Skication Whistler

It was certainly easy to detox from the internet at place like Whistler, B.C. I’m no virgin to the North American West as far as skiing goes, having been to both Colorado and Utah, so it does take a lot to impress me. I was completely and utterly blown away by Whistler. It’s not that the powder was anything special (there is certainly better powder at Colorado and Utah, even this late in the season, I’m sure); it was the sheer massive size of the two mountains that comprise this ski resort. And the absolute undeniable beauty of the Canadian Cascades. I had the time of my life there.

We stayed at The Blackcomb Lodge in Whistler village which allowed us the wonderful convenience of ski-in/ski-out.  We only had to walk down the Village Stroll–a completely pedestrian street–to its terminus at the Blackcomb and Whistler gondolas. The picture below shows the view of the village from outside the doors of the hotel.

A view of Whistler village from the doorstep of The Blackcomb Lodge.

As I unpacked my toiletries in the room I shared with my friend Janet, I realized something very odd. Is it obvious which side of the shelf held my stuff? Purple products to the left; natural products to the right! (I am going to start using natural products myself… Better for the environment, better for me. But more on that later. And I’m still hoping to find them in purple bottles.)

My passion for purple has invaded every facet of my life!

The first day, we skied at Whistler. Janet was excited to show me the Peak-to-Creek Trail which goes from the very top of Whistler Peak to the bottom at Creekside village (a separate village from Whistler village). So we boarded the Whistler gondola and took it all the way to the last station which is one lift short f the peak. The picture below shows the scenery from this location which, incidentally, is also where you can catch the Peak 2 Peak gondola to Blackcomb should you change your mind about what mountain you want to ski for the day. Funny side note, every time someone talked about this gondola, I thought they were saying Peek N’ Peak–the name of a resort in upstate NY at which I sometimes ski.

Peak 2 Peak Gondola from the near the Roundhouse Lodge.

We took the Peak chair (picture below) up to the top of the mountain. And let me just mention that one of the other times we rode up this chair later in the week, Janet didn’t put the bar down. I thought I could handle it, but I got very nervous at the last bit that goes very high over a cliff right before the end. Janet thought it was kind of funny that I got vertigo; it didn’t bother her at all. I personally think riding the lifts at any resort is the scariest part of skiing–I prefer to have both feet firmly planted on the ground, no matter what angle the ground is that I’m standing on–and so I always prefer to have the restraining bar down. In fact, I hate that Boston Mills has no restraining bars–drives me insane. Anyway, after the experience of riding with the bar up, I wouldn’t let Janet keep the bar up for the rest of the week.

The lift to Whistler Peak seen from Roundhouse Lodge area.

The picture below shows what it looks like at the top of the peak. What a beautiful arctic paradise!

Whistler Peak looking towards the Symphony Amplitheater.

We headed off in the opposite direction to the Peak-to-Creek. Below is a picture of me by the sign to the trail at the very top before we headed down.

Start of the Peak-to-Creek Trail. I love how the sign is covered with frozen snow.

My legs were in tune from all the days I spent at Boston Mills (23 days!!) so I was really confident. The conditions were great–lots of powdery stuff all around. Peak-to-Creek touts itself as the longest intermediate run in North America. Most eastern skiers know that the ranking system for ski slopes varies from resort to resort, especially out west; what is intermediate at one place might actually be a difficult run at another resort. I’ve found that in most cases a lot of how I feel about a slope is mental. I’ve always–no matter where I am–believe that I can do a blue (intermediate) run regardless of how steep it is. Except last year when was outclassed at Snowbird (in Utah) by some seriously challenging–and scary–intermediate runs. I remembered all too well my failure at Snowbird and how tripped up I was in general in Utah last year so I admit I was a little nervous about skiing at Whistler. However, all fears were relieved as I began down this slope for, to my very practiced legs this year, it seemed to be the perfect pitch for me–something I felt extremely comfortable taking some speed on. So I was a little surprised when, pausing to catch my breath, another lady stopped next to me and said, “Wow! This is the easy one?” skeptically. It didn’t seem hard to me at all, but I guess she was a beginning skier.

About a third of the way down, there was a turn off for those not venturing on the remainder of the Peak-to-Creek–a legitimately easy run that Janet described as flat–and our beginner friend took off for that option. I think the sign shown in the picture below marked the continuance of the Peak-to-Creek for those continuing on.

The official Peak-to-Creek start.

Anyway, this slope was so long it actually had a rest area! I saw this sign, but I missed the actual place where you were supposed to stop which I guess had a bench. Maybe it was covered by snow?

The rest area on the Peak-to-Creek trail.

We were plagued by a fog from about the midway down the trail to almost the bottom. It was a little disconcerting. The snow was definitely heavier and wet towards the bottom. I was fully experiencing what Janet had described to me–and which I’d disbelieved somewhat–about Whistler. I got to experience it again and again throughout the week. It was like every part of both mountains had their own season with the bottom third of both being stuck in real-time with spring. Winter was maintained at the top third, though, and that’s generally where we skied. But often as you went down a run, the conditions would literally change once you crossed some invisible line. We only skied down the entire length of the mountain this once for the Peak-to-Creek (we downloaded on the gondola at the end of each day). It was really fun, though, to ski for that long!

Janet skiing down one of the humps along the Peak-to-Creek trail.

We were soon underneath the clouds again where it appeared to be snowing. I don’t particularly remember that, but I can see it in this photo.

Overlooking Creekside Village on the end of the Peak-to-Creek Trail

By the end of the day, we even managed to ski a few black diamonds–Bear Paw and Raven/Ptarmigan. Each of these trails also offered yawning views of Whistler Village. (I have no problem with vertigo if my feet are on the ground.) It kind of gives you an awesome God’s eye view of the world when you can see signs of civilization stretching out before you. I find the most exciting runs are where I have perspective about how high from the bottom I am. There’s a run in Holimont like this called Grear where you can see Ellicotville below in a distance. It’s slightly off-putting, but at the same time, it’s awesome as you’re skiing to see yourself get closer and closer to ground. You don’t get that feeling so much at the top of a mountain such as Whistler where skiing one run doesn’t even take you a third of the way down from the top and “bottom” is actually just another level area where you can catch a lift to go back up.

The second day we awoke to bright sunny skies. We went to Blackcomb. Here are some delightful shots from the top of the Exelerator lift which is the one that you take after you get off the gondola to Blackcomb.

Some slopes seen from the top of the Exelerator lift at Blackcomb.

Top of Excelorator lift.

And further down the trail….

Some Blackcomb scenery.

It was literally an eyesore how beautiful this place revealed itself to be in the sunlight. At every turn, I wanted to stop and take pictures. I didn’t take nearly as many as the scenery I remember in my head, such as the next day when we explored the Symphony Amplitheatre and Harmony Ridge at Whistler. There was just so many beautiful scenes and, seriously, I was trying desperately to ski. I wish I could give you all a live video recording of the scenery right from my head. It was stunning, breath-taking. The kind of sights that make you want to kiss the sky and thank whatever whimsical power of life created all this beauty. Seriously. One can have a religious experience out there. That’s what I love most about skiing… and the only time I ever feel this way about skiing is when I’m out west where everything is just so larger than life. There were places on both mountains where I literally felt so small and insignificant against the majestic backdrop in which I was skiing.

