Friday, January 29, 2010

First taste of vomit

The avalanche rose looks like this:


And we’re all a bit spooked after Wednesday’s fatality. So instead of touring today, I found myself doing this:

Rick was up to his usual tricks, setting a blistering pace to the top (he kindly let me pull to the front as Rachel approached us driving down the hill, though, and yes, she bought it). As a result, I had the first taste of vomit in my mouth for the year.

Aaron reminded me that it would be the first of many.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blessed are the merciful

Anyone on the Wasatch Front is probably aware by now that we had another avalanche fatality yesterday. That’s death number two in less than a week.

It seems as if there’s an unavoidable human urge to Monday morning quarterback these things and figure out what went wrong. And to the extent that helps us avoid mistakes in the future, that’s a good thing.

Sunday’s was pretty simple—the guy shouldn’t have split up with his partner. His arm was sticking out of the snow after the burial, so he likely could have been rescued had anyone been there to find him. [Update: victim was found face-down on top of the snow and apparently died of trauma. Who's to say whether having someone there right away would have made a difference. He may not have intended to go out of bounds and did not deliberately separate from his partner. Regardless, a tragic situation.]

Yesterday’s is a lot spookier. The skier was with partners, with the right tools, and they observed travel protocol by entering the slope one at a time. He was the first, he triggered the slide, and he was caught and carried. He was buried so deep that trees had to be removed to extricate him. The slide ran the length of the slope, across the creek at the bottom of the drainage, and up the other side. It was a big one. Even had they got him out faster, it likely would have made little difference due to the trauma suffered when he entered the trees.

The downside with Monday morning quarterbacking is that most people doing it assume they would have chosen otherwise. But nobody really knows what he or she would have chosen to do without actually being in that situation.

The thing that bothers me most about these incidents, aside from the loss of life itself, is the way the public reacts to them. Here are some sample comments to the article on, with grammar and spelling errors left in for effect:

F-150: This is getting to the point of stupidity. People? why are you going out in avalanche territory?
If thats what you want to do then dont come crying for help to get your but out!

Eichhoernchen: Call me a bad person, but I don't feel sorry for these people. I do feel sorry for their families and friends, but not them. They made a conscience decision.

Paravon: Sounds like their getting what they deserve. Its no secret we've all been warned about avalanche season, they must have figured they could pull it off but goes to show how ingorant stupid people can really be.

Xanax: They are called Darwin Award winners

Maverick07: The problem is that they ignored the avalanche warnings. WHy not go sky diving without a parachute?

Where is the compassion here? A man is dead, and saying “I told you so” after the fact won’t bring him back. Decision making in the backcountry is a complex thing where one little mistake can have huge consequences.

Yesterday morning, just a few hours before this incident, we were standing at the top of Flagstaff Mountain, looking into Days Fork, one drainage West of where this incident occurred. Of course we were thinking about skiing it—it was untracked and deep, and we hadn’t been in there all year because of avalanche conditions.

We kicked a few cornices and didn’t get anything to move. Still, we didn’t trust it. We thought about getting onto the slope and digging a pit, but even being on the slope to make assessments could trigger a slide, and we didn’t see any safe spots from which to evaluate. Ultimately we just headed back the way we came up, down a south-facing slope devoid of the rotten base layer that is causing everything to slide.

We all make decisions every day based on the best information we have available. Sometimes those decisions work out the way we hope they will, sometimes they don’t. But when they don’t, the human and decent thing is to comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Accusations and spite accomplish nothing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I spoke too soon

I've had a couple people ask me if there's been any fallout from my decision last Sunday to skip church and go skiing instead. There hasn't. At least not directly.

After reading today's announcements at church, however, I can't help but think the stake leadership got word I didn't think their activities were engaging and planned something just for me. This is word-for-word from the announcement sheet, except for the emphasis, which is mine:
Stake Valentines Dance - "An Evening in Paris" will be held on Saturday February 13th, 2010 from 7:30 - 11:00 pm. [Somewhere in Zion] Stake Center, semi formal attire. For adults 18 years old and older.

