Thursday, December 29, 2005

Still more powder

Day 20 of my 2005-06 season and I skied today with my former neighbour Dave V (not to be confused with my former neighbour Dave W).

It was quite closed in and windy on the upper moutain so we headed for the trees where we found a suprising amount of powder still around from Tuesday's fall. Here's what we did:
Sundown Express, High Noon and One O'Clock
Sundown Express, Shadows, Lights Out
Sundown Express, the trees between the Priest Creek Chair and Three O'Clock (as far as I can tell this run doesn't have a name but it was definitely the best run of the day) then lower Three O'Clock
Sundown Express, Twilight, Daybreak
Sundown Express, Traverse, Storm Peak, Cyclone, Drop Out
Pony Express, Royal Flush, Ambush
Pony Express, Middle Rib
Pony Express, Half Hitch, Flying Z, Tornado Lane
Burgess Creek Chair, Norther, Vagabond, BC Skiway.
The only down side is that the mountain is now quite crowded. I think I'll wait until the visitors leave on Monday before heading out again and catch up on some things at home in the meantime (unless of course we get another powder day!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Unexpected powder day

Day 19 of my 2005-06 season. After the spring-like conditions of the last few days the last thing I expected today was another powder day but that's exactly what I got.

I was out early, not because I expected eight inches of powder, but simply because I had made plans to meet my friend Jeremy who is only here a week and was therefore keen to get started.

Our best runs of the day were the Pony Express lift line where we found plenty of deep untracked powder and Shadows / Lights Out where we enjoyed some of the best of Steamboat's famous tree skiing. Skiing fresh powder amongst the aspens where the light and sound are like nothing else is a surreal experience.

I'll post some photos as soon as Jeremy emails them to me.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Birthday ski party

Today was my wife's birthday (age classified) so apart from dinner at a nice restaurant tonight (the Cottonwood Grill) we celebrated by skiing my wife's favourite runs including High Noon, Sunshine Lift Line, Quickdraw and Flintlock.

The weather was gorgeous and the snow perfect. As the day progressed it became more crowded as visitors flew in from near and far and made their way to the mountain, but still a long way from crowded by the standards of most resorts.

We'll do the same again on my birthday which also happens to be the last day of the season. In the meantime there's a lot more skiing to be done!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve spring

It's Christmas Eve today but it sure doesn't feel like it. It's warm and sunny outside, the quality of the snow is excellent and the mountain is not at all crowded.

Today I felt the need for speed. Lots of high speed cruising on the intermediate runs and fast GS style turns on the groomed blacks, although I did throw in a trip through the trees and some bumps. So here was today's program:
Gondola, Rudi's, Lightning, Ego
Storm Peak Express, upper High Noon, Spike
Sunshine Chair, upper High Noon, Two O'Clock, Daybreak
Sundown Express, Shadows, Dawn, Sunset, Moonlight
Sundown Express, Storm Peak, upper Rainbow, Hurricane, Ego
Storm Peak Express, Triangle 3, Cyclone, Tornado Lane, Ego
BC Chair, Tower, Norther, upper Vagabond, Betwixt, middle Concentration, Between, Shortcut
I skied the bumps on Norther today like I've never skied bumps before, like the skiers I've always envied when I watch them from the chair.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Episode 100

I just noticed that this will be my one hundredth post on Steamboat Dreaming and since it's bang smack in the middle of the ski season it is of course going to be about skiing.

Today was a big day out. I spent the morning skiing by myself but as I was considering calling it a day I got to talking to an English couple on the Thunderhead Express and spent the afternoon skiing with them.

We had a very weird mix of conditions today - spring-like on the lower mountain with soft, slightly slushly snow, packed powder higher up and then on the highest elevations very strong winds creating a wind blown crust. At one point I had my skis pointed straight down the hill and was hardly moving the wind was so strong.

