Sunday, January 29, 2006

Powder weekend

When Saturday and Sunday are both powder days with a total of nearly two feet of new snow that must make it a "powder weekend". A bit more crowded than a powder Monday, but still a lot of fun.

Today was a quick shot - out at 8.30 am when the Thunderhead Express chair opened and finished by 10.30 am. I need to travel this afternoon (back to DC for two days) and my legs are still feeling the effects of yesterday's marathon session (5 hours of hard skiing almost non-stop).

It was a race from the top of the BC Chair to Sunnyside for first tracks. I lost out to a couple of guys on telemark skis but still got a nice untracked line, and was the only one who took the cut off to the left towards Moonlight.

Two O'Clock was a little wind blown and crusty in places, but in amongst the trees on Shadows and Lights Out it was just perfect (there's a reason this is my favourite run).

Even the massive bumps on Whiteout - Steamboat's quintessential bump run (I don't think they ever groom this one) - and BC Liftline were no match for the deep powder. It almost feels like cheating skiing it on a day like today!

Even on the lower mountain at 10 am there were nice powder lines to be had - in the trees beside Valley View and also on See Ya which I enjoyed so much I went back for seconds while waiting for my ride.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

If you're not jealous... should be, because it's another awesome powder day in Steamboat (unless of course you're here!)

My wife Marie was kind enough to drop me at the Thunderhead Express which meant I avoided a big queue at the Gondola. Straight on to the chair when it opened at 8.30 am and then a quick run down Rudi's and Blizzard to wait for the Four Points Chair to open. From there it was first tracks on Tornado which had been groomed yesterday so it was a perfect 8-10 inches of fresh powder on top of a silky smooth base.

Then it was over to Pioneer Ridge for some more fresh tracks before dropping into the Bar UE Chair and skiing the trees between Buddy's and the Bar UE lift line. The on to the Storm Peak Express where I met up with Jim and Sue from St Paul, Minnesota and we headed over to the Big Meadow for some more powder. After that it was across to Morningside where the snow was particularly deep before another trip to Big Meadow via The Ridge.

After a quick stop at the Four Points Hut for a hot chocolate we decided to give the other side of mountain a try so we took Rainbow and Moonlight down to the Sundown Express. Even late in the morning the trees between Kuus' Cruise, Three O'Clock and Two O'Clock still had plenty of nice powder lines.

Once Jim and Sue decided they'd had enough I couldn't resist my favourite tree run - Shadows and Lights Out - after which my legs were screaming "time to go home", so I finished off with a leisurely run down Heavenly Daze and See Ya.

My season tally now is 32 days of which today was my lucky thirteenth powder day!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday fun

Day 31 of my 2005-06 ski season and it wasn't the powder day that the weather forecast promised it to be but the 4-6 inches on the upper mountain was enough to take the hard edges off everything, especially the bumps. Three O'Clock in particular had some nice day old bumps with a soft covering. I finished the day with a super high speed run down Valley View and See Ya, both of which were perfectly groomed and completely deserted so I could really cut loose.

I rode the Morningside chair with the guy who bought my investment condo from me last year. Small world.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Defending the indefensible

So George W. Bush and his team have gone on the offensive to defend their warrantless phone taps. What they keep telling us is that they needed to do this as part of the war on terror. That if someone is talking to Al Qaeda they want to know why.

Even if you accept that at face value because this guy never lies (except that time about WMD, and that time he said we don't use torture, and that time he said "Brownie you're doin a heckuva job", and that other time he said that we never spy on Americans without a warrant, but other than that...) it doesn't address why they need to do it without a warrant.

The FISA Court has only ever turned down four warrant applications in its entire history - there's a rubber stamp if I've ever seen one - and even has a process to apply for warrants retrospectively. So why won't the Administration come clean and tell us why it didn't follow this process rather than violating the law and the constitution? My guess is that despite their attempts to paint this as following up very specific leads, it's actually a fishing trip and wouldn't have satisfied even the rubber stamp court. But that's just a guess... maybe it's just about proving a point - that the President's power is absolute. Tyrants get hung up on stuff like that.

