Sunday, February 27, 2011

Beware the Snow Snake!

How many times has this happened to you?  You're skiing along making good turns, feeling confident, and then suddenly you're on your butt, or face-planting into the snow, or sliding on your back scattering equipment down the slope.  What just happened?  You may have had an encounter with the scourge of skiers everywhere - the dreaded snow snake.

"What is a snow snake?" you ask.  The skier's dictionary defines a snow snake as a "invisible, malevolent creature whom skiers blame for causing their falls."  Anytime you have a wipeout, and the reason is not readily apparent, it may very well be due to a snow snake grabbing your skis.  

Any place there are skiers, the snow snakes lurk.  They tend to concentrate themselves on the beginner runs of most ski resorts.  Chairlift loading and unloading areas are another favorite hideout.  However, these creatures can be found anywhere on the slopes, from green, to blue, to black diamond trails.  Deep powder days or warm, sunny spring conditions tend to produce higher than average snow snake incidents.  And snow snakes especially love to hang out wherever the resort photographer is set up.

The aftermath of a snow snake encounter

I seem to have a knack for finding the snow snakes on a mountain.  I've had many a spectacular face plant or yard sale (one even drew applause from people on the lift!)  Of course these falls were not due to my skiing abilities (or lack thereof) but had to be caused by a snow snake shenanigan. 

A couple of years ago, a young man from Ireland joined our ski bus.  He was working temporarily in the US for six months, and was trying to experience all he could of our American culture.  One day, this guy was riding the lift with myself and two of my bus friends.  I was telling my friends about a big wipeout I'd had on a prior run, and blamed my biff on a snow snake.  The Irishman's eyes widened.  He began frantically scanning the ground below us.  Then in a trembling voice he cried  "There are snakes here?"  After my friends and I stopped laughing, we explained to the man the truth about snow snakes.  (Of course, it would have been more fun to keep him in the dark!)

So my friends, ski with care, and keep an eye out as you travel down the slopes.  But next time you find yourself unexpectedly face-planted in the snow, it may not be your fault.  BLAME IT ON THE SNOW SNAKE!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Skiing with Glen

My friend Glen is a retired co-worker that I used to ski with every year.   He's a very "old school" skier.  Glen is the guy you see on the slope that still has long straight skis.  But even with those skinny boards, he's a dynamite skier.

Glen, ready to make some turns

The last couple of years, Glen's been heavy into running and I haven't had the opportunity to ski with him.   Right after Christmas, Glen emailed me with the news that "Mrs. Claus" had brought him new skis.  They were short, fat, shaped skis.  I told Glen I was up on the mountain every Thursday, and invited him to join me and try them out.

I'm so happy I'm not at work!

Glen was training for a marathon scheduled in early February.  After he finished his race (and qualified for Boston, I might add!)  it was time to give the new skis a spin.  Glen emailed me that he was planning to come up skiing the following Thursday, and would I be interested in joining him?  I was thrilled to get a chance to ski and catch up with an old co-worker and friend.

Snow-flocked tree

We took separate buses up to Meadows and met up at the lift.  I ooh'd and aah'd over Glen's new skis.  After skiing on straight skis for so long, Glen wasn't sure what to expect.  I told him it would only take two runs to be sold.  Then he'd be turning his old straight skis into lawn furniture.

Another blue sky day on the Hood

It was a beautiful blue-sky day, but the temps were cold enough to keep the snow powdery. Perfect day!  We headed up to the top of the Cascade lift, for a couple of great trips down.  As I predicted, after two runs, Glen was adjusting to his new skis and enjoying making effortless turns.

Glen in Heather Canyon

Heather Canyon was open, from top to bottom.  This was the first day upper Heather had been open after the last storm, so we decided to check it out.  Even though it was pretty tracked out by the time we got there, we were able to find a couple of small powder stashes in Silver Bowl.  The snow was excellent, and we had a wonderful trip down the canyon.

Lookin' down Heather Canyon

We followed the bottom of Heather Canyon, down the runout and to the chair.  The bottom was pretty chewed up, but Glen was impressed by how well his new skis performed in the crud.

Glen skiing down Upper Elevator

After lunch, I wanted to explore a couple of runs off of Cascade.  I hadn't skied Upper Elevator in a long time, and conditions looked to be good to try it today.  Of course, Glen was game to check it out.  It was a little icy at the bottom, but the views were good at the top, and the snow was nice in between!

Is he a happy guy or what?
I think you can see by the size of his smile that someone really likes his new skis.  I don't think Glen will be using his old straight skis anymore!

Yeah, I'm in my happy place too

And I was a pretty happy camper too.  What an awesome day - nice weather and good snow.  No lift lines.  And a great skiing partner.

Mt. Hood trying to hide behind the clouds

It was great to catch up with Glen and see him discover a new way of skiing.  Of course, he's such a good skier already, with the new skis, he'll be unstoppable!  Hope I can keep up with him.

I've had the opportunity to ski with a lot of wonderful people this winter.  I'm blessed to have so many good ski friends.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Birthday Surprise

Last Sunday was my birthday.  One of the great things about having a winter birthday is I can go skiing on my special day.  Which is exactly what I did.  My friend Kim and I headed up to the mountain to enjoy the snow. 

