04 December 2010

Dusting Off The Blog, Ski Days 1 and 2

Wow. Again, Twitter and Facebook (and a host of other things) have kept me from updating here. With the ski season well underway for me, it's past time to start posting again.

The summer and fall have been busy, with kitchen remodeling and preparing for another season on the Mt. Hood Ski Patrol. I got all my refresher stuff out of the way fairly early, and started my season back on November 21st at Timberline. I would have preferred to get a free-ski day in before starting patrolling, but I just didn't get around to it.

Sadly, I've let my physical conditioning slide. Big time. Close followers will probably recall that I had lost about 22 pounds during my apprentice year with the patrol. I'd say I've put almost all of that back on since. The easy excuses are the shoulder and knee injuries/surgeries/rehab, but the bottom line is that I got lazy. I paid the price for that on my first ski day (no, I didn't get hurt). I decided that since the doc said I could go without the brace this season, I'd give it a shot.

Day 1 began with snowy conditions. I carpooled with NoPoGirl, and we picked up another patroller in Sandy on the way up. The coverage at Timberline was about average for early-season, with some bare spots here and there, but overall not too bad. I drew the Floodo opening with a patroller who was one of the apprentices I trained last season. Off we went, into the blowing snow and flat light that would pretty much be what we would deal with the whole day. Tower pads were what we started with, and when we got up top, we found that there was a good bit of equipment missing from the top shack. I sent my apprentice off to finish the tower pads while another patroller and I went to go get the equipment we needed. It was shortly afterward that I made a huge mistake.

I decided to drag the toboggan full of equipment (mostly just 2 backboards with their packs) down West Leg Road instead of down Uncle John's Band. This was incalculably foolish, since WLR is so damned flat. I did it because I had heard the bottom pitch of UJB was kinda sketchy, and I didn't want to hog up a good line. I had to skate to pull the sled, and basically wore myself out doing it. I think even if I had been in decent shape, I'd have been pretty wiped after pulling that sled over those flats. That sucked. The next run I skied after that, I felt my quads almost cramping up. Never felt that on the hill before.

Anyway, I did my dispatch shift, talked with the Hill Captain about Hill Captain-y stuff, since this is my first season as a HC, and went in for lunch. I don't remember if I helped out on a case before or after I ate, but I got to do one later in the afternoon. For those of you unfamiliar with Timberline, there's a run called Cruzer, that's well, a cruiser - really long intermediate run on the west side of the area. I don't know the linear distance, but it's long. Probably somewhere around a mile and change. I had to take a toboggan down Cruzer to transport a young skier with a knee injury. Most of the trip on Cruzer was with an empty toboggan, so it wasn't too bad. The brutal part was coming up.

Timberline is what I call an "upside-down" ski area, in that the base lodge area is above most of the skiable terrain. In years past, we used to run the toboggan down to the nearest lift, pull the handles off of it, put a special bracket on the chair, put the toboggan on the chair and take it up the hill. This is pretty time-consuming, and probably irritating to the public, since it takes maybe 5 minutes to load the chair, and another 5 or so to unload, so there are two lift stoppages. What we do now is get a snowmobile to pick us up and pull us up West Leg Road. Basically, you wrap a rope around the toboggan handle and the snow-mo pulls you and the toboggan up. It's like water skiing, but a lot more work.

The trip up was just brutal. I would guess it took somewhere on the order of 15 minutes, maybe longer. I was absolutely wiped at the end, and had to stretch my quads out while other patrollers unloaded the patient, as my quads had started to cramp up again. All of this caused me to miss sweep, but I would have been skiing so slowly on sweep that it was probably for the good of everyone else that I was inside.

Ski Day 2 was over at Ski Bowl on November 27th, and was a much better day. Still cloudy and flat light, but the recent snows had things in great shape. It wasn't too far into my day that I got a case. I had finally finished up my assignment on Lower Bowl, and went up to do my shift at Rescue Center.

When I got to the bottom of the Upper Bowl lift, I was approached by the liftie and a couple boarders, who told me they had a friend who had hurt his leg up on Calamity. I radioed it in, and they sent one of the newer patrollers to respond. By the time I got up top, another patroller was right there with a toboggan for me to take. I headed on down, helped the rookie get the patient's leg splinted, loaded him in, and let the rookie drive. He did well, from what I could see from the tail-rope position. We got him down the hill, and I headed back up top.

We had a guy come up for a one-on-one tryout, since he couldn't make the tryout date because of prior plans. Several folks really wanted to make sure we gave the guy a shot at getting into the training program, since he was one of the rare folks who was interested in both nordic and alpine patrolling. Over the course of a couple runs, I'd seen enough - the guy could ski and did it pretty well. With some minor tweaks, he'll be a good sled-driver.

I let him shadow me on my afternoon assignment over on the Multorpor lift, and it didn't take long before he got to see just what we do. I got a call that there was an injured boarder in the terrain park. We had just been talking about how the parks are case-generators, too. We were one run over from the park, but I found a nice little cut through the trees and we found the injury. The boarder had broken his arm, so into a splint/sling/swathe he went, and I took him down to the bottom in the toboggan that another patroller brought us. A quick snow-mo tow across the Lake Road to the west-side aid room, and that was pretty much that. I re-packed the sled, and took it back over to Multorpor.

The rest of the day was pretty mellow, more or less uneventful. So far, through two ski days without the brace, the knee is feeling just fine. Still gets a little sore by the end of the day, but I think that'll fade as the season goes. Even if it doesn't, I can live with that.

Back to Ski Bowl tomorrow, for my debut as a Hill Captain. Should be fun!

PS - forgot to post about Nuts & Bolts back in June. First day was crappy weather for the toboggan instructors' shop-talk session, but the second day was freakin' EPIC. I got to really crank and bank out on the west side of the glacier, and learned a bunch of stuff from the PSIA guy - not only about skiing better, but being better at watching people ski and picking out things they need to work on. Nuts & Bolts is a great weekend for patrollers to get together and work on honing ski & toboggan skills. Usually always the first full weekend in June, and we get patrollers from all over. I skied with some guys from Michigan at the one this year.