If you take something that doesn't belong to you...'re a thief. That includes taking half of my seat because you're too big to fit in yours. Not my problem. That's between you and the airline. So to the guy in seat 24B, I don't hate you because you're big. I hate you because you're a shameless thief.

And it's all just one more reason to hate United.

Back on the mountain

It's been eight long days since my last visit to the mountain. In the meantime I've been down with a really vicious chest infection and then I had to travel to Washington DC this week (which wasn't much better!) I did manage to watch the entire extended edition of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (about 15 hours in total) while I was too sick to get out of bed, but it didn't make up for missing three powder days last week.

No powder today, just blue skies, no crowds and lots of cruising on nicely groomed runs which I mixed up with some bumps training on Norther and Surprise.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Another powder Monday

For the second week in a row Monday is a powder day. Of my 12 powder days (out of 29 skiing days) so far this season, five have been Mondays! I could actually get to like Mondays if this keeps up!

Due to the Martin Luther King holiday today it's more crowded that it was last week but the storm that has been sitting over Steamboat since noon yesterday has dumped enough of our wonderful light and dry Champagne Powder to go around and it's forecast to stay until tomorrow.

There was a huge line at the Gondola when I arrived at 8.20 am so I headed straight for Pioneer Ridge where it's usually a lot less crowded. I wasn't disappointed. There was plenty of untracked powder - deep enough on the steeper pitches like Royal Flush for some face shots - and some great tree skiing on Nash Junction and Fetcher Glade.

After several steep, deep and very energetic runs I needed to go a little easier on my legs so I headed up to The Ridge and Big Meadow via the Storm Peak Express and Morningside Chair.

On the way home I had heaps of fun on the bumps of BC Liftline and Mother Nature. These are usually pretty tough but bumps with a foot and a half of fresh powder are so forgiving.

I ended with two runs on See Me while waiting for my ride. On the last one I fell at full speed (the most dangerous words in skiing are "just one more run"). As my left ski detached I landed on my back and slid some 30 or 40 metres down the hill and in the process lost one of my poles. Unfortunately when these things telescope into lots of deep, soft snow at high speed they can end up anywhere, so I'm off to the ski shop a little later to see if I can buy a matching pair (they're only new this season) so I'll still have a pair when I lose the next one!

I thought for a little variety I'd try providing a visual overview of today's runs marked in yellow (click the images to enlarge).

Update: I forgot to mention that this was the driest, lightest snow I've ever seen. Not just Chamapagne Powder but $250 a bottle French Champagne Powder!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Cultural imperialism? No worries

A lot of people around the world worry that with the dominance of American television, films and businesses their cultures will somehow become "Americanised".

But the shrinking world is a two way street (there's a mixed metaphor!) Parents in America worry that their kids will pick up Aussie accents from The Wiggles*, Aussies are invading Hollywood, and now I'm noticing a few American's saying "no worries" and friends who work at our local college say it's widespread amongst the students.

Clearly it's time to launch my campaign to reintroduce "fortnight" into American English to replace the confusing and inelegant "bi-weekly". Then it's on to four weeks annual vacation, driving on the left and playing Aussie Rules...

* They shouldn't worry. Aussie kids have largely been unaffected by watching Sesame Street, apart from the occasional pronunciation of the last letter of the alphabet as "zee" instead of "zed", but we quickly beat that out of them once they start school.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Another bluebird

Day 28 of my 2005-06 season was another bluebird day - blue skies, perfect packed powder, no wind and warm for this time of year (forecast maximum of 37 F).

I started out about 9.30 am and was surprised at the length of the gondola line, but once the crowd dispersed at the top it was fine. It was a little more crowded today than during the week but nothing like the holidays.

I started out down Vagabond and then the bumps of Surprise and continued on to the Pony Express. As I suspected there was virtually no-one on Pioneer Ridge. I took Longhorn and Wapati back to Buddy's and Tornado Lane.

