“How I found myself stuck on a mountain with nowhere to go but down.”

At some point it was inevitable that I would find myself on the side of a mountain, looking down and thinking “nope, I cannot do this”.

Probably I should provide some context.

I recently went to Canada to discover whether it was possible to pick up skiing again after a 16 year gap.

It turns out it was, and so I had thrown myself in and as my confidence grew, so did my desire to push myself.

Which is how I found myself stuck on a mountain with nowhere to go but down.

It was my last day skiing, and I had decided to stop playing safe, and take an eight kilometre blue run down the backside of the mountain at SilverStar Mountain Resort  – Canada’s third-largest ski field.

Advertisement The entrance to the scariest/most beautiful/best ski run I've been down.

My mountain guide was very patient. "Just don't think about it," she told me. "Don't look down, look at me." I was in danger of thinking myself into a total panic, so instead, I focused on the yellow ski jacket zooming away from me, and humming Let it Go under my breath (it really works - I don't know why) I began to descend.

Me, after the really hard part was over.

I made so many turns, and stopped a whole lot of times, but eventually, I made it. No tears. No falls, and no accidental detours onto a double-diamond black run. (There is one turn where it was touch and go.)

Looking back up the mountain afterwards, I felt (briefly) like I could do anything. And I wanted to go again. But I couldn't. Because it was my last day at SilverStar, and I still had to go fat biking, and tubing, and snowmobiling.

I had a lot to cram in.

Snowmobiling. So. Much. Fun.

So I jumped back on the ski lift, and headed up the mountain, because the SilverStar village is mid-mountain. You ski down to get to the chair lifts, and the majority of runs.

To get back to the village when you're done, you go back to the top, and ski halfway down. It means you get to see a lot of the mountain, and there are always opportunities to get diverted... and find yourself heading back down the bottom again.

Since I arrived at SilverStar I basically haven't stopped. I've skied every green run I could find, and packed in so many other activities that I am actually not sure how I was still standing at the end of the week.

My legs ached, my arms ached, and my cheeks were frozen from the cold but I was having an amazing time. 

A fat bike, and the view from the fat bike trail.

SilverStar is not like any ski resort I've seen before. Its unique position half way up the mountain, coupled with its quirky colour scheme makes you feel a bit like you're in a Hans Christian Anderson fable. There is something decidedly magical about it, and that's before you get onto the slopes.

Adding to the fairytale feeling is the sheer number of families and children. It's noticably a family-friendly resort, and the mix of runs really caters to groups of differing ability. Maybe you are like me and pretty terrified of skiing anything too challenging, but you're travelling with a total pro. No problem at SilverStar, the various chairlifts deliver you to myriad runs of differing ability that all coalesce at the bottom again. Who talks heading down the mountain anyway?

Like something out of a Hans Christian Anderson story.

SilverStar is actually owned by an Australian, and I run into so many Australians on the slopes that I begin to lose count. I ride the chairlift one day with a man from Melbourne in his 70s who comes to SilverStar every year.

As we ascend he points across the slope to an unassuming chalet (if such a thing is possible) and says in hushed tones, "That's where Nicole and Keith stay". I briefly wonder if he's talking about friends of his and then I realise he means Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, who I learn several times in my short stay, visit the mountain most years.

SilverStar is built on old mining land, its name derived from a long-dormant silver mine, and it is also home to some breathtakingly beautiful old-growth forest abutting some of the more adventurous runs.

The entire mountain has these kind of breathtaking views.

On my second night in the village I joined a small group on a snow cat to a restaurant far off the beaten track. A cafe by day, it is nestled on the edge of a run near the top of the mountain. In the day you arrive by ski, in the night the snowcat traverses the terrain, as the groomers do their work.

The chef and front of house manager are a married couple that run a restaurant in a small town with a large summer holiday trade. In the winter months they spend their days carting supplies for that night's restaurant service out to the shack by snowmobile.

Our chariot to dinner. So cool.

The wine on offer is dependent on what made it onto the sled that day. You order your three courses a day in advance, and everything is planned to ensure nothing runs out.  The food is lovely, but the real drawcard for this dinner is the trip there and back. Holed up in the back of the cat, you see the slopes from an entirely different perspective.

I would use the M word again (magical) but I feel like it's exhausted from the workout I'm giving it.

SilverStar feels like the perfect place to bring a group. While I definitely feel like skiing holidays are a pretty awesome solo activity, a lot of what's on offer at SilverStar you really want to share.

The accommodation is geared largely towards groups, with a large assortment of big apartments and chalets that hold 10 or so people available. I am staying at Snowbird Lodge, with a view of a chairlift, and a ski in, ski out locker room. From my cosy room with a view of the slopes I hear kids splashing in their apartment's private spas.

In the village there's a bowling alley, a few pretty fun bars with live music and good food, and then there's the destination dining - whether it be the snowcat to the slopes or the horse drawn carriage to a buffet in a rustic mountain cabin.

These were our steeds. They were both trusty and lovely.

And, of course, there's the snowmobiling, which was one of the funnest things I've done, and definitely an experience you want to share.

The ski school here has programs for everyone, and a reputation as among the very best in Canada. I meet one instructor who tells me he chose SilverStar because it is the best.

In the end, I feel like my time at SilverStar has improved my skiing exponentially. As I stand at the top of El Dorado (that dreaded eight K blue run) on my final morning I feel the usual nerves and anticipation, but I also feel a confidence I hadn't expected.

So I push off, turn away from the easier runs back down and head out to the back of the mountain, surrounded by old growth firs and gliding on the softest, smoothest powder I've ever seen.

"It's like whipped cream," my mountain guide says. And she's right.

I've never seen anything like it.

For further information on visiting British Columbia see www.hellobc.com
for further information on visiting Canada see www.canada.travel
Sarah-Jane was a guest of Destination British Columbia and Destination Canada.

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