Poor John …

... perfect environment for writing <b>ski</b> articles comes to a tragic endAlas, poor John. I knew him well. Friend, compatriot (he encouraged and guided me in this blog endeavor) and fellow instructor … and now he’s gone … well for the ’15-16 season anyway. Done for the duration. Wiped out at Holiday Valley; felled by a tree; brought down no less … by a ski patroller!

It all began many years ago. John migrated into the Western New York region, in from Illinois … pretty wife, three beautiful children. Seems he was taking on a new career, starting a new life in the cold northeast – Buffalo to be more precise. Good Lord! What might he do to pass the long winters and keep his family happy? Well for one, he could pursue his avocation and expand upon his interest in skiing.

So, we hooked up and I dragged him out to the Buffalo Ski Club. John proved to be an “air-head”. To put it mildly, John loves to jump the bumps – loves to “get air”. And he loves to ski fast. Plus he loves people. Lastly, he is especially adept in helping people. All the ingredients of a club member, a teacher, and a ski instructor.  Oh, and did I mention he likes to sample craft brews? Well that’s just another “plus” in his dossier but another whole story.

So, I talked him into joining the instructional team. He came along well. Progressed rapidly, he did. And soon he made a Ski School Signplace for himself, and thankfully dragged his daughters into his scheme. Yep, Maddie and Lorian both proved great assets to our children’s “Mountain Ranger” instructional program. I got to work with them on occasion, and I can attest to their merits and worth. What a find! Thanks, John.

However things began to slowly change. Yes, at first John appeared to be taking new turns. Granted, initially they were turns for the better. After becoming a member of the PSIA group (Professional Ski Instructors of America) we noticed his turns were sharper, more deeply edged, precise and clean. Yea, John was on the right track for a while.

Yep, things began to go awry. I hear tell “Big John”  went west – Telluride to be exact. They say once you go that far, it’s pretty tough to come back home … skiing the steeps with his brothers … always on edge … living the fast life … and all that. When he returned, he made what may have been his fatal mistake: he accompanied me on a short circle route  around Vermont until we added three more states visiting varied and sundry resorts to sample their “stuff”.  All that was in the late season of ’14-15.

Yea, he returned “home” for ’15-16. And, he appeared to be on the mend – quietly returning to “life as normal”. In deed, he diligently assisted the “crew” in clearing brush from the club’s off-piste glades and gullies. Yup, he loves the wild side all right. But here he was righteously clearing the way, merely trying to set it straight for our Buffalo Ski Club (BSC) Extreme Team, Adventure Kids, and Mountain Ranger youth programs.

Then on that fateful day, he took up with the lift operators and one errant patrolman who on Monday, their day off (the Crest for National Ski Patrolclub shuts down for a day of maintenance), trekked south to Holiday Valley, a respectable resort not too far south of our humble facilities. And yes, as you guessed it, John ran into Bill, an otherwise respected, normally sagacious, and expectantly safety-minded Ski Patrolman at the BSC.

Yes, I was originally to be with them. Perhaps if I’d have been there …. Well suffice it to say, I may have been a premonition. Or maybe it was divine guidance. Or maybe it was just commonsense. (All others will totally refute that!) . But, I didn’t go. I still wonder what might have happened if ….

... carle a cartoons accident crashed skiing a cartoon skiing sufferedSo, John was headed to the right exactly matching Bill’s speed, each (patroller and instructor) in synch but also in the other’s blind spot – especially narrowed with their goggles down in position.  In the lead, “Jason the younger” adroitly executed a skillful, short-radius turn sharply left. Seemingly ricocheting off the still, evening air, accelerating throughout, he beckoned all.  Jason, in quest of a splendid mogul field, bellowed, “Come. Follow me down this narrow cross cut.”

John responded instantly, replicating the skilled move of Jason. But the safety-conscious Bill intending to scope the cut hesitated briefly – as any sane skier should. Then, BAM! The rest is history.

hip fracture what is a hip fractureBill dropped on the spot, stressing and straining his MCL close to his patella. The good news is, he has returned to duty following a couple weeks of rest and recovery (R’n’R). John careened into the woods to meet the appointed tree. He fractured his hip in two places and broke his femur. The saving grace is, following complex ORIF surgery with a titanium insertion, John returned home. Returned that is after an additional ten days or so of intense sub-acute rehabilitation.

