We have snow!

Well you can scrap all that crap I was going on about in the last blog about global warming and that. Snow has been dumped on Invermere by the butt-load.

When I finished the last blog, I didn't have too much to do for the night. Greg was having an early night because he had to be up early in the morning to catch the bus. There was a party down at Pano, but fuck going all the way down there. The taxi back, which can seat 8 people, costs $50. And that is pretty much the only way to get back down to Invermere. And I don't really know anyone down at the mountain well enough to ask to kip on their floor. And I certainly couldn't be bothered to arrange going down to the pub. So in the end I just sat in front of the TV drinking piss all night. And all I can say, is no wonder we lost the war in Iraq.

There was an American version of 'Are you smarter than a 5th grader' on. Which just goes to demonstrate how shit Canadian TV is when that's the best thing on, on a Friday night. But there was a female US army sergent in the hot-seat. I don't really know where that ranks in terms of the military hierachy, but it's not private. So she had some say. "Copenhagen is the capital of which European city?" Not that I've extensively researched the job requirements for the military, but you'd think that a basic grasp of Geography would be necessary. She didn't know that question. What really struck me though, was a basic maths question. How many ounces in so many pounds. And she new the basic sum. She actually said, "So that's 16 × 8 then." I'm no mathmatician, but to me that's pretty basic. For me, I instantly look at that sum and just see 160 - 32. And from there it's obviously 128. Maybe a 2 second sum. That's about how long it took me. And it's about how long it took this fifth-grader. This army sergant; that's someone who has the power to command others, in a warzone, took at least 2 minutes, talking to herself. And you know the answer she came up with? 108! That's how clever she was. After 2 minutes, 108. It's no wonder we lost that fucking war when the US military are too fucking dumb to count on their fingers.

That really was my Friday night. Sitting on the couch, drinking piss, marvelling at some dumb Americans.

I had fuck-all to do come yesterday. I just wanted to have a bit more of a look around town. Get a look in some of the clothes shops. How much are they charging for Winter gear etc. But that didn't take too long. I managed to get out of bed pretty late. Then I got stuck in front of Gordon Ramsey whilst having breakfast. So it probably wasn't until after midday that I actually made it out. And I really hadn't missed too much around town. There was one shop that was selling balaclavas for less than $20. And I'm pretty sure come January, that is something I'll be needing. But there really wasn't too much else around town. I made an effort to search out the gym as well.

It's conveniently right behind the pub. It's just pretty well hidden. It didn't look a bad gym considering the size of Invermere. There were 2 girls behind the desk, and one person actually exercising, so fingers crossed it stays like that and I won't have to wait for equipment very much. But it was better than I expected. One thing that was different about it to any other gym that I've been in, is that there was very little divide between the gym areas, ie the reception, the free-weights area, the cardio area. They were just all rolled into one. Going up to the reception, you were kind of standing in the free-weights area. But it had everything I need. And had I got my staff card by now, I probably would have been for a workout. That brings the price down from $8 to $2. But I don't have it. Being a small town, I'm sure I could just say I'm Pano staff and get the discount, but I haven't tried yet. The way my body's deteriorated over the, what, 3 weeks since I've left?, I cannot wait to get back into a gym routine. Most of my shifts will be around 8:00 to 16:30 most days, so I should get the time for evening workouts. I cannot wait to get back into the gym routine. I'm looking forward to it even more than I am to going skiing.

One thing that I forgot to mention, is that lazing in bed in the morning, as I hazily opened my eyes (I'm too lazy to close my curtains), I could see snow falling. And sitting up so I could see the ground out of my window, everything had turned white. I wish I'd taken more photos of Invermere, pre-snow, because it may well be the last time I get to see it. Everything was white. Thick, thick, snow fell in the night. Walking about town, it felt a lot more like a Canadian Winter. Like being back in Halifax, but without the biting wind-chill. But where the ground you walk on is no longer concrete. It is snow and ice.

That was my morning though. I have the gym sussed out now. Don't expect it to be long until I'm down there again.

I had fuck-all to do for the rest of the day. So once I got back, I decided "fuck it! I'm going for a walk in the snow."

Invermere map

This is a photo of a map that I found laying around the appartment. We live at the red X. Since I've been here, not once have I come out of the apparment and turned left. And I look at the map, and I see Canyon View Road, and think to myself, "Fuck. That must have a good view of the canyon." So off I go. Down 13th st., left onto 13th ave., and onto 14th st. Fuck, there were a shit-load of deer down here. It was weird. They were kind of camoflaged in the trees a little, so you could easily get 10 yards away from one before you knew it was there. The deer didn't seem too bothered by all the snow. There were a lot though. Man I guess a load of them live up this way. I had my camera on me. But it was in the camera case that was in my back pack, and it was snowing. So I couldn't really be bothered getting it out for these deer. You know that I think that rabbit-moose that was sitting outside my window a week or 2 ago, I think that was actually a deer. I think deer in this country just look different to normal deer. It's like squirrels. Squirrels in this country just look strange.

