Monday, March 30, 2009

Best day of the season

There's nearly two weeks left in the season, but awesome powder days are rare in April, so at the risk of being premature, I'm going to declare today the best day of the 2008-09 season, at least for me (since I missed so much of this season I won't be so bold as to declare it the best day, but I don't care about those days I didn't get to ski...)

The 5 am report said 15 inches (yes 15) of new snow overnight. Unlike many Spring storms it was cold enough to give us the true Champagne powder we love and crave.

On a powder day I usually start on the Pony Express. Today I started there and continued there. When it's deep the run underneath the chair is just awesome, so today I did it three times in a row.

I didn't ski many trees today - I twisted my knee slightly on Thursday so I was trying to take it a little easy - but I didn't need to because there was plenty of fresh, deep stuff out in the open.

Here's the track for 17,952 vertical ft in 2 hours and 35 minutes.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Travel plans go bad

I was supposed to travel to DC today to attend a meeting with my bosses tomorrow morning.

Things started to go south when American Airlines called me this morning at 4 am to tell me that my flight via Dallas/Forth Worth had been canceled. They managed to rebook us on a flight via Chicago, but with only 80 minutes connection time between flights.

That's important because the inbound flight from Chicago was delayed by 80 minutes. I've done this plane trip caper a few hundred times before, so I knew immediately that even if they made up a little time on the turnaround, we'd be left with less than half an hour of connection time in Chicago. Even if by some miracle we made it the chances are our bags wouldn't and there's nothing worse than doing a 9 am presentation with nothing to wear except the smelly shirt and jeans you wore on the plane the previous day(yes, that's the voice of experience as well). So we made the call about 2 pm not to even bother going to the airport.

What is one to do in such circumstances? Go skiing of course. I was on the mountain by 2.20 pm skiing the foot of additional powder that had fallen overnight. Since I started very late (and skied hard yesterday on the assumption that I wouldn't be skiing today) I only managed to stay out for an hour and forty five minutes. Even so I managed 11,117 vertical ft. Basically I did four circuits on the Sundown Express skiing the trees and then I ended with my favourite lower mountain run, Vertigo.

So today was a complete bonus, not only because I was supposed to be traveling, but also because when my Mum called just before Christmas with the terrible news that my Dad had cancer, I mentally wrote off the rest of the season (and I'd only been home from South Africa and Rome for a week at that point). But as much as I love the powder, I'm with Inigo Montoya on this one:
[Inigo corners Count Rugen, knocks his sword aside, and slashes his cheek, giving him a scar just like Inigo's]
Inigo Montoya: Offer me money.
Count Rugen: Yes!
Inigo Montoya: Power, too, promise me that.
[He slashes his other cheek]
Count Rugen: All that I have and more. Please...
Inigo Montoya: Offer me anything I ask for.
Count Rugen: Anything you want...
[Rugen knocks Inigo's sword aside and lunges. But Inigo traps his arm and aims his sword at Rugen's stomach]
Inigo Montoya: I want my father back, you son of a bitch!
[He runs Count Rugen through and shoves him back against the table. Rugen falls to the floor, dead]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Real powder

After yesterday's psuedo-powder day, as forecast today was a real powder day. Another five plus inches on top of yesterday five and colder temperatures meaning drier snow set it up perfectly.

And the other element in the mix? There's nobody here. I didn't get out until 9:45 am and I still got fresh tracks everywhere and even by the time I finished at 1:15 pm there where still plenty of unskied stashes to be found. It was probably the least crowded powder day I've ever seen.

It's hard to say on a day like this what was the best run of the day. The trees to skier's right of Rolex were good enough to try twice so that probably wins, but it was all good. Christmas Tree Bowl (double black diamond) was definitely the most exciting!

Here's today's track. 22,907 vertical ft.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Almost powder

By the standards of late March, and compared to the weather we've been having the past week with maximum temperatures around 60F (16C), today was pretty close to a powder day with the temperature around freezing and 5 inches of fresh snow overnight.

That's not enough snow to cover up the hard pack on the groomed runs, but certainly enough in the trees, especially if you picked the spots where the wind usually blows the snow into deeper drifts. So today that meant Triangle 3, Shadows and two slightly different runs through Twilight (2:20 and 2:40 trees if you like).

Rolex was terrible - a thin covering of snow in big, ugly, crusty bumps, but I found a glade of aspens to skier's right of the bottom half of Rolex that I've never skied before for some reason and it was pretty good.

Fortunately the forecast is for it continue snowing tonight, so there's a decent chance of a real powder day tomorrow.

Here's today's track. Something went screwy with my GPS - the additional corrected track is in yellow, and ignore the track circled in magenta. Total vertical of approximately 13,000 ft.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Snowshoeing Howelsen

Marie and I snowshoed the Nordic trails on Howelsen Hill today.

It's not as pretty as Spring Creek or Rabbit Ears, but it's right there in town meaning you can easily take a one hour walk at lunch time, which is exactly what we did.

As you can see, it was warm - t-shirt warm.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Airline customer service

I recently had an interesting (positive) experience with one airline's customer service which contrasts with some similar experiences that were handled poorly by other airlines.

Back in February I was on a flight from Johannesburg to London with British Airways (on my way back home to Steamboat) when the in flight entertainment system failed completely. Those of us in business class received in flight shopping vouchers to the value of £75 (roughly $US108) whilst the economy passengers received £25. The interesting thing is it was an overnight flight and I went straight to sleep, so I wasn't going to watch the movies anyway!

As good as that was, I had an even better experience in 2003 with Singapore Airlines when they sent me a voucher for $US100 when I had trouble with the movies on a flight from Singapore to Seoul - the difference was that I was flying economy and the total value of my ticket wouldn't have been more than $US400.

