Saturday, January 22, 2011

1/22/2011 3rd Ski Day: In the groove

Now that we were all in the groove, morning logistics were a snap. It helped that we'd forgotten to return the boys' helmets the day before (according to some law we unwittingly broke), so we could avoid the rental hut altogether.

I was adament about arriving before 8 when ski school opened to avoid long line waits, and that worked. We had everyone checked in and ready at 8:10am, with Katrina handed off to the 6-and-under care -- now what to do until 9:45am when their boys' lessons start? The lifts didn't even open until 8:30!

They waited for the lifts to open while I got my lift ticket, stashed my stuff in a locker, and geared up. I'm happy that the boys are off and running enough that I could tell them to just go to the Easy Rider Express lift and start skiing when it opened. They even rode it together without pushing each other off.

We had about an hour to play together on the bunny hill. This worked this time, but I still don't like that weird short time period to kill with 2 kids with very different skills. I can still hear a phone rep cheerfully telling me that we could just hang out in the lodge -- hello that's not what we're here for!

Julian was much better this morning, more confident and consistent.

Julian warming up for his 3rd day:

Gabriel was as usual raring to go, though he was more cautious in the little terrain park this time.

He made sure to prove to me he could stop.

We did a little "race" down this hill, and I won -- only because it's not steep. Gabriel claimed it was because I have poles.

Julian was more interested in skiing "together," and we had fun following each other's tracks. He can turn much more sharply than I can, so it was interesting practice for me.

I had scheduled an "early bird" private lesson for myself this morning, but Dave and I talked about it and agreed he'd get more out of it, especially to get over a fear hump and attempt a blue for the first time. Dave's instructor turned out to be my first lesson's teacher, a last-minute switch because they'd scheduled a snowboard instructor. Everyone is so nice at Sierra, but my goodness are they disorganized!

I definitely think this paid off; Dave's turns were noticeably improved and more parallel. Now he needs a lot of sink-in time, as we all do.

The last time up before ski school started, I rode the lift up with both boys. Julian wanted to demonstrate his self-invented "technique" of pushing himself off the chair, and ended up jumping off too early. He tripped forward, and only my pulling him out of the way kept him from getting mowed down by the chair. Then Gabriel stopped right in our path, almost tripping me. They had to stop the lift and retrieve Julian's skis, it was quite the little comedy. Afterward I had a talk with Julian about setting his skis down and standing up, not jumping off!

Being a Saturday, the whole place was far more crowded, but the adult ski lessons still ended up being small. Only 15 non-total-beginner skiiers showed up, and were divided into 3 groups. The two best skiiers were those volunteered themselves as "happy on all blue runs." I was 3rd, or first in the "blues but still nervous" category. So once again, I ended up in the most advanced lesson.

But I made the cut only because of some recent excellent instruction and practice -- my classmates were far more experienced, most held season passes and had skiied for at least a few years. My lack of seasoning really showed; I was much more thrown by changing conditions and patches of ice than the rest, and just didn't have their composure or consistency.

Our lesson, 5 women (later 4 when one got separated accidentally, bummer) started on Sugar'n'Spice, the long 2-1/2 mile green run, and Gabriel's lesson skiied by! I was very happy to see that Julian was not in it, and finally, Gabriel was in a matched group (though he told me later he was the only one in the group willing to try Lower Main, and was outvoted). One of the "happy blues" skiiers in my group said her 7-year-old daughter was also in Gabriel's lesson.

A few minutes later, we saw Gabriel's lesson go down a moderate blue, Hemlock. I didn't have much time to point out and brag about my son, because he was gone. Barrelled right down. Good for him! I'm glad that was the last we saw of his lesson, because it really distracted me and the other mom.

My instructor wasn't great this time. He did a few exercises, but so often the way he talked was "You do a turn like this..." and I couldn't tell if he was pointing out a mistake or explaining the way it should be done. Not every instructor is going to work for every student every time; and yesterday's instructor set a very high bar for me.

