The Life of a Ski Bum

 

December 29, 2002 - Sunday

 

Departed Cincinnati, Ohio at 5pm Eastern time in my mom's car. There are fears that my car won't make it. Also, since my car burns oil, its not so good to idle the car without actually driving to force fresh air in. Current status: Unemployed and homeless. Made it to St. Louis at 10pm central time. Grabbed some forgotten items, then met Zach the now ex-roommate at a Wendy's on Page Blvd. He's heading back into town; I'm heading out. Finally left around 11pm. Drove to a service oasis on the Kansas turnpike outside of Topeka at 4am. Along the way, I picked up a power inverter so I can convert the standard 12 volt DC into 115 volt AC and have two power outlets in my car. Mostly for my laptop, since I have car adapters for everything else I might want. Spent the night at the service station, brushing my teeth using water out of the Nalgene bottle.

December 30, 2002 - Monday

 

Woke up at noon. Back cramp from moving boxes around inside the car. However, the low temperature overnight was in the 40s or 50s so it wasn't bad. And I have a sleeping bag and comforter to cover up with. I sleep on top of a blanket with the back seat of the hatchback car folded down. This is the most comfortable (and third) car I've ever spent the night in. This is good news, since the plan is to sleep in the car for quite a while. Repeated the tooth brushing experience, and went on my way. Made it to Denver by 8pm Mountain time. Another day, another time zone. I look at a map before getting into town, and based on street density, I figure I should be able to find a Wal-Mart at exit 269. By the time I get there, however, it looks like an exchange to a highway of some kind, so I manage to find a Target at the next exit. Target doesn't carry tire chains however, so off to the yellow pages I go. The only one listed is on Wadsworth Blvd. Yep, that's exit 269. Damn I'm good. Too bad I have to back track a mile. Got the chains, and its still early, so I decide to go see a movie. I ask for directions to a movie theater at a gas station near the Wal-Mart, and I get sent to a brand new theater on Colorado Blvd and I-25. Dang, further back. Oh well, I've got nowhere to go and nothing to do. I go to the theater and decide to see Gangs of New York. While I'm waiting for the movie to start I call my friend Ethan who's a Denver local for the scoop on safe neighborhoods to sleep in. Apparently anywhere west of Denver is fine, anywhere east of Denver is, well, much like East St. Louis. After the movie I'm not tired, so I decide to go pretty far into the foothills, and spend the night at the Safeway in Idaho Springs. The movie, for the record, is very well summed up in Salon.com's review.

December 31, 2002 - Tuesday

 

New year's eve day. The big night is tonight, and by god, I'm not going to spend this new year's in Cincinnati. I'm heading for either Vail or Breckenridge. Don't really care which, I just want to end up working at a Vail Resort so I can ski all five for free (Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek). But I wake up at 11am, and I'm less than 60 miles away. I've got chains, and even in horrible snow that can't be more than a few hours, so I have plenty of time to get a haircut. I eat breakfast at the subway in Idaho Springs and ask the guy for a barbershop. There are three in town, but the one he goes to is McCool's, just up the road. I ask the stylist/owner to wash my hair (hey, its almost like a shower), and she even gives me a hot-towel, straight-edge razor shave. All for $17! Best damn haircut I've ever had. Mmmm. Looking clean and tidy, its time to make the final ascent to the ski resorts. Since Breckenridge is closer, I decide to head there first. I arrive to find a very nice, self-titled "European Village". All's well and good, and I can see the runs on the mountain behind the village, but where are the lifts? Breckenridge the ski resort is, as it turns out, quite separate from Breckenridge the town, enough to require a shuttle. That sucks. And the village isn't nearly as good as the one Whistler has. A few more looks around the town, and I decide I ought to check out Vail around 2pm. That way I can choose which town I want to spend my new year's eve in. Vail is about a half hour west of Breck, over Vail pass on I-70. Road conditions continue to be pretty good, and I make good time. But I can't find the village, and when I stop to add windshield wiper fluid, some parking personnel practically run over and scream at me that I can't park there. Apparently the people who visit Vail are so rich, they don't bother to turn off their cars to park them. Anyway, I finally find Vail and Lionshead villages. These are separated from the roads, much like Whistler's village is, but... honestly, I just wanted to cry at this point. Why didn't I choose Whistler to ski bum at? I could still drive up there, if not for the Canadian Visa thing to be employed there. I don't really recognize the part of Vail where I bought my first pair of skis at a garage sale... Its all condos surrounding these two hidden villages. Supposedly there's a third, but finding it is beyond me. Back to Breck for new year's it is.

I return to Breckenridge around 4pm. I walk around a bit, and settle in a bar, with a free tourist magazine. I talk to the bartender for a bit, and leave after an hour or so. I walk around town some more, and I discover there's a torch-light ski-instructor ski-down at 5:30, and fireworks at 9. I've got videos of the ski-down. There are two ways it is impressive. One is if you are on the slope itself. The other is if you don't actually see it. So I'm not going to share those videos. They are quite underwhelming. After the ski-down, I'm getting cold, and bored. There's no other celebration in town, other than the normal bars. Damn, should have gone to new york. I head back to the car. Still bored, I fire up the laptop and watch ET. I go watch the fireworks when they start, then return to ET. When that's over it has become almost 10, and I still don't have anything to do, so I decide to walk up main street from my car to the bar I had gone to earlier. (Incidentally, and for the record, it was called the Liquid Lounge). They were charging $20 cover, and it sure as hell wasn't worth that much, so I started making my way back to the car, stopping at the bars and clubs along the way to see which one I wanted to go into. The first was a real classy joint, very happening, very $40 cover as well. Very much time to go to the next one, which had two live bands for $20. Hmm, not bad. But one was funk and the other a rock-blues. Eh. Not very exciting. Could have been good if it was music I really liked, or bands I had heard of. The next place down I found hidden in the back of some shops, basically invisible from the street. But certainly audible, which is how I found it. Imagine my surprise when there was no cover. It turns out I found a bar some of the locals, including a guy named Ted who works for a BMW advertising agency and has 6 BMWs in town and knows loads of Wash U kids, patronize. A bar straight out of coyote wild.

Woo! That was a lot of fun. Except this guy from St. Paul, Bud, bought the table a round of shots around 1am. This did me in, and I had to head back to the car and miss out on the local's after-party starting at 2am. Nice guy, just didn't need a shot :)

January 1, 2003 - Wednesday

 

Happy New Year! Warm greetings from Mr. Policeman who left me a parking ticket around 3am. Apparently you're not allowed to park on Breckenridge streets or alleys from 2 to 6am, even though there are no signs posted. And no breaks on new year's. It also snowed about 6 inches, more over in Vail. I need to start looking to get a job, or a place to live. But really you want to live as close to the resort you work at as possible, so it is a job that needs to be found first. And since today is a holiday, HR offices at ski resorts are closed. I decide to head back to Idaho Springs to get a cheap motel for the night so I can shower and be presentable for interviews tommorrow. I end up spending the night at the H&H motor lodge, about 15 feet away from the Safeway parking lot spot I had spent the night in previously. The hotel has polish proprietors; the husband lives in Breckenridge next door to the mountain operations director. I'm disappointed that they are out of hot water at 9pm, but I decide to go to the spa instead, and shower in the morning. Oh, and very importantly, while checking various starbucks in the Summit County region for internet access, and failing, I wanted to see if there was an internet cafe in town, so I stopped at a Phillips 66 gas station in Silverthorne to look at a yellow pages. When I got back into my car, the laptop had picked up a wireless signal from either the gas station or the bank next door. Score!

 

January 2, 2003 - Thursday

 

Woke up and dressed in a suit. Barely made the 10am checkout time. If I ever own a hotel, checkout time will be 5pm. Went to the Breckenridge HR office. The parking guy lot was cool and let me in for free when I told him I was going to get a job just like his. The parking lot was full so I just sort of sped into a pile of snow, and left my car there. Went inside, filled out an application -- there were four jobs available, two full time, including a liftie, and two part time. I went for the part time positions, since full time at a ski resort pretty much means you work M-F 8-5, which are prime skiing hours. The two positions were a ski school video host, which involved skiing down blue runs with a video camera filming ski school classes, and a ski school ticket sales position, which involved selling the tickets for ski lessons. I decided I wanted to be inside and have more hours than the video host (8/week or so). They were busy at the ski school so they couldn't interview me today; I was told I'd be contacted by tomorrow afternoon at the latest. Spent the rest of the day looking for housing, the best I could find was a studio for $1000 monthly, and a few places for $800, which would really strain my budget. Most of these places I found from the classified ads in various local papers, mostly the summit county daily. A few rooms/roommate wanted ads were under $650, some as low as $500, but they were either already taken, or there was no answer when I called repeatedly. I drove around for a while in the Breck area to see if I could find any houses with "For Rent" signs on them, thinking they would have less exposure and thus be more likely to be available. The only thing I could find was a trailer park with a "Home for Sale or Rent"sign. Looks promising -- close to town, and a trailer, so it can't be that much. Going to call them tommorrow.  Also went by the Summit County Youth Hostel in Silverthorne, since it offers weekly rates of around $140, and I figured it might do for cheap housing. I'm getting desperate. While I was there, a girl from Cleveland pulled up, she's spending the night before going to her cousin's in Breckenridge. Apparently her car got broken into and her stereo stolen when she spent the night east of Denver at friend's place. I gave the girl my number just in case she decided she wanted a roommate, since two bedroom condos are going for $1000 monthly, which is rather reasonable. Spent the night in the parking lot of a Comfort Suites in Silverthorne, CO.

