Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A legitimate snow day

It certainly wasn't a thigh deep powder day, but at this point in a dry year, we will take anything and everything. They reported 6" in the morning and we got a few more while we were there. 

I went over to PCMR this morning and met up with Doug Drexler.  He's a Mountain Host and I worked with him for three years.  He is one of those trouble making snow boarders. We mostly just lapped on the McConkey lift, where the snow seemed to be the deepest.
Doug ripping it up.  He was on a brand new snowboard and I had to keep pointing out that you really are allowed to turn on those things.  Tough when you are struggling to keep up with someone 10+ years older. Park City can suck that way.
Now we are just crossing our fingers for Wednesday night's storm.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Huntsman Cup at PCMR

Next time you find yourself on the ski slopes whining about how the snow is too icy or that your toes are cold, you really should stop by and watch some athletes that put your whining into perspective.

I stopped by the first day of the Huntsman Cup.  This is an alpine ski race (GS and slalom) with the International Paralympic Committee.  There are three categories for both men and women:  visually impaired, standing, and sitting, and there were competitors from at least a dozen countries.
I enjoy skiing fast and I know the burning muscles and adrenaline pump you can get from a long, fast run down the mountain.  Just the same, I feel like a total underachiever.  Watching these athletes compete is incredibly inspiring.
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but if you haven't ever watched a Paralympic competition, you should!

Elk in Round Valley

If you are familiar with Park City, there is a big chunk of land between I-80, highway 40, Kearns Blvd and the Swaner Nature Preserve.  It is a mix of residential, private land and preserved open space.  The open space is known as Round Valley and it is quite the spot for the elk to hang out.

This morning I got a call from Chad Rexroad.  Chad is the one who has taken me on his prep trips for elk hunting season. He told me that there were six nice elk hanging out in the residential area, not far from Round Valley.

Chad has a good eye for spotting elk, and unfortunately, he spotted them a good long ways up the hill.  Rather than getting little tiny elk in the pictures, I drove around to sneak up on them from the top. It's the Elks Club, all men, just wasting their day hanging around.
I wish I could have gotten a better shot, but yes, this elk does have a Magpie (large bird) sitting on his butt.
Here's a close crop from that picture.  The elk seems completely indifferent.
I know its not the time of year for them to be bugling, but when this one tilted his head back I was still hopeful.
And when I said that I "snuck up on them", that is simply a delusional exaggeration.  They probably knew I was coming before I did.  They tolerated me until it was clear I wasn't just passing by.  Then they wandered off where it would be nearly impossible for me to follow them.
Chad, thanks for the heads up!

I wonder why the elk are so elusive, when the moose are so indifferent.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Did you get your flu shot? Jasper did.

Julie and I have always been big fans of getting flu shots.  I know it isn't statistically useful, but we haven't had a flu in many, many years. It seems like such an easy (free) way to avoid a miserable, nasty week in bed.

About 6 years ago, a new disease started moving through the US.  The H3N8 virus is known as Canine Influenza.  If a dog gets this version of the flu, then they get to suffer just like humans.  Remember that there isn't anything to "kill" a virus, so you just let it run its course.  When Jasper got his annual shots at the vet, we decided to add the new "doggie flu shot". 

If you have a dog that is around lots of other dogs, then you should give this some serious consideration.  The primary ways to pass it are dog kennels, dog parks, or anywhere else that dogs gather in a confined space.  At least dogs don't spend much time on an airplane or in an elementary school.

If it's good enough for us, it's good for our pets.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eliminating your Google History

I did this over a year ago, but for those who haven't and don't really want everything tracked...

On March 1st, Google will implement its new, unified privacy policy, which will affect data Google has collected on you prior to March 1st as well as data it collects on you in the future. Until now, your Google Web History (your Google searches and sites visited) was cordoned off from Google's other products. This protection was especially important because search data can reveal particularly sensitive information about you, including facts about your location, interests, age, sexual orientation, religion, health concerns, and more. If you want to keep Google from combining your Web History with the data they have gathered about you in their other products, such as YouTube or Google Plus, you may want to remove all items from your Web History and stop your Web History from being recorded in the future.