Since I didn't have to work today I skied so much I'm not sure I can remember it all, but here goes:
Gondola, Rudi's, Lightning, Ego
Storm Peak Express, Frying Pan, Cowboy Coffee
Morningside Chair, Over Easy, upper Buddy's, Calf Roper, Tornado, Ego
Storm Peak Express, Buddy's, Drop Out
Pony Express, upper Longhorn, Chuckwagon, Vortex
Sundown Express, upper High Noon, One O'Clock, lower High Noon
Elkhead Chair, Sunnyside
Elkhead Chair, Tower, Norther, Vagabond
Thunderhead Express, Rudi's, Lightning, Ego
Storm Peak Express, Buddy's, Tornado Lane
Four Points Chair, upper Rainbow, Velvet, Moonlight
Sundown Express, Sunshine Lift Line
South Peak Chair, lower High Noon
Elkhead Chair, Heavenly Daze, Sitz, Vogue
I finished my day at the Slopeside Grill enjoying a few beers with my new friends Jeremy and Jill from Devon. Interestingly Jeremy's sister lives in a small town in Australia (Kingscliff) which is less than ten miles from where I grew up (Pottsville Beach). Small world.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Winter solstice

The winter solstice - the shortest day of the year - is upon us in the northern hemisphere. Here in Steamboat the day is only moderately short at 9 hours 7 minutes of sunshine (from sunrise at 7.28 am to sunset at 4.45 pm) compared to some places like Helsinki which only received 5 hours and 50 minutes today (when I was living in Singapore I discovered through a colleague who is married to a Finnish woman that there are about a thousand Finns living there. Can you guess why?)

Back in Australia it's the summer solstice. Christmas is in the middle of the summer holidays so things really slow down for three or four weeks. Sport dominates the headlines (especially the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and the Boxing Day Test), and the beach is the place to be. Here the Christmas / New Year break is over just as you're beginning to relax. Much as I like a White Christmas, I've decided I really do miss that slower pace for a few weeks when no one really expects anyone to get things done.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

There's always tomorrow...

...and the day after tomorrow. Yesterday I wrote that one of the nice things about a season pass is that there's always tomorrow. Well I should have said there's always the day after tomorrow, because today was even worse. The same wet snow and cold air creating a layer of ice on the goggles but instead of nice dry powder under foot it was wet and heavy today. In the end I basically did a single circuit - from the base to the top and back down again via the Gondola, Rudi's, Blizzard, Ego, Storm Peak Express, Sunshine Lift Line, South Peak Chair, Westside, Elkhead Chair, Tower, Norther, Vagabond, BC Ski Way and finally the Green line bus.

Still I'm one day closer to my goal: 15 days down, 85 to go.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Jane's Dell Hell

Jane Galt at Asymmetrical Information has posted on her journey to the ninth circle of hell via Dell. In general terms the experience sounds familiar - being strung along by a series of people who tell you half a dozen different and mutually exclusive stories and in the end not receiving the product you ordered and the company thinking that because you got your money back you should be happy even though they've wasted massive amounts of your time and emotional energy.

I did find it a little surprising that Dell were unable to track a package worth $850. But having said that, I ordered a product worth $100 earlier this year from another company that sent it via ordinary mail. They had no way to trace it when it didn't arrive and in the end they had to send me a replacement which makes a couple of extra bucks to be able to track the package seem like a good investment.

One area where I strongly disagree with Jane is on relating this problem to the fact that Dell has some of its call centres overseas in places like Latin American and India. In my experience there is absolutely no correlation between the location of the call centre and the quality of service. In fact the very worst call centre experience I have ever had was courtesy of my good friends at Comcast and their call centre right here in Colorado (Denver.

I know from first hand experience that there can be real benefits in offshoring (not only cost savings but also things like being able to provide 24 hour service without making people work in the middle of the night). I work with an offshore software development team in India who do great quality work, but its success is heavily dependent on us doing our job of defining the requirements at this end properly. The lesson is that if companies are not committed to implementing well designed customer service processes it doesn't matter where the poor schmuck holding the telephone is located or whether his name is Ray or Raj.

The other thing that surprised me was that she seemed to think the only place she could buy an affordable computer for her aunt was from Dell. My advice would be that unless you are a real power user, go down to Wal Mart or Best Buy or Circuit City and buy whatever they've got on sale. I had a look at Wal Mart earlier this week and you can get an eMachines desktop for less than $600, which I'm sure would be more than adequate for the typical aunt, or if space is a consideration I saw a Toshiba laptop for $699.

