Thursday, February 7, 2008

Fun + Stress + Fun + Stress + Fun + Stress + Fun + Stress = Birthday Ski Weekend Review

Click pics in the post to enlarge.
For full pics of the weekend adventure, click here.

I did what stupid people do- went to Tahoe when there were pretty big storms forecast. But it was my birthday and damnit, I was going skiing. So skiing we went.

Friday rocked. I managed to score free coffee in the morning from Peets then free lunch from the sandwich shop, but the coolest was when I got up to my sister's pad in Sacramento. I chose Chick Fil A for my birthday dinner, as I wouldn't get to eat it on Sunday, it would be easy with the kids, and well, I love it. We get there and I casually strike up a conversation with the manager, who happened to take my order. It came out that it was my bday, and she said she would hook me up with a free brownie or something, which I said was not necessary. We talk some more, and long story short she was so jazzed that we were from GA and CFA addicts that by the end of our ordering she comped my entire meal. And Bonita's too. I told her not to but she insisted. Way cool. The only thing better than your every once in a while CFA, is your every once in a while CFA on the house.

In addition I got to have my favorite dessert of all time, Mud Pie, and play with my neice & nephew before bed. A great finish to a fun bday.

Left Sac at 6.30 a.m., knowing a storm was coming through Tahoe in the morning. I knew it would be a race to beat the storm and chain control up over the Donner Summit {7200 ft} on I-80, but I was hoping to get to Alpine Meadows by the time it opened at 9, or maybe 9.30 if I had to use the chains- it's about 90 miles and with clear roads takes 2 hours.

It took 4. As we rose out of Auburn, CA it started to snow and I kept checking the radio for the status of chain control- still clear but I had a feeling that we might not beat the storm. Then a little up the road when in the other direction I saw 2 SUVs rolled over onto their roofs with the windshields and back windows smashed out, and then a jackknifed 18 wheeler, I knew that playtime was over. Cue stress of frozen bridges, then mondo snow, and soon thereafter chain control.

I put the chains on in the ever faster falling snow, and 30 minutes later we were rolling. The road was pretty gnarly so max speed was 20-25, and we were still almost 30 miles from Donner Summit outside Truckee. Finally made it over and down to Truckee, and the roads were ok, so I took that chains off. But the the road from hwy 89 up to Alpine Meadows was all snowed over and was really tricky for me without chains, I had to go like 10-15 and it was still sketchy. Got to the parking lot at 10.30, a nice 4 hour 100 mile trip. It was snowing so hard and so windy that it was apparent that it would be a whiteout all day, so I decided to put the chains back on in the parking lot so that I wouldn't have to do it at the end of the day when I was tired, it was getting dark, and there was a foot of snow on the ground. Another 30 minutes and then getting tickets, getting ready, blah blah blah.

We got our first chairlift at 12:20 p.m., and it was windy and snowy as hell, but we paid our money and we were determined to ski our asses off until the lifts closed at 4. I have skied in worse whiteouts where you couldn't see 5 feet in front of you, and this wasn't quite that bad- you could just barely see what you were doing most of the time. But the winds were crazy- up to 50 mph, which made things tricky, especially at the top of lifts.

Still it was mondo fun. At the top of the Lakeview lift is the only view of Lake Tahoe from Alpine meadows, and it is a fine view at that. For the sake of comparison, check out the view from this spot that I took last March when I skied Alpine with my sister:

Alpine Meadows lake view, March 2007

OK, now here is the same exact view from Saturday:

Alpine Meadows lake view, Saturday

Anyways, we rocked the conditions with a good attitude and enjoyed the great snow which kept accumulating throughout the day, making the snow tip top when you could see what you were doing, which at times was tricky:

At the end of the ski day it had snowed over a foot, and the stress of driving once again reared it's ugly head. We had to go from Alpine down to Tahoe City and then over to Incline Village, where our hotel room was. It's about a 20 mile drive on 2 lane state roads. We were delayed about an hour as there was a multi-car accident on the access road getting down the mountain from Alpine. Finally we managed to get out of the parking lot, but even with the chains it was apparent that this was going to be a scary drive. The roads were atrocious, and between the blizzard snow coming down and it being pitch dark, I could barely see 10 feet in front of me even with the wipers on hyperspeed.

Although there were times that I was certain we wouldn't make it and I would end up crashed on the side of the road, we finally made it to the hotel in one piece. Driving the 20 miles took an hour and a half, and although I have had to drive in storms with chains several times, these were the worst road conditions I had ever driven in. By the time we got to the hotel I was frazzled and pretty fried, and just thankful to be there in one piece. One thing was for sure- we were in for the night- there was no way I was going back out on those roads in that storm.

Our hotel ruled. Great room, indoor heated pool, hot tub, and high speed wireless which proved invaluable as we finally found a place that would deliver us a pizza in the storm. All of the aforementioned things contributed to allow me to detox and enjoy the rest of the evening, although we crashed early from the exhaustion of the day.

We woke up to see that 1.5 to 2 feet of snow had fallen, and the driveway of our Inn was snowed in.

The parking lot, STFI: Snowed The Fuck In.

