15 January 2007

Ski Day 9: A Bowl Full Of Chilly

This week's edition of sled training for the Ski Patrol was quite a bit different from last week. Easily 10-15 degrees colder, but sunny and just enough new snow to make it enjoyable. The road into Govy wasn't totally clear, but the cold, dry-ish snow was grippy enough not to force the chains issue. I knew it was going to be pretty damn cold, so I left the camera at home. That was a dumb-assed thing to do. Even as cold as my hands get, I can always warm them up.

Most of the guys I trained with last week were up there, as were several of the patrollers who were on duty last Sunday. We had a different set of trainers, though, which made me wonder how much re-hashing of old stuff would happen. That's not entirely a bad thing when not everyone has been up training every weekend, but there's only so many times you can go over sled anatomy without just wanting to get going. Jim, who I shadowed the day I lost (and he found) my ski a while back, was one of our trainers, as was Andrew, who was one of many instructors at OEC. Once we got the intros and sled anatomy stuff out of the way, it was time to get into the handles and go.

Well, almost. I had a brief detour, probably again by virtue of the fact that I'd had the most sled training days of anyone in the group, to go run some marking tape to a group of patrollers who were marking off a section above Radical where it appeared the area ops folks were re-doing the wiring to one of the night skiing light poles. I missed some of the Q-and-A with the rest of the group, but got to blaze down Canyon on freshly-groomed snow with nobody else around, which was pretty sweet.

Once I re-joined the training group, we hauled our sleds over to the top of Radical. One of the guys wanted to run the sled empty to gain some more confidence, so most of the rest of us were practicing our 'falling leaf' technique for preventing snow build-up, and working on some other drills to help us out in the handles.

It was shaping up to be one of those days where I wasn't going to get much sled time, but when we headed over to run sleds off the Cascade lift, that changed. We broke up into our subgroups and just started making runs, rotating through the positions - driver, tail-roper, passenger, observer. I'm continuing to build more confidence in the handles, so now I'm trying to work on my finesse - use the chain brake, keep my ski tops clear of snow, select a smooth route that also doesn't take up the width of the trail, and so on.

I botched one transition on the tail rope, because I didn't anticipate the sled slowing down when I turned. So the rope went slack and I skied over it and fell. No big deal, as the driver was in control, but the ego-check stung a little. I brushed it off, however, and the rest of the day went off without so much as a hint of a problem. I did get quite a few runs in the handles, but nothing nearly as challenging as doing Calamity last weekend. I was pretty bummed that we hardly did anything in the upper bowl.

That's why, for the most part, I jumped at the chance to do the Peak Hike when it came time to do some free-skiing/area orientation after lunch. I ate my lunch up at the RC, chatting with, among others, fellow local blogger Patrick, and OEC classmate Barkernews, who were up patrolling. After lunch, one of the patrollers, Josh, took 3 of us out to Tom Dick Peak, at the western boundary of the area. If you haven't been out there, it's a nice little hike from where the trail starts going uphill to the peak. Not terribly far, but all uphill. I got to use the loops and straps on my patrol pack to carry my skis for the first time. Whee.

Anyway, the view is spectacular, but since I didn't bring the camera, you'll either have to hike out there yourself or take my word for it. Josh filled us in on the trails and pitches out in the far west area of the upper bowl, and then we took off down into the Tom Dick Bowl, cut underneath The Chutes to take the West Boundary trail down to Log Road and on out to the lower bowl. The snow was good, the pitches steep, and we even managed to find some fresh stuff to track out near the edges. It was the most fun I had all day.

After that, we met up with the rest of the training group back over at the Cascade lift and finished the day running more sleds. After the final run, OEC classmate Rick and I pulled the training sleds down to the parking lot so trainer Jim could load them on top of his car and take them back to the Patrol building. I managed to get changed and packed up quickly enough to make it over to the Patrol building in time to help offload one of the sleds and put it away for next week. I had Jim sign my logbook, said 'seeya' to some of the other patrollers who were up that day, then headed over to the Ratskeller for dinner and a beer.

Traffic looked awful as I crossed over Highway 26 from Ski Bowl East, so I was even more glad to take the time to eat, drink, and socialize with fellow patrollers while waiting out the traffic. Saw one of my OEC classmates who was part of the 'Invert' crew. He'd patrolled at Timberline on Sunday, so we caught up a little bit as I hadn't seen him in a while.

I walked out of the Ratskeller, thought briefly about getting geared back up and doing some night skiing, then thought better of it. A day of dragging sleds around is a good enough workout. And I don't think the missus would have appreciated it.