This is Not a How To Guide

Reading Time: 3 minutes

After many years of bestowing kudos on major ski resorts, Leslie Woit’s annual feature “The Best of Skiing in Canada” has left Managing Editor Anne and me with unprintable rumours and snippets of stories about crazy stuff done by Canadian skiers. Unprintable until now.

I instructed another long-time contributor, gossip girl Steven Threndyle, to stop talking and start listening on chairlift rides and at après-ski. The result is a collection of the more infamous “seemed like a good idea at the time” nostalgic moments from the ski world that we hope you find entertaining—or maybe you’ll recognize yourself in one or two. Threndyle’s feature “What were we thinking?” is in this issue. No doubt there are some even better stories out there, so please feel free to email me at with your best and we’ll run Part II next year. (Names will be held to protect the guilty.)

As I stoically wander back in my crowded memory bank, I don’t think it’s remarkable that my friends and I survived youth in an era before screen time, helicopter parenting and organized programs dictating free time. Making our own and often stupid decisions as teenagers likely taught us to be more wary—or that’s how I’m rationalizing it all anyway.

Before ski hills were owned by risk-management types, evenings in our little section of ski country presented a wide-open snowy canvas waiting to be conquered by anything slippery: a toboggan, an empty peat moss bag, Superslider Snowskates—or the Ferrari of gliders, a picnic table. The ones laid out at our disposal had continuous steel-pipe, paperclip-style legs that worked like runners on a sleigh and couldn’t have been more purpose-built. Pushing the beast uphill under the stars was a challenge but not impossible when 10 or 15 teens were involved. And the best part was the tables could accommodate the whole giggling, screaming, ready-for-another-plaster-cast lot on the way down.

On a smooth slope, the table design tracked relatively straight; it was the lack of brakes that presented a problem. In all those memories I only recall one broken arm—and one cleanly sheared off flagpole. Thinking back, I wonder if those flagpoles in front of the enormous plate-glass windows of the main chalet had been strategically placed there.

When the tables were eventually replaced with useless four-legged ones, my gaggle of seven friends weren’t smoking and underage drinking on Saturday nights, we were bumper-riding behind cars in the icy ski club parking lot and chalet roads. When I worked in Ottawa in the ’80s, a PMO source told me Brian Mulroney was also a stupid Canadian teenager once and indeed broke his jaw sliding behind an unsuspecting driver.

In my 20s, an austere Victorian farmhouse rented in ski country with eight or 20 of my closest friends provided so many hijinks and shenanigans it made Monday mornings unproductive at work as everyone called each other to recall and recant about the previous weekend. In that era, the ideal location meant driving distance to the ski hill was much less important than stumbling distance back from town.

Even Ski Canada Readers’ Trips to the Alps have provided some mirthful anecdotes that had tongues wagging at breakfast the next morning. One of our younger and more adventurous readers on board, let’s call him “Scotty,” managed to team up with his Italian doppelganger Luigi at the start of a Club Med week in St. Moritz and the pair were inseparable. With heavy-framed glasses and omnipresent drinks in their hands, they were like a little Martin and Sinatra. If one got on the other’s shoulders, together they still wouldn’t be the tallest at the bar, but the fearless pair sure could talk up the ladies like I’ve never seen. We were fascinated at their evening hubris.

It was a morning-after story that set the bar, though. “These ladies were sooooo into us,” a guilty-looking Scotty told a handful of us as we ate our müsli with bated breath. “I don’t know how things went so wrong.” The questions were many and the sheepish answers were gold: “Of course we went back to their hotel room—they were really hot!” or “No, I can’t tell the difference between German and Russian accents” or the classic: “I don’t know what kind of gun it was!”

To cut a long story short, after “getting to know each other,” the ladies’…hmm, what shall I call him…“procurer” introduced himself in a surprise move. The boys didn’t grasp the situation until said Makarov was displayed and its owner took the pair to more than one ATM. Lucky for both, Luigi’s bank account was a lot healthier than Scotty’s and the pair managed to make it back to base camp by morning. It was an expensive evening, to say the least—and one for the books.

by IAIN MACMILLAN in the Winter 2019 issue

Iain MacMillan
To top