Still, I got a lot out of it -- other people to ski with, a small well-matched group, the courage to attempt runs I would never have otherwise, good practice, and still some instruction. I learned later he had us on a short upper less-steep section of a black and I'm sure glad I didn't know that at the time!!

Dave also took the group lesson after his private lesson (!), then we met up for lunch at the top again. That was great. He got there first, and beat the lines so that I was able to just walk in and my lunch was ready and waiting, and he'd scored a table by then. Add to that the complimentary slippers and beautiful view, and I was as close to heaven as it gets!

(How is it that I was able to get Dave to order my lunch and meet him at the top? Texting! This worked great, we texted a lot to coordinate, though there were some no-service areas.)

We skiied together after lunch, and I wanted to get one more video of me attempting Lower Main again. My lesson this morning had covered so much ice I figured I was getting used to it now (actually I wasn't), and my lesson hadn't covered my new nemesis, Lower Main.

Big tactical error though: instead of just filming from the top as we had the previous 2 days, we agreed on a spot for Dave to video from the bottom, but Dave ended up in a different place than I expected. Turns out, the video quality was too poor from that distance anyway, and we wasted much too much time trying to coordinate this. I don't know what I was thinking.

We made up for it with a from-the-bottom video of a short easy blue run, but video quality is ridiculous. I still wish we'd just done exactly what we'd done before with a short clip from the top of Lower Main, and spent more time skiing. It'd have been cool to see myself ski the same place three days in a row, though I didn't feel like I'd progessed much today.

But there was a good reason I didn't want to rerun Lower Main -- because we had only an hour left before picking up children, and I wanted to try some of the West Bowl blues that we'd done in my lesson this morning. Lower Main would force me to ride a lift again, and lines were still long. So after the video of "Short Swing," I thanked Dave and took off to run Beaver, ride up the West Bowl lift, and then take Escape back to the main lodge area to pick up kids. I'd done Beaver and Escape in lessons, and really like this whole area. Perfect for a last run.

But it wasn't perfect. I was much more tired than I'd realized -- cumulatively tired, or maybe because for the first time all day, I was alone and not stopping all the time. The ice seemed harder, and in places was obscured by something I wasn't used to: snow. Like the light fluffy white stuff. It stops you short, unlike the ice. Also, shadows were long and I couldn't see the terrain as I was used to -- probably a good thing but it threw me off.

So I seriously struggled down Beaver, a run I remember being easy and pretty and confidence-inspiring. When I got to the top to run Escape, the wind started blasting too. Just a reminder that just because we'd had beautiful mild spring weather, didn't mean Mom Nature forgot it's January high up in the mountains.

I had a very very tough time down Escape, skidding and sliding out of control on the ice, thighs begging to give out. All technique was lost, I was in survival mode, even though I knew technique was the key to survival!

Looking back up the slope when I'd made it -- barely -- down the steepest part, the sun rimmed the top of the slope beautifully, but my camera didn't catch it. This slope sure looks mild from here.

Later I learned that Gabriel's lesson had also gone down Escape and Beaver, and I had new respect for him. They're really not bad -- I'd done them several times without much trouble -- but for some reason that last run was brutal. Gabriel just gave a big smile and a thumbs-up when I asked what he thought of them. No confidence issues there!

It was greens back to the lodge, where I regretfully shifted into logistics mode. Dave had gone to pick up the kids, but it's never easy herding everyone into the car and not losing something.

We decided to go back to the lovely house we were staying in, have a snack, and let the kids watch TV while we packed up, and drive home that night. It wasn't quite that easy, but somehow we were driving away, with regret, by 6:30pm, and in Placerville for a promised dinner at Carrow's by 7:30 or so.

There we had to do something I've never actually done before: walk out of a restaurant. We waited 15 minutes just to be seated -- no line, no crowds, just one slow inefficient waitress. We were already very annoyed and hungry and ready to order when we were seated and handed kids' menus. "I'll get crayons for the kids," the waitress said, and that was the last we saw of her for another 7 or 8 minutes. We picked up Katrina, told the boys to get their jackets, and walked out.

