Well, while I get my rental skis, you take a look around and familiarize yourself with the place. It looks like there's a few chair lifts and some pretty modern ski-resort equipment...
If your ears get cold, they have a hat for that:
Hey there, I'm back, I got my skis. Not exactly Rossignol Phantom 96's, but at least they'll be fast. I'm pretty sure they've never been skied on before. Probably because there aren't a lot of people who have to ask twice for bigger skis. 160s? No thanks, longer please? 168s? Again, anything that's taller than my shoulders? Ah yes, those'll be fine. (Katie was able to borrow skis from Sasha and I was able to wear Glen's boots; they both decided on riding their snowboards.)
The snow is hard and fast, so the skis are well suited for the conditions. Speaking of, the conditions are fantastic. It's sunny and cold. Not too cold, but just about right for skiing. The shade gives you chills, the sun can be felt on your black pants. Very nice. Speaking of very nice, the people we spent the weekend were just that. The school doctor/librarian and her husband and little daughter, as well as a fellow teacher of children were all in attendance. The person from Vermont commented on how nice the snow was just before I almost mentioned that it was a touch on the icy side. I guess this underscores the east-coast/west-coast skiing perspective. In all honesty, the run was groomed to a very high standard. Smooth and even.
At lunch time we stopped for a (paper) cup of tea and to eat a quick bite. This felt a lot like the midway sun-deck at Homewood. This place is at the midway loading/unloading point on the resort's longest lift. Nice place if you ask me.
As the day went on, I decided it was time to do some exploring. From the very top of the lift-served terrain, you could traverse along the ridge and it looked like there were some good tracks out there. The snow that had not been groomed was about as sugary as I've ever seen, and there wasn't much of it. The windward side of the ridge tops were bare, and the leeward side had perhaps a few feet of snow on them. It was obvious it had not snowed in quite some time.
I traversed along the ridge and was about to ski down towards the groomed runs when someone waved me forward, towards the easternmost point along the ridge. There were four snowboarders headed this way, and one spoke enough English to let me know they were going to go just beyond where I was heading and they invited me along. I'm glad they did. It looked promising.
There were a few tracks down the east facing side of this hill, but not many. It was relatively low-angle, and the only characteristic of the snow I had observed was that it was far from cohesive. Slabs wouldn't develop, and cracks wouldn't propagate. There was no evidence of slides anywhere on the surrounding mountains, and this particular aspect was safer than some of the aspects directly under the lifts which had been fine. (Can you tell that I'm not willing to take any chances in a Russian-speaking, under-developed corner of the world? Or can you tell that I wrote that whole last paragraph almost exclusively for my back country buddies like Matt and Andrew? Long story short, avalanches crossed my mind, but only insomuch as I could cross them off my list of worries.) Of course, you all want to know how it was...
It was pretty-okay. In fact, it was so pretty-okay, I drug Sasha and Glen up there the next day. Glen took a video of me, and I've captured a screen shot of it. Not a bad way wrap up the skiing part of the weekend.
I felt good all over inside:
And one last parting shot:
* * * * *
(While Peter is "dragging" Sasha and Glen on those runs that make him ecstatic and me panicky... allow me to tell you what I've been up to.)
I offered for altruistic and selfish reasons (she goes about my pace:), to hang out with 6 year old Anita on Sunday morning. We donned our skis, headed out with the crew, split off to take a trail to the other lift and suddenly I was skiing alone with a little one. We skied down a swack and up to the gates and suddenly I realized I hadn't thought through this part of it. Anita is a fine little skier....um...but she is little! How was I supposed to get this little being safely on and off of the chair lift? Oh, I remember - her mom would take her poles. Okay, I took her poles. We skied through the gates and then what? Now I had four poles and a little girl who had no way of moving herself up to to the "wait here for the next lift"zone. Oh shoot. I couldn't push her - but I tried! Finally a man came out to help us. Somehow, we managed to get on the lift. And I sweated the whole way up the mountain - for how in the world would we manage to get off it? She told me, "There will be a man to help. Say, "Pomigite pazalsta, rebionka". I rehearsed this line over and over. We arrived at the top of the lift - no man. Well, here we go, with my arm around her waist and 4 poles under the other arm, we disembarked with no casualties - no falls. Whew. We had done it and we both rejoiced! And then down the mountain we went - stopping now and then so Anita could draw with her poles in the snow and tell me which mountains we had gone down and which one was next, I think one was called "Volcano Mountain". Besides the small, ever nagging fear that some skier flying down the mountain would plummet into this little thing, I had a grand ol' time with my friend Anita. We successfully loaded and unloaded three times with no man to help us. No injuries. No tears. We even navigated a narrower run to take us back over to the hotel.
Now that I have skied while taking care of a child, perhaps I can say that I am a fine skier. Not great. Not terrible. Simply fine. And I am fine with that.