You can’t keep a good man down! John miraculously reappeared to distribute the customary BSC bronze metals to his Mountain Ranger group at this year’s concluding, Saturday lesson (crutches and all) award ceremony.  John has expressed his intention to join the adaptive program, as a participant to experience and master our club’s mono-ski device which is so marvelously and masterfully deployed by the BSC Adaptive Team.

Pictures Of Crutches - Cliparts.coJohn’s next of kin and all the club look forward to his complete recovery and anticipate his much-appreciated return to full service … ah, next season that is! The predicted, much-shortened season might well serve this good man with a heart of gold and the best of intentions (perhaps not the best judgment). Good grief, John, take a break  (well deserved).

At this moment, the one thing I can say with confidence is, “Only time and the good Lord can tell.”

Come, Ski With Me!

 

Link to more of ’15-16 season’s escapes and reviews: [Southern US] or [Idaho & points west]

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Pebble Creek ID ’16

It’s the last stop on my Idaho Odyssey. And it turned out to be the most fun! I loved the area, but the people I met were even more fun!!

It was the last day of ’15-16 ski season for Pebble Creek. The area had plenty of snow, but spring was rushing in, that time of the year when the kids’ sports agendas were meandering toward the baseball diamond, tennis courts and golf greens. According to the locals, it had been a very good season, but their hearts were turning elsewhere.

The teaching programs were completed and the events schedule was ending today. It was carnival day and anyone wearing a full costume was eligible for a 50% discount on the day’s lift ticket. And there were special prices on all the brews. I had arrived at the right place at the right time!

I plodded up to the ticket window and introduced myself as usual. But Scott at the ticket window extended the warmest welcome I have ever received. Yes, They offered me “professional courtesy”, but their hospitality was even warmer. “Go right to the lift, and wait there for our Ski School Director. He will show you around.”

So away we go! But I didn’t even make it to the lift. Woody, a colorful character with that “western” look complete with a well worn cowboy hat greeted me and led the way. “Are you the Ski School director?” I enquired. Well no, Woody was just the senior lift operator and general “go-to” guy. But gosh, this place is friendly.

Scott Rockwell, the Director was by in minutes. Great guy! He lead me up the mountain and gave me the cook’s tour that conformed to my usual place of attack: Ski the peripheral runs and then head for the steeps and moguls. And Scott introduced me to everyone along the way.

Scott and Tim, one of his veteran instructors were a bit younger to say the least and tremendously more in shape. But note this: Pebble Creek has some steeps!!!! I limped along and struggled to keep ‘m insight as they ripped up the runs. Yea, I confess: I dumped and wiped a bit of the run clean before I came to a stop. But it was fun, and I loved it.

Scott and I chatted about our ski programs and I gathered some fresh ideas for our local BSC  (Buffalo Ski Club). Pebble Creek has an extensive program for their size and it is all about community involvement. Now don’t get me wrong, Pebble Creek has great terrain, and their size expands tremendously when the weather cooperates and the western storms dump upon them.

The vertical at pebble is 1,800 feet, and the chair runs from base to just short of the peak. (And it is a short, very comfortable hike to the peak. But I’m not doing that again!)  The sun was strong so the soft powder was ever more soft and yet wetter. So although Scott made a brief plunge into  the woods, I staid on the main runs. The trees were nicely spaced with ample room to avoid the clutches and gnarls of the western pines.

I staid on the groomed runs. Tim had referred to the area as the “rock” noting that the open runs were basically large “rock gardens” all summer until the natural snow dump arrives. Early winter offers or might we say necessitates, dancing around some large sized boulders. But with over 200 inches of base still left,  there was no such need on this day of fun – just cruise or bomb (if you’re young enough or strong.)

In addition to Elaine, my friendly sever and bar-keep, I chatted with Ty and Shane, two of the area groomers who explained what it’s like to “free ride” the big cats down such an area without the assistance of winches! Fun! I gotta try that. But that has to be another visit and another time.

Pebble Creek provides one of the best, most consistent steeps I have experienced. I’d compare it to Telluride, Baldy at Sun Valley and Jackson Hole, but without the crowds. Now families, don’t hold back. There are the gentle blue trails for the intermediates and a totally separate children’s ‘s area for the beginners.

