Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Long underwear

My grandfather wore long underwear every day of every year for pretty much his entire adult life. He was a cowboy in the transitional period of cowboys, having worked on a western ranch like you'd read about in a Louis L'Amour novel while growing up, and then later farming and ranching as techniques transitioned to automated equipment, such as tractors, pickups and the like. But the wearing of long underwear (and usually a flannel shirt) every day was one of those things that didn't change. Of course, he also lived at 7,000 feet, so it never got unbearably hot, and he was usually up by 5:00 a.m., so mornings were always crisp if not downright cold.

Today I spent my morning skiing and came straight to work, so I've been wearing long underwear all day myself. And I've got to say there's something to be said for it. I think I'll start wearing it on non ski days from time to time as well.

It was needed this morning, since it was four degrees Fahrenheit according to the thermometer in my car when I pulled into the parking lot. Others were reading as low as zero degrees. With the wind, the chairlift rides were pretty chilly. At 11:00 it had warmed up to about ten degrees, and with the sun up, it felt positively toasty by comparison.

The cold temperatures kept the snow in good condition. We had a fun time, with four of my colleagues plus Kris all playing hookie to make some turns. UTRider did a nice writeup, so I won't go into any more detail, but it was good to help out the Utah food bank in order to get cheap lift tickets. As I was heading to the car, I saw the food bank truck being loaded up. There must have been several tons of food. Hopefully someone who needs it will enjoy peanut butter, chili, and Reese's puffs as much as I do.

The problem with riding the lifts versus backcountry skiing is that lift-served doesn't wear me out near enough. When I'm worn out from a long climb in the backcountry, it only seems to sharpen my focus the rest of the day. But when I just lazily ride the chairlift, sipping diet coke and eating chocolate creme oreos, it really doesn't take much out of me. Consequently, I spent much of my afternoon struggling to focus and yearning to still be on the mountain. Fortunately, Dug is anxious to get out as well, so tomorrow morning is shaping up for a dawn patrol on some mellow, low-risk terrain. There was talk of doing some BC laps today but that plan ultimately disintegrated due to the current avy conditions.

While I'm on the topic of avalanche conditions, I'll take a moment to make a pitch for the Utah Avalanche Center. Even in good years the center runs on a lean budget. With significant cuts to the State of Utah and Salt Lake County budgets, they expect 2009 to be an extremely thin year for the center. These folks do a tremendous job providing valuable information that ultimately saves lives every year. Please donate to the friends of the Utah Avalanche Center to help keep this valuable work going.

Anyway, back to the topic of long underwear. As comfortable as it is, it's not all sunshine and roses. I've noticed that the synthetic fiber, which is designed to wick moisture, shares the same drawback of most similar fibers: it stinks. If it's funky enough for me to notice, I certainly can't be the only one. I'm sure my grandfather didn't deal with this, as his was probably made of wool, and a little BO was nothing in comparison with the animal crap that was part of his workday.

But working in a relatively small office where interaction with others, including superiors, is unavoidable makes funky smelling undergarments somewhat of an issue. As it happens, the boss has been fighting a cold and is keeping his distance to avoid infecting others. When we crossed paths and stopped to talk about a project this afternoon, we were each maintaining a larger than normal buffer from the other, each for his own reasons.

Unfortunately, short of gouging his eyes out, there was nothing I could do to mask my hat head, goggle sunburn line, and long underwear under my t-shirt. I'm just glad I wasn't the only one so attired. Maybe next time, he'll come along too.