Live music and dancing
Hors d'oeuvres and Pasties
Fabulous Company

I wonder if, in addition to the pasties, they'll also have g-strings. I'll come prepared to make change in small bills just in case.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The hate was strong

A common occurrence when skiing is to finish up our tour right as another party is starting theirs. When they ask what time we started, they often shake their heads in dismay at the response.

Here’s the thing, though, I HATE getting up that early. Some days it’s easier than others, but it’s never actually easy. I just hate the feeling I have when I’ve missed a really good day even more than I hate getting up. In fact, I not only hate that feeling, I hate myself for the decision that led to that feeling. I still haven’t forgiven myself for choosing to race Hell of the North instead of skiing. I probably never will.

This morning was one of those mornings when getting up was especially difficult. The alarm went off, and I was dazed and confused for a minute trying to figure out what was even going on. I thought real hard about not getting out of bed, but then I thought of the fresh snow, and the hate I was already feeling for myself drove me off of the mattress.

Apparently the hate was strong this morning, because the parking lot was full. We had nine in our party, so we split up. Not by design, just be default. Mike H. was setting the pace. His pace breaking trail had me at my limit just trying to follow. Mike likes to talk about how hard he struggles to keep up with Bart and the Samurai. That may be the case, because those guys are uber fast. But for some reason I think I should be able to hang with Mike, even though I can’t. Maybe it’s because we race bikes in the same category. Regardless, the boy has a motor.

Dug’s son Ian also joined us this morning for his second tour ever. His fifteen-year-old legs got him up the hill without much difficulty, and he has no problem whatever getting back down. I’m thinking he may become a regular. His teachers will understand, right? If not, I guess home school is an option.

The skiing was good, but I have no proof. Memory card was full, so no pics. Winds at the top were fierce. Windward slopes were scoured, cornices were growing, and we saw two of them that had broken off and triggered slides. Fortunately the slope wasn’t steep enough for the slides to run, which is precisely why we chose that spot.

As nice as the storm has been so far, apparently the best is yet to come, with up to three additional feet expected by Sunday morning. I may have to worship at the church of the blue dome again this week.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Buck Hill

Buck Hill Minnesota will not impress anyone with it’s mountain stats: 310 vertical feet, and less than 60 inches of snowfall annually. Yet World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn got her start there, as did Kristina Koznick. Buck Hill’s racing coach, Erich Sailor, knows a bit about training ski racers and doesn’t need world-class terrain to do it.

For all the challenging terrain we have in the Wasatch, sometimes steeper isn’t what you need to improve as a skier. When we moved to Boise, I was shocked at how not steep the ski runs were. I set about developing my technique (which really wasn’t that good). I’m a better skier for having done so and doubt I would have seen the same improvement had I pushed myself to ski more difficult terrain rather than tried to ski easier terrain really well.

And so it is with JunkieBoy. He’s still learning as a skier. He does fine on green runs and can make it down some of the blue ones. But our favorite outing is night skiing on Chickadee at Snowbird. Chickadee would make Buck Hill seem big. I doubt it’s much more than 100 vertical feet, if that. Which makes it a perfect place to help a little guy hone his technique.

He still defaults to the “pizza,” but with some encouragement, he can put both skis on edge and lay a trench. If you’ve never watched a kid less than four feet tall and under 40 pounds carve a turn, it’s something to behold. His skis are 87cm long, so they come around fast. My skis handle more like a Buick, while his are like a Mini Cooper. Try as I might, I can’t match him turn for turn.

As a parent and a skier, I want him to be way better than me. This desire exhibits itself with constant encouragement to bend his knees and stay out of the back seat. He never hears me, and he never needs to, because the most important factor as to whether or not he’ll exceed my ability is whether or not he wants to. Success as a skier isn’t determined by hands forward, knees bent mechanics, it’s determined by whether the corners of your mouth are up or down. His are always up.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Catching up

Quick post today to catch you up on skiing adventures. On Saturday, Dug, Brad, Dustin, and I did some exploring up in the White Pine area of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Skiing wasn’t the point—looking around and exploring was, and in that regard we were rewarded, with some views of the Pfeifferhorn being the highlight.