Here's how you can do that:

1. Sign into your Google account.

2. Go to https://www.google.com/history

3. Click "remove all Web History."

4. Click "ok."

Note that removing your Web History also pauses it. Web History will remain off until you enable it again.

If you have several Google accounts, you will need to do this for each of them.

Bruce and Hannah Kahn

Our friends, Bruce and Hannah Kahn were here visiting a few weeks ago.  After leaving Park City, they headed up to the Alyeska ski resort in Alaska. If you want to know where all the snow has gone this year, it's Alaska.  They have had almost 700 inches since October.

Bruce sent me this picture from their visit.  What incredible scenery.  Huge mountains shooting right out of the sea. Alaska is at the top of the must visit list for Julie and me.
I am most jealous of their heliskiing day.  They got six very long runs through the eight feet of untracked fresh snow they had that week.  Just awesome!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The art of forecasting snow

On the 6:00 news last night, they were forecasting the arrival of a big storm. Overnight we should see 6-12" of snow, with something similar during the day Sunday.  You might guess that when the storm is only six hours away, they would be able to predict the results with some accuracy.

Here is the snow in our driveway as of 9:00am.  As always, I use my 60 pound dog Jasper for size reference. However, to show a more detailed view,  I have chosen to use Jasper's right front paw.

Good job weather dudes and dudettes!  At some point they should give up and only forecast the weather that has already occurred.

AN UPDATE:  It's now 4:00pm.  The snow you see above had melted in the blinding sunshine and beautiful blue skies. We've maxed out at 1/8th of an inch of snow.  Even now, you can still get a laugh from the National Weather Service web site. They don't give up.

Late Afternoon: Snow. High near 16. Wind chill values as low as -2. West northwest wind around 16 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total daytime snow accumulation of 7 to 11 inches possible. 

Why own a snow blower?

I was out this past week, blowing the snow off our driveway. In the tedium of slowly marching back and forth, I started doing some math.  In the end, I think it justifies buying a good snow blower.

Here's what I just cleared.  As always, I include 60 pound Jasper for a size perspective.  I am using rough estimates and rounding off to keep things simple. Let the math commence:

Volume of snow = 25 feet x 100 feet x 1 foot = 2500 cubic feet of snow
Now we need to get that to water.  A dry snow is about 8% water.  A wet sloppy snow is about twice that.  The snow we just had was in somewhere in between, so let's go with 12%.

Volume of water = 2500 cubic feet x 12% = 312 cubic feet

Now water weighs 62.4 pounds per cubic foot, so that gives us

Snow weight = 312 cubic feet of water x 62.4 pounds = roughly 19,500 pounds

Ten tons would be a lot to shovel on the best of days, but let's think about where I have to get it.  From both photos, you can get a scope of our "Great Wall".  It's The first tier is about 10 feet tall and the second adds another 5.  You need to get most of the snow all the way to the top or the first tier fills up with just one or two storms.
I started to try and figure out all the energy required to huck 19,500 pounds of snow up 15 feet, from a distance of up to 25 feet, but I realized that was some combination of physics and calculus, at which point I just went outside and wiped down my lovely snow blower.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Snow makes for nice scenery

Two interesting days of skiing with friends.  On Wednesday, we went over to the Canyons to take advantage of their First Tracks program.  This allows you to get out at 7:30, which is an hour and a half before everyone else.  You are guided by a number of Canyons employees and one Olympian.  In our case it was Fuzz Feddersen, a three time Olympic Freestyle Aerial competitor.

