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.

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