I never thought in a million years I'd ever say this, but, it's TOO WARM!
Even starting out this morning on our 2nd ski day, there were wafts of beautiful spring breezes, carrying sunshine and warmth on them. No! It's supposed to be winter!. Though it sure is nice not to be absolutely freezing, it also makes for crusty icy conditions in some places, and heavy wet slushy in other places. And we get hot and sweaty skiing -- I'd never have believed that!
To my surprise, it turned out just fine anyway, and we all had a great ski day -- even if not all of us knew it.
This morning we had far fewer logistics to deal with, so we all had some time on the bunny slope to warm up. It was freshly groomed, but crusty and hard-packed, the "polar" opposite of the fluffy stuff we had last March.
Gabriel (green jacket) and Julian (blue jacket) in typical form (zoom, boom).
(Most people here call it "icy" but most people here haven't skiied in Vermont either. It's nothing like the sheer sheets of clear exposed ice that permanently ingrained PTSD for me from my few experiences as a teenager.)
This didn't slow Gabriel down at all on his warmup run. You can see we were among the first on the slope today, since the grooming lines are almost untouched.
The hard crusty stuff definitely affected Julian, who didn't want to go fast, but didn't want to turn either. This is kind of a problem for a nervous beginner.
But he still tried on his own, he didn't expect me to hand-hold or anything. Good for him!
This bunny slope also has a beginner "terrain park," which I learned later are all over this ski area. Gabriel was very anxious to try it, and took a big spill his first time. Naturally this didn't intimidate him out of trying it again.
This is a rare moment: four of us! (Katrina was already at her ski school -- thank heavens the 6-and-under set can be dropped off right away.)
After some warmup practice, we dropped the boys off at 9:45 and went to the group lesson area. Unlike at Sugarbowl, all adult ski lessoners are taken to the top of the bunny slope and evaluated one at a time, no matter what they say about their ability. Also unlike our Sugarbowl experience, there were far far fewer skiiers and no group ended up being larger than 4 students. And especially unlike our Sugarbowl experience, I ended up in the most advanced group, because there weren't any black-diamond groups at all. The super-duper never-done-it-before beginner classes, however, were packed.
I had an awesome lesson. I mean, really, really great. A very technical instructor who did a lot of exercises with us, which completely appeals to the technical, literal, pick-it-apart, unintuitive way I learn. We crossed the slope balancing only on one leg, we skiied turns with legs lifted, we held our poles like they were swords and tried to draw circles as we were turning, we were told to imagine tattoos on our inside thighs that we wanted to show off as a way to visualize leading with the inside leg on a turn. He was also a very funny guy and made all sorts of rancid jokes about those tattoos on inner thighs. Definitely an "adult" class.
He had us all thinking so hard about the exercises that we didn't notice we were skiing steep blue runs that normally would intimidate the heck out of all of us. My classmates -- a remarkably well-matched group of 2 women and 2 men -- all agreed with that assessment. Somehow we all did far far more than we thought we could, yet no one felt pushed or intimidated.
We also went to the "West Bowl" section that has a lot of shaded, tree-lined runs that I just love. The snow isn't as crusty -- in fact it was actual snow, the terrain varies a little more, and it's just so pretty. I really prefer this sort of run over the big wide exposed ones.
I felt like a completely different skiier after this lesson. I'm still a new intermediate skiier who needs a lot of sink-in time, but I've definitely turned a corner.
Dave's lesson was good too, though he was limited by a quirk in the way they run their lessons: he's at a beginning enough level that his classmates had bought the "beginner" package and had limited lift tickets, so this class couldn't go on the 2-1/2 mile green run as he had yesterday. Ironic that this place advertises this green run as a great way for beginners to practice, yet you have to buy the "intermediate" package to get the right lift ticket. Still, he got a lot out of his lesson, and by the end was learning parallel turns.
Dave and I had lunch at the top of the mountain, where we were treated to beautiful views of Lake Tahoe -- and complimentary boot-warmers and slippers!! I loved the break from tromping around in heavy ski boots. And this view of Lake Tahoe is unbelievable.
You could also see the lake from the lift.
The views from here I won't be seeing for a long time (note the black diamond signs).
Many people were eating out on the sun deck, it was so warm. Dave and I had stashed most of our cold-weather stuff, though I stopped short of losing my jacket. I had been concerned my jacket wouldn't be warm enough, but today I regretted that it doesn't have "pit zips" to let some air in. People were out there in T-shirts!
We don't have a lot of time after lunch before we have to pick up the kids at 3:30, but we did do some skiing together. We explored a green run called "Wagon Trail" that ran down the back side, and was amazingly deserted. Other runs are packed with zooming snowboarders, but we barely saw anyone. It was narrow with dropoffs and varied a lot -- reminding me a lot of wonderful dirt roads we used to ride on motorcycles in the Sierras. I loved this run, and thought Gabriel would too.
