Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What We Did On Our Winter Vacation (or, Donner Party Revisited)

Every year for as long as the girls can remember, we've spent a goodly portion of a week skiing together. It was tough at first, with two girls who couldn't stand, let alone slide, on skis and only one experienced adult skier. Mr. B is a quick learner, very athletic and strong, but it's one thing to learn to control your own body as you careen down the slopes, and quite another to do so while also supporting a flopping preschooler. Those first two years wreaked havoc on our thighs, knees and lower backs, but that effort paid off.

Two years ago, we had our first complete family run with all four of us coming down the slope together, each under our own power. (OK, it was gravity that brought us down, but we each held our bodies at least somewhat upright most of the way to the bottom.) Last year, we expanded our skills with multiple family runs, continued snowman-construction breaks along the trail, icicle treats and foozball mastery in the lodge.

I'd hoped to head to a different hill this year. I don't much care for the lodge where we stay, and would LOVE to take the girls to a hill that has a beginner run that runs from the top of the chair to the bottom of the hill rather than requiring they hike back to the lodge from the bottom of the run. But when Christmas brought some very generous gift certificates to this place, we knew we'd be heading back to make great use of them. (Thanks, Dad!)

Our trip this year was a bit shorter than previous years thanks in no small part to the big changes (and related expenses) December brought. We'd have three days to enjoy the slopes this year. So, here's how it ran.

Day One: Beautiful, sunny day with crap snow left over from previous snowfall weeks earlier and groomed into submission. Everyone enjoyed the groomed runs, and the girls picked up right where they left off in 2010.

Day Two: We woke to more than a foot of new snow, very cold temperatures and howling winds. But by the time we finished breakfast, the wind had subsided. The mountain was open, so we decided to head up the chair. As we rode up the mountain, the wind became stronger, and by the time we reached the mid-mountain unload point, we were in trouble. It was bitterly cold, we had to ski down the exposed ridge face-into the wind, and none of us was wearing face protection. The girls were suffering, so within 15 feet of the chair we stopped, and Mr. B and I dug out the backup supplies from our pockets, including face protection which we freely handed over to the girls.

Then we headed down the mountain, me in the lead. It was a very good thing that we'd run this route at least two dozen times the previous day. The blowing snow bunged up all of our goggles and glasses which also fogged to add to the difficulty. As the snow blew UP the mountain, it completely blocked the view of the wide run, and the trees on either side of it.

I felt like complaining, whining, expressing my disgust at the situation (to say the least), but what good would it have done? The girls were already suffering, and Mr. B, bringing up the tail end, was no doubt freezing his light-weight butt off. So, I opted to laugh. It was fantastic! Whenever I had the urge to, er, utter a complaint (ahem!), I'd instead let out a maniacal laugh and say something like, "Isn't this FUN?!" with all the joy I could muster. And each time I did it, I felt better, probably because I imagined how the girls might recall the story one day ("We were freezing to death, lost on the mountain and Crazy Mom was having a blast!"). At one point, I hollered back, "I feel like the Donner Party." Mr. B's response: "I sure hope it turns out better this time."

When we got to the bottom of the mountain, we locked up our gear and headed for the lodge where we learned the lifts and all runs had been closed because the powers that be thought perhaps it wasn't particularly safe.

Good call.

Unfortunately for guests staying at the lodge, they also closed all services on the mountain except our rooms. The lodges were closed, restaurants closed, bar closed, the only shop was closed. If you didn't bring entertainment with you (or find something on weekday television that worked for you), you were stuck. We found a movie to watch (ala satellite TV) then headed back into the snow for a great afternoon of sledding.

Day Three: We were told the storm was supposed to continue, so we weren't sure we were going to ski, but we woke to beautiful blue skies, no wind and the BEST snow I've ever experienced in California - cold, and light, and fluffy. We headed straight for the hill where we all tried our skills in the soft stuff. BEAUTIFUL day. It was a shame we had to head home.

I'm not sure where the other photos ended up (those taken on our other camera). We've been having some issues with our external hard drive. Mr. B originally attributed the issues to a conflict between my old XP system and the external drive, but now it's acting up on his Vista (blech!) system, as well. So, for now, here are the photos from our first day - sunny and crud snow, but lots of smiles.

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