Looking at Great White North from Down Under

When something has been part of your landscape all your life it’s easy to take it for granted.

  • Jan. 21, 2011 7:00 a.m.

When something has been part of your landscape all your life it’s easy to take it for granted.

I think that’s one of the reasons we have children; so we can see the world all over again through fresh eyes. 

It’s also a good reason to have friends from Australia fly over to spend Christmas in Canada.

A relative did just that and though I didn’t get to see the Australian’s reaction firsthand, hearing about it over the phone has made me look at our winter a little differently. 

The Australians arrived in the Great White North full of enthusiasm at seeing snow for the first time in their lives. 

They even had a wish list of activities they wanted to try that included skiing, snowboarding and dog sledding. But mostly they just wanted to see snow. 

They wanted to take in how it covered the landscape and they wanted to watch it tumble from the sky. 

In Australia when you give out the temperature there are no prefixes. 

You don’t say it’s “plus” 20 out because there is never a minus. Imagine what it must be like to put on a pair of mittens for the very first time. Or to see a landscape completely awash in sparkling white drifts. 

And so my relatives put together a crash course they dubbed “Canadian Winter 101.”

They went skiing and snowboarding. They went tubing and GT sledding. They went out to their cabin on a frozen lake, flooded the ice and helped their guests put on their first pair of skates. 

And then they played hockey. And since you haven’t really played hockey in Canada unless you’ve been jerseyed the game culminated with a hilarious gloves-on-the-ice, parka over the head mock fight.

They went snowshoeing. 

It took a little more searching to find a place where they could experience dog sledding. 

The reason this was on their wish list wasn’t because that’s how they thought we travelled from place to place, but because one of them owned a husky back home.

A husky in Australia! 

So they Googled and they searched and they finally found a place that let you ride along on a two man sled. And so they dog sledded. And so did my relative for the very first time in her all-Canadian life. 

I live four hours north of Prince George. I have lived here, just off the Alaska Highway, for almost 50 years. I have never seen a dog sled team in action. 

That seems unbelievable when I think about it.

Oh, I often see the pickups with those specially built individual kennel compartments for each Husky in the bed of the truck and a couple sleds lashed to the top making their way through town, but that’s as close as I have ever come to seeing a dog sled team. 

I never knew you could pay and sleigh. I think I would like to.

The only thing harder than finding the dog sled experience was getting snow to fall from the sky. 

As Canadians know all too well, there is nothing we can do about the weather.  During the week that the visitors were in Canada there was only one short, small, dusting of the white stuff, much to everyone’s dismay. 

As I type Environment Canada has issued a snow warning bulletin for our area. 

The white stuff has been tumbling down thick and heavy for the past 24 hours.

If I snapped a picture, made a postcard out of it and sent it to someone with a caption that read, “Wish You Were Here” it wouldn’t seem like a very nice thing to do. 

Those kinds of cards are normally reserved for panoramas of white sandy beaches, blue surf and bathing suits. 

The sort of thing you might see in Australia. 

It’s so easy to grumble when you’ve shovelled the deck three times in as many hours, but as I pause to look out the window at the fresh falling snow settling over our winter wonderland, I can think of at least two people who wouldn’t be offended by such a postcard in the least. They really would wish they were here. 

Kind of makes a person look at our fourth season a little differently, doesn’t it? And in mid-January, with three months of winter behind us and another three staring us in the face, that’s a good thing. 

That’s a very good thing indeed.  

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country.  You can read more of her writing by visiting www.shannon mckinnon.com.