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Around the world in a daze

Working in a Winter Wonderland

CANADA | Monday, 4 January 2010 | Views [366]

After a 16 hour bus ride from Vancouver, we stumbled off the bus in Banff tired, groggy and not fully comprehending that this snow coated village was about to become our new home.

We headed down Lynx St on to Wolf St (yes all street names are animals I particularly like Gopher St, but not so keen on Muskrat St), and almost literally bumped into three deer walking down the street.

Banff is full of Australians looking for work so they can stay for the ski season. But because there is a recession and because there are more job seekers than jobs, it is hard to find work. It took us a month before we found anything. Louisa and I have the same job and the same staff accommodation, we're even sharing a bedroom!

Because people are here for a long time with nothing to do until they find work, they try to entertain themselves, mainly by drinking away the small amount of money they have. The other activities around town are also expensive – particularly skiing.

There are three ski areas around Banff – Sunshine, Lake Louise and Mt Norquay. As far as I can tell Sunshine is the trendy one all Aussies head to. Lake Louise is pretty and the one North Americans head to. Mt Norquay is smaller and families and locals spend their time there.

I've tried all three and although Lake Louise is more beautiful and has a greater variety of runs, I am Australian so keep getting drawn back to Sunshine.

Louisa snowboarding

I started out skiing. It was hard. I spent most of the first day on the ground, my knees ached and my thighs burned. I gave it a go twice then tried snowboarding. I didn't want to like it because most snowboarders think they are too cool for school and slide past you at crazy speeds just so you know how inadequate you are on the snow. But I couldn't help it. It was so much fun and seemed a lot easier than skiing. It did still hurt, especially after riding three days in a row. I've just fully committed myself to it and bought a board, which I partly chose for the pretty pattern on the top and partly for the price!

We've also done a bit of hiking around town. The mountains are beautiful and the views at the top are amazing, provided they aren't covered with cloud. Walking up hill is fine in the cold because it warms you up. But down hill can be quite hard. The cold wind freezes your face and the snow on the ice is slippery.

There are a lot of things to get used to living in a high altitude in winter that you just don't even consider at home. Apparently it takes your body 2 months to adjust to high altitudes. Until then you puff and pant walking up just a couple of stairs, you have the worst hang over of your life after 2 beers and remember nothing of the night before. There is also the cold to adjust to. it has gotten as cold as minus 30, with wind chill it drops another 10 or so degrees. For example your skin dries out constantly. My lips and hands are so cracked and sore I have had to buy up big at the Body Shop to make them better. We've also learnt that you don't go otuside with wet hair. Otherwise you end up with frozen dreadlocks as the ice matts it into thick clumps. Snot freezes in your nose, your earrings get so cold they start to freeze your ears from the inside and you're forced to wear your entire wardrobe every time you leave the hosue. But it is all good fun.

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