Incredibly, across the street there was another open restaurant, where we were greeted, seated, orders taken and served in about 10 minutes.

We all fell asleep on the drive home (thank goodness because Katrina was one nonstop tantrum during and after dinner), and despite the ridiculous delay with dinner, were home by 11:30pm.

I couldn't sleep though. I was too excited, and slightly bothered, by a few things about our trip.

Reflections Section

In sum: I really liked Sierra-at-Tahoe for us, but I had some issues with the ski school.

On the 2nd day, Katrina had gotten to ride the chair lift and go down the bunny slope 3 times, with lots of help of course. She loved it and was so excited to do this again on the 3rd. But the 3rd day was more crowded, and she was put in a group with other 3-year-olds who just weren't ready for the chair, so she didn't get to go. What a missed opportunity. The whole reason to have 3 days in a row is to improve and build on what you learned the day before!

Seeing Gabriel zoom down Hemlock made me realize: what on earth were Gabriel and Julian doing in the same lesson at all, ever? The first day they were together all day, and the second day they were only separated because of Julian's ankle injury, and that's when Gabriel was able to take his first blues. Take a look at the videos of them -- do these two belong in the same lesson?? How could either of them get much out of a class they're in together?

In fact, on the 3rd day, Julian was demoted and spent his day on the bunny hill, after having held back his group for 2 days. He was in over his head that first day, and should have spent it on the bunny hill, then moved on to the long green later, instead of the other way around. Instead, he was intimidated and it set him back. He missed out on the most.

I can see that this misgrouping is a natural fallout from the way this -- and most -- ski schools are run. With walk-ins, you can't predict well how many kids at what levels will show up, so the group makeup depends on who shows up. That's understandable, but they didn't handle well what happens if not enough kids show up within a level.

From now on I'll ask every ski school how they'd handle an anomalous case like if one first-time skiier, one squarely blue skiier, and one double-black-diamond skiier showed up. That's tough for any school, but if they say "oh we'd put them together, the instructors can handle it," that's a flag.

Ironically, my concern about the larger classes was misplaced: the larger classes meant less of a spread of ability within a class, and enabled the class to move within that level. 3 mismatched skiiers is worse than 5 well-matched skiiers. (Many kids take snowboard lessons, further decreasing the pool of kid-skiiers.)

Sugarbowl has an unusual reservation-only system, so they can guarantee the small class, but more importantly, they can plan instructors for the number of levels, as well as the number of kids. If only one kid who can do blues shows up, then that kid essentially gets a private lesson.

Sugarbowl's method also allows for better continuity -- if they know one kid will be there for 3 days, they can plan (though don't always) for the same instructor. If Katrina had graduated to the chair lift on the 2nd day at Sugarbowl, she certainly would have gone on it again on the 3rd.

Julian benefitted tremendously from having the same instructor 3 days in a row at Sugarbowl -- and no Gabriel hot on the instructor's heels. To be fair, Gabriel and Julian were also separated by age last time; this time they were both in the "7-12" age group that all places have. But if we'd gone to Sierra last year, Julian and Katrina would have been in the same age group "3-6" and that wouldn't have worked either.

Sugarbowl also has a much more efficient rental and check-in system, so they don't have to allow these ridiculous gaps of time for everyone to wait on long lines. That late start time was a real pain, every parent I talked to complained about it. But with their tiny kids' rental hut and check-in office, that time is needed.

As much as I've focused on Gabriel not getting enough, he's going to advance and learn with only the slightest provocation. It's really Julian and Katrina who needed the super-special attention that we'd gotten spoiled with at Sugarbowl. Julian needs it for timidness (not all kids are "fearless"), and Katrina needs it for age. To my amazement and delight, she's all over skiing. I should start taking bets for how long it'll be before she outskis me. I give it 2 years, 3 tops.