Now before my visit after inquiry and questioning at various stops along the way, I had heard that Pebble Creek was perhaps the best family area in the state based on the lack of crowds, the fair prices, or most importantly the friendly “atmosphere”.  I can see why. Now I’m a Buffalo Bill’s fan and we’re usually listed as the #1 “Tailgating” town. But Pebble Creek is the first ski area I have ever visited were there are tailgaters in the parking lots. I was invited in and spoke to many non-skiers. (They go just for the tail gating and partying!) It could be the sunny skies. It could be the great food. But I feel it is the great company. Thanks guys. I shall return!

Come with me to Idaho. Come with me to Pebble Creek. Or just, Come!  SkiWithMe!

[This is the 9th &  last stop of this excursion Idaho Odyssey ’16. ] [go back 1 day for Pomerelle review] [go to  start of “Idaho Odyssey 16” string] [Go to 1st excursion of this ’15-16 season: Gone South]

Sun Valley ’16

Sun Valley one of The world’s iconic ski resorts – the “Grand-Daddy” for the full-service retreats, the “total” ski vacation! It was established in the era preceding the “Great War” when people traveled by train and staid for weeks, not visit for days.

Yes, it certainly is a “hoity-toity”. Sun Valley is a show-case production of the Sinclair Oil corporation which also runs Snow Basin in Utah. The mountains rise sharply out of the town. There are actually two distinct and totally separate areas: Baldy, the steepest and highest plus Dollar which is favored by beginners and intermediates.

Now the pries are as steep as Mt Baldy’s runs, but the prices are almost warranted by the ski experience from the long,, well-groomed, runs, the exquisite lodges, helpful staff and great night life.

I first visited the valley late in the last century, But it was very late spring and the resort was in transition to the summer schedule. The mountains were closed to skiing. So now on my Idaho Odyssey 1, I was making my re-entry on a day that was cutout to ski. Lots of recent powder, a bright sunny day with no wind, and mild temperatures in the upper 30’s. And should I emphasize the sun? Well, it is named “Sun Valley”!

I drove up the valley coming from Bogus basin or more properly Boise when I logged in a good night’s sleep setting out early in the morning. I mistakenly checked in at Dollar Mountain having precisely obeyed my GPS guidance. The ticket window was located in a plush facility that made me think I was in a hotel.

The ticket agent was a distinguished gentleman who might well have been close to my age. He politely answered my questions and recommended I might be more pleased to ski Mt Baldy and explained the two areas were not connected. He gratiously refunded my original tpass in exchange for a ticket to Baldy, at an additional charge (even with the professional courtesy that was extended). More useful yet, he explained there were two bases areas, and thoughtfully recommened “River Run” over “Warm Springs”.

The “man” was “right on”! Following his advise, I drove up to the bridge that spanned the creek (well river as it was phrased). unloaded my gear into a very handy four-wheel wagon, and then drove up to park in a lot conveniently close by a foot path that returned me to my awaiting wagon.

I easily pulled my load to a wide open hard-scaped sun deck surrounding the lodge (er- ticket window and reception area that is).  I slipped into my boots and chatted with the ticket or pass inspectors that filtered and checked in skiers before they loaded into the 8 passenger gondolas that whisked skiers to mid-mountain.

In response to my inquiries, both the men provided details answers complete with a map and thoughtful additional information and suggestions. Did these guys know I was merely a day visitor skiing on a discount, rather that some wealthy jet setter who flew in for the weekend?  You’d never have know. They attentively listened to my questions and then efficiently, accurately and effectively responded.

Heeding their advise and still a bit stiff form multiple days of activity and the long ride, I made my way to Seattle Ridge and was glad I did. The entire mountain is steep approaching the likes of Telluride. Bur Seattle Ridge was immaculately groomed and it basked in the morning sun. What great warm up runs. And the edges were replete with well-spaced moguls which allowed easy “ins and outs”.

I paled up with another skier who was enjoying the day and she showed me around before breaking for the day. Margarite was a 77 year young, retired teacher from the Michigan. She had bought a condo years ago, used it for rentals and family retreats  and lived at the base of the mountain year-round tremendously enjoying her retirement.

I made my way down to the Warm Springs base area and took the lengthly high speed lift that speeds you base to peak in minutes. This is the way to log in the miles!  This is one of the most efficient lifts in the nation. And there were no lines. The quad lift faced southwest exposing me, the rider into the warm spring sum the entire route up.

Moguls or groomers, woods or wide opens, I skied my brains out and abused my weary legs to the point of pain. And of couse I had to ski “Picabo’s Street” a run named in honor of the famous and very pretty Olympic skiier of days gone by, who honed her skills on this very mountain.  (When my daughter skied the FIS European circuit, she did indeed “bump into” Picabo. Incidentally, reared locally, she was likely was named for the nearby town of Picabo, ID.