January 3, 2003 - Friday

 

Called the trailer park place. Apparently this is a brand new two bedroom home, and they're renting it for $1200/month. Wow it'd be nice to have a roommate. The girl hasn't called. Back to the summit county daily classifieds for more listings. Found a new one that wasn't there before, $425 per month, in Silverthorne, all-inclusive. Even a bed. I drive from Silverthorne to Breck and decide to take it. I also call Breck HR since they never called back about interviewing. I go in and interview at 2:30 with a very nice lady, Joyce. But the interview itself is more like a training session where she explains all the paperwork and rules rather than an actual interview. At the end (it lasted thirty minutes) she said she had someone else to interview, and would call me by tomorrow afternoon. Spent the rest of the day moving into my new 12' by 12' room. I think I need a real, non-gas-station internet connection, but there are no sprint stores in the area, and the office max doesn't have laptop to cell phone connectors. Tomorrow we're going to Denver.

January 4, 2003 - Saturday

 

Went down to Denver, called a bunch of sprint PCS stores, none of them have the data cable I need. Called the main accessory hotline, unavailable. Finally I find some tiny, just-opened PCS store that has them in stock. I shell out $40 to turn my $150 cell phone into a 14.4 modem. Drove back to Silverthorne. It is now night time. And 14.4 modems really do suck quite a lot. Oh well, better than nothing at home, and if I need the speed, I've got the gas station. I also had to call sprint to sign up for three free months of their wireless web service. And they told me they stopped selling the data cables three months ago. No shit, they're a little hard to find. I'm really tempted to buy one of the new PCS vision phones and hook that up to my laptop. Now that's speed.

 Joyce called. No job. *sigh*

January 5, 2003 - Sunday - Arapahoe Basin

 

I've got internet access and a place to live. No job yet, but then again, no ski resort HR offices are open on Sundays. I've got the itch to ski, so I head over to Keystone around 11. Tickets for the afternoon are almost $50, and I'm looking to spend $30, so I head over to Arapahoe Basin where the ticket turns out to be only $39. I ski pretty much all the blacks and double blacks. The snow is nice, but not much nicer than Whistler during the summer. During the summer. THE SUMMER. There's a whole bunch of rocks, and I'm really regretting having taken my good skis to get destroyed like this. Final verdict: A-basin is tough as hell, but only because its the highest Summit County ski area, topping out at 12,000 feet or so. Can we say no oxygen? I ski for three hours total, and need two PowerAdes to survive. I end up with a fever, but I figure it'll go away eventually. I drink a lot of fluid when I get home, completely dehydrated.

January 6, 2003- Monday

 

Feeling much better, I head over to Keystone where they appear to have a part time ticket sales agent position open. When I get to the HR office they tell me they haven't updated the website, and the job is closed, but if there are any jobs on their job board I'd like, I can apply online at their kiosks in the office. So I apply for a bunch of jobs online, which are also filled; the only one I picked that isn't filled is a laundry van driver which is a fulltime position. I'm offered an interview at 11, which I move to 2:30 since I don't want to sit in the office for 40 minutes waiting. I take off, and since I really just want a part time job, I decide to bite it and try a non-vail resort. I'd been trying to get employed by a vail resort since you get to ski all five for free, but I figure skiing one resort for free is better than working full time and not really skiing five. I head over the Continental Divide through the eisenhower tunnel to Loveland Ski Area. I walk in wearing a suit. The receptionist seems doubtful, but when the HR guy sees me he is immediately impressed and calls down to the ski shop and tells the manager he's got a very impressive candidate he's going to send down. I go interview with Sue Booker, the manager, and she hires me on the spot. I start this coming friday. And best of all, I find out I can ski at more than just Loveland for free. I can ski, for absolutely free, this following list because, well, its an impressive list and I want you to be impressed as well:

Arapahoe Basin

Aspen Mountain

Aspen Highlands

Buttermilk

Monarch Ski 

Copper Mountain

Cuchara Mountain

Eldora Mountain Resort

Silver Creek Resort

Powderhorn Resort

Snowmass

Ski Cooper

Winter Park resorts

Steamboat Resort.

Telluride

Durango

Sunlight Mountain Resort

SolVista

Score! I've got a job, a much better deal than a Vail Resort, and its only ten miles away. I head back to Silverthorne, but begin to feel rather crappy as I descend. I head over to Keystone for my 2:30 interview, but the receptionist informs me they've given my job away while I was gone. What assholes. Vail Resorts are so cocky that they aren't even part of the Colorado-wide ski resort employee program Loveland is part of. Its called the Real Deal. Anyway, my recommendation is to stay away from the Vail Resorts, right now I am none-too-pleased with them. Feeling really crappy, fever and stuff. I spend the rest of the day watching movies, hoping to nurse myself back into health, and wondering how I'm going to pass the time until Friday.

January 7, 2003 - Tuesday

 

Sick :( Watched movies and drank lots of fluids. Pushing like a million pills a day right now, vitamins, vitamins, drugs, vitamins.

January 8, 2003 - Wednesday

 

Still sick :(

January 9, 2003 - Thursday

 

Feeling better, but still sick. Craig, next room over from mine, is moving out today. He came out here six weeks ago and has been working as a ski instructor at Copper, but there's not enough work lately to keep him happy, and his girlfriend who's visiting for her winter break doesn't graduate until next December, so they're going to come back out here then. I gave him my card, and expect to see him in Seattle in April, when he's planning to go up to Whistler which he's never been to but I recommended strongly to him. I took some Tylenol PM in the afternoon (hey, it does say PM doesn't it?). Slept from 4 to 7 or so, but the damn dogs barking outside woke me up. So sleepy... but I got up eventually after I got too pissed off at the barking to sleep. This was a mistake, since I couldn't fall asleep later, even with some more Tylenol PM, until 1am

January 10, 2003 - Friday

 

Started work today. Pretty much healthy, but still have some nasal stuff and coughing going on. Work is fun, but I really dislike standing up all day. It was really slow at work, but I was told it picks up on weekends. At least it beats fast food. I picked up my Loveland employee season pass. To go to other resorts I need to pick up special vouchers from the HR receptionist, which I'm not eligible for during the first 15 days of employment, but Don, the HR guy who hired me basically, told the receptionist to waive that for me. Score again! Since I've got a special exception, I needed to get all the tickets for the coming week today, so I picked up a pass for Steamboat Springs on Monday, Copper Mountain on Wednesday, and Aspen on Friday. I figured a day off in between would  give me a day to rest if needed, but I plan on skiing at loveland those days. I need to spend at least one full day demo'ing skis so I know what I'm talking about when customers ask me questions. I'll probably ski the area on Sunday on my own, to get a feel for it, and demo skis tuesday or thursday. As for the other resorts, I wanted to pick resorts fairly close by (I can get to Copper by bus from my house) that I'd heard were good (people can't stop raving about Steamboat Springs around here). And Aspen is a gift to myself, a bit far away (90 miles along back roads, about the same as steamboat though, or 140 by highways), but Aspen is Aspen. Aspen is the first ski resort I knew, Vail the second. In my mind, the world of skiing goes something like this: Whistler, Aspen, Vail. Or Whistler, Vail, Aspen. But I get Aspen for free, and not Vail, and I'm going to own my own place at Whistler. Yes, Aspen is slightly a religious experience :)

When I got home from work I was tired, ate, rested, then started working on this journal (so everything before today has been from memory that's fairly recent, everything from now on will be from memory that's even more recent).

 

January 11, 2003 - Saturday

 

 Worked again today, then I'm off until Saturday. That's six days of skiing! Let me list the places I'm skiing for you again, since its so much fun just to think about it: Loveland. Steamboat. Loveland. Copper. Loveland. Aspen. Work was slightly busier, but still slow. Guess the sports shop is REALLY high profit, since we sure aren't a wal-mart. Came home and worked on this for a bit, talked online, starting to think about getting some more money so I can start going out once more. But really, skiing. Tomorrow I'm going to head over to Kinko's and deal with my Google reimbursement (they're rather disappointing how they handle pretty much all aspects of a recruiting trip), then hit up Loveland in the afternoon. Those double blacks await... the trail map looks crappy, but the runs look steep. I'm worried about two things, one that it is really high altitude, we have the world's highest quad chair, and about having so much fun that I don't want to stop when I start getting tired, and I end up sore for steamboat. Six resorts in six days, gonna have to pace myself somehow.  Oh, and I'm still coughing, I have to remember to stay on vitamins and liquids.

