New Year’s Eve: a time to reflect on the year that was, and look forward to the year that will be. But for me, I think at some point every December 31st, I reflect back to what was supposed to be the most epic of all New Year’s Eves, ever, for the entire world. That’s right, I’m talking about NYE 1999.
Where were you on the night of December 31st, 1999?
I’ll tell you where I was — Banff, Alberta, Canada.
Throughout my entire grade-school career, I’d heard glowing reports from fellow students all about their AWESOME family vacations in Banff.
I’d never been.
In the fall of 1999, a friend who was working for the summer at the High Country Inn reported they were in need of staff. I promptly hopped in my little Ford Escort and putted my way across the Prairies, to the new job that awaited me in Banff. Finally I’d see what all the fuss was about!
Being in the midst of the Banff National Park, the Town of Banff is heavily protected by the government (at least thus far…). There are a lot of rules about who can actually live there, one of the rules being that employers must provide employees with an affordable place to live. Therefore, I moved into staff accommodation downtown. I lived with my best friend Eliza, which turned out to be a bit of a challenge for our relationship as I learned that I can be a real jerk sometimes and also that I suck at cleaning bathrooms — which is perhaps a little ironic because that was a pretty big part of my job at the Inn (I was a housekeeper). Anyway, Eliza and I worked at our friendship and I have to say that if you can share a room with your best friend for eight months when you’re 21 and come out of it getting along better than ever, then you’ll probably be friends for life.
So, I could say a lot about what Banff was like in 1999. That’s 15 years ago, though. Heck, things had already changed a lot when Andrew and I visited in 2003. But I’ll tell you what stands out to me, in my memory.
It’s gorgeous. I think every morning when I stepped out onto the street and looked up at Cascade Mountain, the beauty took my breath away. I loved taking the trail up Sulphur Mountain with Eliza (and then taking the gondola down for free), and hiking the diminutive Tunnel Mountain, too.
There’s a lot of wildlife. Mostly elk. Being from a farm, I wasn’t that afraid of the elk, and so when I first arrived, when I’d see a pack of elk on the street, I’d just go up to them to pet them — you know, like a tremendous idiot. BECAUSE YOU SHOULD NOT DO THAT. This is how I learned that elk can be aggressive. I successfully scampered away and proceeded to hate them with a great passion. One day, a reporter from Calgary 7 News stopped me for a person-on-the-street interview. The question: “What’s your opinion on Banff’s growing elk population?” “Get rid of them!” I barked. “I hate them, they’re terrible, get rid of them all, do whatever you have to do!” That night at the condo, we turned on the TV, and there I was, on Calgary 7 News, yelling about elk. It was hilarious to my roommates. They recorded it. I recorded over it. (VHS! Yay 90’s technology!)
More things I remember about Banff: The skiing and snowboarding is fantastic. Not that I would know. I gave that up when I was in junior high. Instead, I just liked to hike. And, the hiking is phenomenal. Banff is a bit of a party town and if you’re walking down Banff Avenue at night you might see evidence of a different variety of wildlife. Another thing — tourists will step off buses holding their skis and stand there blinking up at the mountains, effectively blocking all sidewalk-traffic. Also, there are a lot of GREAT coffee places. And, the Bow River is very very blue:
Me and Holly, in one of Banff’s malls. She has the best laugh of anyone, ever. I was wearing a huge plaid skirt… probably because I wanted to hear her laugh as much as possible.
A lot of world-travelers make a stop at Banff for a few months on working visitor visas. (I may have got the name of that visa wrong… I’ve never needed to obtain one. Alberta was still part of Canada when I lived there.)
And now, I’ll have to be honest — I have NO PHOTOS from NYE 1999. But, do you remember the world-wide Y2K freak-out? I didn’t believe that would actually throw the entire world into crisis, but I do remember standing in the middle the crowd on Banff Avenue with Eliza, Nadine, and I’m not really sure who else, passing around a cigar and watching as the big clock outside Buffalo Bill’s ticked its way toward midnight. I glanced up at Tunnel Mountain, and wondered if we’d all have to head for the hills. I was pretty much ready to go.
I love this photo, taken by Eliza.
I don’t really have an elegant way to end this post, and we all know how the Y2K thing turns out. I guess we can talk about our hopes and dreams for 2015. I don’t know about you, but one of my goals for 2015 is to watch Back to the Future ll on November 5th. That will be awesome. Just like Banff was at the turn of the millennium.
Happy New Year!