Tuesday, March 06, 2007

call me "king of the mountain"

so back in december i had my first ever time on skis, a nice cross country session up in tahoe. this past weekend jp & i were able to (thanks to a work thing that fell through) go to tahoe again for the weekend, and this time i tried downhill.

we stayed in the town of truckee...
...at the truckee hotel, and skiied at northstar. the hotel was rustic. take away the electronic appliances in the room and i'll bet the feel was very much like late 19th/early 20th century. the room had a sink, but toilet and bath facilities were shared. and the stairs? very steep. but it was clean, comfortable, right downtown and close to the mountain. traffic up was a bit heavy around sacramento, so even a 2:30pm departure meant a 7pm arrival.

saturday morning we headed to northstar. jp rented skis from the good people at tahoe dave's, while i'd get it at northstar as it was included in the lesson. the rental operation at northstar was incredible -- you walk in and fill out some info at the computer -- height, eight, skiing level, etc. after getting the form printed you get boots, skis and poles in fairly short order. a very well oiled machine.

the conditions, i'm told, were optimal -- cool temps in the high 30s and with no wind. there'd been lots of snow lately, somewhat calming the fears of a totally dry winter.

in addition to it being a busy weekend (thanks to the great conditions) northstar was also hosting a van's snowboarding competition. free rockstar energy drinks for everyone! if it weren't that i was there to ski and not spectate, i would have taken lots of pics. as it is, all i've got is this empty half-pipe...

jp's been skiing since she was about 9 years old, so she took the morning to do some more challenging runs, including some black diamonds. meanwhile, i was in an adult beginners class lead by a very nice grandfatherly guy named bob hill. he was kind, patient and funny. he led us through some very basic stuff, progressing to some turns out of a snowplow. for those of us who have been on bicycles, turning means sometimes a heavy lean in the direction you turn. imagine my surprise at the counterintuitiveness of the ski turn, which means you lean in the opposite direction that you want to go.

anyway, i got the hang of the basics and did ok on the wimpiest of the bunny slopes. after lunch we tried the next level of easy runs...
...i did ok, pretty much snowplowing the whole way down, but never falling, doing a few small turns and feeling pretty good about it. so after a few runs there, we tried the next level up.

oh boy.

the first run out i somehow got us so far to one side that i think we ended up on an intermediate trail filled with lots of boarders. there were a few steep drops and some narrow chutes. i made it all the way down, falling more than a few times. by the end of the run my heart was racing and i was sweating more than i thought possible on a cold winter day. still, i wanted more...

so we went back, but this time making sure to cut to the right parts of the trail. there was more falling, some major speed that i didn't think i could control. but we got in a few good runs and despite a few falls, most of which were on purpose (thankfully playing goalie in soccer has helped me learn how to fall sideways) i didn't break or sprain or tear anything. the last run was the village trail, in lieu of the gondola. i was nice and leisurely, a great way to end the day.

well actually, the best end to the day came at the bar, with a few margaritas and some calamari. no lie, i was still all amped up on adrenaline as we sat down. it took a drink or two and some plain old sitting to calm down. it was a good amped up, though. a physical *and* mental tiredness that comes from total exertion and concentration for a long period of time.

some random observations...who decided it was a good idea to tell snowboarders that it was ok to sit in the middle of trails -- dude, if you fall down, either get up and keep moving. if you're hurt, call for help. if you're waiting for slower friends to catch up, get the hell out of the middle of the trail. and who decided it was a good idea to make cellphone calls at the end of a trail, right in the middle of gates that people are trying to use to get to the lifts or the lodge.

all in all, a great day. i don't know that i'll ski enough to get as good as jp, but i'd like to get to the point where i can paralell and turn without snowplowing. and i need to learn the "hockey stop" or spray stop. it looks cooler than the "snowplow and fall stop" i do now.

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