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Category: skiing Page 3 of 7

when in colorado, ski you must

Deep tuftsWhen I was in Colorado back in January, my friend Paul mentioned that he’d be having an end-of-season party to celebrate his first year of sobriety. He said I should come out and have some fun – not a tough sell, right? So I booked my tickets back to Colorado, and had a great time skiing there this past weekend.

After a bit of a delay getting into Denver (due to fog in New England that muddled the schedule of many westbound Southwest Airlines flights), I made it into the Rockies (where snow was falling in large bursts) and to Paul’s house in Eagle, which is west of Vail. We spent the evening catching up a bit, and then got some shut eye as the next morning…

…dawned powdery! Yes! We piled our stuff into my Jeep and made our way to Vail, where the powder was ample, and where our friends, Don and Betsy, were waiting to share in the bounty. Run after run, we aimed for the fresh snow: down wide boulevards, over moguls small and big, through trees and threading chutes. Paul showed us some fun routes that are off the official map, and all of us had ear-to-ear grins as we enjoyed mid-winter conditions (in April!) with powder that ranged from ankle to mid-thigh in depth.

We skied most of the mountain. On the front side, we cruised the rollers on Ledges and made zipper lines through the bumps on Zot. In the Back Bowls, we had fun cruising China Bowl and poaching a few turns in WFO. And in Blue Sky Basin we laughed in delight as we “sipped” the powder in Champagne Glades.

There wasn’t a dull run all day long – we even finished with a nice little aspen glade for our last run – and we all returned to our cars tired, but very pleased that we enjoyed such an ideal day.

Day two, Saturday, was the day of Paul’s big bash. His wife, Renée, had done a lot of shopping for the party, the fruits of her labors stuffed into the back of their VW EuroVan, which Paul and I carted to Arapahoe Basin early that morning. Renée and their son, Justin, followed in their Audi, as we arrived at A-Basin just after 8 a.m. to claim our spots on “The Beach,” the area of A-Basin’s parking lot that opens up onto the bottom of the ski hill. During the spring, “The Beach” is party central in the Rockies, with huge parties featuring grills, benches, umbrellas, bands – and even portable hot tubs!

But our party was to celebrate the one year anniversary of Paul’s sobriety – it’s been a helluva turnaround for him, his family and his friends, and all for the better. So while the surrounding camps devolved into various states of pickling, we concentrated on the food (burgers and brats), the friends (who were there from all over the place), and the skiing.

Looking down the basinAnd skiing at A-Basin is a really retro experience. It reminded me quite a bit of Alta, Utah: slower lifts, not as much grooming, and some incredible lines through rocky terrain. The only discernible differences are the presence of snowboarders (still verboten at Alta) and the high altitude. A-Basin tops out (lift-wise) at 12,500 feet, which makes for a lot of oxygen starvation if you overdo it.

I ended up having fun skiing with Don, Betsy, Spence, Tracy, Katy and other random friends of Paul. We had too much fun exploring the mountain, which was wind-whipped and cold for April 12th. The benefits of the wind were many, though: fewer crowds on the fun terrain, and re-deposited powder back in Montezuma Bowl. The only odd part of that equation was the somewhat mysterious entry into said bowl, as the snow obscured the lip of the cornice leading into the powder-laden trough. Somehow, though, we managed to find our way down.

On Sunday, Paul and I made our way back to Vail. And unlike our mid-winter experience on Friday, Sunday’s weather dawned sunny and warm, with temperatures making their way through the 40s to near 50 degrees (F) as the day progressed. What was light powder on Friday was corn and “mashed potatoes” by Sunday – a perfect spring skiing recipe!

We started our day with a couple laps on Vail’s front side groomers, where we sliced beautiful arcs into uncrowded corduroy. However, we had friends to meet – Bob, Pete, Greg and Mike – so we made our way to the summit of Chair 4. As we waited for our friends to arrive, we saw the beginnings of the costumed crazies that make closing day at Vail such a trip: Captain America was there to keep the peace, and a wayward woman in a prom dress traded money for photographs. It was quite the sight, and only got more insane as the day progressed.

But we were there to ski – and ski, we did! Once we met up with Pete and Bob (and Pete’s friend, Rick), we made our way back to Blue Sky Basin for a few laps of Steep & Deep and Heavy Metal. We even did a short out-of-bounds excursion that featured some steep and fun trees (still with nice, soft powder) and a slalom-like tree run back into the ski area (I had to practice my gate blocking skills to fend off the pine boughs).

