Friday, December 31, 2010

Wonderful ski year

I know I spend too much time blogging about weather, but when you live in a ski town, it really is important. I took Jasper to the library today. The lot next door serves as an informal dog park and it's also great for throwing snowballs. I decided it was worth taking a picture of the pile of snow in the parking lot with 60 pound Jasper for reference.

As you can tell, we have a lot of snow. Park City Mountain Resort has already reported 188" and Alta has had 264". We still have January through April to go, with some inevitable bonus in May and June.

Oh, in case you think the mound of snow is so high because it is on a hill, the ground actually drops away from the parking lot, so the pile is bigger than it looks.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas in Park City

We got up this morning, helped the pets unwrap their Christmas presents, ate a wonderful pancake breakfast and then took off for the slopes. Christmas morning can be a wonderful time to ski. Even though there are millions of tourists in town, they tend to do the church/family/presents thing for a good while and the slopes are mostly open.

And there are Christmas traditions. Located pretty far off the beaten track is the Christmas Martini Bar. Bring friends. Bring a donation. Drink a martini. Kind of has that historic mining feeling to it.

Skiing with friends. From left to right, Kathy, Miriam, Rob, Julie, Jim and Greg. The only folks missing were the Benson's.

And here they come now.... Bill, son Seth, and Loris.

There were quite a few skiing Santa's around the mountain. I was trying to fgure out how to do a quick "Skiing Jesus" costume, but I think it will take an investment of time and energy. Perhaps next year. It seems like we have lost a lot of the religion behind Christmas and I can't think of a better way to bring that back than a Skiing Jesus.

Yesterday our neighbor Hannah built a lovely snowman. When we came home today, he was gone. It turns out Hannah was giving him a hug and he mostly fell over the retaining wall. Fortunately, he did not take Hannah with him.

You can leave North Carolina, but it will still follow you. This sticker was on one of the lift chairs for the Crescent lift at PCMR. It says Wrightsville Beach, NC.

There has been a lot of discussion lately about whether Park City Mountain Resort will step up their game to compete with Deer Valley (winner of Ski Magazine's best resort the last four years) and The Canyons, which was bought by Talisker a year ago and they are dumping money into improvements.

My unfortunate guess is "no". This year we have cost savings like no more marshmallows for your hot chocolate (really?) They seem to have replaced the radiant heat system for part of the walk with a new high-tech solution: 4 happy Hispanic laborers and a Bobcat. I am hoping the resort doesn't cheap themselves into becoming a second class destination.

Christmas has been fantastic. Family, friends, good weather, good health and now we head over to the Benson's for good food.

By the way, I turned 49 today. I can start my countdown clock. 365 days until I qualify for an AARP card.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The oddest weather and ski days

This is a long post. My apologies, but it has been a very odd week and I have been caught up in it all.

It started at our Distiller's Dinner on Sunday evening. It was actually raining out. In December! In Park City! We never have rain in the middle of winter. Our only hope was that up in the higher elevations it was cold enough to come down as snow instead.

The next morning we wake up and check the snow reports: 20" at Park City and 18" at Deer Valley. Awesome! It had been snow at the top. Julie and I throw on our ski gear and head to Park City. It was a fiasco. The Christmas tourist crowd was combined with the locals who crave 20" of fresh snow. All of these people were jammed onto two lifts that served the lower part of the mountain. No other lifts were open.

Why? Because the freezing rain from the night before had screwed up all the lifts. If you have skied in the past decade or three, you have almost certainly been on a detachable lift. These high-speed lifts have chairs that let go of the rapidly moving cable and ease through a much slower section that allows people to comfortably get on and off the chairs. Then the chair grabs the cable again and goes zipping up the mountain. That all works until freezing rain has locked up all the "detachable" mechanisms. Everyone wanted to head up the mountain but couldn't. Lift lines were long and the skiing sucked.

We skied two runs and left, as did most of our friends. We ended up going snowshoeing with Greg and Miriam, and of course, Jasper.

Th wet snow clung to the trees and was quite beautiful. This took the edge off an annoying morning. We knew that they would eventually get the chairs running and the snow would be great, but who wanted to wait around for hours?