On the way down, Dug went off the world’s smallest booter. When he landed, he kicked off the world’s smallest avalanche. Here’s the crownline, three inch maximum depth.

And here’s the debris pile. I think it may have been able to catch and carry a lap dog, but definitely not a person.

While worshiping at the church of the blue dome on Sunday, I took this short video of the rugrats. JunkieGirl has really improved her technique this year. I think getting her out of kid boots and into overlap boots (thanks, Dug!) was a big part of that.

I would have taken some photos this morning, except that Bart, Mike H., and the Samurai were setting the pace. Instead of twenty minutes at threshold, I had an hour. We got to the summit so fast that the sun wasn’t up yet, so it was too dark for pictures. Apparently it wasn’t too dark to ski, though, as everyone was dropping in in the pre-dawn half light. Because skiing tight trees isn’t exciting enough on its own, may as well do it without the benefit of daylight just to mix things up.

It’s nice to have a real storm come through. Hopefully we can get some consistent snowfall the rest of the season.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Next to skin

I mentioned last week that I had a little something from Smartwool I was dying to try out. That little something was a set of their mid-weight next-to-skin (or NTS) baselayer.

I have a high-quality baselayer for skiing already—anyone who has watched skiing on TV would recognize the brand. It’s made of synthetic fiber, and it works quite well as far as wicking moisture and insulating when wet are concerned. There’s just one problem: it stinks to high heaven with the slightest bit of sweat. If it’s not laundered within hours of use, the stink may not come out in one washing. In the past I’ve pulled it out of the clean clothes and wondered how something could make it through Tide and Clorox 2 and still smell like that.

My hope was that the Smartwool baselayer would suffer the sweaty rigors of backcountry skiing a bit better. I wore it on a 4.5 hour tour in Little Cottonwood on Saturday, and I was super comfortable all day.

It’s 100% merino wool, and I’m curious as to how Smartwool spins it’s yarn to be soft and comfortable with no itchiness as well as elastic enough to be form-fitting without binding. It also breathes amazingly well—much better than the synthetic stuff I’ve used previously—while still being at least as warm. At the end of a long tour, I’m accustomed to my baselayer being a bit soggy, but that was not the case on Saturday. Who knew spinning wool into yarn could be taken to such a high level?

When I got home, I took it off and threw it in the dirty clothes.

Then on Sunday morning, I did the unthinkable. As I went in my closet to get dressed before taking the kids skiing*, I decided to put my new baselayer to a real test—two days of use with no washing. I picked it up out of the dirty clothes and gave it a sniff. It wasn’t stinky. It didn’t feel crusty, either, so I pulled it on. The kids and I skied all day, and I was just as comfortable as I was the day before. I got home, and it still didn’t feel soggy, so I just changed into some shorts but wore the top while I watched the second half of the Chargers-Jets game (did anyone see that result coming? Wow!). It still didn’t stink.

*My Mormon friends, neighbors, and relatives may be alarmed** at this confession of defiling the Sabbath by skiing. Allow me to explain. Yesterday was our semi-annual stake conference. In Mormondom, stake conference is when your local congregation (or ward) meets together with all the other local congregations pertaining to the next higher level of organization, called a “stake.” In Boise, I quite liked stake conference, as those putting it on were intelligent and articulate and had a good sense of how to choose relevant, engaging topics.

Let’s just say it’s not the same here. Last time we went, I was just about to hack my wrists open with my carkeys when my neighbor seated a few rows in front of me—let’s call her “Kim”—whispered something to her husband—let’s call him “Doug”—and they and their three children packed up and left about 3/4 through the meeting. We were hot on their heels. And I knew that neither JunkieBoy nor I could ever survive such an ordeal again.

**Indeed, I know at least one relative was alarmed, because Rachel got a text last night asking if I got more out of skiing than I would have from church. Which begs the question of how said relative even found out since we didn’t tell her. News of heretical behavior travels fast, I guess.