Closed to exhaustion, I made my way back to the River Run base. The place was rockin’! The interior saloon, with its soaring timber  frame supports and magnificently stoned fireplace offered a variety of craft drafts and fine wines at respectable, reasonable prices. But the real pleasure was the band and outside bar that kept the huge terrace awash in music and song adding to the warmth of the sun and the large gas-fed fire pit.

I opted for a  PBR “pounder” (Pabst Blue Ribbon, 16 once canned beer) one of the happy hour specials, and invited myself to share a table with a few other skiiers. No problem! Everyone was courteous, no even friendly.  Leslie was drinking a Rolling Rock, kinda a cult beer bottled in Latrobe, PA not far from my NY State border.  I couldn’t help but comment, and it led us into more serious conversation.

As Leslie confessed, she worked at Soldier Mountain, but since her area was now closed for the season, she was skiing here in the valley. As she also revealed, Leslie is a “fellow” instructor at Soldier, and a bar keep at night to supplement her living expenses. And she was actually toting in her Rolling Rock to further control her costs in afternoon.  You gotta love this place and all its locals!

Leslie had to cut out, but I, being in no hurry, staid on to enjoy another brew or two and drink in the warm sun, music and atmosphere as well. It was a mellow moment to say the least.

A team of groomers moved out immediately after the close. I enjoyed watching older children toted sleds a fair distance up to then come careening back down bouncing and laughing through the bumps that lined the edges. More intriguing were the young adults put on their skins and disappear as they stretched up the mountain with back-packs of supplies, many with dogs bounding around them and several with belly packs securing babies before them.

The band had ended by inviting all to visit them at their home base, a well recognized night spot in the nearby town center. And as I gathered up my gear, I had to asked another group of late-stayers, about  those telemarkers. They were locals who regularly hiked up, not to party or camp out, but to simply ski down enjoying the late setting spring sun. Oh to be young or at least in better shape!

So the conversation went on. They were locals all, here for the winter season. Heading off to dinner they invited me along. Where was this hoity-toity high brow area the likes of the snooty Vail and Beaver Creek experience? These guys are interesting, friendly and fun. It still breaks my heart, but I had to move on. Pomerelle was closing tomorrow, and Pebble Creek the next day. But we traded contact info and next year will get here before we know it. And so will I. I shall return.

Oh, and Susan, one of the several spark pugs in the group, read my palm. Yea, you heard me! And she was pretty accurate too. It’s spooky! I gotta return!

It’s an Idaho Odyssey, but it’s only phase one.  And the tale continues. Come, SkiWithMe

(This is 7th stop in my “Idaho Odyssey ‘16” excursion, following my Gone South trip earlier in ’15- 16)
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Bogus Basin ’16

Well here’s one for the books: My oldest son skied this great “little” area and recommended it too me long before I finally found it. But find it I eventually did, and I love it!

Bogus Basin is spread out over a 2,600 acres! (making it “little known”, rather than  mall.)Like so many of the Idaho mountains, the claim to fame here is the family orientation. Bogus boasts 1,800 feet vertical operating  two quads, one triple and four double chairs.

The only item disqualifying it from “resort” status is the lack of on-site or base-housing with the accompanying night life. But Boise is a short, scenic 12 mile dive. And the Boise airport is only 18 miles from the slopes. Additionally BOI is served by Southwest airlines, which as of this writing is still the only airline skiers should use. SW does not charge for luggage, and for a skiing family those “sneaky” fees can approach an additional cost of $800.

In addition to numerous hotels, Boise has a life, as in the term “night-life”. It is an important aspect to consider, because with no accommodations the Bogus Basin après is just that, “bogus” or better expressed as brief and limited. Of course they have a good restaurant, a great sun deck and plenty of liquid refreshments, but all these rapidly vacate

soon after sun set. But man, is there good skiing? You betcha! And there are no crowds – on the week-days that is. Bogus is likely one of the closest areas to a major city!

But a rental car is an importance. True there is also daily bus service to the base, but considering meals and other après interests, a car goes above and beyond convenience. It is a necessity. The ride up to Bogus was relatively short, but the twisting road with it’s innumerable turns and switch backs made for slow driving. But it was picturesque and enjoyable.