7th Heaven is one of Blackcomb’s natural wonders. From it, you can see Whistler’s Symphony Amplitheatre and Harmony Ridge areas. We skied Cloud 9 (a scenic intermediate run) a few times that first day and, on our last two days (which we spent at Blackcomb), I braved some moguls on a few of the other trails.

Bottom part of Cloud 9 Trail in the 7th Heaven area of Blackcomb (Whistler in the distance).

Side note: There was a run parallel to this one–same steepness–with a moguls that I nailed on the last day! I was getting good!! Two more days and I would have been a pro at moguls. Though, I must admit, these moguls–being made of soft snow and lacking the icy ruts common out east–were nothing like the moguls I’ve been stuck within in New York or Ohio. They are still hard and often times just a bit too big, but at least the snow gives under year skis. In contrast, I’ve been stuck on moguls out east that feel like my ski will break before I can cut through the ice cube that is poorly passing as a mogul.

Peak Overlooking 7th Heaven area of Blackcomb.

From the top of the 7th Heaven Express, you can also go down into the Horstman Glacier to access the Blackcomb Glacier. Unfortunately, this involves riding a T-bar and then taking your skis off to climb a short steep hill. I’ll preface this by saying that the last time I used a T-bar was probably age 16 when I was learning to ski (which is totally not the thing a new skier should be doing). I was totally scared to be dragged up a hill on a T-bar. But I knew I wanted to ski Blackcomb Glacier so I nervously went up the T-bar with Janet after watching several people load. It wasn’t as bad as I thought but I was completely uncomfortable about that whole experience.

The Horstman Glacier and scary T-bar.

I came back a few days later to ski the Horstman Glacier (pictured above). It was really easy. The T-bar was the worst part, really. And after I got off the T-bar that last time, I swore I was done using T-bars for the week.

Anyway, when you unload from the scary T-bar at the top (a process which is, in itself, frighting; you just let go of the bar but it has to be done at the proper time, else you risk falling down or hitting yourself in the head as the bar swings away), you follow the swarm of people taking their skis off to climb the little hump that gets you to the Blackcomb Glacier area. I didn’t know I was going to do some back country skiing! (Well, not really.)

The Blackcomb Glacier is a bowl that you can basically enter in at any angle that you want. I was aiming for the groomed strip that runs down the middle of it. Before you get to that part, however, there’s what basically amounts to a gaping natural half-pipe double-black diamond called Blow-Hole. Yeah, double-black diamond runs always have ominous names that often accurately describe just what you see…. As steep as that run turned out to be, I definitely did not see the point in the extra challenge of a rutted tube with walls taller than a person on each side. Apparently no one else did either as I did not see anyone taking the challenge offered by Blow Hole. Perhaps I should of dared someone.

People standing at the start of the groomed part of Blackcomb Glacier; Blow Hole in the foreground.

Little did I know I was actually going to be more comfortable in the ungroomed powder. It turns out that this run–labeled as an intermediate–was actually a bit more challenging at the top than I anticipated and I got into one of those states where I was too afraid to take a turn. As a result, I ended up traversing into the powder simply because I did not want to turn. I paused for about ten minutes, looking hopelessly down the slope and sweating profusely in fear. Then I finally coaxed myself into a turn. Once I got moving, I was fine. I guess you can say I’m a little gun shy sometimes on groomed runs–I prefer deep powder cuz I feel like if I fall, I won’t tumble far and the fall itself won’t hurt. I was a little mad at myself for choking at the top of the glacier–this happens sometimes–and I wanted to come back and do the run again, but I never did since it was such a pain in the ass to get to and Janet said she wouldn’t come with me if I did. At least it was the only time I choked the entire time I was at Whistler. Unlike my experience in Utah.

The hardest part of the glacier is really short. And then the rest of the 14-or so kilometers (yes, 14!!) is spent drifting effortlessly down through a valley and occasionally skiing down a small bump. You eventually are dumped onto the Blackcomb Glacier Road trail which winds around the mountain and takes you back to the Excelerator lift. The whole process seems to take about 45 minutes to an hour. It feels quite touristy–the thing you must do when you’re at Blackcomb. But probably not something you’d do over and over again in one day. It just takes too long. The scenery was totally worth it, though. At least I think so.

Valley around Blackcomb Glacier (the sheer immensity of this area could not be fully captured by my camera).

We went back to Whistler on the third day; Blackcomb the fourth; and then, after much debate with ourselves, we went back to Blackcomb the last day. It was really too hard to decide–I honestly loved both mountains–and I was really sorry that I didn’t get to enjoy both an equal number of days. The weather we experienced out there was mostly fantastic. It was sunny for the most part three of the five days, though we did experience a sudden fog towards the end of the forth day and some occasional snow flurries here and there on some of the other days. It never got unbearably cold; in fact, I overdressed the first day. The skiing was great everywhere but the bottom of the mountain. All of the separate areas were like their own self-contained ski-resorts. It was amazing.

I enjoyed the town in the evening almost as much as the mountain, especially the Brewhouse that offered free WiFi and a great selection of microbrews (I liked their brown ale the best, but I can’t remember what it was called other than it had “Bear” in the name.) All of the restaurants in town were a bit pricey, for sure, but that’s pretty much a given at a ski resort. Being on vacation, I tend not to care as much. (Which is how they get you, I suppose.) I would definitely go back to Whistler… It really seemed like the perfect place to go in the spring. I would love to go there right after they’ve been dumped on by several feet of snow. I suspect I would have braved some of the ungroomed bowls in that case.

Some scenery at Blackcomb.

You can view the rest of my pictures on my Shutterfly site (linked).

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Off The Grid

I just returned from a week vacation skiing at Whistler and Blackcomb in British Columbia, about 2 hours from Vancouver, Canada. Even though it’s our neighboring country, and really not that different in look and feel than the US, Canada always makes me feel as though I’m far away in a country across the ocean. I can’t use my cell phone because I don’t have an international plan which also includes, as I learned, my data plan. Travel between the US and Canada used to be so casual (except when returning to the US); now, it requires passports and stricter checks through customs. It may have always been this way when traveling by plane–this was my first time entering Canada by plane–but it’s also been several years since I’ve driven to Toronto so I don’t know. The last time I went to Toronto, I only needed to show my driver’s license.

Anyway, trapped in the little resort town of Whistler, I was without both phone and constant internet access since not only could I not use my data plan, but my hotel did not offer free WiFi. My friend and travel companion, Janet, and I refused to pay for internet so we had to search the town for businesses who offered free WiFi to customers. We discovered that a small cafe called Gone Fishing Bakery & Soup Co and the Whistler Brewhouse both had free WiFi. (We heard that both Starbucks had it but we avoided chain coffee houses like the plague.) So I guess you could say I was forced to drink more coffee and beer in order to check my email, Facebook, and the @U2 forum while I was gone. A small price to pay for internet, no? I guess ultimately I was paying for internet… but it was like getting two services (beer or coffee and the internet) for the price of one. I like a good bargain.