The next morning the lifts were all moving. Julie had to go to work, so I went skiing with Bruce Kahn. We had another 24" on top of the 20 from the day before. It was still coming down a bit warm and heavy, but it was DEEP.

We took a run down the McConkey Bowl just after it opened. It was one of the nicest ski runs I have ever done. Deep fresh snow on my new Rossignol S7 powder skis!

We skied a few runs through the trees, making sure whatever we did was steep enough. Anything vaguely resembling a blue run (intermediate) and the deep snow would stop you in your tracks. We decided to pull out my camera and take turns shooting each other. This was apparently bad mojo. Bruce, having skied wonderfully all morning, through the steeps and trees, did this:

Once I learned that he was uninjured, I switched to photos and got these. Here he is pondering how he is going to unwrap himself. Notice that the skis are uphill and around a tree. In deep snow, there is just nothing to push against. This will definitely become one of my favorite pictures.

Bringing some core muscles into play, Bruce pulled himself up, grabbed the tree and started to release his ski bindings. However, before he could make much progress, the tree rebelled against his efforts by dumping what must have been 100 pounds of snow.

The event had gone from "oh my God, are you hurt?" to "good luck getting up from that" to uncontrollable laughter at the sudden snow storm. All was well, and we continued our skiing.

Wednesday brought another 4" of snow and I had to go do my Host job. This was one of the most miserable days I have had on the mountain. I like having a semi-decent camera on my iPhone. This is my drive to work.

It started nice enough, but the winds picked up, the snow turned to sleet, then freezing rain, then drizzle. Visibility varied from low to nothing, depending on where you went on the mountain. Everything was soaking wet and the temperatures stayed cold enough to numb you, but not cold enough to switch back to snow. Argh!

So we get to Thursday. Heavy fog this morning and another 15" of snow on the mountain. This storm has dumped 5-6 feet of heavy snow at the resorts and looks like it may finally end. I wandered the neighborhood with Jasper before Julie, Miriam, Greg, and I went for another snowshoe.

Our house is deep in snow. We didn't get as much as the higher elevations because the rain/snow line kept coming up to our level. The wetter snow fills the trees in ways that our normal fluffy powder can't.

For one brief moment, it looked like the sun was coming out. It was quite scenic, but just a tease. We were back into heavy fog for the rest of the day.

Jasper has to work to accomplish anything. Chasing a ball is a huge effort. Finding a place to go to the bathroom is work. However, he attacks everything with a gusto I wish I could match.

Our friends the Covaleski's have a gorgeous house with a three car garage, and only one car. When Jasper and I walked by, it was parked out in the snow like this. No idea why.

Too easy, but our first Where's Waldog of the year. I'll make them harder as the winter goes on.

Most cities and towns have rules that if you are going to make a zoning change, you need to give public notice. Does this count?

Only if you climb up and over the five foot snow bank can you find this sign. One more storm and it is gone for the winter, not that anyone else will even notice.

So, in the past few days we have had rain, wind, five feet of snow, awesome skiing, ski lift issues, nice long snowshoes and cold miserable days on the mountain, all mixed together. The best news is that we have had friends with us to share it all.

I think we are safe on having a white Christmas on Saturday. The whole town is white and this stuff isn't going anywhere.

A little edit: I went out to get some Christmas gifts for the pets. There was a tiny bit of blue sky. Perhaps a trend? The big blob just above the road is the mountain range, still encased in fog.

Dinner at the High West Distillery

This summer, at the Friends of Animals Barking Ball, Julie and I bid on and won a "Distiller's Dinner" at the High West Distillery. We decided to celebrate this with friends as our 99th birthday, Julie's 50th and my 49th. Since we were celebrating and it's the holiday season, we decided to get a bit dressed up. By the time I took this picture, I had lost my stylish Christmas Grinch tie.

It was impossible to get everyone in the picture, but joining us were:
  • Bruce and Carol Kahn, back in Park City from Australia
  • Greg Glynis and Miriam Mason
  • Jim O'Neill and Don Miller
  • Jim and Kathy Covaleski
  • Bill and Loris Benson

The food was great. Each course was paired with one of the distillery's whiskeys or vodkas. Even for those of us who don't drink straight whiskey very often, it was quite tasty.

A wonderful evening with a wonderful group of friends.

