Mountainwatch | Words and Photos TJ Balon
TJ Balon is a Canadian-born professional photographer who has been living in Melbourne for 25 years. His Australian wife Mon runs two snow online retail stores, plusnow.com.au and skiandboardonline.com and they have two kids, Ellie, aged 11 and Finn, 8.
The family moved to Revelstoke at the start of the 2019/20 winter, TJ working for the CMH Heli ski while Mon continues to run her online business. They were planning on returning after this winter, but are now looking at extending for another year.
Revelstoke and the rest of Canada is missing you. From the friendly smiles of the lifties, to the bartender having a laugh behind the bar with their seasonal brothers and sisters, to the families who choose to spend their tourist dollars in little ski towns like Revy, frothing in the powder and the steeps – we miss all of you.
It’s been a strange year in Revelstoke to say the least, but at least they haven’t taken away our skiing and snowboarding – as of yet. Last March when we went into full lockdown for seven weeks, we weren’t allowed into the mountains and were robbed of all of our spring skiing. The reason made sense – to save the small medical system in town in case a large outbreak occurred. Thankfully it never came, and it meant a truly enjoyable summer, full of mountain bikes and hikes.
Now winter is back, and the hill is open, but along with it a massive second wave and a scary one at that. As everyone from across the country moved back into town for yet another epic winter, they brought the virus with them. It got very real all of a sudden and our little bubble in a bubble felt extremely violated, almost attacked.
Within two weeks we had 50 cases in town and the whisper everywhere was that the hill was going to close. Thankfully we are in a small but resilient town. The mayor said stay home, stay safe for a couple weeks and we can beat this and thankfully, we did. The official report is that since February we have had 55’ish cases in town total.
Now masks are mandatory in BC anywhere you go inside. Businesses are doing the very best they can to survive, but with an order to limit non-essential travel there are very minimal tourist dollars to go around. Most of the Heli ops in town are running amazing locals deals at up to 50% off just to stay afloat. Others like CMH, have limited their operations all together until they feel like it’s safe and responsible to bring guests from out of province to join them in their famous lodges. They’re sure that they don’t facilitate an outbreak in the tiny communities that they are part of. It is a truly strange year not hearing the sounds of helis buzzing through the valley with guests on edge for their next day out in the pristine backcountry of British Columbia.
Thankfully (a word I’m using a lot this year) the hill is open and with the travel limitations the numbers on the mountain are made up by a majority of locals. It’s an experience we will probably all remember for the rest of our lives. Whenever in your life can you say you say that you skied or rode a massive resort with you and a few hundred of your friends and neighbors, and no one else?
No lift lines, great snow, storm system after storm system resetting the mountain every few days and we have a few months of winter still to go.
Dreamy but at the same time… eerie. The buzz on the hill is still there, but it’s different. Without all the people in town with their beaming smiles and exhausted legs, it’s different. Without being able to go and have an après drink and snack anywhere you want in town, it’s different. And without hearing all the Aussie accents, except my family’s, it’s different.
We miss you Australia, and we promise not to waste this opportunity we have been given to live over here for a couple seasons and will make some turns and get some face shots for all of you.
Stay safe Australia and we will see you when it’s safe. Peace and pow. – TJ