Saturday, February 12, 2011

2/12/2012 Back from a ski day!

I'm totally psyched and all a-glow from a GREAT day with my GREAT boys!

We drove up to Truckee Friday night, stayed overnight at an inn, then got to the small ski resort Tahoe-Donner at about 8:10. This was plenty of time to get rentals and lift tickets, as it turns out, since the lifts (only two in the whole place!) didn't open until 9am. And we were there on line right before the lifts even opened!

It felt great to warm up on the bunny slope. The boys hadn't lost a step since our last trip, and Gabriel was barreling down in no time. He rode the surprisingly tricky lift again and again while I hung back to help Julian.

(See those houses? These are "ski-in ski-out" -- walk out your doorstep, and ski down to the lift!)

But would a Doudna ski trip be one without logistical challenges? Of course not. Julian had lost his goggles somewhere during the rental process, so had to borrow mine until I could traipse into the lodge to go look for them. Hence the oversized goggles that pushed down on his nose and made it hard for him to breathe.

This place is small, but it's laid out in such a way that means for a lot of hoofing around in ski boots. The lodge and racks are downslope from the lifts, so you have to carry your skis up and down this steep slope that's hard to walk on to take a break. It's remarkably inconvenient to get from one lift to another -- and there's only two!

Despite these challenges, I did find Julian's goggles, in the rental area lost&found, right in time for their 10am lesson.

When I dropped them off for the group lesson, I emphasized to the instructors that they are at really different levels. Aside from the brother problem, really, they don't belong in the same lesson.

I was way off. They are at different levels from each other, but were the only two of all the kids that showed up that morning who were clearly beyond the "magic carpet." As a result, the boys were in the same lesson, but it turned into a semi-private with one instructor -- just the two of them. This place wasn't kidding when they said they were oriented for beginners!

This worked out though. The instructor told me he'd taken them up the longer lift, then did some blue runs, and even a short "black diamond."

I should explain: at Tahoe-Donner, most of the runs are visible from the bottom of the lifts, and none of them look anywhere near as steep or long as Sierra-at-Tahoe's blue "Lower Main," including their "black diamonds." Of course, no ski resort can go without black diamonds, but all "black" meant was the hardest runs there, which weren't very hard.

During the boys' lesson, I explored the various runs and tried to remember all the good advice and exercises I'd gotten in lessons a few weeks ago. I saw people skiing on the "black diamonds" who skiied more tentatively than I do, and some really little kids with tethers too. I was intimidated at first, but found I had much more fun when it was steeper and had some more power (gravity, speed) to work with. Before long I wasn't even pausing before barreling over the edge of the top of a run, which now looked like a fun entryway rather than a terrifying precipice. My demo skis were better for me too; shorter and somehow slippery-er, or so it seemed, making it easier to position my feet.

The runs were wide, the conditions crusty but predictable, nothing like the sheets of icy stuff at Sierra-at-Tahoe a few weeks ago. It was completely uncrowded -- and virtually free of snowboarders! It was amazing how many people were there with little kids though. I think the biggest demographic was the 4-and-under set.

Over lunch, the boys and I chatted happily about our successful morning. I was struck looking into their eyes, especially in the bright ambient lighting in the lodge. Of course, as Mom I can never get enough of looking into my sons' eyes, but the contrast was fascinating.

Gabriel, pure and bright brown.

Julian, gray but darker and with brown framing his pupil, and overall rounder and larger:

My silly boys. There was no place I'd rather be than with them today!

After lunch, I took the boys on one of the easier blue runs that their instructor had taken them on....

...wait, once again, Julian's goggles went missing. His helmet clip didn't hold them on very well, and he lost track of them again. Of course he didn't discover this until we were about to get on the lift, so it was another major physical effort of taking skis off and huffing it down to the lodge to go look for them. Lost&Found #2 had them.

...back to skiing. To the blue! This didn't work at all. Gabriel was at the bottom in about 2 minutes, but Julian had no end of trouble. He fell again and again, mostly on purpose. He wouldn't turn, he was afraid of losing control, and would sit down and pretend to fall every time he picked up any speed. He'd done better than this while we were warming up, then in his lesson. What gives? This was no fun. He was just psyched out somehow.

