Tuesday, January 16, 2007

2nd & 3rd Time Downhill Skiing

Heidi had MLK Day off so I took a vacation day and we headed out to Bend, OR for a weekend at Mt Bachelor.  A friend of Heidi's made arrangements for a group of us to stay at a town house only 15 miles from the resort.  4 couples and 1 extra guy (9 of us) stayed in a very nice 3 BR, 3 Bath, gas fireplace townhouse.  2 of the bedrooms were setup nicely with a seperate showers and jet-tubs - almost like having 2 master bedrooms.  We weren't lucky enough to nab one of those.  In fact, since we were the 'new' couple we ended up sleeping on the Aero mattress with sleeping bags in the loft.  No complaints here though ~ it only cost $50 for the weekend!

So how was the skiing?  Well on Saturday everyone wanted to sleep in.  Bend is about 3-4 hours south of Portland.  It's only ~180 miles but you have to go over a mountain pass to get there.  You can go down through Salem, OR or over Mt Hood.  I don't know what the pass near Salem is called.  It makes the drive a little stressful going over a mountain pass in the winter.  Not that the truck can't handle it but you don't want to make a mistake, slide on ice or packed snow, and go off the road.  That could be a huge, deadly mistake depending on where that happens.

Day 1 - Saturday

Anyway, it was about 11:30 before we were up and had eaten breakfast.  We split the meals up with each couple taking a turn making breakfast or dinner.  A few people were going snow shoeing, which I was getting tired of.  A couple others were going cross country skiing, which I really want to try but driving all this way and being so close to the mountain I felt would be a waste if we didn't go skiing.

Check out the snow - 2x the height of my truck.
View of some of the runs from the parking lot.

Mt Bachelor has no lights so we needed to be off the mountain by 4:30.  This still gave us 4 hours to check things out.  We headed up Saturday together to check out prices and perhaps even ski.  The staff wasn't too helpful and we ended up paying an arm and a leg for a lift ticket, ski rental and 90 minute lessons.  I'm still not totally sure of the damages but I think it was ~$130 ($28 rental, $50 lessons, $50 lift ticket).  Pretty expense for 4 hours of skiing but ah well.  How often do you get this chance?

This was our second lesson.  The instructors were breaking all the students into groups based on levels (1, 2, 3, and 4).  After talking with them and explaining what we did last weekend at Skibowl, they believed I was a 4 and Heidi was 2.  Which meant splitting us up.  Kind of a drag, but at least we would be getting applicable lessons.  Luckily I was the only level 4 so I got 90 minutes of one on one lessons which would prove priceless for the skiing the next day.

View from the top of the beginner run.  Broken Top mountain to the right, 3 sisters on left.

We basically went up and down the beginner slope a few times and worked on my turns.  Then graduated to some blue runs and kept working on turns ~ how to point your body downhill, keep your arms up, put your weight on the right ski, etc etc.

Afterwards Heidi and I went inside for some hot chocolate and water, did a couple runs together on the begineer run, and then called it a day at 4 ish

The views were phenomenal.  I kept thinking how lucky I was to see this.  How many people in the this country never get a chance to see nature and terrain like this?

View of Broken Top mountain.

Day 2 - Sunday

We got up good and early on Sunday. 7 am and were at the mountain at 8 am.  It was a guy only session of skiing and snowboarding.  1 of the guys got sick so it ended up being the 4 of us.  2 snowboarders and 2 skiiers.  Of course, everyone was pertty experienced except me, this being my 3rd time.  I was a little nervous about slowing them down.

This was the cheaper day ~ $28 rental and luckily one of the guys picked up tickets in advance at GI joes turning a normal $58 dollar lift ticket into $42.

We did about 8 runs before lunch.  I fell a few times on the first run but I started getting the hang of it.  I was concerned about having to ski by myself all day but, although they had to wait for me a few times, I was able to keep up with the other guys.

The lessons I had the day before paid off.  Although the runs were long, my legs were more relaxed and I wasn't getting as tired at the previous weekend.  They were still getting tired and I had to stop a few times to rest.  It takes about 10-15 minutes to ski down one of these runs.

We headed into the lodge and lunch to watch the end of the Bears vs Seahawks.  What a great game and watching the Bears win it in OT with most of the people in the lodge cheering for the Seahawks was great.  I did hear one other table cheering for the Bears.  One of the four guys I was with is originally from Deerfield so he was cheering for the Bears with me.

