I've been on three of Mr Grocott's skiing trips now throughout the years and they never fail to be an amazing holiday. The 2019 one to Quebec, Canada did not disappoint. Every day was jam packed with skiing and great evening activities from ice hockey games to playing with huskies; if there’s one thing we got on this trip, it was a great night’s sleep after such exhausting days of fun!
Monday was our first day of skiing, and after expecting to be a bit rusty since the last time I skied in Colorado (another one of Mr Grocott’s skiing jollies back in 2016) I was pleasantly surprised I could actually remember how to parallel turn, and after some experimental skiing on the baby slope we hopped onto the gondola to the top of Mont Sainte Anne. We spent the day remembering how to ski, doing easy fast runs up and down the mountain. Now you don’t realise how exhausting this is until you come to the bottom of the last run and realise you have to walk back to the hotel. Let me tell you trudging those last 200 metres in ski boots after a solid 5 hours of skiing was literally the death of us. So it was no surprise when it came to the evening activity – Mr Eves’ infamous quiz – half of us were practically asleep, including me. Thankfully we pulled through with our combined knowledge on celebrity faces, TV hosts, and sudoku skills to come third, which for a group of completely worn out teenagers was pretty good going.
Tuesday will be remembered as the day we were introduced to the Enchanted Forest. Over the course of the week we developed quite a love/hate relationship with this trail as it was essentially just a blue run, but in a forest. With trees. A lot of trees. It got to the point where it became a competition to be the only not to go flying into a tree as we desperately tried to both control our speed and keep up with our instructor. I have to say I was pretty proud of myself to be one of only three of us not have fallen over the first time we completed it, however this didn’t exactly work in my favour as the second time we skied it on Wednesday my boost of confidence from the day before proved to be my down fall, quite literally, as I totally overestimated my skiing abilities and attempted a jump, only to go flying past a startled Mrs Parry straight into a tree!
That evening was our first outing to the Videotron in Quebec City to watch an ice hockey game of the Quebec Ramparts against the Victoriaville Tigers. Having been wrapped up in multiple thermals and ski jackets all day, I think we forgot quite how cold it actually was. Let me tell you when denim jackets and skinny jeans meet -20°C windchill, it’s a bit nippy. Thankfully though no one died of hypothermia on the walk through the car park. The game was great fun even though none of us knew anything about ice hockey, we still committed all our enthusiasm to the Ramparts and some of us even managed to get on the big screen. I also took the risk of trying Canada’s signature dish “Poutine” at halftime – chips, cheese and gravy – and I have to say it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds!
Now Wednesday was a challenge when our ski instructor decided it would be a good idea to take us on a steep black run, straight after lunch. Despite our full stomachs we were all up for it - all the blue runs we’d done so far that week lulling us into a false sense of security - and we were promised that "it's just a steep a blue" and even "don't worry it's virtually flat!" However we came to discover half way down that because it hadn't snowed in 5 days, the whole thing was a sheet ice. I came to learn that there are two types of people when it comes to getting stuck in the middle of an icy "practically vertical" black slope; those who just go for it and go flying down over the ice, and those like me and Issy who freak out and get completely, utterly, stuck. After a good 10 minutes of convincing that we weren't in fact going to die by our ski instructor, we slowly slid down the side of the slope and made our way to a round of applause at the bottom, only slightly traumatised!
In the evening we drove back into Quebec City and took an ice-breaker boat across the St Lawrence River that runs through the centre of Quebec. At night the view of the Quebec skyline was amazing and watching all the icebergs drift down the river under the moonlight was beautiful. When we returned to the shore we took a walk up through Old Quebec City - it was so picturesque it literally looked like a movie set or something you would find in a Dickens’ novel. After climbing hundreds of steps to the top of the hill (it almost made Steep Hill look easy) we got to the Chateau Frontenac Hotel which is a huge castle like luxury hotel that overlooks Old Quebec. Looking back down through the streets we had just walked through and the heavy cloud cover, it felt like being in a snow globe. And with the help of Mr Grocott, all 50 of us even managed to sneak into the hotel lobby to have a good luck round, before heading back down through the chocolate-box streets. There was also an ice sculpture festival going on, scattered through the streets were various ice sculptures of famous characters from Bart Simpson to Bugs Bunny, some had even been made into benches so we got to sit on the three little pigs’ lap, which is something I thought I’d never say.
On Thursday we took the morning off to go tubing at the Village Vacances Valcartier – in the summer it’s a water park, but in the winter when the water freezes and the snow falls it’s great for tubing. That night there had also been a fresh snowfall so we got a good foot of snow which is great for skiing but not so much for tubing as you go flying down a slope into a pile of powder snow at the bottom! Naturally we decided to do the steepest slope first; a huge metal structure consisting of a vertical drop called Everest. I have to say I’m so glad we got it out the way before lunch otherwise that would not have been a pretty sight! Looking back on it now I can still remember the feeling of my stomach dropping as I clung to Freya in front of me for dear life as we plunged off the edge with only rubber rings to support us. Thankfully after that we stuck to the tamer slopes.
We then had another half a day of skiing after lunch, which was definitely one of the best days because of the great conditions and fresh snowfall. It also made it great for the evening when we went night skiing, which we were a bit apprehensive about at first, but it turned out to be absolutely incredible. I’ll never forget when got off of the gondola at the top of the mountain and looked out over the Quebec night skyline, only to see a large red shape slowly appearing over the horizon. We spent a good ten minutes trying to decipher what it was, we even thought it might be a volcano erupting, only to realise that there are in fact no volcanoes in Quebec, or anywhere near it. We came to realise it was in fact a blood moon which none of us had ever seen before, and it made for an amazing night of skiing underneath it.
Our last day, Friday, was by far my favourite day of the week, I have never consumed so much maple syrup in my entire life. Not only did the hotel have waffles and maple syrup for breakfast, but our ski instructor took us out for crepes and maple syrup on the mountain before lunch – there’s nothing like coming off the -18°C slopes into a little café to be given freshly made pancakes - drowning in maple syrup, naturally. After a few fun blue runs we then stopped at the “Sugar Shack” where we all tried Taffy; hot maple syrup poured in a line on the snow and as it freezes you roll it up on a lolly pop stick and it becomes a maple syrup ice lolly. It was absolutely delicious and I could have stood there eating frozen maple syrup out of the snow all day if it wasn’t so sweet - there’s only so much maple syrup you can consume in one day. We enjoyed the rest of the day skiing and had multiple races up and down the mountain, we even dared to do the Enchanted Forest again and I’m pleased to say more people managed to stay on their feet than hit trees which was a not only a huge improvement from Tuesday, but also one of our most proud achievements.
When the day came to a close and we said farewell to our ski instructor, we ventured off to the husky village which I had been waiting for all week. We got to meet them and sit and pet them, and they were so fluffy we just wanted to take them all home with us. We also met the alpha who was a huge dog, from a distance he literally looked like a wolf, and I even got to give him a hug. We spent the rest of the night packing to go home, dreading the 6am start to the airport, but looking forward to the mall visit we had planned on Saturday, which is where most of our “spending money” got spent on various designer clothes and fast food - sorry mum and dad.
Overall the ski trip was such a memorable experience and it was great to see such a vast amount of Canada and its culture in such a short space of time. And of course the skiing was great too, particularly that one night under the blood moon which I’m sure is something we’ll never forget. I have a feeling this trip and it’s memories will be one of the ones that stays with us for the rest of our lives.
Year 12 Student