It's fun getting out when all the lifts are listed as closed, but you know you have already cruised a bunch of them.
At 9:15 or so, we stopped at the Red Pine Lodge and had our free breakfast.  Then we headed back out to a wonderful mix of clouds, sun and blue skies.
...and an almost ethereal look when skiing down. Julie, Loris and Bill are ahead of me.  You always get to play a lot of catch up when you are the self-proclaimed photographer.
Another day, another journey, this time over to the Snowbird ski resort in Little Cottonwood Canyon.  It's about an hour from our house.
Julie and I drove over to join Dick and Cosette, who we had just skied with in Sun Valley, Jennifer, who we have skied with in France, and Gary and Laura, family of Dick and Cosette.
More cool clouds and steep mountains poking out.  Some ski days seem to beg for me to just bail out of the group and go shoot pictures, but this wasn't to be one of them.
Funky sunlight.  Cool shadows.  Eerie clouds. Textured snow. And all I had was my little compact camera tucked in the sleeve of my jacket.  By the way, that's a great technique. Put your camera's wrist strap on.  Whenever the camera isn't in use, just tuck it up into the sleeve of your jacket, tighten the jacket's velcro around the wrist, and ski off.  The camera is never more than a few seconds away.
My first trip through Snowbird's version of the Chunnel.  The resort has skiing on two sides of a mountain and the weather at the very peak can be quite hairy.  Moving people from one side to the other was limited by the gondola and one lift reaching a small area at the peak.  What to do?  Build a skier tunnel.

It's a couple of hundred feet long and the travel is provided by a moving mat like you see in the beginner ski areas.  You just stand on it and crawl (very slowly) along to the other side.  Apparently, they have also updated the rules and you can now pop off you skis and walk.  If nothing else, it's a novel approach.
Back outside, Julie is showing some excellent form.
And we end with some more scenery.  Just a very pretty day at Snowbird and a great chance to see our friends again.
As always, think snow!

A surprising get well card

I promised I was done with the whole concussion-helmet thing, but then I got this post card in the mail.  It's a friendly get well card from the Sun Valley Ski Patrol, the guys who were kind enough to haul me 3000 feet down the mountain.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Jasper in slow motion

I wanted to play with my little Canon S100's super slow motion mode.  It films small frame sizes, but at 240 frames per second.  Like always, Jasper is my crash test dummy and assistant. He's can crank for an eight year old dog.

My apologies for the long delay in the beginning.  I was too lazy to edit out the time before I pushed Start and the time I threw the snow ball, which is unfortunately filmed in slow motion.
Good air on this one, with a twist.
In this one I just let him run. He normally stretches it out even more, but he's in 6 inches of heavy snow.
Pretty cool, but it needs some work.  Beyond the obvious clipping at the beginning, the snow throws off the exposure, which the camera tries to use as Neutral Gray.  I haven't figured out how to adjust it in this mode. Also, I think I can get twice the frame size if I halve the frame rate.  Another experiment.

Good marketing. Bad marketing.

With my marketing background, I always find it interesting to see good and bad examples of marketing.  Here, I can offer up each in one shopping trip.  This is hopefully my last discussion about whacking my head while skiing.

I know that ski helmets are designed to take one major impact, after which they can't be counted on to offer the same level of protection.  I knew I needed to get a new helmet, so I called the manufacturer, Giro, to see if they had any kind of program or discount for helmets that died in the line of duty.  Sure enough, they do, but only some stores participate.  Bring your dead helmet in, give it to the store, and get a 30% discount on a new Giro helmet.

Here is my new purchase. Very nice helmet, and I went with white this time.
So, where's the marketing story? In three parts...
  1. For Giro, kudos.  If you didn't offer any kind of discount, I would have started from scratch and considered Scott, POC, and others.  Fairly easy to narrow my focus back to your helmets.
  2. Then I went to Jans Mountain Outfitters.  Julie and I have bought thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from them, including skis, poles, boots, helmets, jackets, bikes,...  What did they say?  "I'm sorry, but we don't participate in that program.  You can come back and talk with our hard goods buyer and perhaps you can work something out."  For what it's worth, I had a new helmet in one hand and a credit card in the other.  I told them I would just head across the street to their main competitor.  They didn't really care.
  3. Across at Cole Sport, it was an entirely different experience.  I walked in and started talking to the first sales rep I found.  His answer:  "Sure, we support that program.  Looks like your helmet did exactly what it was supposed to.  Grab another Giro, give us the broken one, and we'll give you 30% off."  I was out of the store with my new helmet in minutes.
Now I will preface this with "I don't own my own outdoor store, nor do I do the accounting for one".  However,  I have to believe that a high-end store like Jans doesn't like losing a long-time, loyal customer. I bought the old helmet from them and wanted to pay them for a new one.  So much for any hint of good customer support.

