Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gaper day weekend

Utah sees about 4 million skier visits per year. In a state of 2.6 million people, each resident would ski about 1.5 times per year to reach that total. Of course, there are many of us who ski quite a bit more than once or twice a year, and there are a whole slew of people who come from out of state to ski. And then there are those who don’t ski at all.

But there really are some who ski once a year, and it seems like they all choose President’s Day for that one day per year. Why they choose President’s Day makes no sense to me. I went on President’s Day because I go pretty much every chance I get. But if I were only going to go once, I don’t think the busiest day of the year would be the one I chose.

I was all set to write a really snarky post about the stuff I saw over the weekend. Then, on the way to work, I heard a story on NPR about how snark is a cancer to civil discourse. So I reconsidered even writing this post.

But I like snark. And I realized that I’m not being mean or ridiculing anyone. I mean, for all I know, the joke’s on me, and the strange things I saw were all meant in fun and to give me a good laugh. Besides, my philosophy is that any skiing is better than not skiing, so no matter how you do it, I’m glad to see people up there on the mountain. We’d all get along better if we skied more—I’m sure that’s how Switzerland has maintained a policy of neutrality. And it’s not like nobody’s laughing at the Swiss skiers, what with the Bogner fartbags and all.

So here’s a list of some amusing things that I either saw or experienced over the weekend. In no particular order.

Cop cars without snow tires

Early Saturday morning, we’re driving down the hill on the North side of Suncrest. It’s a 10% grade for about 1500 vertical feet, so when it’s covered with snow, it can be a bit dicey. The cop who was coming down while the snow plow was coming up learned this the hard way. We stopped to make sure everyone was fine, which, thankfully, they were. The cop was a bit embarrassed. You’d think with the snowfall we get they’d outfit the cruisers with snow tires.

Cop Car Collision

Gaper gap

You’re either a skier or a gaper. If you’re trying to make the transition, the first place to start is making sure that your helmet or hat sits low enough that it meets the top of your goggles. Otherwise you have gaper gap, as seen here. Although this example is a bad one because he’s wearing glasses. Even though goggles wouldn’t have made much difference. Raccoon eyes are one thing. Raccoon eyes with a striped forehead are quite another.


Incidentally, Rob, the Wonder Twin, is prone to gaper gap. But I’ve never said anything. Because Rob is a WAY better skier than I am. Except he reads this blog. So I guess I did just say something. Hi Rob.

Helmet covers

I love these. I should get one and wear it next time we do the Pee-Chuter (the new name for the recently renamed steep, narrow, cliff-lined chute).

helmet cover

Pre 1100’s

Back in the day, Pre 1200’s were the “it” ski. Sometime in the ‘80’s I remember watching a segment from a Warren Miller film where a couple of hotshot locals were ripping a Sun Valley bump run on Pre 1200s. I wanted to be them--I wanted to ski on their skis where they were skiing.

A couple years later, during the presidency of Bush 41, I was a poor high school kid in need of some good skis for cheap. I thought about the Pre 1200s and tried to find a pair. To no avail. They were old enough by then that they couldn’t be found, even used (we didn’t have internets back then).

Tangentially, in recent years I actually skied at Sun Valley and discovered that it’s kind of lame. At least the inbounds stuff. But that’s neither here nor there.

I’m not sure how Pre’s numbering system worked, whether the 1100’s were a predecessor of the 1200’s or just a less performance-oriented ski of the same vintage, but the woman ahead of me in the ticket line on Monday had a pair. I don’t think they had been waxed since Ross Perot was an almost-viable presidential candidate.


That’s the water density of the snow that Dug, Jon, and I skied in Days Fork on Saturday. Yum. I was glad to hear that Sam a.k.a. VH1 finally made it out Monday to clean up our leftovers.

 days 011 days 016 days 018

Salt Lake 2002

The Olympics were awesome. But they’re over. Seven years ago.


Apparently these used to be (and maybe still are, for all I know) big in France. It’s like taking all the comparative disadvantages of snowboarding and snowlerblades and combining them in one contraption. And yet, I stood behind one in the lift line on Saturday. The guy described his setup as “a dinosaur.”


