Vernon: A Real Canadian Winter Experience

Cross country skiing at -20c

As we were driving towards Vernon we started wondering what have we gotten ourselves into? Why for heaven’s sake, did we choose a cold destination for our Christmas break? We are much more summer weather people, especially in winter. If we go on an extended skiing vacation, we’d much rather do it in the spring, when the days are longer, and skiing usually involves sun and blue skies, and not -20c temperatures. Then we started thinking we must be getting soft, or old… we remembered one skiing trip where we camped (!) in -30c. If we could do that seven years ago, we figured there was no reason that we couldn’t bear a week in a cozy Airbnb with a hot shower at the end of every day. Worst case, we thought, we’d just retire to watching Netflix all week. Yeah, it can’t be all that bad.

Italian restaurant in Hope, nothing to write home about…

As usual, our trip was not off to a great start. The night before we left Gili got some sort of food poisoning and I was sure he spent the entire night in the bathroom throwing up. It turned out that he just woke me up every time he went and actually got a relatively good night’s sleep in between. In the morning he was much better and said we were still going. He picked up a huge Modo (car-share) car that allowed us to pack practically our entire house and off we went on Christmas day towards Vernon, only five hours away according to Google Maps.

We packed light…

I was sure it couldn’t be only five hours, because I remembered our last trip to Silver Star when Neil was one, when it probably took us 1,000 hours to get there. It didn’t feel much shorter this time and it was a lot colder. One thing was similar though – on both trips Neil was not able to walk. Back then he just hadn’t started walking yet, and this time he had broken his leg.

Since it was so cold we wanted to have lunch somewhere indoors, but it being Christmas day we only found one restaurant open in Hope, which was over priced and not great. Then we thought we’ll shop in Kamloops as we needed another break anyway and saw a Save on Foods on the side of the road – which was closed, of course… However, there was a Shoppers Drug Mart next to it, where Gili found the deal of his life on 70% dark chocolate which we stocked up on.

Arriving to our Airbnb

The next part of the drive was the most challenging. The road kept getting smaller, darker and icier. In addition Neil had completely lost it by that point. Before that he was a happy camper blowing a balloon most of the way. But at this point, the only thing that calmed him was listening to “The Wheels of the Bus” on repeat. After what seemed like 1,000 hours since we left Vancouver, but was in fact eight hours, we finally found ourselves at our destination.

We liked our Airbnb from the moment we walked in. It wasn’t just because it was cozy, clean and warm but our hosts also left us three boxes of chocolate each with a letter: M, N & G, and some fruit. It was a really nice gesture. 

Neil is walking again!

The next day everything changed for the best. We all slept in till after 9am and took it easy in the morning. Then, like a miracle, Neil stood up on his own two feet and started walking. It was very emotional since for the last 3.5 weeks he was back to crawling and scooting, being a bit frustrated, but rarely complaining. It also meant that we could stop carrying him around…

We decided to head to Sovereign Lake for some cross country skiing. The sign that greeted us there claimed that it was -19c at 8am. Luckily it was already 11am, so maybe it was only -17c, yay! Neil was very cozy in the trailer and fell asleep immediately. Probably all the excitement of being able to walk again got him tried. After waking up the only thing Neil complained about was having cold feet, so later that day we went to the Superstore in Vernon and got him some really warm boots. After that, he didn’t complain again that he was cold, and actually held up much better outside than us…

Someone was warm and cozy!

The week in Vernon went by fast. One day we went cross country skiing on Silver Star  and had lunch in Mountain View Cabin. The next day brought a huge snow storm and we decided not to head to the mountain that day, but go swimming instead. It turned out that Vernon has an impressive recreation facility with a big pool for kids. It was quite surreal to swim in the warm pool and sit in the steaming hot tub while it snowed and was freezing outside.

After the big dump of snow we decided to devote the next day to downhill skiing. I went skiing first and Gili and Neil played with the sled we had just bought him. Downhill was fun but there were long line-ups and I missed the relaxing quietness of cross country skiing. Then Gili went skiing after lunch, just as it started snowing again and he returned back with a frozen face since he forgot his balaclava in the car.

Black Prince Cabin

The drive back that day was the most challenging of all since it was snowing heavily and our wipers froze, so they didn’t work well. Like every day it was such a relief to arrive ‘home’, take a shower, have a warm dinner and watch a TV show or a movie. Neil took very long baths and even sat one evening with us to watch an entire adult movie, being very interested and asking some really smart questions. 

On our last two days we decided to just head to Sovereign Lake and not get close to Silver Star, which must have been crowded that weekend. The sun finally came out on those last two days – it was still mighty cold but nice to see some blue skies and sunshine. We went to explore Black Prince Cabin, hidden in the shady woods, but still nice for a lunch break, and we even found and Igloo for our little Eskimo boy.

The pool in Vernon

On New Year’s Eve we had a fondue dinner at our Airbnb. 2017 wasn’t the easiest year, especially the last couple of months, but we wanted to end it on a good note. In the end, Neil didn’t fall asleep easily on that night so he ended up greeting the new year with us. Our new year’s resolution was to work on his night time sleeping habits…

On New Year’s Day we mostly drove home. We thought it would be nice to give Neil an opportunity to play a bit but the playground we found in Merritt was too hard to get to due to all the snow… We ended up having lunch at Boston Pizza since we wanted a warm indoor space to eat.

In the Igloo

Our hosts actually came back from Langley the day before and kept on telling us that Abbotsford and Chilliwack were all covered with ice. We didn’t really understand what they meant until we stopped in Chilliwack to fill up gas and everything was indeed covered with ice. Trees, bushes, traffic lights and poles. It turned out that while we were away there was a big ice storm in that area. Vancouver seemed intact, and all the snow from before our trip had melted already. It was refreshing to see bare sidewalks and green grass.

Experiencing what most Canadians deal with on a regular basis every winter was fun for one week, but even with the rain, wet weather and some cold days I still prefer Vancouver to the freezing cold of the interior.

Full moon and Sovereign Lake Lodge

Immediately after arriving home, Neil was happy to hop on his bike after a break of almost a month and went out for a ride  even though it was well after 8pm… It doesn’t seem like the injury slowed him down or anything when it comes to riding. The boy sure missed his bike. 

Neil, the only true Canadian among us, doing his job

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