Update: It turned out in Jane's response to one of the comments on her post that the real problem was that her aunt's son (her cousin I suppose) is a gamer. I decided around the time that the original Playstation was released to keep my gaming platform and my computer separate, something I've never regretted. The total cost of a standard computer plus a game console is about the same as a highly specced PC (you can buy the desktop I mentioned above and still have $250 left which wil get you a Playstation 2 or xBox and a couple of games), and it's a whole lot less troublesome and lets one person play games while the other uses the computer.

A frozen view

Day 14 and the first time this season that I wished I had given in to my natural laziness and waited until tomorrow. Another eight inches of fresh powder couldn't make up for the fact that the snow was just warm enough to stick to your goggles and the air was just cold enough to freeze it there.

I started with the Gondola (big line today even at 10:15am) to upper Vagabond and then took the bumps on Surprise which were so soft and forgiving that I just loved them. Storm Peak Express to upper Buddy's and Calf Roper to Cyclone. By this time I had a solid coating of ice on my goggles that I couldn't possibly see through. So I lifted the goggles and continued with my glasses (I have really dry eyes so I can't wear contacts) up Storm Peak Express and down High Noon and Two O'Clock cutting through the trees across to One O'Clock (maybe I should call that One Thirty) where I found some really nice powder.

By this time my glasses were completely frozen too. Elkhead Chair and the home down Heavenly Daze and Vogue where I had to resort to stopping every 200 metres and using the only warm liquid I had available (saliva - yuk!) to unfreeze them so I could see enough to get home. At least today the Green bus came when it was supposed to.

Anyway it's still snowing, so I'll try again tomorrow. That's the beauty of a season pass!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Another snowy Sunday

Day 13 and I over slept this morning meaning that I missed the best of the eight inches of new powder and had to go looking in the trees. Fortunately I was skiing with my buddy Dave who is a bit of a tree skiing (well boarding) freak. I struggled to keep up with him at times, but in the end was happy that he pushed me to try some really great lines.

The basic pattern was the Sundown Express and then One O'Clock, Two O'Clock, Three O'Clock and the trees in between. It was way more crowded today than it has been, but as Dave says, most of those crazy tourists don't go in the trees.

It's still snowing so I'm going to aim for an early night and an 8:15am start tomorrow. At least that's the plan. A bit challenging for a night owl like me, but everything has its price. Powder skiing doubly so.

Friday, December 16, 2005

A dozen days of skiing

Today was day 12 on the slopes for season 05-06. I was skiing with my wife again today so it was mostly pretty tame. Finally the Sunshine chair was open so lots of long carved turns on easy blue runs. Here's the program:

Gondola, Spur Run, Sundown Express Chair, Sunshine Lift Line, Sunshine Chair, Tomahawk, South Point Chair, Westside (I can see this run clearly from my office window - I really must stop next time I'm on it and look out for my condo), Sundown Express Chair, upper High Noon, Sunshine Chair, Sunshine Life Line again (this is my wife's favourite), South Point Chair, lower High Noon, Elkhead Chair, Heavenly Daze and Vogue.

Then the Green bus line - eventually. Today we waited 40 minutes for the bus. Much as I hate to criticise anything in Steamboat (and usually there is not much to complain about), the bus service this year has gone to the dogs. Normally in the winter it's a 20 minute service, but this year they couldn't get enough drivers so the City has continued the off-season 30 minute service. They used to get a lot of seasonal drivers from Australia and New Zealand, but since September 11 our protectors at the Department of Homeland Security have made that too difficult, which is good, because we all know that Aussie bus drivers are notorious terrorists. But what's worse is that even though the buses are not working as hard they keep breaking down. Twice this week.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Eleven down...

...89 days to go to hit my "stretch goal" of 100 days this season. Out of a possible 115 days remaining, that means I have to ski 77% of all remaining days, or a little over three days out of every four. Somehow I don't think I'm going to make it (and it's just beginning to sink in to my brain just how much skiing 100 days really is), but I am on track to hit 84 which would be double the 42 days I managed last year. I've also managed six powder days so far, which is twice what I managed all of last season!

We had about 8 inches of fresh powder yesterday and last night so I was at the Gondola at 8.15am anxious to go after spending the past three days resting my legs and catching up on some work (I've got a major proposal due next week, so the pressure is on).