Poppin' the pink champaleWe then met up with Greg and his son, Mike, who were also at the previous day’s party. With them, we skied a couple of laps on the Teacup lift. On the first ride up the lift, I scouted out a nice, tall cornice at the entrance to Genghis Khan, one of the lines in China Bowl. On the next run, I let Paul lead out to the lip of the cornice and asked him if the landing was clear. He nodded with a bit of confusion as I took a running start and lept off the cornice ledge into the bowl. I got some nice air, then stuck the landing into 5 big, sweeping super-G turns, hearing the whoops and hollers coming from the chairlift above (which happened to be stopped at the time – a captive audience). Paul met me a minute or so later, laughing and marveling that I did something so crazy. But it was such a rush!

We wound down the day as the temperatures soared and the snow became sticky. We met up again with Bob at the top of Chair 4 to see out the rest of the season, basking in the sun, watching the drunken revelers celebrate the end of a record-setting season in the Colorado high country. As the clock passed 4 p.m., the last skiers made their way up the mountain and Paul, Bob and I made our way down. The last run was sweet, and we took our time to lap it up. While it was not the end of Paul’s season, it was the end of mine, so I decided to save it for posterity:

easter skiing in utah

Rudi at SnowbirdI spent a lovely Easter weekend out in Utah, visiting my mom and skiing the Wasatch.

It was fun to ski back in the hills where I learned the sport – and this year was especially great, as the snowfall in Utah has been record-setting this year. So I brought my new skis (Head Supershape Magnums) with little fear of “mineral interference” (a.k.a. hitting rocks).

And I’m glad I brought ’em, as the first day’s journey to Deer Valley dawned cold, with some clouds and hanging snowflakes (see this photo to see what I mean). As the previous days had been warm (save for a small snowstorm that dropped 7 inches of fresh powder), the base was hard-set and very “eastern” in feel. Thus, my carving skis, which excel on the boilerplate ice we get in the east, were just the trick for the buffed-out surfaces at Deer Valley. I also had some fun in the bumps and the trees, though the non-groomed surfaces either had the consistency of a concrete-set rockslide or porridge (depending on sun exposure).

Over the past few years, Deer Valley has shored up what was once its biggest weakness by adding expert terrain in Empire Canyon. The Daly Chutes are some of the most rugged of their kind in the greater Park City area, and they often retain fresh snow longer than similar terrain at other areas due to the relative paucity of expert skiers. And they added more to the equation with the opening of the Lady Morgan chair, which serves steep glades and rocky outcroppings that provide a good challenge. It’s too bad that there wasn’t much soft snow in these areas – had I been on longer, wider skis, I might’ve given them more time for exploration.

But it was fun, and the food, as is always the case at Deer Valley, was top-notch. There’s a good reason that they get written up in Gourmet, Food & Wine and Zagat’s: the food is that good.

Day two took me to Little Cottonwood Canyon, and the neighboring resorts of Snowbird and Alta. For the past few years, skiers have had the option of purchasing a ticket that is good at both resorts. To cross, you pass through a gate that’s perched on Sugarloaf pass, between Alta’s Sugarloaf lift and Snowbird’s Baldy Express lift. This meant that I had over 7,000 skiable acres of terrain to explore.

And explore I did. I started my day with some fast runs on the Peruvian quad, which was the easy way to get to the spectators’ gallery for the US Freeskiing Championships (simply put: insane skiers doing incredible feats as they ski down some of the craziest terrain at Snowbird). But I really wanted to explore the Mineral Basin side of the Bird, as my last visit featured some nasty weather and thin snow that made Mineral Basin a poor choice of places to ski.

So I rode the conveyor belt through the tunnel at the top of the Peruvian chair (called the “Basshole” by locals) and proceeded to ski into a cliff-laden area between the two chairs that serve Mineral Basin. I made my way down, dropping off an 8-foot cliff in the process, and enjoyed some perfect corn snow in the lovely, open southern exposure. Mineral Basin is relatively treeless, very European in feel, and has some great, steep, rolling terrain.