I’m guessing I could get away with yet another day if push came to shove, but I’m going to do laundry tonight anyway. And though I don’t intend to wear the same baselayer on consecutive days in the future, it’s nice to know I could. In fact, if I were doing a hut trip or mountaineering expedition, having such an option would be invaluable.

My one complaint is that the cuff on the bottoms was just barely stretchy enough to get over my calves. But I sort of have big calves. Smartwool has apparently also considered this, as they have a version that only comes down to boot top instead of all the way to the ankles. I will probably cut mine off and re-hem them at that length.

Overall I’m quite pleased with my new clothing and will have a hard time wearing anything else in the future. I expect the top will work equally well when it gets repurposed for cold-weather cycling come spring. Smartwool has been sending me stuff for over a year now, yet somehow it always exceeds my already high expectations.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday soapbox filler post

Today’s post is so boring, I couldn’t even come up with a half-decent title for it. You could quit reading right now, except that what I am going to say actually matters, unlike my usual drivel.

I got a new little something from Smartwool that I’m dying to try out and blog about. Problem is that the snowpack is half of what it normally is this time of year, and mustering the motivation to get up and ski in the dark is difficult under those circumstances. The motivation to get up at 4:30 in the morning is even harder to come by when you think your intestines are going to explode the night before and don’t expect to get much sleep. So instead of making something up about the crappy skiing that I didn’t actually do yesterday or today, I’m going to get up on my soapbox.

Soapbox item #1: texting and giving.

We’re all aware that there was a nasty earthquake in Haiti. As if that country didn’t have it bad enough already. In the past there have been causes I wanted to give to, but actually stuffing a check in an envelope or even going online was just enough of a barrier that I didn’t get around to it.

That excuse is valid no more. Yele Haiti and the Red Cross have both set up systems so that you can donate by sending a text. To donate $5 to Yele Haiti, text “Yele” to 501501. To donate $10 to the Red Cross, text “Haiti” to 90999. Super easy. No more excuses—unless you’re driving. Don’t text while driving cuz you might hit a cyclist. Or a runner. Or another car. Or a fire hydrant and a tree.

Soapbox item #2: turn your key, be idle free.

Hands down the worst part of winter in the Salt Lake or Boise metro areas is inversion. We all complain about it. It may be cool to look at from above, but it’s never pleasant to be in it. When I run at lunchtime, I feel like I’ve exercised AND smoked a pack of cigarettes.

So do something about it—turn off your car if you’re not moving. Your car doesn’t need to be running while you’re at the ATM or getting a burrito. It doesn’t need to be running while you’re loading your skis. It doesn’t need to be running while you’re sitting in a parking lot waiting to pick somebody up. So don’t run it in those situations. You’ll use as much gas in ten seconds of idling as you’ll use to restart the motor. If you’ll be sitting for 30 seconds or more, by all means, shut it off.

A few weeks ago I took JunkieGirl to ballet. Her ballet class is an hour long, and I often just sit in the parking lot and read while she’s in class. Other parents do the same. On this occasion, the guy in the car next to me left his vehicle running FOR THE ENTIRE HOUR. I wanted to go tap on his window and say something, but by the time I was agitated enough to confront him, I was too agitated for it to be a civil encounter and knew it would have been the equivalent of throwing the dog crap in his open door rather than presenting it to him in a civil manner such that there was some chance of attitudes being changed.

Next time I may not be so restrained, so please, turn your vehicle off before it comes to that.

Final, non-soapbox item: new link in the sidebar.

I just added frequent commenter and super-fast marathoner RabidRunner to my links. If you haven’t checked out her blog, her PMS Avenger post is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. Her other stuff is also refreshing and humorous. If I thought I could keep up and didn’t have a Y chromosome, I’d invite myself on one of her group runs to see if she’s as funny in person as she is in bloglandia.

Happy Friday. Seems like everybody but me has Monday off and is heading to St. George for the weekend. Have fun and travel safe.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gold medalist

The CEO of my company flies a lot. Enough that when Delta Airlines did a big to-do as part of their sponsorship of the World Cup Freestyle skiing event at Deer Valley this weekend, he got invited.

