The Canadian Alien; Sacrificing Snow For Love

By Fran Hardy
Picures by Fran Hardy and Rich Banard
Published March 2007

goodbye dry powder, hello dry slope; the Canadian Alien makes the most of UK terrain

Love over love. A new path in life, a bid to improve what might be. Sacrifice all you have lived for, to this end. This is what it comes down to, when faced with giving up what saved your life in the first place for a life so foreign, so inconceivable, you can't contemplate the idea in your head because you have no perception as to what you are to contemplate! One giant step for (a Canadian) man…

Nova Scotian born and raised, on the navy base in the Halifax capital and later in the quiet suburbia across the water, of Dartmouth, skateboarding came to be at the heart of his life. The freezing, white winters of his childhood were inevitably a call on his soul. Becoming involved in the local skateboard scene from adolescent years, a deep involvement, verging on obsession, with skateboarding quickly evolved into an equally empowered obsession with riding the snow that fell in the back yards around the housing estate he lived in.

His driving license became his ticket to the mountain temptresses up north. Weekendly trips to the uncelebrated Martock Hill one and a half hours away, became the stepping stone for a passion that was to drive his very existence and his life thereafter. The slight inclines in the back gardens of his neighbourhood enticed him like pirates' treasure, to hop over fences into the properties of the most un-expectant of neighbours seeking a few seconds of excitement.

After two full seasons at Martock, alternated with the formation of his own business, Skrap Sk8boards, back in Halifax, a call to the West coast followed. This was prompted by an ever growing feeling of dissatisfaction, not knowing where his life was taking him and a bout of depression that almost cost him his life. A move out west to Nelson proved to be the bold and refreshing initiative so desperately needed, but the move to Whistler that followed a year later provided him with a lease of life he never thought possible.

The Canadian Alien on home turf; Whistler skate park

With a humble upbringing, in a family struggling financially and with barely anything given to him, finding himself in the man made, mountain village of Whistler engulfed him in a wealth of opportunity giving him the first taste of luxurious living. Here, good health and prosperity ruled; the fruit machines and betting shops that were bludgeoning the lives of so many back East in his home town, were non-existent. This truly was a bubble of loveliness; hot tubs and six month long Christmas cheer over shadowed by one of the most beautiful landscapes the world contains within her. Here, the mesmerising views of the mountains and the fresh, clean air were daily gifts. The opportunity for career development presented itself and the purpose of life that had become so distant, now became clear.

Within 6 years, his reputation as an instructor for the Whistler Blackcomb Snowboard School left him at the top of his profession. Teaching private lessons, becoming the lead coach for snowboard camp 'Pro Ride' and being one of four or five delegated instructors left standing at the end of the season (out of the initial 1000+), leaving him teaching into the summer months proved the skill in what he did. The seriousness in which he took his profession, his hard working nature and the enthusiasm and deep passion that radiated through him and energised his pupils and riding comrades was to be the rationale for his success and the respect he had from all who knew of him and his sweet, earnest temperament earned him popularity and affection.

He thought he would be here forever and certainly never dreamed it was a world he would ever bid farewell to…

impressing the locals with a dry slope hand plant

Then in the autumn of 2003 life took an unexpected turn; finding his UK passport holding 'soul mate' and partner in crime made him face one of the biggest decisions his life had encountered.

Almost two years later he turned his back on the passion that had fuelled him mentally, physically and spiritually, giving up the life he had made himself in the village nestled and protected in the Coast Mountains in Western Canada, leaving in the prime of a career he had spent so long nurturing, leaving friends, a pension plan and medical benefits on a one way ticket to start afresh in a country he'd never been to. With the majority of his worldly possessions sold or given away, he boarded the London bound plane with only two bags leaving him to reflect on mountain life he forlornly left behind, unaware he was also leaving an obvious beauty of life that was to be replaced with a desperate search.

Suddenly he became an alien. An alien because his work in the mountains became substituted for work in a shop in the middle of the city, because the snow starved, sun starved country that surrounded him and over shadowed him with grey skies meant that wide open spaces were a thing of the past and secluded spots in the countryside were now a rarity. Regular snowfall had become regular rainfall preventing a regular involvement in the sport that made him; no skate board wheel runs smooth when wet! He now had to reckon with towns and cities riddled with congestion and public transport boasting the most expensive in Europe, whilst paying unjustifiably high taxes in a place where waiting lists for the NHS are deathly long.

from colouirs to concrete; the Canadian Alien still gets his rail fix, Bristol UK

But he knows he has met someone he will spend the rest of his life with, have his children with and share all his dreams, ambitions and aspirations with… because she is the same as him.

Life is about learning and about experiences, making sacrifices and choices, but there is value in virtually everything we do. We are always learning and growing as individuals and sometimes hard decisions have to be made and the future put before the present. As hard as life is sometimes, one has to meditate on the overall well being of one's destiny and make the most out of every twist life commands.

And this is what my Canadian Alien has had to do.

Following two years in Whistler's White heaven, Fran Hardy is now living back in the UK, planning her next great escape with her Canadian Alien.