Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ski days 20–23: Spring break ski trip

Last week was Sophie's spring break, and we were lucky enough to have enough snow in the Sierras for one last big ski trip. My parents came to town to cover Monday and Tuesday, and we went up to Tahoe for Wednesday through Sunday. We rented our usual house in the Homewood area (north lake) and filled it with as many kids and moms as we could squeeze in.

In short, Sophie was awesome, Husband is an idiot, and the snow wasn't too bad.

In greater detail, here's how it broke down.

Thursday: Squaw. Sunny and warm, which I'll forgo anytime for colder weather and better snow, but this is California spring skiing, and you take what you get. What we got was good snow up top, crap down low. Granite Chief was great in the morning, as was Siberia Bowl (when is the snow there not ever great?). Unfortunately the best snow was over on Shirley Lake, which is not the most interesting stuff to ski but fun to bomb. The bottom of the mountain was an appalling mess of slop and stick in the afternoon, making the approach to KT-22 not worth the saddle run (the only way I ski down), and getting down at the end of the day an ordeal. Husband had to stay home and work (someone has to pay for all this skiing, you know), so Sophie was limited to skiing with her grandfather and me.

Friday: Sugarbowl.We drove someone out of our geographic zone to meet another family from Sophie's school for some skiing at what I call The Boog (short for Boogerbowl—more sophisticated people call it simply The Bowl). Sunny, colder, and windy, which dried out the snow and kept it in good shape all over the mountain through the whole day. Wind is sort of a bitch, but if it helps the snow and doesn't close down lifts, I'll take it.

Here's one of my favorite views from the Lincoln chair.

Saturday: Alpine. Husband drove up to meet us here. Sophie was really happy to see him but even happier to see a twelve-year-old boy from her school, whom she skied with in the afternoon. Her other friends up there were mostly beginning skiers and were in ski school, so she was good and hungry for another kid to ski at her level. This kid is a really good skier and pushes her just the right amount to keep up with him.

I got to ski with a friend after she outsourced her kids to ski school. I love skiing with kids (kids who can ski, that is), but I really enjoyed an afternoon of gal skiing. A great change after a season of mostly dudes and kids.

Sophie and my dad both took two-hour private lessons. My dad's lesson was timed well because the weather warmed up and the crud from the middle of the mountain down was thick and heavy. He was skiing it much better in the afternoon after the lesson. Sophie's lesson was specifically to address safety in more extreme conditions. She learned some techniques for linking turns on steeps and doing a self-arrest. Although my parents paid for the lesson (thank you!!), it was Husband's idea. Which was a good idea but no excuse for what happened the next day. Read on.

Sunday: Squaw. Really, it was mostly a good day. There were clouds overhead most of the day, which kept the temperatures down and the snow in pretty decent shape. Sophie was thrilled to meet up with some of Husband's friends we call the Ski Uncles. These guys have been watching her ski since she was a tiny thing, and now she's mostly keeping up with them. Together with Husband, they've coached her down some really hairy stuff, usually with Uncle E. in front and Husband behind her. And I think I've been a pretty good sport about it all. When discussing where to go next, Uncle E. often looks at me to ask "Do you really think this is ok??" I usually shrug and give my consent, noting that no one ever listens to me anyway.

Sophie had a great morning with the Uncles, skiing the North Bowl and other runs off the Headwall lift.

All good stuff. The worst that could happen is that she could fall and be bummed out. Husband and the Uncles all knew the stuff they were skiing really well, and I trusted their judgment and Sophie's ability.

But after lunch I think Husband sort of blew it. We all met my mom, who was stationed with the lunch, at High Camp and decided to ski the groomer down Silverado afterward. The Uncle leading the charge made a miscalculation about how to get there, and so we skied to the edge of something, looked down, and backed off. Steep, rough, icy, and full of what Uncle E calls "death cookies," little chunks of broken ice. Except Husband turned back and decided to go for it. And he let Sophie follow him.

My dad, the Uncles, and I quickly skied down the groomer and positioned ourselves to watch their descent from below. And while I was glad to get sight of them, I was nearly sick to see what they were coming down. Honestly, I don't think this picture my dad took does it justice, but trust me: it's not something any mom would want to see her kid on. Aside from being steep, icy, and filled with cookies, there are granite cliffs all along it, so there are many places where if someone fell and could not self-arrest, they could slide of a cliff. I refuse to apologize for having a problem with that. I suspected something was up by the order in which they were skiing.

Husband usually follows her, but here he was skiing in front because he was figuring out the safest way down as they were going and thought that if she went down and lost it, he could break her fall. Great. So they could both go over a cliff. And did I mention he was not wearing a helmet?? I guess because he likes his flowing silver locks to fly free. What a moron.

But they did get down. She didn't fall. She said she was not scared or worried. But someone besides me was concerned. Look: Here comes The Man.

Since the Silverado area is known to be so dangerous, it is heavily patrolled. This ski patroller had been watching them come down most of the way. He had a question for Husband: "Do you know this terrain well?" To which Husband answered "Uh, well, sort of, . . . I've, you know, seen people ski it . . . ," which the ski patroller took to mean (correctly) no. He then gave Husband a little lecture on how many people are seriously injured in the area, noting that maybe he should ski it first before taking a kid, etc. I truly appreciated the introduction he provided to the diatribe I delivered, which went on for much the rest of the day.

But the day did end on a high note. One of Sophie's friends who was up with us (they consider themselves boyfriend and girlfriend "in a kid way," which mostly means they really like to play Calico Critters together) had been in ski school most of the days. Sunday was his sixth day skiing, and the lessons had really paid off. His flying wedge was mostly controlled and he was digging the speed, which meant he was outskiing his mom. Husband and I skied him a little over at Shirley Lake and then took him on the run of his life: Down Siberia Bowl (his first real black diamond) and all the way the mountain while his mom rode the Funitel down. We read him the riot act about staying behind one of us, keeping his speed in check, and turning back and forth to get down the bowl. He truly rocked: He listened, he turned, and he made it down with only a few spills in the slop at the bottom. And Sophie enjoyed her "coaching" role.

Husband has a dudes' ski/camp/hot spring trip planned for a friend's fiftieth birthday (yes, you read that number correctly) at Mammoth in a few weeks, but this may have been it for Sophie and me. It's the most we ever skied and, even though I didn't get quite where I wanted to, the best we ever skied. I think it might be time to pack up the sticks and get out the camping gear. I'm mostly ok with that, but I'll admit the thought leaves me a little teary. It will be nice though to start enjoying rather than cursing the warming spring weather. 


Anonymous said...

Whoa! So glad The Man got ahold of your man and laid down the law. I get nervous when my husband takes my son for a walk (well, not really). But still, I can't imagine them picking their way down a snow-covered granite cliff.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! I would have clobbered DH if he had led E down something like that. Still, be proud of Sophie for being so fearless!

In answer to your question/comment on my blog - we have considered moving back to California (all be it to Central or Northern California, we are so done with So Cal) but it would have to be the right school. Thacher or Stevenson would be lovely...

I do miss going to SF and Tahoe and Yosemite and Big Sur. (And yes, part of me misses a few things in SoCal - GLADSTONE'S!!! for one - have you been?) It will be interesting to see what happens.

Jen Yu said...

I have a theory that when it comes to skiing, men don't think. I think you are completely justified in your dismay. Sophie's a trooper and I'm glad she's okay. Hope your husband still has a little hide left...

Monica said...

Wow...I would have been chewing him out for days! As long as he doesn't do it again, I guess its ok.