skating. On a frozen lake. Ice hockey is arguably the national sport of Canada, but even those of us who can barely stand on a pair of ice skates (like me!) can enjoy lake skating. Once I had stopped looking like a baby deer, with my legs in a strange shape, I was able to make laps of the 3km circuit on the lake, which was frozen during January and February. This activity provided lots of amusement to my pupils, who have (of course) been ice skating since about the time they started walking, and laughed a lot at me. But I enjoyed myself, learnt a new sport, and enjoyed some amazing scenery around the lake.
Number 3 - cross-country skiing. Yet again, another very embarrassing activity for me. This was a compulsory sport with my school, and I was obliged to go 4 times during the winter months, despite never having put on a cross-country ski. This is the first problem: how to get the skis on. Once completed, the next problem was how to get down the beginner hill without injuring myself. Fail. I fell first time. Then, how to look cool whilst every muscle in my body ached, sweating a lot, and totally unable to go as fast as my 11 year old pupils. Again, fail. I even skied into the back of one of my pupils. Oh dear. The positives? I tried a new sport, I was a lot better the 4th time and my pupils will never forget me!
So to answer those first few questions, having 3 metres of snow was pretty awesome, yes school was cancelled once because of a big snowstorm, and I was so busy enjoying all these cool sports that winter finished too soon!