Julie in her Deer Valley outfit

Three times a week Julie has to get up around 6:00 am, get dressed in her spiffy Deer Valley uniform, and head off to work. The main complaint of the skier services people is that they have the same uniform as the restaurant bus boys. I can see wanting a bit of differentiation.

In exchange for being gone two weeks in March (to France), Julie is working a bunch of extra days during the Christmas - New Years week. I've picked up two extra days of Hosting as well.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

When Chirstmas comes to Park City

We have a lot of the same things in Park City that other towns have, with a little twist. Santa comes down the ski lift or skis down to visit the kids. We have torch light parades down the slopes. All of it is great for getting in the Christmas spirit.

However, we also have our events that are more similar to the swallows returning to Capistrano. This Saturday, the tourists returned to town. I was leaving the grocery store yesterday when I saw a mom, her teenage daughter and another daughter, probably six. All three were wearing very stylish fur boots (for the slush outside). The teenager had on blue jeans that probably cost $300. The young girl had sparkly strands carefully woven into her hair. They were buying about $30 worth of Starbucks beverages to go with their shopping cart of food. Because everything was bagged, I could only see the chips, popcorn, low-calorie granola bars, and pre-cooked bacon. Ah, vacation!

The town will be quite different for the next two weeks as the Californians, New Yorkers, and Texans all roll into town, each bringing their own style and culture. For a town recovering from a hard recession, thank goodness they are also bringing their money.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hannah and the school play

It is kind of odd that our house is next door to the condo we own. We are renting the condo out to a very nice family. Their daughter Hannah is wonderful and has adopted our dog Jasper to be part of their family.

I took some photographs for Sally (mom) the other day to use with their Christmas cards. Seriously, how cute is this girl?

Yesterday I joined Monty (dad) and Sally to see Hannah's school play at the Soaring Wings Montessori School. It was a mix of Christmas and Hanukkah stories, each done by a different grade. This is the full gathering at the end of the play. It was quite an accomplishment getting so many kids to sit mostly still.

Hannah's grade did a piece from the Nutcracker. She's the second from the right.

... and getting ready to do a ballet jump with help from a toy soldier behind her.

In addition to Hannah, I got to see one of my favorites: little munchkins who can walk, but are too young to really have any idea of what is going and why they are in front of all these people.

Some laugh and play.

Many cry and need some extra love and attention.

Whether they are crying or not, they all just seem to be a bit bewildered.

I can't remember this teacher's name, but if I had a child, this is who I would want teaching him or her. She had her class dancing and having a blast, except for the tiny little girl in white. She actually laid down and curled up in a ball, simply overwhelmed by her surroundings.

The teacher just swept her up and kept on dancing. If you can't have fun in this woman's class, you need to seek help.

So, if Hannah can adopt Jasper as the borrowed family pet, Julie and I can adopt Hannah as our borrowed daughter.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A visit from the Kahn's

Our long time friends the Kahn's are back in the U.S. visiting friends and family. Hannah and Carol stayed with us for two days. When Bruce and Carol arrived, they stayed with friends in the house they used to rent.

Bruce, Hannah and Hilary met us over at PCMR for a gorgeous day of skiing. It was mostly a groomer day, but we had fresh snow from the day before and the very cold night might the snow pack wonderful. That's Jupiter Peak in the background, but no one was motivated for a hike up just to get some chopped up leftovers.

The whole Kahn family was having to make a serious adjustment. Now that they have moved to Northern Australia, they are coming from zero feet above sea level, in a near equatorial environment. By the way, it is summer there. Here we have 7000+ feet above sea level (this picture was from over 9,000), near zero temps, and no humidity.

Julie was getting in the spirit for Sundance (still a month off), by dressing all in black. Actually, that is just her warmest outfit and I think it was 4 or 5 degrees when we first started skiing.

I hope to get some more skiing in with Bruce and the family. They are calling for some pretty healthy snowfall between now and Christmas, and I love using my new Powder Pigs (monster-sized skis).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two little oddities

Today the high in Salt Lake City was 55. Today the highest temperature anywhere in Florida, including places like Key West and Miami, was 52. That doesn't seem right.

