Monday, November 13, 2006

Ski Season (#6) - finally here Ski Season (#6) - finally here

I have spent the last five years working as a Mountain Watch volunteer at Keystone Ski Area. Mountain Watch is primarily a safety patrol, though we do a lot of customer service as well. We "patrol" the green (beginner) runs, trying to slow up the faster skiers and riders, while helping out anyone in need of assistance. This may be as simple as giving them a map of the area and showing them where to ski, or, in many cases, being the first on the scene of accidents. In that case, except in the direst of circumstances, out job is to call in the accident to the Ski Patrol, and then help out as required. This later most often involves traffic control, but may also require helping ski patrol to immobilize a head injury and then load the victim in a toboggan. All in all, a rewarding venture.

A week ago, we had our first meeting, where we were given the requirements for the job and signed the necessary waivers, etc. We could have started work Tues., but I had work to do, and didn't get my uniform and season pass until Sat. So, Sun. was my first day on skis for the year. It was exhausting. I was planning on working today, but it was overcast, starting to snow, with a foot expected overnight, and I had to be in Golden by Tues. So, I chose discretion over valor and drove down today instead.

I managed to pick up four new pair of skis this years: two pair of 4 or 5 year old (GS) race skis; an almost new pair of all-mountain skis; and a pair of extremely wide powder skis with AT bindings. Sat. night I adjusted the bindings of the three alpine rigs for my boots - two for my regular alpine boots, and one of the pair of GS skis to my softer, early season, boots. And that was what I skied on Sun.

It turns out that this pair of skis, for $30, were a steal. I had been looking for some hard pack carving skis, and these skis fit the bill. My first run, I was impressed at how well they could carve. True full-ski carving allows you to move as quickly down the slope carving back and forth, as you could ski it straight. It was a great feeling.

Later in the day, I found that I had fallen into my bad habit of having my weight too far forward. This is a natural problem for those of us who grew up skiing on straighter skis, where forward weight was essential to getting skis to turn properly. But modern shaped skis are designed to carve with the entire ski, and when your weight is forward of the center of the ski, the tails don't properly carve, but rather skid. And skidding slows you down. So, the last couple of runs, I worked on getting my weight back a bit, and the skis carved even better.

Then, after signing out and turning in our radios, two of us headed down one of the intermediate runs, that had not been groomed as well, and I discovered the other side to these skis. They work great on hard, manufactured, snow, but don't ski well at all on ungroomed software snow. And that is why I have a couple pair of all-mountain skis. Not as good on really hard snow, but good enough. But also good on the type of packed powder that we are used to in Colorado.

Finally, I should note that my legs were shot by the end of the day. I had chased a couple of miscreants who wouldn't slow down or stop for us, and, as a result, non-stopped the runs. My legs weren't ready for that. So, by the time I was done yesterday, they were shot. On a good note though, I was expecting the sort of cramping I sometimes get in the middle of the night, and didn't get it.

I expect that by the end of the month, my legs should be almost back to where they should be. By the end of the year last year, I could comfortably non-stop the entire front of the mountain, over 2,000 vertical feet, without really stretching. I don't expect that sort of endurance until at least mid-January. Of course, that doesn't take into account my ability to go uphill - which I will need when we go to Canada in early March.

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