As I continued on, I was on a public road. But seeing as there was nothing down here but sparsely situated houses, you kind of felt like you were trespassing. There was no reason to be on this road other than to go to one of the houses. And to that end, people felt secure enough that they just left belongings outside. I was kind of wary of the stereotypical farmer coming out yielding a shotgun. Because there really was no logical reason for me to be here.

Toby creek, Invermere The views were pretty spectacular though. In the end I did get the camera out. But I didn't get too many shots. From Canyon View Road, it was a big drop down to the canyon. And there were a shit load of trees in the way, so there was only one view of the Canyon that I got. I figured that I'd be able to get more, so I didn't bother getting a snap of it. I wish I had now, because I ended up with no pictures of the canyon. And you see where 'Toby' is written on the map. As in 'Toby Creek'. Well to me, that looked like a continuing road, but they just didn't picture it, so they had the room for the word Toby. Not the case. It just turns into rocks for a bit. Again, there were sparsly situated houses along here, but you could tell by the way that the snow was completely undisturbed, ie no footprints, that no one had been down here for many hours. Probably all day. So you kind of felt like you were trespassing again. It was cool to come down here though. At least I know what is up this area of town now. Basically, fuck all. And the views were pretty cool, even though I didn't catch the best of them on camera. By now I was on 7th street. Unbeknown to me at this point mind. 7th St. to 13th Ave. to 13th St and back. A bit of a pointless way to spend the day. At least I know what's up here now. Once the mountain opens, I guess that I'll be working 5 days a week. And I can't see I'll want to go exploring on my days off, so good to know if nothing else. Very pretty area.

That was my whole Saturday really, as exciting as it sounds. I had good Internet all night (unlike now), so I got the time to get some online stuff done. And we had a trip to Sobey's for some reason at about 8. I wanted the exercise and I think Greg was being too lazy to cook. That was a fun evening activity. I'm getting on with Greg pretty well. It might not be as good a place to live as the other house. But make do I guess. Could be a lot worse.

Then this morning. Still snowing. I'm up at 05:55, because it's my first day of training. By my understanding, I have to be there at 08:30, and the 08:15 bus doesn't arrive until 08:45. I figure that being 15 minutes late on the first day of 7th Street, Invermere, BC, Canada work really isn't the best first impression, so what does that mean. It means yay, I get to take the 07:05 bus instead. And then sit about for an hour. Luckily there were others in the same boat. There were a couple of people, one guy and one girl who arrived at the bus stop just before me. Aussies. As everyone in this country seems to be. I got chatting to them. Then some Canadian girl rocked up. So it wasn't like I was the only one I suppose.

And as we arrive, it turns out that nearly everyone, apart from Kirsty, who was also on the bus, were lifty's. The Great Hall was open, so a group of about 10 of us end up going and chilling in there for a while. Got to know people a bit. One of the girls there was Laura, who is one of the people living in Kirsty's place, ie, where I was almost living. And she was annoyingly cute. I would have been much happier if she was butt-ugly seeing as I'm not living with her. You can't have everything though. As 08:30 approaches, we all head down to the hall where we're having training. And there are 4 guys standing outside waiting as well, so about, I don't know, 15 of us wait for a while. And some more appear, so there is maybe 20 people standing outside here waiting. You know, you'd think with this many people here, someone would have had the common-sense to check if the doors open or not. Save us all standing out in the cold and snow. Not so. Once the ball finally drops, I think everyone feels marginally retarded. The next door is locked though, so we have to stand outside this hall waiting for a while. This is the hall where I had that safety talk at orientation. That one with the big dog. Turns out we were supposed to be inside of this door as well. The people giving the training just hadn't realised this one was locked. Oh and you know what time it is by the time we get in? About 09:00. People on the later bus are here by now. So I could have had an extra 70 mins in bed. Oh joy.

As we get in, there are thick handbooks on every table. Great. Fun stuff to learn. And unsurprisingly, we have some getting to know you exercises. Go and sit on a table with no one you know, and find out about each other. I seemed to be pretty much the only person to actually move for this, but I'm not shy. One of the things that I found out about a girl on my table; she's an Aussie on her Summer break from uni. And she has to be back in February, ie half way through the season. But she hasn't told the resort yet. I'm sure they'll be thrilled when she leaves half-way through after training her up. I don't mind though. It might mean overtime!