Reminiscent of my prior day’s stop at Brundage, Bogus is very similar. They have a generous sundeck, there are no crowds, the snow is tremendous, the patrons and staff are relaxed and friendly, and the terrain is as varied as it is challenging.

Somewhat rare in the west, Bogus basin offers night skiing. Another feature attributable to the urban proximity, nigh skiing expands the opportunities of skier to the city folk bound by their careers and work. But it also opens the doors of our vast school systems. Start ‘m at an early age, and when they’re old they wouldn’t depart from the way.

Maybe I was tired, or maybe the characters were all taking a day off, But I as skied the back side in search of narrow trails, tree skiing and  tight gullies, I small-talked with the lift attendants, but stuck up no deep discussions with any ardent devotees or new cronies. No tantalizing tales to retell this day.  Simply a fine day on the hill.

My one concern for the day was not finding myself marooned at the base of one of the backside lifts which close a half hour earlier than the main quad stemming from the base lodge. An unwarranted concern I’m sure, but once burned twice shy, It has happened in my career, but that was years ago in another century and on a different continent for that matter!

Now with my visit, it was late season, The school programs I’m confident were long over. And the area buttoned up tight just after the last lift shut down at 4:00 PM. So I enjoyed a can or two from my private stash, alone on the hardscape deck in the warm brilliant sun after the lifts closed. And no one cared or even came by. I was left to my own thoughts, bathing in the rays and thankful for all my blessings, God is good!

The ride down was much more scenic than the way up. Vistas of Boise were ever visable. I found myself in a race with a cyclist who had obviously pedaled up this distance after work, and was now wearing out his brakes as he simply coasted down. And all this after a day at the office? Oh, to be young again, or at least in shape.

The city appeared suddenly. And I was nor only in Boise, but here at the re-birth of spring. It was so neat to be up to my ears in snow and one hour later after a neat ride down, be drinking in all the colors of spring. Now Boise is a “new” city, pooping up in this high desert west and clearly unlike my rust-belt, (maybe rust bucket) home town. But don’t get me wrong, I love Buffalo. And it’s commin’ back! Just as soon as the Bills win the Super-Bowl!

I returned supped at a fast food close to the motel, took a long shower, and retired early in anticipation of a big next day at Sun Valley.

Come, SkiWithMe!

(This is 6th in my “Idaho Odyssey ‘16” excursion, following my Gone South trip earlier in ’15- 16)
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Brundage ’16

Brundage, Idaho is a wonderful “find” (Or should I say “rediscovery”?)  in central Idaho, just outside of McCall, anther great “find” in small towns. Actually I visited McCall in the prior century, or was it a earlier life? We considered relocating here, but the kids ski lives and education took precedence and we never made the move. Hmmm … I wonder …

The road trip was a bit of a stretch following my sojourn in Utah, so I settled down in Boise, Idaho for a couple of nights. From my one motel room I had hoped to visit 3 areas. Tamarack was first on the list, but extending circumstances had pushed my arrival to beyond the close, and I’ll just have to return to experience the newer addition to the Idaho ski market.

Not to be discouraged, I simply sidled up the road a piece and invested the afternoon at Brundage.  I remain impressed. This is a large, diversified mountain with great natural snow, diversity and comforts. I say only an afternoon? What can I say or do? It is a two hour, picturesque drive form Boise. But it’s well worth the long drive. And the road winds and twists the scenic,historic Payette River canyon.

Surprisingly in my research and preparation the previous evening, I opted to purchase a pass for Brundage from Liftopia, the universal online ski pass vendor. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse: $12.00 for a senior one day ticket. And the offer was only good until midnight. The normal adult ticket was $47 (not bad in and od itself!) and even if I received the customary 50% professional courtesy, I’d still be ahead. True, smaller, friendly facilities sometimes generously “comp” (shorthand for “complimentary) especially late in the season (well after, I hope, their seasonal goals have been met or exceeded). Opting for assuridy over optimism, I pushed the “enter”” key just before dozing off for the night.

The parking lot was fairly populated for a midweek day. But I found a spot comfortably close to the lodge entrance. Upon my hike up to the next level, a broad semi-circular sun terrace of cultured stone stretched from the southern wall of the lodge toward the more distant main lift. It was drenched awash in sunlight, warm and wonderful. And despite a rim of welcoming chairs, there was not a single butt settled into a single chaise.

