Sunday, December 17, 2006
However, frolicking in the snow and having a great time is a bit odd when you are watching cargo planes and helicopters on a rescue mission scouring the peak right above you (that looks close enough to grab) for 3 people gone missing days ago. That sucked (especially since they just found one of the 3 climbers. He didn't make it).
Aside from that macabre sideshow it was a glorious day. My buddies picked me up a little after 7am and the four of us hit the highway up to Mt Hood Meadows Ski Resort. The day couldn't have started better: the sun was not yet above the horizon but a gorgeous sunrise was in place; the colors across the sky were amazing in their pinks and oranges splashed across the clear light blue sky. Centered in the windshield, Mt Hood stood out clear and large and beautiful. Breathtaking.
The back way to the mountain led us up through the Columbia River Gorge. Waterfalls cascaded down the cliffs alongside the highway on our right. The Columbia flowed large and grey to the left. I sipped my coffee as the bluegrass twanged and Kenny jittered around in the driver's seat, bragging at his energy level which required no coffee. Bastard. Cliffs and hills and mountains rose increasingly higher over and around us as we drove on, the higher reaches of which were snow covered and marvelous.
After leaving I-84 and heading up thru Hood River, we began to climb. Snowless land began to give way to pine tree limbs hanging heavy with snow. Rivers flowed opposite us looking cold and sludgy, unfrozen by its tumbling but verging on slushing over to ice. Clouds began to appear overhead and we slowed owing to the icy roads.
It's been a long time since I headed into the mountains in the winter time. I've missed it. It was beautiful. We made our way thru small canyons of compacted snow and turned into the resort just before the lifts opened. Donning of gear went quickly, as did the coffee evacuation prior to getting on the lift. A feeling of normalcy and a return to myself began to creep over me once my bindings clicked in. Off we went.
It's been almost 3 years since I last skied. An amazing amount of life has happened since then and in so many respects I am a more mature person (not saying much, I know) and wiser as well. But only in some arenas. Not skiing. Some people like a warm up run before starting their ski day. People gone from the sport for a significant amount of time might take a half day to get used to having planks of fun strapped to their feet. Not I. My intelligence goes only so far. The first run? Through tight groves of trees on a fairly steep slope in nearly knee deep mostly untracked powder. Keep in mind, this isn't the light Rocky Mountain powder I am used to skiing in. This stuff is heavy (and according to my friends it was light NW powder)!
So that's how it began. Jumping in with closed eyes without a second thought. Oy. It all worked out. I didn't hit a tree all day, I powered thru this new powder, and I had a great time! My turns were quite good at times, terrible at others. For having not skied in so long I was pretty happy with how I skied and came out not looking like an ass-clown. The weather was great-not snowing, not windy and not too cold. The light was pretty flat and sucky, but I'm told I will need to get used to that as well. The boys I was skiing with are a lot of fun and it was an awesome day on the slopes.
I cut out earlier than the others as a so-called tribute to my new-found intelligence. Really it was a knee taken in deference to the one or 2 good nights of sleep I've had in the last couple of weeks and the possibility of getting really sloppy and become mulch for a lucky pine.
After the boys wrapped up their day we piled back into the car and headed home. Music filled the car and a beautiful sunset over the Columbia marked our return to Portland.
As I mentioned before, I am sore as hell today and am walking around like an old man. No serious injuries tho. A knee is a little sore and a stiff pole plant has one of my wrists still hurting pretty good. Nothing a little Vitamin I can't fix. When will I get up next? This Wednesday is the plan.
For the record (and my friends in Colorado) I would like to point out snow conditions at Meadows vs. conditions at Vail:
Mid-mountain base at Vail: 22"
Base at Meadows: 72"; mid-snow depth: 84"