I thought I would go crazy without the constant access to the world I’m used to. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone somewhere where I couldn’t readily access the internet–2007, to be exact, when I was “off the grid” in Italy. And that was before I had a Blackberry which has even increased the amount of time I spend checking Facebook, email, and, yes, the @U2 forum. I’m spoiled by my overuse. (My poor Facebook friends, on the other hand, are over-inundated with my status updates from every place I go and everything I do.) For the first time on vacation ever, I’d even brought my netbook hoping to do some blog writing in the evening.

Amazingly enough, I did not go crazy. It was so easy to let go of all that internet access–much easier than I thought. I found that my focus came back to the here and now. While I was skiing, all of my attention was focused on my skiing and admiring the scenery as I did so. Most of the days, I didn’t even bring my useless phone with me because there was no WiFi on the mountain anywhere, not even in the lodges. I had an actual camera for taking pictures. I was truly away from everything.

Along with my attachment to knowing everything about everyone all of the time, I lost all secondary thoughts about everything else going on in my life. I stopped thinking about my rock star story (which is always on the back of my mind), the too-soon excitement over my upcoming U2 concerts, stresses about trying to get a memoir piece published, work, my friends back home–everything was all gone. I even stopped worrying about my weight and money. It was so utterly relaxing. I haven’t  had a vacation where I’ve let go this much in a long, long time.

Of course, I did check the internet almost every evening. But only for an hour or two. Which is equitable exchange when you consider I didn’t even touch the TV except when looking for the weather or a mountain snow report. (We did catch the last fifteen minutes of Jon Stewart one night.) Most of the time when I did access the internet, it was to answer some important personal email or communicate with my friend Kat who was watching my cat Nicki. Okay, and, I admit that on Friday night I did follow a thread on @U2 while watching  Twitter updates  to catch what was going on in the last quarter of the U2 concert in Chile…. I didn’t say I completely lost all my vices… (If I were home, I’d have sat followed the entire concert virtually. So I didn’t even interrupt my vacation to follow the show.)

The point is, my life didn’t–for once–completely revolve around the internet or my computer. I guess because it slowly took over my life in the last couple of years, I hadn’t realized just how much stress using it added to my life. When I’m constantly checking for status updates on Facebook or reading email, I’m not able to focus on getting anything done. What I view as a quick interruptions actually adds up to several hours of usage. Distraction. I was starting to think that I had severe A.D.D.; turns out, I’m probably just generally bored at home. When I have sufficient interesting activities, I can go without the internet.

Perhaps I should practice going off the grid more often. Instead of cycling with my cell phone in my jersey pocket, maybe I should just shut it off and put it in my saddle bag. Does everyone really need to know what mile I’m on when I’m on a century ride? It was just so refreshing to be completely away from everyone and everything. Just what I needed. I need to get  away like this more often, if only on a short weekend trip. And when I’m writing, I should turn off all other distractions. I have to admit, since returning, I’m a little less interested in the internet than I was before I left. I suspect this will change in time as I become bored with everything again. But it was nice to get away from my life and distraction for a little while. I hope this break re-inspires my writing too.

So it’s 2011

Like Christmas, New Year’s was kind of low key this year. I went to Holiday Valley; however, the conditions weren’t as great as they’d been the last two years (ending with rain) and I was mostly alone as all my friends who were set to go bailed. Which is okay because I’m finding lately that I’m enjoying spending a lot of time on my own. (If only I had learned that in Colorado!) My friend Janet joined me in the evening of Dec. 31st after I spent about four hours skiing solo and we skied the last two hours of the night out together. For the first time in a long time, I both skied out my entire ticket and skied the last run at the resort’s closing time. We hung out the last hour and a half to midnight at the Lodge, watched the parade of torches descend down Cindy’s Run and the fireworks. 2010 came in like headwind and out like a slow gentle breeze. I don’t know what that says about the coming year. But I’ve decided I’m making no promises about anything seeing as I’m not all that good on keeping to any that I make. Let’s just say I’m not off to a good start on any of the promises I’ve already silently made.

I originally planned to stay in New York through Monday, but I ended up coming back on Sunday after skiing Saturday evening. The temperatures were dropping, which made the slopes ice up after the earlier thaw. The best of the skiing really happened Friday with springlike conditions. I had to be more careful and therefore attacked less of the black diamond runs because of the hard-pack to ice conditions on Saturday. It was supposed to snow again later Sunday but I was afraid it wasn’t going to be enough to bring back paradise by Monday. So I resolved to go home and, since I had Monday off from work anyway, just ski at Boston Mills on Monday. Which I did. It was a good decision; Boston Mills’ conditions were absolutely stellar on Monday and I skied there for four hours (very usual amount of time to spend at such a tiny place). For such a pathetically small plot of land, Boston Mills certainly does have an A+ grounds crew. Just give them a night of snow-making and they can turn that tiny place into paradise when one has no better place to ski.

I’m thinking next year, I might switch it up and go to Seven Springs for New Year’s. A smaller resort, but the area hotels are generally cheaper (by about $40!) and I’ve never been to the nearby Hidden Valley. It might be worth checking out. And, anyway, I don’t want to become too predictable, now do I?

Speaking of my unpredictability, I’ve decided to compete this year at the Haiku Death Match that Joanna MCs in Columbus. Can you hear me gulping big time? Fortunately, I’ve written about 20 or so haiku poems over the last year so I think I’m prepared. Though a lot of my poems tend to be actually poetic and serious, I do have a few political zingers and two funny “na-na-NA-na-na” type ones. I’m trying to write a few more to add. From my observation of this event in the last two years, I’ve noted that three topics work really well: politics (with liberal overtones), sexual innuendo, and silly. I’m not too good at silly, but I think I can make up for what I lack there in sexy innuendo and political. We’ll see. To me, the point of participating this year is getting up and performing my own work live. I don’t care if I win or lose; I’m just there to throw myself out of my comfort zone. So if I do have any goals I plan to stick to this year it’s definitely to keep terrifying the piss out of myself. Eventually I will get comfortable with public speaking. I might even get good at it. Who knows? Stranger things have happened!

I also want to be able to handle presenting my own work before an audience. It’s my own fear of criticism and rejection that prevents me from trying to publish or do anything with my writing. I need to stop bemoaning the fact that no one publisher has just happened to stumble upon my awesomeness; I need to take an active role in showing the world that my writing is awesome. (Do you realize that just saying “my writing is awesome” is a bold act for me? I always downplay myself and my writing to be modest and… I really do think my writing just is not good enough… even when I actually think I did write something wonderful. It’s time to start saying positive things… If I believe my writing is great, others will believe it’s great too… or at least they will give it a chance. No more negative thoughts or words. It’s time for a mood shift here. BIG TIME.) I need to build up a hardened exterior to take criticism and also accept new ideas when people offer them to me as ways to improve, to not hear them as proof to my own failings. I guess this is as good a resolution for 2011 as any.