Boot and ski sizing

Once-per-year skiers, when not on quarter-century-old equipment, are otherwise on rental skis. Which means that their boots don’t fit. Of course, most skiers wear boots that don’t fit, and it’s almost never because they’re too small. Boots that fit properly are almost always going to be uncomfortable until at the very least the liners are molded. For Alpine Boots (which unlike touring boots don’t have fully moldable liners), some shell work is usually in order. Unless you have really easy-to-fit feet.

Instead of going through the discomfort and expense of finding boots that fit, most skiers just buy them two sizes too big. The boot makers are complicit with this by listing street shoe size conversions to mondo sizing right on the box. For instance, if you measure my foot it’s 25.5 cm long, which means I wear a 25.5 ski boot (see how simple mondo sizing is?). According to the box, though, that corresponds to a street shoe size of 7. In reality I wear an 8.5 or a 9.

As a result you see a lot of 5’2” women walk out of the rental shop with size 27 ski boots. This woman had on size 24.5, which is probably the right size for her. However, whether she was actually sized properly at the shop or just lies about her street shoe size is a question I’ll never know the answer to.


As much too big as the boots tend to be, the skis tend toward the inverse. I love seeing 6’4”, 240 pound Oklahomans on 160cm skis.

Kids that rip

Mine is not one of those blogs that is nothing but photos of my kids interspersed with copy about how cute they are. Sure, there’s a place for blogs like that, but the audience is limited to Grandmas, siblings, kind neighbors, and friends from high school who are really only reading so they can feel like their BFF is still close even though she quit calling several years ago.

Notwithstanding, I am not above bragging about my kids once in a while. I mean, this blog has no theme other than whatever I feel like writing about, which just so happens to be skiing or cycling 95% of the time, and can include my kids at my discretion.

On our first ride up the very easy chairlift Monday, my four-year-old turns to me to conspire about beating his nine-year-old sister down the hill. She was on the chair in front of us. She got off and waited for us. He got off and straightlined it to the bottom. Figure 11’s. Not. One. Turn. He’s come a long way since the first time we were out this year.

D skiing

Unfortunately, my kids fail to understand the dirtbag ethic. They don’t know that you’re supposed to fill your pockets with candy, oreos, PBJs, and maybe a can of diet coke and eat that on the chairlift so you can ski, uninterrupted (save ducking into the trees—fly, not buckle—as needed), all day. Instead, they wanted to have lunch in the lodge. Of food purchased in the lodge. They lit me up for $21. For four items. Still cheaper than calling it a day early and wasting a lift ticket I guess.

After we moved on to a bigger lift, my daughter saw a bump run right under the chair. She asked if she could go down that way the next time. It was a proud moment, so I helped her brother down the run just so we could watch her.

E Skiing

My kids aren’t the best skiers on the mountain any more than I am. But they’re good enough to be fun to watch and make their dad happy. And in the end, the whole point of skiing is having fun and being happy.

So keep skiing, even if you’re boots are too big, your skis are too old, or your helmet is too ugly. But if you’re on a monoski, cut that thing in half.


  1. Okay. Now, you have officially paralyzed me from attempting the whole skiing thing. Not only will I have to concern myself with seriously damaging my body, but I will have to watch out for the man with the camera, plotting and waiting until he can get home to make fun of my sorry butt.

  2. so if president's day is the busiest day of the year, why, when i took the day off (who besides me has to take president's day "off" to go ski?) to go there with my family, did i find snowbird with great snow but practically deserted?

    weird. but awesome.

  3. Dug,

    The gapers are intimidated by Snowbird, whereas the skiers assume it will be packed. Hence, Solitude, which usually has no lift lines, even on powdery Saturdays, was a quagmire, while Snowbird was your private paradise.

    Either that or Ullr was granting you a blessing for your zealous discipleship.

  4. For some reason when I read the last paragraph the voice in my head sounded just like Warren Miller. I read it again and the same thing happened. I always thought that his narrative was the best part of his movies so take that as a compliment.

  5. Steve,

    Warren Miller's commentary was the best part, so thank you. Since they've had Jonny Moseley doing the commentary, it's become far less engaging. They still dub in Warren's commentary from old films, but it's not the same. Not to mention the Warren Miller films are now just commercials for the resorts, vehicles, and hard/softgoods manufacturers featured in the films.

  6. That must be a misprint in the NPR article. Snark is a staple of public discourse!

  7. I have a pair of Pre 1200,s on Ebay right now, They look good as new for being 1985, and I had two girl friends that actually skied for the Warren Miller film in Utah, Thats why I bought Them

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