Not sure I would ever write this TR, but here I am, keys under my fingers, smile on my face =)
In past years I have absolutely delighted in my trips to the mountains and beamed with joy while I related my experiences for y’all. This last summer though, I kinda lost my mind. I fretted and worried that I would never again feel the joy in my heart that skiing in the mountains never failed to bring me.
All this negative think started on the backside of a huge crescendo of ski joy. I was skiing on one of my fave runs at my fave resort. Belle Fourche is about as remote as it gets when you’re speaking of resort skiing. It’s a long long way from the nearest lift and that lift is a long long way from the nearest medical facility. It’s quite the poor spot to ski into a large tree at considerable speed.
Luckily and thankfully I was not seriously injured, just very badly bruised and a little more bent than before. My body spent the next two months recovering but my brain kept telling me that its injuries might be way more serious. It started when I worried that maybe tree skiing was not the smartest thing for me to be doing. I thought, “I need to slow down. I need to work harder on my fundamental skills. Maybe I need to quit skiing trees altogher.” But the thought of never skiing trees again must have turned my brain upside down because somewhere in the ten months between my mountain outings I began to worry that I would never again feel the joy that I feel when I park my car in the C lot, when I slide through the singles line and onto the chair. When I watch the mountain pass under my skis and see all the possible lines. When I hop off the chair and glide to my desired run.
It all seems a bit silly now but there were weeks on end when I tried to find solace in the fact that bowling would be way cheaper than skiing.
I worried that I would never see my personal ten billion ton talisman, Parry’s Peak (colloquially known a Bear Claw) in the same light again. Bear Claw is an icon at Winter Park. Its massive countenance can be seen from many Mary Jane vantage points. As you stand at the top of Trestle it’s beautifully framed by pines. I make sure to ride the Olympia lift every clear day because as you elevate past the last couple of towers, Bear Claw magically rises to fill the sky with its majestic presence. I like to think that gazing upon it brings me special powers of stamina and perseverance. I like to think that appreciating its beauty brings me closer to being spiritually aligned with all of the mountains. But after my accident I thought this was a bunch of bunk. I had fooled myself. If there was any way the mountains had any awareness of my presence then undoubtedly they sneered and laughed at my grand thoughts. “Here, wrap your rib cage around this tree and see how spiritually aligned you feel. Ha!”
When I arrived back in Winter Park for the first time Bear Claw was shrouded. Any special powers it offered were hidden from view, except for an other worldly glow that seemed to come from within.
But this was not the beginning of this reclamation project.
At the height of my brain spasms, when I was thinking that my run in with the tree may have spelled the end of my skiing career I learned that a good friend had suffered severe injuries that required a long hospital stay and imposed the likelihood of years of recovery. Did he despair? Did he wallow in feelings that this might be the end of the life that he loved? No, he looked forward and found the best methods to overcome his injuries and to regain as much of his former life as possible, as soon as possible.
I guess I needed inspiration and suddenly my ears were filled with the beep beep beep of a dump truck backing up to me and unloading a huge bucketful of it right on top of me. My first priority of this trip was to stop into the humble abode of this powerful source of inspiration, tell him what his predicament had meant to my trivial problems and to soak in his spirit. I am truly blessed with many, many remarkable friends.
Sunday, Jan 23
I met Uncle Louie and Noodler and we prepared to brave the winds of Loveland. There had been several inches of new snow and the wind had scoured it, moved it, piled it and compacted it. Runs were alternately delightful and difficult. On our first run we were blazing along a cat track waiting for the best spot to make a sharp right and air into a big powder field. Noodler was leading, chose the moment, impacted the deep and skied away with ease, UL followed quite similarly. Now it was my turn and I followed suit, right up to the landing which I hit a bit too far forward. At the next lift I learned that my Superman to head plant was rated a nine out of ten by several witnesses. I was unscathed. My helmet was not.
Monday, Jan 24
Woke up in Georgetown and hit the road to My Little Corner of the World, the C lot at Mary Jane.
Conditions were very good. The past week had been a succession of powder days and there were a few fresh inches or so and it continued to snow throughout the day. I rode my big Bluehouse Maestros this day and the next. These boards amaze me with their ability in bumps and trees. At 189cm and 118mm under foot I expect them to float and rip the pow bowls but I never expected them to be an all mountain ski. When the snow is not hard though, that is what they are.
I was thinking I would start slow and re-acclimate to these boards as I didn’t really have much time on them. When I got to the top of the first lift though, I saw the sign declaring that the Chutes were open. I supposed that it wouldn’t hurt to go take a look…. Oh, man! Only a few tracks going through the gate! I was in like Flynn! No tracks at all on Awe Chute so I scoped it and made my first billy goat hop. Hey, ya know, I’m smarter than this… I should have thought twice about WHY it wasn’t all tracked half an hour after first chair. On this day this could have been called Dust on Granite Chute. Well, I wasn’t going to hike back up so I made that granite my bitch!
This is when it occurred to me that this was the first time I had been on these skis since the tree incident. I guess the rocks and I had taught them a lesson because they were just butta the next two days!
Next I figured I’d head to the top of the mountain. On the way to the lift that would take me there, I decided to take a run down Columbine, a somewhat steep, somewhat short bump run under the Sunnyside lift. As I stood on top I reconsidered. This run gets a lot of traffic and most of the new snow had been tracked and packed. I was feeling slightly less than confident on these big boards. Then I decided that flailing under the lift isn’t such a bad thing and no stranger to me, so what did I have to lose? I dropped in and immediately felt comfortable in my line. Half way down I felt like I had never skied bumps so well. Three quarters of the way down I had to stop because my eyes had filled with tears. I had spent so much useless time worrying that I’d never feel unadulterated ski joy again and in one run that joy flooded back into my heart. It tickled my nose as it rose through my head then it came up through my eyes and ran down my cheeks unchecked.