Just before we went into lunch one of the guys on a snowboard crashed on his tailbone, was hurting, and wasn't sure he could continue.  The other snowboarder was getting tired and they decided to call it a day and go home.

This is where it got interesting.  The other skier wanted to keep going so I decided to stay behind and we ended up skiing right to the end of the day.  He wanted to go to the top of the mountain.  Most of the runs start at 7,000 feet and I was a little nervous but figured this was a chance to see some great views at 9,000 feet of elevation.  It was totally barren.  Rocks, wind, ice and snow; we're past the treeline up here...  There was a sign warning you getting on the lift that the wind was blowing 50 mph up there and the windchill was -40!  It was cold at the top.  But the view was awesome.  I was scared as hell.  I started going down just trying to concentrate on one turn at a time.  It was a long way down.  The runs I did earlier looked like baby runs up there.  The cars were just small dots in the parking lot down below.  I fell and slide a couple times but made it down.  The other guy was staying near me and keeping an eye on me which I appreciated.  I can't wait to try it again.  What an adrenaline rush.

9,000 feet - atop Mt Bachelor looking south
About 4/5 of the way down from the summit - my hands were freezing taking these 4 shots


3 Sisters and Broken Top

After celebrating with a few beers I went to bed early totally exhausted having skied all day.  Not as exhausted as a duo 12 hour mountain bike race but still exhausted.  The next day we drove home looking forward to sleeping in a real bed.  Looking forward to doing that again!



So I woke up this morning to snow in Portland.  I figured, no big deal.  Heidi asked me to drive her into work.  No problem I said with a little chest puffing out... I'll show these Portlanders how to drive in snow.  :)


Well the trip to Heidi's office takes about 10 minutes.  So 20 minutes round trip.  It took me 1 hour 15 minutes today!  Not that my truck couldn't handle it but all the traffic out there.

Any little snow really brings this city to its knees.  I saw 3 Metro buses, a recycling truck and a delivery truck all stuck in the same spot.  Trying to go uphill.  I saw multiple cars skid backwards and go sideways.  Only the vehicles with 4 wheel drive are able to navigate. 

Also, the big thing around here are tire chains.  I did see a few cars and even a truck with chains on.

And there's no snow plows whatsoever... so all the snow just builds up.  It's been snowing since 5am according to the news.  When I took Heidi to work we had about 2 inches of snow and now that I'm home it looks closer to 3 and it's still snowing...

I'm not even bothering to try and get to work.  I'd make it fine but traffic would take me hours upon hours to get there.  I also see on the news right now that both I-5 and I-84 are completely blocked!

Time to build a snowman!


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

1st Time Downhill Skiing

So last weekend was my first time downhill skiing out here.  I think only the third time in my life skiing, so I'm definitely a beginner - but does skiing on hill in Southern Wisconsin really count as skiing?

View from my first and only run of the day down the beginner/easy lower bowl run

Mt.Hood has 3 places to choose from for downhill skiing (a fourth if you include a place called Summit, an extreme beginners area) Skibowl, Mt. Hood Meadows, and Timberline.  From what I've learned, Skibowl is the reasonable priced, night skiing skiing location; Timberline is the historical locale, and Meadows is where the good skiers go because it's on the back side of Mt. Hood where the snow is less wet and has better powder.

When in SE Wisco you head to Alpine Valley.  Let's compare the numbers to Skibowl - the 'cheap' ski area on Mt. Hood.

Alpine Valley Skibowl
Base Elevation 1,020 3,500
Summit Elevation 1,260 5,027
Vertical Drop 388 1,500
Avg. Snowfall 80" 300"
Skiable Area 90ac. 960ac.
Total Runs 20 65
Total Lifts 12 8
Shot of Alpine Valley's main run
Shot of lower bowl run at Skibowl - note how the run disappears into the clouds!

Now I'm not trying to be a snob here I'm just trying to get a sense at the immense size of this place.  960 acres and 1500 feet of vertical drop.  The pictures just don't do it any justice.  And I'm not even at the big guys.  Meadows has 2,150 skiable acres and has a vertical drop of 2,777 feet!  That's a long time to be skiing downhill.

Now I know why my legs were burning from being tense when I did my first 'real' run.