This would be a good time to point out that Sugarbowl's ski school also costs twice as much.

But now for the flip side. For me and Dave, Sierra was much better. It has more green runs than just about anywhere, with good fast lifts even on the most crowded bunny slope. Getting to the various lifts was easier; seemed we did a lot more schlepping between lifts at Sugarbowl. I was quite entertained on the long, pretty greens, and more than challenged by the numerous blues that run off them. Dave and I could ski together for part of the day, and even unwittingly explored some new greens together, one that was unusually clean of the scourge of snowboarders. (Dave wasn't crazy about the narrow runs, but I love them the best.)

I also got much more out of the lessons at Sierra (day #3 guy notwithstanding): the small group size, the longer duration (2-1/2 hrs), longer runs meaning fewer interruptions for lifts. And they were run better, ironically. They had everyone do a test-ski to place us into groups; Sugarbowl took our word for it too much and one of my lessons got held up by a guy who tried to walk down the slope after discovering he couldn't ski it. Of course, testing everyone is a lot easier with only 15 non-first-timers instead of 50, and when your crowded bunny hill has a fast lift.

And the food was a lot better at Sierra! I really liked the BBQ place at the top. And the complimentary slipper and boot-warming service!

To be fair, we didn't give Sugarbowl a complete chance; there's a whole other side to it that we never got to. But overall I really liked Sierra-at-Tahoe better, it was just prettier (when I wasn't target-fixated and blinded by fear that is) with better, longer runs, ice notwithstanding.

But right now, I think it's most important that the kids get up to speed. I'd hoped to take just the boys on one-day ski trips after this, but that won't work -- Julian just isn't there yet. Also, I'm not good enough to keep track of Gabriel. He's brave but inexperienced and I'd feel a lot better about seeing him plummet straight down blues if I could catch him quickly and head him off if needed. There's no way we can all 3 ski together yet.

This is an awesome dilemma to have, with so many excellent ski areas so close by. Still, given the importance of ski school quality, I'm not sure it's much of a dilemma: it's looking like Sugarbowl again in March!


Boy Trouble

[ Documentation note: I'd originally written this in the above text, but it's not really about skiing. Still, it is part of the whole family experience, so I'll keep it here. ]

Though our ski trip overall went really well, we still had some kid trouble. Katrina again was awful in restaurants, and around mealtimes in general. But the boys really took the cake when we were trying to pack up to leave Saturday.

While packing up to leave, I had a horrible conflict with Gabriel, then Julian, both of whom were so hyped up they couldn't follow the most basic instructions. All I needed them to do was to change out of their snow clothes and into regular clothes, and they were completely ignoring me. I had to ask, repeat, threaten, shout. Then I actually had to undress them and set out their regular clothes, and still all they did was throw things and mess around.

When I came back upstairs once to investigate screeching and found Gabriel whipping Julian with his shirt, I lost it. I pinned him down to the ground, kneeled on his legs and held his hands back with one hand, and used my other hand to whack his underpants-covered rear end as hard as I could, as many times as I could. Incredibly, about 5 minutes later I had to do that again when he flatly refused to do something again.

Julian never needs a spanking that serious, but he earned his own too when he too refused to get dressed (we're 30 minutes now into the most simple of instructions) and started yelling and saying "I DON'T HAVE TO!"

I was frustrated to tears that a fun ski trip had to end this way. Though with older kids we're long past most of the "positive parenting" advice, I still instinctively refer to it in my head, almost as a checklist to confirm to myself that there's nothing else I can do. It never really applied when a parent just needs to dictate something for kids to do, and done in a timely way. Sometimes that's just the reality of childhood and life: you just have to cooperate. There's no finding another way to put it, no charts or stickers, no phrasing it positively, no ignoring. Changing your clothes is a pretty low bar.

My real aggravation was directed at myself, from lacking the additional energy to get them to put away their own snow gear into their own bags. What am I, their valet? Why should it be such a fight to get them to help? Instead, I chose to seethe inside while catering to my spoiled children, and put away their snow clothes rather than take on a major ugly fight again.

