Monday, April 11, 2011

4/11/11 Ski bum day

I went skiing today!!!!!!

I was on the bus at 4:15am, and after two stops, at Sierra-at-Tahoe by about 9:00. It was warm but not super warm -- cooler than the last time I'd been there, with everyone last January.

One thing that was different was a lot more snow. A deck shot of Lake Tahoe at the top of the Grandview lift in January.

(January 2011)

Same place today (notice the sign in the corner to identify snowfall).

(April 2011)

I had enough time for a run or two before a 10:15am lesson, and immediately tackled my former nemesis slope Lower Main. Piece'a'pie! The conditions were better than last time we were here (none of that crusty stuff Californians whine about as "ice"), but our recent 3 days at Sugarbowl (and 3 great lessons for me) really played in too. Lower Main is officially mine.

Lesson time -- lucky me, my favorite instructor from our January trip to Sierra-at-Tahoe remembered me, and made sure to teach my "group." Which turned out to be a group of 1, since I was the only one at my level.

My instructor was quite the cut-up with his raunchy jokes, but I really liked his technical instruction and exercises and making me do the exercises for an extended time. He was great at judging when I needed to just ski and stop thinking, and when I had to think! I like the thinking part, I really need to be told exactly what to do, and was concentrating to hard on what to do that I wouldn't notice that I was on a slope I'd normally shift into survival mode. Though for some reason skiing appeals to the bottom of my heart, I'm no natural. Whatever few talents in life I was granted, skiing wasn't among them. I'd happily trade spelling for skiing.

I also think my instructor liked my happy demeanor. I once heard a woman greeting her instructor with, "I don't like skiing -- I'm only doing this because my husband wants me to." That can't be fun to teach to! I tell instructors no, I can't do that; no, never done that, well, sorta, but it could use a lot more work -- BUT -- lemme at it, take me to the trees or terrain park or black diamons and tell me what to do, please!!

After a lot of exercises, my instructor took me on some cut-up mogul-y stuff under a lift (parallel to slope "Clipper," under the lift "West Bowl Express") twice. This time wasn't flailing for my life, though it wasn't pretty. I actually sort of knew what to do and wasn't terrified, though my trip down was hardly elegant.

I daresay that my instructor expressed some respect in how willing I was to try things so far beyond my ability. Instructors really like it when ski students are willing and have a great time, even when they're scared and stink at something. That's me! Scared and stink!

"Are you up for an adventure?" he asked. Like you have to ask! Of course! OK, so, here's the adventure.

This was great -- lots of slipping and sliding to tack across a wooded area to get to "Avalanche Bowl", another cut-up area with short but very steep chewed-up spots. Still, "short" is relative -- 10 feet of impossible "short" is still "impossible." "Com-MIT!" he'd call to me to persuade me to turn decisively and aggressively. This was no place to think about it -- make a plan, fast, and stick to it. (Another basic principle that carries over from dirt riding.) I had no choice except to humiliate myself by calling for ski patrol, and besides, I wanted to try the precipices.

This photo is cruel in its inaccuracy -- realy, Avalanche Bowl is for real, and well above anything I've done before! And SOOOOOOO fun.

After my most awesome private lesson, I thanked my instructo profusely, then took a lunch break. I was still tired, but wasn't going to lose one scrap of a second of skiing time before I had to get on the bus.

I stuck to the West Bowl area, and did Clipper (the main black diamond in the area) numerous times, especially since the afternoon sun was bringing out the worst in spring skiing: the sudden slowdown. It's freaky -- you're zipping along in the shade and then all of a sudden it's like someone hits the brakes in the sunny snow. With trees casting long shadows across the slopes, this makes for a very unpredictable stop-start sort of feeling. The steeper slopes are actually easier to ski in those conditions. Blacks turn to blues in spring; I'm under no illusion that I could zip down Clipper in January!

A kind man took some video for me. Only the first 10 seconds worth it. I didn't have a groove on here, but it probably wouldn't show up anyway.

I went on a blue run (Dogwood) that I'd done in January, and couldn't resist a tempting grove of trees next to it. How lost could I get?

Well, pretty lost. You might basically know where to go (downhill), but it's not at all clear how to get out. I thought I was taking a little detour off of Dogwood and would get right back on it, but instead I dropped into another bowl and was well below where I'd dropped in, and had no choice but to head away from where I'd planned to return to. The snow was really soft here, and with all the trees, I wasn't really "skiing,", though I did a lot of slipping sideways. I was pretty sure if I kept going in one direction I'd reach Clipper again, but I had a few moments of not being so sure about that, and wondering how good the cell service was!

Moments after taking this photo, I found the way out and stuck to the trails after that. This was no time to get lost or more likely, stuck -- I had a bus to catch!

I topped off the day with Lower Main one last time, skiing it as well as I've skiied anything, especially considering how tired I was by then. For the first time, I felt like I was really skiing. Still shaky, still inconsistent, still lots of rookie mistakes, but starting to solidify base-level competence and fill in some gaps. That's why I was here today. A perfect way to finish off the season for good!!

The bus ride home was fun too. I chatted with a few young guys, all snowboarders, including a really interesting one from Sweden who lives in Norway. His Norwegian ID wasn't accepted at Safeway, so I bought his six of beer for him. Now that's the way to make friends with a bunch of ridin' dudes! Mostly I was in sharp observation mode: it won't be long before my sons will be their age. One young man told me his mom never took him camping or skiiing or airshows, and he said in it a way that I self-servingly take to mean that this means something to little boys. I hope so. It sure means the world to me.

The ski bus has its problems -- I got lucky and my bus wasn't packed, so I was able to sleep a little. It's hard to sleep even with two seats. But I loved, LOVED feeling taken-care-of! No driving, navigation, scheduling dilemmas, packing and especially, no caring for kids. I'm truly psyched to ski with the boys when Julian is ready, and when Gabriel can carry his owns skis.

What a phenomenal day! I'm exhausted, but SO psyched! That was total fun!! I can't believe I have to wait until November to do it again!


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