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Sunshine Village was crouching under a heavy cloud some thousand meters below when we three Finns pushed with our sticks to gather speed. Had I beforehand followed the wise words my doctor said to me afterwards, “You idiot. You could have died with the broken ribs ripping you lung”, I would have missed the best event of my 17-year old SCIJ career.
You took my breath away I sang in my head with the lyrics of a thousand songwriters after hitting the hard terrain of Goat’s Eye mountain, but only for a while waiting for the pain to give up, and down we went where Shannon Martin and the other two guides (Sorry, couldn’t find your names in my notes) took us. First to the easier slopes like testing what we were made of and little by little, deeper to the steeper parts of the Cloudy Village.
By four o’clock we stated that our choice of the pre tour wasn’t so bad after all. Only later did we find the forests and other hidden spots of deep show. However, Delirium Dive, the mother of off-pistes was opened weeks after our departure. There we have yet another reason to return to Alberta some day.
Louise gets her nose powdered
Two days later Mother Nature whisked her powder puff like an eager dog his tail covering the Lake Louise resort with twenty cents of water canonized by frost after the slopes had been groomed by snow cats. The result: the terrain smooth as velvet covered with new snow light as feather. Quantity is transformed to quality by marxist dialectics proved right in our choice of the pre tour. While some of the pre tour scijers sat in a bus to and from Marmot Basin we skied our hearts out in resorts close to our hotel and Banff and did so till late Saturday.
SATURDAY. Entering the Magic Kingdom
Of course I had seen pictures of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel beforehand, but its visual effect on me was stunning. The founder of the hotel had originally wanted to build something resembling a Scottish castle, but approaching the hotel felt more like coming to Neuschwanstein or the Magic Kingdom in Disneyworld. There was magic, but the cynic in me saw kitsch. However, inside the hotel was very cosy and the temperature was at least 15 °C higher than in the Scottish castles and the walls were not green of mould.
The rest of the way passed following the same manuscript as always: “Ciao! Come stai? Wie gehts? Ca va? Hello there, how are you doing, you old flee circus? Still own hair, teeth and hips? Hugs and kisses on cheek.
After the registration at Mt. Stephen’s Hall we had l dinner at Oak Room and beers and wine with at least ten closest old friends at the Grapes Wine Bar.
SUNDAY: Nourishment for hedonists, culture vultures and self-teasers
The non-ski day offered us entertainment to all tastes. Flavour of the Region, historic and cultural attractions, walk to the breathtaking upper icefalls of Johnston Canyon, a photo expedition to the iconic landscapes of Banff National Park, snow-shoeing and cross country skiing we offered. Soft pressure by friends forced me, a sworn ascetic to throw myself into the world of pleasures of taste: good, bad, bitter, sweet, queer and fresh. Wine and beer we were familiar with, but alligator, bear, boa, boar, cockroach, dragon, elk, elver, flamingo… …worms, xiphosuran, yak, zebrafish went easily down because we had had our fair share of the liquids, and after zibeline a zizz was all I longed for. Yummy! Yucky! Yucky! Hmmm.
Will Gadd of Never Never Land
After a relaxing half an hour we were quite happy to receive the most important philosophical message: “Nobody ever died wishing they had spent more time behind a desk. “ Thank you Will Gadd for that. Hippie parents had directed young Will to a life that quite a few of us envied. On a hiking trip with Will on the mountains of Banff his mother woke up one morning when a young bear stuck its nose inside the tent. Having no other means of arms she hit the bear’s nose with a hiking boot. To her surprise the teddy retreated. My mother would have had the same determination, but in my youth the bears were rare in my neighbourhood, and the Hoover salesmen were as dangerous as the invaders could get. Will, now 43, has had an exciting life skiing in all its forms, ice, rock and mountain climbing, paragliding, kayaking, caving, mountain biking, many at world-championship level, and as a father passes on the legacy. Please adopt me, Will. I’m only 64.
Hamster wheel or Ferris wheel or merry-go-round
Canada’s finest - in this case not the PD of any city, but journalists - had been recruited to start the discussion. I’m afraid the keynote speakers fly in a different class than most of us and the rat race of today is not quite familiar to them. Also, they only represent one group of journalists, the news reporters. However, the title journalist covers several other professions. A graphic designer may have to do the layout of several magazines simultaneously because new technology makes it possible. Also he or she gives the final touch to the publication. Everything must look exactly as the result is supposed to. Before desk top publishing the designer only drew a layout and the composing room did the paste-up. A freelance writer must give all the rights of his/her article and photos to a newspaper and will never know where is pops up with another writer’s name. Of course, he/she only gets paid once.
The idea behind the conference comes from an article called The Hamster Wheel by Dean Starkman printed in the Columbia Journalism Review. Read it! The links are fascinating, too. If you’re too lazy to read the whole article, here’s how Mr. Starkman summons up the article:
“The point is that it may be true that there is money in cranking out sixty-three-word briefs like, “Microwave Sparks Fire, Kills Dog” (Washingtonpost.com, 8/9/10), but you’d have to prove it. No one has. So to all you editors laying off your best storytellers, rewarding quick hits, and letting your investigative assets wither, I say this: you will be sorry. For the rest of us, the Hamster Wheel’s logical conclusion is Demand Media, the world’s leading hamster-powered content farm, which employs 7,000 freelancers, produces 4,500 items every day, uses algorithms to figure out what to write, has passed The New York Times in traffic, and has just filed for an IPO. It publishes some stuff — “How To Make a Festivus Pole,” “How To Choose Bondage Videos” — that is literally incredible.