I somehow coached him to the bottom, by getting him follow me. There I told him to wait for about 15 minutes while I took Gabriel up the other lift. I wanted to take Gabriel down the "black diamonds" I'd done, to see if he could do them safely.

And Gabriel did, and he had a great time. I never fail to be impressed with his enthusiasm and willingness -- no hesitation, no questions, just "Oh GREAT Mom!" On the lift he patted my arm to catch my attention, and I turned to look at him, and he was smiling at me. "What is it?" I asked, half-laughing. "Nothing, I'm just so happy to be with you," he said. Love and pride compete for the top spot.

No problem! He skiied in control and was able to stop, and didn't just bomb straight down. Good for him!

Gabriel had proven himself, so I told him to just go ride the lift and pick any run he wanted -- it's impossible to get lost at this tiny resort. All runs end up at the same place, and he'd just done the hardest run there. So, go for it dude. That was a huge advantage of this small place, I could send Gabriel off on his own without worrying.

I went back to find Julian, who was anxious for a bathroom break, then we tried the bunny hill again. After another run or two, he was doing much better, relaxing and practicing "jumps." There is a tiny "terrain park" (just bumps) next to the bunny hill and he liked taking those too.

By now the bunny hill lift lines were long, so Julian agreed to go up the big lift and try the "Mile Run," the long green from the top. I'd checked this one out before and overall liked it, though it has long flat spots at the beginning and the end. Julian really relaxed and had fun on this once he hoofed it past the dead zones. He did remarkably better when the terrain was more interesting and he had things around him to look at and distract him. It's a mental game with him -- when you turn off "mental" he does a lot better (just like Mom).

Gabriel joined us once on this run. I gave the boys some back shoves to push them along and tried to pull them with my poles in the flat spots. That's really a pain. Steep is better.

It was pretty warm too. Careful grooming keeps the snow in decent ski shape, but the snowpack seems really low. There were bare spots right next to the runs. Truckee has some of the highest snowfall in the nation some years, but not now.

I wanted to run the "black" with Gabriel again, and we were getting low on time, so I formed a plan. We'd all 3 go up the longer lift, Julian would ski down Mile Run on his own. Gabriel and I would take the black down (3 minutes), ride back up the lift (5 minutes), then take another black to shortcut to Mile Run and meet up with Julian. Basically, Gabriel and I would go up and shortcut twice while Julian skiied the long way around, and we'd end up in the same place. If we didn't meet up on the run, we'd meet at the bottom of the lift. No problem, all were game.

Except when Gabriel and I were done with our part, Julian wasn't there at the lift. We waited for a few minutes, but I knew he should have been there by now -- unless he'd fallen and couldn't put his skis back on and was stuck. The lifts were going to close in 10 minutes, so we went back up to run Mile Run in its flat green entirety to look for Julian. I was starting to regret my totally brilliant plan. The sun was getting low, it was getting colder, the lifts were closing, and I didn't know where my 7-year-old was.

Gabriel and I skiied down Mile Run quickly, but, no Julian. When we arrived at the end, there he was waiting at the lift (which was now closed). Phew!

But he was crying. "Where were you, Mom? I thought I was lost!" I felt terrible. I told him we went back to look for him, and we'd just gotten mixed up because we thought he'd be there waiting for us. "I was!" he insisted.

Later, the real story emerged. Julian had beaten us to the lift entrance, but he got back on it and went up again, against instructions. And, inexplicably, instead of taking nice safe slow Mile Run again, he took the blue run that he'd fallen on again and again when I'd taken him on it. Not only is that run much harder for him, but without careful planning and a lot of hoofing, it's hard to get back to the lift where he was supposed to meet us -- never mind that we'd never think to look for him there. But he did all this himself!

He'd met up with a snowboarder on the lift, and said that they talked about each other (ages and such), and that he told the boarder about Bey Blades. This is the worst part for a Mom: this guy was probably shaking his head at Mom: this kid is 7, what's he doing out here alone?! Yeah, well, good point. Other people were just as shocked at my letting Gabriel go on his own, though really this was not an issue there.

