27 January 2008

Ski Days 13 & 14: Knifing Through A Plastic Forest And Epic Dumpage @ Ski Bowl

Plastic forest? WTF, right?

Gates, people. Slalom gates. With a start tent and EEE-lectronic timing and all the race-y-ness that goes along with...well, ski racing.

Saturday morning at Ski Bowl, I carpooled with Bob again. I drew the Cascade opening assignment, and there was a slalom race over there. After getting things set up, I was milling around the start area, just making my presence known so the race officials knew where to find help if someone got hurt.

One of the starter types was calling for forerunners (they send a couple skiers through the course to make sure things are safe before they start the actual race), and only had one. I guess the rules are they have to send at least two, so I see the guy asking around for a second. Not thinking I'd be allowed to do it, I just kind of watched. I started looking down the hill at the course, kind of eyeing a couple of the gates that could be trouble.

"Hey Ski Patrol - you want to forerun?"

Wait, what? Me? Oh hell yes, I thought. Then, I better ask the hill captain if it's okay. I radioed the HC and he gave me the green light, so I tell the starter, and he talks it over with a couple other race officials, and they had me wait outside the start tent.

My mind starts racing, thoughts and emotions running wild in the grey matter. Oh cool...this is going to be awesome. Jeez, I haven't done this in a while...hope I don't embarrass myself...
crap, I didn't get a great look at the course, better ask if there are any delay gates...shit, I don't have padded gloves or anything...butterflies in the stomach? Wow, this is just like race day...

My thoughts get interrupted by the other forerunner, one of the racer kids' father. Nice fella, probably 15 years older than me, ex-racer himself. He intros himself and we chat a little, then he starts asking his son about the course.

Oh good...I'll get to hear something about how it's set. I get some nuggets about how the flushes and hairpins are set, and some other tidbits about fall-aways and so on. I'm starting to settle a bit, thinking I'll be just fine, take it easy, ski clean, keep the hands up, no problem.

They send the first guy, and I watch him through the first few gates and the first hairpin. He's looking good, and he drops out of sight over the knoll about 20 gates down. I hear the starter's radio mentioning he's past midway, then a little later that he finished. The butterflies came back a little as I slid into the start gate.

"Hey, I hope you don't get tangled up with all that gear," laughs one of the race officials. Shoot, maybe I should have ditched my pack, I thought, but decided it wouldn't be a problem.

"10 seconds."

I step into the gate, click my poles, set them outside the gate and wait.


Kick, skate, push...hands forward, good turn...cross block...ka-thwack! One gate down, grin starts to appear. Snaking through the first hairpin...nailed it, set up beautifully for the following gate. 6 gates down, feeling good, making clean turns. Grin gets bigger about 15 gates in. Smooth quick feet through a flush, come out of it nice and high again for the next gate. Full-on shit-eating grin now, almost laughing at how much fun I'm having. Another combination on the last pitch, look ahead, kid, look ahead...3 gates from the finish now. Course seems to be loose down here, I can pick up some more speed...skate through the finish, reaching forward with my hand, like I'm trying to get a good result. Throw 'em sideways and stop...huffing and puffing, absolutely foolish smile on my face.

"Whooooo...been a long time since I did that!"

A couple of the race officials at the bottom quiz me about what I thought of the course, so I gave my opinion and left, thanking them for letting me forerun. Still giddy, I head back up to the top of Cascade, to man my post up there. I thanked the starter and some other race officials, and was relieved by one of the patrollers who had kids in the race.

The rest of the day, I hardly remember. All I can recall is spending some time in RC, doing a peak hike and skiing the Outback. I don't think I ran a case. I did get to get "calibrated" with one of the Instructor Trainers (Jeffrey), so now I can help out with the sled coaching.

Okay, so there was one other thing. I'm sitting in RC, manning the radio, chatting with the head pro Erich and a couple other patrollers. These two teenage boarders poke their heads in and mention they have a buddy out on the west edge of the Outback stuck and needs to be pulled out. Erich and the two other patrollers saddle up and get out there, bringing rope and other equipment so they can pull this kid up out of where he'd got himself stuck. Apparently, the kid decided it would be rad to try and shred this chute that's out-of-bounds, west of the chutes at the edge of the Tom Dick Peak area of Ski Bowl. Well, he ended up stuck at the top of this cliff that was 30 feet down to rocks. He couldn't (or was too scared to) climb out, so a total of 5 patrollers and one apprentice went out there to help haul him out of there. I don't know what eventually happened to the kid as far as his pass being pulled or whatever, but we put 4 volunteers and 2 paid patrollers at risk for some idiot whose eyes were bigger than his stomach as it were. After my bump shift at RC ended, I headed out there to see if I could help. They were about 15 minutes away from completing the rescue when I made it out there, so there wasn't much I could do to help out.

MESSAGE: Don't ski/ride out of bounds, people. There's a REASON there are boundaries, beyond just defining the limits of the land-use permits and whatnot. Maybe they didn't see the signs at the top that said DANGER. Unless you know where you're going, have a guide, all the right equipment, permission, and some sort of contingency plan.