Here in Utah, a truck carrying a piece of heavy equipment traveled along Interstate 15, heading under an overpass. Well, almost. The big front end loader being hauled hit the overpass and did some damage to everything involved. Why is this interesting? The overpass was already scheduled to be torn down this weekend. Can you ask for better timing?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Steve's culinary recommendation

Next time you are at Costco, buy a block of Manchego cheese. Serve pieces with Black Pepper Triscuits. Yumm! Most people haven't had Manchego. It is available in the grocery stores but it tends to be very expensive. Like all things at Costco, they sell slabs for cheap.

It is definitely our favorite snacking cheese.

A new and interesting blog

Tim Huntley was one of the four founders of our company, Ganymede Software. He and his family have shown up a number of times in my blog with his farm out near Chapel Hill. Quite the change from the computer world.

Tim has recently started a blog discussing one of his big passions: growing and eating healthy food. Time has built a great base of knowledge on sustainable farming, bee keeping, and making foods from scratch (like a wonderful replacement for store-bought catchup).

Take some time and visit his blog here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Full time in Park City

Well, today was the big day. We have officially closed on our house in Raleigh and we no longer have an abode in North Carolina. It was on the market for 18 months and we were going to pull it off when we finally ended up with an offer we could live with.

Our Duxford adventure started about 18 years ago. The house took a bit of imagination at this point. It mostly looked like huge pine trees. One lesson we learned over the years: cut down more trees than you think around the house. Hurricanes and ice storms taught us the dangers of having big trees close to buildings.

It got got a little easier to picture as we went along. Our house was a slight modification to one we had seen at Parade of Homes.

And this was the finished work, until 10+ years later, when we did a major remodel.

One of the rooms I will miss is the home theater. It was a lot of fun for sporting events and movies were awesome.

But of the individual rooms, I think I will miss the screen porch the most. God knows why it took us so long to move from a deck to something much nicer. Wish we did this a decade earlier.

Julie made the insides so pretty, which I worked out in the yard. It was a never ending project, but it had developed into something attractive, as long as you don't mind the complete lack of grass.

With all these nice thoughts, why would we sell it? Part of it is the expense of having a house you can't easily rent, but only live in a few weeks out of the year.

But there is also the nonstop maintenance on a 18 year old house. Not only do you have to deal with appliances and HVAC failing, you get to cope with hurricanes. Fran was our biggie, knocking down over 100 big trees in our yard alone.

And there is always the occasional ice storm. An ice storm in a pine forest is quite exciting, bringing huge limbs down, each weighing many thousands of pounds.

As I have said before, I will miss the house, but mostly I will miss our neighbors and friends. We will certainly come back to see them, but not staying at the house will always seem odd, even many years from now.

Aside form all the emotion, it sure is nice to get that money wired into our account.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

An excellent example of visualizing data

Bard Grace, a friend from Ganymede Software and NetIQ days, posted this on Facebook. I thought the story itself was interesting, but mostly I was impressed with how clearly they were able to explain some very complex data.

It's better if you watch it in full screen.

Click here to watch it.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Some new skis

In Park City, most people tend to have a quiver of skis, a different ski for different conditions. If you have more than one pair, you often get a pair of All-Mountain skis, and then a pair of Powder skis. Powder skis are fatter and tend to float better in the deep Utah fluff. After those two, there are lots of other choices: rock (for thin snow), race, telemark, AT, park (for tricks), cross country (both classic and skate), ...

My Rossignol B3 powder skis were six years old and fairly well beaten. It was time for a new pair. Julie got a good deal on a pair I was lusting after when she went to her Team Night at Deer Valley.

If you have skied over the past few years, it is hard not to notice how much wider skis have gotten. These are my new powder pigs, with my hiking boot for comparison.

A different way to see the size is to set my racing skis (yes, I have 3 pairs in my quiver) on top of the powder skis. You'll notice that the race skis are about half the width of the powder skis. These things are big!

Now I just need to get the bindings pulled off my B3s and put on these Rossignal S7's and wait for a big storm of fluffy snow. Hurry!!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Why? Because he can.

In an almost empty parking lot, why pull your car or truck up onto the 5 foot high pile of snow? Because you paid thousands of dollars for those monster tires and the suspension that has you bouncing down the road.

It did provide some a nice laugh in the middle of an otherwise tedious day. Thanks Mr. Jeep Guy.