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Ski season

Started: 2015-12-08 17:07:03

Submitted: 2015-12-08 17:58:43

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator discusses the last ski season and looks forward to the current ski season

I first went downhill skiing when I was in sixth grade, when I moved to Colorado with my family. My mother took me to Eldora, Boulder's local (and somewhat small) ski area, for a beginning ski lesson, and I immediately took to the sport. I skied with my family over the next several years, culminating in my senior year of high school, when I bought a season pass to Eldora, taking advantage of my nascent freedoms as a teen with a newly-issued drivers license.

When I went away to college, in Nebraska (which doesn't have hills large enough to ski on) and Washington (which does, but they're mostly on the other side of the state), I skied only when I came home to Colorado. I'd reached something of a plateau; most groomed blues ("more difficult") were too easy for me, but I struggled on the moguls on the ungroomed blacks ("most difficult"). I tried to find just the right difficulty, with mixed success, since I skied only a few days a year, making it more difficult to devote the time and effort to really leveling up.

After I graduated from college, I stopped skiing for several years, when my parents stopped paying for my ski tickets and skiing failed my cost-benefit analysis. I skied once with the Megafest crowd in the middle of the last decade (on a frigid December day at Eldora), and didn't really pick up skiing again until I started at my current employer, which held an annual ski trip every March. (Not all of those ski trips, though, actually made it all the way up to the mountain.) I skied just enough to amuse myself and remind myself that I actually did enjoy it.

Last year I decided to get more serious about skiing. On Labor Day I bought a ski ticket giving me four unrestricted days at Copper Mountain at roughly a 50% discount from the full ticket price (assuming I actually skied all four days). I also booked a two-bedroom condo at Copper Mountain for a couple of days around New Year's Day, which came with a lift ticket as part of the package. I enjoyed skiing, especially without having to drive up and down I-70 on the same day, and Kiesa enjoyed lounging about the condo without Calvin (we left him with my parents, since they lived in Boulder at the time). We also invited Yanthor and Anya to join us, who seemed to enjoy themselves as well, despite not skiing.

Jaeger rides Resolution lift at Copper Mountain
Jaeger rides Resolution lift at Copper Mountain

In Copper Mountain, I rented demo (expensive) skis and ended up with a pair of Rossignol Smash 7 skis when I told the rental guy I wanted skis to ski moguls. They're shorter skis, optimized for quick turns and control on rough terrain, and I loved them. I bought my own pair a week later, and skied on them for the rest of the season. The skis worked great, but I had some trouble with my boot fit: I neglected to cut my toenails before skiing with my new boots, which meant that I spent the day mashing my right big toe into the inside of the ski boot. I cut the day short, and when I took my socks off I saw a giant bruise forming under my toenail. I was worried at first that I would lose my toenail, but it survived, with the giant bruise staying visible below the surface of the nail. It gradually grew out, and now -- almost a year later -- it is almost, but not entirely, gone.

Ski about to drop into Bradley's Plunge at Copper Mountain
Ski about to drop into Bradley's Plunge at Copper Mountain

I ended up skiing seven times last season: six times at Copper Mountain (two with the condo lift ticket, four on my four-pack pass) and once at Keystone with my work group. This convinced me that I did indeed enjoy skiing, and I wanted to keep skiing this year, as one last year before leaving Colorado.

Jaeger in front of Tucker Mountain
Jaeger in front of Tucker Mountain

I liked skiing at Copper Mountain, but I wanted more variety in my ski diet, and ended up buying Vail's Epic Local pass, which gives me unrestricted access to Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, and Breckenridge; a total of ten restricted days at Vail and Beaver Creek; and unlimited but restricted days at Park City and three resorts around Tahoe, plus two podunk upper midwest ski areas Vail bought. My hope was that, with that many ski areas at my disposal, I should be able to find something that worked out.

And then I got laid off, which threw my nice plans for the following year into chaos. The bright side, as I saw it, was that I would have plenty of time to ski while I was ramping down from my current job, and in any event I should be able to take time off between jobs to get in some serious skiing.

As the snow started falling in October, I watched the mountains with interest, waiting for the ski areas to open, and then for them to actually collect enough snow to ski on. I went skiing at Keystone on the Saturday before we left for Thanksgiving, on the day after the first big snow of the season. Keystone had just opened the Outback, its furthest-out ski mountain, and once I got to the resort (which took longer than I had planned -- I ran into westbound ski traffic on I-70, then waited for nearly an hour to ride the shuttle bus from parking to the mountain, so I didn't start skiing until around noon) I spent all day on the soft, tracked snow on the Outback. I left early (to make up for arriving late) but I still had a great time.

After returning from Thanksgiving, I skipped work on Tuesday and went skiing at Arapahoe Basin. (Like my first time skiing this year, I woke up in the morning, checked the snow reports, and then decided where to take my ski pass.) I'd skied at A-Basin only once before, sometime in the middle 1990s when unusually-heavy snowfall kept the ski area open until the Fourth of July, and I talked my family into skiing there for the novelty of the experience. The day was crowded and it ended up snowing (which I was not entirely prepared for), so I can't really say that I had an adequate opinion of the mountain. This time it was still early in the season, so much of the mountain wasn't open yet, and there was still snowmaking on the blues and bare spots on the blacks, but it had snowed recently, and a number of the steeper, more-difficult trails were open, giving me something interesting to ski on. It stayed cold throughout the day, forcing me to go inside from time to time to warm myself up, but I did still have a good day skiing. (It probably helps that, because I have a ski pass, I can feel justified in skiing less than a full day, because I don't have any sunk costs involved in buying a lift ticket for the day.)

One of the consequences of my layoff is that I found a new job -- in San Francisco, so I'm heading (back) to California in February to start working there. I'm taking the month of January off, to ski and visit China (on top of my trip to India with my family for Christmas). I expect I'll have the chance to try skiing in California, to give Tahoe a chance to redeem itself after the one and only day I skied in California, when it rained on me at Squaw Valley. (I'm also trying to figure out if I can get to Park City to ski a few days there, now that it's also part of the ever-expanding Vail empire.) I'll also need to figure out how to arrange my schedule to take Calvin skiing.

I'm looking forward to skiing the rest of this season.

like a lot of geeks, I can run risky meatspace things
through my head until a faulty value comes out that
suggests there's no need to actually do them.
- Caleb John Clark, "Linux and the Lady", Salon.com 27 September 2000