Wednesday, December 17, 2014

the little storm that could

We were not entirely psyched up about the storm that was due to hit Friday night; despite dropping big snow on California, the folks in the know were only predicting 3-6 inches here in the Wasatch.  So when H ended up having to get on a conference call for work Saturday morning at 8 a.m., we were disappointed but not distraught, knowing that we weren't missing out on anything deep.  While H was on the phone, B and I took care of holiday-type stuff - running errands, packing boxes for mailing back east, stopping by the neighborhood holiday food drive/get-together (last year here).  By the time H got off his call around noon, we decided to write off the day and get after it on Sunday.  It rained and snained (snow-rain) off and on in the valley all through the rest of the afternoon, and it remained socked in up the canyon - which is always a good sign.

Sunday morning we got up to go skiing.  The storm had stuck around all night, dropping about seven inches (already more than had been forecasted) and it was pretty chilly up there, mandating some thought on my part about (1) layers and (2) skis.  I ended up taking a risk on some new gear: my new (2014) Salomon Pure White skis and my new (to me) Flylow shell.  I figured the new snow was enough to cover some rocks but not so deep that I would need my powder skis; I wore my heavy long john bottoms, an UnderArmor base layer, plus a light fleece, plus a down vest, plus the Flylow.  Both would end up being the right calls.

I like the snowflakes caught mid-air in front of my jacket

Supreme lift had opened on Friday so I headed straight there, riding up Collins, through Sugarloaf and over to Supreme.  It was pretty quiet over there - avalanche control bombs in Supreme Bowl notwithstanding - and I did some laps while H finished up some work stuff.  The groomers were in great shape.  The ungroomed runs, like Challenger and Upper Sleepy Hollow, were puff on crust: the new snow was lovely but hid rock-hard moguls underneath.  I skied both groomers and bumpy runs, trying out my new Salomons.  I liked them a lot: they were very turn-y and the wide tips didn't submarine in the deeper stuff.  Success!

When H caught up to me, they had just opened Catherine's Area and of course we went in - with lots of other people.  The beginning of the traverse was pretty rough and I managed to ding up my brand new skis several times both on the traverse and on just-covered rocks deeper in.  But the snow was light and in pretty good shape, and we ended up going in three times.  I still have the bad habit of picking up my inside ski when I turn in deeper snow - something else to work on.

After a late lunch break, we moved over to Sugarloaf.  There was only one run open, however, and there were snow guns running the whole way down.  We did a couple runs and then moved over to the front side to see how Collins was holding up.  The snow was okay but the visibility was terrible: low clouds and very flat light.  The wind was picking up and the temperature seemed to be dropping ... we decided that enough was enough and called it a day.  By late Sunday afternoon, Alta was reporting 14 inches thus far (with the storm not calling it quits yet) - that's the best 3-6" I ever saw.

PS - Hopefully soon we'll be skiing enough to get back into the habit of two posts a week.  We just need the weather/snow to cooperate.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


The thing with the start of each ski season is this: it takes me a while to remember how to do everything, like look at the weather report and figure out the correct layers to wear.  Case in point: last weekend.

Saturday was mostly overcast and so I played the ski snob card (no new snow and no blue skies = no skiing) and remained down in the valley, doing laundry and running errands while H went up to Alta.  He skied for about half a day, returning to report better conditions than my first time out and no lift lines.

Saturday's Supreme lift - not yet open

Sunday was a beautiful day, however.  I looked out the window and saw no clouds; I took a quick look at Alta's website and saw that the forecast was for 30s and not windy.  So that's what I dressed for ... instead to looking at the actual temperature which was low 20s.  Low 20s means a heavier base layer and my boot covers - not what I wore.  I was a little chilly (and my feet got cold) and ended up having to go into Watson Shelter lodge to warm up for a bit.  Lesson learned: look at ALL the weather information when planning one's ski outfit.

Looks good but not quite warm enough

Even with my outfit deficiencies, it was a pretty nice early-season ski day.  Sugarloaf lift was running and we split the (half-)day between that lift and Collins.  Ski patrol was still doing avalanche control and setting rope lines in East Greeley and the available runs were limited, but the snow was pretty good, albeit firm.  We even did an off-piste cruise over to Supreme lift, which was turning but closed to skiers.  Soon!  

In addition to the snow having improved slightly, I took advantage of having to ski mostly on groomers to try to improve my technique: H suggested that I try bending my knees more for a less static posture.  So I practiced that, and keeping my hands forward, and pole-planting, and there's really a lot to remember after a whole spring/summer/fall off the slopes.  If I keep it up, and we get lots more snow, my skiing - and the skiing in general - will just get better.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

what's going on here?

