Friday, 7 February 2014

#366: Slopestyle, Double Slalom and Extreme Driveway

The Winter Olympics begin today, and Canada has golden hopes.

Why are are we soooo confident?  Because We Are Winter.  At least that is what our Olympic promos promise.

And this winter, one of the coldest and snowiest in years, I feel very winterized indeed.  I am Winter,  I told myself this week as I pumped myself up to shovel yet another driveway. I am Canadian, I live to shovel snow!
6 ft of snow -- Our own little hill, big enough to slide down.   

In fact, as I cleared a path to the garage again, I briefly considered shovelling as a new Olympic event. Surely those 12 cool and exciting new categories with their extreme snowy gymnastics (designed to attract younger viewers) should be balanced by a more sedate sport, one that would appeal to an older demographic: Olympic Shovelling. Think of the possibilities:  Solo Sidewalk, Team Driveway, Moguls (or whatever you call that snowpile at the bottom of the driveway after the plow goes down the street).  Synchro Shovelling!  The challenges are endless.

And how to judge a gold medal performance?  Easy. It is all about technique -- the art of propelling one shovelful after another onto a growing mound.  Speed and distance count.  Neatness counts. A tidy, cleared driveway is a thing of beauty.

The students across the street know nothing about shovelling.  We have helped them dig out this truck. 

Canada could totally dominate this new sport because We Know Snow.  We know the variety of snow that lands on driveways and paths, and the shovelling techniques required:  feathery, fluffy snow that is a snap to shovel;  gritty, sandy snow that packs down in 5 minutes unless you remove it immediately; heavy wet snow, one step removed from slush. And wet snow that freezes hard?  Wise shovellers get to work before the cold snap.  But whatever sort of snow awaits, it is all made so much worse by the arrival of the dreaded plow,  Every man, woman and child with a house and driveway knows the sinking feeling that accompanies the announcement:  "Here comes the snowplow!"  Gaaaagh.   Out come the array of shovelling tools -- pushers, scoopers and choppers. No-one is going anywhere by car until that heaped-up ridge is removed.    

But would Canadians embrace Olympic Snow Shovelling?  Of course!  Snow removal is a trending topic in February when its challenges are always top-of-mind.  Arrive at any winter gathering where there are two or more adults and you will be subjected to at least 10 minutes conversation about snow clearance. Everyone has a snow removal story.  Since we have all been shovelling since November here in Southern Ontario, the current theme is a reflection on space: Where do we put the @%&* snow??  We are running out of room and everyone is contemplating the implications of sneaking surplus snow onto a neighbour's property. Would they notice?  Would we be caught?

As far as I can see, there is only one problem that might stand in the way of introducing this new snow sport, and it could be a deal-breaker.  It would be hard to put together a team.  We may know all about shovelling, but we do not practice the way we used to.  Kids no longer trawl the neighbourhood packing shovels looking for work.  And their dads are whizzing up and down driveways and sidewalks with new-fangled snow blowers. The best and most experienced snow shovellers are retirees--like me.  But when we start a job, we are in no hurry to finish.  We shovel, we chip away at the mogul, we wander across the street to talk to our shovelling (retired) neighbour.  We take a tea break. Unless there is a pressing appointment, this task doesn't really need to get done until supper time.  Watching a team of shovelling retirees would be like watching cricket. Spectators could have to plant their lawn chairs in a nearby snow bank and sip hot cocoa for 10 hours.

But most importantly, it must be accepted (reluctantly), that the greatest impediment to Olympic  Snow Removal is this: Canadians do not actually enjoy snow shovelling.  A trip to Sochi to shovel for the nation?  Forget it. Yes, we have the skills and the experience.  But the best that can be said for shovelling is that it is good exercise -- if you like to work out at 30 below.

We hate to shovel. And by mid- February after a Polar Vortex Winter?  Who am I trying to kid?  We LOATHE shovelling.  And that's the truth.

But we do love to talk about it.        


1 comment:

  1. Maybe y'all wouldn't loathe shovelling so much if it were a world-renown sport. High schools would duel each other and the best (and cutest) shovellers would become famous. There would be movies where shovelling was required in order TO SAVE LIVES. You could have the corresponding "Theme from Rocky" playing through your head while you shovelled.

    I like the idea. I do think some other countries might give some good competition, though. Like Russia.

    (What do I know? I deliberately live in a place where snow is so rare that we shut down the city whenever we get some, and it melts the same day.)