Friday, February 01, 2013

2/1/13 Squaw 1: At Squaw!

I'm SO behind posting this week, mostly because of preparing for a ski trip. I type to you from Squaw Valley aside Lake Tahoe -- so if the prep was bad, at least I should post about the trip itself!

It had an auspicious start, starting with an almost non-start. I reserved this trip last August, before I knew how drastically my life would change, and even at the time I had some concerns. Squaw is a big resort, and the reservation was for the Village -- a very handy ski-in, ski-out arrangement (no driving!), but still, effectively a hotel. But my friend and mentor who got me started on this whole crazy expensive kick was also going this weekend, so I just couldn't resist. I almost cancelled when work commitments got to be too overwhelming, but in the end just couldn't bring myself to do it. What other chance would I ever get to ski with friends -- and I wanted to check out Squaw!

So all week, I prepared: pre-packing, getting all the kids their own ski equipment (deciding that the cost of rentals was better put toward their own gear), getting everything tuned and calibrated together. Not to mention making sure all my work commitments, and the kids' school commitments were met -- I'd have to pull them all out of school one day to do this.

Then, the day before leaving, a huge work project came up, and I was asked to attend a meeting that was scheduled to end at 4pm - in the city -- on the day I'd planned to leave work a little early and get a head start on the driving. But now, I'd be in San Francisco until 4pm! Normally I'd never mind, but this would set us behind by some very crucial hours. My employer has been so wonderful and flexible that I decided I had to suck it up and just do it. In the end, I was glad I attended the meeting, but time was super super tight. With no snags, maybe we could get on the road by 7pm. And bonus, no traffic.

But there was a snag. Meow-stache was nowhere to be found.

I'd seen her that morning, but not when I hurriedly dropped off our skis before the trip to SF. Usually she appears within minutes of my walking in the door, but not this time. Had she gotten out? As we packed up, we searched everywhere for her -- every closet, under every piece of furniture, in every drawer, behind every door, then outside with flashlights. No kitty.

I was devastated -- what did this mean? Where is this cat? Why did she pick now to do this hiding act?! Or not? Was she trapped? Had she gotten out somehow? What should I do?! In the end, I decided we had to get on the road. So we left, gloomily, and very very late.

Once I was able to talk without crying uncontrollably, I called the lady taking care of the cats in our absence to tell her. I was so upset, I was convinced my kitty was truly gone. Julian, to my surprise, arguably the least attached to this cat, was also very upset and worried and crying. I'm sure my visible worry was no help, but I was really upset. I've grown so attached to my BFF, and just don't need any more loss in my life right now.

I texted Bonne Maman at a stop, and called Stacey, both of whom assured me she was probably just hiding. And then, to my amazement and never-ending gratitude, I got a text from Stacey that she'd checked my house and found the kitty. I woke Julian (still driving) to tell him the great news, and we all cheered and celebrated. Thank goodness!! And thank you Stacey! Later, I talked to the caretaker lady and she said that cats are really good at hiding. When I ranted, "why NOW?!" she pointed out that the kitty now recognizes the "going-away" motions around the house, and was protesting. I'm sure she's right.

So, between work and the missing-kitty drama, that added up to a very very late start for a very very long drive, to a place I've never been to, and that had added logistical complications such as underground parking garages, elevators, missing parking permits, not being able to find carts to carry stuff, key-card entry -- at midnight with 3 tired children, everything is a pain. I was very focused though: get the kids to BED -- Katrina had ski school in the morning -- and then deal with the unpacking, unloading and preparing myself. Which I did, to the tune of 2:30am. I was fried. Had I really driven to and from the city that day too?! And been devastated by believing I'd lost my dear cat, until my friend rescued me?

But we were HERE -- Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics! Nothing else to do now but enjoy it! And finally, I get to do this with another family, my friend who started it all, and my kids get to ski with her daughters, and all that work and preparation and planning and massive effort -- and expense -- will result in a fabulous time together. Totally worth it!

In the morning, though I was SO tired, I HAD to get up and wake up Katrina to get her off to ski school first. She was so proud of her new skis and boots and Dora helmet, and didn't object at all to all-day ski school.

The kids' ski school is right across from our hotel, where I'd left the boys while dropping off Katrina, so these logistics lived up to advertising, and were indeed easy. I so needed that!

I got back to our condo and found the boys not ready, and the world was spinning around me -- I was just too tired to function. I needed more sleep. I let them boys watch TV while I snagged another crucial hour of sleep, popping awake at 10:45 and thinking, "Time to go SKI!" I texted my friend that we were suiting up and we'd hit the Funitel (a gondola that brings you up to the upper half of the mountain) in about 10 minutes.

As the boys and I were trudging toward the Funitel, I felt my phone buzz, but couldn't check the text. No matter, there was my friend was, right at the bottom -- with one of her daughters in a ski patrol toboggan! Uh-oh. But my friend was very relaxed and said, "yeah, she hit a sign, we're checking her out."