So yesterday I finally bought the ticket for that third U2 show in Philadelphia that I mentioned in a previous post. I’m going with a few friends I met through a U2 fan forum, one of which graciously offered to let me stay the night before and after at her house. I guess a lot of people from the forum are also going to be at that show, so that’s going to be nifty. My goal in joining was to be able to connect with and meet other super-fans like myself for just this sort of reason–going to shows and U2-related events together. So mission totally accomplished. And, again, it’s all part of the, ehm, research for my book. And if you follow me on Twitter this summer (marsgirl75), you can get a minute-by-minute account of my adventures in the general admission line for the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh shows. Aren’t you excited? C’mon, you know you want to live vicariously through me as I experience this new way of attending a concert of this size! Sorry, but I won’t be tweeting during the concert… I’ll be too busy shaking my booty and slobbering over Bono. And praying that I get dragged on stage. Not bloody likely, but a girl can dream, right? And I’ve got dreams enough for everyone….

The rest of my summer plans (i.e., my trip to California) have changed. As I mentioned in the last post, my best friend is getting married. Naturally, she wants me to attend. She lives in Florida and I’ll need to use more vacation time. I’m happy that she’s finally met a great guy and all. He’s a nice guy; I approve of him. Yada, yada, yada. Not that anyone needs my approval to get married… But I’ll be there to witness said event.

That’s about all, really, that’s been going on in my life. Not too exciting, but I thought I should check in anyway. I’m still here. Still kicking at the darkness, bleeding out sparks of light, as they (U2), say. (Forgive me, my brain activity has been invaded by an over-abundance of bootlegs to which I’ve suddenly gotten access.) Oh, 2011, you’re going to be an interesting year… (I hope.)

Christmas and 2011 Adventure Ponderings

I’ve gotten a little sparse on my blog posting because I’ve been spending most of my free time working on my writing projects–a fiction story that requires a lot of back-planning and, of course, my memoir. I’ve been feeling a little more inspired lately and I love the mobility my netbook affords me. It’s really nice to be able to leave the distractions of my house to go write at a coffee shop (found a real nice one near me that has normal hours, unlike another coffee shop just up the street with really weird hours). Everyone in the world now has free internet access, which makes life easy, though admittedly causes lots of distractions for me if I’m not careful. However, when you need to look up something to do a quick spot of research, you’ve got the capability at your finger tips. Writing was never made so easy in this information age!

I think my fiction story is going to take a bit more than internet research. I have a feeling this may be a several-years-long project. I feel I have to visit a few places and shadow the interesting lives of other people to make it more realistic. It’d be really fantastic if I knew a band that was just on the verge of becoming a big hit… or if I could spend a year following Bono! Ha, ha! Just kidding. The thing I’ve always struggled with in writing realistic fiction–that is, fiction that isn’t science-fiction–is that you have to be really careful about the portraying the lives you step into in a realistic way. Everyone has had that moment when watching a TV show where the people are touching on something you know personally about–maybe your job or your hometown–and you have to contain your annoyance that the writers of the show obviously knew nothing about that which they were trying to write. (Which never happens in the case of Clevelanders.) I don’t want to be that kind of writer. I guess that’s another good thing about writing science-fiction–you don’t have to worry so much about portraying a hometown or a job unrealistically. You still have to get the science right; though, in most cases, it just has to be plausible.

Besides the writing projects, I’ve been trying to get into the Christmas season even though it feels like I was just celebrating Christmas like two weeks ago. On Friday, my dad and I went on our annual hunt for my Christmas tree. And by “hunt,” I mean we went to Kriegers in Cuyahoga Falls–we’ve gone there three years in a row now. After setting up the tree in my living room, we went to Ray’s in Kent–also our annual tradition. It’s like when I was a kid, but instead of getting a McD’s eggnog shake after picking out a tree, we go for beer, the beverage for adult children.

I spent Saturday decorating the tree and my house. I know a lot of single people don’t bother with this sort of thing since no one sees their house, but I always do it for myself. It puts me in the Christmas spirit. I really love having a live tree–it makes my house smell wonderful, conjuring images of my very young years when my family had a live tree. I also post all the Christmas cards I receive along the wall in the entry way by my front door.

Christmas Tree and Santa McCoy

Tree and fireplace mantle (the baseball shrine dare not be touched in fear of angering the baseball gods!).

I also managed to finish all my Christmas cards–including the ones I had to make by hand for my friends on the U2 forum I frequent. Everything is ready for the mail tomorrow. I feel like I got a lot done this weekend. Now to shopping… I don’t even want to go there. It’s so hard trying to come up with stuff for everyone I want to buy gifts for. I feel pressure to find something awesome and unique every year and that just doesn’t happen all the time. I hate resorting to gift cards.

So with the initial festivities of Christmas begun, I turn my thoughts to the adventures that 2011 will bring. Naturally, I’ve already got most of the year planned out. I guess I’m not too spontaneous.

  • March – Week long ski trip to Whistler with my friend Janet. My first time in Western Canada. Whee! What a great way to bring in 36 (going the week after my birthday).
  • May 7-8 – The 50th TOSRV!!! PAAAARTY!! (As much as one can party after 100 miles in the evening before another 100 miles.)
  • June 26th – U2 Concert, East Lansing, Michigan. Rock on!!!
  • July 16th – Ride Across INdiana (RAIN) – 160 miles in one day. Can I do it? I may try to organize something with my bike club. Safety and motivation in numbers, right?
  • July 26th – U2 Concert, Pittsburgh, PA. I’m in GA (general admission) and I plan to get into the inner circle–the space between the stage and the looping catwalk. Talk about a party!! But I will be standing/sitting/chatting with fellow fanatics admirers of U2 in line. All. Day. Long. I’m willing to sacrifice for the chance to be close to the band. Like I was in 2001, except then I was in seats.
  • August ? – Might go to California to climb its high point, Mt. Whitney. My uncle (who lives in California) and I have tentatively emailed about it but we have not made any solid plans at this time. Whether I do rides like Roscoe Ramble or Mad Anthony depends on when/if I go to California.

Yes, you’re seeing correctly: No MS 150 this year. Sadly, the MS 150 traditionally takes place the same weekend that my U2 concert–which I originally bought for 2010 before Bono hurt his back–got rescheduled to. Um. Some things take priority over others… Sorry, MS 150! If I am not in California the week of the MS 150 ride in NE Ohio–Pedal to the Point–I might actually do that on. So it’s undetermined at this time whether or not I’ll be participating in an MS 150. Probably all my friends and family would appreciate a year off… since my donations have been dwindling over the years…

I might actually be too distracted to pull the kind of bicycling miles I did this year. But you never know. Most people out there know I’m obsessed with cycling… and thus I will probably end up doing about 4000 miles no matter what. Commuting to work certainly adds mileage. And I love to do it!!

I think I’ve got enough plans spinning out there for now. I guess we’ll only see what the next year brings as it unfolds. I should probably still aim to try to get one of my shorter memoir pieces published. The initial one I wrote–which has never been posted to this blog–about the day my husband died is actually in a final edit form. I’ve had it reviewed by other people and I’ve made changes. If I think it’s great, then it has to be pretty good as I generally think what I write sucks. So I’d like to try to get it published somewhere. I know I’ve said that before and I admit that I didn’t really try this year, even though I said I would. But I should probably dust off the cobwebs and actually make an honest attempt to submit it. I can honestly say that the positive feedback I received after my sermon at my church made me feel more compelled to give it a try. It never hurts to try. The worst that can happen is rejection. Rejection is okay.