Except he couldn’t make it. So he sent my colleague Ed and me instead. Instead of going to work yesterday, Ed and I went skiing at Deer Valley. I know, it was rough.

We arrived at the reception room and noticed a familiar face walk in shortly after. If you followed skiing in the early 90’s, you probably had a crush on her: gold medalist mogul skier Donna Weinbrecht. Apparently they invited more than just Donna, because alpine racers Erik Schlopy and Heidi Voelker, as well as freestyle aerialist Kris “Fuzz” Fedderson—all three-time Olympians—also joined us.

They split us up into groups of four and assigned us each a celebrity “host” to ski with us. We did a couple warmup runs and Donna coached me to get my hands forward and be more aggressive as we ripped the intermediate corduroy slope. I don’t think Donna had yet realized the terrain wasn’t all that demanding for me and I was only casually making turns to avoid getting too far ahead of the two out-of-staters in our group.

After the warmups, we headed over to the Nastar racecourse. I did one race when I was ten and have never run gates since then. I was surprised how fun it was. When I went head-to-head with Erik Schlopy, I knew he would be faster, but I was shocked by just how much faster he was. I later went head-to-head with Heidi, who gave me a head start and then went screaming by. It took me about 19 seconds to do the course, and they were doing it in 15 or 16.

Impressed as I was with their skiing skills, I was more impressed with how personable the pros were. While riding the chairlift with Donna and Heidi, Donna told us about the children’s book she’s writing and illustrating (apparently she’s also an artist), and Heidi told us stories of her days doing coed skiercross with Casey Puckett. At lunch she mentioned that the stories she told didn’t even scratch the surface, and if she had another glass of wine, we’d hear some real dirt.

Here’s a photo of Ed, Donna, and me at the bottom of the racecourse:

Erik, Donna, me, Heidi, Ed, and Fuzz posing at the “medal ceremony” at lunch (they actually kept our times on the racecourse):

Of all the assignments I’ve ever been given at work, this had to be the best.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Go Jazz

I used to be quite a fan of the Utah Jazz. So much so that we (I?) watched more than one televised Jazz game during our honeymoon (it happened to coincide with the Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals back when the Jazz were actually playing in the Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals).

Somewhere along the way I lost interest. I haven’t been to a live NBA game in about 15 years. I’ve not had more than a passing interest in basketball in at least 10.

Last night, however, a friend called and said he had two extra tickets to the game and wanted to know if JunkieBoy and I wanted to go with him and his son. Of course I accepted. Here are a few observations:

  • Deron Williams is one of the most impressive athletes I have every watched play. The game was a blowout. The Jazz were up by 20 with two minutes left in the third when Williams sat down. I assumed with that kind of lead that we wouldn’t see him again. The lead held while he was on the bench, but he came back out early in the fourth quarter anyway. He wasn’t just going through the motions, either, even though his opponents were at that point.
  • Carlos Boozer could be league MVP if he cared as much about winning as Williams.
  • The difference between strippers and the Jazz Dancers—at least some of whom are likely wholesome Mormon girls—is about 10 microns of nylon.
  • Company seats rule. The view from the seventh row is fantastic. I’m sure there were some real fans who were bitter to see two of them “wasted” by young boys who were more interested in ice cream and cotton candy than the action on the floor.
  • Sports have a way of uniting communities. I don’t know that I’d have had occasion to meet the guy sitting in front of me otherwise, but our intermittent discussion of the game had me feeling like we were friends by the time the game ended—to the point that he was high-fiving both my son and me when it was over.
  • Football is every bit as exciting to watch on TV as live. Basketball and Baseball are much more engaging live than on TV.
  • NBA players have way more tattoos now than they did 15 years ago.
  • I came away much more interested in the Jazz than I was going in. But it’s a long season. And football isn’t over yet. So I’ll wait until the playoffs before dedicating any passion to the cause.
  • Sporting events attended with my dad are some of my fondest memories from growing up. I need to make it a point to take JunkieBoy to ballgames on a regular basis. We both had a great time.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A lone man shouting in the wilderness

At the risk of offending some of you (since when has that ever stopped me), I’m going to come right out and say it: I don’t care if you read my blog. Sure, when I started this thing, I looked at the site traffic every day. I was really worried that I’d be the Internet equivalent of a lone man shouting in the wilderness, prophesying to a congregation of nobody.

