Friday, January 7, 2011

New Year's Eve (Ski) Day

Mt. Hood received a ton of snow after Christmas.  On the heels of several storms, sunny weather was forecast for New Year's Eve Day.  My friend Kim and I decided to go up to Mt. Hood Meadows and check it out.  Little did we realize the mob scene that awaited us. 

Apparently half of the Portland Metro area had the same idea.  The congestion started before we even got to the parking lot.  We sat in a long line of cars, winding down Meadows' access road, before Kim finally secured a parking spot in the last row of the main lot.  And this was at 9 am!  But the fun was just beginning....

Beautiful view from the top of Wee Bee Gee Bee Run

Kim got her kids situated, and then we were free to hit the slopes.  A long lift line awaited us at the Mt. Hood Express chair.  But Kim and I inserted ourselves in the fray, and slowly inched towards the loading area.

Woo-hoo!  Kim is ready to ski

The Wee Bee Gee Bee run looked good from the chair.  It appeared to be nicely groomed.  Kim and I decided to try it before the run got all bumped up.

What a glorious view from the top!  The sky was a brilliant blue.  The sun shone, trying to warm up a cold winter sky.  The snow gleamed its brightest white.  The nearby Cascade peaks were clearly visible.  It was a postcard-worthy scene.  We launched ourselves down Wee Bee for a smooth, fast trip to the lift.

Ice-covered trees
And then, we were back in the huge mob.  No, the line hadn't shrunk in the least!  The lift kept stopping, and that didn't help matters.  Once Kim and I were back on the lift, it stopped twice on our way to the top.  Kim and I decided to try another chair, to see if the line, and the lift, was better.

Kim bundled up against the cold

We got in line at the Vista lift.  The line was long, but seemed to move a lot faster than MH Express.  But it was a cold, windy ride - and this lift stopped too!  One we unloaded, Kim and I found Vista's slopes were crowded and super-cold.  After one run at Vista, we decided to go somewhere else.

Kim skiing by pretty snow-covered trees

We tried the old, slow Daisy lift (aka "the Buttwhapper").  There was no line, but this lift was really slow, made even slower by a couple of stoppages.  No wonder it wasn't busy here.  Time to move on!

Kim is happy to be skiing!

Finally late in the morning, Kim and I ended up at Shooting Star.  The snow was nice, the crowds were better, and - yes - the lift made it all the way to the top without stopping!   We decided to stay put for awhile.

Can you tell I'm in my happy place?

After some great runs down Shooting Star's slopes, both Kim and I were getting cold.  Our feet felt like blocks of ice.  We were ready to head in for a warm up and some lunch.

The lodge was an absolute zoo.  Somehow, we found space at a table.  Kim went to order her food, while I held our spots.  It took awhile for Kim to get her grub, but my feet badly needed thawing out.  I was grateful for the extra time to defrost.

Lift line sadness

After lunch, it was back into the crowds.  MH Express wasn't doing any better, and seemed to be stopping even more frequently.  Time to head back to Shooting Star!

Kim and I had some more excellent runs at Shooting Star.  However, I was bombing down Apollo, ready to hit the bumpy steeps, when I suddenly found myself doing the splits and then crashing onto my back.  Somehow, my back made contact with my skis.  Ouch!  That didn't feel good.  I don't know why I wiped out.  All I could tell Kim was "damn snow snake!"

A beautiful mountain on a beautiful day

There wasn't any lift lines at Shooting Star.  So I'm not sure why we headed back to MH Express, where the line had not shrunk in the least.  And the lift was still stopping!  Kim and I said very loudly "there is no line at Shooting Star!" hoping some of the people would head over there.

At 3:00, Kim headed in to pick up her daughter.  I decided to take one last run.  I buddied up with three other guys, and as we were loading onto the chair, I complained about the lift stoppages to one of my companions.  I made a comment that "as much money as we give Meadows, you think they could afford to better maintain their lifts!"  Turned out, one of the other men on the chair used to be the head lift mechanic at Meadows.  He explained that the busier the day, the more people having trouble loading and unloading on the lifts, therefore more stoppages.  Apparently, ski lifts are designed to stop if they sense any little problem.  The philosophy for skier safety is when in doubt, it's better to err on the conservative side and shut down.  After that explanation, I felt a little foolish about my rant.

The lights are on for night skiing

When it was time to leave, the main highway was at a standstill.  All the people from the three Mt. Hood resorts decided to head for home at the same time.  Kim turned around her vehicle, and we took the long way home through Hood River.  After driving slippery roads, and then through the Gorge, poor Kim was beat.

Lesson learned.  If there's a sunny day forecast after many stormy days, and it's the week between Christmas and New Years, stay away from Meadows!  (I should know better than to ski at resorts during the holidays). 

Yet it was a great way to spend New Year's Eve day.  I got home too tired to stay up until midnight, so 2011 came without me.  Oh well, I've rung in enough new years. 

With 2011 comes the promise of more great ski days.   Happy New Year!


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