Following the great tradition of SCIJ we marched/lumbered with torches, not along the main street, but from one part of the hotel to another behind our flags and signs with the name of our country. However, the opening was grand enough even without fireworks and all that usual jazz. Karen Sorensen, the Mayor of Banff, Cindy Ady, Alberta Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation, Frederick Wallace, President SCIJ Canada and Miguel Aquiso, SCIJ President all had their word and we felt very welcome.
MONDAY: From feast to feast
Monday morning at nine o’clock the bus left and after 40 km the non-pre-tourers finally got snow under their skis in Lake Louise, the largest ski area in Canada.
By midday David Collye, the president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers fed us at the Whiskeyjack Lodge with an excellent lunch and a showcase of the opportunities and challenges of the exploitation of the world’s third largest oil reserves, the Canadian oil sands. Trying to digest the material and immaterial yield of the lunch we tried to ski some more only to stop at the Whitehorn Lodge for snack, beer, wine dance and limbo. At the highest point of the atmosphere Petzl headlamps were given to us and down the slope we went in the dark to the Lodge of Ten Peaks for another feast. To a big surprise nobody hit the trees or was lost. Not that I was able to count.
There we had the honour to meet Steve Podporski, one of the Crazy Canucks, the first North American to win the World Cup season title in the downhill. In total, he won eight World Cup downhill races, including the notorious Hahnenkamm in Kitzbühel, Austria, which he won twice and set the magnificent speed result of 220 km/h.
MAGIC: When writing this I googled Steve and found that the film ”Crazy Canuck! Was about to begin on a Finnish sports channel. In the film the 17-year-old Steve broke his inside and centre ligaments when practicing in Schladming ( Please, Steve, join my club. I broke them both in Hintertux ) and was forced to watch on TV Dave Irwin, the craziest of the Canucks win the race beating the second place finisher, Klaus Eberhard by almost two seconds.
The band in Whitehorn Lodge had also skied/motored down and great music was played and some twenty of had the opportunity to embarrass themselves in square dance.
TUESDAY: A Day at the Races. The Queen version?
To the sporty elite of SCIJ the Grand Slalom race is the most important part of a SCIJ event.
The track was marked at the Slow Skiing area of the Norquay Ski resort. Being close to the restaurant was well appreciated in the cold weather.
Skiing free after the race proved the oldest ski resort in Canada to be much more interesting than the front slopes. Unfortunately the double diamond slope at left of the racetrack was closed, but other slopes, very steep but very well prepared, were at our disposal.
Ken Read, another “Crazy Canucks” is a co-owner of the resort. Ken was the first North-American male to win an Alpine ski world cup race. He won the downhill races in Val d’Isere, Hahnenkamm, Lauberhorn in Wengen, Chamonix and Arlberg-Kandahar.
Anyway, once again, Gisella Motta is the SCIJ female WC in GS, and Emanuela Fontana ja Christina Gibert her crown princesses.
Martin Blumm is the corresponding male and Boris Bregar and Simon Matthey-Doret his crown princes.
The digital era – the future of media
In the afternoon Stéphane Gagné, Vice-President with Transcontinental Media, Jules Older, the former Editor-in-Chief of Ski Press Magazine and now a San Francisco-based Freelancer, and Frederick Boulay, Program and Production Director for TV5MONDE, discussed some of the challenges and opportunities facing journalists and the media today and in the future. I’m afraid I was elsewhere. Probably getting ready for the…
To the socialising elite of SCIJ the Nation’sEvening is the high point of a SCIJ event. Alberta’s imports regulations made the preparations different. We were to pick our native products from an importer’s list, but there was nothing from Finland. As a reggae man by heart and rastafari by religion I wanted to be Jamaican that night, but Bar Bados inside the Lone Pine Pub sounded so good that we decided to found a temporary SCIJ team for Barbados. Having ordered Banks Caribbean Lager beer and Mount Gay Eclipse Rum from Barbados from the list and bought some bananas downtown Banff our catering was ready to serve.
The band was just right for the evening, but the climax of the night was when Hartmut Krause (song) and Ovidiu Vanghele (drums) performed their serenade to the ladies of the night, the lovely Jagger-Richards classic "Honky Tonk Women".
WEDNESDAY: Sunshine Village now sunny
We had lots of great skiing and great beef for lunch at the Lookout Lodge.
More snow had landed since our last visit on Saturday and today we even found the thin forest and hit the moguls covered with powder. However, we tried to avoid the biggest bumps and not bother an eventual sleeping bear. There are over one hundred of grizzly and black bears in the Banff national park. As the cougars prey at night but sleep at day, we were not worried abot them.