After sampling Mineral Basin, I decided to cross over to Alta via their connector gate, and cruised down Sugarloaf and over to the Supreme lift. After a quick run down Challenger, I went back up the Sugarloaf lift and decided to go on a hike. I hiked up to the top of Mt. Baldy, along with three other easterners, and after checking out the view from the top, I took the plunge down one of the Baldy Chutes. What a treat! The chutes were in the shade for most of the day, and as the rope had only been dropped on this area earlier in the day, there was still fresh powder to be found. After a small leap into the chute, I skied some fun turns down to the Ballroom area, and then to the Watson Shelter for lunch and rehydration.

I then returned to Snowbird, skiing a run off the Little Cloud lift, then heading down to Wilbere Ridge and remembering all of the races I had on said trail when I was a kid. I knocked off a couple of runs off the Gadzoom chair, and I returned to Peruvian to enjoy a few runs down Primrose Path (another race trail) and watch some of the incredible freeskiers compete at West Baldy.

Two days, three areas, magnificent skiing all around.

(You can click on the photo of me skiing at Snowbird to see more pictures from the trip.)

the liberal blogs are dead to me (most of ’em, anyway)

The liberal blogosphere has been an incredible group in its rise to power in Democratic and progressive politics. It has empowered hundreds of thousands of people to voice their opinions on political and social issues great and small, and should be commended for it.

But in this 2008 cycle, blogs that used to be open forums for honest discussion of politics and politicians have become increasingly partisan. Some, like MyDD, have by the choice of the owner: Jerome Armstrong is an unabashed fan of Hillary Clinton, and does not take kindly to those bashing her, her campaign, or his advocacy of her run for the White House. A good friend of mine was banned from Armstrong’s site for calling out one of the white elephants on his blog: that he’s very likely angling for a paid staff position in a Clinton administration. The ban was swift and direct.

The other approach is a bit more hands-off, yet with the overall trend being toward advocacy for a particular candidate. The “blogfather,” Markos Moulitsas, has been a bit of an equal-opportunity basher of candidates on his Daily Kos site (though he’s open about voting for Obama in the California primary), yet the discussion led by the others in the “front page posters” (those anointed to moderator status by Markos) tends to advocate Obama (and before that, Edwards) at the expense and ridicule of Clinton supporters. The arguments get heated, alternating between juvenile playground threats to more vile, disturbing over and undertones. It’s a mess.

And it’s noisy.

And it turns me off.

As most or my friends and family will attest, I’m a political creature. I tend to thrive on political dialog and argument. Yet I’m not one to tolerate inane and pointless arguments about non-substantive issues.

Such arguments are ruling both Daily Kos and MyDD, and I’m not taking the bait. Sure, I’ll glance every so often to see if anything new and truly productive is being discussed. But I think I’ll mostly just move on with my political life, picking my own path, fighting the battles that are worth my time and effort.

And this carries through to other political endeavors in my life. I’ve already made a split from a PAC I helped create back in 2004. And I do not plan to seek re-election to the DC Democratic State Committee once my time is up, as I feel there are better ways to explore my political interests (more on this at a future date).

Political battles that serve no clear purpose other than character assassination are truly stupid. I see them on various skiing forums, where differing schools of ski pedagogy are treated with the same reverence – and resulting fanatic devotion and defensiveness – as major religions. And as is the case with religion: the end is usually the same, though the means to that end may be radically different (or only semantically or syntactically different).

The same goes for the ongoing skirmishes within my cycling club (the faster crowd versus the slower touring set): people take their sides and dig in for trench warfare. And while I tend to ride with the fast crowd, I also see the need to cater to the touring set, who make up the majority of the active membership.

Can’t we all just get along? If not, just leave me out of it for now.

pics from the rockies

Looking back toward the summitI made it back to DC with nary a fuss – though, as John Denver once mused, I guess I’d rather be in Colorado. Click on the picture to see the whole set from the mountains.

Click here to see pictures from the International Snow Sculpture Competition in Breckenridge – it was amazing what the teams did with blocks of snow.

Even though a nasty blizzard had moved into the Colorado mountains, I stopped at Loveland Basin for some skiing on the way to the airport. The weather was fierce: high winds and lots of snow made me look like a human popsicle. It wasn’t a long stay – only an hour and change – but I didn’t pay much for the lift ticket, and helped another brave person get his ticket for cheap, as I had a 2-for-1 coupon that was further reduced in price due to the weather (most of Loveland is above treeline, so many lifts were closed due to low-to-no visibility).

