Friday, March 29, 2013

Sage Grouse Failure

This time of year I always go try and grab some shots of the Sage Grouse as they prance and strut, trying to attract a mate. It is about a 45-50 minute drive so if it is a bust, it can be a big one.  It started on a good note.  I was about five minutes from the lek when I saw the moon setting.  If you read my blog often, you know I am a big fan of moon rise and moon set.
When I got up the to the top of the hill, I realized immediately that I wasn't going to have a big grouse day.  There were five cars there, which wouldn't be a problem, but three of the people were outside their cars with cameras on tripods.  This scares the birds.  The people think they are getting great shots with the birds about 50 yards away.  If they would simply stay in the car and shoot out the windows, they would have grouse within 20 or 30 feet.

So all of these shots were from a long ways off. Big lens and a fair amount of cropping.
The birds are fun to watch, even if I couldn't get good shots.
I liked the background for these three males.  The females are actually there as well, but they are smaller and blend right into the surrounding grass.
Every once in a while two males will scrap about who gets to strut where.  Eventually the loser runs, or in this case, flies off.
I gave up on my grouse and drove down the road to the Echo Reservoir. The winds were calm so you see some nice reflections.
You can tell how low the water is in the reservoirs.  It is normally down in the winter, but not this low.  The bad part is seeing how low it is combined with how little snow is left on the mountains.  It's going to be another wildfire summer with a lot of watering restrictions.
And one last parting shot.
I may try to get back to the grouse one more time this spring.  I am hoping that once the Easter vacation week is over, there won't be so many other photographers at the lek.

Norm and Ginny come to town

Norman and Ginny Andrews stopped by for a few days on their way to Colorado for some skiing.  Last year they came out to our bad snow pack, but managed to bring a 13" snow storm and a NC State Wolfpack NCAA win along with them.  This year the snow was a bit better, but they left all their mojo at home.  No fresh snow and the Wolfpack lost in the first round.
While skiing the first day, I mentioned to them that of all the people we ski with locally and all the friends that come to visit, they were the very last two that skied without helmets.  I wasn't going to badger them about it, but they showed some interest and started asking questions.  Two days later, they had both found helmets at local stores, one 40% off and one 50% off.  It pays to shop at the end of the season.

If you have ever skied with Norman, you know he is always in a red knit hat that has faded to look a bit orange.  It makes him very easy to spot when we are following him around the slopes of Meribel.  It wouldn't do for him to have a common helmet.  Almost all are black, white or grey.  He managed to find a Giro Seam (also my choice in helmets) in red.  Perhaps even more fitting, it is that orangish red that his hat had evolved to.
So, congrats to both Norm and Ginny for joining the safer skiing club.  I hope it never matters.  Of course, as a bit of coincidence, a local Park City friend spent last night at the University hospital neuro center.  He was skiing, took a big fall, and had a bit of blood on the brain so they kept him overnight.  Helmets can save lives!

And to help me remember when they come back to visit again, we have now gone to Bistro 412 twice.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Canyons Pond Skimming 2013

Every year we attend the Pond Skimming event at Canyons ski resort.  It is one of the most entertaining things that happens all year in Park City, and Park City is a pretty entertaining spot to live (think little things like the Sundance Film Festival).

This year, the big thing was the weather.  A normal mid-March ski day is in the 40's and with some sun, feels a lot warmer.  This year the morning started off at 5 degrees, with a wind chill of -14.  It warmed up some, but I don't think it got above 20. You can get a sense of the cold by watching the pre-event activities.  One guy throws out a lead pipe on a rope, trying to break up the ice.  Two other guys have a milk crate with ropes so they can pull out the floating ice, one crate at a time.  Notice how nice and sunny it is though.
Before I go further, if you were one of the competitors in this years pond skimming and you would like copies of whatever photos I have of you, add a blog comment with your email address, bib number and description of what you were wearing.  The bib numbers are often tough to read.