Well, not that much, as you can tell from the dearth of posting of late.  We had a very nice visit with H's folks over Thanksgiving.  The weather was meh - not too cold, but overcast and just not that nice - so we didn't get out and do much.  Breakfast at the Silver Fork one day, dinner out at Fratelli one night, but mostly just hanging out and spending time with each other, watching football, doing card tricks and reading.
Just before sitting down to eat

We also haven't gotten much new snow.  H went skiing the morning his parents arrived and reported that it was much better than my first day out.  Since then, however, we've only gotten six inches or so and the current weather pattern has settled into a bit of a ridge that won't bring any storms to the Wasatch Front any time soon.  It's still early season, we keep saying, but it would still be nice to get some snow.  I have new skis I want to try!

Skiing = smiling, no matter what the conditions

And that's really it since Thanksgiving around here.

More of this, please!

Friday, November 28, 2014

consistency plus

On Thanksgiving morning, I did my fifth running of the City Creek Canyon Cold Turkey 6K.  H's parents had come into town on Tuesday to join us for the holiday, so I had a larger than usual cheering section.  It had warmed up a bit since that lovely snowstorm: 50F at the finish, so the onlookers didn't freeze but not too warm for running.  The road was dry too so we had the standard course: start at the capitol to City Creek Canyon, up the canyon about a mile, turn around and run down with the finish in Memory Grove.  The start was a little disorganized and my legs felt very tired for the first half mile or so; I was just coming off a three week cold and was also worried that I might have overdone it at the gym Wednesday night.  Once we started climbing up the canyon, however, my legs loosened up a bit.  I'd been practicing hills so the up-canyon portion wasn't too bad.  Once we hit the turnaround though, a lot of people started passing me - I have short legs and just don't cover much ground with my strides.

Totally beat the girl in pink

I kept up with a guy in a green shirt for the all of the uphill and half of the downhill, then passed him as we entered Memory Grove.  After that, I kept a girl in a pink shirt in my sights, trying to close the gap.  She picked up the pace when the finish line was in sight - so I had to pick up my pace to stay with her - but she went out too soon and I ended up passing her, plus two other people right at the finish.  We hung around for just a bit so I could get a snack and some water and coffee, then headed home.

I didn't really have a feeling for how I ran this year.  I had hoped to beat last year's time (that's usually my only goal) but my legs had felt so heavy at the beginning that I wasn't sure I'd done it.  We had to wait a while for the results to be posted ... but when they were, I was pleasantly surprised:

Race results (and history)
2014:  34:14.58 (crushed last year's time!!!), 10 out of 26 in age group, 174/656 overall
2013:  35:44.40, 7 out of 24 in age group, 243/682 overall
2012:  n/a (Thanksgiving in California)
2011:  35:41.33, 249th out of 656 overall
2010:  37:22.76 (course changed due to ice/uphill finish), top half of finishers
2009:  35:53.32, top half of finishers

As you can see, I'm pretty consistent with three finishes within twelve seconds of each other.  Beating last year's time by nearly 30 seconds is a big jump tho' - I'm really going to have to train next year!  Here's somewhere else that I'm also consistent -  the pre-race photos.

This is this year, 2014:

And this is last year, 2013:

Same hat, same purple fleece, same goofy pose.  If nothing much changes, expect to see this again in 2015.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

it's a start

The first big snowstorm of the season has rolled in and wreaked havoc; we're still way behind normal for snowpack this time of year but at least it's not a historical low anymore.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Each year, as my first day back on the hill approaches, I realize how much I've forgotten over the sum - mer.  Things like: where did I put my stash of hand-warmers?  And: how long does it take me to get ready in the morning?  And: which socks do I wear?  And: what do I wear in general for the conditions?  And (afterwards): Do my boots always hurt this much on the first day?  Each year, without fail.  This year, this past Saturday was my first day skiing for the 2014/2015 season and I grilled H unmercifully about the weather forecast and current conditions, determined to get my layering right the first time.  We knew the storm was coming - everyone had been getting very excited about it for several days now - but it wasn't due to arrive in the mountains until the afternoon.  Based on H's experience on Opening Day, we didn't think we were likely to be skiing into the afternoon so I dressed accordingly: lightly insulated jacket, no neck gaiter.

Not dressed for a snowstorm

When we got up to Alta, the lot was less than a quarter full.  We waited in the corral for the lift to open at 9:15 a.m., watching the overcast skies and chatting with the skier services folks.  When we got on the lift, the first snowflakes were falling.  And they kept falling the whole time we were there: the storm had arrived early!  It wasn't cold (mid- to low 30s F) but it was a little windy and I had to go back to the truck to get my neck gaiter to keep the swirling snow from going down my jacket. At first the conditions were as H had experienced them the day before: firm corduroy, getting skied off in high traffic areas (and since there were really only one or two trails open off of the Collins lift, everything was a high traffic area even though there weren't all that many people there).  But the snow kept falling - big fluffy flakes, tiny particles, graupel - and laid down a nice surface on top of the groomed runs.