After skiing, I walked back to a snow-crusted car, doffed all of my icy layers, and hit the road to Denver. The roads were fairly snowpacked for the next 20 miles, after which the sun broke out and the roads dried out – such is the power of the Front Range in keeping storms from hitting Denver. I made it to the airport with time enough to pack my bags (my boots fit snugly in my carry-on bag, so I couldn’t pack that until they had a chance to dry).

And the return flights were uneventful. We had a tailwind flying to Detroit, which would’ve had us arriving ahead of schedule if not for a broken jetway that had the plane sitting at the gate for 30 minutes before we could disembark. So my planned dinner break was rushed, as I had to haul tail across the vast expanse that is DTW’s A terminal. But I made my connection, and the flight to DCA was short and sweet.

And now I’m back at work – wishing I could be on the slopes, and trying to figure out a way to get more skiing in my life.

that rocky mountain high

I’ve spent the past three days skiing in Colorado, which has been a super adventure: great snow, great people, and a welcome break from DC.

I met up with friends on Friday morning at Copper Mountain. Between all of the ability levels, we had 22 people on hand to take on the various bowls and chutes at this gigantic expanse of mountain. This highlights of the day: jumping the cornice into Spaulding Bowl, finding some unique lines off of rock ledges under S lift, and some insane hike-to lines off of Union Peak.

Day two was bluebird weather, but the forecast was for high winds above timberline. So we decided to nix a trip to Arapaho Basin and ski at Keystone. I managed to get in five incredible cruising runs on North Peak and The Outback before meeting up with a smaller sub-group of “the gang.” By that point, the crowds had arrived, thick as can be, and we coped with longer lift lines. Still, we found some incredible trees off the Outback and North Peak chairs. We also skied a lot of moguls, and I found that I actually liked skiing in the bumps – the first time I’ve really liked them, ever. I also swapped skis with my friend, Bud, for a run. He was running some full race stock Elan slalom skis, and they had some incredible turning power: it was like they were on auto-pilot, and every turn had incredible arcs.

Today, I met up with my new friend, Paul, at Beaver Creek. He offered to give me a “local’s guided tour” of the mountain, and it was really an epic day of skiing. Before he arrived, I decided that I had to ski the “Birds of Prey” downhill race run, which is raced by the male World Cup racers each December. The run isn’t smooth right now, as after the races are over the mountain management allows moguls to form. But the underlying snow is injected ice: hard, slick, and fast. I was exhausted at the end of the run, but it was so worth the effort.

Once I met up with Paul and his friend, Greg, he showed me some of the wild side of Beaver Creek: 60-degree chutes with rock drop-offs and tight trees (as well as knee-deep powder); mogul runs with double fall-lines and bumps the size of a VW Microbus; and top-notch cruising runs. It was a great day, even if the light wasn’t always in our favor.

All-in-all, this trip has been a remarkable success. I skied with a great group of people, and enjoyed ski areas that I’d only previously known from racing (Copper and Keystone), so I finally got to really experience the entirety of each mountain. And the Rockies are extremely scenic – though the lodgepole pines are being decimated by the pine bark beetle.

I’ll post pictures over at Flickr once I return. I may squeeze in a morning of skiing at Loveland before I catch my mid-afternoon flight back to DC.

go west, young man

My bags are packed, and I’m heading to Colorado for a little bit of skiing.

Should be a good time, and a welcome respite from the lack of winter (or at least the lack of snow) here in DC.

Besides, it’ll be a good place to drown my sorrows after not getting selected for DCist Exposed for the second year in a row. Sniff.

(Just kidding: congrats to all the winners!)

workout log: catching up

So it’s been a while since I’ve posted a workout log.

Yet I’ve been riding and working out – just not in the same intensity as during the normal riding season.

Let’s recap the stuff I’ve done:

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the great white north

A quick post from Stowe, Vermont, where it’s currently snowing.

Spent a lovely day on the slopes – a bit painful with the new boots, but that’s the usual song-and-dance with new stuff. But the conditions were excellent.

Saw a fellow Conn alum while shopping in town a while ago – same class year, too. She and her husband now run a ski shop, Edgewise Elite Ski Service. It’s a great shop, and it was great to see Mila again.