We had more get to know you stuff a little later on. It was nothing too painful though. The rest of the morning was mainly spent going through the handbook. And one thing that really stuck out, was the pay. Matt, the supervisor, essentially apologised for it, claiming he is lobbying that lifty's deserve a higher wage for the work they do. But so far his calls have fallen on deaf ears. Maybe once the high-season starts we can all go on strike. But it actually says in the handbook, learn to live on $700 per month. That's essentially the take-home pay after tax. My understanding is that this tax can be claimed back at the end of the year. But the Canadian financial year, is the calendar year. So I won't be able to claim most of that tax back until 2010. So $700 per month. Well $475 of that goes on rent. So I essentially have $225 per month to live on. That's maybe £130? I don't know. I don't have Internet right now, so I can't check it accurately. But damn. I recon I can just about live on that. Ie, I can get the essentials for $225 per month. Any luxuries, including beer, will essentially be loaned from the tax I'll hopefully be able to claim back. Lucky I came out here sitting on a bit of a nest-egg. I can dip into that so I can have some fun whilst I'm here, then get it back from the tax. Though I'm hoping there won't be many costs on top of food and rent. Beer, yes. But no travel costs. Staff trips are arranged. I don't think they're completely free, but they're charged just at cost, so nothing excessive. I guess I'll just have to carry on living as I was all Summer. Ie, not spending a penny I don't have to. Luxuries like gym and beer maybe. On the plus side, the gym costs $2 per time. A beer in the pub will set you back more like $5. So if anything, I have incentive to stay in shape. Fuck, though. $700 is not a lot of money. And apparently, what with the economic downturn, business is expected to be slower this year. So that $700 isn't even guaranteed. Though when telling us that $700, I think he took into account all circumstances. At least he was honest about everything.

Other than the pay though, this sounds a pretty awesome job. They're going to try this year, to come up 2 or 3 times every shift, and let you do a run down the mountain. So just randomly you'll be sitting at the top, and someone will come and relieve you and let you go for a little ski. And it's on the quiet days that you might have your hours shortened. So you'll have a quiet mountain to ski on. There seemed to be no big deal about being a shit skiier either. He asked everyone to write down their ability. And shit people like me will be put on the easy lifts to start off. The Aussie's that I met on the bus in the morning both sounded as shit as me, so that was some comfort as I was on the way to the mountain. The day out skiing has now been changed to Wednesday. And it sounds a lot more relaxed than I was anticipating.

The other thing that got to me, was they were really bothered about appearance. And one of the pet-peeves of one of the higher-ups, is not turning up to work clean-shaven. There's no growing a beard throughout the season. And if you do turn up to work with any stubble, he has a razor and some shaving foam in a draw to smooth out your face. What a fucking hassle. I tend to currently shave about once every 2 weeks. I'm going to have to become an everyday kind of person. What a fucking hassle!

That was the morning though. It was mainly just going through the handbook. I'm sure that we went through a load more important stuff, but I can't remember what it was. One thing he did say, is bring your own lunch. Not only will you not have the time on a 30 minute break to get all the way down the mountain for food. But also, it's too damn expensive on what we get paid. We went back to the great hall first off to get lunch. But even with a staff discount, it was over $10 for the buffet. So we went to the coffee shop. The one that I've got a BLT bagel a couple of times before. And this was $8 for a sandwich. To be fair, it was a damn big sandwich. You could split it and it would have still been a meal, but still, $8. We don't even get paid for our breaks. After tax, it could cost you more than an hour just to take a lunch break if you go here. Not cool. So definitely a case of bring a packed lunch to work. I noticed a supplements shop on my Invermere travels yesterday. And if, or when, I get back into a gym routine and start working off my Americanisation, if they're cheap enough, some good quality protein supplements could work well throughout the day to stop me getting hungry, as well as complementing my exercising. Combined with the high-sugar foods that have been recommended to us to keep us warm up the mountain, it could really work. Though I'm fairly confident that in a town like this, the one supplement shop, won't really be in my budget. I'll see though. Before this day, I was all worried about my lack of proper equipment etc. Man, I was the best-dressed there in terms of appropriate clothing though. My North Face walking boots were better than the trainers that most people were wearing. And I had under-armour and proper ski-pants on. Most people had jeans and a jumper. I definitely don't have to worry about that anymore. Or about being as shit a skiier as I am for that matter. And I don't think it will actually be much of a big deal if I can't get my equipment sorted out tomorrow. Though I will be trying still. Tomorrow is my day off (god that's depressing to say), and my one task, is get to Sportuccino's. And maybe get to the gym actually. If I can convince them I'm eligible for a $2 entry anyway. My one qualm about that, is going to the gym for the first time in over 3 weeks, come Wednesday when we go out on the mountain, I'll be at the peak of my soreness, in terms of muscle fatigue. And I will be very sore after 3 weeks of little exercise and shit food. So it might not be the best idea if it means I can't bend my legs on Wednesday. Might make it funnier though.