In the evening we were taken to the Calgary Stampede Evening at Wild Bill’s. The Stampede inside is a pale shadow of the real thing, but still very entertaining with Indian dances and singing and country music and beer.
The white five-gallon hats effectively separated us tourists and the locals and at the airport advertised the Stampede.
THURSDAY: A Day at the Races. The Marx Brothers version?
The Canmore Nordic Centre was originally constructed for the 1988 Winter Olympics. If the trails were good enough for Gunde Svan, Marjo Matikainen and the rest, they are good enough. The whole Centre has been refurbished in 2008 with 25 M $. However, our vice president Uros Sostaric should have skied the ski trail through. He would have found it rather breathtaking. I stopped after half a round being unable to breath deep and push with left arm because of the two broken ribs. Sepp Thayer did the same because of flue. We didn’t know then that it was the last time we had the pleasure to compete with him.
Stefanie Weinberger is now the SCIJ female WC in CC, and Anne Henjer and Gisella Motta her crown princesses. The least combined points make Gisella the SCIJ Ski Queen in 2011.
Simon Matthey-Doret is the SCIJ male WC in CC, and Blaz Mocnic and Martin Blum his crown princes. Combined points make Martin the SCIJ Ski King in 2011. Simon hade similar points, but Martin is the 1st in GS, and does is.
Dave Irwin, the Craziest Canuck lives in Canmore.
We met with another famous Canadian skier living in Canmore, Thomas Grandi. Thomas has won the GS World Cup races in Alta Badia and Flachau and had nine World Cup podiums.
The General Assembly
To very few of us the General Assembly is the most important point of a SCIJ meeting. However, its the cod liver oil that has be taken to have a healthy club.
Refurbished rules and regulations we produced and approved after a short discussion.
Electing two vice-presidents proved the biggest surprise; only one individual was running. The rules being what they are we couldn’t suggest more candidates and thus were left short of one vice president. Many a member must have spent a sleepless night wondering what will come of us.
A nice surprise was the invitations to the 2013 event given by the young members of DCIJ Croatia. Another surprise was that the event will take place in Civetta, Italy, with a little help from Giornalisti Italiani Sciatori, SCIJ Italy. Well, they are, after all, the true travel agents of SCIJ.
FRIDAY: Free skiing. No obligations?
A small group of us decided to give sunshine Village yet another chance. Sunshine answered to our kindness with the fiercest wind of the week. Somewhere else I would have complained but the off-pistes of Sunshine made me jelly and to forgive the wind. Skiing behind Eva Woytek and Hartmut Krause to places not yet discovered myself was a great finish to a great skiing week.
In the evening we were transferred to another spectacular scenery for the presentation of the 2012 SCIJ event in Turkey. Approaching the Fairmont Chateau lake Louise Hotel by the lake Louise kicks one off one’s feet, unless one is sitting in a bus. Luckily I was and didn’t get my tuxedo pants muddy.
The hotel itself in its enormousness is less attractive than Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel. Its masses are not as delicately divided as FBSH and in spite its nice roof just a huge hotel and somewhat rapes the scenery.
There was some uncertainty about the course of the evening. The Turkish presentation was in one part of the hotel and the gala dinner in another. Many people still left their # 1 dresses on the coat racks, from where they disappeared to pop up in the cloakroom some two hours later. So, otherwise divine in my new tuxedo, I was wearing my winter boots. Even less lucky were some ladies waiting for their Guccis, Versaces and YSLs in their casuals. However, I must say, their transformation made my day.
Dancing through the night
The urge to revive the glory of being journalist had resulted to the controversial decision to dance through the final gala dressed up like Gary Grant and Greta Carbo in a drawing-room comedy. Judging by the size of the dresses of some ladies they could have been brought to Canada in a handbag or rolled up in a ski boot. It was a different case for us gentlemen. To brings along a tuxedo one had to leave something more important at home. However Bow Valley Tuxedos Ltd. in Canmore was told to rent us the sufficient outfits. However # 2, the Ltd. was giving up the business but offered to sell us tuxes. So on our way from Calgary we stopped in Canmore and bought whole sets including tux, shirt, shoes, bow tie and suspenders, all brand new, for 120 $.
Well, I needed a pair of dancing shoes anyway. You could say the rest came for free.
Our big misfortune was that they had already sold the ones George Clooney and Brad Pitt had once rented. Maybe that was just an urban legend.
I must confess, the effect on our gala was incredible. I was tempted to say: Scrub us nicely, don’t we. For that night we looked like we had every right to stay in that fabulous hotel, and I almost felt so myself.
SCIJ is loaded and a question has aroused: what to do with the money. My suggestion: Lets buy the unfinished granite hotel in Abetone, renovate it and have all the SCIJ events there. Every member can buy shares of the hotel company. 2000 members, 500 E each, we’ll collect 1000 000 E. Only ski-in-ski-out hotel in Abetone could be a moneymaker.
I know it’s stupid idea, but is a banner any better.
Seriously: Wages and the security of jobs are not the same everywear as they are in some Central-European countries. Young journalists and especially free-lancers have more important holes to fill with their money. I think we should help these members and their teams to keep coming to our events.
The meeting with
a dress code
BANFF NEWS 2011 • FRENCH
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