22 July 2007

Ski Day 33: Trust Your Radar In The Fog

Okay, so maybe none of you have played Steel Talons and therefore don't get the post title. "Trust your radar in the fog" was what the game told you before you ran the extra-low-visibility mission. I think the visibility was something like 200 feet or so on that one.

Which makes it only slightly better than most of Saturday at Timberline.

A little drizzly on the way up to the mountain, but still warm enough that I could wear shorts under my ski pants. I went with a t-shirt under my parka, since a vest wasn't going to cut it in the rain and wind. It was actually cool enough that the parka was the right call anyway. I put the plugs back in the top of my helmet, too.

The morning meeting got going a little late, but it almost didn't matter - the weather and low visibility threatened to put a stop to lift operations for the day. But they got going eventually, and off we went. The snow had melted so much over the week that you couldn't ski from the top of the Mile lift over to the top of Palmer. It was a weird feeling to be riding a chairlift with my skis in my hand rather than on my feet.

After inventorying and checking a couple sleds, I hauled them out of the top of the Palmer lift so they were outside and at the ready, should we need them. After chatting with the rest of the guys, I decided to take a run since nobody else seemed to want to ski. I managed to get Patrick to join me, so we went out and made some turns.

The visibility varied a little by mid-morning, where we got a break in the clouds just enough to see across the valley to Ski Bowl. But for the most part, it was pea soup. We're talking maybe 50-60 feet or so at times, varying all the way to 3 or 4 hundred feet. I wanted to keep the camera dry-ish, so I didn't take the shot where I couldn't see the chair in front of me on the lift. I did snap a couple shots today, though.

Lift tower of the Magic Mile lift, from the bottom terminal of the Palmer lift. I estimate the distance to the tower to be about 300 feet or so.

A shot of the rocks below the Palmer lift. You can see my ski and pole tips clearly, so it's not the camera lens that's foggy. Ground is about 35-40 feet below. It says "KEES" in memory of a kid who was killed skiing there some years back. I can't find a link for the story, sorry.

Me skiing turned out to be a theme for the day, since the weather was crappy and the visibility was extremely limited all day. Most of the crew was content to plant their butts in the lift shack almost all day, shooting the shit with the lifties. Personally, I don't care that much if the weather sucks. I'll go ski. Growing up in VT, where ski season is often well over by the time Tax Day rolls around, I take each day on snow after early April as a blessing. I did manage to talk some folks into going with me on occasion, so I wasn't just making runs alone all day.

Early in the day, I was thinking the visibility was so bad, we'd have an impossible time finding anyone who might be hurt. Without clear lane markers or a stellar sense of direction, you could very easily find yourself a lane or two to the right or left of where you started - and given how socked-in we were, that'd make it quite easy to miss someone. I dunno - is it funny or sad to think you'd have to play "Marco Polo" to find someone who's hurt?

Fortunately, the lone case we had was on a lane near some of the exposed rocks, and near the top of the lane. So it turned out to be not too hard to locate. We'd just made the call to send a couple guys home early, since little was going on due to some of the camps calling it quits for the day. So the guys who were going to be headed down anyway got to take the case - a pulled hamstring. Simple load-and-go kind of deal.

That'd be all the excitement for the day, except for me making runs and re-setting "Slow" signs every run. If you could call that exciting. Snowboarders apparently think it's cool to hop up and kick the signs with their board. Whatever. Kept me busy, making laps and re-setting signs most of the middle of the day. Until closing, when I almost got hit by one of those 'boarders while I was pulling the sign to set off to the side. His buddy yelled at him ("Dude! Not cool! Didn't you see that guy?") before I could, so I let it go.

The Hill Captain had beer for us when we got back down off the hill, so we de-briefed at the patrol room instead of hitting Charlie's or the Rat as usual. I felt good about my day, except for not helping anyone. Got a lot of good turns in, though. The snow was actually pretty nice for July, since it was socked-in and cooler up there. I made a handful of runs over on the training lanes, where they salt the training courses to keep the snow harder, and it was pretty nice - edgeable and kinda hard, but not icy by any stretch. Good stuff.


BJDorr said...

Probably the change in the weather made it a bit interesting. Great photos too. Zero visibility. Thank you for keeping the slopes safe.

That would have been cool to photograph and ski up there! I need to tune up my skis and start heading for the slopes again.

Ghost Dog said...

I should have taken some shots when you could actually see across the valley to Ski Bowl. Too busy enjoying being able to see where I was skiing, I suppose...

BJDorr said...

Skiing blind... not a good thing.

Ghost Dog said...

Actually, for good skiers, it can be valuable training to ski in low-vis conditions. It forces you to stay in a good balanced position and ski carefully. I was skiing slower than normal and focusing on balance and making good, technically sound turns.

BJDorr said...

Slow. That's the keyword. Steer clear from the boulder, tree or lift tower in time.