As it turned out, Julian totally stepped up to the plate when he was on his own, even if it scared him. He explained that he'd taken this route instead of Mile Run where we expected him to be because he thought it would be faster (true). He did fall a few times, but got back up and kept going. He even took the bumps on a small terrain park alongside the bunny hill. I felt bad that this last run was upsetting to him, but he recovered quickly and I think it was a confidence-booster in the end.

As we packed up to go, I told Julian to make SURE his goggles were on his arm -- NO LOSING THEM AGAIN!! The boys were in full mess-around swing by then, and I was immediately frustrated with how difficult it is to get them to listen to, let alone follow, the most basic instructions ("get in the car" "put on your seatbelt" "stop shoving each other" etc).

We stopped by the Vilbigs' house a few miles away, where we had a nice chat and a very welcome dinner. The boys went straight outside to play in the snow while I engaged in some welcome grownup talk, then came in when it was getting dark.

Then Julian said, "Wait, my goggles!" I assured him that I'd stashed them in his bag in the car. "No, Gabriel got them out of the car -- and then I hid them in the snow!"

Unbelievable. After all I'd done to keep custody of these hapless goggles today, he has to go bury them, and now it was nearly dark. "Well, I think I know where they are!" Gabriel and Julian set out with two borrowed flashlights to dig up the goggles, and they succeeded...mostly. They were out there for a long time, and only one of the flashlights came back at first. Upon prodding, they admitted they'd buried one of the flashlights too. What is wrong with boys sometimes?! Fortunately Gabriel was able to find it too, and we left with all our things and none of theirs.

The drive to Truckee the night before had been seriously impaired by traffic. Ric told me that I'd left at the worst possible time for hitting traffic on 680, though with school getting out at 2:40, it's hard to leave much earlier. I'd made a map mistake and blew my dinner plan for Marie Callendar's, so ended up at Arby's -- ick, but quick. Despite our foray into fast food, it took us well over 5 hours to get from Sunnyvale to Truckee.

But driving home from Truckee on Saturday night -- part of the plan -- was a breeze. The boys fell asleep immediately, I stopped once for gas and to wake them up for the only bathroom break we were getting. No traffic, and we were home in 3-1/2 hours.

These whirlwind overnighters are exhausting, as the drive is long. Some people even compress it into a single day, leaving at 4am! I can't imagine. Still, for all the logistical trouble and heavy carrying and expense, the highest moments make it completely worth it.

This particular ski area is attached to an enormous housing development that also has a snowplay area, a golf course, tennis courts, a marina, campgrounds, a recreation center -- a downhill ski area is just another amenity. So as ski resorts go, it's really small, but it worked perfectly for a single ski day. The lack of crowds and whooshing snowboarders was especially great, and it was so manageable that both boys could ride lifts and ski down on their own (Julian not intentionally at the end, but he did). And, Gabriel and I could really ski together. Yay! I have my skiing partner!

I'm even wondering if we can squeeze in another day trip somewhere before our trip to Sugarbowl coming up in March.

Life and the hamster wheel resume tomorrow, but I always have skiing to think about to cheer me up.


Original comments:

Julian had his up and down moments, but when he relaxed, he did great. He's starting on parallel turns on his own now, and even went on a very very mini-terrain park, and was practicing "jumps." He really liked Tahoe Donner's one longer green run and did parts of it entirely on his own. Confidence is his biggest challenge, but he made huge progress today. I was so proud of him today.

Gabriel did his first black diamond runs today, as did I, but I must qualify that most of the blues that we did at Sierra-at-Tahoe were harder than what this small resort calls "black diamonds." If I can ski them with confidence, they're not much. Still, I had the most fun on these runs and had some valuable sink-in practice.

Mostly, I was thrilled to see Gabriel in control and safe. Confidence, speed, courage -- not a problem with him. Control and safety are the bigger concerns and he totally met those concerns. I was so proud of him today.

This was just a simple one-day trip and deserves no more mention than that, but it's hard for me not to write every little detail, because it was all SO FUN!!!


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