The first two entrants were crowd favorites.  They came down separately, one dressed as a bride and one as a groom.  They were actually getting married a few hours after the event.
The bride was boarding pretty smoothly...
For about five feet.  Then she took a good fall.
But as an excellent sign of things to come, he jumped in to help her take her snowboard off and to get out of the freezing pond. Ain't love grand?
There have been a number of horse riders over the years, but I have never seen one do well when angled sideways.
This year was no exception.
This young leprechaun seemed to actually skip across the pond.  That might be a good strategy if it kept you from getting wet.
This guy went off the jump and got some great air!  Very impressive.
Unfortunately, good air means you have no chance of a smooth landing.
But you make an awesome splash!
Julie and I are still amazed that they let younger kids participate.  You've got to be impressed when a kid nails a big jump wearing nothing but boxer shorts and pink socks.  That is 32 degree water he is about to land in.
This guy gave a serious try at doing a 180 in the air.  With twin tip skis, a perfect landing could be awesome.
But this was a less than perfect landing.  Nice try though!
The Lance Armstrong entrant has two syringes stuck in his helmet.  Seems fitting.
This is the son of a friend of ours, Diane Carson.  The interesting change in the photo is that we are now in a heavy snow squall.  So much for the sunshine.
One of three chickens that came down together.  I thought it was ironic that it looks like he is making a rooster tail.
Some guys try to brown nose and bribe their way to a win.  Two guys were dressed as Corona bottles and Corona was one of the big sponsors.
This wasn't my favorite for best costume, but it was my winner for most impressive effort. He was coming down as the peg legged pirate. Skiing on one leg is hard enough.
Staying upright while dropping off a lip into a pond in fantastic!
He had it going better than most of the boarders and skiers.
He finally took a dive about two thirds of the way across the pond.  This guy has some serious balance.
While there were some great costumes and skiing efforts, this year had more "weak efforts" than I can ever remember.  There were about a dozen people who looked like they rolled out of bed, found a hat as a costume, and that was it.  These two were the worst.  Instead of skiing or boarding they just ran down together and hopped in the water.  The crowd booed them along the way.
The judges, who often hand out high scores, were none too impressed. The scale is 1-10.
Perhaps the most clever costume of the year was Manti Te'o and his imaginary girlfriend Lennay Kekua.
Then we have a paper mache clad little mermaid.  He/she was losing her coconuts on the way down the hill.  But as you were watching him....
... down the hill comes her nemesis Ursula. For the life of me, I can't figure out how they got this huge paper mache octopus with 20 foot tentacles up on the mountain.
Each of Ursula's escorts were dressed only in a Speedo.  Their challenge was to go into the pond without killing one another.
Success and celebration!  This was obviously a big effort and they were quite proud.
It was quite a lot of work getting it out of the water, up the slippery side of the pond.
They were going to leave the carcase by the side of the pond but it would have kept me from getting any more photos.  When I asked, they were kind enough to drag it off.
Paper mache has an interesting characteristic with pond skimming.  It doesn't really like ponds. There was a trail of wet soggy newspaper everywhere.
Here we see the Budweiser wagon being pulled by two Clydesdales.
Getting people to ski this closely together, where the back of each horse can't see, and then go off a jump...  They managed extremely well.
But as I mentioned earlier, if you go off the jump, the landing is never smooth.
This was creative, although a bit hard to make out.  If you have ever skied, you know there are trees around the mountain, next to a lift, that become deposits of bras, beads and other accessories.  This guy was a bra tree.
I never could figure out what this was, but it seemed like a lot of work.
This is Matt, a friend from my Park City Leadership class.  He does this every year and is obviously good at it.  Notice how he has a little GoPro camera out in front of him, recording his ride.
And every year he manages to make it all the way across the pond.
Matt was one of the Three Amigos, from the horrific movie of the same name.  If you click here to see the movie info, you can see how authentic their costumes were.
And they did the Three Amigos dance at the end.  The skiing was excellent.  The dance could either use more practice or a little less alcohol.
Someone finally figured out how to get rid of Freddie, from all the slasher movies.  Just make him ski across a pond of ice water.
The most timely, creative and corrupt entry. By far.

We start with the newly appointed Pope skiing down.
But then, you can see the devil coming up fast from behind.
Instead of skiing all the way to the end, the devil pops up right next to the judges, much to their surprise.
It turns out that her pitch fork is lined with shot glasses.  A cohort quickly fills them and all the judges are bribed with a group shot.  Great costumes. Very unique. Love it!
I never know what these people are supposed to be in skin suits.  You see them at sporting events and they always remind me of the sperm outfits from Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid To Ask.  This little blue sperm (or whatever) went straight at the jump and went for a forward flip.
Keep in mind that this pond is about 2-3 feet deep.  Doing a flip into it takes guts and this was the only person to give it a shot.
Look closely and you can see the expression on his face through the skin suit as he makes contact.
I obviously couldn't get a clear shot of his landing, but I was so impressed with the flip that I included this picture anyway.
The Canyon's mascot, Murdock the Moose, gave it a good try.  He stayed upright but couldn't get all the way across.  The funny thing was watching afterwards.  People kept wanting to get their picture taken with Murdock, who was standing there, soaking wet, in below freezing temperatures. They finally got him inside to warm up and change.
And our last entrant had a great idea.  Why get wet going through the water when you can stay dry by flying over the pond?
Armed with a homemade hang glider (PVC and a tarp), he went off the jump and flew into the air.
Unfortunately this guy wasn't an aerodynamics major, or if he was, he shouldn't have been.  We are quickly going from a hang glider to a giant rigid tarp in the face of a skier.
Or perhaps just a tarp for a burial shroud.  Great thought though.

My summary for this year:

  • The crowd was down a bit.  I would guess that was because we finally had some good snow and people were busy skiing, and the weather was a lot more like winter and less like spring.
  • The top performers were awesome, as usual.  The ones who did the big jumps or blasted across the pond did well.  Several of the costumes were very clever and involved.
  • The bottom performers were a bit of a disappointment this year.  There were more people that just dressed in something they had laying around.  Only a few people used the jump this year and of all those trying to make it across, only a few succeeded.  Hopefully this is a blip and not a trend.
  • Pond Skimming remains one of the best event's Park City has to offer (the town, not the PCMR ski resort) and if you haven't seen, make an effort to catch it next year.