I was keeping an eye on the clock through lunch. And I decided with a couple of minutes until 10 to one (when we had to be back), we should head back. There must have been 10 lifty's in this cafe, so I figured it was no big deal. Turns out it's a 10 minute walk back to the hall. Who'd have thought eh? That after a morning session that included a long part on punctuality. Oops. Luckily a load of girls were even later than us. And they're paying us $700 per month for fucks sake. It's not like they can expect us to be good workers.

The afternoon was a little more fun than sitting in a room working through a handbook. We got split up into 3 groups, each going around a rotation.

The first part of my rotation, was the bottom of the lift. We went to the mile 1 lift, I think it was called. This is the lift at the bottom of the mountain. I guess you could say it's the main lift. In fact, if you look back to the 'This is it' blog from 17th November, it's the second picture in that blog. This racing team that has been here since I got here, are still all going up the mountain. And there was only room to fit half of this group in the hut at once. The same thing was going on at the top of the lift. So to demonstate what all the buttons did, this lift was contantly stopping and slowing down, not only from our group, but also the group at the top of the lift. The people riding it must have been wondering what the fuck was going on. When I wasn't in the hut, I was chatting to the lifty working outside. And I kind of come in, in the middle of a conversation. I was there, just not really paying attention. And she say to me, and the Aussie who I met this morning, "I knew I recognised you two from somewhere." Then it clicked with me as well. You remember the Canadian girl that rocked up to the bus stop this morning? Well this was her. Turns out she's a lifty on her second season.

After this bit at the bottom, we had to get the demonstration at the top. It was kind of weird going on a ski lift with no skis. And we passed the other lifty's going down the other way. I turned around half way up, to look back. And this was the reason that I wanted to come out here. Man the view was something else! Just incredible. Some day I'll be sure to take my camera up the lifts with me. It was something breathtaking. Up here we got pretty much the same talk as at the bottom. And when we weren't in the hut, chatted to the other lifty up here. Man the view was good though. This is why I want this job. Working in paradise. Fuck the money. Incidentally, there were a couple of crew leaders, or something like that. I don't think that is there actual title, but they had been in the hall all morning, if with little purpose. But they were the ones doing the talks at the top and the bottom of the mountain.

On the way down, I was kind of thinking, why the hell do we have to be able to ski at all? You can do this job without skiing. You can just get the lift down again. Though thinking about it now, maybe you have to turn the lift off from the top. I think they spoke about that this morning when I wasn't listening. We passed the third group on their way up, as we were on the way down. It was really cool to get up the mountain at last though. It was clear on the way up. Going down though, we were engulfed by some huge fog. I guess visibility went down to maybe 50 metres or less. Kind of ruined the view. I guess that happens though. You know what I've realised about this job. It's pretty brainless work. It's just perfect for me. You don't sit in a hut all day like I'd hoped. In fact, they only want you in the hut to warm up. They want you outside 90% of the time. But there's no real responsibility. Make sure no one dies, and keep the ramp on or off the lift at the right height. If it snows in the night, rake it down in the morning. If it's not high enough, pile it up with snow. That seems to be your main job. Then the whole not dying thing. If shit goes wrong, then hit the stop button. Then you just remember how to start it all up again. The pay might be shit, but this is my kind of work. Pretty much just chill up a mountain with a shovel chatting to people. Rock 'n' roll.

At the orientation on Thurday, we got stories of how in years past, the mountain has given workers gifts, such as 2 free lift passes for anyone who comes and stays with them. But then these people have been caught in the resort car park trying to flog these passes for $50. You can see why. That's a night out right there. And on the pay we get, $50 is a lot of money. After rent, that's 20% of what I have to live on. I can see I'll be one of those people who get fired for trying to flog these free passes.

