Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Skiing in Warm Snowstorms - Yeeck

So I had what I thought was a great idea. On Sunday, there was going to be a storm coming in at night, but the report said that it was only supposed to be snowing lightly during the day. I wanted to go skiing, but didn't want to have to do what could be an exciting drive on top of it so I instead took the Bay Area Ski Bus ( Well there's one leetle thing that I neglected to take into account. How warm it was going to be. Snow falling in warm conditions often turns into rain, but I'm jumping ahead.

First bad sign was that the host came on the PA when we were around Dixon and said it was raining at Sugarbowl (where we were going) and many of the lifts were closed. Two other resorts, Northstar and Sierra at Tahoe were offered where conditions were a little better and the group selected Northstar. Now the bummer of the bus is that there isn't some magic opt-out button. You are stuck with the group decision (I was hoping to still go to Sugarbowl, but was happy to do Northstar as I hadn't seen it in years.) Fortunately the ski bus had Northstar lift tickets for only $40 which was less than what I would pay with my Day Pass at Sugarbowl.

So we get there and it is raining, but we hear that conditions are better higher up. So we all take the gondola up to the "Mid Mountain Lodge" where it is sort of snowing, and the final day of the Dew Tour Snowboarding Super Pipe Competition is going on which is cool

Then I notice what the falling snow is doing. It's melting the second it lands. Snow normally when it lands on you, just easily brushes off. Not this. This really isn't snow. This is rain falling in the form of snow. Just walking around checking the place out, I'm getting wet. I take two baby beginner runs and I'm soaking and I can hardly see - I didn't bring googles, just sunglasses. I retreat into the lodge to dry out and read my book (about mountaineering accidents - yes, really - I do like cautionary tales as I learn from them).

After a while, conditions improve some and the women are going to be doing the final runs, so it seemed like a good time to go up and watch. It sure was. I saw the winning run by 17 (!) year old Austrailian Tora Bright. and I also saw Kelly Clark's high flying second place run (which was also stellar). The atheticism and the eye candy almost made it worth it. :)

I took 2 longer runs before conditions worsened again and I then gave up. The really good skiiers who were able to get higher up on the mountain where getting all snow and were having a magical time which we all were getting drenched which is a reason to get that good.

Then came the long, long drive home. Because we are now on the wrong side of Donner Pass chain controls are in effect and Cal Trans has blocked off lanes to check all the vehicles and we were on a smaller highway before even getting to I-80. Just to get going on 80 took 2 1/2 hours which would normally be under 30 minutes. They had brought a bunch of movies, so I got to watch that paeon to paranoia The Game and also some forgettable Office caper film. But it still was just arduous and I was thinking that if I had driven to Sugarbowl I could have left at noon when I realized just how bad it was and spend the day with Terri and go play with the dogs.

So the lesson was twofold
- snow in warm conditions can easily turn into rain or melt-on-contact might-as-well-be-rain
- the Ski Bus can get you there in questionable conditions that you may not want to drive in, but there is no guarentee that you will like it.

And the most important take away for me is that: I'm working on building my ski skills. Less than optimum conditions take away from that focus since that is not what I'm working on. I really need to stick with good weather conditions to get the most out of my ski time.

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