I introduced myself de rigeur at the guest services counter. Yes, indeed they do extended “professional courtesy” but I as I had suspected, my Liftopia offer is an even lower cost. Note: the two employees were very pleasant, accommodative and informative. I was unable to bring up the confirmation code on my computer screen, but the young lady took the extra time, invested the added effort, and dug my pre-paid reservation out of her computer. No hassles here. I just affixed my pass, traded a little more chatter, and set out on my way to the closest lift. Thank you very much!

There were no crowds, but several skiers were wandering their way toward the high speed quad lift. So I politely enquired if we might share the ride with another obviously solo skier. Well if it didn’t happen yet again as so often in the past. After introducing ourselves, Deann explained she was very familiar with the area, but her home hill was actually down the road at Tamarack. She was only here for the day for her area, as I knew was closed for the season.

And what’s more, Deannn was an instructor deeply engaged with the youth program. She had recently finished the compulsory clinic  as required for her level III certification. Naturally I begged to shadow her, and she cheerfully offered to show me around the mountain.

Well she lead me along a narrow cross-track and through some pines that I know I never would have discovered if I were on my own. Like all the days on this odyssey, the snow was still deep and untracked, but too wet for me to drop into any of the extreme steeps and trees we both by-passed on this day. But now I know there’s terrain available off the normal runs to anyone intrepid or foolish enough to take the plunge. Er, I hope to return under more forgiving conditions,

Man, did I ever appreciate Deann’s hospitability and knowledge. We traded information on our respective youth and instructional programs.As good as Brundage is, she encouraged me to return and visit her mountain.  She and her husband had recently moved into the area, having retired from the careers in Seattle. She raved about the area and had to question our “almost moved” decision of years ago.

When I broke at the end of the day, I learned of the three local craft breweries conveniently located in town. I almost went for the “Mountain Taco” appetizer plate, but realized the aptly labeled dish was far more than I could consume in a full meal. Hey, I don’t  want to be too full to enjoy my visit to McCall’s breweries.

Now it’s four o’clock and the lifts are closed. And here are these three massive, expansive decks, all ideally situated to soak up the sun on a mild spring day high in the mountains. And there is no one here. So alone on the lower level, changing to my “civies” (civilian clothes of normal people), I simply sat back, popped a can from the supply I store for such occasions in my ski bag, and favored the moment (or should I admit the hour?) … ahhh, life is good!

The Brundage lodge has three levels of sun decks. The ground level offers 5,000 square feet of paver, hardscape. as an apron approach which includes a gas-fired  fire pit.  The second level 1,750 square feet wraps Smokey’s Bar and Grill, goof restaurant and watering hole. The third level is a mere 1,450 square feet and accommodates the retail end of the business, ticketing, and rentals.

 

But wait, there’s more. As I was loading my car which I was able to drive to the very bases of the lodge stairs, I bumped into a young man and we broke into a chat about the fine life here at the mountain and McCall in general. Yes, he reiterated all I’d heard so far and more. “But,” he said “Perhaps I’m jaded, because I work here at Brundage.”

“Oh?” said I. “And what do are your responsibilities, here?”

“I’m the marketing guy.” replied Mike. Well you could have knocked me over with a feather. THE Marketing Director is the person I always long to meet but hardly ever make it on some my visits. Mike is THE guy you work with when organizing a group tour to any area. And do I ever want to  bring a group out here? You betcha. This is my kind of area. Mike Hayes and I exchanged contact info and you can bet the mortgage: Just like the Terminator, “I’ll be back.”  And, I won’t be alone!

It was a short drive to the center of town and I easily spotted The Salmon River Brewery. Now, I think you know by know I relish visits to craft breweries, but this was no simply brewery. It was a fine dining experience as attested by the packed parking lot and fully packed dining room. I had no wait however as I nade my way to the an open stool at the bar swiftly moving past the “Please wait to be seated” instructions prominently posted on the hostess’ lectern. I learned long ago, it’s far easier to ask forgiveness than seek permission!

The friendly bar keep granted me absolution and further honored my request for the soup ‘n sandwich luncheon special despite the advent of the dinner hour. I thoroughly enjoyed the food and especially the draft, but the couple seated next to me were sipping wine – wine at a craft brewery!

So I had to question their wisdom and in the ensuing conversation, I  eventually learned they had a condominium close by and loved life here in McCall.  Dottie and Mike are not skiers per say, but still they enjoyed living in the mountains. They both cited the large lake (well reservoir) on which the town was anchored. Dottie is a nurse employed by the local Blue Cross, but is anticipating her approaching retirement. How coincidental and appropriate. My wife is planning to retirement from her nurse-case manager position at Travelers in the months to come.