At least the very un-positive physical "communication" did break the boys out of their mess-around mode and actually calmed them down. I really, really, really wish there were other ways to do that.

Meantime, Katrina was downstairs on a couch hugging a stuffed animal, having peacefully changed out of her wet snow clothes and submitted to a quick bath. Positive parenting would point to her as an example of a successful method. I'd say it's just a child who likes to change her clothes.

Friday, January 21, 2011

1/21/2011 2nd Ski day: Sun, sun, go away!

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!!


Thursday, January 20, 2011

1/20/2011 1st Ski Day: Logistics

Phew! We made it!

I never fail to be impressed with how difficult logistics of skiing are -- and I have a talent for attracting fiascos -- but we're knocking off the big ones.

I used my individual tote-bag method again for everyone's gear -- with a checkoff list this time. And this time, no one was missing anything.

Our place was adorable, spacious and really quite perfect.

With plenty of friends for Katrina. (The boys were forbidden to touch the animals after I found Gabriel whirling one from its arm to whack Julian.)

This particular ski resort complicated planning, with being difficult to reach and having a lousy Web site. Other little things took me by surprise, such as kids' ski school rental equipment either has to be re-rented every day, or brought home. Another surprise was that helmets were not included in the rental package, so I had to go back and wait on another line to get a sticker to rent the helmets.

But by far the biggest irritation is that the older kids' ski school lesson doesn't start until 10am. We were the first there when they opened at 8:30am, having been admonished to check in early so as not to lose our reservation, but they didn't tell us that once we had the kids checked in and geared up, we'd have to wait around with them until 9:45. And we needed that time to get Dave's rentals and our lift tickets so that Dave and I could safely make 10:15am lessons.

Which Dave did, and I sort-of didn't. Thanks to getting my borrowed ski's bindings adjusted, I was late for the 10:15am lesson and had to join it on their second triage run, in which they sort out your skill level. There were two groups, one of which Dave was in, so I figured I probably belonged in the other one.

The headaches mostly ended there. The snow conditions weren't great -- it was too warm, so icy in the morning and wet and heavy in the afternoon -- but part of learning is learning in all conditions. The un-ideal conditions combined with the weekday meant that Dave only had 1 other person in his lesson, and there were only 2 others in mine!!! That was great!!!

It was great to start working on things I'd learned before and adding new things. My instructor took us on what looked to me like far, far too steep a slope for me, but calmly advised us how to tackle what looks too steep. I had a lot of trouble my first time down, but the next time I went down without stopping and with a lot less fear. Progress!

That's the ugliest view at Sierra-at-Tahoe. This slope, Lower Main, would become my nemesis. I think I was more scared every time I skiied it (psych!).

After my lesson, I ran into the boys' class and rode the lift up with Gabriel, then forewent lunch to take some pictures.

This was at the top of Sugar'n'Spice, the 2.5-mile green run that brought us here.

I felt a little bad that Gabriel complained about the morning; he'd been put on the "magic carpet" as all kids are at first, to see how they ski. Despite my admonitions not to, they still put Gabriel and Julian in the same class, mostly because there weren't that many kids, and Gabriel wasn't advanced enough to join another group.

I could see that Gabriel was raring to go, he wanted to really ski, but Julian held the class back. Julian was doing fine, but he's younger and not as confident and really didn't belong in the same class.

The teacher said later that Gabriel had started doing parallel turns on his own and had advanced a level. I decided to talk to them tomorrow and "Mama Bear" a little, to put Gabriel in a more advanced class. Even if he's the worst skiier in the group and has to face much harder slopes than he's ever done, this is one kid I don't worry about being fearful or intimidated. need to push.

Katrina was perhaps the biggest surprise. She did "pizza" wedges on her skis, didn't want to hold onto a bar that helps the little kids, and did everything willingly. Her coach was surprised at my surprise, and I explained that she usually resists new things on principle, and has never exhibited much natural athletic talent. But she was one of the best in her class and had a great time!