I started with a quick run down Vagabond while waiting for Storm Peak Express to open at 9am. I don't know why they have a 30 minute gap between opening the Gondola and opening the express chairs (Storm Peak and Sundown) to the top of the mountain.

Anyway, there couldn't have been more than 50 people ahead of me in the Gondola line, but by the time I got there it was pretty much tracked up (of course everyone else is waiting for the upper moutain to open too). Back up Thunderhead Express and then down Rudi's and Lightning and finally on the Storm Peak Express. Down upper Buddy's where I found some nice powder in close to the trees (not to mention shelter from the wind), across Calf Roper and down Cyclone.

Back up Storm Peak Express and then I decided to switch to the other side of the mountain taking High Noon and then Two O'Clock. At that point I suddenly found the rhythm on my short turns and my skiing stepped up a level. Down Daybreak, up Sundown Express and then One O'Clock and Lower High Noon where I put together my sweetest ever set of short turns in the powdery edges of the run.

By that time the pressures of work got the better of me so I headed up the Elkhead chair fully intending a quick run down Heavenly Daze, Vogue and home. But that didn't last long, so I gave upper Vagabond another try connecting with Betwixt and Lower Concentration before riding the Thunderhead Express for another round. Then it was Heavenly Daze and on to probably the best run on the lower mountain - Vertigo - which I had entirely to myself and looked like it had been little skied with two feet of soft stuff in places. But by the end of that my legs were shot. Now I have to go shovel a path to the hottub!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Advertising run amok?

Our friends at Google have revolutionised the world of advertising with their technology for displaying ads based on the content of the web page.

But this seems to me to have taken the principle to the point where it has become almost a parody of itself. I use Google's new Gmail service and I love it. But I was flabbergasted to find that when I open the spam folder it displays links to recipes containing spam!

I'm not sure whether this is cute or just plain ridiculous...and no I haven't tried any of the recipes!

Moonrise over Steamboat

I didn't ski today - my legs need a rest and I've got too much work to do anyway - but that doesn't stop me looking out my 'office' window at this beautiful landscape. Check out this view of the moon rising over the ski area as the sun begins to set. That's the gondola building in the middle. The run below and to the left is Heavenly Daze and in the middle is Valley View.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Today my wife and I celebrated 17 years of marriage and her youngest sister Aline who is visiting this week celebrated her 34th birthday (meaning we got married on Aline's 17th birthday).

We started the day with some skiing. It was a lovely day for it although the mountain was a bit more crowded than yesterday, and we had some mechanical trouble with the mountain bus at the start. Here are my skiing companions waiting for that unreliable bus - my wife is on the left and her sister on the right.

My legs are feeling it now and I think I need a couple of days rest. It seems the first week of skiing deep powder worked completely different muscles to the past two days of tearing up groomed runs.

Anyway, we finished the day with dinner at our favourite Steamboat restaurant.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Another perfect day

It hasn't snowed since Tuesday so there was no powder today. But it was still perfect. Reasonably cold (around 15-20F) but no wind and full sun.

It was mostly groomed packed, powder today - snow so dry it squeaks when you walk on it - and there was not a lift line anywhere so I covered a lot of ground in a little over two hours. Here's today's installment:

Rudi's, Lightning, Ego, High Noon, Westside, Sunnyside, lower Rainbow, Ego, Buddy's, Tornado Lane, Buddy's, Big Meadow (some untracked powder there, but not quite steep enough to fully enjoy it), Buddy's, Big Meadow, High Noon, Two O'Clock, Daybreak, Tower, upper Vagabond, Surprise, Ego, north Storm Peak, Sunset, Duster, upper Vagabond, Betwixt, Between and Shortcut (and finally the Green Line bus!)

I rode one chair with a couple of other Steamboat virtual workers. An Englishman who consults in the oil and gas industry and an Italian guy who writes novels. So here we were, an Aussie and Englishman and an Italian (sounds like the opening line to a joke) who all choose to live in Steamboat but work wherever.

I also saw Sherman Poppen out and about today. He was the inventor of the snurfer, widely credited as Jake Burton's inspiration for the snowboard.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

How cold?

How cold was it here in Steamboat last night? Well this is the heated side of a modern, double-paned window.

