W hen my husband and I booked the ski trip, winter was still months away, and we weren’t thinking about the snow. Fall was still crisp like a fresh notebook. What would turn out to be the hottest year ever recorded registered as pleasant in Vancouver, as long as you didn’t think too hard about how uncanny it was. It had been warm enough for the beach on Mother’s Day; summer had been a streak of blue-sky afternoons and autumn a bouquet of sunset foliage bright on the branch and blazing in the unseasonable sunshine. The strangling stench of wildfire smoke never quite reached us even as Canada’s worst ever wildfire season raged across the country. But by winter, it was impossible to ignore how eerie the warm, dry conditions had become. The arrival of the season felt like the beginning of a horror movie, when the initial pleasantries are suffused with sinister foreboding. Our winter coats stayed in the closet. We flew to Saskatoon to visit family, where December temperatures averaged 9 degrees above normal, another record broken. By the time we got home, just before Christmas, bewildered spring flowers were already peeking out of the ground.
It was around then that I started second-guessing our ski trip, a concrete worry to distract me from the existential ones. My husband and I had modest ambitions: four days in mid-January at a ski resort where our daughter could learn to ski. My husband grew up on skis—as a baby, he would be tucked into a backpack by his father before they coasted together down the slopes of Fernie. I was more ambivalent. In my profoundly unathletic family, by contrast, the only competitive sport was speed reading, and I honed my creativity by coming up with new excuses to get out of running laps in gym class each week. Still, by the time I had graduated from high school, I had acquired the basics of both downhill and cross-country skiing from school trips and spent a few humiliating weekends learning to snowboard on the local hills under the tutelage of sadistic friends. I took it for granted that my kids would have the same opportunity.