Thursday, April 10, 2008

Best ski days 2008, part 2

Let's see, where did we leave off? I believe it was the last week of January where I had snow frozen to my face for more than 20 minutes after I got done skiing. Well just as it always happens, while things were going off in Idaho, they were REALLY going off in Utah. We're talking change-your-life-deep powder day after day. And fortunately for me, we had planned a trip to Utah for that weekend.

Friday, February 1st, according to the folks in the tram line, was the most epic day in the last 20 years at Snowbird. It must have been, because on Saturday, February 2nd, I was still getting face shots in Mineral Basin all morning long. And I didn't have to work too hard to get them. Saturday was a fantastic day not just because the snow was good, but because I was with my brother Josh, who, by virtue of being my brother, gets an exemption to the snowboarders are lame rule. We cranked out more than 20,000 vertical by 1:00 and had a great time.

The following Monday, I had plans to meet Dibs, a.k.a. skifishbum, up at Solitude to demo some Bro Models. Dibs warned me that they would probably close the canyon for avy control, so to head up early. I left my parents' house at 5:30 and drove my mom's Honda CRV up the canyon, which hadn't been cleared since the night before. I passed the howitzer on my way up and saw three different slides that had come down onto the road. Did I mention that mom's CRV doesn't have snow tires? Yeah, the drive up was a little sketchy, but worth it. Good thing I came up early, too, because they closed the canyon behind me.

I had breakfast at Soli and then Dibs and I grabbed first chair. Dibs has worked at Solitude for 11 years, so he knows where to go, and he knows the patrollers. We basically followed patrol around all day getting first tracks as soon as they opened things up. We made a short foray out one of the backcountry gates that did not appear to have been opened in the last week. The snow was bottomless. I didn't just need to wait for my skis to plane out before I could make another turn, they needed to plane out just so I could see something besides white. Unbelievable stuff all day long. And that closed canyon? Well, when it finally opened up around noon or so folks from the valley had given up on the day. Wouldn't have mattered anyway, because by mid afternoon, I was so tired from skiing fresh and booting to the more aesthetic lines that I was ready to call it a day. A very good day. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Bro Model skis. Fantastic--I'd like to get a pair as my touring setup. They are light, unbelievably damp, stable at speed, and float in the pow. What more could you want for a BC ski?

Unfortunately for me, after that last week in January and first week in February, the really deep snow was done for the season. Which is not to say my season was done. My three-year-old, David, continued to progress all year long. He sort of had a sense for when I wanted to go skiing, and as soon as he saw me put on my ski pants would always ask if he could come. How can you tell a three-year-old, "no, I'd rather ski by myself today?" He and I had some wonderful days with just the two of us but more often with his sister, Emily (at left), along as well.

One of the more memorable experiences with David came night skiing. All of my kids are very independent and don't like Dad getting in their way. Shortly after the "I goed fast all by myself" incident, David discovered that he could ride the magic carpet on the beginner hill all by himself as well. Much of our time this season was spent doing 50 vertical foot laps on the magic carpet with my role reduced pretty much to just watching my son and reminding him to make turns once in a while (he really likes the going fast part). One evening, after several laps on the chair plus several more on the magic carpet, I asked David if he was ready to be done for the night. He said he wanted to go in the lodge and have hot chocolate, which we did. After two sips of hot chocolate, he indicated he wanted to go back out and ski. So we headed out for more laps on the conveyer. Finally, at 9:45 p.m., the liftie told David "last ride." He was crushed that someone was going to make him quit skiing. And I had another very proud moment as a parent.

Emily, who turns 9 next week, also had a great year, but since it's her fourth year skiing, didn't show the dramatic improvement we saw from David. That being said, she discovered the joy of skiing with friends, even if they were all boys. Some good friends of ours have four boys, two older and two younger than Emily. When we skied with them, she was the center of attention. As a parent, it's hard to compete, but I did get her undivided attention on President's Day, when we had bluebird conditions, even if the snow was a bit icy. Before the day began, she asked "how long are we going to ski?" I told her "until you feel like going home." I had no idea that point would not come until we had logged over 15,000 vertical feet. It was a wonderful day for both of us.

Another great memory came skiing with one of my close friends and colleagues, David. David is from Spain but currently lives in the Bay Area. We used to work in the same area and in the process discovered that our kids are the same age and we share a lot of the same interests, including skiing and mountain biking. David was to be in Boise for several days of meetings and decided to come early in order to have some time to ski. David invited another colleague, Ken, a Dane who currently lives in Munich. I had a great time introducing two guys who learned to ski in Europe to the joys of skiing trees. We had about five inches of fresh snow that by my standards was very heavy and not that great, but it didn't matter. The three of us had an incredible time skiing fast, dodging trees, and trying to remember to slow down before hitting the cat track. Right. About that, well let's just say that visibility wasn't great that day, and I became well-acquainted with one of the cat tracks that bisects a nice tree run on the back side. Ken captured the moment for posterity and kindly shared it with others. David is standing to the right. For the record, I'd like to point out that the only reason David is standing is because he jumped to his feet as soon as Ken reached for the camera. Unfortunately, this is the only photo I have from this day, and actually the only photo I have of me "skiing" all year.

Most of my backcountry skiing this year has been done with Mitch. I've ridden bikes with Mitch's brother-in-law for a number of years, but when Mitch moved to Boise in the fall, it was a real bonus to me because I had an ideal backcountry ski partner. Specifically, he was available every time I called and happily does more than his fair share breaking trail. Last time we went out was to More's Mountain, Bogus Basin backcountry. My friend and colleague, Bob, joined us for the day. This is where we skied down.

And here's Mitch, skinning back up.

All in all, it's been a great season. I set my goal for 30 days on snow this year and got it. At least 10 of those were really good powder days. And at least 10 more were amazing days with my kids. All I lacked were days with my wife. With a baby at home, the times we could get a sitter and both of us ski together all day were few but worthwhile. And my lovely wife certainly deserves credit for letting me get out and ski so much. It's like the time I mentioned to someone that my wife and I go fly fishing together. His response was "are you planning to get a divorce?" No, we're not. And yeah, I got lucky.

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