So, two thumbs up for Giro and Cole Sport.  I wet sloppy raspberry to Jans. If you want people to buy from you instead of just shopping on the Internet, you actually have to differentiate yourself on service.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A happy weather surprise

We get used to snow disappointment.  The forecast calls for 5" and we get 2 or 3.  Sometimes they miss it for everyone.  Other times the Cottonwood resorts, like Snowbird and Alta, get the good snow but we don't.

Last night they predicted we might get 5 inches.  Julie and I discussed whether we would go ski if we only got the normal two. This morning I checked the ski reports and sure enough, Alta got 2" and all the Park City resorts reported 1".  Then I went out with the dog.  We had 5" at the house and it was pounding snow.  Apparently it had let loose around breakfast time, after the resorts had all measured.

Heavy snow doesn't make for great viability or great pictures, but the skiing rocks!

Julie and I opted for Deer Valley.  I normally shy away from there on powder days because they have the audacity to groom all the fresh snow, but there's no way they can do that when the snow arrives just before they open.

These are the lunch tables at Silver Lake at around 11:00  It has been snowing on and off for the four hours since then.  Nice that when they rebuilt the decks, they put a snow melt system in.
A nice morning of skiing and a nice addition to our drought-based snow pack.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Our first visit to Sun Valley

We have skied with friends from Raleigh, Dick and Cosette, a number of times both in France and here in Utah.  This time they flew out to Park City and the next morning we piled into the SUV and headed up to Sun Valley in Idaho.  Julie and I hadn't been there before, but we had heard it was very nice.

The Sun Valley ski resort is in the town of Ketchum, which has a population of about 3,400. It was a five and a half hour easy drive from our house, although we learned that almost all the cafes along the way are closed on Sunday. Something to remember when you are in the middle of nowhere.

The views from the top of Sun Valley are really impressive.  You can see snow capped mountains for miles and miles. 
Dick found us a place to stay and signed a contract.  Then the owner of the rental property decided they found a longer term tenant and pulled the plug on our contract.  Not exactly legal.  Fortunately the rental company found us an even nicer, bigger place and gave it to us at the same price.
Here we have Julie and Cosette working in the kitchen.  Notice the very interesting piece of art over the sofa on the far left.  It was a huge, fairly ugly Indian.  I never did get used to looking at it.  I couldn't decide if it was purchased art or the largest kid's school art project ever.
Sun Valley is the only ski resort in the area.  It is smaller than the three Park City resorts, but very nice.  They were a bit behind average on snow, but have had more this year than Utah has.  One thing I really enjoyed about the mountain was the long lifts and runs. Most detachable quad lifts rise about 1,000 feet. Sun Valley had lifts rising 3142, 2673, 1844, and quite a few in the 1500-1600 foot range. This means when you start a run and get in a rythem, you can just keep on going.  Very fun.

Here's Cosette carving through the bottom of the moguls.  The moguls were firm, but not icy. 
and Julie ripping it up.
and this is Dick (with Julie in the background).  Notice how everyone has on a helmet?  That's a good thing.
You can see that the texture of the snow was very nice.  Even though we didn't get any fresh snow, it was cold enough at night to suck some moisture out.  It was very easy to get an edge on all but the sunniest slopes.
You could tell that Sun Valley is owned by the same people that own the Snowbasin resort in Utah.  In addition to the gorgeous lodges and wonderful food, there are the same big-wheeled wagons for hauling all your skis, poles and equipment.  I've never seen those at any other resorts.
This was the only picture I got from my real adventure.  I was enjoying the thrills of high-speed turns down the groomed runs.  Unfortunately I was really flying as I merged in with another trail, which had small moguls.  I'm a decent skier, but not good enough to go through a mogul field at that rate of speed.  I lost one ski and tried to recover on the other.  No such luck.  I went down fast and hard.

