Saturday, March 17, 2012

3/17/12 March Ski Trip Day 1: Bluebird Day

Today was, I learned, a "Bluebird" day. That means a blue-sky day the day after a snowfall. It was also called a "powder day," though there appears to be disagreement about what defines a "powder day" and how long they last. I heard many people say this was the first powder day of the season though, or at least the closest to a "powder day" the Sierras get!

I never fail to be amazed how difficult it is to herd kids. Between the front door and the car this morning, one shirt was soaked to the point of needing changing, and two pairs of goggles were buried and lost. How is it my kids can't make it 20 feet to the car without these massive hassle-creating calamities?

All 3 kids were in all-day ski school today. I took a lesson in the morning and spent the afternoon alone, to my dismay. I really missed skiing with Gabriel and hanging with him at lunch.

I sure was happy to see Katrina off the bunny hill though! I saw her on her way to the Jerome lift, where she spent the day.

She was in a class with 2 other kids at about her level. Her teacher told me later that she loved the "powder" -- which really means super-deep snow that for her was waist-deep in the ungroomed areas.

On a groomed green section.

In the afternoon, I ran into Julian and his "class" -- instructor -- Julian was the only one! Julian's instructor told me that they'd had a TALK early on -- he found right away that Julian has some trouble taking authority seriously and messes around too much. But after the TALK, they did great together.

Julian worked really hard, had a great attitude, and really likes anything that's different. He likes jumps, going off the groomed runs to the sides, doing silly things. His teacher told me about one fall he had that he called a "gopher" fall -- in which Julian landed head-first in the powder and only had his skis sticking out!

Sometimes Julian's ignoring instructions means that he goes too far off the trail and has to be pulled out.

But for the most part, he listened well to his instructor -- even when I was there following them around with a camera.

Still working on full-on parallel, but he's really doing great.

Gabriel had a horrible experience this afternoon! Somehow he got separated from his lesson, causing a long futile search by his instructor.

His instructor had told Gabriel to go to a lift, but Gabriel missed that and went down short slope instead -- instantly out of sight. He ended up walking -- in boots and carrying skis -- back to the Judah lodge, and then even farther to the kid pickup area. That's a really long walk.

Before I or the other kids' parents knew any of this, all we knew is that our sons' lessons was really late and something must have happened. Then suddenly Gabriel appeared in the kid pickup area, looking absolutely wasted -- exhausted, frazzled and freaked out. He said he'd gotten lost and had just walked from the other lodge -- I was so incredulous, I didn't believe it until the instructor showed up about 10 minutes later and explained where Gabriel had gotten separated.

He'd had a good lesson before that though! He took one of the same easy black diamonds I had in my lesson, that wasn't easy now at all. This morning it was probably pure powder, but it was feet deep in snow, and by the time other skiiers and boarders chew through it, it's a rutty mess.

I'd done the same run in my morning lesson too ("Market Place"), and admired how my instructor floated right over it like it was nothing. He gave me and my two classmates all kinds of great instruction for how to get through the deep stuff, but it was still exhausting.

My instructor was really good at mixing it up and not wearing us out too much on the tough stuff -- we got in some easier groomed runs too. The view from the top of Mt. Lincoln is always fabulous (that's Donner Lake in the background).

I rarely fall these days, but I fell at least 4 times in my lesson in the powder. No crashing, just benign tipovers, but I was amazed at how incredibly difficult it was to get back up -- and I'm really good at getting back up. You can't push against anything, your poles sink straight down and reach nothing. One time one ski was speared straight down in the snow -- and only pulling it out straight up would get it out, and that is REALLY hard to do when the rest of you is sunk 2 feet down!

A classmate told me later that he'd read in a ski magazine that you can cross your poles and push against them to get back up. Good tip!

I also wished I'd learned about my jacket's "powder skirt" -- an inside elastic gusset designed to keep snow from going up your back. But when I took stock of just how much snow got everywhere, this measure seemed absurdly inadequate. The only way to keep snow from going up your back in those conditions is with a one-piece suit.

But overall, this was an amazing ski day. We sure have paid our dues -- first no snow, then horrible wet heavy snow, icy non-snow....skiing today on the groomed powdery snow was like nothing I've ever done before. And so much quieter than ice! I skiied way faster than I ever have -- real snow gives you far more margin for error than ice.

It was snowing when we left Sugarbowl, and continued to snow after we got back to our house, and then well into the night. Katrina loved playing in the snow until it just got too deep, and her boots were getting pulled off.

Maybe we'll get another Bluebird day tomorrow!


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