After patrolling, Bob and I decided we'd make a brief appearance at the chili feed the patrol was putting on, but I had to be back in town to go out with our pals Rick & Brandi. We got shanghaied into shoveling snow off the roof of the patrol building - and it was easily 4' deep up there - so we did as much as we could without getting home late. I got to see Jose, one of the guys I sat next to almost all of OEC...with no dreadlocks! Holy shit, he looks different. Hopefully I'll get a chance to patrol with him this season. I wanted to stay and chat with him, but we had to get going.

I dropped Bob off and headed home, to find that Beck had painted our bedroom! It looks really cool. She's so awesome. I had no idea she was going to do that, but I guess she decided it would look better with some taupe in there, especially once we get the headboard part for the bed from Ikea. I jumped through the shower, got ready, and we took Rick & Brandi out to the Goose Hollow Inn. I was so stoked that they picked the Goose, as it had been ages since I had a hot turkey sammich from there. Mmm...Guinness and hot turkey sammiches...mmm...had a great time.

Sunday was back at the bowl, but with a massive dump of snow overnight that continued during the day. The drive up was a little dicey, though. There was snow on 26 even before I got to Sandy, and I ended up putting on the chains under the light of the Windell's sign - after fishtailing a couple times. I was getting pissed, because it was looking like I would end up getting to the Palace late - the chain manufacturer says you can only do 30mph with them on - but I managed to get there just in time to boot up with everyone and not miss the morning meeting.

In fact, I got there and booted up quickly enough that I got sent out the door first with the head pro patroller for a couple special assignments. On the snowmobile we go and off to set the merge fence at Art's Corner and then set a fence around a broken-down groomer cat. After that, it was off to set "slow" signs around the lower bowl, then delegate some rope line work to a couple apprentices, re-set a "do not ski under lift" sign/rope line, and (finally) set a rope line from the Dog Leg merge to protect the NASTAR course.

By the time I got all that done, it was around 10:30. The bulk of the morning blown, and needing a break and a chance to dry off a little, I headed to RC. Got as dry as I could, helped shovel snow to clear the view out of the RC picture window (you could only see out of the top half of the window!), then finally made some turns.

I got the lovely assignment to check, clear, and re-position the tower pads on the upper bowl lift. The snow was almost hip-deep in some spots, and I did manage to get some turns in some fresh snow between towers. I got the call to head back to RC to go out to the Outback to help open it up, so I abandoned my tower pad project and headed down. Unfortunately, I took a tumble right underneath the lift and came out of both skis. At 107mm, the shovel of my skis really isn't anywhere close to what you want for a powder board, so it's no mystery that my tips once again were the culprit. One ski was above me, the other below. After retrieving them, I got a call again from the hill captain as to my location. I disgustedly advised him that he might be better suited sending someone else if he could, since I didn't think it'd be safe for me to head out to the Outback, as tired as I was.

I hated having to do that. I was pissed that I was struggling in the deep stuff, 'cause it's so fun to ski, but clearly - in my mind - I wasn't the right guy for the job at the time. I made some technical adjustments to my skiing after that, and had a little bit better time in the deep stuff, but I'm convinced a fatter pair of skis is the way to go.

I got called to check out a possible knee injury on Calamity shortly after collecting myself, and with the limited number of available patrollers due to some folks not making it up to the hill and a bunch of people involved in the Outback opening, I decided I needed to respond with a sled. I didn't have time to pull the backboard out of one of the Clippers, so I had to take a Cascade.

That sucked.

I got about halfway down the last pitch and didn't see anyone injured on skier's left as was reported. I hauled the empty (well, except for all the damn snow!) sled the rest of the way down Calamity, then over to the bottom of the upper bowl lift. The entire front half of the sled was full of snow, because the nose of the Cascade sled is kind of blunt and it doesn't rise well above the deep powder like the more streamlined (and IMO vastly superior) Clipper sleds.

I found the injured person standing at the bottom with her friends. She didn't want a sled ride, so we put her on a snowmobile, since one was there already. She wasn't hurt too badly, in her words, but her binding was broken so she couldn't continue to ski. I suggested she check into the aid room if she felt it was too unstable to walk on.

I did get enough of a break in the afternoon to feel good about making the peak hike with one of the apprentices and doing outback sweep down West Boundary and Black Label. I had a good run out there, so the adjustments to my technique worked, but I don't want to have to sit back so far. It's too much work and too hard on the knees. Spare me the old-guy jokes.
We found a kid and his mom during sweep, and the kid was apparently too exhausted to continue. So, we had to call for a snowmobile transport down the Log Road.

I didn't take many pictures. I might post them later.


BJDorr said...

Sounds like you had a blast on the course. Fun stuff!

Ghost Dog said...

I did! I was soooo jacked up to do it. And glad I didn't crash. :)

Larry said...

Crash, lets see there was the truck, the car. Yeah I know you weren't driving either time. It was your evil twin as it were, is?

Glad you go to run some gates. Old skills die hard, oh wait that a movie. Well you know what I mean, you raced a couple of times before, like 10 years.

Ghost Dog said...

Can't ever forget the truck. I tell the story now and again whenever the subject of seat belts comes up.

I was surprised how quickly and vividly the ski racing stuff came back. The cross-blocking, quiet hands, quick feet and "getting skinny" in the flushes, getting set up for the turn, all of it.