We skied mostly on the front side of Collins - Mambo to the newly-resdesigned Corkscrew - but did take a couple of runs down through the Sugarloaf side - Waldron's Way to Devil's Elbow and down through Sunnyside to the rope tow.  Hardly anyone was going over there so the snow stacked up nicely and it was skiing pretty well.  We even scared up a partridge in among the trees along Waldron's Way.  By 1 p.m. it was evident that my legs were giving out (running is not good pre-ski training and I need to start doing lunges and squats post-haste) and we skied out.  It was still snowing.  The canyon road was messy until we got to Snowbird and then it was wet but not slippery all the way home.

When we got up Sunday morning, it was still snowing in the mountains and was even snowing in the valley.  The canyon roads were restricted to four-wheel drive or chains and - horror of horrors! - Alta had announced that all the new snow required a lot of preparation and avalanche control, so they were not opening for the morning and might open at 1 p.m.  They had received eleven inches overnight, on top of the four they got during the day Saturday, and the early season conditions meant unstable snowpack, even in-bounds.  We were disappointed but spent the morning doing chores and cleaning the house in anticipation of Thanksgiving, checking our FB and Twitter feeds obsessively for updates.  Around noon Alta announced that they had been unable to finish the control work - because it was still snowing and snowing - and they would not open at all until Monday.  Again, we were disappointed, but the tweets H got from the Utah Avalanche Center throughout the about the numerous slides in the Cottonwood Canyons convinced us that Alta had made the right call.  As of 4:45 p.m., the storm had dropped 25 inches at Alta with more to come.  Like I said, it's a start.

Friday, November 21, 2014

opening day 2014

Today was Opening Day of the 2014-2015 season at Alta.  H, obsessive diehard that he is, took the day up and hustled on up there.  Here are a sampling of the texts I received today while I was grumpily at work:

"Looks ........ thin."

"Front of the singles line"

Front of singles line

"Not really [crowded].  But cars are starting to pour in."

"Just spoke with Martha [the tough little skier services woman who recognizes and, now after several years, likes us].  She asked about you."

"Naomi [the 93 year old H rode first chair with last year] just arrived with her 90+ sticker on her helmet."

"4th chair."

In response to my question about the conditions:  "It was very eastern and got pretty scraped off."

"Still awesome."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

buttoned up

The little storm that came through (also known as the biggest storm of the season thus far) snowed for Friday night through most of Saturday, leaving a storm total of sixteen inches up at Alta.  It's a start.  We're already behind historical total-wise for the date, but it's a start.  Because the storm went through most of Saturday, we weren't inclined to get out and tromp around in it; because of the new snow the storm left behind, we didn't go out and tromp around Sunday either, despite the clear skies - we struggle on our snowshoes because there's so much side-hill hiking out here.  The lower trails would be super wet if they weren't snowy ... so we decided to hang out at the house.  I could only do laundry for so long so I needed a project.

Note the instruction manual at the ready 

Our dog Becky is getting pretty old.  We adopted her as a young adult stray and we don't know exactly how old she is, but we think she's probably about fourteen.  She had to have some dental surgery this summer - two teeth pulled and the rest cleaned - and that seemed to take a lot out of her.  She still eats, although she won't eat anything but tuna or grilled chicken; she still jumps up on the couches and bed; she still takes short walks but she's a little wobbly; she sleeps a lot.  And her fur is not quite as thick as it used to be.  I'd looked around at some stores and hated all of them (pink or froufrou or just plain hideous) - so I decided to make her a coat.

I definitely don't got cutting skillz

On Saturday, I picked up a flannel shirt and a chamois shirt at Goodwill.  Following the instructions I found here and here, I cut out a pattern on craft paper and then cut out the pieces.  Let me be clear: this took me a really long time.  I don't have good fabric shears and the edges were ragged; when I laid the lining (orange chamois) on the outside piece (blue plaid flannel), they only just barely lined up.  I am NOT a seamstress.

That looks like it could hold together

On Sunday, I pinned the coat body and the belly strap pieces together and prepared to sew.  I have a Singer Featherweight 221 sewing machine that my mom gave me.  I think it's a 1954 - I know it's an antique at this point.  It is amazingly good shape and, despite the fact that I don't know at all what I'm doing, works really well.  (Also amazingly, the sewing machine still has its instruction manual, without which I would be lost.)  After some false starts (i.e., it helps if you put the feeder foot down on the material before attempting to sew - who knew?), I stitched the coat body and the belly straps together.  I turned the pieces rights side out, topstitched the body and attached the belly straps, then put on button/rudimentary buttonholes.

Good sniffs

Incredibly, it (sort of) fit the dog, especially after I put in a couple of pleats on the sides to snug it in.  She wasn't psyched about wearing it but I think she forgot about it after we got into our little walk.  The temperature was 27 F in the sun and that silly coat must have felt good.  Martha Stewart doesn't have to worry about any competition from me over here, but I still felt a tiny little bit of pride that I actually accomplished what I set out to do.  And I have a HUGE amount of respect for those of you out there who are good with fabric - kudos to you.