Anyway, that’s my update for now. I’ve got some other topics that I’ve wanted to blog about so maybe I’ll make some time in the coming days to get them down. Until then, good luck to all in dealing with the holiday madness!

Black Diamond

For those of you skiers who have met and conquered The Beast…

Looking down the slope,
I swallow fear. Then push off–
RUSH; The Beast is slain!

I’m always talking about doing a hard, challenging slope I’ve never done as “slaying the demon/beast.” Perhaps this line of thought is influenced by all the Buffy episodes I’ve been watching. I always face The Beast twice, just to cement my victory. You aren’t skiing right if you don’t occasionally scare yourself… Your skill will increase the more you challenge yourself by flying outside your comfort zone and face The Beast.

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Graduation Day

Top of Expo Lift

My friend Jennifer taught me to ski when I was 15 or 16 (I was in 10th grade). Her family had a condo at Holimont in New York and she invited me up so that she could have a friend to ski with. Skiing was not something I’d ever aspired to do, not even an option on the radar. I’m think back then I only vaguely thought of skiing. Maybe I figured it was just something Olympians did. It never occurred to me that it was something I could or would do. Like figure skating, it seemed an unattainable goal to contemplate. So when Jennifer asked me one morning while we walked the halls of the high school before home room, “Have you ever thought of learning to ski?” I responded honestly that no, I hadn’t.

It’s kind of ironic, looking back, that an activity a friend off-handedly suggest I try has become one of my favorite activities. Especially since I was never formally taught how to ski. At my own insistence, I was pretty much shown how to do a snow plow and sent on my merry way down an intermediate hill with my friend coaching me through my wedged turns. I would have been kindly taught on a bunny hill but as soon as the words “bunny hill” came out of Jennifer’s mouth, I pictured kids and scared adults gathered together on some lame tiny hill and I would have nothing of it. Jennifer was never one for coddling; when I refused the bunny hill, she pretty much shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, okay.”

But I was a teenager and teenagers are damned determined. And stubborn. I’m still that way, so I’m sure I was doubly so as a teenager. Also, teenagers are not too old that they still feel that invincibility of youth. At that point in my life, I hadn’t had any serious injuries to remind me of what pain feels like, nor did I have to pay my own medical bills. I was free as a bird, you might say. We didn’t even ski with helmets back then. I was not fully aware of how dangerous an activity skiing might be. (I guess I never read the back of my lift ticket.)

Exhibition - My first run. Ever.

My first run, as I remember it, was Exhibition. This is a long, steady blue down the front of Holimont by main lodge. I know I fell a dozen times on the way down and in my memory it seems that I took an hour to get down that run. I don’t remember if it really took an hour, but I’m betting that even as slow as those lifts go at Holimont, someone could have skied up and down that slope five times before I got to the bottom. I remember at one point, as I stood up after my umpteeth fall, I panicked at awareness that my entire world was tilted steadily downward. I knew the only way off that slope was to ski down. I was scared out of my mind at points. But ever determined.

When I finally did make it down, instead of changing my mind and heading for that bunny hill, I shouted, “Again!” And up we went. Never once did I set ski on a bunny hill throughout my beginning days as a skier. I eventually did make it to some beginner runs, but none of them were the real learning hill. I know my ski instructor friends cringe at this story. Despite the fact that I took a long time to learn how to actually ski correctly, and I still have some pretty bad habits I’m working to break, I’m proud of humble beginnings as a skier. I can say that by the end of my first weekend skiing with Jennifer, I could mostly stay on my feet. I was what they used to call “snow-plowing” and everyone could see I was a beginner, but I was having fun. And that’s what skiing is all about.

We used to buy the junior tickets, even though we were above the age for junior tickets, which were $15 back then. At that age, before I started working, it was sure a chore to save and then spend $30 for two days of lift tickets. But I did it every time I had the opportunity. It was always worth every penny.

Exhibition: The word that changed my life.

I don’t know what it is about attaching two waxed boards to your feet and sliding yourself down increasingly difficult hills covered with snow, but I’ve loved it from the moment I first started doing it. It’s like a more complicated form of sled riding. Adult play, I call it nowadays, even though there are often more young people skiing on a given day than people my age. It is an activity that makes me feel like a kid again. I’m exhilarated by the cold air in my lungs, the wind in my face as I move, the sound of the skis swooshing in the snow, the world speeding by before my eyes, the slope getting smaller and smaller as I finish the run. I love the fact that just when I’ve mastered one skill, there’s always another challenge to attempt–steeper hills, moguls, different kinds of snow. There’s always harder resorts and different beauty to behold. Skiing has made me welcome winter with open arms.

Over the last two years, I’ve experienced noticeable improvement with my skiing. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve become a regular skier. As a result, my skill level has kicked up a notch. I’ve also had to admit my failings and take a few lessons to help make it possible for my improvement to continue. During these times, I’ve momentarily felt myself sliding backwards a little as I struggled to commit to muscle memory a new set of movements. But it’s all been for the good because things people have been trying to tell me to do for years are suddenly starting to make sense. I’m feeling more stable and more confident on my skis. I’m starting to enjoy skiing even more now as I push myself to ski slopes I previously feared. I never thought I would ever reach the point where I could comfortably do black diamond runs. But last year I started attacking them. And now I’m conquering many of them here in the east–sometimes fearfully. I’m actually starting to like steep. Even when it’s a little scary…

It’s only fitting that now at the crux of my metamorphosis to the level of an advanced skier that I returned to ski Holimont yesterday. It’s not the first time I’ve been back; I have skied there twice in the last five years. But I only ever skied one black diamond run there–Wild Turkey when I was there last year and I did it somewhat fearfully. When I signed up for this mid-week trip with the Fagowees back in January, I knew that this time I was ready to take on the black diamond runs.

Coincidentally, when I got on the bus for trip, I recognized one of the trip leaders. I didn’t realize at first why I knew him. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Then pieces started to fall into place. Someone on the bus remarked that this person’s family had (or once had) a condo at Holimont. I did a double-take at the name on the information sheet for the trip. Then it hit me–this man was Jennifer’s uncle. I wrote her a quick message on Facebook with my BlackBerry to confirm because I was too cowardly to ask the guy if he was her uncle. I felt kind of stupid… so much time had passed… what if I was wrong? It wasn’t until three beers on the bus ride home that I worked up the bravery to reintroduce myself. About an hour later, Jennifer wrote me back on Facebook. Too late for me to introduce myself without sounding stupid, but oh well. Probably if she had told me, I wouldn’t have said anything. The suspense was killing me and I had to find out.

Anyway, I was on a mission yesterday. Despite having gone on a bus trip with Fagowees specifically to meet like-minded skiers, I decided to head off on my own for the day because I didn’t want to be peer-pressured into doing a run I wasn’t feeling secure about. Not that this happens to me often, but I will admit that I feel like I eat a lot of humble pie when I trek back off the top of a slope because I’m too afraid to go down it. I didn’t want anyone to see me have any emotional breakdowns, like I’m wont to have if I find myself on ice or in the middle of a slope that scares the crap out of me. Needless to say, not knowing what was ahead of me because I’d never even been in the black diamond area before, I wanted to go off on my own so that I could have my panic attacks in private. So after getting suited up quickly, I waited in line with a few other early birds, and was on the very first chair when the Expo lift opened.

