Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It's hard to work when...

...some guys are shovelling snow off the roof right above your head. Man it's noisy. Like being inside a tin drum while someone bangs on the sides. And a small price to pay for 400 inches of snow!

Update (9pm Thursday 28 Feb): Not only is it noisy but it's dangerous. A man died today after falling from a roof while removing snow. The poor guy survived a couple of tours of Iraq and he loses his life in such a tragic accident. Life really sucks sometimes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Not so Great Britain

For a country that used to rule an empire on which the sun never sets, it's a long way to fall, but I think the final votes are in: Great Britain has the world's worst major airport in London Heathrow.

If it wasn't enough that (alone of all the world's airport operators) BAA has imposed it's own more restrictive hand luggage policies because it's too damn cheap to hire enough security staff, now we have British Airways telling customers they can't check any bags!

Imagine turning up at Heathrow to fly home (say to Denver, as I've done three times in the past six months) to be told "sorry guv, you'll need leave the suitcases behind"!

The crazy thing is that unlike most cities where there's an element of natural monopoly to the airport business, London actually has huge amounts of traffic along with two major airports (Heathrow and Gatwick) and two not so insignificant ones (Standsted and Luton).

The obvious solution is to have them compete with each other. Of course that's not so obvious to the bright sparks pretending to govern Britain who in their infinite wisdom continue to let BAA operate all four airports at a standard which can only be categorised as a global embarrassment.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


There's been no blogging this week and more importantly there's been no skiing because I went into hospital on Monday morning for a diagnostic procedure that turned into surgery.

The good news is they found the problem that had been troubling me for the last ten months and fixed it.

The bad news is that I can't ski for three or four weeks by which time I may be away on a project until after the ski season ends. That would mean only 24 days this season (compared to 42, 60 and 37 in the past three seasons). Of course that would be disappointing but I've had some great days and I'm glad to have my problem fixed.

I do have to remember that the 163 days I've skied since we moved here in 2004 probably exceeds all the skiing I did before that (I started in 1985). And when you live in a ski resort there's always next season to look forward to.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

President's Day weekend

It's the President's Day weekend which is usually second only to the Christmas-New Year week in terms of crowds on the mountain. But today it was surprisingly uncrowded, despite the fact that it started out a beautiful sunny day. So day 24 for me was another day for sleeping in and then heading out to ski the groomers for a couple of hours.

It was a little crustly in places but overall the snow cover and conditions are still excellent and it looks like a major storm may hit us tonight. It's been a whole week since my last powder day so I'm definitely ready to go again!

Open skies?

Australian newspapers are reporting on plans by Virgin Blue subsidiary V Australia to start trans-pacific flights in competition with Qantas as a result of Australia and the US signing an "Open Skies" agreement.

Unfortunately all this agreement does is allow US and Australian carriers to compete on this route without capacity controls. It doesn't allow for open anything.

What's the effect? Continued daylight robbery on the part of Qantas who compete only with United* for direct flights.

Let me demonstrate. Let's say I wanted to fly business class from Los Angeles to Sydney on May 20 returning June 17 (which I actually do, to attend my cousin's wedding and take care of some other stuff, not to mention catch a couple of Brisbane Lions games). It's going to cost me $US17,778!

Now let's imagine I want to make this trip from London to Sydney on the same dates, also in business class. Now before you see the price remember that this trip is about 75% longer. What's it going to cost me? £3,376 or $US6,621. That's about a fifth of the cost per mile.

The only difference is that excellent airlines like Singapore Airlines and Emirates compete with Qantas between Australia and Europe. Over recent year's they've lobbied the Australian government unsuccessfully to enter the trans-pacific route. The government's justification for keeping them out is that it's somehow good for Australian tourism and jobs. As far as I'm concerned the only jobs this policy is creating are for Air New Zealand.

So when the Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon says he welcomes the competition, what he really means is he's glad he can go on screwing trans-pacific business travellers and extracting excess profits thanks to this artificial market shortage created by the "wisdom" of government regulation. All I can say to Mr Dixon is "you're absolutely full of it mate".

* The world's second worst airline. Exceeded in their hopelessness only by Northwest.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Today was not a powder day, but instead a beautiful sunny bluebird day. No need to rush out, so I took my old skis off the rack around noon and headed out to ski the groomers.

After a week of skiing powder on my new fat skis, it was interesting to compare the feel of my old skis. They're definitely easier to get on an edge than the fat skis, and so they're quicker in the short turns. I also expected them to be better in the bumps, but I'm not so sure.

It was warm today, the snow on the lower mountain had that spring skiing texture, but on the upper mountain the snow is in perfect condition.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Best week ever

With only eight inches of new light snow, today wasn't the best day ever (although it was up there as one of the great powder days) but when you combine another powder day today with a powder day yesterday, and another the day before that and another on Tuesday, then this would be my best week of skiing ever. It feels like a continuous blur of floating through the aspens breathing snow!

