Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Road to Skiing

Future skiers/blessed people

I love winter.
I just don't like bitter cold.
I love snow.
But not on roads which then become icy and slippery.
And, being born and raised on the prairies as I was, I have a hard time with high places.
So explain to me why I would drive, weekend after weekend, on slippery, snowy roads, up into the mountains, to slide repeatedly down high slopes.
I know. It makes no sense to me, either.
But I loved it.
My brother, George, and I would rise at the unbelievable hour of 4:00 AM on a Saturday, drive to West Castle, and spend the day going up and down.
Then drive home again.
Yup. 'Nuts' pretty much describes it.
Most of the time, the roads were fairly passable. Plowed and sanded.
But occasionally, they weren't.
And therein hangs a tale.
So to speak.
George and I had happily spent the day on the slopes.
We were starting the drive home in a pleasantly exhausted state.
All was well.
I don't quite remember what happened next.
It pretty much a blur.
Perhaps I should describe the scene . . .
I'm not sure about now, but 40 years ago, the road to West Castle is narrow.
Occasionally, the road twists and turns amongst a heavy growth of trees.
But in many places, a sheer drop to the bottom of a rather tall mountain is the only thing awaiting anyone who ventures out onto the non-existent shoulder.
And I do mean sheer.
And non-existent.
Remember what I said about heights?
That would be here.
Now back to my story . . .
Someone lost control of their vehicle.
George reacted with his usual skill, twisting and correcting all in one smooth movement.
But our little blue Toyota truck decided, arbitrarily, to go for a spin.
And not in a good way.
Not an advisable thing on a narrow winter road, high up in the mountains.
I closed my eyes as we slid towards the edge.
Then, miraculously, we felt the crunch of gravel under the tires.
Gravel.
Not air.
Strange.
The vehicle stopped abruptly, facing the wrong way and definitely on the scary open-space side of the road.
I opened my eyes.
George was staring straight ahead, his hands still in a white-knuckle grip of the steering wheel.
I looked to the left.
We were definitely off the road.
So what could we possibly be sitting on?
I cautiously turned to the right.
 Nothing but open space.
Okay, that didn't look good.
George looked at me. "Did you know there was a little pull-out here?"
I stared at him. "Pull-out?"
His question was answered.
He opened his door and . . . stepped out.
I watched him.
Then he indicated that I should open my door.
I stared at him like he was a lunatic.
He indicated again.
Cautiously, I opened my door and . . . stepped out onto solid earth.
Huh.
I hurried around to the safer side of the scene.
And glanced back.
Sure enough, there was a little jut of shoulder, just big enough for our little truck.
And we had slid onto it sideways.
With perfect precision.
We collected our thoughts and calmed ourselves a bit, then climbed back into our truck and continued the drive home.
A bit more slowly and with a great deal of gratitude.
Yep.
Skiing requires snow.
And high places.
And driving.
We do our best to stay safe.
But it's nice when Someone Else is in charge.

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