Yes, they highly recommend retirement here in Idaho. The cost of living is reasonable, the people are pleasant, and life is good. Hey, you never know …

That’s all in the near future. Tonight I’m heading back to Boise. Tomorrow is another day of skiing and it’s Bogus Basin Thursday.

Come, SkiWithMe.

(This is 5th in my “Idaho Odyssey ’16” excursion, following my Gone South trip earlier in ’15- 16)
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Beaver Mountain ’16

 

Say, “Ski Utah” and everyone thinks “Wasatch powder” and Salt Lake City. Well “Wasatch” is right. “powder” is right, but it’s Ogden not SLC. As with most of the Rocky Mountain areas, the second thought regarding skiing is “sunshine”.  Tongue-in-cheek, I say .”Out west, it snows all night and the sun shines all day. Well, almost everyday. On this occasion, it snowed all day without no sign of the sun.

As noted in earlier in this my Idaho odyssey, coming from Denver, I have to pass through WY and UT. So it’s an “on the way” stop at the three areas in the corner of UT. But wow, not only were my two visits were out of the ordinary – cloudy and overcast, and snowing continuously – but worst yet, Cherry Peak, one of the target areas –  was closed for the season. I still can’t cross UT off as one of my completed states!

Beaver Mountain is one of four areas in northeast Utah, near Ogden or more precisely Logan, UT. Like most of the state’s resorts, Beaver Mountain has good skiing with all the amenities but without the crowds. It is one of the a smaller facilities, family owned and in operation since 1939.

The vertical drop is 1,600 feet, which produces a list of 48 named runs. A quarter of the mountain is rated “advanced and the remaining slopes are divided equally between intermediate and beginner grades. But remember the average beginner’s slope in the west is usually rated intermediate in the other regions of the country.  It’s all relative. I found even the easiest green runs a pleasurable cruise.

Four fixed grip triple chairs move skiers up the mountain. “Harry’s dream stretches 4600 feet base to top and serves most of the main runs. Yup, you guessed it. Harry was the visionary founder who fulfilled his dream. And I enjoyed sharing that dream. “Hey Harry, can you hear me? It’s me, Gary. Just want to say, ‘Thanks’, Harry!”.

It was a scenic few mile, 20 minute drive up Logan Canyon to the mountain. I introduced myself to the ski school director who courteously introduced her mountain and instructional program to me. And yes, they treated me well. The base area is compact and appealing in appearance. A sizeable “preparation” area offers tables, seating and lockers for storage making it convenient for skiers to “make ready”.

The second floor was conducive of the a western the lodge. It is wood lined with ample glass windows and animal trophy heads mounted on the walls that support the cathedral. A cafeteria with plenty of tables and seating.

I met Debbie Tabroton, the Beaver ski school director who has planted her European roots and heritage here at the Mountain.  Debbie introduced her area and bade me well with assurance of additional information and assistance, should I need any during my visit.

Not necessary. The day went very well. It was similar to the visits made along this route. The snow was ample but necessitated attention and effort, But it is more enjoyable than the crusty hard-pack or ice so frequently experienced back home. Lines? Heck no. None. Non- existent. And all the staff was pleasant and helpful. Just a real fine day of skiing.

Had they been open, Cherry Peak is just a short distance down the road, but no suck luck. I’ll have to return another year, but it will be worth the time and effort. I will re-visit all the areas in this northeast corner of Utah where its still the Wasatch but Powder without the crowds.

For now, it’s out of Utah and on to Idaho. Pomerelle is the closest, but due to seasonal cloing schedules, I will hightail it north to Brundage and then work my way back down.

Come, SkiWithMe!

(This is 4th in my “Idaho Odyssey ‘16” excursion, following my Gone South trip earlier in ’15- 16)
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Powder Mountain ’16

Powder Mountain is one of four ski areas tucked into the northwest corner of Utah, close to Idaho and Wyoming, but still in the Wasatch Range with all the dry powder of Utah.

Powder Mountain has huge potential capacity. The lift served area  is listed at as 2,800 acres. But addition areas bring the total to almost 7,000 acres. 1,200 acres serviced by their Powder Country Shuttle, 700 acres accessed via the Lightning Ridge Snowcat Ride,  the Backcountry Tour Area that has 3,000 acres serviced by the Snowcat Powder Safari and 1,000 acres are accessed by the DMI/Wolf Canyon Tours.