I was out pressing glass at the gondola at 8 am with a new friend Brian and our parish priest Father Ernest (yes it is wierd skiing with your priest, but he's a nice guy and good snowboarder). We began with a traverse across to Norther for first tracks and then rode up Four Points for more fresh tracks on Nelson's Run.

By then Pony Express was open so we hit the aspens off Middle Rib where there was plenty of deep snow both on the marked trail and in the trees. On the second run, just as I'd completed a really fast, smooth and agressive line through the trees, I snagged the remains of a broken branch with my shoulder, ripping the right arm of my jacket to shreds (I needed a new one anyway). While I was still out skiing in the cold my shoulder felt fine but now I'm inside and it's warmed up I can feel it (not to mention see a rather large bruise) but as potential ski injuries go it's pretty minor so I'm not complaining.

After that we cut through Nash Junction, up the Bar-UE chair and then across to Shadows where the snow was also deep and light. Soon after that Brian and Ernest were ready to call it quits, but in the meantime I'd run into my old friend Dave, so we gave Shadows another go (even better the second time around) followed by Twilight which was a little drifty but still nice, by which time I was absolutely exhausted. On the way back down I decided to try something different from the usual Oops/ Vertigo combo and found some nice stashes to skier's left on Valley View to reward me.

All in all an epic day to top off an epic week.

There are more storms forecast for next week so it ain't over yet, but whatever happens tonight, tomorrow I'm going to rest. I promise. Even if there's three feet of new snow. Well maybe not if there's three feet. But two feet. Well ok, not two feet. But one foot. No, not one foot. But anything less than a foot of new snow tonight and I'm resting tomorrow. Really.

Friday, February 08, 2008

More powder!

It seems like it just won't stop snowing in Steamboat this season. With another ten inches overnight today was another powder day.

Because it was windy overnight, the place to be was not at the top of the mountain where it was cold and the snow was crusty and heavy, but a little lower down where the snow was lighter. The lower half of Shadows and Twilight were much better than the upper half, but the best today was my first run down Surprise and then several runs on Elkhead where I found light, waist deep powder amongst the aspens.

White Out was also good, especially to skiers right where there were still some nice stashes even later in the morning, as was Vertigo on the way home where the best stashes were to the left side.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Did I mention my new fat skis?

Of course I did!

But I have to mention them again, because as good as they were in the "Champagne Powder" on Fat Tuesday, they really showed their worth today.

On Tuesday they made skiing the powder a lot less tiring but they didn't really let me do anything new. But today the powder was much heavier and wind blown with the depth varying from ankle to waist deep. I would have really struggled with these conditions on my other skis but the fat skis really let me rip it up.

I could feel the difference immediately as I tested out the trees between Twister and Hurricane but it was on my next run on Shadows that I really knew these skis would let me cut loose, which is exactly what I did on Lights Out, 3.30, Twilight (twice), Closet (so good that I also did it twice, which I never do) and of course Oops/Vertigo on my way home.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Fat Tuesday, Fat skis

I bought a new pair of fat skis yesterday (last year's model of these) and what better day to try them out than today, Fat Tuesday, on a mountain where we've had nearly 350 inches of snow already this season and three feet in the past 72 hours.

While it was only four inches of new snow overnight that was on top of such a deep base that it was deep and light in so many places that my new skis really got to prove their worth. After a couple of relaxed runs to adjust to their different feel, I really ripped it up, especially in the aspens on Fetcher Glade, Nash Junction, Shadows, Lights Out and Twilight.

And Vertigo on the way home was awesome as usual. It was amazing to stop half way down this great run in knee deep powder and to look back up the hill at nobody, to be all alone in paradise.

To top it off, I got the new skis on a great sale so they only cost about half of what I planned to spend.

There's only one word for day like today. Sweeeeeeeet.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Superbowl Sunday

We arrived home last night from another trip to England just in time to watch the Superbowl this afternoon on my big screen (and drink a little beer, although I could have done plenty of that in England).

Since I managed to predict the winner last year and close to the winning margin I thought I better go on the record with a prediction for this afternoon's game. My head says the Patriots by ten points but my heart says the Giants but only because I'm a Green Bay Packers fan* and I'd feel better if the team that stopped their run was good enough to go all the way.

* How big a fan? I was quite disappointed when the Packers lost to the Giants in the playoffs. But I've come to the game very late in my life and my real sporting passion is Aussie Rules, so I'll never love the Packers the way I love the Brisbane Lions. Which means you'll never, ever see me wearing a hat that looks like a great big piece of cheese!