The insulated quiet of the fresh snowfall was broken by our huffing and puffing as we blazed a trail on snowshoes through two feet of new powder.
Nadine, our guide from Great Divide Nature Interpretation, pointed out where a moose lay down for the night, the moss that could be eaten and the moss that could not, and where a bear had marked its tree. She told us stories about controlled burns and the devastation the pine beetles were wreaking on evergreen forests.
The mountains and, more specifically, mountain life fascinate me. I grew up in hilly Ithaca, NY spending Saturday afternoons exploring the creek back to the waterfall behind our house with my sister. We as a family took day trips into the nearby Appalachians, Catskills, and Adirondacks to tour New York State parks or science museums if the weather was particularly foul. Sure as a kid I may not have had the same appreciation as an adult, but I have never had goosebumps from those worn-down ranges like the ones the Canadian Rockies gave me on my first visit. My weak attempts to describe them – majestic, breathtaking, awe-inspiring – do not get at the peace I felt when I finally got out of our rental car in the parking lot of Canmore’s library. The Three Sisters overlooking the town command visitors to slow down, look up, and appreciate the view. Enjoy the laid back life, they seem to say.
I do not go to the mountains because I am an adrenaline junkie. I don’t downhill ski or snowboard. Strap me into a pair of snowshoes or cross country skis in the winter or a pair of hiking boots or trail runners in the summer and I am a happy camper. As I live in Toronto, those sorts of activities require a little imagination and a lot of inspiration. Fortunately for me, the Banff Mountain Film Festival travels the world every year, bringing stories of Tibetan families getting their children to school five kilometers away through a treacherous valley or films of stunt snowboarders’ latest gravity-defying tricks. Between Boston and Toronto, I’ve attended the film festival seven out of the last eight years to gawk at what the rock climbers can do with a crack in a boulder and just their thumbs. Never mind what the film crew had to do to get its shot. I will be there again at the end of March at the Bloor Street Cinema, ready for that rush of feelings driving me back to the mountains.