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Booty's call: a novice takes to the backcountry in search of cabinessence

While I sit in the relative comfort of my home writing this, my mind is elsewhere--fixated, really, on the terrific variety of public access cabins available to us in and around Rossland. To be more specific, I am especially keen on those that can be cross-country skied or snow-shoed to, especially those not requiring hyper-honed skills on the part of would-be-visitors.

I am a terrible cross-country skier.

At the summit, well beyond the prying eyes of the ripply-bunned skilluminati I was free to take spills, bail, and lend poorly choreographed knee-drops and pile-drivers deep into as yet untracked fresh down snow.

But before we get into that, a disclaimer. Normally, I choke back bile when slice-of-life stories or overly autobiographical opinion pieces or observational ramblings make the ‘paper or airwaves. Take reporter/author/obfuscator Mike McCardell’s work. Petty, I know, but I can’t stand him. Here’s my take on a typical MMcC story:

“This… is a mud-puddle. But not just any mud-puddle. This is a mud-puddle made by little Joey Robinson. Joey makes mud-pies. The best mud-pies, says his little sister Fiona. She can’t seem to get enough of them.”

Microphone shoved in the near-hypothermic, mud-covered kid’s face.

“Ya, I likes the mud. It’s oogie.”

Close in on Mike McCardell’s mug, “Yes. Oogie indeed. I’m Mike McCardell for BCTV.”


Despite my misgivings and better judgement, though, today I will be venturing into the land of McCardell and friends, extolling the virtues of communing with nature, laying down tracks to our many nearby cabins and some of the moments of pure clarity one achieves while scraping oneself off the hard pack, or dog poo from one’s skis.

The prelude

My first attempt at cross-country skiing was around eight years ago. My wife to be, recognizing we were on a crash-course for eventual nuptials, made ill-advised attempts at bridging the cultural, generational and personality gap (rift) that existed between me and my mother-in-law-to-be.

“She doesn’t complain when she’s cross-country skiing.”

Dubious, I went along to West Vancouver’s Cypress Bowl where, over the course of the ensuing four hours, I cursed, slammed and flailed my way through underbrush and ice, damning the inventor of cross-country skis all the way. Crumpled in a heap, legs twisted in a most unnatural position, I observed that a lack of metal edges (some finely sharpened stainless steel Rockwell edges) simply did not make sense.

We cut the jaunt short. My already aching muscles and kinked limbs were all that prevented me from punching the jolly clerk at the rental shop in the face. How was my day? It felt a bit like this!

Fast forward.

Three years ago, we arrived in Rossland. Sans the mother-in-law. Spending our first season getting our bearings in town rather than on the slopes, year two was spent exploring the hill. Cross-country was not on the radar. It was something practiced out of sight and out of mind by people still in doubt or unaware of their own leanings towards involvement in the hardcore S&M scene. Cross-country gear appeared reminiscent of torture and beatings, and what clothing was worn by its practitioners left little to the imagination. Maybe it wasn’t leather and zipper masks, but spandex and balaclavas were creepy enough for me.

“This… is a unitard. But not just any unitard. This is an insulated unitard- for skiing.”

No thanks, Mike.

It wasn’t until some neighbours got to talking about skiing up to ‘one of the cabins’ that my ears perked up. Cabins? I liked cabins. But to clarify, were we talking about cabins full of stretch-fabric clad pervos that were going to bust out the gimp on me? Were these ‘cabins’ actually dungeons where this bizarre subset of masochists were paddling one another’s behinds with metal-edgeless, scaly-bottomed skis? I could see no other reason for leaving metal edges out, but for the consideration of not wanting to leave much of a mark after a night-mission to one of these ‘cabins…’

I was speedily assured that the cabins, ‘Booty’s’, were not to be missed, and that they comprised a good deal of the local social fabric, which, while it had some give, was not the stuff of Lycra blended nightmares. It was more flannel, more Gore-Tex, more gusseted pocket than skin-clinging thread.

“This… is a speed-suit. But not just any speed-suit. This is a speed-suit made from polymer thread.”

Again, no thanks Mike. I’ll take my turns with the baggy-fit set.

Given my current placement as a landfill-centric garbaggian gargoyle, it wasn’t long before an unloved pair of XC skis made their way into the Trail Reuse Centre. A pair of Peltonens: I quickly Christened them Pelterrific. I snaked some boots, procured some poles and wobbled ‘round my snow-caked yard in anticipation (yes, anticipation) of my first foray into yonder hills.

Gone was the natter of Frenglish-muttering mother-in-laws, gone were the perceived judgements of track-heavy ectomorphs. At the summit, well beyond the prying eyes of the ripply-bunned skilluminati I was free to take spills, bail, and lend poorly choreographed knee-drops and pile-drivers deep into as yet untracked fresh down snow.


Since kind of, sort of, taking XC skiing up, I have thus far made my bush-hacking way to Red Dog, Mosquito, and, this year, the View. Already this season, I have been out five times, and while it’s not a boast, there is some small modicum of pride in announcing (or admitting) that so far I’ve earned my lumps. I am by far the worst skier in the groups with which I travel, but I like to think I make up for it in colourful language, evocative cuss-words and streaks as blue and much wider than the moonlit track on an early winter night. The cabins are worth it. Booty and the dozens of other able hands left us a legacy, and I am all that much poorer for never having met most of them in person.

“This… is a grateful man. A man who has seen the error of his ways. A man who has skied to a well-stocked shack filled with seasoned wood and a welcoming hot-stove.”

Okay, Mike, I’ll give you that one. But Rod Serling still could have done a much better job.


I’d like to invite everyone in town to send some of their own stories about the cabin culture here in town, whether it’s a story about building them, heating them, or just plain skinning on up with friends. Spandex optional.