I've never been sure what "walking pneumonia" is unless it's just different from "flat on your ass pneumonia," which I had last year over the New Year. But this year I wasn't as sick and was determined not to let a little lung infection ruin some early season skiing.
We joined a family we know from Sophie's school–we car pool together–who had a condo up near Tahoe City that they procured through a house-swap agency. One of the unfortunate things about having a child is that you can end up spending a lot of time with people you have nothing else in common with other that the fact that you have children of the same age. But then every once in a while there's an exception: You meet and become friends with people you connect with and hope to know the rest of your life. They love your kid, you love theirs, and they feel like family. These are some of those people. Lucky us.
The Tahoe area had received a couple of storms early last week before we arrived, but many of the resorts still only have a 4–5 foot base, which isn't much. But then we're lucky to ski in the Sierras before Christmas anyway, so we were thankful. Here's what we skied:
Friday: Northstar. In general, we hate Northstar, and I have to admit that this trip confirmed our bias. Friday was their 35th anniversary, so lift tickets were $35 each. Seemed like a good idea, but we weren't the only ones who thought so. It was ridiculously crowded, and although the snow that was there was good, there wasn't much of it, and many of the runs had rocks and brush showing through. But it was nice and cold: the tubes to our CamelBacks froze and left us without hydration but nice fluffy snow. What I really hate about this mountain though is how much they have developed the mid-mountain resort. There are time-share condos, a Four Seasons hotel, an ice rink, and an unbelievable amount of high-end shopping (including a bead store–no kidding–who to the hell goes to the Sierras to string beads???). When my husband asked for a trail map, he was handed a brochure that included six pages of a shopping guide. Fine, fine–I'm all for a variety of activities to suit all tastes, but what burns me is that they've increased the lift ticket prices to just slightly less that Squaw for adults without significant improvement of their terrain. And–get this–a child ticket is $28!!! I guess they figured that marketing themselves as a family-friendly resort just wasn't panning out. So our family's ready to take our business elsewhere.
Saturday: Alpine Meadows. We've always loved this place, and our affection for it was only increased by their "A" rating for environmental consciousness. They have developed programs for biodiesel fuel use, summer native plant revegetation, and extensive recycling. And they have a great mountain, with terrain that is well serviced by some great high-speed lifts that move people around the mountain efficiently and avoid long lift lines. My favorite lift is Summit Six, which I call "The Electric Sofa"–a six-seater left that they crank up to maximum speed to zing you right up to the top of the mountain. Alas, Alpine was suffering from the same lack of snow as everyone else. The Scott chair and the entire backside were closed, leaving us only Summit Six and Roundhouse, which grew old by the end of the day. Alpine Bowl was groomed; Wolferine Bowl was not. Rocks not too bad. Food appalling as usual. Glad we brought a lunch.
Sunday: Day of rest. We were all pretty beat and took a day off to relax in the condo. Big S. has new boots, which were making his legs sore in unusual places, and I . . . well, damn it . . . I'm recovering from pneumonia. We cooked, played games (Sophie beat everyone at Concentration), read, and in the afternoon, Big S. took Sophie to see Alvin and the Chipmunks. I finished Lovely Bones (more about that later) and moved on to Ward Just's An Unfinished Season. What a luxury to be able to relax like this! At home there is always laundry to be done, shelves to be reorganized, soup to be made, etc. Up there, there was none of this, and I could clock some serious relaxation without the guilt. And so could our friend Jim.
Monday: Squaw Valley. Figuring that Squaw has some of the highest elevation, we anticipated they would have some of the best snow. We woke up to a steady rain, but by the time we finished breakfast, the sun had come out, and we made a run for it anyway. Sure enough, the top of the mountain was in pretty good condition; the bottom was like an ice rink, but the only time we had to content with that was at the end of the day when we skied to the car. I still wasn't really feeling up to par and had to stop mid-run for coughing fits fairly frequently. And when I really got working, it was frustrating to not be able to get a full lung of air. But I made it down Siberia Bowl a couple of times even though it was what I call "pee-your-pants steep" at the top. Either it's steeper than usual because there isn't much snow or I just don't remember it being that steep last year–the first time I was swallowing fear as I have not done in a couple of years. Sophie made it down just fine, of course. Big S. sprung for a two-hour private lesson for Sophie in the afternoon, and I think her instructor made some much-needed headway in working to get her weight forward ("out of the back seat"). But perhaps best of all (for me anyway) was that at the conclusion of her lesson, he went on about what a great little skier and great kid she is and how much he enjoyed spending time with her. Give that man a tip!!
We celebrated a great Christmas Eve with presents for the kids and a prime rib dinner, which was quite a feat to whip up in a ski condo. Good company and good food.
Tuesday: Merry Christmas and driving home. After a leisurely breakfast, we packed up and headed home. It's only the second Christmas I haven't spent at my parents' house, but we're heading down there on Thursday to celebrate our Christmas with them. It doesn't really seem like Christmas, but then for us, it really isn't. Plenty of time for that later in the week. I'm sure Jesus will understand.