“You wouldn’t believe how much the snow piles up on the side,” said Van Tine.
Even when we were there, during a moderately snowy period, large snowdrifts leaned against the northwest-facing outer wall of these giant tinted “snow tubes.” We felt totally protected from the wind and the blowing snow, which helped Grace fully enjoy and last through her first ski lesson.
After the lesson we slid and shuffled our way down to the bottom of this run and another new run called Easy Street, to practice, but mostly to try out all the different moving carpets, which are up to 650 feet long. Occasionally, we walked instead of skied, and sometimes we simply lay down on a bed of freshly fallen snow.
We celebrated Grace’s first ski adventure with a Sticky Bun, a legendary and mind-numbingly sweet pastry from Fresh, an eatery in the main lodge. These 10-napkin treats come from head chef James Loiselle’s famous recipe, which is the perfect mix of milk, butter, cinnamon, walnuts, and white and brown sugar.
“I combined cinnamon bun recipes from Oprah Winfrey and Emeril [Lagasse] and then came up with my own creation,” said Loiselle.
While you’re at Fresh, grab an espresso made with coffee from a local island producer, Level Ground, or refuel with a noodle bowl, fresh sushi rolls, gourmet pizza, or traditional comfort food.
Many visitors roll down the hill to the town of Courtenay, a 30-minute drive away, to grab dinner and explore. However, with a slope-side condo with a full kitchen and several terrific base lodge restaurants just a five-minute walk away, we opted to stay on the mountain each night. Our favorite spot was Fat Teddy’s, a casual family-friendly restaurant that offers everything from standard pub fare to grilled entrees and Asian-style noodle and rice dishes.
The mountain hosts a big-air competition each March. We wandered outside to watch the event, and then the others stayed for the fireworks show while I walked over to a lighted hill near Easy Acres to try out snow tubing. The Ozone Snow-tubing Park has several lanes from which to choose, ranging from totally straight to windy, bumpy ones. I laughed and screamed all the way down the straight run at about 36 miles per hour, according to my GPS-enabled ski goggles.
Another night, we hired a local baby sitter whom we had met through the resort’s day care center, The Bear’s Den, where Grace happily spent part of a day. Tristin, a delightful and energetic young woman, came to our condo and watched the kids while we went skiing and then grabbed a pint of locally made Piper’s Pale Ale at Fat Teddy’s.
With more time, we would have gone to the Vancouver Island Mountain Centre, an Olympic legacy building just down the hill from the alpine lodge. Here, visitors can get a massage, take a yoga class, and use the fitness center, or just sit in the lobby overlooking forested Strathcona Provincial Park and enjoy a hot chocolate.
We spent our final day down at the Nordic center, skiing along gentle trails and checking out all the cool grooming equipment as the snow fell. In fact, it snowed much of the time we were there. We may not have had clear views of the ocean during our stay or a clear shot of the mountain range that catches all that Pacific moisture, but the snow was, as Jewell said, “insane.”
Kari Bodnarchuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.