By contrast, the last three long haul flights I've done with Qantas I've failed to watch a complete movie due to problems with the in flight entertainment. What do they offer by way of compensation? Nothing, nada, zip. I have the highest tier status with Qantas which means that they treat me a lot better than the average passenger, but I don't even bother complaining. My experience is that Qantas customer service have a form letter that they use to respond to every complaint, which translated from airlinese into English basically says "the dog ate our homework".

Apart from venting (which is cathartic but otherwise unconstructive) I've actually been thinking about why the Qantas system is so unreliable. As best I can tell, their system is supplied by Panasonic. Enough said. Japanese consumer electronics firms are abysmal (on a good day) at software and user interfaces.

I also flew business class with South African Airways from Perth to Johannesburg back in February, and whilst I didn't have any technical problems, it's the only time I've not been able to find anything worth watching on a system with 50 or more channels on demand.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brian the Freak

I skied today with my downstairs neighbour Brian.

I last skied with him in December when he'd skied a total of seven days (ever) and could already ski the trees with a reasonable level of confidence and competence. Nicole and I immediately named him "Brian the Freak" - meant in the very nicest way.

He's now skied 50 days. He's pretty good. And eighteen years younger than me, naturally athletic and fearless. Hmmm. I'm four years short of qualifying for Steamboat's "Over The Hill Gang", a bunch of over 50's who ski together, but I have no doubt I'll be ready to join as soon as I'm eligible.

Anyway I managed 16,725 vertical ft chasing him around the mountain looking for the spots where the Spring snow was not too crunchy, not too slushy, but as Goldilocks would say, "like porridge" "just right".

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Best comment on the current economic crisis

I've been reading a lot about the economic crisis, including a lot from economists who are universally pessimistic about the Administration's response. I've avoided commenting for want of something original to say. But this blog post summarises the situation so well I have to repost it here:
Money flows out to the folks on Wall Street who bankrupted their firms, to schoolteachers who’ve failed to teach their students, to government workers who feel that simply showing up to work is a heroic achievement, to executives and union workers in America’s oldest and least competitive industries. If times are tough and money is tight, that means almost nothing is left over for productive investment. What would have been a short recession will turn into a long depression and decades of higher taxes and slow growth to pay for all of the cash ladled out.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Slow start

The plan today was to go with our friends with their kids to the top of the gondola for lunch and then to ski the softening snow after lunch. I discovered just how long it takes to order and eat a burger with a couple of toddlers!

The plan worked though, because by the time we were done the snow was just right to ski an easy 14,511 vertical ft.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Texans in town

In addition to my sister-in-law who lives in Beirut, friends from Texas are visiting this weekend, so today was like the opening line of a joke: A guy from Australia, a guy from Texas and a girl from Beirut get on a ski lift...for a total vertical of 11,262 ft.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

March madness

A storm blew into the valley last night, quite late since we'd already gone to bed, and dumped a foot of fresh powder on our mountain. So today was a full on powder day, with surprisingly light snow for mid-March.

As usual on a powder day I started with a few circuits off the Pony Express before moving across to Storm Peak Express. The one bad thing today? The wind. It was bitterly cold at the top of the mountain, so after warming up with a hot choc in the Four Points hut we decided to ride the Four Points chair which is old and slow but also sheltered from the worst of the wind. And I'm glad we did because we found some wonderful untracked snow in the trees between Nelson's Run and Twister and between Twister and Hurricane.

After that, it was across to the Sundown Express to try Twilight which was fantastic, and a couple of runs off to skier's left of Sunnyside before the legs gave out completely.

Total vertical of 18,890 ft.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Spring returns

Spring was back in full swing today, although the forecast is for more snow tonight.

My sister-in-law and I only managed 12,896 vertical ft (compared to yesterday's 21,884 vertical ft), but we skied harder terrain today, including hiking to the top of Wake Up Call.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Super Sunday

We had a two hour blizzard last night, just as we were driving to the airport to pick up my wife's youngest sister, Aline. It made the driving hard, but it was worth it because today we had six inches of fresh snow. Fortunately the snow was wet enough to stick to the hard pack underneath, so we avoided the dreaded dust on crust.

I racked up 4,000 vertical ft in 38 minutes on the Christie Express while waiting for Aline to get her snowboard and lift ticket organised. Fresh tracks down both sides of Voodoo was a great start to the morning.

Once Aline joined me we managed another 16,884 vertical ft (for a total of 20,884 vertical ft for those who are mathematically challenged). We had some great runs in the trees in Wally World, plus a couple of super runs in the trees to skier's right of 2 O'clock and 1 O'clock, skier's left of lower High Noon, skier's right of upper Concentration and skier's right of middle Vagabond. Basically in the trees all over the place!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Day 21

Wednesday's heat wave turned back to winter yesterday with temperatures around freezing and an inch or two of snow. It looked this morning like that was going to continue so I nearly didn't go out, not wanting to ski "dust on crust".

But by 10 am the sun was out so I headed out around noon. I almost gave up after half an hour because the snow was still quite crusty and I'd dressed quite lightly and was feeling cold, but then I found some spots with the right aspect to catch the sun and where the snow was starting to soften and I could just soak up the rays, so in the end I was out for a couple of hours and a total of 11,391 vertical ft.

Here's today's track. Sunnyside and lower Vagabond were particularly good.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Warm Wednesday

Our unseasonably warm weather continues. But despite that the snow was surprisingly hard in places, even late in the morning. So I ended up putting in a few extra runs on the lower mountain where the Spring slush was just perfect. An easy 11,795 vertical ft in the sun.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Warming up

Today was a real Spring day. I thought I'd dressed appropriately but in the end I cooked. The snow was a little firmer than yesterday, but when the weather is so nice, it doesn't really matter. Total vertical of 10,727 ft.