Friday, February 18, 2005

Today working as a volunteer at Keystone Today working as a volunteer at Keystone

You may need to read my previous post for understanding of how my day typically goes as a Mountain Watch volunteer at Keystone ski area.

Today (actually, yesterday, by now), dawned with the type of blue sky over white snow that I really don't see anywhere else with any regularity. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. Not a one. Dark blue against white mountains. Beautiful. Esp. after the previous couple of days when it was a blizzard on the mountain.

So, there was no question. I went skiing today. As volunteers, we get free ski check at the Mountain House, at the bottom of the Peru lift. I abuse this a little - as I currently have three pair of skiis and two sets of poles stored there, and probably will add another pair next week.

Today, I wore standard alpine boots (as opposed to AT boots that I wore the day before), and used my 215 cm downhills. Fairly straight, compared to today's technology, but very turnable, as long as you keep in mind that their turning diameter is about 2/3 the length of a football field. I had plans for them later in the day.

At the top of Peru, we have our dispatch, where I signed in and got a radio. Then headed down Schoolmarm, as our lead and another paid employee headed down Silverspoon. Worked a run or two alternating between Schoolmarm and Silverspoon. Then, had a run where I started down the top of Silverspoon. The top is really not that heavily traveled, is a bit steeper, and has some nice terrain features. So, I open up a bit, and on the 215 downhills, opened up a bit more. Then, I stopped where we usually do, at the cutover from Schoolmarm and the top of the Peru lift. I was only there for a minute or so, when a couple of guys came by that I though questionable. One was on twin tipped skiis, and he was switching back and forth, (skiing forwards, then backwards) at some speed. The other was super carving, as racers do. Speed is lost when you are on your bases, and not when you are on our edges. So, a really good skier, like this guy, can move downhill making large carving turns that come almost totally across the fall line, as he can going straight.

So, I "followed" these guys. They didn't stop until the bottom of the Montezuma chair (where I caught them). I was going almost straight down the hill, and yet they ultimately pulled ahead. Skiing way way too fast. When I finally caught them, they played stupid. Both were Keystone employees, so weren't entitled to a second chance. But as employees, pulling their passes is sensitive. So, I just got their names and pass numbers and called for our lead to meet me. We met, and compared notes. He had pulled this guy over before, as had other Mountain Watch. So much for playing stupid. His pass is gone for the year. Period. The other guy, as he didn't have a reputation or record, will probably only lose his for a week or so.

Then back to work. Bagged a lot of nice rays today, as I stood at various bump locations as I worked my way down the mountain, alternating between the two green runs we work. On interesting enconter was with a young woman who was probaly too heavy to be skiing. She had her boots off and was sitting on the side of the trail. She explained that even with buckle extenders, her boots were too tight, and invariably cut off circulation to her feet. Gave her a complimentary ticket good for a hot (or cold) drink at any of the Keytsone lodges.

Then, shortly after 1 p.m., I was heading down the ridge on Schoolmarm, as was passed by a couple of snow boarders. Bad idea. I followed them down the ridge, catching them at the top of the Peru lift, right before they entered the terrain park (Area 51). The patrol "do" (snowmobile) driver happened to be right there, having just dropped a taxi at the top of Peru for a download to the bottom, and she came over and played the heavy. Always nice to have backup. These guys only got a warning, which is fair, but she took their names and passes, and they will be in the computer for future reference (unless they already had such, and then, they will lose their passes for a week or so).

Headed down Schoolmarm then, snowplowing a bit more than I would have liked (hard to turn those 215 bad boys very quickly). About a mile down, there is a cross trail, Last Chance, that cuts back to the Montezuma lift (hence its name). Looked up at the first trail feeding into it (as I typically do anymore, even when not working). Found a pair of people there, with the woman out of her skis. Had to go a couple of feet up the hill to talk to them, but I was glad I did.

Turns out, she had just fallen, had hit her head fairly hard, and had blacked out. She was skiing with her son, and was constantly appologizing to him about ruining his day. After my recent experience with the fairly major head or neck injury that I had failed to detect (see previous blog entry), I was probably overcautious on my call to the patrol. The result was that the guy who ultimately responded came with a back board and neck brace. After doing a trauma check on her (memory, eyes, etc.), he talked her into having the docs at the medical center at the base check her out, we put her on the back board, and the patrol put a next brace on her too. We then loaded her on the toboggen, and away they went.

I then ended up getting to patrol headquarters (PHQ) at about 2:20, too late to take another run before gang grooming. So, grabbed my cup and some (free) diet Pepsi before we took off for gang grooming.

That started fairly well. My partner and I were located at the bottom of two blue runs above Payflats, where the groomers ultimately go every day they gang groom (i.e., when there is night skiing). Everyone stopped, as they were supposed to, except for one guy, who acknowledge our presence, but skiied on - right before the groomers went by right before starting up Frenchman. So, we caught the guy in lift line at the bottom of the Montezuma lift. My partner asked to see the guy's lift ticket. He repeatedly refused. We told the lift operator to not load the guy, ad if the did, to immediately call the patrol, etc. We were told later by other guests that he ultimately skied off and didn't get on the lift. I did see him walking after I had quit for the day.

Riding drag behind the groomers is always fun for me. Today was a little hectic though as there were only two of us, and there were a lot of boarders trying to get to the terrain park, and we weren't letting them do that. But we survived.

After that, ran for the bottom, and helped close the lower cross run into River Run. Then, after the groomers went by, ran for the top again, this time on the Summit Express lift.

At this point in time, my work day was probably effectively over. The patrol really didn't need our help any more on gang grooming. The only thing left were the two closures at the top of the mountain closing the top of Spring Dipper. The day before, one of the paid Mountain Watch and I had skied under the closure rope and into the trees by the run. Then, as the groomers went by, we jumped on the trail and had first tracks down the brand new groomed snow.

So, my plan for the 215 downhills was to do precisely that today. But all alone I am not as quick to cross closures. So, finding no one working the lower closure, I went down there and slipped under the rope and waited. But the I saw four borders ski under me and into the woods. Obviously, their intent was to sneak through the woods in order to be the first on the newly groomed snow. But that involves skiing on a closed run, so I took off over onto Spring Dipper looking for them. Saw one or two briefly ride out of the woods and back in. So they were there.

In any case, the groomers the stopped and let out their passengers right above me. And let us all know that there were lurkers in the woods (which I obviously knew - but this was on the patrol frequency). The riders took off, but not that fast. I sat there for a minute or so, and the lukers kept hiding in the trees. Giving up, I took off down the slope.

And that, maybe, is the entire point of this blog entry. I quickly got ahead of those three riders, and set first tracks down the remainder of Spring Dipper onto River Run. Those 215 downhills want to run, and I let them. I did hit a couple of rolls a bit fast, and had a harder time than I would like keeping on the ground. But they are so smooth that I could ski at a speed that no guy my age should be skiing. And I did. Nonstop from the top of the mountain to the bottom of the gondola or Summit Express chair.

This has got to have been the most exhilerating thing that I have done in a long, long, tme. Non stop, top to bottom, at high speed, over virgin packed snow. A run to remember.

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