Monday, January 22, 2007

Skiing - 01/22/07 Skiing - 01/22/07

Another beautiful boring day in paradise. A friend of my mother's from Boston used to describe Colorado weather that way, before giving up and moving back to Boston. The problem is that there are just too many days in Colorado where there are few, if any, clouds in the sky. Arizona has this too - but there, this gives you nice winters, but 120 degree days througought much of the summer. Here, in CO, it gives you nice winters and summers. Up in the mountains, those cloudless skies are even deeper blue, and contrasted against the white snow, it is gorgeous.

Last week, we did have cold and snow. This week, it is just a bit cold - somewhere around a high of almost 20 degrees. But, as with the dry beat of Phoenix, this is a dry, dry, cold. So dry that people I know who come here ever winter from La. have a humidifier and still get nose bleeds. Luckily for me, I am a native, and thus don't have problems with the lack of humidity.

My day, as with many of my skiing days, finds me at the computer around 7, handling emails, and doing a bit of patent work. Business is a bit light right now, as things wind down every year for the holidays, and don't get going again until about February.

My goal most skiing days is to be at Keystone by about 11:30 and at the top of the Peru lift before noon to check in and get a radio. This means getting dressed a bit before 11 and walking out the door no later than 11:15. As I work as a volunteer, I use employee parking, fairly close to the Peru lift, where I put on my boots. I have four pair of skiis at the Mountain Operations Building (MOB) right above that lift. I mostly ski on a pair of Atomic Beta Race 10'22s that my next brother sold me cheap this year. They carve well on fairly hard snow, possibly made even better by his addition of some race chargers (adding maybe another half inch of height under my feet). Red skiis, yellow race chargers, green bindings, and orange poles. I also have at the MOB a pair of Beta Carves for soft snow (matching the poles), some fat Coyotes for deeper powder, and a pair of Rossi downhills for opening up (with curved poles to match).

This year, despite all the blizzards that seem to be hitting Colorado, the snow is usually relatively hard. Not ice, but a mixture of manufactured snow laid down before the end of the year and some packed powder on top, heavily groomed every night. Just soft enough that carving is a lot of fun. And, thus, I mostly ski the Beta Races. They are an about four year old race ski that my brother has upgraded from, and so can also move, if the need arises, as it does a couple times a day working MOuntain Watch at Keystone. They are comfortable at reasonably high speeds - I hit terminal velocity on the two runs that we patrol today a couple of times. This means that I was going straight down, w/o turning, and no longer accelerating. And doing it comfortably. It usually takes into January for me to do this, and in years past, usually only did it on my downhills. But I picked up two pair of GS skiis this fall, and they work almost as well at that. But mostly, I just carve back and forth, using up the center half of the fairly wide slopes, maing GS sized turns.

The object of carving is to not skid your skis. Skidding slows you down, and most skiers skid, at least some. So, the best carvers can move down the slope at almost the same speed as someone going almost straight, but covering a lot more distance.

One of the harder things to learn about carving is to keep my weight centered over my skis. The problem is that I spent better than 35 years on straight skis, where you needed your weight forward. Thus, I often find my weight too far forward, and my tails skid a bit. Just like hitting terminal velocity, it seems like it takes until Jan. every year to find the sweat spot on the skis, where my weight is perfectly balanced, fore and aft, and my tails don't wash out even a little. And I still don't have perfect runs, top to bottom. But I am happy if I can make a half a dozen fairly perfect well carved turns in a row.

So, back to the beautiful, boring, day. It was cold enough that there weren't many people on the slopes. That meant that we didn't have to do much speed control, and would get cold if we just stood around doing speed control. So, I spent a couple hours doing fairly high speed carving runs patrolling the greener runs at Keystone. I would typically stop maybe twice for a minute or two each time, and then go on. Mostly, it was just high speed carving turns under perfect blue skies on a run almost by myself.

Then, around 2, I was riding up the lift with a ski patroller, and we heard of a neck/back injury on Frenchman. I popped down there, did traffic control for the patrol attending the patient, helped get him into the sled, and got some witness statements filled out. I escorted a couple to the top, where I bribed them hot drink coupons, and, as we all warmed up (me, for the first time that day), a nurse, who was the first on the scene, had found the patient barely responsive, and called the accident in, filled out an witness statement. I also gave them all the gum I had or could find in the patrol room.

Then, I screamed down to the top of Haywood for crowd control for gang grooming. I beat the 9 grooming machines by about a minute, but luckily, we were overstaffed. Then, to the bottom of the Summit Express, to follow the four grooming machines that split off for the Terrain Park down Schoolmarm ridge. Back to the top, and a slow ski down the same Schoolmarm ridge to our dispatch on the top of the Peru lift. I turned in my radio, and started down Silver Spoon for a last slow run to the bottom, looking for injuries and worn out guests needing assistance. Unfortunately, they had race training for junior racers, notably the Summit County High school team, on Haywood starting at 4. They were using Silver Spoon to warm up. Unfortunately, it is (officially, but not actually) a green (beginners) run, and there was still a ski school class on it. So, I ended up stopping a bunch of them, and yelling at others for skiing much too fast down it. I then caught them at the top of Haywood, and asked for a coach. The coaches hadn't shown up yet, so, I warned them that if they did that again, they wouldn't be racing at Keystone again. They were all respectful.

Then, since Haywood was closed, I skied down Schoolmarm, again slowly, and ran into another Mountain Watch in a confrontation with a pair of middle aged snow boarders. Apparently, the woman was getting leg cramps and was walking down. Her boyfriend (older than I by two years) was riding with her. They went down one of the snowmobile lanes that we have to protect everyone when the snowmobiles go uphill. This is usually grounds for at least a warning, and possibly a ticket revocation. The Mountain Watch guy was half their ages, and it wasn't going well. Both the guests were trying to protect the other. Finally, I was able to get the woman started walking down the hill with me, and separating them ultimately calmed things down. I skied slowly with her to the bottom, and gave her a pair of hot drink coupons. By the time she got down, her legs were no longer cramping. Her boyfriend was there to meet her, and hopefully, alls well that ended well. I ran into the MW guy involved at the MOB and he thanked me for the backup and help.

I also ran into the director of the ski patrol there, and told him about both of my occurances on the way down, as I believe in keeping management aware of potential problems they may face. His reaction to the racers was that if it had been he, instead of me interaccting with them, race training for the day would have been cancelled for at least the day.

Addendum - the racers were back Tues., but Keystone ran the Argentine lift for them, and that kept them off of Silver Spoon. Much less chance for them to ski fast enough to terrorize the paying guests.

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