We'd been in Baja California the week before, where the temperature was a balmy 24°C, so when we landed in Calgary in -24°C weather for our drive to Fernie, it was a bit of a change. Luckily over the next two days the temperature shot up to -17C. Brr!

At Calgary airport we'd rented a Ford Explorer for the drive but after getting it packed up (in the freezing cold) we discovered it wasn't big enough for the six of us and all our gear. We had to unpack, switch to a Lincoln Navigator and then repack the gear. To top it off, the Lincoln had more buttons and dials for heat control (and everything else) than a 747 cockpit but once we got that heat going we had sauna temperatures for the first hour to thaw everyone out.

Can't remember why but I had to drive all the way there. Great drive though. From the map, we had to head West out of town for an hour, then South, then deak West again into the mountains back into BC and into Fernie, nestled in the lower Rockies. Fantastic scenery...providing of course, that you're looking at the frozen landscape from the breezy comfort of a Lincoln SUV. For the first hour or so we slipped quietly through pleasant woodland, winding towards the Rocky Mountains, with small towns about every 25K or so. As soon as we turned south we were in open rolling hills of ranchland that stayed with us. It was all fenced but little other sign of human habitat; we'd spot a ranch or isolated house occasionally but small villages were hundreds of kilometers apart. We saw rabbit and coyote tracks in the snow here and there; the cattle and horses seemed not the least perturbed by the cold but goodness knows what the odd hawk and crow managed to eat in conditions like these.

In the distance we could see the occasional tree-covered ridge, but the vast expanse of white ahead, combined with a low haze overhead set up a blinding glare that even in dim daylight was hell for visibility; I had to wear shades for most of the trip. Trucks come by once in a while and spread dirt/gravel even on the backroads to give traction on the ice and snow. We're doing about one hundred kilometers an hour (five hours of this is not much less dangerous than four) and I focus my attention on keeping one set of wheels on any strip of bare road still visible or lacking that, on any gravel. Hitting a patch of bare black ice at 100Km an hour and ending up in the ditch after a quick 360 or two is not something we really wanted to add to our trip.

Stopped for lunch in some fake Swiss place apparently trying to save money by keeping the heat low—a cold lunch was the last thing we needed so didn't stop in there on the way back!

In Barrymore, an hour out from Fernie, we stopped for gas and received bad news: the Crowsnest Pass was closed after first a 6-car and then a 9-car accident. It looked for a while as though we were going to be trapped for an unplanned night in Alberta. But within the hour we were relieved to hear they were reopening the road; an hour after than we joined the line-up as it began to move, and were soon over the Pass. It was a surprisingly short climb up on the Alberta side but an unexpected long wind down on the BC side--reflecting the fact that Alberta is on a plain about 2,000 ft above sea level. More wierd driving as we snaked down into the Fernie Valley and past the Frank slide, where a whole side of a mountain fell off and buried a town almost 50 years ago.

Snow, at this temperature, is very light and fine, and blows about like a mist. Even in a light wind the roads are covered with a writhing lace pattern of snow; trucks bowling by in the opposite direction are followed by a billowing cloud that makes the world disappear in a two second white-out that is a bit unnerving on winding mountain roads.

Fernie proved to be spectacular little town and ski area (visible all the way along that row of peaks in the photo and then some). To get to the resort requires only a five minute drive on the highway out of town then a one minute up the resort road; ski resorts are usually snuggled away an hour up some tortuous and forgotten mountain road. Temperatures were now up to minus 16C!

We found the lodge we were staying at, checked in, then drove a couple of hundred meters up the same road to spend the evening with the large wedding family crowd up at the other lodge. Headed back to our place around 11pm and decided we just had to try the open-air hot tub out in the snow, now that the night temperature was at -21C! I covered the 20 meters between the back door and the tub faster than Donovan Bailey but in trying to take a picture of such a memorable event I dropped the camera in the tub, and lost the vital evidence.

The wedding wasn't due to start until 6pm the next day, which gave us lots of time for some skiiing during the day. No problem getting to the trail: it started right behind the hot tub! But even cross-country skiing (which is pretty hard work) at that temperature couldn't get our hands warm, and we could only stay out for an hour or so. However, a group of us went snowshoeing a bit later and by then the sun was out and we had no problem keeping warm.

The wedding was probably the nicest that I've been to but you had to be there and know everyone so won't go on about that. We needed an early start on Sunday to make flights from Calgary, so was up early to get some of our gear strapped to the roof of the SUV. Turned out well and we breezed back