I was back in the mountains, back where I want to spend my life and I was loving it!
Maybe Bear Claw was looking after me after all.
Tuesday, Jan 25
I had received a message from Trekchick that some good friends of hers and Philpug’s were skiing WP/MJ. She wondered if I would be willing to show them some of my fave shots. One of the revelations that epicski has brought to me is the rewards that come with sharing the hills that I love with others. I was more than happy to meet up with some Bears and pretend I knew the mountain better than they did. This is how I met meepmeep, cbire880, pfblack, lovebug and noofus.
What a fun gang to ski and hang with! What started as a half day tour of the mountain ended up being three days of skiing, a couple of dinners and a road trip. On snow highlights included a hairy snowmobile tow out to The Cirque and a trip through No Name trees.
I thought I had messed up when the slope dropped off in NN trees. A bit much for the less experienced in the group, I feared. But we all took our time and emerged unscathed and grinning.
Here’s a youtube vid that pblack found. We don’t know the videographer but he was definitely in our group.
Saturday, Jan 29, Sunday, Jan 30
Race camp! I signed up for Rick’s race camp, knowing that I could use some work to become a better fundamental skier. The day before camp started I was very tempted to cancel and stay in Winter Park. It was tough to drive away from my fave place in the world and head to Breckenridge, but I did it anyway and I’m way glad that I did.
As this event grew and grew, Rick was joined in the coaching ranks by Vail Snowpro, MastersRacer, songfta and Uncle Louie. MastersRacer was given the unenviable task of turning by banky bank bank turns into something that would not elicit gafaws in the gates. I think he did okay. Although he did go to lengths to make sure that I understand that there is A LOT of work to be done before my technique is acceptable, I know that I felt the power of angulating on the flats (somehow, I guess I have learned this in the bumps already).
This was such a fun event! I just can’t say enough about the coaches and the participants. My only regret is that I didn’t get to know more of the Bears that attended. I did get to know the peeps in my group, segbrown, Snowfan, uboom and Noodler and also really enjoyed hanging with new friends, Liquid Feet, Hermanator, Agent.5 and Chase. It’s always good to see old friends too. Let’s all do it again next year!
Here’s a vid Snowfan and MastersRacer shot.
Monday, Jan 31
Another red letter day as this was the day that my lovely wife disembarked the California Zephyr in the little town of Fraser, CO. My legs were beat after the race camp and the train was almost three hours late. These two factors conspired to keep me off the slopes and out of the hair of my SIA ski testing peeps.
LW visits My Little Corner of the World
Steamboat and Winter Park are separated by about 100 miles of Hwy 40. Purported good guy Finndog skis the Boat all the time and I ski WP all the time. We’ve made plans to rendezvous a couple of times but I’ve proved to be sketchy on that tip.
This time it worked out quite well. LW and I rolled into Steamboat Springs along with a cold front and some snow. Not sure who ordered the side of wind but it was mosdef in effect.
Tuesday, Feb 1
The snow report claimed 11” but the wind had scattered it around the mountain. Did I mention it was cold? We decided not to shoot for the first gondi but rather to meet at 10am. Good thing, too as by that time it was a balmy -25F….plus the wind. We all had appropriate layers and really the only problems were at the top of some of the lift rides. We pretty much avoided the top of the mountain and everything was chill =)
On the first gondi ride were Finndog, ski-ra, Greg Merz and snowfun3. Unfortunately FD, GM and sf3 got separated on the way to the second chair so it was up to me to keep the astonishing pace that ski-ra laid down. I guess I did alright as he kept leading me to more and more challenging tree shots. Well, as far as I’m concerned the best benefit of being a Bear is the opportunity to meet so many amazing peeps. Ski-ra did not disappoint. Quite possibly the second best benefit is that most of these amazing peeps don’t mind showing you the best lines on their local hill. Ski-ra did not disappoint. Eleven inches and high wind equals two to three feet if you know where to go. We were in boot to knee to waist deep for most of two days. Yeehaw!
Wednesday, Feb 2
Well, we had conquered -25F and were therefore invincible, right? Well today was -37F! But, there was an inversion! It was a balmy -5F at the top of the mountain and you could see the sinister cloud of cold that had settled on the town.
We pretty much did a repeat of the previous day: tons of trees, tons of snow, expert guides, willing follower. We were joined by Finndog in the morning and then Greg Merz after lunch. Big fun in deep snow was had by all.
While I was skiing, LW drove past a Little Blue Subaru milestone.
I do not remember doing so, but apparently I lamented the lack of après snacks in our homey motel room the previous day. This was waiting for me upon my return =)
Thursday, Feb 3
With temps well into the double digits and on the plus side of zero, the whole town came out to the hill. Had a fun, fun, fun day with snowfun3 (what else would I expect?) but it was a tad like shopping the day before Thanksgiving at points. I was happy to get off the slopes before I hit anything or anyone hit me.
If the room is a rockin', don't bother knockin' =)
Friday, Feb 4
The plan was to drive down to Winter Park, ski a half day then get a few hundred miles towards home under the tires. I was delighted to find that Ski Nurse was planning to show up to my fave hill with four of her friends! I was made to believe that her crew might be on the timid side so I showed up with groomer skis on. They looked pretty puny next to the DPS that Emily had affixed to her boots! We warmed up on a gentle groomer or two then hit bumps, trees and the rugged Eagle Wind area.
It was a grand half day before the road called me home.
Happy day at the Boat
Hope y'all enjoyed this TR as much as I enjoy seventh grade humor =)