From Cat Ski to Bonfire
This story was written for Corona Extra Canada, for their Winter 2016 "Closer to the Sun" campaign. This is post 6 of 8. The original blog can be found here.
I grew up having bonfires on beaches- the bigger the fire, and the more remote the location, the better. It was always difficult to pry me away from the warmth of the fire and the company in time for curfew. Bonfires cultivate connection by bringing people together. When conversations lull, the blaze picks up the slack with its charred cracks, sparks, and mesmerizing glow.
Upon entering Kananaskis Country, Mitch and I were fortunate enough to take the same nostalgic ingredients and, along with an eager group, raise them 2500 meters into the Rockies. We added s’mores and an acoustic guitar, and Mother Nature contributed a snowstorm that flourished into a stunning sunset, and 360 degrees of pure, mountain glory.
The chosen location, Fortress Mountain, is a unique ski resort complete with untracked runs and funky ski shacks; though there is a catch- the lifts at Fortress haven’t turned in over a decade. Instead, skiers rely on school-bus-like snowcats to give them a lift. From there, they can explore the existing runs… or maybe swindle the driver into some out of bounds fun. One of the great things about a resort where the lifts are never open is you don’t have to wait for them to close. At approximately après-ski-o’clock, we piled into the snowcat and began the steady trek up Fortress Mountain.
A snowstorm quickly engulfed the area, which took the visibility from sweeping valley views at the base of the hill, to a surprising whiteout at our destined ridge. Though with the bonfire churning and s’mores on the way, none of us seemed to mind. In fact, it was almost fitting. The warmth of the fire, the bite of the wind, and the smell of crystalized sugar was absolute perfection.
We popped open snow-cold Coronas to celebrate (and I have to say, I now prefer everything that was once ice-cold to be snow-cold). Tom kept his fingers warm and our ears happy by strumming on his guitar, and the rest of us hummed, chatted, and laughed, and noticed how the warmth seemed to spread, even in the midst of the falling snow.
The most magical part of the evening was the shift in weather. The clouds just happened to part in time to see a breathtaking sunset. It was so beautiful; in fact, I was unsure where to look. It will be hard to go back to beach bonfires after lighting the top of Fortress Mountain. Even the s’mores tasted better. And in case you’re wondering- it would have been well worth the broken curfew.
(photo credit: Mitchell Taylor)
This campaign was full of spontaneity, brewskies, and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-ski-pants adventure. To read these stories chronologically, start with the first post, "From Beach to Peak", where we head to Whistler, British Columbia.