If you live in the US odds are you'll have a least one friend called "Skeeter" and today the odds caught up with me. I met Skeeter on the Storm Peak Express and since we were both out solo we decided to ski together. Down to the Morningside Chair and then The Ridge to Big Meadow and Buddy's back to the Storm Peak Express.

From there it was Storm Peak, upper Rainbow and Moonlight to the Sundown Express and High Noon, Two O'Clock and Daybreak. By this time thirst and hunger were beginning to kick in so we took Elkhead Chair to the bumps of Norther and then Blizzard to ride the Four Points Chair to the Four Points Hut and some refreshments.

After refueling it was Cyclone and Tornado Lane to the BC Chair and Norther again before traversing Rudi's to Vagabond, Betwixt and Between to the Bashor Chair. Then a run down the right side of See Me (the left side was closed for the Steamboat Winter Sports Club race training). The Christie Chair and Lower Valley View finished off the day and my legs.

The forecast is for a front to come through tonight and bring more snow. The clouds are beginning to form now so I'm hopeful for a powder day tomorrow. The season's been so good to date I almost feel guilty wishing for more. Almost.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Cubans are special

...and we're not talking about cigars.

Under a long standing policy, Cubans who reach land in the US are allowed to stay while those who are intercepted at sea are sent back. In case you hadn't noticed, the whole policy lacks a certain consistency with the way we treat illegal immigrants from, well, everywhere that isn't Cuba. And it's also ridiculously arbitrary as shown by a recent case in which some Cubans who managed to landed on an old bridge in the Florida Keys were sent back because part of the bridge had fallen down and the piece they were on wasn't joined to the land.

Here's a version in the style of Dr Suess that drives home just how ridiculous the whole policy is. I'll give you a small taste and then you can go read it all for yourself:
Your foot, My foot…Wet foot, Dry foot

There were two Reps, Rep Two, Rep One.
Both Reps did not like anyone.
They did not like ones not from here,
For they were Strange and caused them fear.


He said there could be no mistake,
They must be here for jobs to take.
"I do not want them small or tall,
I do not want them in my mall"
Rep One did not want them at all.
So his idea--He'd build a wall.


There was another Rep, named Three,
He came from lands called Diz in Nee.
A land where everyone was free,
Though many were called refugee.

One day some Strangers got a boat,
And on the ocean they did float.
Hoping to come upon some land,
That they could touch with just one hand.
But a hand could be a foot,
If on dry land that foot was put.


And though they spoke in words quite strange,
These Strangers though, could now remain.
Rep Three had always liked that law,
He used it many times before.
The Strangers would get off their boat,
And for Rep Three they'd give their vote.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Powder day vs the dentist

Does it cancel out if you ski powder in the morning and visit the dentist in the afternoon? I tested this today and the answer is "no" - it's still a powder day! Only six inches of new snow overnight according to the official reports but as always it was deeper than that in spots.

Day 27 of my 2005-06 season and I skied with my wife today. Marie got her first taste of untracked powder on Big Meadow. "It's like riding a wave" was how she described it. Other than that we skied Rudi's, Lightning, Buddy's and Vagabond a couple of times. Got started a little later than I hoped but I still found some nice powder lines along the sides of these runs.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

No to Alito

I don't generally have a high opinion of USA Today but this opinion piece is spot on.

As the writer says:

...when it comes to reviewing government abuse, Samuel Alito is an empty robe... Alito's writings and opinions show a jurist who is willing to yield tremendous authority to the government and offer little in terms of judicial review — views repeatedly rejected not only by his appellate colleagues but also by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Which is a real concern because:

This country is facing one of the most serious constitutional crises in its history. President Bush has claimed virtually absolute authority to act in contradiction of federal and international law... Alito would supply the final vote to shift the balance of power toward a president claiming the powers of a maximum leader.
Just have a look at a couple of cases:

...Garner v. Tennessee. In that case, a police officer shot and killed an unarmed 15-year-old boy when he fled with $10 from a home. Alito supported the right of the officer to kill the boy for failing to stop when ordered. Doe v. Groody, Alito wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that police officers could strip-search a mother and her 10-year-old daughter, despite the fact that neither was named in the search warrant nor suspected of crimes.