We thought we could take the shuttle to Diamond Peak, but then found out from the front desk that the shuttle was not running because it has snowed so much. After a while some dude just appeared with a tractor/front end loader/snowplow, and in time he cleared the driveway enough that we could attempt to get out and up the hill back to the main road. Eventually we did. A check of the roads in the morning revealed that I-80 was completely closed from Colfax, CA, over Donner Summit, through Truckee, all the way to the Nevada state line- over 70 miles of closed interstate- wow. I had never heard of it being closed that badly. We hoped that with the improving weather that they could clear the road during the day, and we would play leaving & the Super Bowl by ear.

It was only about 1 mile up to Diamond Peak from our hotel, and once we made it up through the snow and ice it was time to reap our reward for all the crazy road stress. It had snowed 2 feet of fresh powder, and we made it onto the hill by 10 a.m.

Should have taken this pic the 1st time up instead of the 5th or 6th

Even better, the summit chair was on delay, and so by the time it opened we got about the 30th chair. This means only one thing: fresh tracks. First run was epic, as well as tricky and challenging since I grew up on the icy east coast and although I had a few powder days out here since I moved, I had never skied in powder this deep. It was amazing, and super fun, and 10x more work and tiring for the legs- Quadbuster City, USA.

Battleborn trail, Diamond Peak, 3rd person

Diamondback trail, Diamond Peak, 3rd person

Crystal Ridge Trail, Diamond Peak, 1st person

Diamond Peak is renowned for it's amazing lake views, and although it was mostly cloudy we got a few glimpses of the lake. I'd like to ski there again on a clear, sunny day for the million dollar view.

Even on a 'meh' weather day, the view is pretty amazing

We skied the shit out of it until about 2, then broke for a snack/lunch and realized that our legs were so toast that we should pack up and take off, and try to beat the afternoon storm, especially since we found out that I-80 was once again open going back from Truckee with no chain control. If all went well we could get back to my sister's in Sacramento in time for the 2nd half of the Super Bowl, and we could listen to the 1st half on the radio.


The mountain road back down from Alpine was totally clear, so I took the chains off since it is a smaller road than the state road through town. Oops. The state road was covered in snow, so I pulled into a shopping center and put them on again. Another 30 minutes, and a return to top speed of 20 mph while trying just to stay on the road.

Past Kings Beach the roads were again clear, and the radio said no more chain control in Truckee or on I-80, so I stopped and took the chains back off. Back up to 50-60 and hoping to beat the roads icing back up as it started to get dark.

Made it to Truckee and I-80 and started out of town through some rain and roads that were wet but appeared to be on the verge of freezing back over. On the lower slopes of the climb, it started to snow like a mother, and soon thereafter the cars in front of started to swerve and lose control a bit. Another mile and I knew from my own comfort level that it was time for the chains yet again.

I pulled over and by now it was snowing like crazy. By the time I got the 1st chain on, CalTrans had setup chain control behind me about 300 yards down the road. By the time I got both chains on, it had snowed an inch in about 20 minutes. Shit- a mondo snow squall that just got worse and worse.

Long story short, it took 4 hours to get from Truckee to my sister's house in Sacramento{again, 90 miles}. It was so hairy and stress mode that listening to the 1st half on the radio was not an option, and by the time we got there the game was over. I was disappointed to have missed it, but much more relieved and thankful that we made it back in one piece, and ditto for my car. Side note- never in my life have I been so happy and relieved to drive into a town named Auburn in my life.

I watched all the highlight shows and felt better that I didn't have to watch that shit live as it unraveled {if that ever happened to Georgia in a National Title game I'm sure that lots of shit would get smashed by yours truly}.

Too exhausted, dirty, and tired to go all the way back home, so we stayed and came back to SF early Monday morning, only to find out that 2 skiers from SF were missing and were last seen at Alpine Meadows on Saturday late morning- thankfully they were found Monday morning. Pretty freaky, as we were there. Also, that there was an avalanche on the access road to Alpine Meadows that we had just been on the evening before and the resort we skied at on Saturday was closed down on Sunday.

Overall the nuttiest storm/road conditions I have ever dealt with, and I had my share of Tahoe chain control war stories going in. It might be enough to turn me into a Ski Princess like my sister, who no longer fucks with the storms and will only go up there if the roads are clear and the sun is out. On the other hand, Sunday was the most epic powder day of my skiing life. Still don't think it was worth risking life, limb, and car over. For now I'm probably somewhere between the stupidity adventuresomeness of last weekend and Ski Princess.


OMAA said...

No snowboard for you? Hell, even RK does it now.

Kanu said...

I am interested, but not yet. The trick is, I only get to ski about 6-10 days a year, and I have been skiing since I was a wee lad, so I am pretty good at it. So each time I go the decision is:

1) ski black dimaonds, in the trees, moguls, you name it, rip it up


2) spend the day like all learning boarders do, on a heavily trafficked easy trail sitting on my ass , which is completely wet from all the falls, with a look on my face that says "damn, this sucks".

So far I have always chosen #1.

However, boarding, although it looks like a pain in the ass to learn, looks like once you become good at it you can have mondo fun and do lots of shit that you just cannot do on skis.

One weekend I'll just have to breakdown and rent one and take lessons and see what happens.

Bonita is a boarder, so the likelihood of this happening this year has been significantly increased, but we'll see.