Since we're mostly living in Kitchener/Waterloo (near Toronto), plans called for taking WestJet to Calgary, driving a Hertz rental to Whitefish, and reversing that on the way back.
Westjet was great: fawned over boy child, left on time and landed right side up - in both directions.
Hertz was a different story. Not having a car available trumps a confirmed reservation - which is apparently valueless - so they tried to stick us with an Explorer but eventually admitted to having a Ford Freestyle.
Not the Volvo V70XC I'd paid for, but functionally the same chassis with a superstructure and engine by Ford. It's a nice car - gutless by V70R standards, but comfortable to drive and slightly higher inside than the Volvo. Some Ford touches are nice - like the door locks going on when the car moves - but most just seem inappropriate in what should have been a better vehicle, and a bigger seller, than it is. Most people I talked to, for example, think a "Freestyle" is a low end van (because of the "Freestar") and it would have have cost Ford a few nickels less per car to have the lights go off with the ignition - but, on net, the Volvo derived AWD makes it a pretty good car for sleet and snow country.
Sadly a snow plow operator clearing the lodge parking lot dented its left front a bit sometime Saturday. He was pretty upset when I talked to him Monday, but I don't know how that doesn't happen more often given the snow they get.
Big Mountain has lots of snow on long steep runs - and I've been sitting at a desk for five years. Some days were beautiful, some a little rough - we got two feet of snow at the summit on Saturday and I found myself too old and out of shape to ski it. Very sad - and sadder yet, getting trapped at the top of the only double diamond run on the mountain after a navigation mistake in heavy snow fog and realizing that maybe being there wasn't too smart - an idea that got reinforced a few times: an aerial somersault over a pole jammed in the ribs caused when the leading ski on a high speed stop got stuck in a snow boarder rut, brought the liftees running and the incongruous thought that maybe Rossignol makes its poles too tough.
And then, of course, there's my old friend lower Mully's. Upper Mully's is an alpine meadow - smooth, wide, open: the perfect place for adjusting your togue and mits before heading down something fast. Lower Mully's looks innocent: maybe eight hundred vertical feet, not very steep, nice and wide, and usually invitingly empty. It's a mogul run and you don't find out until you're well into it that the things are man high in places and carved for guys on heavy four foot stubbies. Getting up, again, a third of the way down I have the obvious epiphany: I may never succeed at skiing this thing, but next time I'll excerise more before trying - meanwhile, of course, there's no way out but down.
It was warmer than usual for January: some days felt like spring -with consequent hardpack the next morning. Overall conditions were wonderful. One day in particular it was snowing at the summit, but clear for the lower 1,500 or so vertical feet on the front side "Toni Matt" and "Big Ravine" runs - absolutely unbelievable: a few hundred feet of fog and snow, well over a thousand feet of sunshine with a couple of inches of soft new powder over machine grooming, and a few hundred feet of scrapped ice-like hardpack from the previous days melting. Purgatory, Heaven, and that other place - all in one four and a half minute run.
I spent more time off the slopes than ever before -too much eating and sitting while waiting for boy child to grow big enough to enjoy a trip like this. He's coming up on four and took his first ever ski lessons with somebody named "Cynda." She was nice, and he had a great time going as he puts it "very very fast." Very cool - two lessons and he can snowplow, ski straight, and make slow turns: most importantly, he wore a big grin throughout and can't wait to tell his pre-school friends about it Monday.
My wife doesn't ski, but had a pretty good time being mommy. Kandahar Lodge has a beautiful common room with a big fireplace and at one point I skied down to the back of the lodge, and was staggering down a staircase to the boot room when I spotted her sitting there reading to him. I love them both so much, I wouldn't have been able to respond for a moment or two had someone spoken to me. Their mutual absorbation turned their book, the comfy furniture, the roaring fireplace, and lots of new snow coming down outside, into mere props for a picture of shared happiness I'll never forget.
There's a memorial on the mountain for the 10th Mountain Division troops, many from the Whitefish area, who died in Northern Italy during world war II. The plaque is placed only a few feet above the ground, so every time the snow plow goes by, it gets covered - but every single day someone came by and carefully cleaned it off: a four foot hole with a message in a twelve foot snowbank. Beautiful.