My beautiful cake

Meadows was all decked out for Valentine's Day.  They even had one of their chairlifts designated for speed dating (one of their slowest lifts so you got lots of time to get to know each other).  I swear half of the Portland metro area was at Meadows, so the lines at all the other lifts were incredible.  There wasn't a line at the "chairway to heaven" so Kim and I rode that lift (Kim joked that we were going to pretend to be a couple).

Denise frosting my cake

Even with the hordes of people, it was still a fun day.  Kim's kids stayed home, so it was like a vacation for her.  We had lunch in the nice restaurant, instead of the cafeteria.  Kim bought me lunch for my B-day.  Thanks Kim!

Bear cleans up the floor
About mid-afternoon, the snow got sticky and we both were tired.  Kim and I decided to call it a day, and get a jump on the evening ski traffic down the mountain.  So we packed up and headed for home.

Adding decorations

I got a "happy birthday" phone call from my sister, but no text messages or phone calls from my kids all day.  Usually they're really good about remembering my birthday, so I thought it was strange I hadn't heard from them.  I hoped my kids didn't forget!

Cody made homemade bread!
When I arrived home, both Cody and Denise's cars were parked in front of the house. I came inside to find my kids busy in the kitchen. Cody was making dinner, and Denise was baking me a cake. What a wonderful surprise!

Cody getting dinner ready
Cody was working on a chicken Alfredo dish with fresh steamed veggies and homemade bread.  It looked and smelled wonderful.  Roger, who was in on the surprise, had cleaned the entire house in anticipation of the kid's arrival.

My kids got creative with the candles
Denise was busy baking a red velvet layer cake.  She made it from scratch.  Once the cake was done, she whipped up some yummy cream cheese icing.  Denise finished the cake off with a coating of crushed pecans on the sides, and "happy birthday" lettering on the top.

Lighting the candles

We sat down to dinner, and was it ever good!  Cody has always been a good cook, and this meal was no exception.  I tried not to overeat, as I really wanted to save room for a piece of Denise's cake.

Well, it's better than 48 candles!

I keep a box of used birthday candles in my kitchen cupboard.  Over the years, it's accumulated quite a large number of candles.  When it was time to put candles on my cake, the kids dug out the box and began counting.  They wanted to put 48 candles on my cake.  I protested, saying they all wouldn't fit, and it would take forever to get them lit (remember your Dad's birthday?)

So Cody and Denise got really creative.  They found a number four, five and three in the candle box.  Fourty-five plus three makes fourty-eight!  Cody took two candles and melted them together to make a plus sign.  So I got my wish and didn't have to endure a large amount of birthday candles on my cake.

I'm very proud of my kids

After blowing out the candles, we dug into the cake.  It was wonderful! 

My kids were such good sports, they even let me take a bunch of photos of them.  That, and they cleaned up my kitchen and did all of the dishes. 

Mmmmm, cake!
It was great to have my kids home.  I haven't had them both home for my birthday since Cody went off to college, almost six years ago.  Having them cook me dinner was better than going out to any restaurant.  And Denise's cake was the best!  I liked it way more than any store-bought cake.  What a wonderful birthday present!  I'm a lucky mom to have such great kids!

And no, I don't feel a year older....


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentines Bus

Every year on the Thursday before Valentine's Day, my ski bus has a special "Valentines bus."  Our bus advisers decorate the bus, people bring special treats, and everyone is encouraged to wear red.  There are prizes offered for the man and woman who wear the most red.  And Dixie brings heart stickers for everyone to wear on their faces.  It is always a fun time!

John and "Dr. Barbara" model their heart stickers
This last Thursday was no exception.  In the morning, the man who won the "most amount of red" contest peeled off a couple layers of clothing, to reveal more red clothes underneath. (To the cheers of some of the women!)  We were a little worried when he dropped his drawers, but all was OK - there were red boxers underneath.

Doug painted a special Valentine's Day hat for the occasion

Doug, our resident artist, painted a special Valentine's-themed hat.  But Doug -always the jokester- didn't paint his hat for Valentine's Day - it commemorated the Valentine's Day massacre!

Mt. Hood framed by colorful flags

We arrived at Meadows to beautiful bluebird skies.  Mt. Hood gleamed a brilliant white in the sunshine.  The mountain had received eight inches of new snow a couple of days ago, and the temps remained cold enough to keep it soft and fluffy.  Finally some good snow to ski on!

Riding up the Cascade Express Lift

I teamed up with two of the Linda's on my bus.  I'd brought my alpine skis this week, and was ready to rock 'n roll.  We started out hitting the bowls and the steeper runs off of Mt. Hood express.  The snow was great!  We had a half dozen runs in before mid-morning.  I was having way too much fun.

The Linda's enjoying the view
Then the Linda's and I decided to head up to the Cascade lift to check out the snow conditions up there.  It was great!  The wind was calm, and the snow was very skiable.  And of course, the views were wonderful.  We bombed down a couple of runs in no time.

Cheers from the top of Meadows!

