Sunday, March 09, 2008

Another Johnny Classic

"Crystal Mountain, here we come."  That was the chant Tony and I had ringing in our ears.  It all seemed so perfect, Crystal had a ton of snow, we could ski a few days with Stanman on his home turf (not *ALPENTAL* to be sure, but great nonetheless), Tony's friend Steve H would be there - things were shaping up. 
On closer inspection though, the plan had flaws.  A horrid warm spell with precipitation was due to hit.  Nothing like a little "liquid sunshine" to brighten your ski day.  Also, Stan would be busy with work, maybe we could hook up for part of one day.  Momentum on this mini trip was leaking like natural gas through Tony's prodigious abdomen.  What to do - contemplation was in order.  I did what any fair minded, capable, and concerned bud would do.  I went skiing. 
Oh, I had many other things I should have been doing, but it had been days (3) since I was on snow and I was feeling the itch.  Plus there was a few (3) inches of fresh out there.  I tried to make sure it would be a short day, so I left without money, water, snacks or batteries.  It didn't work - I stayed most of the day and had a ball, though I tested the limits of hunger and thirst.  It did however, energize my skiing spirit.  With renewed vigor I saw a new plan.  A bold plan.  Warm, wet Seattle - Out.  Cold, snowy Utah - IN.
By now it was Friday and we were planning our trip for the following Mon.  Was this even possible (nevermind practical).  As if contrived by a higher being, or perhaps I should say intelligent design, the plan unfolded.  We could fly to Utah relatively cheaply, I found digs at the Goldminer's Daughter - just in front of the Collins lift at Alta, Dale was available to join in.  Best of all, snow was in the forecast, or at least it was on Thursday, when we were planning.  By Sunday, things changed, and it showed sunny everyday.  Oh well, at least we were going to Utah.
We arrived on Monday afternoon, the final day of the Prez Day weekend holiday.  Bright, sunny, very busy day on the hill.  We got psyched as the forecast revised yet again to indicate a chance of snow on Wed and Thurs.  Each day of this adventure was distinct, filled with challenges rewards and a bit of pain.
Day One (Tuesday) was a bright sunny day, like so many others we have experienced at Alta.  The snow was baked into concrete, the sun broiled us.  We ventured to our old stomping grounds at Devil's Castle and found much more snow than last year but similar conditions.  Like last year we also hiked up to Baldy Chutes searching for the fresh, but found the hard.  Still, the skiing was challenging, steep, tight, fun.  The heat was bothersome and twice on the hike I had to strip down to bare skin (insert Power 90 reference here).  We skied hard all day, taking a physical beating in the sun on the hard, bumpy surfaces.  By the end of the day I was exhausted - Tony wanted to work out!
Day Two (Wed) we planned to connect with Dale who worked the ER till 3 AM.  He planned to meet us at lunch at Snowbird.  We skied the Bird all day, and found ourselves at the Gad 2 lift skiing the STH tree lines over and over and over again.  It was by far the best, most forgiving snow.  Plus the steep lines were fun and both of us were on fire, shredding the tightest lines, trying to make Manimal and Stanman proud.  The constant question on our minds was "What would they do?"  We hooked up with Dale after lunch and brought him into our playground.  We even spotted Jane on the tram.  We ended the day by going through the tunnel and entering Mineral Basin, on our way back over to Alta.  The slopes had been slaked into unforgiving concrete.  Chicken heads grabbed and prodded us the whole way down through an eerie, unnerving fog.  It was a brutal end to a great day.  But hey, at least it was snowing, and at least we finally got through the tunnel (a little anti-climactic).
Day Three (Thurs) The consistent but light snow continued all night and we had 2-inches of fresh on top of the "firm" base we had experienced the previous days.  I broke out my new fat Rossi B-Squad skis, and we headed into Rustler country.  Again we went into the steepest, tightest lines available trying to make the boys proud.  The new snow was fun and much appreciated.  Tony and I shredded one line after another, again and again, with no one coming anywhere near our area.  Of course, each lap required the adventurous trek along the High Traverse, but it wasn't like last year when rocks, sticks, and other unknowns downgraded the path to perilous.  As these runs wore on, I began to tire.  It was so much harder skiing these fat heavy monsters in the tight and steep.  Controlling speed became harder and harder until I found myself sitting back and letting the mountain ski me.  It culminated in a crash where I went down head first and slid about 100 yards before I finally flipped myself over and stopped.  Only by divine intervention was my head saved from concussion number 5 (or worse).  We decided to head in for lunch so I could recuperate and recalibrate.  On the way to lunch I had another digger in the hard bumps.  This time it knocked the wind out of me and I was hurting and stunned.  When I found Tony at lunch, I looked like a St Bernard had just dragged me in.  I hadn't been hit like that since my hockey playing days. 
A smarter man might have quit right there.  It had been a great day so far.  We had our thrills, we had our untracked lines, we had our powder hoots.  Fortunately, I am not smart.  After lunch, I went back to the lodge unpacked my other skis, switched them out, and met Tony at Wildcat.  After a few turns, the feeling in my body came back, the pain subsided, the joy resumed.  We went back to the Rustler lines and shredded until the end of the day.  By the last traverse to the base, I could barely walk.  I was definitely at my limit.  We packed up all our wet stuff, got in the van and left.  Tony visited the Peruvian on the way down and snagged some of the afternoon fresh-baked cookies (I know you remember those), and I settled into a comfortable trance. 
By the time I got home, I was absolutely spent.  My body was fever-like and I suffered from alternating cold chills and hot sweats all night.  Four days later, I'm still sore.  Everything hurts.  My ribs, back, legs and shins stand out as mentionable.  Looking back, it was a great last minute trip.  I like that I reached the limits of my endurance.  I liked that we pushed our skiing farther and that we both had moments of glory and despair.  I liked that we lived the dream, dropping the real world for a few days to feed the addiction, have some laughs, and share the joy.  Its like living the novel instead of reading it.
If anyone wants to have another last minute adventure, keep me in mind - I'm game.  Or at least I will be after another day or so!! 
Looking forward to CB.
Rock On


Christopher said...

Seems like an entry from Kerouac

Chris Ortega

Anonymous said...

Yo Tony!

Did I read that you stopped to eat some freshly baked cookies?!? Well, don't sweat it, you earned it, dude;) Man, sounded like a marathon out there, taking it to the limit doesn't even get close! I bet all those twisting exercises you do really helped you shred those lines. And I'm glad you're staying on your skis out there and keeping it real. Now I know why you don't ski the East Coast any longer. There really is no comparison, especially with all the snow and open space out there.

Keep living and loving it!


Amit said...

Wow Tony looks like you had a blast... freshly baked cookies on a ski resort??? yummmmm....