But once I got to maybe ten readers a day (yeah, my expectations were that low), I realized that wasn’t the case. Once I got to 50 readers a day, I felt somewhat more secure. When I got to 100 readers a day, I stopped caring about traffic altogether.

While I don’t see any point in publishing a blog that nobody reads, I don’t write this blog for anyone but me. I like to write. It’s cathartic. It reduces my stress levels. And it provides a convenient record of some of the stuff I do on bikes and skis as well as the random ideas in my head.

Which is not to say that if you read my blog, you know me. You know SkiBikeJunkie, but he likes to exaggerate. Sometimes just for the sick humor of it. He also makes cynical inside jokes that probably nobody else will ever get.

If you’re a lurker and decided that my off-topic (as if there were a “topic”) posts are boring/annoying/otherwise killing you, and you decided to quit reading tomorrow, I wouldn’t be bothered in the slightest. If you decided that my spraying about an off-the-podium finish in a Cat. 4 race was grating on your nerves and that you didn’t want to read the ramblings of such a blow-hard, I wouldn’t care. Because your attitude about my blog has no bearing on how I feel about anyone, myself included, in real life or otherwise.

As indifferent as I am, however, to the attitudes of readers, from time to time I have the good fortune of interacting with people from the blog world in the real life world. One of these is my friend, Pat.

Pat and I met at Hell of the North last year. In case you don’t know, Hell of the North was the worst, most miserable race I have ever done. It was cold and snowing, and instead of skiing in the most epic conditions of the season, I was inducing hypothermia racing my bike in the wet and mud.

One of the participants, however, seemed impervious to the cold. As the pack regrouped after every corner, he was smiling, asking how I was feeling, apparently happy to be suffering as the mud lacerated his eyeballs every time he blinked. It was Pat.

I thought there was no way a guy this happy-go-lucky was going to last. I was buried and couldn’t muster the energy to smile. He was wasting too much effort being social. When I lost track of him on the last lap, I figured he was off the back. I was wrong. He was up front, setting up to take the win.

Pat and I got reacquainted at RMR where we had fun, even when our tactics were bad. I was saddened not to race with him when he crashed and broke his collarbone at another race. This summer he spent a bunch of time doing power and VO2 max testing for Steve and me, gratis. Sure, we were lab rats for his research project, which will benefit him, but we were both more than happy to get the data at no charge.

Once you spend ten hours in a lab with someone, you’ll probably either like him or you won’t. In Pat’s case, I came away liking the guy more than I already did going in.

So even though I claim that blogging is a selfish endeavor of catharsis, keeping records for my benefit, and spewing random nonsense, it’s somehow also led to some real-world friendships that I genuinely enjoy. And for that, I am quite thankful.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Snow, burning books, and white horses

We’ve established that my neighborhood gets a lot of snow. The thing I don’t get, though, is that the most oft-cited reason for people moving out of the neighborhood is the snow. Did they think they’d like it and now they don’t? Or did they just not realize how much there would be?

If the first, that’s understandable. Sometimes things we thought we really liked can get old and grate on our nerves*.

*Like the Killers. I downloaded one of their albums and adored it the first three times I listened. Now whenever one of their songs comes up on a playlist, I shudder, cough, and quickly reach for the skip forward button. My apologies to fans of The Killers—I really did like them at first. I’m hoping I don’t come to feel this way about Band of Horses, because right now I’m really digging their stuff.

But if the second, I don’t get it. Salt Lake City gets a lot of snow to begin with. The ski resorts get way, way more snow than Salt Lake City. The elevation of our neighborhood is closer to that of the ski resorts than the valley below. Did they come look at the house in the summer and think “oh, it’s nice and cool in the summertime at this elevation—I bet the winters are equally mild”?