It started to get excited driving up to the mountain when I passed under the sign stating "Chains or Traction Tires Required".  The mountain had gotten 12-18 inches of fresh powder in the early hours of the morning and it was just finishing up snowing.  Thankfully I bought those traction tires 1 year ago before moving out here.  The snow is a wet snow and packs down into ice when the vehicles drive on it.  It's weird to see people pulling over to put chains on their tires.  Even the semi's have to do it.

It's really beautiful...
You can't even read the road sign.  Gov't Camp and Skibowl coming up.
Look at this van stuck right in the entrance to Skibowl.  I just came in via the other entrance.

 We got there around 11am, purchased some lessons, got our rental skis and then spent the next 1.5 hours getting taught how to turn, snow plow, and ride the tow rope.

Our ski instructor is showing us something here... The guy in the orange hat and his girlfriend are from Wisconsin... hunting clothes doesn't surprise me.
The View from the top of the bunny hill and ski rope tow...
Heidi learning how to turn.

After the class, the instructor said I was ready to go on a real ski run but that I should go with an instructor.  Heidi said she wasn't ready.  Well I wasn't coming all this way and spending my money to ride on bunny hills.  So I headed up to the 1st lift.

To get to the top of this mountain you take two lifts.  The first takes you to the center of the slope and is where the easy run is.  Then you can take another lift up to the top for the hard stuff.  I didn't do that of course.  I was trying just to do the easy one.  The ski instructor told me it'd take 1 hour to go down the run so I had no idea what to expect.

This is the second lift up to the top of the mountain.
Check out this warming hut and watering hole on top of the run!
The daunting view down to the lodge.  It's steeper than it looks here!

Well it took me only 10 minutes to do the run and I only wiped out once although I did lose a ski on one of my turns but I think that was because of the rental equipment.  My legs were tense the whole time and I had to stop once because they burned so bad.  Don't know if that's normal or I suck.

I can't describe how cool it was.  The view from up here was beautiful.  I can only imagine what Mt. Hood must've looked like if the cloud cover wasn't so thick.

I'll be doing this again.  But for now - I'm heading to Mt. Bachelor for a ski weekend which is another mountain about 3 1/2 - 4 hours SE of Portland.  It's on the east side of the Cascade range which means the snow is more powder like.

Until then - Later.

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Years Day


We went up to Mirror Lake on Mt. Hood to do some snowshoeing today.  The hike was billed as an easy one.  I thought otherwise.  We basically had to climb about 1000 feet from 3500 to 4500 feet.  Don't get me wrong though the view was worth the effort.  Although I couldn't help think as we walked along the trail and switchbacks that it would make a kick ass mountain bike trail!  With studded tires I think I could've had a go at it too.  It took us about 2:15 round trip to do the hike.

Afterwards we hit up the Mt. Hood brewery for some food and drink.  Man what a surprise.  They had good beer and great food.  I did the burger and vegetarian chili but next time I'm doing their pizza.  All the stuff is homemade.  A couple next to us ordered dessert and that looked awesome too...  The traffic was a little busy coming down off the mountain because of the 3-day holiday weekend.

Check out the mountain stream, with waterfall, right next to where we parked!  (the picture does it no justice)


Pretty pacific northwest girl...


The trail was basically cut into the side of the mountain.


Check out these switchbacks... memories of some 12 hour races come to my mind...


The view from the top.  I ran out of batteries...  There's still more climbing if you want but we finished up with a loop of Mirror Lake and a quick descent.


Good way to spend New Years Day.  Hope yours was good too.


New Years Eve 2006

We took it easy this new years' and stayed at home since we were heading up to the mountain the next day.  When I stay at home for New Years Eve I like to cook a nice dinner.  We picked up some steaks and lobster tail and I got ready to work my magic in the kitchen.

New Years Eve dinner 2006 - before cooking

I put on the chef hat and made some mashed potatoes and caramelized mushrooms to go with the grilled steak and lobster.  We popped open a bottle of champagne and had ourselves a little candlite dinner.

New Years Eve dinner 2006 - after cooking

My Dad is a New Year's day baby.  So I often like to spend time with him gaming and wish him a happy birthday.  We hooked up over Ventrilo for a couple of hours and did some Titan Quest after dinner.

He got offline about 10 minutes before midnight CST and so we watched some tv to celebrate the new years in my old time zone.  We still had a couple of hours before the PST new years so we popped in Miracle on 34th Street (1947); what a great movie, watched the ball drop at midnight on tv and then I called Ray to wish him a happy new years too...

Hope you had a great new years!