In my experience, Canadians are acutely aware of the favourable reception they receive abroad, when they say, ‘actually dude, I’m Canadian’, but unlike their American neighbours, are, like my fellow Englishmen, caught by a sudden sense of patriotic modesty when discussing their home nation. Well, I’m not Canadian, and as we’re not discussing my home nation, allow me to proudly boast for you. I can think of no higher praise than by starting off with the bold assertion that I would like to spend the winter months in Calgary. I must profess to having an awkwardly managed love of both the big city buzz, and stunning snow-capped scenery.
A friend studying in England said of living in Calgary, ‘We actually look forward to winter. There’s so much to do!’ I looked at her as if she was an alien from another planet. Winter is rarely looked on in such terms in London. The lucky ones get online and start researching their favourite French, Austrian and Swiss chalets, snatching a week over the Christmas break. Around this time of year, this one exhilarating week away is all certain social circles in the UK talk about. Wooden Chalets set amongst snow-capped mountains, short drives from picturesque towns boasting their own chocolatier. Now I am all for a holiday, but for many, myself included, this does not cut it. I want to be able to wake up after a heavy night out in a city bar surrounded by my friends, pick up my phone and see a text simply saying ‘we’re going skiing today’. In my experience, skiing, kayaking or a mountain bike ride and the three sure ways to leave a hang-over at the door. This is why Calgary is ideal. There is every convenience afforded by a large metropolis; every kind of restaurant, shopping outlet or nightspot one person can desire, smartly presented with wide, clean streets, modern beautiful buildings, complemented by crisp, clear air driven down from the Rockies themselves. That is why on my Christmas letter to Santa this year, I have circled city apartments and suburban houses in Calgary. I’ve even added a post script promising to be extra good, saying I’ll sell my stuff, or even donate my possessions to a Christmas charity of his choice.
I visited the Canadian Olympic Park (yes I’m a Cool Runnings fan) where I was informed that snow is literally blown onto the slope, which by the way, is inside the city limit. Skiing therefore, is in Calgary’s blood, and with a practise ski slope on the doorstep, practise starts early. It has started earlier still this year, as the COP’s ski hill has enjoyed its earliest opening in its history as result of heavy snowfall at the end of October. The few days of snow we are afforded are enjoyed only by the very young and students alike, as roads and towns grind to a halt after a light sprinkling. Snow in Canada is done properly, and you are all the better for it. Lake Louise, only an hour’s drive away, Mt Norway, Sunshine Village, Banff; the list goes on. No one in Calgary can complain of being limited to a week’s skiing holiday a year. Your typical weekend is the thing of dreams for most winter sports enthusiasts in Britain. On top of that, the city is enjoying a booming jobs market as a result of the petroleum industry, as well as plenty of great city locations to house a multitude of snowboards, skis and even the odd toboggan. So for now, while Calgarians ready themselves for five months of largely uninterrupted skiing, myself and many others are checking out flights deals.