13 April 2010

Ski Day 24: Senior Moments @ Bachelor

Sunday was all kinds of cool for me. It was my first trip to Mt. Bachelor, for starters. I know what you're thinking... (Actually, I kind of dislike that phrase. Quite impossible, I'd have to imagine, to know that. Let's try again.)

I can guess what you might be thinking...how could I have not been to Mt. Bachelor yet? I've been out here for 13 years (oh HOLY CRAP, really?), and I LOVE to ski, so it really is kind of mind-boggling, but I just never got around to it. Until Sunday, when I went there for the regional Senior Ski & Toboggan test (I guess you could consider it post-graduate work for sled-drivers, or whatever kind of beyond-basic-skill-level type of thing you can relate to). I had to get up stupid early, drive up to Government Camp, and carpool from there with Doug (the other patroller from MHSP who was doing the Senior S&T test with me). Doug drove, since he has a pickup and we were asked to haul the toboggans back from Bachelor. I was certainly glad not to have to drive the full 3 hours and change from my place.

Anyway, we got there earlier than we'd planned, but it was looking to be a beautiful day. We met up with a patroller from Hoodoo (I think) that we had trained with a couple weeks ago, and then the rest of the candidates rolled in, as did the evaluators and advocates (apparently, you get to have someone 'in your corner' on the Senior S&T evaluation, in case something comes up during the evaluation that needs to be addressed). We went through a briefing about the day's planned events, and headed out on the hill.

Pretty much from the start, things were a little disjointed. The first instruction I recall getting was that we'd all meet outside the lodge and do some stretching exercises. This ended up meaning, "meet at the top of the lift and do some stretching exercises". Okay, no problem, the view was better up there anyhow. We were each assigned a number, which would indicate the order we'd go in for the evaluations. Doug and I were 1 and 2, respectively, so I guess you could say we had the advantage of doing most of our waiting around after we demonstrated our skills instead of before.

I wouldn't say there was added pressure for going 1-2. Doug and I both had a lot of confidence going into the test, since we had a good training session a couple weeks prior at Meadows. "Just a walk in the park, Kazansky," I said to Doug (that's from Top Gun, for you kids out there). I made sure I didn't say that too loud - I didn't want to be known as "that cocky jerk from Hood'.

Anyway, we did a warm-up run over off the Outback Express chair, and the snow was fantastic. Really good day for showing off. We started in on large-radius carved turns, and the inconsistencies in the directions we were given from one evaluator or advocate to the next started showing up right away. Normally, when we train, when you stop after a drill, everyone stops below the person that went before them. It's safer than stopping above. So that's what I did. The next guy stopped below me, and so on, but then we got told to change the order we were standing in, so we had to either sideslip down or sidestep up to re-shuffle the order. This was, of course, pointless. We all had numbers, so we knew what order to go in - it wasn't like it mattered where we were standing.

Anyway, the directions on which way to line up got flip-flopped at least once more before we even finished the carved turns portion of the evaluation. At least we got to have a little fun skiing in between some of the drills, some of it due to Doug and I lobbying one of the evaluators to let us ski this one pretty sweet pitch with fresh snow on it.

Once we got all the ski skills out of the way (Doug and I basically kicked ass), we went in for a break and then grabbed the toboggans to start the toboggan-handling part of the program. The weather had been changing quite a bit all day, but for the most part, the snow was getting softer and stickier towards the afternoon. The slightly-more-grippy snow made things a little easier, IMO. That, and the added fact that we were on trails that weren't as steep as the stuff on which we train our apprentices, made me feel like maybe we had the whole toboggan part sewn up before we started.

That pretty much turned out to be the case. Doug and I both continued to represent the patrol well, and at one point, we each got paired up with one of the weaker candidates, presumably to see if that would make a difference for them. The too-many-chiefs syndrome reared its head once again, with different people telling us to park the toboggans across the fall line at one point, and down the fall line at a later point, and then arguing about it. The poor guy trying to herd all these cats did the best he could, though, so my hat's off to him. Once we finally finished up with the evaluations, we hauled the toboggans down to the patrol room and went into the lodge to await our results.

It seemed unnecessarily dramatic, the way they had us go in one by one to this 'council of twelve' kind of table arrangement, but whatever. They asked me how I thought I did, and a number of exceedingly smug or arrogant things to say flashed in my mind (I was *this close* to saying, "are you kidding me?"), but all I managed to say was, "I felt good out there." I must have had a look on my face that indicated that I felt more like what I almost said, because I swear I heard one of them stifle a laugh. Anyway, they asked me something about how I felt the test was, if it was difficult enough or whatever, and I don't really think I gave a helpful answer. I'd had a headache most of the afternoon, and I just wanted to get my certificate, help load the sleds in Doug's truck, and get the hell out of there.

Despite how I was feeling physically, I was really pleased with how Doug and I represented our patrol. It was a good experience overall, meeting patrollers from other areas and getting a feel for how they train and work. And it was definitely nice to finally ski Bachelor. I really want to go back as soon as I can and check out the rest of the mountain.

Hey, look - I went a whole blog post about skiing/patrolling without mentioning my knee. Oh wait...dammit. :-P


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