18 June 2006

Patrol Shadow Day #4

Spent another day shadowing with the Mt. Hood Ski Patrol on Saturday, bringing my pathetic ski day total to seven on the year. Hey, at least they've been quality days. This one was, without a doubt.

It's a damn shame I left the camera at home.

The drive up to the mountain wasn't looking good, though. Dark clouds filled the sky to the east as I cruised on to highway 26. By the time I got to Sandy, it was drizzling a bit. 'This could suck,' I thought, but as I'd signed up earlier in the week to shadow with the patrol, I wasn't going to turn back. 'Hm...clouds look pretty low, T-line is pretty high...could be alright,' I mused to myself.

I was right.

Climbing up the winding road from 26 to Timberline, I came up out of the clouds about 2 turns below the parking lot. I parked the Sorento and took a look around. Clear skies left, right, and overhead. What a great view of Mt. Jefferson! Rooted in my bag for my camera, and realized I hadn't brought it. Shit.

Oh well. Grabbed my gear and trundled off to the patrol room for the morning meeting. Couple pro patrollers there, didn't recognize either of them from my last shadow day, so I intro'd myself and booted up. Met with the volunteer hill captain, drew my radio and apprentice bib and sat around chatting with a new patroller, Kory, who'd received his cross this past May. Morning meeting complete, I was paired up with Mark, a tele-skier and patroller who's been on the patrol a while and helping out instructing the OEC class I'm in. We finish gearing up, then head over to the Magic Mile lift. 'Holy shit, there are a ton of ski racers here for camps. Wonder if any are from Vermont...' I asked myself. There weren't. I'm not even sure if the ski team from my former home mountain - Smugglers' Notch - is sending kids out here for race camps. I think they had done so in the past. Never happened when I was racing, though. I'd guess they don't have the same coaching staff as when I raced. That was 16 years ago or so.

Mark and I headed all the way up to the top of Palmer, and did an equipment check. There were a ton of sleds and backboards up there. We were about to call it down, when we saw that Kory was already doing so. We headed out of the lift building and chatted with the head pro patroller, Jim, to get some instructions on what opening procedures he wanted us to do. We ended up checking the boundary markers on the west edge of the area, from the top of Palmer down to the top of the Mile. The view from up there was spectacular. Clouds all the way around, probably only a few hundred feet below the bottom of the Mile.

We worked our way down, readjusting the boundary markers. Near the bottom of our assigned area, we got ourselves in a bit of a jam when we ran out of snow. Our path took us between two bare rock faces, with a narrow ribbon of snow between them. Mark and I crept closer to the thin area, and debated whether we should try skiing it, or walk. I had just about picked out a line when Mark decided to try it himself. It didn't work out. He didn't hurt himself, but he did take a bit of a spill that resulted in some gouges in his ski bases. I took my skis off and walked down. I still think I could have made it, but I decided a good shadow would help Mark up and grab the ski he'd lost in the tumble.

The snow in the morning was hard and chattery, but well-groomed. It reminded me a lot of home. I hadn't skied on anything that hard with the new shaped skis, but they held up nice. I kinda wished I had my old slalom racing skis, which are very stiff torsionally and have segmented edges, which grip the ice like nothing else. I actually carved some pretty good GS turns on the hard stuff, which felt really nice. I've still got it...just not the strength to keep it up. That'll come, though. Once the sun had beaten on it some, the snow started getting pretty mushy, but it was still kinda fast and not terribly hard to push around until sweep at 1:30.

About mid-morning, we had some excitement. We'd received word of some injured climbers well above the top of Palmer. Unfortunately, the ski patrol isn't allowed outside the area boundary, so we couldn't do much until they got down to us. We aren't trained for that kind of rescue, anyway - we're skiers, not climbers (well, most of us). The one climber that could make it down to us did get a ride, with Kory and Mark switching off on the sled (it's a long-ass trip all the way from the top of Palmer down to the aid room - about 10,500 feet, judging by the length of the Magic Mile and Palmer chairs). I 'ran interference' for them, so they wouldn't get run into, since I'm not a fully-qualified patroller yet. I did, however, push the wheelchair from the slope to the aid room, so at least I was of some help.
The other climbers, the more seriously injured ones, were rescued by Portland Mountain Rescue and the National Guard. I only saw the news helicopter, though, so I assume the National Guard Blackhawk arrived sometime after 2:30 or so, since I was off the hill by then.

Anyway, the afternoon was fairly quiet for Mark and I, and so it was more familiarization with patrol procedures and with the geography. Got a lot of good turns in, and soaked up the sun, so it was a good day indeed. I chatted with a few racers on the lift, which made me miss racing a little bit, but I'm perfectly happy not hooking tips on slalom gates.
There were a few late cases that came in after we'd closed the mountain, but I think the pros handled them. The volunteer hill captain released us, and I went on home.

Saturday night, tired and sore (I'm in terrible shape, and I still ski like a racer, which is hard work), I took the wife out to dinner at the Main Street Ale House in Gresham, one of my favorite places. She tried a new dish (seafood ravioli - not my thing, but she loved it), and I tried a new beer. Yeah, I guess I can't go very many posts without mentioning beer. Main Street's current new seasonal is a Maibock, and a damn tasty one at that. Most maibocks tend to be pale in color, but this one was rather dark - almost like a brown ale. Good malt presence, but not too sweet. Fairly full-bodied, it was quite strong. Their website is being re-done, so I can't link to a description of it, but the old site didn't describe their seasonals anyway.

Sunday, we'd planned to go see Nacho Libre, but we bought mountain bikes and did yardwork instead. Maybe we'll catch a late show this week or something.

I was only planning on getting a bike for Rebecca (and just a helmet for myself), since my 15-year-old Giant ATX 760 was still generally functional, save for a slightly rusty chain and leaky tubes - for which I'd already bought replacements. But we found a pair of Trek mountain bikes that together cost about what I'd budgeted in my mind for Rebecca's bike, so we went for it. Now we have his & hers bikes. How sickeningly cute.

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My old Giant will likely get road tires and be turned into a commuter, so I can get some daily exercise by riding part of my trip to work and back.


Paul said...

thats pretty sweet -- is that like a volunteer thing? can u eventually get paid to do it?

Ghost Dog said...

Yep, the Mt. Hood Ski Patrol is a volunteer thing.

The areas on/around Mt Hood (Timberline, Meadows, Ski Bowl) all have paid patrollers that are employees of the mountain, but I think they only make about $10/hr to start. Not quite what I'm getting from CompuHyperGlobalMegaNet.

brando said...

What a cool story. Saving lives, or maybe just limbs. That's par for the course when Ghost Dog is on the case.