An Eastbournian Abroad with Ashley McMillan: Festivals, travels... and even more snow?

It’s been a busy few weeks in this lad’s household. OK, so I can tell you’re interested, so I’ll carry on.

Despite the calendar clearly indicating our firm arrival and shunt into spring, the snow has kept on coming. To-date, this is the third heaviest snowfall year on record. This has kept everyone’s interested in skiing and boarding alive and for those outside of Whistler and in the surrounding areas of British Columbia; their desire to continue to travel up is being prolonged. Of course for some around here, by no means everyone, there are whispers in the deepest darkest corners where people think no-one can hear them, that they’re ‘officially over winter’. Pure sacrilege I say, but we all know how they feel!!! Well, people better get used to the idea of long ski seasons as Whistler Blackcomb has just announced that mountain operations have officially been extended for another week, further prolonging the season due to the spectacular conditions and levels of snow on the hills.

On a personal note, a busy month ahead for myself and my long suffering girlfriend as I plan the final logistics for my upcoming marathon in Zurich, Switzerland and we prepare for our wedding a couple of weeks later in the UK.

With this in mind, I ventured over to another beautiful part of B.C called the ‘Sunshine Coast’. It cannot be reached by road, despite being connected to the mainland, but instead is usually only travelled to via a regular ferry transfer. Long had I heard and been preached about how wonderful it was over there. So, when a nicely timed half marathon fell into place there a couple of weeks out from my marathon, I jumped at the opportunity. I still reserve the right to make any judgment about this area as it was somewhere I was looking forward to seeing, but all too often, my head was down as I focused on the race at hand. Certainly though, there’s obviously plenty of coastline (yes, I know the clue is in the title – Sunshine coast), but it does have the look and feel of a laid back, relaxed community. Maybe worth another visit in the summer.

There’s also been the arrival of the annual and huge ‘TELUS World Ski & Snowboard Festival’, which showcases a variety of skills and on hill races for many disciplines over a course of 10 glorious days in Whistler. This festival is always highly anticipated and very well attended with many individuals (outside of the competitions) coming just to be in Whistler for these dates on the calendar. There are many, many events being competed in as well as a magnificent line-up of artists performing in the village on a variety of stages for everyone’s entertainment. Bands have been performing for anyone who’s prepared to find a spot on a local patio at the foot of the hills or stand in the masses soaking up the vibes. Official sponsors of the festival will be giving out their free wares to any passers by and the local businesses will hope and pray that more and more numbers from the surrounding areas come up to take advantage of the conditions and great celebratory atmosphere.

So this Eastbournian has made a return to his hometown for a few weeks. Logistics required us to be here well ahead of our planned wedding date, thanks to the UK’s out of date beaurocracy. We could have gotten married virtually anywhere in North America the very same day or possibly the next, even though we were British citizens. However, despite this latter homeland passport proof, the UK will have us needing to be here for around 3 weeks before we can get married here! Go figure!

This means that we get to spend a bit more time catching up with family and friends I guess (and spending more..!) and I managed a brief hiatus from wedding planning (this really isn’t a guy thing lads!!), by escaping to Zurich to take part in their marathon, run through their beautiful city and along the stunning lake Zurich shoreline. Typically, I went down with a heavy cold just two days ahead of this event that I’d trained and planned for months, leaving me seriously considering pulling out altogether. Despite this, I can only report the city’s great warmth, culture and natural beauty that it boasts. It’s a very, very clean environment, no litter, no mess and a very healthy outdoor attitude. There were cafes and restaurants al fresco style every where you looked at times, literally dozens lined up next to each other as the Europeans supped their coffees and lined their stomachs. Yes, Switzerland is a magnificent place at times. Many towns and cities are no more than an hour or so away from lakes and mountains and many residents will often do the commute from work to ski resort of a Friday evening to take advantage of this country’s natural playground. I can certainly see the allure for those venturing out to these parts! Sold!

Now back on UK soil once again, we can enjoy the marvelous weather that seems to have embedded itself to this isle in a somewhat uncharacteristic way at this time of year. Perfect timing for Easter – but will it hold? Let’s face it, if these temperatures currently experienced hang around longer, we’re all going to have sticky paws from the melted chocolate eggs… and no-one is going to be happy about that!