 

January 12, 2003 - Sunday - Loveland

 

Woke up this morning with plans to go to Kinko's first to deal with the google stuff, then go to Loveland. Sadly I realized I had my Steamboat Springs pass for the 12th and not the 13th. And kinko's here doesn't open until noon on Sundays. I'd have gone to steamboat except Kinko's also closes at 5pm, and steamboat is 90 miles away. So I decided to go to Loveland around 11am, and come back to Kinko's after I was done. Loveland is a really nice ski area, actually. Once you get up into the ridge area (where I-70 passes under), it feels like a huge, never-ending desert. There's quite a bit of wind blowing the snow into dunes, and you can see grass poking through the snow in places. Overnight about 12 inches of fresh powder fell. I don't like powder so much, I also fell. About five times. From the top (basically the top of the world's highest quad chair) you can see Keystone and Breckenridge. And probably Arapahoe Basin too, but I couldn't spot it. The place is amazingly not busy too, even on a Sunday. I was second in line at the lift once. All the other times I'd ski down the slope straight into the next chair. The lifts are really long, and not express lifts. You get cold riding up. Two of the lifts even have mid-stations, one for dismounting, and the other lift's mid-station added people. Kinda funky, but I can really see the need since the lifts are so damn long. I skied down the double blacks into the parking lot, piece of cake, but icy. Getting over to chair 8 was an awesome experience, alone in the woods, seems like no one was around for miles. Overall, I had a great time, but I think there's more challenging places out there. I'm sort of starting to think that I really have no fear on skis. Perhaps I just have nothing to fear. I've done the steepest run at Whistler, which is the best ski resort in North America, maybe I need to stop going to resorts, and buy an avalanche transceiver.

I also dropped by the ski shop to see about resurfacing my skis. Apparently they're in pretty good condition, even though I think they're pretty shitty with two or three major grooves each. I think I'd cry if I saw skis that the Carls would say need resurfacing. Anyway, $10 will do everything I need on my skis. I think that'll be Tuesday, while I am demo'ing skis.

January 13, 2003 - Monday - Steamboat

 

Woke up at 8:20, ate by 8:40, and headed out at 9. The drive to steamboat is really flat, straight north on Colorado 9 to US-40 west. I was sort of surprised to note that the town of Steamboat Springs is only 7,000 feet in elevation. Good news for me, since I live at 8,700 feet and work at 10,000, I've got a definite oxygen advantage. I got to Steamboat at 10:30 and immediately hit up the ticket sales office, where they took my free pass voucher, and gave me my free pass. That was much easier than I thought. I also loved the fact that Steamboat has a gondola, and several express quads. I really can't stand slow lifts... and Loveland is full of them. I rode up the gondola, and I quickly realized that I was only a third of the way up the mountain or so. I decided to go for the double black diamonds first. I rode up two more lifts to get there, and I chose Christmas Tree Gully. This was finally a real steep run, nothing like anything I did at Loveland yesterday. The trees were a bit too close together for the first third of the run, but afterwards it was really fun. Next I walked uphill a bit to get to the east face. That was good, but really really short. I also did Chute 3 and Chute 1. Those were really the most fun. Unfortunately Steamboat's double blacks all have a really crappy flat bottom. Then once you get out of that, you go down a blue run (which really, I've seen blues twice as steep, so it ought to be a green). This blue run sucks even more than the flat part. There are a lot of snow guns around the sides; as soon as you get to the level of the first snow gun, the run turns into pure ice. So I finally have proof that artificial snow sucks. And after this crappy blue run, you go down a green run for quite a ways. At the bottom of this green run, you get on an express quad back to the top. At the top, and this is a different ridge than the double blacks start from. Unless you want to hike, you have to go down the backside of the mountain into Morningside park, which is mostly blues through forest. Once you get to the bottom of that run, you take the lift back up to the top where you can finally go down another double black. All said, it takes the majority of an hour to do each double black and get back to do another. And the double blacks are really short compared to how much you have to ski to do the lifts correctly. I skied just the double blacks, and left around 3, really exhausted. Today's fall count was 4: the first time I stopped on a black run and lost my balance and just fell over. The next two times my ski bindings popped off on the double blacks before I went down. This surprised me, since my bindings are maxed out (set to 9 each). The fourth time was an actual, real fall. Oh well.

January 14, 2003 - Tuesday - Loveland

 

Woke up at 9. That's 11 hours of sleep. I really didn't feel so much like skiing. Really its like I wake up, ski, ski, ski, come home, and sleep. Then I get up and ski again. But you know, I still got up and went skiing. It is a rough life that we ski bums lead. Anyway, today I dropped off my skis at the sports shop that I work at for a tune, and picked up demo skis. Today I am going to demo some of the skis we sell, since I get to demo for free. I started off with the Atomic R-EXs, which are, apparently, midfat skis, meaning about 80 mm at their waist. Yes, skis can be fat, and they have waists. I took them up lift 2, down a mogul run and a groomed blue, then up lift 1 down a double black. I think they were alright, not much powder around but whenever I ran over a bit of soft snow, I tried to see how the skis wouldn't sink in; as far as I could tell they stayed on top of the snow more then my normal straight skis. Other than that, I think the skis didn't turn any better than my normal straight skis. I was right; they don't have much of a side cut. Next I took out the Atomic SX:II skis. Supercrosses I think they are also called. They're the really ugly green ones that look like snakes. They were also really heavy, there were risers under the bindings which supposedly help with turning by raising the boots, but they just made the skis so heavy that my foot got numb on the lift because it was being pressed down against the seat. The side cut on these was massive, and they turned like mad, but the weight really made it hard to make quick turns. Next I took out the Salomon Crossmax 10s. They have the same snakeskin texture the last ones had, but they were amazing. They were light, they turned like anything, they were awesome skis. I went back to the ski shop to make one last run with my own skis for comparison. This was around 1pm, and my skis weren't done, and Carl was at lunch so I grabbed another pair of skis, the Volkl g3s. These were supposedly much firmer than the Crossmaxes, but I didn't like them as much. Overall, I think the list goes Crossmax, g3, SX:II, R-EX. Anyway, while I was waiting for the g3s, Chris got off work, his buddy Dave came up, and (the other) Carl came by for a moment's break from skiing, and we all decided to go out and ski together. And the most amazing thing happened. Chris and Dave were snowboarders; together the three of them were amazing downhill skiers and riders. They're the kind of people you watch while riding the lifts, and are simply amazed by. They would go over all sorts of terrain at really high speeds, hit random bumps and catch mad air, and just, wow. It was awesome. Later we met up with Jeff who also snowboards at their level. And the truly amazing, spectacular part that makes me feel wonderful, is that their level is my level. I kept up with no problem, I took the same jumps and the same paths. In fact, Carl landed only one of his two terrain park jumps, while I landed both. And Carl and I both took spills as did the boarders. Between the five of us, we could most likely show up anyone on the mountain today (I counted only 200 cars in the parking lot today). So I think there's an important lesson to be learned for non-locals, the people who work in the sports shop will TAKE YOU DOWN SO FAST YOU CAN'T EVEN BLINK. The only thing was that I was skiing with the other guys with no stops going down, which really can wear me out. Carl is a big hiker-type person, he did a couple 30 minute hikes along the ridge to get to some just opened (for the season) runs. I think I'm going to have to do that one of these days. He was also talking about going to a chute off in the distance, big time backcountry. Apparently you'll end up right on I-70 afterwards. I think I'll go if I can get the sports shop to lend me one of the $300 avalanche transceivers. Oh, and apparently Doug, who went to A-Basin today, is mad good. These guys respect that kid, and that probably means I have to go ski with him soon. For the record, Doug also works in the ski shop (see above capital lettering). I ended up skiing until 3:30, then I went to the bar for 50 cent taco Tuesdays. Getting the local secrets slowly but surely. I'll probably be sore tomorrow, but I'm not tired right now and I'm really excited about Copper tomorrow. Thursday I'll demo more skis I think back at Loveland, then Aspen on Friday.