I’m assuming they had to have looked at the house in the summer, because for six months of the year, the yard would have been covered in snow, and they’d have no excuse not to notice it. Of course, I shouldn’t complain too much about people not thinking the “cool in the summer” thing through to its logical conclusion—I come from a family of seven kids, and if my parents had thought things through during those sacred snooze sessions, it’s likely that I and/or several of my siblings would not exist.

It’s not like I’m shedding tears over most of the people that move out of the neighborhood. Because the people I like also seem to enjoy the snow. And though we’re not a majority, if it’s not obvious that I’m not in the majority and don’t care to be, you haven’t been paying attention.

Speaking of the local majority, I recently checked out an audiobook from the library that I daresay many of these folks probably wouldn’t agree with. As I pulled the first CD out of the jacket, I thought “it really wouldn’t surprise me if one of these CDs were intentionally scratched by some nutjob who thinks he’s doing the world a favor.”

I put the first disc in and pretty much immediately it started skipping. I popped it out and saw a scratch running hole to edge. It looked like it was put there with a car key. I haven’t seen any announcements, but I can’t help but assume these folks have got a book burning scheduled for the coming weeks.

We should be thanking them for their activism, however, because we’re all clearly doomed. In case you haven’t heard, the Constitution is dangling by a thread. A silken one. And it’s about to snap. But the wannabe governor of Idaho is going to get on his white horse and save it, thereby ushering in a new era of illegal wiretaps and foreign invasions made under false pretenses civil liberties.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Sitting on my desk is a well-used plastic cup from Mile High Stadium, one of two souvenirs I have from the last AFC Championship game the Broncos played in and the only NFL game I have ever attended. It gets filled with water and drained several times a day and has considerably outlived the single serving of Coke it was originally sold to contain.

The human body can survive weeks without food but only a couple of days without water. Perhaps even worse (if the pain is anywhere near how it’s been described), if you don’t drink enough water, you get kidney stones. Clearly, water is important stuff.

Benefits of clear, pure water notwithstanding, humans have been flavoring it for pretty much as long as there have been humans. Tea is the most popular beverage in the world. We measure time from the birth of one who turned water into wine. Coca-cola is among the best-known English words to non-English speakers. I wonder if part of what has enabled us to evolve into human beings as we are today is our flavoring of water, which in the process treated it and made it safer to drink. Certainly cooking our food was a factor in our evolution—why would treating our water not also be?

Those of us who live in industrialized nations hardly have to worry about safe drinking water. Boiling it into tea is something we do because we want to drink the tea, not because we need to make the water safe. Yet when I think of Fall Moab, I also think of the cold Diet Coke after the last ride on Sunday. When I think of Saturday’s tour with Alex, I think of the hot lemon honey tea he shared from his thermos while we put our skins on. The cold water I drank on both occasions doesn’t come to mind. What is it about human nature that causes such strong associations between a context and the beverage we enjoyed therein?

Although we can’t live without water, most of us don’t want to drink nothing but water, either. But if you could only choose water and one other beverage, what would your one other be? Why? If your belief system constrains your choices, would your unconstrained choice be something different?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The sheep pen

Today’s post is an attempt to rewrite what was lost by my stupid PC, adjusted slightly to include a bit about this morning’s tour. I hope it comes out OK and doesn’t end up being a rotting, nasty, Pet Sematary-esque likeness of what I meant to write.

So you remember in The Music Man* during the train scene at the beginning when all the other salesman are predicting Harold Hill will fail because he doesn’t know the territory? Well Wasatch backcountry users can be kind of like that, too. At best we likely know just part of the territory, but that part is typically the part nearest our doorstep.

*Yes, I’m quite familiar with The Music Man and still know the lyrics to most of the songs in it because it was one of the musicals we did when I was in high school**. I’m not too proud to admit that I like show tunes. One of the finest evenings of my life was sitting on the sixth row, smack in the middle, of a West End production of Phantom of the Opera when I was 18. I did not fall asleep.