I recovered quickly, but as we went up the next ski lift, I noticed that my brain was fuzzy and I was having problems remembering things.  I told Julie I needed to go find a lodge and sit for a while.  There was a nice ski patrol guy in the lodge having a drink.  We chatted and he suggested I might have a concussion and that I should head down the hill in a sled.  I would normally disagree, but I am not used to my brain being off in such a way.

Another patroller came and got me to take me down the hill.  Notice the green box in his hand.  That's my oxygen supply.  I'm still not quite sure why I was on oxygen, but it was nice so I went with it.  I was wrapped up tightly in the basket, so I didn't get a chance to take photos of my trip down.  It was a nice long ride, about 3,000 feet of vertical.  Do you count that in your total for the day?
This is the back of my helmet.  As best anyone can figure out, the ski that stayed with me made a quick whack on the back of my head.  I must be more limber than I thought, at least at speed.  I am certainly glad this was not my head or I would have probably had a lot of blood to go with a much nastier concussion.

Giro has a policy that if you damage one of their helmets in a fall, you can get 30% of a replacement by giving them your dead one.  It's important to realize that these helmets are designed to survive a single serious impact.  After that, you need to go shopping.
Right behind our condo was a nice trail that follows the river.  You can see the groomed cross country  tracks to the right of my beautiful wife.  Apparently this is very big in Sun Valley and they have miles and miles of trail.
One thing they don't seem to have in Ketchum is salt for the road.  There was snow and ice everywhere, which made for a tough walk.  I guess this is a benefit of living about 30 miles from a giant salt lake.
Things of interest (to me at least) about Sun Valley and Ketchum.

  • There is no ski-in/ski-out housing.  Therefore, the best places to stay are probably farther away from the base.  You would get a much better view of the mountains as you got further away.
  • I have never been in such a pedestrian friendly town.  There is no way you could commit suicide by throwing yourself in front of a car.  They would simply brake hard and wave you on with a smile.
  • The downtown area has an amazing amount of free parking.  What a great idea.  Several of the main roads are very wide and have parking on both sides and then two lanes of parking in the middle.
  • The base is at 5,750 feet, which is seriously lower than Park City, which is around 7000 feet.
  • I always thought of Sun Valley as being the "very expensive place that the stars skied."  The stars might be there, but the lift passes and restaurants in town were definitely cheaper than Park City.  I don't think the shopping was as good though.
  • It's a nice mountain for intermediate and easier expert skiing.  There's not enough challenge for the gonzo experts and the hand full of greens might scare beginners.  I can't remember seeing green runs that looked so steep.
I've given it a four days now without skiing.  My head feels fine and my neck is loosening up more every day.  I think tomorrow might be time to head out on the slopes again, although perhaps a bit more slowly and carefully.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Great. Something you have to explain over and over

A bit of brilliance from over in Midway, Utah....

Every time you give anyone your address, you piss away another 5-10 minutes of your life explaining....

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Ski Aerial Ping Pong?

We had a busy day yesterday.  We skied with friends, had a late lunch on the mountain, came home for some errands, visited another set of friends for drinks and then went out to dinner.  After dinner we were all heading over to Deer Valley to watch the aerial ski jumping.  The main thing you see in this picture is the mogul course.  The aerial jumping is the little bright hill at the bottom.

Unfortunately, we were running late, traffic was backed up trying to get to DV and park, it was very cold to be standing around, and we were generally lazy.  So, we headed over to the Covaleski's for some ping pong.  There are some that prefer the more serious name of "table tennis", but we were definitely more on the ping pong side.

Here, Kathy and Loris are quite serious.

Across the table, Greg and Miriam were equally focused.

When you do well, you celebrate your victories.

But when life doesn't go as planned....

You get taunted from the other side.

At the end of the night, Jim stepped up to play against Bill.

The fan base was a bit distracted.
Then Bill pulled a big upset, despite Jim's home table advantage. Bill was our champ with a 22-20 victory.
OK, not a big evening, but at least we stayed warm and didn't have to fight for a parking space.

Next year we have decided to pay the money to watch the event from the VIP tent.  You get dinner and drinks, a great spot to watch from, and a warm tent to duck into.