I mostly had Dave in mind when I picked this resort for its long green run from the top. And indeed, he got a lot of necessary practice. With motorcycling, he learned slowly and steadily and safely, and eventually became one of the most consistent and reliable riders in a group for tough terrain. He describes his learning need as "saturation," so being able to spend 20 minutes skiing instead of 20 minutes waiting on a lift line and skiing 2 minutes (as was the case at Sugarbowl) perfectly meets our objectives.

I took this video to show him how he skis, but it's pretty funny because of the little kid who blows by both of us.

Toward the end of our run, we were running out of time to go pick up the kids, so I decided to tackle Lower Main again, the (for me) tough blue run I'd done in my lesson. I handed the camera to Dave for the top part of it, and I'm shocked at what it looks like. At the time, I felt like I was barely in control, doing everything I could to keep my speed in check and practically panicking before each turn. Yet the video makes that slope look SOOO easy and I look like I'm going SOOO slowly and my technique is terrible. And I thought I was skiing way better than that -- bleh! Nothing like a little video reality check!

Clearly it will be a long, long time before I can tackle moguls. The lifts went over some today, and that sort of technical terrain has me piqued. I've never been a speed demon, I like the mental stuff. Though, seeing a snowboarder tumbling down today, head over heels, completely out of control, stuff flying everywhere, headed for a massive pole was very very sobering (by luck he missed the pole and a drift slowed him down, he was OK).

We're all very tired and ready for day two!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

1/18/11 Last day!

It was hard not to have senioritis at work today, though I was very busy -- a good thing. Still, though I'm feeling increasing pressure to complete several tasks, I did think a few times, "hey at the end of the day, I'm DONE for a few days -- yippeee!"

Tonight all I've done is make lists of to-dos, making tomorrow especially busy. Someday we'll have this snow trip thing down to a science, but right now it's in the early stages of art -- that splattery random messy kind of art. Especially with my unequaled prediliction for logistical fiascos.

Everyone's very excited, though I'm concerned about Katrina's cough. Let's hear it for kids healing fast!


Monday, January 17, 2011

1/17/2011 Home sick

I stayed home from work today, due to nighttime coughing and the resulting sleep deprivation. As coughs go, this is trivial, but it's still an annoying lingering cough. And now Katrina has a cough too.

We all better be perfect by Wednesday!

Our ski trip comes during the last weekend we have for a book report of Gabriel's, so I've had him work on it two days now. This one is a sports book report, and he picked bobsledding. The writing is the easy part (to get him to do, mostly, though he does complain and resist a lot), but this report also includes a crafting project. D-R-A-G. Maybe I'll just do as others do and just do it for him.

I saw my doctor today to get some industrial-strength cough medicine, and he admonished me again for taking on "too much." I told him the #1 thing I want to drop from my life is the craft projects our school makes parents do. He actually offered to write a "doctor's note" to get me out of it, because of the stress it places on the family. Wow, getting out of schoolwork with a doctor's note -- I felt like a kid again! (I graciously declined; this is something we have to deal with as ...well, grownups. Ew.)


Sunday, January 16, 2011

1/16/2010 Sniffle, sneeze

I never get head colds! But I have one now. What a drag. I don't recommend chest colds either -- which history would indicate this will become -- but the nonstop nose-blowing and frequent sneezing is NO FUN.

Another problem is stomach pain, and it's hard to tell if it's related or not. It was bothering me enough to motivate me to go out for a short run, which is often the only relief. It didn't help the stomach, but it did lift the spirit -- it was a beautiful, warm, almost balmy day.

Still, I had a hard time appreciating the nice weather. It's January for Pete's sake. It's supposed to be cold(-ish) now. And since we're driving up to the snow in 3 days, it BETTER be cold!

Gabriel is so excited that he packed all his clothes tonight. I can't wait either!