At the risk of sounding as though this week's piffle is Part II of what it means to be Canadian, I believe I can emphatically say one of the defining characteristics of being Canadian — really Canadian — is embracing winter. While I recognize many Canadians embrace winter largely in their collective conscious, while burrowing into their warm home and binge-watching Netflix, they nonetheless feel the primal stirrings of deep snow, cold days and long nights. Of course, many of them do so from Florida, California, Hawaii and Mexico but winter nonetheless lives large in their psyche.
Canadian sports heroes are, for the most part, winter sportspersons. The Mt. Olympus of Canadian jocks is filthy with hockey players — Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard, Wayne Whatsisname, etc., and skiers such as former Whistlerite Nancy Greene. The rare non-winter sports legend — for example, Steve Nash — is the exception that proves the rule.
Our own slice of heaven, Whistler, probably wouldn't exist but for the abiding embrace of winter resident in the souls of Real Canadians. Tiny Town's ancestor, Alta Lake, was a misguided attempt by American transplants — Millar, Tapley, Philip, et. al. — to build a resort around fishing. Now, I'm not one to say fishing doesn't have a place in both the spirit and definition of Canadians, but really, fishing? Quick, name three largescale fishing resorts. I'll wait....
It took Real Canadians to understand winter was where it's at and resurrect the moribund — not to mention nearly fished-out — resort of Alta Lake and build the colossus that is Whistler, North America's premier ski resort. Having said that, it took the crassly commercial American carpetbaggers, Vail, to overpay and plunge us back into the branch plant reality of foreign ownership. Prediction: This too shall pass.
But I digress.
When I moved to Canada it was partially to channel my latent inner Canadian and embrace winter. Montreal was the perfect place to embrace winter, although arriving during one of the -40°C bouts was a bit more winter than I was sartorially prepared to embrace. And when the next winter started to show its colours... in late August, I was a bit taken aback at its audacity, jumping the queue and pushing ahead of autumn as it seemed to be doing. I quickly got into the swing of things though, purchasing cross-country skis and several colourful toques and trying to understand the rules of hockey.
But as much as I rose to the challenge of winter, my spirit still dwelled in mountains, where I grew up and preferred to play. And as much as Montrealers called the Laurentians mountains, I was not convinced. Thus it was, the first time I flew into Vancouver, in February, only to be met by snow-capped mountains and green grass (!) that I began longing for a place on Canada's left coast.
During the long, dirty winters I toiled in Toronto, having been heartlessly transferred from Montreal, I suffered the taunts of friends living in Vancouver, the descriptions of them lolling about in shorts, sipping lattes at outdoor tables during the dark days of February. I began to suspect they weren't Real Canadians... but I did so want to join them.
My longing for the mountains of British Columbia led, ultimately, to a penurious life of ski bummery where once a brilliant future as a corporate cog seemed certain. Good trade, in my estimation. And while I got to visit beautiful Vancouver, I came to view it with suspicion. Who were these people? Oh sure, some of them drove north to Whistler regularly, proudly rallying 'round the colours of the Weekend Warriors, skiing hard, partying hard, embracing deep winter in wondrous Whistler.
But then there were The Others. The ones who only showed their pasty faces during summers. The ones who only ever bought sightseeing tickets and didn't so much play in the mountains as viewed them from a safe distance, not embracing them, not even touching them. They drove suspicious looking vehicles with balding summer tires and even those they drove with no apparent skill. I began to suspect they weren't Real Canadians.
And so it came to pass, during the winter of 2017, they proved my suspicions. Lived down to my expectations. Showed their true, snivelling, latte-sipping, urban, pampered selves. In this most awesome of winters, this colder-than-expected winter wonderland, this perfect winter, they did something very, very un-Canadian. They allowed themselves to be hobbled, laid low, paralyzed by a mere skiff of snow falling and staying on their fairweather city.
Vancouverites, you should be ashamed of yourselves.
"Ooh... there's snow on the ground. What shall we do? Help us... somebody... please... helllllp us!"
Really? What kind of Real Canadians don't own snow shovels or, perhaps in the case of Vancouver homeowners, don't know how to use them, if the state of their sidewalks is any indication. For chrissakes people, take a sliver of the billions your homes have appreciated and buy a damn snow shovel. What? There aren't any? Well, duh. There were in the fall. There were last spring. I'm not sure why you expect the city to be any better prepared to deal with snow when you can't even manage to clear your couple of feet of sidewalk.
An inquiry? You want the city to hold an inquiry into how unprepared they were to deal with this dusting of snow? Look in the mirror. Look into your reluctant souls. Get help, Lassie. You've lost your Canadian-ness.
In January, 1999, the city of Toronto was blessed with 39 centimetres of snow. Children were joyful. More snow fell as more storms passed through. In the middle of the month, another 27 cm fell. Mel Lastman, perhaps Canada's first celebrity mayor, known for his tasteless Bad Boy Furniture store ads, called out the military to help clear the snow. It was a low point in Canadian history and turned Toronto into a laughingstock the likes of which Real Canadians thought they'd never see again.
Mayor Gregor Robertson hasn't called out the military. In more left-coast fashion, he's more or less told everyone to chill out. Probably not the most empathetic response. But if Vancouverites' collective response to this little bit of winter — #blackicematters — is any indication of their mettle, the whole town is likely to curl up and die if/when the big earthquake hits.
Especially if it coincides with a snowstorm.
Meanwhile, the skiing's great in this most awesome winter of 2017. Enjoy it like Real Canadians.