• From the Penthouse to the Outhouse

From the Penthouse to the Outhouse

BY: Lori Knowles PHOTOGRAPHY: Peter Gilbert

I’ve plummeted from princess to pauper. My week started in a three-room suite at the top of Fairmont’s Hotel Vancouver, with a view of the city’s art gallery and a bottle of Okanagan brute in the bar’s fridge. By Wednesday, I was wrapped in a terry robe heading for a steam bath at Four Seasons Whistler. Now I’m writing to you from the four-by-four bathroom of my RV, rain pelting on its tin roof and a freight train screaming past the trailer park. My neighbour’s pink pick-up truck’s license plate reads: D-Woman.

As my father-in-law, a criminal court justice used to say, I’ve slid from the penthouse to the outhouse. Here’s how it all went down:

City Break: Vancouver

Once we left Revelstoke, we took a short break from skiing. A friend at the Fairmont took pity on the #FuntasticSkiFour and put us up at the Hotel Vancouver. For two glorious nights we lived the life of Eloise, roaming through three thickly carpeted, Victorian-style rooms with furniture covered in chintz and a separate kitchen. The lables on the bottles of lotion in the bath read: For the FuntasticFour—I’m not kidding.

For fun we boarded a water taxi to Granville Island and ate the “best friggin peanut butter awesomeness” cookies.

Missing our dog something fierce—we left him in Muskoka with his cousins—we took time to walk Beau, the yellow labrador who lives at the Hotel Vancouver. Or, I should say, Beau walked us. He liked to pee on the Vancouver Art Gallery’s lawn. Peter said Beau is quite the art critic.

Whistler, Vittorio & Long Bone Ribeyes

Next we drove the Sea to Sky to Whistler Blackcomb (www.whistlerblackcomb.com), a member of the Mountain Collective. Whistler’s like a second home to me as I worked there in my 20s—arriving is a little like slipping into a well-worn leather jacket. Except this time we lodged at the Four Seasons Whistler, a LeBron James-sized leap upwards from my days in Blackcomb staff housing. Vittorio checked us in, an Italian with a sotto dolce voice and a velvety handshake. Vittorio has a habit of stepping out from behind his check-in desk when he speaks to his guests, a Four Seasons tactic to make you feel welcome. It worked.

Four soft robes waited for us inside our room’s marble bath; we slipped into them and sauntered toward the steamy outdoor pool as if we owned the place. There was art everywhere—oils, mountain scenes in soft watercolours—on the walls, in the lobby, in the lamp-lighted library.

We dined beside the fire at Sidecut Modern Steak + Bar, where the food is edgy and the service is exceptional. At the table next to us a family of five ordered the 48 oz Beef Ribeye Long Bone. A waiter arrived to carve the beast, juices running red all around it. One of the Polo-shirted kids at the table acted up. His mother said: “Behave yourself or you’re disinherited.”

The next day we skied under the sun. Yes, the sun does come out at Whistler and when it does the locals smile. The view of Black Tusk was so clear we felt as though we can reach out and touch it. I posed before it from the top of Harmony Bowl; the photo looks as if Whistler’s most iconic landmark is giving me the finger. Not so, not so. As I said, Whistlerites smiled during our entire visit, making us feel all warm and fuzzy. El Niño promised snow for the Coast Mountains in 2016 and it delivered. Whistler Blackcomb’s PR peeps admit that while last season locals were P.O.’d about their Eastern ski conditions, this season they’re rejoicing.

‘Cause I’m Happy…” Gracie sang down the slide at Whistler’s slopeside Tree Fort. The sign read: No snowballs, no smoking, no swearing. Emmett and I skied the steeps off the Peak Chair, then again off looker’s left of Blackcomb Glacier. Emmett was right on my tail; he wanted to pass me but he’s respectful so he doesn’t. The day has come, I think, that my son skis better than I do.

Penthouse to Outhouse

It all sounds pretty idyllic, eh? Marble baths, marbled steak, threats of disinheritance, bottles of body lotion with our moniker imprinted on it. It does to me, too, now that I’m writing to you seated on a toilet. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not using my RV’s washroom at this moment for anything more than writing. It’s early morning here and this trailer’s so small that the WC is the only place I can work without waking the family.

Some background: We picked up the RV in Vancouver upon leaving Whistler. We drove it through the rain, in the dark, up and down mountains, in the dead of night, across the Canadian-US border, southeast through Washington State, desperately striving for our next Mountain Collective destination: Sun Valley, Idaho. It was somewhere along Snoqualmie Pass with the windshield wipers slapping and the rain pelting and the slow lane full of four-way-flashing transport trucks that I said to Peter: “What the bleep are we doing?”

In the middle of the night, we pulled into a trailer park situated at some point along the Columbia River. We tramped around in the mud with a flashlight frantically seeking a ‘hook up’ for the RV. We already woke the kindly woman who runs the place once with our late arrival—she just shook her head—so we were hesitant to do it again to have her show us “RV rookies” how to plug into the electrical. Peter figured it out, but now he’s sure he’s got sewage on his shoes and he can’t get rid of the smell. He keeps squinching up his nose and asking me: “Can you smell it?” Oh lord. What the bleep are we doing?

The Road to the Sun

As we crossed into Oregon on the road to Sun Valley, we were singing Janice Joplin. Windshield wipers slap in time, I’m holding Peter’s hand in mind, we sang every song that driver knew…. The cutlery in the kitchen drawers of the RV jangled and there was tumbleweed rolling down the highway. A’76 El Camino pulled into the Chevron at Baker City while we were filling up. Yes, we were feeling the ‘70s rock n’ roll vibe pretty good.

Back on the I-84, there were no trees in sight—or at least very few. The Idaho landscape was all sage-brown foothills and cows grazing on the ranges. At some point down the road we decided to call the RV Betty White—BW for short—as it’s white, plus it’s cozy and warm like a grandmother. Well… it’s mostly cozy and warm. Except at night. At night in the Sawtooth mountains in the middle of February, the BW is cold enough to freeze the balls of your feet.

Skiing Sun Valley

Heads sure turned when we pulled Betty White into the valet parking lot at Sun Valley. We got in line along with the Range Rovers—they waved us right up front. I didn’t see Tom Hanks and Steve Wynn, but they’re usually around there somewhere. We burst out the side door in our ski boots and made quite the sight. Thank heavens for the marble-lined bathrooms at River Run ski lodge—we spent a lot of time in them. Sun Valley has the swankiest ski lodges in the biz, with deep-pile carpets and stone fireplaces you could saunter through. PGA golf is broadcast on the widescreen TVs; there are women named Muffy.

But Sun Valley has a raw side, too. Its runs are steep. Really steep. A green circle at Sun Valley would be a black diamond pretty much everywhere else. Its landscape is moon-ish—the Sawtooth range of mountains is broad, rolling, and practically treeless. At Sun Valley there are lots of moguls, a wide bowl, a weird triple chair that goes across the hill instead of up the hill, and an incredibly long, consistent, 3,000-foot-plus fall line that just goes and goes and goes. It’s kind of like skiing Red Mountain, only with way fewer trees and a lot more Bogner.

This post is also available in: French

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