Dave had a harder time with the narrowness -- we new skiiers need width to turn to control our speed! And he's never liked dropoffs, which as a motorcyclist never bothered me much. This run varied enough to have some short steep cambered curved sections that intimidated him, but he made it down safely, if not overjoyed about it.
This run takes you to an ancient 2-person lift that carried us over an advanced terrain park, with people doing flips and turns in the air. COOL!! I loved it. I'd love to do that if I could ever get to that skill level -- even if I would be 30 years older than everyone else there. I was impressed to see some really good girls there too.
I asked Dave to take video of me on the same run he had yesterday, to exercise my new skill. But -- this is a tough blue run, and it has all the elements I don't like: it's exposed, it doesn't vary much, it's icy and hard-packed and really isn't very pretty. My lesson this morning finished here, and we all agreed it was the hardest run we'd done, even though our instructor breezed down it and said that ice was better than slush.
So of course I had to do it again today, because chickening out bothers me more than the discomfort of being scared. And I thought I'd see a huge improvement over yesterday.
Nope. Just as ugly and slow, though I did have more fun this time, and a huge gloating sense of satisfaction when I knew I was home free. Take that, fear! Nyah! For this moment, I'm bigger than you!
(I couldn't persuade Dave to move to a better video vantage point -- maybe tomorrow.)
I went to pick up Gabriel a little early, to take him on Wagon Trail, but his lesson wasn't back yet. This gave me a chance to chat with Katrina's teacher, where I learned some wonderful news: Katrina went on the "Easy Rider" chair lift today, and down the bunny slope on skis 3 times!!!!! I was hoping she'd make it to the "magic carpet" once, but she went well beyond that!
Her teacher (different from yesterday) said she wasn't afraid, she was really excited about the lift and skiing, she loved the wind on her face, and the only thing that held her back was the 3-year-old in her class in the first half of the day. After that, all she wanted to do was ski! AWESOME!!! Of course she has no idea how to stop or anything, so completely needs an instructor with her at all times (not a wobbly intermediate-level parent), but she's well on her way!
Julian and Gabriel's class arrived, where I got the lowdown on them. They had been in the same class at first, but things shifted around a lot. Julian fell hard once and hurt his ankle, which we learned during the course of the evening was a much bigger deal than we first realized. He was crying (he complains a lot but generally doesn't cry unless he really means it) and seemed unable to stand at first. Ski Patrol arrived with a toboggan, but by then he'd shaken it off enough to ski back to the lodge, where they iced it and he hung out until almost the end of the day, except for one last run. So he was OK, but missed a lot.
This incident and other things forcibly put Gabriel in a different class, and he tackled some blue runs today.
It's hard to tell, but my feeling is that the most accessible blue runs that come off the green runs at Sierra-at-Tahoe are harder than those at Sugarbowl. Gabriel had been anxious to try harder slopes, but he didn't have much good to say about his blue experience today. He fell a lot, the icy-ish conditions threw him off, and he felt he didn't have much control. His instructor said otherwise: he's a natural, he has a lot of confidence, he totally goes for it with everything, and is "good to go" on blues now.
I took Gabriel on one last run, and suggested we try some of those blue runs he'd done in his lesson, but he had no interest. He wanted to do "Sugar'n'Spice," the 2-1/2 mile green run where he was comfortable. I couldn't talk him out of it, but that's what he wanted to do, so, OK! But in return, Mom gets a picture at the top!
He was either tired or rattled by his blue experience, since he didn't ski as fast or crazy as usual.
With my new skill and on this easy run I had no trouble passing him or catching him -- though on the very steepest sections he still doesn't slow down and I do. I'll get over that.
Despite the absurdly warm weather and the resulting unideal snow conditions, it was really a great day. Dave felt uncomfortable in the afternoon, though he's really doing just fine -- learning at an even pace and having the expected ups and downs. I told him that's how I felt learning motorcycling -- it was more fear than fun in the beginning.
Skiing is all about lack of traction and occasionally injecting a little here and there; whereas dirt motorcycling is about managing the gobs of traction you do have and releasing a little here and there. So this is all upside-down to him. But even if he's on an uncomfortably steep part of his learning curve, he's learning every hour he's out there. I'm really proud of him for keeping at it; it's not easy to leave your comfort zone.
This definitely wasn't Julian's best day either, and I think he of all the kids is suffering the most from this style of ski school -- which is typical and and just fine, but he did a lot better with Sugarbowl's defined, consistent small classes (no shifting around or being put with a brother who's much better than you).
Gabriel was taken down a necessary peg or two, which tells me he learned a lot, and in areas he needed to learn (such as, you do need to turn and stop). But I doubt this will dampen him much tomorrow. And Katrina and I are raring to go and ready for more!!
I just hope it's colder tomorrow!!