Now it’s off to a quick dinner, followed by the new Warren Miller ski film.

workout log: 24 november 2007

View from (near) the topActivity: alpine skiing
Location: Mount Snow, VT
Vertical Feet skied: 16,000 (approx.)
Weather: sunny, windy and cold, 14-26 degrees
Avg HR: 140 (max 165)
Type: anaerobic

First day on the slopes for the 2007-08 season. I’d brought my boots and poles with me to sprite’s folks’ place for Thanksgiving, hoping that one of the southern Vermont resorts would have semi-decent skiing. Mount Snow, having been bought recently by Peak Resorts, has new snowmaking infrastructure (over $2 million in new pumps and guns), and the result is impressive. While Vermont hasn’t seen a lot of natural snow, and Thanksgiving brought rain and fog, the slopes were covered in a consistently thick, soft coating of man-made snow (see the pictures for proof – they did a bang-up job!).

The one thing that was lacking was a plethora of trails – easily understandable, as it takes a lot of snowmaking to cover a single trail. The resort had about 7 trails running, allowing skiers of abilities to find something that worked for them. And from my first run at 8:15 am until around 11:15 am, it was easy to find open space to let the skis run or pick your own line down the trail. But once the crowds turned out, the lack of available terrain became a liability: too many skiers for too little skiable slope space. So I packed it in by 1:30 pm.

I demoed a pair of Dynastar Contact 11ST skis for the day, courtesy of Alpine Traders, a ski shop on Route 100 in Dover, VT. They were skis from last year’s demo fleet, which were on sale for $300. The shop’s owner rented them to me for $20 (their usual rental rate for a basic set of skis), seeing that I wanted some performance skis. And they were great skis: stable on the ice (and there was some, thanks to the Thanksgiving rain), quick, yet solid at speed. They were a few steps above the Dynastar Contact 9 skis that I used in Austria, as well as 13 cm. longer – and that made a world of difference in terms of my enjoyment.

My big toes aren’t happy with me from the day’s skiing, so I think I’m going to get some new liners and footbeds for my boots in the next few weeks – a Christmas present to myself. My feet will be grateful.

giving thanks

It’s been a great Thanksgiving.

Granted, the drive up here was hellish. Traffic in Maryland was very, very slow, and the flow didn’t really clear until after the Delaware toll plaza. From there, it was smooth sailing, though we’d lost a lot of time by then. We arrived in Connecticut after 3 am, and I’d hit a second (or third) wind, so I didn’t fall asleep until after 5 am.

So I slept in ’til 10:30, which meant missing a lot of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But I saw a bit (cheesy as ever – Wynona Judd forgot to lip-sync her part when the NBC cameras trained on her), and enjoyed the late-morning coffee and donuts.

In the afternoon, I did a bit of surgery on my PowerBook, upgrading its internal hard drive from a 40GB unit to a new, quiet 160GB model. I used SuperDuper to clone the 40GB drive to my new drive, which was temporarily housed in an external enclosure. After the cloning, I swapped out the drives, and since then it’s been very nice. I’m especially pleased with the improved power use of the new drive – I was able to squeeze at least 45 minutes more use out of the old ‘Book’s battery, which is saying a lot.

Dinner was really great, too. This year, the prep wasn’t nearly as frenetic as in past years, as a lot of the dishes were cooked ahead of time. So most of the work was in reheating and plating the dishes, all of which turned out great. And we have plenty of leftovers for the next few days – yum!

(And yes, Roly, there was plenty of pie!)

We spent the evening watching the entertaining mockumentary, Pittsburgh, starring Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley, Jr., Illeana Douglas, and many other notables as…. themselves. It was bizarre, but very entertaining. I’m not sure if sprite or her family felt the same way, though.

Now it’s time to get some sleep. Tomorrow will be laid back. I may shop, may not – the whole “Black Friday” thing isn’t really my thing, as I can find similar deals almost every day through a bit of research, and I don’t like the mindset of rabid shoppers. I was going to go skiing tomorrow, but decided that it would be a good idea to let the resorts make snow tomorrow, as today was a bit warm and hurt the snowpack.

(And one brief bit of political praise – really – for Se. Harry Reid, who refused to put the senate in recess over the holiday break. He did this to prevent Bush from making any recess appointments to open cabinet and other positions. All I can say is kudos, Harry – it’s about time you actually stood up to BushCo!)

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