According to my temperature gauge the low last night was -22F or about -30C.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Another powder day in Steamboat

Well another six inches over night and at least six inches during the day and it's still snowing.

It was a slow start today since I was with my wife and sister-in-law who were both taking it easy on their first day for the season - a few circuits on Thunderhead Express / Vagabond and one trip before lunch up the Storm Peak Express and down Buddy's and Tornado where there was still some good powder - not completely untracked but it was snowing so hard the tracks were almost covered.

Thunderhead / Vagabond again after lunch and then we finished the day with a run down Heavenly Daze (and a nice head over heels fall - that's why I wear a helmet!)

Unfortunately it is forecast to be bitterly cold tomorrow so I'm not sure whether I'll be brave enough to sample tomorrow's powder installment. But then it's meant to warm a little later in the week and I'm sure there will still be enough powder hidden amongst the trees to keep me happy. It's not terribly busy yet, but most of the direct jet services into Hayden start this weekend or next week and then of course the Christmas break will bring more people.

So far I've managed 8 out of a possible 12 days. At that rate I'll only achieve 91 days for the season rather than my goal of 100, but that would still be double what I managed last year.

Perspective on the Middle East

My wife's youngest sister Aline is visiting this week to sample some of Steamboat's powder delights (and because she likes us. We like her too, even though she's a snowboarder).

She lives in Amman, Jordan where she's an international lawyer working on promoting the legal status of women in the Middle East. She previously worked in Basra and Bagdhad helping to re-establish the Iraqi judicial system and also spent some time in Ramallah in the West Bank supporting the Palestinians in negotations with Israel. If you are in Steamboat this week she will be speaking at the Mountain College on Thursday evening: 7 pm at Bogue Hall Room 200.

Now back to our regular broadcast - powder, powder, powder. It's snowing again and I need to hit the slopes!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I wasn't imagining it

It seems my perceptions about the awesome start to this season have been confirmed by some hard data. According to this report in our local newspaper, our snowfall total of 83 inches for November was the highest on record. What's even more amazing is that this is the total at mid-mountain - the total at the top of the mountain would be at least 50% more. And the snow has continued. In the first four days of December we've had another 2-3 feet and it's still snowing.

The Sundown Express chair finally opened today, making the north side of the mountain a whole lot more accessible and relieving the queue on the Storm Peak Express. So after Rudi's and Blizzard my first run from the top of the mountain was 3 O'Clock, followed by Sundown Lift Line then High Noon/2 O'Clock/Duster. After riding the Elkhead chair I took Norther/Blizzard back in to the BC bowl and rode the Four Points lift to avoid the wind at the top of the mountain before my best run of the day down Twister which presented an interesting combination of knee deep powder over bumps which I felt I skiied quite well.

It was cold today - in the teens (F) - but I was working so hard that I barely felt it until my final run of the day down Vagabond, when my face suddenly began to feel quite numb.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Season 05-06: Day 6 of 9

It snowed all day yesterday and a little last night, so I was keen to get out early today and into a little powder. Unfortunately today is a little warm (around 34F/1C down here in the valley at 7000ft) so while there was plenty of snow it was just a little bit heavier than earlier in the week. Don't get me wrong - I still had a great time skiing some deep stuff, it's just harder on the legs!

I started off down upper Buddy's, across Calf Roper and the down Typhoon where there was some nice soft stuff.

Second run was through the trees on Storm Peak South, through a nice stash of untracked powder on the side of Dusk and then across Rainbow and down Hurricane where as I was coming over the lip of a catwalk a guy on sit ski shot past me and did a twenty foot jump. Here's a guy who can't use his legs but is still a better skier than 95% of the people on the mountain. Awesome. I think it was this guy.

Third run was back through the trees on Storm Peak South (can you tell I liked that one?) but this time all the way down Rainbow.

Then some bumps on Whiteout, down upper Vagabond and some more bumps on Surprise.

Finally all the way down Vagabond and home for the mandatory apres ski hot chocolate.

We've got a cold front coming through and snow forecast all night, so I'm hoping for some truly awesome powder skiing tomorrow. Apparently Warren Miller and his crew are here filming this week so you never know, you just might see me on film. I'll be the one with the ear to ear grin.