January 15, 2003 - Wednesday - Copper Mountain

 

It was supposed to snow 4 to 8 inches overnight last night. It didn't. Instead it chose to flurry a little bit, and then let all hell loose during the day today. I woke up, took my time, and made it to Copper by 10. Of course I didn't think to bring my face mask, since back in Silverthorne it was simply snowing nice fluffy flakes. By the time I got to Copper, the wind at higher elevations had picked up to 60 miles an hour. It hurt, a lot. I rode up two lifts and started coming back down. I'd had enough, this was no fun. Somehow though I decided I needed to try to double blacks on the bowls. This involves taking the Storm King lift up, which is the weirdest lift in the world. You grab a t-bar type thing that isn't connected to the lift rope, slide down a small hill to the lift rope where it attaches, and off you go. At least this is what I could gather. My face was completely numb from the ten seconds I stood there and watched someone else go up, since I could not for the life of me figure out how the lift worked. I asked the liftie if I would freeze to death if I went up the lift, and he pointed out it couldn't really get much worse than I looked right there. So I went back to the base, rode the shuttle to my car, and went looking for a face mask. Darn, left it at home. I decided to run home and get it, but while I was warming up the car, the radio announced that I-70 was shut down between Frisco and Silverthorne because of a 20 car wreck, and that Dillon Dam Road, the only way I know to bypass that stretch of I-70, was closed due to excessive snow and wind. Stuck at Copper, I bought yet another face mask. I own three now. Then I went down some blacks, double blacks, and blues. The double blacks at copper are short, not steep, and all-around easier than the blacks (since the blacks are long). Of course, I went down some blacks with no bumps on them -- and really, they should have been blues (I'm talking about the runs at the bottom of Super Bee). Oh and for the record, there was a double black leading off of Spaulding Bowl leading down to resolution, and that's the only double black I did today as far as I know. By the time I got back up from buying my face mask, they'd closed Storm King for the day and Excelerator temporarily. Later when I was riding American Flyer, near the top the wind was so strong the chair came within a foot of hitting the support posts for the lift. All in all, the day got much better once I got my face mask, but I'd rather have nicer weather. I spent the majority of my time doing blue cruisers, because, well, blowing snow doesn't do well for visibility, and visibility is needed for moguls and such. The day ended with a run down Bouncer, which was a groomed blue with snow blown all over it, maybe two inches of powder or so that was tracked up. I was tired, and it wasn't my most perfect run, but I guess it looks damn good to go fast and keep your feet together, because I got LIFT APPLAUSE! It always makes you feel good, and I was starting to worry I wouldn't get any as a real ski bum (I'd gotten two rounds of lift applause over spring break last year). Oh, and today's fall count: 1, which I basically sat down on my ass for a moment, and recovered really well. Oops, no two. I was doing a green, and took a route through the trees, and I came out over what looked like a creek, so I tried to jump over it and I landed doing the splits which really hurts your ankles more than anything when you're wearing skis. Oh, sorry, and I also sort-of fell when I was going really fast into one of the lift lines (and at this point I was feeling bad for going so fast because of all the slow signs) and I misjudged a turn a bit, and caught one of my legs on one of the line dividers (basically a metal pole). Didn't hurt, but my ski flew off and landed behind my somehow, and I was really embarrassed since I was thinking I'd be all cool and slide in real fast and stuff.

I think tomorrow I will demo four skis and that's it, not do much skiing-wise. Maybe prepare my mp3 player in the morning or something. And Friday is aspen. I can't wait.

January 16, 2003 - Thursday - Loveland

 

Demo'ed another four skis today.

  • Rossignol Bandits - A very average ski I think. I ended up taking these down a double black, which was a mistake, since I didn't really like them, and I got a bit nervous using them.
  • Volant (or Volkl) Machete Sin - Oooh. I like these. Very nice in all conditions.
  • Volant (or Volkl -- I get the V's confused) V-Pro - Really crappy turning, took a verbal beating from Carl, "It's your fault the turns aren't good, not the skis'"
  • Salomon X-Scream - Wow, these skis can turn. You know that scene in Pretty Woman where Julia Roberts says the lawyer's car corners like it's on rails? That's the description I want to use here. These skis didn't slip an inch even on sheets of ice. I like, except it seems like a bit too much of the turning comes from the rear of the ski, but that could just be a problem with my boots. Overall, I like the Machete Sins a tiny bit better, I think.

January 17, 2003 - Friday - Aspen Mountain

 

Aspen! :)

Getting to Aspen could have almost been a disaster -- Microsoft Streets and Trips told me to go down through Leadville and over independence pass. Fortunately I vaguely recalled that Independence Pass is closed in the winter (it says so on the printed map AAA gives you), so I double-checked before I left. It was closed. Stupid Microsoft.

I never really noticed before that Aspen, that being Aspen Mountain proper, not Snowmass or Buttermilk or Aspen Highlands, which I will all go to sometime, has no beginner runs. Not one. Awesome. However, I've never before seen a ski area with so little snow. The groomed blues (all blues were groomed) were just fine, except some that were icy, and most blacks were okay, but all the double blacks had serious twigs/grass/dirt/rocks showing. I ended up doing 10 double black runs anyway (Walsh's, Kristi, Bear Paw Glades [seriously fun], Corkscrew, Franklin Dump, Jackpot, Norway Slope, Shoulder of Bell, Silver Rush, and Super 8). I had a local point me to the hardest runs on the mountain to make sure I got those in among the ten. Oh, and the Silver Queen Gondola goes way too high, in two places even. Did a bit of AprŤs while I was in town to boot.

January 18, 2003 - Saturday

 

Worked today. The parking lot was as full as I'd seen yet, probably because of the three day weekend.

January 19, 2003 - Sunday

 

Worked today. Slower than yesterday; probably because it was very nice and warm out, so people didn't need to buy things. Plans for dinner with Jessica tonight. Plans for this weekend too! I was scheduled to work and asked Sue if I could get any time off, and she gave me the whole weekend. I think I'm skiing for the next 11 days.

January 20, 2003 - Monday - Winter Park

 

Hit up Winter Park today by 11:30 am. The snow at Winter Park is some of the best I've seen yet. And it hasn't even snowed recently. This is weird, since I'd expect the snow to really be chewed up by all the newbies. This brings me to my next point: Winter Park had a significantly larger percentage of people who looked like they didn't have a clue how to ski than any of the resorts I've been to thus far. Unlike four years ago when I was scared and gutless, I ventured into the Vasquez Cirque today. Its a one mile hike, I was going to go with a local from Granby (who was real damn cool on the lift btw), but he bailed because of the wind. So I started hiking, and soon ski patrol came along on a snowmobile and pulled me. I love ski patrol. It was a lot of fun, and it brought back tons of memories, but you know, the Cirque just isn't as frightening as it ought to be. Oh, I also found out Jackson Hole has the scariest warning sign (this was brought up while we were discussing the warning signs for the Cirque, which are the worst I've ever seen). I think I will go see the Jackson Hole warning sign one day.

As far as non-skiing is concerned, I'm really starting to be a local. I bumped into people I know at the grocery store. And I'm working tomorrow; someone's grandfather died and Sue needed a replacement. I owe her anyway, so I told her I'd come in.

January 21, 2003 - Tuesday

 

Worked today in the Valley store. That's the beginner's area store, and there aren't many customers and not much to do. So I read two books, one about Colorado avalanches and one about backcountry skiing all day. It was the best day of work I'd had thus far, I even had the entire store to myself for about a total of an hour during the day.

January 22, 2003 - Wednesday - Arapahoe Basin & Loveland

 

Failed to meet up with my Keystone people today. It was really empty at A-Basin so I think they simply didn't come. I skied from 10:30 to 1, at which point I decided I'd had enough and I drove the 6 miles to Loveland to have my boots fit. Let's just say Kristen rules, and that I'm no longer in the backseat, and I have custom insoles. The boots are more comfortable than my normal shoes now, I'd drive in them if I could. I drove back to A-Basin at 3, and I took three more runs before they closed for the day. And technically speaking, I also skied Loveland today, since I took a test run with the boots.

As far as the last time I skied Arapahoe Basin and it kicked my ass: revenge is sweet.

January 23, 2003 - Thursday - Copper Mountain

 

I can't ever catch a break with the weather at Copper. Today was much better than last time, but it was snowing and cold still, and I wanted my face mask. Fortunately I brought it this time. Storm King and the bowls were open today, so I headed over there. Copper's bowls are, indeed, awesome. I hiked from the top of Mountain Chief to the top of Bradley's Plunge, which is where they closed off everything else, though the liftie told me they tend to open things up for the weekends. I really need to work on my drop in skills, the top of the run was a slight overhang which gave me pause, and I ended up dropping in really lamely, then doing a kick turn before actually starting the run. It was somewhat intimidating though (finally, an intimidating double black!) because the run-out from the chute led to a rocky cliff.

January 24, 2003 - Friday - Copper Mountain

 

I was hoping Tucker Mountain would be open today, since the liftie yesterday said weekends were good. I guess a Friday isn't quite weekend yet. Snowing a little bit again today, flat lighting early on gave way to a tiny bit of sunshine in the afternoon which improved things a bit. Still, I need to get to Copper for a nice weather day sometime. AprŤs-ski, went to Borders and bought Fast Food Nation and read it. This gets a bit off-topic as far as skiing, but I really wasn't turned off to fast food or anything as a result of reading the book. I mean, where did people think beef comes from? The local butcher shop who trims a cow a day and sells it to you? And why the big fuss about fast food, I don't know. You think the beef in the supermarket comes from that magical nice butcher, and only the fast food beef comes from big slaughterhouses? Please. Anyway.... didn't feel like driving out to winter park to have dinner with Pat, so I read instead.

January 25, 2003 - Saturday - Winter Park

 

Met up with Pat at 10:25 or so. He was late even though I had a heck of a time getting over snowy Berthoud Pass. I dislike that pass. All in all, a good time on the slopes though. Great snow. Pat's a decent skier, although a bit afraid of speed and steeps, which is holding him back I think. His brother seemed okay too, but the friends... well, no Vasquez Cirque for them. Pat ended up dragging everyone down into the Challenger lift complex by accident. I was happy he did it, so I didn't want him that it was all blacks from then on. I led (er, followed) everyone down Derailer, since in my opinion it's the easiest black there. Evening in the hot tub with beer, then everyone passed out.