**What? You weren’t in drama in high school? If you weren’t, this should have been a no-brainer as far as meeting women was concerned. Sure, cheerleaders are supposed to be the domain of the football team, but when there’s 100 of you and 10 of them, the odds pretty much suck. For people like my brother Steve, who played quarterback, dating and eventually marrying a cheerleader is a possibility. But for some reason head cheerleader Kim wasn’t all that interested in dating an undersized left guard, so I had to look elsewhere. Besides, unlike the football team, drama practices are coed, and kissing someone of the opposite sex may very well be one of the drills. Frankly, the only things I did in high school that rivaled drama were being on the stage crew for the dance company (best-kept secret for meeting women pretty much ever—you move a box or a light stand every ten minutes and spend the rest of the time hanging out with scantily-clad dancers—cha-ching!) and being a cheerleader (one of the stunts involved holding an attractive girl over my head by her butt while staring up her skirt to make sure she was properly balanced).

For instance, I’m quite familiar with the Bonneville Shoreline Trail between the Zoo and City Creek, because I can ride this from my office. I’m similarly familiar with Corner Canyon, which is rideable from my house. As wonderful as the trails are in American Fork and Millcreek canyons, I know quite a bit less of them because they require actually driving to the trailhead.

On our way up Little Cottonwood Canyon last week, Jon S. was picking my brain about Scotties Bowl, a line I ski all the time that also happens to be closer to my house than pretty much anything else. But Jon lives in East Millcreek and works downtown, so it’s out of his way. Conversely, however, when Jon took me up Mill D, it was only the second time in my life I’d skied anything on the north side of Big Cottonwood Canyon Road.

Some might chalk this up to laziness, but the reality is it’s more due to the embarrassment of riches we have here in the Wasatch. I’ve heard many people refer to the tri-canyons area as the “Sheep Pen” because there are so many backcountry users in such close proximity to one another. And yet, when there’s powder to be had, I haven’t struggled to find it. And that’s not because we’re all doing such a good job spooning our tracks, either. There’s just that much good terrain that close to home.

From time to time, however, it’s worth getting out of my comfort zone and exploring new places. It was with this in mind that Alex and I ventured out on Saturday for a point-to-point bi-canyon tour starting in BCC and finishing in Millcreek.

I wish I had time to do tours like this every week, because in addition to enjoying quality snow, largely ignored terrain that’s as good as anything I’ve ever skied, and great company, the sense of discovery and joy of just going somewhere new would have made the day worth it by itself. Of the five tours that most stand out as enjoyable days on skis, four of them were memorable because I went somewhere new and really cool. In fact, for two of those, the snow was crappy and I didn’t care because the destination was so great.

Other days the tour is memorable not so much for the destination, but for the company. Like this morning. I got out with some usual partners, Dug, Rick, and Tyler, as well as some new ones, Daren and Bart.

It was a great time, if starting a tour with 20 minutes at threshold followed by an hour and forty minutes at whatever pace you can muster with what’s left is your thing. I made sure Daren knew afterwards that going like that is NOT normal. Bart is simply super-human, an uber. Rick did his best to keep the pace. The rest of us were chewed up and spit out the back.

A couple hours after we got back, the following email exchange took place:

Rick: New rule. Bart G is banned from the group. I’m sitting here with dried salt all over my face and a blank stare at my computer screen.

Dug: Luckily he had little impact on me because I couldn't even see him for most of the day. But when I went into the big handicapped stall to change, my base layer was still soaking wet. Ick.

Me: My legs are cooked and I've had the shakes all morning from the effort.

Rick: Totally kidding about the Bart rule.

Tyler: I thought it was a good rule. 

Bart, we love you mang, but next time you’re short ropin’ our sorry butts to the top.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I’m a mac

Early yesterday morning, I had a post mostly written about the awesome tour I did with Alex on Saturday. All I needed to do was add photos. Then yesterday afternoon my machine had to be restarted and the post (written on Windows Live Writer) was gone. That same restart cost me nearly an hour in lost work for my real job.

Office crashed last Thursday and very nearly cost me three hours of work. Instead I spent an hour trying to get it going again, which I was able to do but could never repeat if it happened again. Bear in mind that this machine is a developer workstation, so it’s supposed to be super-powerful and crash-resistant.

Wanna know how many times my macbook has crashed? None times, that’s how many. I hate you Windows.