If these are not abuses of government power against which the courts in a supposedly free society should protect the people then I'd love to ask Judge Alito what is.

Forget for a moment about the constitutional issues (as important as they are) and ask yourself, do you want to live in a country where the police are free to shoot your unarmed 15 year old son or strip search your ten year old daughter? Or perhaps you're working on the mistaken assumption that this will only happen to someone else's family?

Mid-week blues (and blacks)

I felt my skiing today was a little flat, a lot like the light, or perhaps I am simply making the mistake of comparing today with the awesome day I had on Monday.

Looked at objectively it was actually quite good. The snow is in good condition, it wasn't particularly cold, and the holiday crowds are well and truly gone. I rode every single chair today by myself. I was out early and tenth in line for the gondola and I did ride with some other people, all of whom were locals, but I barely saw a soul for most of the time I was out.

I started out on Rudi's and Lightning to the Four Points Chair and then took upper Rainbow and Moonlight to the Sundown Express as it opened. A high speed cruise down High Noon took me across to Westside which I can see clearly from my home office window so I made a point today of stopping and sighting my house.

Back up the Sundown Express and I decided to head over to Morningside to see if I could catch a little more sun. It was not to be as the sun quickly disappeared back behind the clouds but I did find some stashes of untracked powder off to the right of Cowboy Coffee.

From the Morningside Chair I took The Ridge, Buddy's and Tornado Lane and then BC Chair. Heading home I took Norther, Rudi's, Vagabond, Betwixt, and BC Skiway, but then decided to make a couple more circuits on the Christie Chair via See Me and Vogue.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Wine or Champagne?

Champagne powder that is. I missed four inches of fresh snow yesterday because of too much wine on Saturday night (not a lot, but just enough that I didn't feel like getting out of bed early). But today made up for it because it was a champagne powder day in Steamboat, I was up early and in the gondola line when it opened.

I started out on upper Vagabond where I got fresh tracks to Surprise and the BC Chair. On Sunnyside I got fresh tracks again in six inches of fresh snow over the top of perfectly groomed corduroy.

Then on to the Storm Peak Express for the fun to begin. The mountain report said ten inches, but in places it had drifted and was closer to a foot and a half. I got first tracks on Kuus' Cruise and then across to lower Three O'Clock. Back up to High Noon and Two O'Clock then through the trees to lower High Noon. Once more on the Storm Peak Express and into the trees of Shadows and Lights Out.

Then from the Storm Peak Express I decided to take Hot Cakes into Morningside where I did a circuit and then down The Ridge to Big Meadow. Then down lower Buddy's and Tornado Lane to the BC Chair.

Then my favourite bumps on Norther, across Rudi's to Vagabond and Betwixt to Mother Nature which is normally the mother of all bump runs but was groomed two nights ago and with the fresh snow was a delight. Lower Concentration took me to the Thunderhead Express and then upper Concentration where I still found plenty of fresh powder lines on the right hand side under the chair. Finally, Between to Shortcut and the Green Line bus which I managed to time perfectly to end day 25 of my 2005-06 season.

Monday mornings don't come any better than this!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Rocky Mountain vista

It was cold today in the valley so I added an extra layer, not realising that we had an inversion and it was actually 15F warmer at the top of the mountain. But better too hot than too cold.

I started out early to avoid the crowds of college kids who fortunately party hard and sleep late. Joined the opening line at the Gondola then down a perfectly groomed upper Vagabond to Surprise. The bumps were not so soft and forgiving today, but the key to improving is to push yourself outside your comfort zone so I went for it and did OK.

Next the BC Chair and first tracks on the corduroy of lower Rainbow and down to the Storm Peak Chair and across to Morningside to catch some morning sun. I was feeling energetic so I even hiked up to Alarm Clock (below).