January 26, 2003 - Sunday - Winter Park

 

Met up with Pat at 10:05. I was late. Again, great snow, nice sunshine. I managed to pull Pat down Backside Parsenn before lunch. He did pretty well, though we got separated out of visual contact a couple times which got me rather nervous at first. Lots and lots of powder, which is exactly the same conditions that existed four years ago when I last did the run. Tough to get up once you fall and such. But really fun. After lunch I took Pat onto Rainbow, the hardest Challenger trail that was open (all the other chutes were closed). He was doing great too, until he fell and slid all the way down. I skied down after and picked up all the pieces. For someone who had his pole straps on, they sure didn't work all that well. Watched the super bowl afterwards, of course. Floridians tend to go for Tampa Bay, so that was my team :) Good thing they won.

January 27, 2003 - Monday - Loveland

 

Worked today. It's the Vegas show right now, which means all the managers are gone off in Vegas buying stuff for us to put out. But this also means that we had a really easy day. Very few skiers, maybe a third of the parking lot. And it was warm (40 degrees), so no one needed to buy stuff. I got ski time today, which I was told they weren't doing anymore, but apparently they are. That means you go out and ski for an hour, instead of working. So I did, using a nice Karbon ski jacket (Loveland rents clothes) and the usual ski pants, goggles, gloves, and hat. The groomed snow was real nice, but everything else was horribly windblown. I gotta get to Loveland on a powder day one of these days. I'm really itching to buy new skis today. And also play poker.

I picked up some old skiing magazines from previous months, including October's issues of the top 60 North American resorts. Whistler ranks in at 3rd overall (but 5th in difficulty). Overall Aspen is 8th, Snowmass 4th. Vail and Deer Valley at 1st and 2cd. Winter Park is surprisingly high at 15th. Copper is 16. Steamboat is 6th, and apparently they have the best powder in the world (officially their snow ranking is 6th; though Whistler's is 41st). I think I need to go back to Steamboat sometime, because I wasn't particularly impressed the time I went. I also need to go to Jackson Hole, which is ranked number 1 for terrain and difficulty. I've done the steepest in-bounds run at Whistler, if I do the steepest at Jackson Hole, I'll have conquered the world of skiing :) Okay, okay, so yeah, I need to do it gracefully to count. I think at this point, I can. Upcoming plans: Snowmass tomorrow and Ski Cooper Wednesday (which looks like it'll suck from the trail map, but its the closest resort I haven't been to yet).

January 28, 2003 - Tuesday - Snowmass

 

Snowmass is actually really fun. The day started off sunny, but I rode four lifts up before my first run of the day, and by the end of the third lift, it had gotten cloudy. Then snowy, then really snowy and cloudy and foggy. Then the sun came out for a bit, and then the fog set in again -- there were times you couldn't see the second chair in front of you on the lifts. I did two double blacks, well okay three, but Cirque Headwall really was lame, I'd have given it a blue at best. Baby Ruth was amazing -- 15 foot cliff!! And I did Possible during one of the foggiest moments, I couldn't see anything, and the run is a chute that's about 10 feet wide. Again, awesome. The coolest thing about the runs was the sign at the top of Baby Ruth (there was a handwritten equivalent at Possible) that said "The top of this run gets ruined by sideslipping. If you can't turn, then this run is not for you. Your cooperation is appreciated." Hell yeah.

Oh, and Long Shot is really fun too. It's 3.5 miles long, and has moguls, but the run made me realize almost all the moguls at Snowmass are... well, ok, you've seen those tubing hills with their long tracks where the kids slide in, right? It's like that, you just swoosh down really gently on your skis and it is amazingly fun.

January 29, 2003 - Wednesday - Ski Cooper, San Isabel National Forest, and Loveland

 

So I went to Ski Cooper because it was the closest ski area I hadn't been to yet. I had seen a trail map, and it looked rather tame and small, so I was expecting a pretty sucky day. Boy was I wrong. Ski Cooper reminds me so much of Hidden Valley in St. Louis. It sucks so much, there's no words for it. Perfect North in Cincinnati puts it to shame. It was so not worth it for me to go there -- and I had a free lift ticket. It really says a lot when it's not worth skiing for free. Their black diamond runs were groomed. Their moguls varied between an inch and five inches high. They had two lifts running (two other surface lifts were closed). The lifts took about a half hour to ride what seems like 300 vertical feet. The moral of the story is, don't ever, ever ski at Ski Cooper.

Now to the good stuff. I take four runs down at Ski Cooper, and I get really bored. There's no chance of having any real fun here. But the huge mountain in the background looks amazing. As I'm looking at it, I realize there are cat track roads up it. Looking even more, I realize there are people actually skiing up there. So I talk to a liftie, call my mom, and cross a rope and start hiking up the cat track. At one point it splits, and I start following the left split, which hasn't been used today yet, but I soon realize that maybe it hasn't been used because of avalanche blasting or whatever, so I ski back down and take the right track, which leads downhill at first before going uphill. At the bottom of the hill I see a guy in yellow standing next to a tent. I say hi, and he asks what I am doing there. I'm confused, since ski patrol is almost never in yellow. But he is ski patrol. And I should have lied, but I told him the truth that I cut a rope, and he says its a second degree felony in Colorado and blah blah blah, sheriff, blah blah, handcuffs, jail, blah. He gets another ski patrol guy out there, and they end up taking the lift ticket I had and making me hike back out of the ski area to the parking lot. Really, I wanted the lift ticket for a souvenir. Anyway, nothing big happened, though if it had, I would have probably mentioned at some point that the liftie told me it was okay to cut the rope. I still have half a mind to go hike that ridge. But I dislike Ski Cooper quite a bit. It surprises me that Ski Cooper is #5 on the editor's additional picks in the October 2002 issue of Ski Magazine. There are so many places better. Loveland, even. Loveland was the first ski resort in north america to open this year. So at least pick Loveland, dammit. Not Ski Cooper.

After I got kicked out, it was only 2pm, so I drove over to Loveland, and met up with Doug. We skied under chair 1 for the next hour or so, I was dead afterwards. Doug is, indeed, a good skier, and my new personal god. Though I can't keep up with him, if I take a blue halfway down then merge back into the mogul run, I can beat him by quite a huge margin. So all in all, I guess I'm not that bad. He said I was pretty good.

January 30, 2003 - Thursday

 

Work. Afterwards I spent four hours working on my skis. Ptex, waxing, and all-importantly, trying out a new tune (base bevel 2.5 degrees, edges at 0 degrees). I screwed up the ptex a little bit, I think I didn't properly scrape it off in a couple places, but there's always more :)

January 31, 2003 - Friday - Vail and Keystone

 

I finally broke down and got a discount pass ($49) for Vail. I packed a lunch, and left at 8am to make it by opening for an all-day skiathon at Vail. If I'm paying for skiing, I'm gonna get my money's worth. I rode four lifts or so to make my first run down Inner Magnolia bowl. I was the first one; it had snowed about three inches overnight, but they day was gorgeous, partly cloudy with a high of 45-50. Oh, and the four hours of work on my skis last night probably helped too. I think I need to make it a weekly thing. The 2.5 degree base bevel really makes for awesome carving, I think I want to up it a little. I think I also need to make the edges 1.5 degrees or so, for better grip on hard snow. Anyways, Vail was amazing, and beautiful. It took me two hours before I bumped into the first ski area boundary sign. I also made it to blue sky basin, but on a black mogul run through moderate trees, there were more people than moguls. It really sucked, so I bailed and basically wandered around on the mountain, lost, doing random trails until I made it back to the car to drop of a jacket and pick up lunch, which I ate on the lifts back up. I did two double black runs. One was a really long mogul run, and the other was a blue-black steepness run with, umm, nothing. No bumps, no trees, wide open. Vail really needs to get their act in gear, and get some tougher terrain. I also jumped off a 5 foot cliff, and I was making my way down a steep dropoff under one of the lifts when I went around a mogul with the intention of turning right over it, and, well, there was no back to the mogul, and I slid down this cliff-type thing with some rocks for about 20 feet. I say cliff-like because it was 80 degrees or so, and not 90. And all I could think was, oh my god, my beautiful tune on my skis, please don't let it be ruined.

I ended up going back to Blue Sky Basin until 3 when it closed, then I went down various random trails until 4:15 or so, when the lifts all closed. The back bowls aren't really as spectacular as you might think from everything people write about them. They look spectacular, but in the end, they're rather tame. On my drive back home (well, really more like on my last run at Vail), I realized that my lift ticket was valid at Keystone, and that Keystone had night skiing. So I went home, ate, and got to Keystone by 6, where I skied until 8, when they closed. All that was open was a bunch of greens and one blue. Or at least that's all I found... I ended up going basically straight down the mountain each time, which was really fun and I looked really good doing it, especially since pretty much everyone out there was a beginner.

