Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Sky Skiing

My recent trip to Steamboat Springs was, if you want to make it official, my "2nd Annual" trip. The first one, in 2016, was where I first learned to ski. It was not what you would call an easy process. Nor was I able to pick up this winter where I left off. I've been up to Copper Mountain a few times this ski season, and each of those trips marked the most marginal of improvements. I went from practically starting over again to cautiously skiing easy green runs to unraveling completely on my first attempt at a blue run.

That brings me to Steamboat 2017, where I resolved to truly get better. And I hoped that was doable, since I'd be able to go skiing multiple times in a one week, rather than just once every few weeks. Unfortunately, Steamboat Springs itself wasn't at its most helpful in this regard. It seems to have received far less snow this year than other resorts; that, and/or most of that snow was already melted by unseasonably warm days. On the bottom half of the mountain, some trails were already closed and the rest were a hard-to-handle slush.

I started day one on those lower mountain trails all the same. But it wasn't just the conditions making those a hard place for me to improve, it was the runs themselves. Steamboat just doesn't have many green options for wide runs with gentle slopes to practice parallel skiing and controlled S turns. No, most of the greens at Steamboat are quite narrow, and virtually flat. If you practice using turns to slow down, you slow down too much to keep going at all. This was probably ideal for me a year ago, when just staying upright was my main concern. When trying to improve my technique this year, it was no help at all.

So after a couple of runs skiing with most of the gang we'd come with, my husband and I decided to head higher up the mountain. For those of you in the know about Steamboat Springs, we headed to the area nicknamed "Wally World" -- though it's not marked as such on any map. It's a network of blue runs (many on the easier side) on the upper east part of the resort. This would be the place, I was convinced, where I'd make some progress.

Except that as we were riding the lift up to get there, we encountered another obstacle: fog. Or low-hanging clouds. It was all pretty much the same, in that you could not see anything. At about 25 feet out, everything was an indistinguishable black smudge. At 50 feet out, it vanished entirely. On the lift, we couldn't see the chair two spots in front of us, while the chairs coming at us on the opposite side appeared all of a sudden, creepily and empty, as though out of some horror film.

We reached the top of the mountain, and began what would be our last run of the day. And until we came down out of the clouds, it felt to me like too much of a white knuckle thrill ride to learn much. The trail was wide, which would have been great, but that also meant that you couldn't really see where the boundaries of it were. All you could do was go slowly -- very slowly -- and occasionally follow the path of someone who passed you with clear knowledge of where they were going (only to lose them as they sped ahead).

The picture at the top of this post comes from our time lost in the clouds. We did eventually come out of them... and promptly called it a day. With a forecast for a little snow two days later, we planned for a day of gaming in the meantime, with a return to the mountain after that.

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