Unfortunately what looked from a distance like powder was crust so it wasn't really worth it, but I can use the exercise anyway.

I also took a couple of panaromic shots from the top. This one is looking north where you can see Wyoming on the horizon and that's the shadow of me taking the photo in the bottom left.

This one is looking east.

And this is the Storm Peak Laboratory where the Desert Research Institute does atmospheric research. Yes this is some very lucky person's office at 10,500ft above sea level!

After that I took The Ridge to Buddy's and Tornado Lane. Back to the Storm Peak Chair and then across to High Noon and Sunshine Lift Line where I did some high speed carved turns. Back up the Sunshine Chair then High Noon to upper Two O'Clock, along Duster and then down lower Three O'Clock.

Next to the Elkhead Chair and down Elkhead Lift Line and back up the same chair to the bumps of Norther, across Rudi's to Vagabond, down Surprise to the BC Chair to do that again, but this time I continued down Vagabond to BC Skiway and home.

Friday, January 06, 2006

A simple question for Judge Alito

Any American who believes in liberty ought to write to their Senators and ask them to put one simple question to Judge Alito during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings:

What are the constraints on the President's powers in time of war?

If he answers none, which seems to be the view of his friends in the administration, then clearly he's a man who has no place on the team that should be our last line of defence against tyranny.

It's ironic really that 200+ years after fighting a revolution against a (King) George who thought his power was absolute we now have a (President) George who thinks the same way. They both seem to have the same definition of 'the rule of law' - "I'm the law and I rule".

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sunshine, sunshine

Day 23 of my 2005-06 season and it's a truly glorious day in Steamboat. Not a cloud in the sky, not a breath of wind and the sun shining on several inches of fresh snow where from the right angle the crystals twinkle like stars.

I took a mid-day break to ski with my wife so we spent most of our time riding the Sunshine chair and cruising the groomers in "Wally World" and exploring a few stashes of fresh snow in between the trees.

The college kids are on vacation and it seems most of them are in Steamboat this weekend, so if I do go out over the next three days it will be early enough to beat the crowds.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Getting high

I normally get my high from skiing but today I got a whiff on the gondola - some young guys in my car were smoking something and it wasn't tobacco.

We only had a couple of inches of new snow overnight, but the snow cats were busy last night so almost everything was groomed. I started out with a run down Rudi's, Blizzard and Ego while waiting for the Express chairs to open at 9am. After riding the BC chair I got first tracks on Sunnyside. Perfect corduroy with 2-3 inches of powder on top so you could clearly see your signature in the snow. Smooth, sinuous, seductive curves. Skiing as a form of artistic expression. Poetry in motion. Awesome.

After that I circulated on the Sundown Express while taking care of the nicely groomed afternoon hours (Three O'Clock, Two O'Clock, One O'Clock) in the morning. Then a traverse across to Storm Peak and Rainbow to the Storm Peak Express followed by upper Buddy's, Big Meadow and Tornado Lane.

Today's a working day so as much as I would liked to have stayed out and played in the quickly accumulating new snow, it was time to head back in. BC Chair to Norther where I absolutely nailed the third set of bumps, across Rudi's to upper Vagabond then a quick run down Betwixt and Shortcut just in time for the Green line bus home.

I'm hoping it keeps snowing all day and tonight and we get a full on powder day tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What does "RIPE" mean in Spanish?

I went to my local supermarket to buy an avocado and found a plentiful supply all beautifully displayed. This is one of the marvels of our modern economy - that in the middle of winter in a Colorado mountain town I can simply expect to be able to buy tropical fruits. But we take that for granted. What really caught my attention was that every single avocado had a sticker attached saying "RIPE".

Here's the thing - not one of them was even close to ripe. So unless "RIPE" means something else in Mexico where the avocados are grown, shame on you Safeway.


No, not the run next to Lightning. It's snowing like crazy outside right now. Check out the size of those flakes (click the image below to enlarge for best effect).