February 1, 2003 - Saturday

 

Work. Found out that Arapahoe Basin is the third most difficult ski area in North America. Doug said the East Wall and the lower portions of Pali are the hardest parts there, and those aren't open yet because of a lack of snow. We supposedly get a lot of snow in February, so hopefully they'll open them soon so I can ski them before I leave. But what's open right now is easy as pie.

February 2, 2003 - Sunday

 

Worked. Today the Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water Winter Festival came to Loveland. They had some music, and free stuff to give away, though to get the really good stuff you had to throw big plastic Lipton noodles into buckets. I got a bouncy ball for the embarrassment, but I was hoping for Kristen's prize, which was a t-shirt cube. We got hooked up at the shop with a case of Boost power bar samples, and about 8 cases of water. The power bars disappeared quick; we still have the water.

February 3, 2003 - Monday

 

Good god, I'm working way too much -- three days in a row. The paycheck I got yesterday was for three days of work. The one before that was for two. That means this weekend I did 60% of the same amount of work that I did for the preceding four weeks. Lynna found Kristen's unpackaged t-shirt from yesterday, which was obviously wrinkled from formerly being a 2 inch cube. She thought it was supposed to be like that, and claimed that it was some weird stretchy fabric. I told her it would be a normal shirt after being washed, but she didn't believe me. I swear Lisa, who was standing nearby, had a look of pure horror flash across her face when I contradicted Lynna. Incidentally, the bitch (that's Lynna for those of you who are slow in the audience) blew me off claiming that she buys t-shirts for a living (true, she buys the shirts for the store) and thus Kristen's shirt could not be a normal, wrinkled t-shirt. I think after I get off work for the last time later in March, I'm gonna go up to Lynna, hand her a t-shirt cube, and tell her what an arrogant condescending bitch she is. I doubt she'll ever figure out why I gave her a t-shirt cube anyway, so who knows if I'll go through with this plan. I really don't like spending money on people I dislike. Oh, and I'll suggest to Sue that she fire Lynna. I don't need a recommendation from this job anyway.

Bought a butane lighter for p-tex work today. I spent about 2 hours p-texing, waxing, and tuning (this time, 3 deg base bevel, 1 deg edge bevel -- I liked the base bevel before, but I want more grip on hard snow). Another exciting weekend coming up...

February 4, 2003 - Tuesday - Aspen Highlands

 

Hit up Aspen Highlands today. Got to the mountain around 11:30. Finished my first run at 1:40. I went straight for Highland Bowl -- it took me a good hour and a half to hike it, then I stopped and ate lunch at the top, then I took about five minutes to ski down. Cool thing was, while I was eating lunch at the top, a patroller came up, and I talked to him for a bit, and he ended up giving me a free Highland Bowl pin, which you can apparently only get at the top of the bowl, and even then, only if you're lucky. There's a snow cat that'll take you a third of the way up the bowl, but it wasn't running today. At the top of the place where the snow cat would normally drop you off, there's a booth and a sign that says "Welcome to the bottom of lift 6. This lift is environmentally friendly and as a result, requires a lot of user interaction. There are about 1400 steps to the top of highland bowl." I was halfway to the top before I realized what the sign meant. The trail up was really rough, and at many places, just a two foot wide ridge with a sheer drop off on either side. Very ski-able, but nothing you'd want to fall down without skis.

February 5, 2003 - Wednesday

 

Work.

February 6, 2003 - Thursday - Loveland and Arapahoe Basin

 

Went over to Loveland around 10am to demo a whole bunch of skis, with the intent of finding out which ski I wanted to buy. I tried the Crossmax 10, Pocket Rockets, g-motion, Machete Sin, Machete Truth, Pilot Scream 10, and one other ski that eludes me now. I'm gonna get the Pilot Scream 10s. All the demo'ing took until almost 2. Doug had told me that A-Basin opened up some of their hardest runs (namely, Turbo and West Turbo, which are about 55 degrees in pitch). Only Turbo was open, and I did it a couple times. It was pretty steep, technically, but it didn't really feel particularly difficult. And the East Wall, which is another particularly difficult area of A-Basin (which, remember, is ranked third in difficulty among North American ski resorts), hasn't been open for the past four years, because apparently it takes a really good year with a ton of snow to open it.

February 7, 2003 - Friday - Loveland

 

Had to pick up rental stuff for John at Loveland, so we stayed there to ski the day. The overnight low was -20 F, which is the coldest it has been yet. The high today was 0. It was very cold, and chair 9 was closed most of the day because its heat break had frozen up. My car even barely started in the morning.

February 8, 2003 - Saturday - Snowmass

 

Snowmass is now officially on my list of hardcore ski areas. Pulled John down a double black that was damn fun. Lots of double blacks open today, unlike last time I was here. Many, many cliffs. Lots of really hardcore stuff. Much more hardcore than A-Basin (ranked 3rd in difficulty, as compare to Snowmass' 8th place). After skiing, we went and soaked in the Glenwood Springs hot springs for two and a half hours, then we drove back to Aspen to find steak. It is really damn hard to find steak in the town with the number one ranked dining and nightlife. We were about to give up when we spotted a bar with a special -- a 20 oz porterhouse with potato and vegetables for $17.95. It was the best steak I'd had in a really long time. An amazing delightful steak. Afterwards, we just drove home, getting home just after 1 in the morning.

February 9, 2003 - Sunday

 

Worked today while John skied. Sort of almost glad that I worked -- the high was about 4, but the wind was blowing much more than on Friday, so it made for a much more miserable day. There was some Mountain Dew Vertical Challenge today, which brought out a lot of people. Combined with the horrible weather, the store was extremely busy. I sold probably around $2,000 worth of stuff alone. I would have sold a pair of skis, but they didn't have a SKU on them and I had to get Lynna to help, and she ended up ringing the entire sale up. Kristen said I should be mad about her stealing my sale. Lynna also said that my communications with her had an aggressive tone. I guess at least she can pick up on stuff a little bit. I found out that both Kristen and Alex don't particularly care for her as a manager, and I've started seriously considering not informing the shop about when I'm leaving. Assuming Lynna will be working on my last day, I'm positive I will have a reason to up and quit on that day. My only real concern is that I like Sue, and I don't really want to screw her over like that. We'll see, maybe I'll give a one week notice or something. After work we watched some friends episodes, and went to see The Recruit, which was a decent movie but would have been much better if they'd have taken out the damn computer references. Computer nerds don't get hired as CIA field agents.

Oh, and apparently this storm that came through today came from the North. We're planning on hitting Steamboat tomorrow, so it could be really nice. Champaign Powder here we come!

February 10, 2003 - Monday - Steamboat

 

Turns out Steamboat got 6 inches of glorious powder overnight. And another three or so during the day. Truth be told, last time it didn't really impress me all that much, but with powder, all of the trees were a wonderful frolic. I even managed to climb up on a tall rock and jump off, John got a picture. Actually, hopefully john got quite a few pictures. I've got a bunch of my pictures from a while ago which I've been meaning to put up, so perhaps soon a whole crapload of pictures will show up here.

February 11, 2003 - Tuesday - Eldora

 

Dropped John off at the airport in the morning (and I managed to drop my wallet in the driveway back home). Since I was close (sort of) to Eldora, I went over there. Windy as all hell, worse than Loveland. Even the powder in the trees was crusty and windblown. And on the runs, nothing but ice. I got to Eldora at 2, and I got bored of the runs real fast -- they were okay runs, but the snow really just sucked. I went to the terrain park since there wasn't much else to do really, and it was pretty empty so I thought I might learn how to do rails today. Rails suck. Even the big flat ones where all you need to do is just keep your skis pointing straight. I tried three different ones, and fell three times. At least I nailed the one jump. My right side is now pretty massively bruised from falling down onto ice.

February 12, 2003 - Wednesday - Loveland

 

Work. All the managers were at a show in Denver, so Carolyn was the ranking officer on deck. We got ski time. It ruled. Really slow day, but it passed pretty quickly. Skiing helps pass the time.

February 13, 2003 - Thursday - Loveland

 

Work. Again. Same deal as yesterday, went off and skied. Tried out the Volant Spatula skis. Next year's model and all. I don't think I can fully describe how weird they are. They have a reverse cut (ie, they are wider in the middle than at the ends) and an inverse camber (the tips are higher off the ground than the center of the ski). Very fat powder skis. Not so good on the groomed stuff, but they were really fun on the double blacks. Oh, and bad news. They sold the skis I wanted to buy this weekend. So Saturday I'm going to have to get a whole bunch of prices from Sue, and see what looks the best.