To be honest, only the anticipation of the unknown caused my heart to flutter most of the day. My first run (where I made the very first tracks in the groomed snow) was down Meadow, a blue run that I remember as being more difficult, often icy, and pretty much the last stop before all the black diamond runs. I like to start my day on a blue run to remind my legs how to move like a skier. The conditions were much better than expected–grooming packed snow that cut like better when the edges of my skis pushed against it. It wasn’t the softest stuff. In fact, the bumpy groomed surface made a kind of weird noise as my skis cut across it. But it wasn’t ice. My confidence increased.

Meadow Lift (I think)

On my next run, I cut eastward, sweeping by the familiar condos on the aptly-named Condo Line run, and caught the Cascade lift to begin my black diamond experience. Part of me thought I should do another run on Meadow, but I heard my friend Janet’s voice in the back of my head, “You should do the black diamond runs early while your legs are fresh.” True that. No use prolonging the inevitable.

My first run was down Irish Whiskey. It was generally narrow but it went through the woods so I liked it. Again, no ice, and it was steepest at the end where I didn’t even hesitate to follow through with the finish. I then proceeded further left, tackling Wild Turkey, Sunrise, and Twisty Christy. (I skipped Cascade at first because I generally don’t like to do runs that go beneath the lifts, especially when out of my element, because not only do they tend to be icy, but you have people sitting overhead with nothing better to do than watch you and make commentary if you screw up.) Of these, I really enjoyed Sunrise and Twisty Christy.

My run down Twisty Christy brought me to a path where I could either head to the Grear lift or continue back to the Cascade lift to try basically the same runs I’d just done. But my mark was–nervously–Greer because it seemed it would be the steepest of all the runs in this area, if not the whole resort (though I found out later Punch Bowl is actually harder). I knew if I could handle Greer, a world of confidence and possibility would unfold for me for the rest of the day.

Thankfully, Greer doesn’t have a lift running over it, so I knew I could afford to take my time if need be. At the top, I was awed by the sweeping view of Ellicottville below. Sometimes getting perspective on how high I am can undermine my confidence. I tried not to take it in too much on that first run. A man I’d spoken to on the first lift up from the lodge that morning, to whom I’d revealed my intention to do all these black diamonds for my first time ever, came by just as I was standing over the edge of the run.

“Have you tried this one yet?” he asked chipperly. I told him no. “Well, this is one of the steepest,” he confirmed. With a smile, he added, “You’ll like it.”

I started down tentatively as I always do on a run I’ve never done before–one where I haven’t sent a braver friend down to report to me on the conditions first. My eyes seemed to assess that it was certainly steeper than the runs I’d done before it, but as I started making my concentrated turns, all the while repeating to myself the techniques I’d learned from a ski lesson last week, I started to realize that the hill wasn’t anything more than I could handle, that I’d done something that steep before, and I found my comfort zone. I skied the rest of the way down carefully but comfortably. Whew!

And then, of course, I took it again. Two times is what makes the run count as conquered to me–it cements the fact that I did the run. Because I’m usually a lot less fearful on the second run, I can enjoy it more and appreciate every moment. This time, I stopped to snap a picture of the view.

Top of Greer revealing Ellicottville.

Sometimes skiers, when having a good time, shout, “Whoo-hoo!” to express the glee they feel. I had several whoo-hoo moments yesterday. The bad part about not skiing with someone else was that I couldn’t share the moment anyone. I could shout “whoo-hoo”–and I did–to acknowledge the absolute exhilaration of accomplishment with other strangers, who I’m sure understood my excitement, but the moment was absent of the friend who had taught me to ski all those years ago. If only she could see me now… (and she can’t at the moment since she lives in North Carolina). All too late I learned to ski the kinds of runs she could do when she was much younger than me. Oh the fun we would have had!

I stayed in the Greer-Cascade area, eventually doing all the runs, even Early Bird and Cascade which both go under lifts. Early Bird was like many runs beneath lifts–too narrow for comfort so I only did it once. The wider Cascade was interesting, but somehow not as much fun as Twisty Christy and Sunset.

The only thing I had left to do was the dreaded Punch Bowl, known to locals as Headwall. (Jennifer and everyone else I knew back then called it Headwall; in fact, I overhead someone yesterday call it that as they headed over to ski it.) Really, it’s a short, steep but wide hill that goes beneath the Plum Creek lift. The Plum Creek lift appears to only run on weekends for I’ve never seen it run on the week days when non-members are allowed to ski. Since Plum Creek is actually the lift we could take when skiing right from the condo, as a teen, I witness the steepness from an aerial view from the above many times before. Not to mention, I quaked at the story Jennifer used to tell me of riding on her uncle’s shoulders as he skied down it to get to her ski which had fallen off on the lift. I always thought there was no way, no how I was riding on anyone’s shoulders as they skied down any hill, let alone what looked to me then as a gaping wall true to its name.

With my advanced skier eyes, though, Punch Bowl seemed a lot less intimidating than it once did. From the bottom of the slope looking up as I passed the area on my way back from the Cascade lift, I thought with a new found brashness, “Yeah, I can totally do that.”

Nothing from the bottom every looks as steep as it does from the top. As I stood right before the top, I had a few moments of panic where I thought for sure I was going to side-step back up to the safety of the path that cuts over the top back to some easy trails down. I took a breath and I repeated, “You can do it.” I was thankful no one was around to see me quake.

I started down. I don’t know if I what I was feeling was left over from the beginner skier in me who could only snow-plow down a hill, but it definitely seemed steeper than Greer. I stopped once in the middle of the slope to get my bearings. This is usually a bad move because pausing mid-slope tends to freak you out more because you have time to notice just how steep the thing you’re descending is. A young guy came swooshing down across the other side of the slope and I started right back up again, telling myself that it was only a few more turns before I too was done with the slope. When I made it to the bottom, I let out a triumphant cheer. Ha! Conquered. So, true to form, I of course took another run down it to make it really count.

The rest of the day was less stressful and more fun. I found that I also enjoyed a few other black diamond runs that were interspersed amidst the blue runs: Razerback, Downspout and Fall Line. I did all of these multiple times as they were much easier than any of the other blacks and therefore felt like a relief. I also did manage to go down some old familiars: Snowbird and the ever so beloved Exhibition. I am sorry to say that I never went further than Exhibition, for I felt that I’d probably feel disappointed by Sunset, the long green I used to love. At the end of the day, it seemed like too much work to get myself over to a green run that I’d probably only want to do once before returning to the intermediate blue runs. The only black by Sunset is the terrain park, which is far more interesting to snowboarders than to me. I’m not at the half pipe or high jump stage of my skiing career yet. (And, yes, I said yet because part of me thinks jumping might be kind of fun…)

Downspout: A fun black among blues

It was a fun, full day, despite my anti-social mood. I feel as though going to Holimont and conquering all those black diamond runs in my old haunt has really brought me full circle with my skiing past. I’ve finally graduated. It’s only taken me 18 years. The diploma is in my hands and it’s now on to the higher education of advanced skiing. Whoo-hoo, indeed!

And to celebrate, I give you this new ski-ku as my commencement speech:

Skis etch lines in snow
Trailing small “s”‘s behind
Proof that I skied here.

