19 February 2007

Ski Day 14: Back To The Bowl

Looking out from the passenger seat. Hey, where's my driver?

Sunday we were back training at Ski Bowl, which I was pleased to find out earlier in the week. I was expecting another day at Timberline, where the terrain is limited, and the likelihood of testing out was pretty much nil. I've been feeling comfortable with my sled-handling skills, and had been hearing the consensus among the coaches was that I was nearly ready for the test, but I tried not to read too much into the fact that training had been switched to the Bowl. Still, the possibility got me a little excited. Plus, I like Ski Bowl. Lots of varied terrain, plenty of steeps.

When we arrived at the "Palace", we started getting booted up and ready to go, when we heard the head pro patroller say something that kinda bummed me out.

"Screw that training."

We were a bit short-handed, and there was lots to do. Two races were going on, and the weather overnight put a lot of ice and snow on everything from the toboggans to hazard markings, tower pads, and more. Seemed like we might not get much training done. Though I had a feeling JG, our head training honcho, wouldn't let us get screwed like that. And with 9 hill apprentices, we could get a lot of opening work done hopefully in short order.

And we did. We swarmed the lower bowl, cleaning off rope lines and bamboo, tightening fences, setting signs, resetting 'boo, clearing and readjusting tower and light pole pads, scraping snow and ice off the toboggans, checking equipment, calling it in, and so on. Michael B and I got to go 'open' the East Wall (AKA Scotty's Way) as part of our duties after we'd pretty much taken care of the lower bowl. The snow wasn't great, but the fresh stuff was nice where it collected in pockets amongst the hardpack from the warm temps and overnight freeze.

My new boots? Awesome. So comfortable, even tromping around clearing snow and ice from the 'boo and rope lines and stuff. Skiing the steeps over on Scotty's was nice - no slop in the toes, no sliding around inside the boot. Glad I bought 'em.

Oh hey - *there's* my driver. Michael B waits for the 'go' signal.

Vince and Raphe get ready to run down Raceway, as JG observes.

It wasn't too long before we were hauling it over to the Cascade chair to start running sleds. We did a bunch of loaded runs over on Raceway before lunch, with trainers JG and Toby observing and offering critiques. It's reasonably steep over there, so a nice place to work on things. It's at that angle where the chain brake plus a tail-roper is almost too much braking power, but in some spots it steepens up enough where you're glad to have both. Especially with the way the snow was - that kind of weird fresh stuff on top of frozen granular. I took some photos from the back of the sled as I waited for Michael B to drive. Then I got the idea to take some video, so I shot a couple clips of my ride down. I thought about handing my camera off when it was my turn to drive, but when the time actually came, I forgot about it. Oh well.

After lunch, we headed over to Rhododendron and ran loaded over there. It's steeper than Raceway, and with the way the snow has been, there were some trees and brush as obstacles we'd have to deal with. We kept off to one side or the other so we could have some un-tracked snow to ski afterwards. Doesn't have to be all work and no play, after all.

Brent driving over on Rhododendron, with Michael B in the sled and Raphe on the rope.

I did my run in the handles with the first group, then ran tail rope on the second run. I did pretty well, I thought, working the falling-leaf and railing the skegs on the traverses. No botched transitions from the handles or the rope, no trouble at all, really. A pair of good runs, and I felt good about it. I was driving one of the Cascades, which is a little heavier, but it also seems to dig in well when you need the chain brake. Michael B was my tail-roper when I drove, and I roped for him when he drove. He had some good runs as well. Everybody did, for the most part.

I hate to punk out one of my Spring OEC classmates, but Raphe got my heart rate up a little bit when it was my turn to be passenger. Wasn't really his fault, though. The Cascades have a different locking mechanism for the handles than do the Clippers, which leaves some space in the nose of the sled where you could potentially drop the chain brake into. This means the braking chain is in the nose of the sled, rather than under it, and therefore is useless. Raphe had accidentally pulled the chain up above that space in the nose of the sled while disengaging it, and when he got going a little fast, he dropped it right into the sled. He started really reefing back to try and arrest our descent, but couldn't stop us. I noticed he'd dropped it in just as we were starting to speed up and tried to flick it out, but couldn't reach it. We sled maybe 70 feet or so before I finally managed to flick the chain out of the nose and it engaged. I wish I'd noticed it earlier - I could have warned Raphe or just flicked it clear of the nose so it would engage when he dropped it.

Personally, I consider the handle locks on the Cascades to be flawed in comparison to the Clippers, and Raphe's little episode confirmed that for me. Not only can you accidentally drop the chain brake into the nose of the sled, we kept having problems keeping the handles fully locked. I'm going to write to Cascade Toboggan about this. Maybe there's something they can do.

Anyway, we survived it without me being dumped or Raphe being run over by the sled, and Raphe had a good remainder of his run once he had a chance to catch his breath and get his own heart rate down a bit. He looked good on the tail rope a little later on, too.

Here's a video I made of the clips I shot during the training. The first bit is from the back of the sled going down Raceway, and the second bit is over on Rhododendron.

After we finished, we got to free-ski down Raceway and call it a day. During the training de-brief at the "Palace", JG announced that Nick, Dave, and myself had passed our sled test! Woohoo! Apparently, the runs over on Rhododendron were our evaluation runs. Suh-weet!

Of course, that meant we had to buy the beer at the Ratskeller afterward...and I was damn pleased to have to do that. We de-booted, packed up, and headed to the Rat for beer, pizza, and the requisite story-telling. Rick, Nick, and I also got to take our map tests for Timberline. Everyone was supposed to get the chance, but JG had only brought 3 test maps with him. Hopefully I'll get the chance to take the Bowl map test soon.

I'm so happy to be finished! I've worked hard and snuck in some extra time where I could. Only 3 hurdles remain to clear before I can get my cross: The on-hill avalanche training (March), First Responder Training (TBD), and the Ski Bowl map test (maybe next weekend?). It'd be nice to be patrolling before the banquet in May.


LandS said...

Good job buck. We really liked the video. Glad the boots fit well.

Keep up the good work, you make us proud.

Ski Patroller StL said...

Congrats on the "pass"!

Sledder extraordinaire!

And, now add, cinematographer.

Seriously, I know how tough sled driving can be (either from the handles or on the rope).

Way to go!

NoPoGirl said...

Congrats! Now I think you owe yourself some FUN ski days!

Ghost Dog said...

Thanks. I totally do, don't I?