The final of these 3 stops, was going to the mountain ops building. We all get a locker, so it was just a case of grabbing a locker and putting your name on it. These are 5 or 6 foot lockers, so big enough to fit skis in. Which is a real perk about having this job. I don't know how many other departments get lockers like this. But I have a locker big enough to fit in it everything that I'll need at the mountain. So there'll be no need to ferry skis and boots back and fourth everyday. And should I come here on my day off, everything will be here already. Pretty cool. And we also got fitted for uniform here. One of the shit things is you aren't allowed to wear logo'd hats. You can either wear Panorama logo'd hats, or they have to be plain. They used to give us these hats, but now they'll be $20 for fucks sake. That's nearly 10% of my monthly budget after rent. Free pants, and a mandatory jacket. Though I think we have to give these back at the end of the season. Then we could buy a Panorama branded, sort of, fleece. It's not a fleece really. It's more an under-jacket. But it's a puffa-jacket. That you wear under a jacket. This was to keep, but was $85. I got one. I wanted one, and I think I'll be set for layers for the Winter now, except maybe another fleece as well. And everyone else got one. But $85! My skis only cost $67.50. They softened the blow by just taking it out the first pay-check. And apparently you can use that system to buy other things around the resort as well. My pay-check might not look like too much when I eventually get it. I have a Pano branded jacket now. It's pretty nice. And I have a locker baby! Mine for the Winter. Anytime I need to come to the mountain, all my stuff will be there. That's real perk!

It was quite funny talking to my supervisor in here, waiting to try on clothing. He sent one of the super crew, or whatever the hell they are, back to the room. And super crew was, "shall I take those guys back as well?" He was talking about all the people who had been fitted for clothes already, and whom were now standing outside getting cold. "Well," Matt replies "I don't really want them to see how you get in there." Apparently they've figured out a way to lock this room without a key. Like a window or something. But we weren't allowed to see how they get in. And then I got out of Matt, who is the supervisor if I haven't said that already, what we were going to be doing back at the room. I can't remember how. He's the kind of guy who couldn't keep a secret from you though. Apparently there are still 3 super crew positions available. And he ideally wants them to be filled by people here. Whilst there was only a couple of people in the room still, I tried convincing him of the positives of having a super-crew who was a shit skiier. He didn't buy it though. I won't be applying for that. It would have been cool. More money. More responsibility (not that I want that, but it looks good on a cv. Make it easier to get a job later). But mainly more money. I didn't bother taking a form. I think not being able to ski would be too much of a hinderance of being a super crew. That was annoying me. Not being able to remember what they're actually called. Crew chiefs. I looked it up in the handbook. But yeah, not being able to ski would be too much of a hinderance. With any luck, maybe in a couple of weeks, by the time I can ski, one of them will have quit, or fallen down the moutain and died or something, and there's a spot open. Fingers crossed! That was the end of the day at the moutain.

We finished early. And you know what that means? Hitchhiking. Unfortunately, most other people had that idea as well. So there was a lot of people trying to pick up cars. As we were walking up, 3 guys got in one. There were some people already waiting at the resort entrance, so these 3 bypassed them by waiting nearer to the car park. There were 6 of us, so we thought we'd try that. The next car just went straight past us and stopped for them at the entrance. Bad luck or what. We get the moral car. The one that goes to the people who've been waiting the longest. Cunt. In the end, we decide to split up into 2's. We figure we're more likely to get picked up than in a group of 6. I'm first in-line from the car park. With the Aussie guy from the bus this morning. And after a couple of retard cars with seats go past, this woman in a people carrier pulls up. She picks up us 2. Then moves onto the next 2. And then onto the next 2. She had the space in the car for all 6. But she was late to hockey. And she had baby seats on 2 of the back seats and didn't have the time to take them off. So, two 23±year old guys had to sit in baby seats all the way to Invermere. Now that was funny.

Man cars skid about on this ice! I'd had cars struggling to stop in the ice when I'd been on the sidewalk previously. But this was the first time I'd been in a car skidding all over the road. It was lucky we were in the hockey rink car park when it got really bad. Most of the others in the car lived nearby to me, so I walked with them back up to the condo. And pretty much since I've been back, I've been writing this blog. Haven't been able to steal any Internet mind. Very frustrating! I can't check the Everton score or anything. And I was planning on writing this quickly, and being in front of the TV in time for the last NFL game. But now Greg's back dammit, and sitting in front of my TV, so that's out. I could go and watch at the pub. But fuck. The way I'm looking at it. Each pint is an hours pay. It's just not worth it! How much did that first night out cost me? $80? That's more than a 3rd of my monthly budget. I'm seriously going to be socialising pretty sparsely. It's just not worth it on the money I'll be getting. This is another reason it'd be better at Kirsty's place. Not only is it bigger and cheaper. They also have a Wii! All we have is a TV. And Canadian TV is bullshit. Damn I still haven't found the 2 Canadian girls who are the reason I don't live there. I hope to kill them sometime soon.

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