Monday, February 4, 2013

Ski weekend reflections

The weekend began with a harrowing drive that took twice the normal amount of time due to some of the worst roads I've seen in awhile, but bad roads mean good snow conditions. A late start on the mountain at no fault of our own rewarded us with above average conditions. It was hard to tell that the mountain had been nearly bare days before due to warm temps and rain days prior. Snow everywhere. Whales from the snow guns on nearly every slope. West side of the mountain even had a fair amount of powder that afforded runs without scraping the ground below. Always a thrill.

Friday night dinner club for the night shifters was good yet again. Always enjoyable to sit around with everyone eating good grub potluck-style and joking about everything. A friend joined me this weekend for Friday and Saturday and remarked on how close-knit our patrol is. We really are. They're like a second family to me.

An enthusiastic group, despite the cold, jumped at the chance to practice lift evac after dinner in -2.2°F weather. I had only practiced this in the summer months and incorporating snow, skis, and cold to the equation made for quite a difference. Concepts made far more sense with these added parts to the equation though. Different leadership from summer helped concepts to make more sense and everything clicked. I feel confident in my abilities in the event that we have to apply our training to real life.

Post-work led to some drinks at a local joint and more joking and laughing. A little shop-talk because we can never really get away from our patrol duties, but mostly joking and relaxing after a long day on the mountain. An awesome end to a great day.

: : : : :

Saturday morning dawned early with little new snow, but the promise of more by afternoon. The majority of the mountain was open, though the groomers were crusty from the cold. My shift started with the first chair ride up the mountain and 0°F temps; sweeping the mountain from east to west to get it set up for customers.

A fellow telemark patroller who wasn't on duty came by the mountain and made some runs with me. The best part of patrol is free lessons all the time. While its only my second season on tele gear, I'm really starting to get the hang of it and my fluidity with my movement is getting much better. They assure me I'm a natural and have beautiful body position, but as my own worst critic, I'm still pushing to be better all the time.


Miss Ella and myself
The day passed without major incident and the snow started coming down good around 2p. Unexpected events led to me taking on night shift and working another double-shift day. But I didn't mind.

Night shift was a blast. A rousing game of cards that led to tears of laughter, a search that was fortunately called off due to good news, and then skiing in the darkness with only the ambient light from other places seeping in to illuminate the snow.

Nothing beats skiing at night. Snow was still falling, lights from other parts of the resort lent light to the far areas with no lights to illuminate them. The whiteness of the snow with the ambient light provided just enough visibility to see safely. Kenai pulled Robb along in front of me as I practiced my tele turns. An entire run of fresh powder on top of a groomed slope. Guiding my way were Robb's ski tracks and Kenai's bounding paw prints in the snow. A sure sign of a happy dog.

We (Kenai, Robb and I) took last chair for Saturday and stood at the top until others had safely reached the bottom. We were the last ones off the mountain that night. Kenai got to run free down the slope for 300 yards or so chasing Robb. Seeing my snow dog bound happily through freshly drifted snow was a fun sight. Happy, happy dog.

This night, like the former, ended with drinks and food with the night shift folks at the same local place. Stories from times as a raft guide from other patrol friends led to absolute gut-wrenching laughter. Its always great to laugh like that. Another awesome end to a great day on the mountain.

: : : : :

We woke Sunday to snow STILL falling. The entire day was a powder day and nearly the whole mountain was open. The only closed slopes were due to snow guns sitting idly on them that presented a not-favorable obstacle that customers didn't need to encounter.

Robb above Gravity
I was on the first chair up the mountain again, and got to make first tracks down Gravity. Epic start to an awesome day.

I skied with my two patrol friends that also ski tele gear all morning. I've finally found my rhythm in powder and was able to make some very nice turns. Dropping knees in powder is a far greater experience in my mind than alpine turns. More than that though, the challenge of learning a new skiing discipline is very rewarding. Nearly 20 years on alpine gear lent me many skills, but its been really fun switching it up with telemark skiing.

After three full days on the mountain skiing a lot of powder, my legs were whooped. The drive home and sleeping in my own bed was a welcome experience....but 5-9" are expected in the Valley tonight. Tomorrow might just be another phenomenal powder day.

Saturday morning view of Canaan resort; cloud is man-made snow blowing into the next county (sigh)
Sunday morning view of Canaan resort - lack of visibility is due to falling natural snow (booya)

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