February 14, 2003 - Friday - Sunlight Mountain

 

Big day today. Sunlight was alright, but all the double blacks were closed (except the glades, but their glades are doubles only because of how many nasty tree stumps you can run into left and right -- not my kind of skiing). The day was real warm, and I waxed right. It was 32 on top, 45 at the bottom. The morning was glorious, I got a lot of first tracks. By the afternoon, however, the snow was really heavy and not light and fluffy. I adjusted my bindings because they were coming off too much. I followed Carl's advice, ignore the numbers and just crank it to the max, and turn it back a half turn. I ended up with 10.5 or so on the front, and 10 on the back. A couple runs later the bindings came off again. Well, just the right ski. It took me a moment to realize that the binding hadn't released (yay!!). Instead, I ripped the back half of the binding straight off the ski. Yes, it was a black, and yes, it was a mogul, and yes, I was jumping, but really, it wasn't particularly steep and not all that aggressive. So now I'm in the market for new skis. By Sunday.

Oh, and Loveland had their 12th annual mountain top wedding ceremony, with 50 couples. If I'd been around, I would have taken pictures. Unfortunately I was busy ripping screws out of wood using my foot. And yes, for the record, I do realize it is Valentine's Day.

Yet another side note. I'm having a hell of a time finding any reliable ski rankings online. Anyone know of one? I don't know enough yet to put up a ranking list myself (though I think you ought to be able to figure out what skis I like best from reading this whole thing).

February 15, 2003 - Saturday

 

Work. At the Valley, with Carlos and Mickey. Pretty much sat around all day, though we did rent a lot of clothes. Spent the evening driving around to all the ski shops in Summit County, to get prices. Found the Pilot Scream 10 at Christie's for $600, and at Christie's Outlet for $500. The old demo we had for sale at the shop was $545, so $500 might not be too bad.

February 16, 2003 - Sunday - Loveland

 

Hung out at Loveland mostly. Demo'ed the Atomic SX:11 again, since they sucked so bad the first time yet I've heard so many good things about them that I needed to see if anything had changed. It hadn't. Well, by now I'm in much better shape then I was when I started working, so the Atomics weren't as heavy as I remembered them to be, but there just wasn't enough ski there for me. Oh, and I got prices for four skis from Sue, nothing below $300 unless I special ordered it. The markups in our shop still amaze me. But best of all, before even going to Loveland in the morning, I dropped by Christie's Outlet and noticed the Scream 10's had a sign over them saying 75% off retail ($1200) so I mentioned this, and the guy (not too good at math) said $400. I then went to Loveland and did the demo, got my prices, and came back and got the Scream 10's. Except I pointed out they should be $300, not $400. They pointed out that one of the binding heel pieces was green and not the same gold color as all the other pieces, and I said okay. I ended up being short by one rubber mat and one pin for the bindings, so I drove back from Loveland to Frisco and then back again, again. Argh. But in the end I put on the bindings myself with very little help (I asked a couple questions of Carl to make sure I wasn't going to screw anything up). By the time I finally got out on the slopes it was 2:30, so I took a few laps then the lifts closed. Oh man these are wonderful skis. They really are worth the $1,200 retail price tag.

February 17, 2003 - Monday - Copper

 

It's President's day, so Copper was awfully crowded. I had to park in the overflow lot. But the good news is that they got five inches of new snow overnight with great weather today, and because of the holiday, Tucker mountain was open, and they were running free snow cats up (then you had to hike a bit further from where the cats dropped you off). It was my first time in a snow cat, and it was fun, but I don't think I'd normally want to wait a half hour to get on one. I had my line picked out before I got up, it was one that no one had done yet, and I wanted to be able to clearly tell what line was mine after I finished. I did it, and man was it beautiful. Like you see pictures of good lines down the mountain in videos or whatnot, and mine looked just as good :) Left around 2 to hit up DIA and pick up Kiran.

February 18, 2003 - Tuesday - Copper

 

Since we needed to pick up rental skis at Loveland, we couldn't go too far, so we ended up at Copper. Another two inches overnight, so that pretty much erased my gorgeous line from yesterday. I think I could see it a tiny bit, but the weather was rather crappy as well, so that also made it hard to see.

February 19, 2003 - Wednesday - Snowmass

 

Took Kiran down the same badass runs that John suffered through. He did rather well, though it came to my attention that it is Aspen Highlands that is ranked #8 in difficulty, and not Snowmass, which is 27th. Highlands isn't that hard, and these runs are really far more badass. Cliffs make all the difference in the world. Afterwards, of course we had to hit up Aspen (where I discovered that adding peppermint schnapps to hot chocolate is a wonderful idea), and the Glenwood hot springs.

February 20, 2003 - Thursday - Beaver Creek

 

Decided to hit up a resort I hadn't been to, and had to pay for. Beaver Creek is apparently ranked high in grooming and service. Pretty much all the service I saw was that employees at the bus stops would load and unload everyone's skis, but I think that was pretty much mandated by having a huge ski closet at the back of each bus rather than a rack on the side, which makes it easier for people to get their own skis. There was also a guy in the afternoon singing a pretty bad counting crows cover at the base. As far as grooming goes, they even groomed some double blacks. I'm not sure I would actually classify them as double blacks, but they were certainly the steepest groomed runs I've ever been on. Really quite fun, not because of any challenge (there is none), but because you can pick up a ton of speed and know you're not going to hit some moguls and kill yourself. Though the speed can make you fly right off some small hills on the trail; Kiran and I hit a really huge one and I think I got more air off that than anything I'd ever hit before. Kiran barely stuck his landing, and ended up hitting his face against a planted pole. Ouch. We ended up doing almost every double black they had, as they don't have that many. The Royal Elk Glade (or, rather, the Royal Yak Glade) was amazingly fun though.

February 21, 2003 - Friday - Arapahoe Basin

 

Saved the highest and most difficult area for last. Turbo was closed, which is their most difficult run that I'd seen open yet. I'm counting on Doug to tell me when they open the east wall (unlikely, since it's been closed for four years) or West Turbo. Speaking of Doug, we ran into him on Pali. Left at 2 to get to the airport by 6, winter storm coming in so we had concerns about getting out of the mountains. Ironically it was 45 and sunny in Denver, and felt very much like spring.

February 22, 2003 - Saturday - Steamboat

 

With the winter storm supposed to dump 18 inches by Wednesday, I figured there would be some good powder today and decided to go to Steamboat, which has fabulous powder and tree skiing. Leaving Summit County, I heard that Loveland got 9 inches, Keystone 3, Beaver Creek 6, and Copper 14. I was really disappointed that I was leaving Copper and its 14 inches of freshies to drive through where it hadn't snowed at all to Steamboat. I almost turned around and went to Copper, but I was well rewarded, for as soon as I got over Rabbit Ears pass to Steamboat, it was snowing. Steamboat had also gotten 14 inches overnight, and it was knee deep almost everywhere. I did my first complete, head-first summersault on the runout from Chute 1, when I hit some powder on a tiny (3 foot) uphill going really damn fast. I ended up on my ass very disoriented and wondering where my other ski was. I've come to realize that in deep, deep powder, I really need to slow down. All the awesome video footage of pros going down a powder covered mountain look amazing, but I've realized they are going down all powder, all the time. At a ski area, you'll hit areas that have been tracked up, pick up some speed, then hit a patch of powder which will slow you down, and you'll end up face planting. It sucks.

February 23, 2003 - Sunday

 

Work. For the time being I'm working Sundays only, which suits me just fine since I don't have all that much time left to ski bum, and I still need to make my trip out to southwest Colorado to hit Crested Butte, Telluride, and Durango. And I also need to ski Breckenridge, and I think I want to ski Keystone during the day and pay for the GPS receiver to map my lines and also to score my skiing. After all that, I think I should try and go to some of the smaller ski areas around, and see if I can't go to every ski resort in Colorado, or just about. I've been to almost all of the major ones already as it is.

 

March 1, 2003 - Saturday Ė SolVista Golf and Ski Ranch

 

(this entry added December 28, 2004 after I found a lift ticket for this date).

 

SolVista sucked. The terrain was tiny, tame, and the lifts were slow. I think they only had two lifts at that. I think I skied every black diamond run they had once, then left early.

March 2, 2003 - Sunday

 

Worked. Still dislike Lynna, and she pissed off Alex today too. They donít know it yet, but I quit. Yay.

March 3, 2003 - Monday Ė Wolf Creek

 

Drove out last night to within 10 miles of Wolf Creek, and slept in the car near a gas station. At around 3 am (having gone to bed at 11:30) I got ass cold, so I decided to risk idling the car while I slept, for the warmth. It was fantastic. If only the walmart twin airbed I bought fit fully in the car, I donít think Iíd ever need another place to sleep.

 

Went to the only ski area in Colorado thatís not part of Colorado Ski Country USA. This means I donít get a free ticket, not even a discount. I paid $43.They claim they get the most snow of any ski resort in Colorado (500 inches), and on this fantastic blue bird day, the powder was amazing. Oh, and the other thing that was amazing were the double blacks. I used to say that steeps donít scare me, only cliffs do. Well, Wolf Creek has some really prime examples of the fact that a cliff is just a really steep steep. I skied stuff that Iím pretty sure was 65 degrees. I took pictures for more accurate measurement later (since I know stuff can be misleading). I also lost my ski about 5 feet deep in snow, and I had to climb back up and get it. It took me a good hour of fighting to not fall through the snow (which was really filling in a gap between rocks, that went down about 20 feet). I used my poles on their sides to spread out my weight a little bit more, and I ended up bending one, then breaking it outright when I tried to undo the damage. Anyways, in case you havenít gotten it already, the powder was knee deep pretty much everywhere, and Wolf Creek is, without a doubt, the most difficult ski area Iíve skied yet (though Whistler during the winter is yet to come). Iíd put it in the top five ski areas overall. The lifts are slow, like Loveland, and there are no people, but the terrain is much better than Loveland.