And, by the way, I think I will be joining the Fagowees Ski Club. They hooked up speakers in bus, playing music off someone’s iPod, and people were dancing in the aisles of the bus the whole way home. I sat in the back of the bus with the “bad” folks. Them’s my kind of people!

Also. They promised me a spot on the shot ski at the next meeting. (The shot ski contains five shot glasses and five people line up next to it and simultaneously take a shot off the ski.) Graduation has not matured me enough to give up the partying…

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Happy New Beer

The pile into which all the torches were thrown once the parade was finished.

This is the second year in a row that I spent the evening of New Year’s Eve skiing at Holiday Valley and I must say that it’s the most fun and best way to bring in the new year that I can think of. Well, other than being in a warm climate somewhere and doing a bike ride. But since New Year’s basically heralds the real start of the skiing season, it seems more appropriate to be skiing. I never ride my bike below 40 degrees. Or when there’s snow on the ground. I’m crazy, but I’m not that crazy. The proper sport for the right season, right?

Originally I was supposed to go to Holiday Valley with a friend from my professional organization and her husband. However, there was a crisis in her family and she needed to cancel on New Year’s Eve Eve (December 30th). So I spent my last day at work before the holiday trying to figure out what to do. I went from canceling my trip entirely to joining a group from my bike club at Peak N’ Peek (a smaller, easier resort about an hour closer to home). That would have been fun, but I was really looking forward to Holiday Valley, which, honestly, happens to be one of my favorite resorts out here in the east (or close to home). Fortunately, my friend Janet (with whom I went to Utah) stepped up to the plate and offered to come out with me to ski New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Originally, I had planned to ski December 31-January 2 and then come back on Sunday, but this plan was better because I was feeling a little expended after I entered all my receipts from Utah into Quicken.

Janet is pretty fun to ski with because, though she’s a better skier than me, she’s pretty laid back and does not try to pressure me to ski in places I’m not feeling confident to ski. If she wants to do a run I’m not ready to do, we’ve been able to work out alternate options for myself where we can meet at the bottom to take another run. And, actually, it’s worked out all right because she has managed to persuade me that I can do something when I’m not feeling confident. Last year on a trip to Seven Springs, she persuaded me to go ski all the black diamonds runs at the Gunnar chair right from the moment we got there! And I did them!

Anyway, I have to admit that after being Utah, a lot of stuff at Holiday Valley seemed a lot easier than I remembered. The first run down Yodeler I did on Thursday night, I kind of chuckled and said, “You call this a black diamond?” We keep comparing the run to Snowbird’s Big Emma–a green run that would not be classified as such out here. In fact, we’re pretty sure that the top of Boston Mills’ North Bowl (a black run) is about the same slope as Big Emma.

Not that I was completely confident at Holiday Valley. I got a little nervous taking a run down The Chute, which was a run I got stuck on last year for twenty minutes because I had hit an ice patch and was too afraid to move. The Chute is a little steep and usually filled with bumps, which it had the beginnings of on Thursday, but I skied it anyway. Janet convinced me that I needed to conquer the demon. I wouldn’t say I skied it my most graceful, but I did make it down without stopping in fear or peeing my pants. Sometimes it’s hard to get over the fear of a slope you stopped on before, even if it looks easier to you than it did the year before.

I also still blatantly refused to go down Eagle in the black diamond area off the Eagle chair. Janet kept trying to convince me it wasn’t that steep. She almost got me to do it, but as I looked down it from the top, some dudes on the chair overhead shouted, “It’s soooo scary! Don’t do it.” I hate doing runs I’m unsure of when they run beneath the chair lift because everyone on the chair watches you and they can see your hesitation and lack of experience, and, even though people who ski worse than I do take runs down such as these all the time, I just have too much of an ego to let observers see my fear. If I had gone down it, I would have been making long, hesitation zig-zags down that might have included a few wedge turns and I’d rather just do that kind of unskilled skiing on some run where only other passing skiers can see me sweat. Most passing skiers are too concerned with their own trek down a slope to notice.

After several failed starts, I did convince myself to go down Raven and Hoot Owl in the Eagle Chair area, which was a run (they are really the same) I’d done last year once or twice. The first time I took the run down, I was a little slow and deliberate so I made myself take another run with more confidence. It wasn’t too bad. I wanted to kick myself for passing it twice to take a green down while Janet did all the blacks. She was right in that it wasn’t that steep. She said Eagle had a similar steepness for longer. Oh well. It looks damned intimidating from the lift. Someday I’ll bag it, though. I’m sure of it. Sort of.

Holiday Valley’s New Year’s Eve festivities include a parade of skiers bearing torches–or, rather, road flares–down Cindy’s Run (a blue run in front of the main lodge) at about twenty minutes to midnight followed by a fireworks show ending at midnight. I just learned this year that the public is actually allowed to join the torch parade. And, I noticed, the parade actually begins after the hardest part of run. All you have to do is follow the person in front of you as they group makes slow ‘s”s down the slope. I can totally do that! According to the flier, you just have to be an intermediate skier. So now I’m thinking I might try it next year… Cindy’s Run wasn’t even icy (as it often is) this year so if the conditions are conducive, I might take part!

Throughout the firework display, there were some drunk yokels behind us shouting, “U.S.A.” and “America is number one!” I wondered briefly if my neighbors who fly the Confederate flag were behind me. I mean, really? It’s New Year’s, not the Fourth of July. I was suddenly reminded why drunken crowds often annoy me.

It was fun despite obnoxious hecklers and some people who couldn’t stop blowing those annoying noisemakers at thirty-second intervals (and I’m not talking about children). At midnight, Janet snickered, “Happy New Beer!” We were both drinking beers and had emptied them before the fireworks display. We decided to get another beer and hang in the lodge for awhile before returning to our hotel in Jamestown.

Fireworks in front of the Cindy's Run lift.

Ironically, her car’s navigation system gave us directions that put us right into an DUI checkpoint in Salamanca. It totally hadn’t occurred to me that there would be any. Not that it mattered, they were looking for drunk people. Which we were not. I still get nervous passing any area that involves having to talk to a cop. It probably has to do with those three speeding tickets I have. And once, while being let off a speeding ticket with a warning, a cop made me do a sobriety test by saying the alphabet backwards, which I can’t do anyway, and since then I’ve been afraid of being interpreted as being drunk when I’m really not, despite the fact that such had not happened the time I was tested. Janet was driving and, ironically, she usually never drinks alcohol at all. So I think we were both a little nervous. But we passed without incident. As we should.

Over all, it was a really fun two days. And I’m glad that I still got to ski, but also save a little money in not staying as long as originally planned. I’m going to have to return to “saving money” mode for a little while to recover from the vacation and holiday spending. I’m planning on taking a day trip to Holimont in February (with Fagowees, a ski club in Cleveland that’s supposed to have a lot of fun people who like to party like Mars Girl).  My friend who was unable to go to Holiday Valley this weekend said that she and her husband were thinking of rescheduling later in the season so I’ll be back to my favorite spot. Janet and I  have talked about some day trips to Seven Springs. And I am seriously considering buying one of the Boston Mills season passes when they go on sale in February–they are good for the rest of the season through all of the next.

