05 February 2011

Ski Day 13: Big Windy @ Meadows

I know they've had days of higher winds at Meadows, but I'm calling today's post "Big Windy" because I got to witness the destructive power of the wind firsthand. But I'll get to that in a bit. Don't worry, nobody was hurt, and we didn't have to evacuate a chairlift.


Today was my first time back with A Team since the opening weekend of training. I hadn't seen them ski/ride in about a month, so I was excited to see their progress. I'd been told they were really doing well. The rain changed to snow just about the time I pulled into the patrol building in Govy, so I was hopeful that the "chance of snow" that was forecast would hold up.

It kinda did. But it wouldn't be all snow all the time. We got a little sleet, a little rain, and a whole lot of wind.

The A-Teamers were almost as good as advertised. They were handling things pretty well, but it's my personal opinion that they need to take a day and go back over some fundamentals. Especially now that they've run loaded toboggans, since they now have the experience of trying to control all that extra weight. I gave them my usual feedback (get the upper body square to the fall line, get the feet apart, etc.), since the skiers on the team were all pretty much having the same problem. It was working, until they got into some steeper stuff and probably panicked a bit. Once they trust the stance/technique, they'll be money. They'll get there.

After a bunch of runs over on 3-D and O-Ring, I was skiing down behind the group, watching them run the toboggans on the flats, when I heard and felt a pretty mighty gust of wind. I was approaching the trail merge where Voyager/Nettie's meet, so looked uphill to my right to ensure nobody was coming down the hill. I just happened to see what I estimated to be about a 70-foot-tall tree snap off about 10 feet above the base and fall to the ground. The snap from the breakage was LOUD, as was the mighty WHUMP of the tree impacting the trail. I skated, then hiked uphill to make sure no one had been hit, but I already knew nobody had, since I saw nobody to my right when I checked at the trail merge.

I radioed it in, and had a couple apprentices grab some nearby signage while I directed traffic. Another patroller in the area came up with a drill so we could get the signage in the ground, and they later set more markers. They ended up having to shut down Shooting Star due to the wind hazard. I wasn't surprised by that - there were some trees near the lift that were swaying an awful lot after the one I saw went down.

After lunch, we worked on some even steeper terrain, since the team's coaches felt the gang could handle it. They did fine, but we had a couple of instances where things got a little dicey. Nobody was hurt, but a couple apprentices sure owe one of their compadres a pitcher of beer at least. With fatigue setting in, the team's coaches made the call to pack it in for the day, and I was glad they did. I'd developed a pretty nasty headache by then. The weird thing about it was it didn't hurt when I was skiing - only when I stopped or sat on the chairlift.

I'd brought a Terrible Towel up with me, ready to give it a twirl and chant "Here we go, Stee-lers, Here we go!" at any Steelers fans I saw on the hill wearing their gear, but I didn't see any. Oh well. Didn't see any Packers fans, either, so I'll chalk it up to game-day preparations or something.

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