March 4, 2003 - Tuesday Ė Durango (a/k/a Purgatory)

 

The idiot Polish innkeeper saw me heading to the hot tub last night, and decided to sit and join me for a while to chit chat. God damn dude, get a life. Anyway, in the morning it turned out it was snowing, and it snowed all day. I tried to buy poles today, but the stupid Peak Sports didnít have price tags, and so they werenít sure if they could sell me poles. I suggested $5 a pop, and they responded quite rudely. Needless to say, I didnít give them any money. The guys in the rental shop were awesome, and lent me poles for free. Overall, Durango is pretty average, but had an amazingly cool run (complete with mini-cliffs [cliffies]) underneath the 6 person chair. Chair 5 was closed, but the runs leading to it werenít, and there was quite a traverse to get out to a working lift. I think the lack of run closures was a big mistake on their part. There was actually quite a bit of traversing all over the place, very reminiscent of Breckenridge, and Wolf Creek. Durangoís traverses were the least bearable of the three though.

 

Driving over to Telluride in the afternoon, I drove all the way to Ouray before I realized I had missed my road Ė County Road 8. I went back 24 miles to Silverton, and found it. I had missed it because it was under 8 feet of snow. Someone really has to tell those Streets and Trips people to build in a feature that wonít route you over roads closed during the winter. Anyway, back to Ouray, then another 44 miles to Telluride. And then once in Telluride, most of the town seems to be single family homes. I found a total of two hotels. At the Hotel Telluride (room cost well into the three digits) they were really damn nice and called around for me. My choices came down to a $100 hotel room that was normal (the only other hotel I found on my own), and a $42 hotel room without a TV, and with the bathroom down the hall. I chose the $100 room, and weíll worry about money later. Iíve come to realize there are quite a few condominiums in town as well, but everything is original and very unlike Keystoneís condos, which all look like they came from the same blueprints.

March 5, 2003 - Wednesday - Telluride

 

Picked up a new pair of poles to start the day, and hit the slopes by 9:30. Gold Hill was the lift I was told to ride to hit the most difficult trails, but it was closed until 10:30, so instead I went off and did random other trails on the mountain. Almost all were black or double black. We got 6 inches of snow overnight, but the sun was slowly breaking out through the clouds as the day went on. I certainly saw the famous scenery Telluride is known for. Many of the mountains nearby had cool little spires sticking up out of them. I think this is what makes the Telluride scenery that much better than the scenery of normal mountains. I took lots of pictures of everything, which maybe Iíll share sometime. I skied mostly double blacks all day, and Telluride has enough tough stuff to avoid skiing anything twice. Without lunch, I gave up just before 3, dead tired. Telluride had a lot of rocks that I scraped on, which really pissed me off, but the terrain was alright, which sort of made up for it. There were cliffs, but nothing that I could really hope to do (nor anyone else for that matter), and there was always an easier way down around. Still, quite decent. Though I must say, as much as they try to differentiate themselves from Vail and the other I-70 resorts, the lift ticket prices are certainly up there ($68).

March 6, 2003 - Thursday - Powderhorn

 

Overslept for 11 hours, and finally got up at 10am. Got to powderhorn around noon, ate, skied about five runs, and left by 2. I was exhausted from Telluride; the runs themselves were not particularly difficult but it could have been really cool because of all the snow (20 inches two days earlier). I was too tired to enjoy it though. I might have warmed up and done better, but the lifts were way too slow and I was really bored going up, and not having enough fun going down to make up for it. So anyway, I hit the road at 2. I got to Crested Butte at 10:30pm. Ski magazine says itís a bitch to get to, and theyíre right. Here are some stats about the trip:

 

Driving time: 8.5 hours.

Actual distance between Powderhorn and Crested Butte as the crow flies: 63.5 miles

Attempts to drive to Crested Butte: 5

Number of attempts failed: 4

Miles driven on unplowed, unpaved roads: 10

Number of snow banks stuck in: 1

Times chains used: 2

Speeding tickets: 1

 

So to sum up, Iíd take a helicopter to get to Crested Butte. Itís the only reliable way to get there. Barring that, rent a Hummer or the best 4x4 vehicle you can get ahold of, such as a snowcat. Whatever you end up doing, do not even think about getting here without chains.

 

March 7, 2003 - Friday - Crested Butte

 

Before I begin this description, it is important that up until this point, all the descriptions were written shortly after the events described happened, usually within a few days and never more than a week or two later. Well, as it happens, I was busy after Crested Butte, and here we are now, on Saturday, December 18, 2004 that I write this description and all those that follow it.

 

Crested Butte is a wonderful, wonderful place. Its very isolated, and it doesn't feel like a resort town. I found a hotel on the outskirts of town where the priopriator let me have a discounted rate because I was poor. The town of Crested Butte is actually somewhat distant from the mountain, which has the smaller town of Mount Crested Butte at its base. I think I drove up to the mountain in the morning, but there might have been a free shuttle. Anyway, the town is visible from the mountain as a perfect square with a road going through it. It really is tiny, maybe 20 blocks on each side (remember, Mount Crested Butte is even smaller!).

 

The skiing here was fantastic. Great snow, and the terrain is awesomely challenging. One example: Fredo's Run. I got off the chairlift and saw this sign that said Frodo's Run is open. I like checking out runs that aren't always open, and approaching the sign, I saw a warning on it. "20' - 80' cliffs with rocks. Use extreme caution." Of course, I went right ahead. The run itself consists of just the cliff -- nothing else really. It was a short hike and I got up there with two snowboarders who asked if I had a piece. I didn't know then that a "piece" meant a pipe. Apparently at the top of Fredo's is the Fredo smoke-up spot. Another group joined us and we all proceeded to pick the best way down. There was no getting around the cliff, but we all made it down to varying degrees of success.  Two guys were old hands, and hopped a huge drop -- I went with most of the folks and did the 20' option for safety. In general, all the runs were a lot of fun and really steep.

 

Crested Butte is the best place for skiing alone -- on more than half the chairs I rode up with people under 30 (which was most of the time), I was offered a joint. I always refused, but I was amazed at how nice everyone was, unlike many other resorts where it was rare to even make eye contact on the chair up.

March 8, 2003 - March 16, 2003 - The Denoument - Perfect North Slopes

 

I called the ski shop at loveland, and told them that my grandmother had died and that I needed to go home to console my parents. I drove back home to Silverthorne on March 8, packed up my stuff, and drove back home to Cincinnati on March 9. At some point in Cincinnati I called the ski shop again and told them that I wasn't coming back since there was so little season left and the drive was too long. I had movers coming on Tuesday, March 11 to pack up all my stuff, and I had a plane ticket to Seattle the following weekend. I started my new job March 17, 2003, and there I am to the day I write this. Seattle has great summers, and is close to skiing in the winter, including Whistler. (I also went skiing with my parents at Perfect North Slopes one day I was in Cincinnati, but I've lost the lift ticket and thus the exact date.)

March 17, 2003 - End of Season 2003 - The End

 

After arriving in Seattle, Snoqualmie Pass and Crystal ski areas had closed for the season. I wanted to see Whistler as close to winter as possible, so I went on March 22, 2003, the first weekend I was up in Seattle. I did manage to get up to Steven's Pass on April 6, 2003. I went to Mt. Baker on Easter Sunday April 19, 2003 where they had an on-the-snow easter egg hunt. I found one with candy inside, but I was hoping for the one with a season pass inside. I also made it up to Whistler several more times: April 18, 2003, May 19, 2003, June 15, 2003.

 

Altogether, along with the trip to Perfect North Slopes before becoming a ski bum, the one day at Tahoe during my Google interview trip, the skiing I did in Colorado, then in Ohio, and finally in the Pacific Northwest, my season totals 47 ski days.

 

The 2003-2004 season found me not going to Whistler during the winter time after all, as I had decided that after all the skiing I had done in Colorado, I wanted to join the ski patrol. The training took all year, from the first weekend in December to the very last day of the season. As stated previously, I am writing this at the begining of the 2004-2005 season, and I have been skiing only once, to Mt. Baker on November 21. Sadly, the snow isn't coming yet, but there is hope, and there is all of winter yet to come.

 

For the record, the only ski areas in Colorado that I haven't skied are: Monarch (was far away and would have mandated an overnight stay somewhere, and didn't look good enough to be worth it), Silverton Mountain (though I did want to after I found out what it was), Buttermilk (part of Aspen, hosted the X-games but looked to be nothing more than a terrain park), and Howelsen Hill (because it seemed like the local Steamboat area). Looking at the Colorado Ski Country website, it appears I also didn't ski Hesperus (didn't know it existed).