Monday, January 02, 2006

You want me to wait how long?

I just tried ordering some new shirts from an online vendor. I've shopped with them before and I love their stuff but clearly they have really serious supply chain management problems. The items I wanted were unavailable for anything from one to three months. It's particularly dumb to tell me I can't have a turtleneck until April 28; in case they hadn't noticed, that's spring by which time I won't be needing it even here in Steamboat! I wouldn't wait that long for delivery of a new car let alone a shirt.

You've really got to wonder how this could happen. In this age of global supply chains, fast moving firms in the fashion industry can identify a new trend, design a product, have it manufactured in China or wherever, ship it to the US and have it in the stores in less time than that. Perhaps they should change their name from LL Bean to LL Bean-less. Or at least fire the executive responsible.

Anyway it's not my problem because Lands End had men's shirts in stock at the same prices. They got my order.

Heavy snow

That's heavy not in terms of the amount (only six inches of new snow) but the consistency. Our weather is currently being dominated by the same system dumping lots of rain on California and that always means warmer than average temperatures and heavier snow.

It was still quite cool when I started out this morning, and a little windy at the top, but by 12.30 the sun was out and it warmed up quite quickly, turning into a beautiful day.

I skied today with Vicki an Aussie friend who winters in Steamboat and her friend Chuck. We started out on the Sundown Express and went looking for some shelter from the wind in the trees of Twilight followed by "Vicki's Line" (to remain secret under pain of death).

It was heavy going and we quickly got quite warm so after riding the Sundown Express again we decided to cruise down High Noon and One O'Clock which was quite sweet (even if it wasn't groomed as it said it was on today's grooming report).

Once more up Sundown Express where we warmed our insides with a small bottle of Grand Marnier that Chuck pulled from his jacket (thanks Chuck!) and then Hot Cakes to the Morningside Chair to access The Ridge and Buddy's followed by Drop Out which had been nicely groomed last night.

The Storm Peak Express took us to Storm Peak (duh) and Rainbow followed by the BC Chair, by which time my stomach was well and truly rumbling so I took the bumps of Norther and then across Rudi's to Vagabond (which was wonderfully uncrowded) and then BC Skiway. While I waited for my lovely wife to pick me up I did a final circuit on the Christie Chair, Sitz and See Me to finish day 21 of my 2005-06 season.

It was much quieter on the mountain today than last Thursday (and I'm not even going to try to imagine what the crowds were like on the weekend.) Now that the bulk of the tourists have left all we need is for the weather to shift to the north bringing some of that cold Canadian air and more of Steamboat's famous champagne powder!

Update: I removed details on the location of "Vicki's Line" - she said it was too much information even though I'd used an old KGB trick (disinformation) and described its location incorrectly!

The evils of minimum wage legislation

An excellent post at The Liberal Order on the evils of minimum wage legislation.

It's always tough arguing against something like raising the minimum wage since it seems like a decent thing to do if you don't think about it too hard. You risk looking like a heartless bastard. But the difference is I have nothing personal to lose or gain from changes in the minimum wage. The true heartless bastards are those like labour unions who do stand to benefit at the expense of others.

Wages are nothing more that the price of labour. For those who missed Economics 101 if you raise the price of something you reduce the demand. It's as simple as that. And it's the poor struggling sorry bastards who are only just productive enough to justify being employed under current minimum wages that end up out of work (often replaced by a machine).

So at the end of the day raising the minimum wage amounts to taking the very lowest paid people in the workforce and giving them the pink slip. Does it still seem compassionate?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

More snow, but not from here

It has been snowing in Steamboat, but I've been taking it easy over the New Year weekend and avoiding the holiday crowds on the mountain. So instead of photos of Steamboat or more about my skiing exploits, I thought I'd post this photo of my wife's cousin Ghassan and Jimmy (the car, as in GMC Jimmy) enjoying the snow at Feytroun in the mountains behind Beirut, Lebanon which was taken earlier this week.