I thought everyone who skied regularly at Meadows knew of the Outer Limits run.  This run goes from the top of the Cascade lift, traverses across the top of the ski area, and drops you into the top of the Shooting Star lift.  The trail runs above the treeline, and on a sunny day, the views are breathtaking.  But last week, I introduced one of my Linda friends to this run.  She'd never skied it before.  Both my Linda partners this week weren't familiar with the run and wanted someone to show them where it was.  I was happy to oblige.

My skiing partners havin' a great time

Both Lindas loved the run.  We stopped at the top of the ridge to soak in the views and ran into three other ladies from our bus.  I whipped out my camera, and we held a brief photo session on the side of the mountain.

The women of the Love bus on Outer Limits
Since all three of us in our skiing group were named Linda, I joked that we each needed a number so we could tell each other apart.  Linda K. volunteered to be "Linda 3" and I nabbed "Linda 2."  We voted the other Linda to be "Linda 1."  Later, one of the Linda's ran into a friend on the slopes, and after introductions, he proclaimed our group to be "Linda cubed."

Creative liftie snow art
This little snowman was sitting at the bottom of the Cascade Lift.  He did have a hat and goggles, but someone took them off before I could get my camera out and snap a photo.  I just love it when the lifties get creative!

Killer view of my favorite mountain

The weather was great all day.  The snow held up wonderfully, and although it did warm up, the temps stayed cold enough that the snow never got too mushy.  The Lindas and I skied until 1:00, took a short break for lunch, and headed out again.  My companions skied until 3, and then I took a couple extra runs by myself.  It was such a good day, I wanted to stay outside forever!

But all good things must come to an end.  I didn't want the bus to leave me behind, so at 3:30 I reluctantly took off my skis and boarded the bus for home.

The trip home was lots of fun.  There was enough candy on that bus to feed a small country.  A couple of people got up and told jokes.  The beer and wine flowed freely keeping everyone in high spirits.  I got so busy talking to people, the bus was back in town before I knew it.  It's amazing how the trip home seems so much faster!

If you want a fun way to celebrate Valentine's Day, just book a seat on the "Love" bus.  Happy Valentines Day! 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Juneuary Corn

The weather this past month has been most frustrating for us skiers.  Mt. Hood hasn't had any new snow since the first weekend of January.  The daytime temps have been above freezing every day since then.  We've been having spring weather in January.  Or, as I've been calling it, Juneuary.

I begin my quest for good snow

Last weekend was no exception.  My friend Dean invited me up to Meadows to check out the "spring" corn snow.  Dean is one of my favorite persons to ski with.  He loves skiing the steeps.  We both share the same enthusiasm and obsession for skiing.  And we love to ski the bowls at Meadows (Four Bowl is our favorite!)

Dean is just happy to be skiing

It looked to be another warm springlike day, as we arrived at the slopes.  Dean and I were hoping that the snow would hold off turning into mush until at least afternoon.  We figured we'd start with the lower slopes, and then keep moving higher up as the snow began to soften.

Cool cloud layers in the valley
It wasn't a sunny day.  There were lots of clouds in the sky.  The clouds and fog formed cool layers that hung in the lower valleys.  Made for some nice scenery.  Blue sky days can be so boring!

Dean gets caught in my camera lens

The other good thing about the cloud cover - it kept the snow from getting too soft and sticky.  We had a good morning, traveling around Meadows in search of snow that was soft (but not too soft) and trying to avoid the icy places.

Dean in his happy place

After a leisurely lunch break, it was hard to get up the ambition to go back out on the slopes.  The morning had been OK, but not outstanding.  But we decided to give it another go, and rallied. 

Ready to shred more corn!

Boy were Dean and I glad we decided to go back out.  As we were riding MH Express back up, we looked over at Two Bowl.  No one was skiing it.  Dean said "Do you think we ought to give it a try?"  I said "Sure, why not?"

We made a trip down Two Bowl, and the snow was wonderful!  It had softened to a nice, spring cornlike texture - perfect for hero turns.  Dean and I got to the bottom, took one look at each other and said "We gotta do that again!"

Nice soft corn snow

So back up we went!  Dean and I made a couple runs down Two Bowl, and then tried the other bowls off of Express.  All of them had awesome snow.  After three runs, we began to notice other people on Two Bowl.  After another run, there were lots of skiers heading down.  Word had gotten out!

The Meadows cookie man - my favorite guy!

My favorite employee at Mt. Hood Meadows is the cookie man.  He usually hangs out around the lift on busy weekend afternoons, throwing cookies to the people in line.  Cookie man was on duty that afternoon passing out his sweet treats.  Dean and I made two trips through the line before we were lucky enough to each snag a cookie.

Colorful banners brighten the slopes

After at least half a dozen trips down the bowls, Dean was getting tired.  The snow was so good, we both hated to quit, but our legs were giving us stern lectures.  So we made one final run down Four Bowl, our very favorite run. 

The day began slow, but ended up great.  The snow held up wonderfully, and for once didn't turn to mush in the afternoon.  I guess if I can't have powder, a warm spring day is the next best thing.  Gotta love that "Juneuary" corn!