So the boys and I went up the Funitel, and then did the tourist-thing of pondering maps and trying to figure out where to go. We aimed for another lift that would give us a decent variety of moderate blue-intermediate runs, and started to learn the "Siberia Bowl" area of Squaw.

This included a simple but pretty fun terrain park with large features (that speck on the 2nd hump is Julian). I had a great time with these, and couldn't help yelling a little.

A new ski place is filled with navigational challenges, and one short mogul-y hill we weren't sure was legit, but Julian loved it and we named it "Julian's Run."

The top of Siberia has a run with a designation we'd never seen before: a "double-blue," which is supposed to be skiied like a black diamond in low snow conditions. Er, I have no idea if these are low snow conditions, but it was nicely challenging at the top. Julian did fine the first time, had trouble the second, and didn't want to do it again. Gabriel and his new longer skis, and his pride, either had no trouble or wouldn't admit it.

I had some trouble, mostly in my head -- I've had so much instruction, this should be no problem for me now. I can do it safely, but style suffers.

Another game the boys and I have now is to "hockey-stop" each other, which means the stopper barrels point-blank straight toward the victim, then at the last minute does a hockey-stop and sprays as much snow as possible on the victim. Julian could use a little work on his control; he tends to run into you. Gabriel, never, but boy it's close sometimes, and I have a hard time not flinching. Sometimes the boys team up and do it to me together. I got Julian good today and completely coated him with snow once.

Another game we made up is for one of us to suddenly call out in a challenge, "BOMB IT!" and then go straight down in a tuck, racing each other. This works great here at Squaw, there are some nice long runs that aren't SO steep that I lose my nerve, at least where we were. The boys love it when I suddenly call that out and take off! It always ends in laughter and more hockey-stop spraying.

But early in this fun, I got a text from my friend, who I'd only briefly glimpsed at the bottom when her daughter was in a ski-patrol toboggan -- the poor girl (8yo) is actually quite injured -- a broken leg, and might need surgery. They took her to a nearby hospital, who then referred her to more capable hospital outside Sacramento, and she's in for surgery and will have a nasty recovery. The whole family packed up and left today. Worry and fear and sympathy and "oh my goodness how awful" -- is there a word for that?? -- overran disappointment at not being able to ski with my friend and her family. We're all very worried about this horrible injury and her upcoming surgery and recovery, though the prognosis is excellent as far as we know right now. But my goodness. Julian especially was so psyched to show off to the girls (three of them).

Reaching deep for a way to feel better, I suggested to the boys that we send a photo of them dis'ing the sign that she'd run into, and they gladly agreed.

Actually, we weren't sure which sign it was, so just to be safe, took this one too (it was the red one though).

Gabriel had a spectacular crash too, he says -- hit some ice, landed hard on his back, tumbled about 100 feet down a slope, according to the witness who retrieved his ski. I had gone on ahead a bit to see if I could meet up with Julian, then was concerned when Gabriel didn't show up right away. He was fine about it, but his wide eyes told me this was no minor slip-out (Julian has those all the time, half on purpose). As tough as he is, he's not indestructible, he's had his incident with ski patrol too.

Most kids -- people -- never get injured, but that's "most," not "all." It's going to happen. The fun and challenge and experiences outweigh the risks for us, for now, but having a good friend's daughter so badly injured is a reminder of the downside. I wonder if the calculus will change for my friend's family.

We were all pretty tired by 3:15 when we had to go pick up Katrina -- and unlike at Sugarbowl, I don't know this mountain well enough yet to tell the boys "do two more runs on XYZ lift, then meet me here," and know that they'll be mostly safe, and that I can find them. So we picked up Katrina from ski school, and called it a day.

She had a great day apparently, with a class of just one other girl about her age, and about her level. No problems here with getting stuck on the magic carpet this time, partly because there are plenty of kids to fill out every level. Her teacher said that Katrina's got all the basics covered, but now it's time to learn to ski parallel all the time, and she just needs more practice. Her best asset is a great attitude, she really likes it. They spent the day on greens and moderate blues, and a lot of time at Squaw's half-pipe.

Naturally the boys wouldn't make the transition from skiing to slugging stuff around easy; we had another incident with Julian kicking Gabriel in the knee with a ski boot. I was furious, he could seriously injure someone doing that, and end our trip too. I just can't get across to that kid what is really really unacceptable. Once in our room though, everyone was too tired to do much else, and I let them watch TV. Being on the 4th floor of a condo/hotel in a developed "village" makes it a lot harder for the kids to just pop out the door and play in the snow anyway.

But there are benefits -- I can see the lifts right from the balcony of our condo.

And it was still warm enough to hang outside for a while and enjoy that view (reflected in the windows behind me.)

This whole week has been really challenging getting ready for this trip, then the day of departure was brutal. All that would be easily reclassified as amusing stories -- but not my friend's daughter being injured. That's cast a big cloud over the whole trip, I can't stop thinking about them and how worried they must be.

I think in their honor we have to have a great injury-free rest-of-trip -- and with all 3 kids in bed early tonight, it bodes well for tomorrow!


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