Written by Heather McLennan
My anticipation and excitement grew as we inched closer to Vernon. Christmas in Vernon….all 21 of us together in our hometown for the first time in years. Everyone from my 90 year old grandmother to my 2 year old nephew. This would be the best Christmas ever with sisters and brothers arriving from Whistler, Pemberton, Calgary, Canmore and Fernie with their families in tow. Somehow we would all squish into the 1905 Eaton’s Catalogue home in the Coldstream area (on the outskirts of Vernon) that belonged to my Grandmother…thank goodness for hide-a beds and haylofts!
Around a very large table in the kitchen, warmed by the beautiful old wood-burning cook stove, my siblings and I, upon arrival, discussed all the recreational things we would like to do while in Vernon. In other words, how could we keep our kids out of my Mom’s, Dad’s & Granny’s hair? The first place that popped into everyone’s head was Silver Star. None of us had been up the mountain since we were kids ourselves, so we thought we should take a trip ‘up’ memory lane. My Mom’s choir was going to be caroling around the Village one evening, so we decided we would go up that night and check it out. The choir wasn’t singing until 7, so we went up early to catch a few runs under the lights. What fun to all be skiing together!
As our convoy rounded the last corner to Silver Star, I think we all collectively caught our breath. What an amazing sight! A sea of colourful lights was twinkling from every direction. Floodlights showcased the varied ski terrain awaiting our exploration; cross country skiers waved as they whizzed by; horse drawn sleighs wound through the forest as the horses trotted majestically around Silver Lake, offering a first class view of the skaters on the ice trying their best to imitate Kurt Browning! Mini snowmobiles, driven by children in helmets, roared around an enclosed track; big black tubes loaded with kids (and adults) of all ages shot down 4 different lanes like bullets.
We had barely come to a stop in the parking lot when all the doors burst open. Kids and parents scrambled in every direction. What were we to do first? We split up into groups and as we ventured off to our activities, it became apparent that in order to experience everything Silver Star had to offer, we would have to come back, perhaps again and again.
After a couple of hours, ignoring wails of protest, we managed to gather everyone and off we sauntered to the Village just as the choir was beginning their joyful repertoire of Christmas music. We meandered through the Village behind the choir, each of us clutching a hot drink and we sang merrily for at least an hour. Then, as in the Pied Piper of Hamelin, we followed them into the NATC Auditorium where they shared their Christmas Spirit in the form of a beautiful concert. Back outside, we all descended upon Tube Town, seeking just one last adrenalin rush before heading back to Granny’s house.
On Christmas Eve we found ourselves merrily on our way to the Winter Wonderland once again. We arrived in time to participate in the Torchlight and Glo Stick Parade. We were each given two torches(flares) and the kids were given two glo-sticks and from mid mountain, riding either skis or snowboards, we gradually snaked our way down to the Village. The exhilaration of winding down the mountain with our torches as the only source of light will be forever etched in my mind. Granny and the two year old waited in the Village clutching hot chocolates in eager anticipation of the vision they were about to behold. Once the torches were extinguished at the bottom, we watched in awe as the fireworks launched and exploded into the crisp night air. The joy on the faces of our children was better than any Christmas present I had ever received. Then it was off to the Chilcoot Conference Center for Santa’s Gift Giving. One by one each child was called by name and gently hoisted onto Santa’s lap. How did Santa know each and every name of all the children there?
Christmas Day, my sisters, brothers and myself along with our spouses, left all the children with Mom, Dad and Granny and we had the ski day we had all been anticipating. Although the mountain had a wonderful children’s program called Star Kids, we wanted some quality time in “Adult Land”. From velvety groomed runs to steep and deep heart stopping chutes…we did it all!
What a way to spend Christmas!! Magical, memorable moments - too many to recount! This has now become a family tradition. At 93, my Granny still comes with us for the fireworks and the 2 year old now has a new baby sister who will soon know all about Silver Star, our Christmas Winter Wonderland.