On the cycling front, soon I’ll be signing up for TOSRV (registration starts around January 15th) and Seattle-to-Portland classic (STP) (public registration is February 1st). My summer trip will involve riding STP (2 days/200 miles), a trip to the wineries in the Williamette Valley, and spending some time with Sarah and her family Seattle. I plan to do Roscoe Ramble again this  year. I may possibly some off-road rides on my Surly…

And now I’m wondering when I’ll squeeze in some time for that writing resolution of mine… Don’t worry, I’ll focus. I’m convinced I’ll not be ready to love someone properly until I deal with this piece of my past. I just fear too much time has passed for me to properly tell the story with the emotion I had when all of it was so much closer to me in time. Of course, time has given me some perspective, too. Not sure it will help in the writing of the story… But you never know.

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My winter vacation in photos

I didn’t take my camera to Utah because I don’t have one, unfortunately, that fits into a pocket. Except my cell phone. So all of the photos I got on my skiing vacation are courtesy of my Blackberry. Not quite the quality I would have liked, but better than nothing. I will share some of the best with you here…

The first day we skied–Sunday December 13th–a blizzard was a’blowing. In fact, the road through Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta and Snowbird was under chain/four wheel drive restrictions. Our little rental car (a Kia of some sort) did not fit these requirements so we took the UTA bus, which turned out to be the best and easiest solution for getting to Alta and Snowbird all week.

Albion Base - Alta

Visibility was poor most of the day and the snow was deep–both of which served me well as I was most fearless despite my inability to ski in full control (and, as I learned later, I wasn’t even in the correct skiing posture).

I think this is the view up Sugar Bowl--the only black diamond run I did the whole week.

In fact, I braved Sugar Bowl without even realizing it was a black diamond run (it didn’t look that sloped to me). I braved the powder fearlessly. Some people fear powder; it makes me feel like I can do any run. Janet got stuck wandering too far to the right of the slope and took some time trying to find her ski. Where I was standing–which I assumed had been groomed earlier in the week–was knee high snow. I was able to cut through it until I stopped to wait on Janet.

Deep snow!

I got the following shot along the slope somewhere. I think this was probably on Mambo or something which goes along the Wildcat Base.

On Mambo? Not sure!

On the second day, the conditions started out like the first, but eventually resolved into sun toward the end of the day.  Here’s some shots from the top of the Sugarloaf lift before I took a fearless run again down Sugar Bowl and some nice blue slopes to finish off my last run.

Top of Sugarloaf lift before descending Sugar Bowl.

View from top of Sugar Bowl.

Towards Sugar Bowl--downward!

On Wednesday, we went to Deer Valley. I spent a lot of time on green runs learning how to turn correctly and break myself of an old bad habit I have of lifting my ski to make turns. I guess I was using my hips instead of my legs to turn. Correcting a bad habit was like learning to ski all over again because I had to completely change the way I made turns which was really, really scary. Janet’s friend, Renee (a level 3 instructor at Deer Valley), had me hold my poles horizontal to prevent me from using my hips to turn and to keep my hands forward (I also have a bad habit of swinging my arms back after making a pole plant). It was a trying day, but I think I started to learn to ski the “right” way finally.

Here’s a shot along Homeward Bound, a green run off of Bald Mountain in Deer Valley.

Homeward Bound at Deer Valley

Deer Valley seemed to have a lot of unobstructed views down the mountains. They tended to be a little intimidating, though beautiful.

I think this was the view from Little Stick on Little Baldy Peak.

Really, there was not a cliff beyond that bit of land you can see… Just a really steep double-blue slope. (We have no double-blues out east, really.)

Little Stick View.

Thursday, we skied at Snowbird, which, as I stated before, is probably the steepest, hardest resort at which I’ve ever skied. The green run–Big Emma–which wasn’t in the Chickadee (beginner’s) area would probably have been a blue run anywhere else. Even anywhere in Utah. It was pretty steep and slightly intimidating to look down. A snowboard stumbling by shouted to who I assumed was her boyfriend, “That’s no green run!!” She proceeded to pass the run in favor of an easy cat walk that led back to the lodge where the Tram ran out of. I could understand her fear. It was a nice run, though.

Here’s a shot from the top of the Gadzoom lift where you take some blue runs that lead eventually to Big Emma. I took the Lunch run as it was the least steep way to Big Emma. (Later I took Bassackwards and actually had to take my skis off when I got stuck on a rock in a really bad, bald spot and couldn’t turn. Talk about amateur hour!)

Scene at the top of Gadzoom lift.

Snowbird is the only place we skied all week that allowed snowboarders. Can’t say I missed the snowboarders. For some reason, that particular crowd of snow enthusiasts seem to be a bit riskier than regular skiers. Often, they cut way too close to skiers and do not obey the basic rules of skiing such as remaining always in control and giving the downhill skier the right of way since they can’t see behind their heads to know the uphill skier/boarder is coming. Anyway, there were lots of signs all over the resort about politely sharing the slopes.

Share the mountain! Dammit!

More scenery shots from somewhere in Snowbird.

More scenes from Snowbird.

Snowbird scenery.

I took the tram to the top of Hidden Peak (11K). There was only one blue run down and it was mostly catwalks down with a few open spaces. I took a wrong turn and ended up on a harder blue at the very end than I intended… After a long, hard day, I was just a bit demoralized. I was halfway down when I was passed by the ski patrol on their final sweep. It’s been a long time since that’s happened!

View from top of tram.

Another view from top of tram.

View towards Mineral Basin (connection to Alta).

I headed wearily down, not sure what I would encounter along the way. I was a little intimidated. Some guys on the tram told me it would take me at least 20 minutes to get down the mountain. I think it took longer because I stopped several times to snap a picture and check the trail map to ensure I didn’t end up on some horrifying black diamond run (they looked really scary on the way up).

My path down.

Downward, ho!

The distance I have come.

I encountered a nice bowl that some people braver than myself descended. I am not sure the scale and slope of this run is quite captured in this flat picture. But it was pretty neat to watch people come down it.

A wall.

By Friday, when I skied again at Alta, I was more concerned about skiing and practicing technique to take any more pictures. It was another nice day, though, and I think I came back around to getting into the swing of things. Of course. Always on the last day! But perhaps I will have time to ski again this week, back home, before New Year’s.

Anyway, while I was at Snowbird, a professional photographer got a few shots of me coming down the tail end of Big Emma. I’ve included the links below. I also had some pictures taken by another professional photographer on Friday on a green run off the Sunnyside lift. I have yet to get the link for those pictures. I hope they look good. I’ve found that seeing these pictures helps me assess my posture. In a few of them, I could tell I was not in the proper position and I look sloppy. Others, though, show good posture. I think I need a videographer to follow me around so that I can study my technique. It’s a good thing bicycling isn’t so complicated…

This set is provided by PowderShots.com.

Hand back. Bad!

Better.

Good, but my left hand is down again.

Too far forward on my skis.

And here’s Janet:

A better skier, obviously!

More me:

Damn arm back again.

Mars Girl rocks the skis.

The following pictures were taken the following day (Friday) at Alta (provided by Peak Photo). You can tell I was getting the technique better (well, for all but the last picture in which I can be seen coming out of a wedge.)

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