The mountain receives over 500 inches of natural snow each season to cover the consists of 144 marked  trails and two terrain parks. Powder Mountain illuminates select slopes for night skiing which supports school and adult week night programs that blossom out of the nearby Logan, UT.

My time at Powder Mountain was a challenge due to the persistent snow, The temperature cooled as I drove up the canyon. The steady rain that was washing Logan’s streets turned to a wet, mixed blend of precipitation until it turned to a steady decent of slush on the roads and a dense wet powder on the slopes. My ski clothes were quickly soaked through as the powder melted from my body heat.

I was granted a special rate by Terra who “manned” the ticket window and whom I coaxed into my picture to illustrate and promote the area. Terra was a  classic “ski bum”, who worked at the mountain to basically quench her thirst for quality skiing. I know the feeling well. She loves her Powder Mountain!

I can’t say it was an inspirational visit, but it was worth the trip up the canyon. I made several runs able to labor my turns un the deep, heavy stuff. Feeling I had earned to right to a quick one, I was disappointed to learn the two younger workers were under age and my state fiat could not sell me a beer. And the cozy lodge was too small to o obvious if I cracked one open from my secrete stash.

So I packed up my wet gear, loaded the car and proceeded to get stuck in the parking lot. Now I’m from Buffalo and have years of driving through this stuff. But my little Hyundai Elantra was just too low to push through the 12 or so inches of heavy crud. I rocked and rolled forward and back, inches progressively toward the slushy but paved road. Without even a request or plea from the cockpit, three young men appeared and graciously added their strength to propel the car forward to the freedom of the road.

On the way back, I passed three cars in the ditch. No one hurt, just chagrinned by their driving skills. All three appeared to be four wheel drive, It still amazes me that the drivers don’t understand four wheel refers to the drive system and has no effect on the braking ability.

A slow and cautious ride into town, a supply stop at Wal-Mar. a good shower, and I was soon deep asleep. It was a long day. I’m off to Beaver Mountain tomorrow. But I want to return to Powder for another go at it, perhaps even a cat run into the back country.

Come, SkiWithMe!

(This is 3rd “Idaho Odyssey 16” excursion, following my Gone South trip earlier in ’15- 16)
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Snowy Range ’16

OK. OK! Snowy Range is a ski resort just short of 1K. And Snowy Range is a Wyoming ski area!. Yes, this is my “Idaho Odyssey”. But this circle route began as I set out from Denver. And you’ve gotta go through Wyoming and Utah to get to Idaho. Note also it’s a long ride. So why shouldn’t I stop at Snowy Range. It’s literally right on the way. And it had a recent dump. With close to two feet of powder on a sunny day it is simply irresistible.  So Snowy Range, we’re on!

Snowy Range is located in Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest just off of route I- 80. It offers 27 slopes with a vertical drop of 990 feet.  Now, you’ve gotta appreciate their honesty. How many areas fudge the extra few feet to claim the 1K designation? You know, at least one thousand feet of vertical drop?

The area lies west of Laramie and is a comfortable drive out of Fort Collins and not a bad ride from Denver. If you are a wanderer, and you’re proceeding further west, please note the by pass road off of the main route 80 is closed for the winter season just west of the resort. I learned this fact the hard way as it forced me to back tack a fair distance before returning to I-80 and re-heading to the west. But a visit under the right conditions – these conditions – made for a wonderful, delightful, welcome stop and sojourn.

One gets a feel for an area as the parking lot is approached. There are not attendants flagging you on and directing you about like Disneyworld or an NFL home game. Yea, some families are changing into their ski gear behind their cars, but most skiers here at Snowy just pull into the “unloading only” area. From this courtesy area you’re within a baseball throw from the ski racks. Unload and then change in the lodge. The distance to the front door of the lodge may be compared to a third baseman’s long throw to first, but everyone one can make it, even a super senior.

The Range has a large log lodge that conveniently houses an indoor ticket window, the rental operations, and a sizeable retail ski shop. Every thing close, all under one roof, heated and protected from any possible harsh winter winds. It’s just like being in the local mall.

Ski bags are left neatly tucked under benches or stuffed above the rental lockers. And some people even splurge a buck or two to use a locker for the day. The ticket sales staff have time to greet you warmly and suggest their favorite runs and offer other convenience advice.

Snowy Range Map FINALTrue, there are signs that remind us all not to bring food or beverage into the cafeteria because I agree, the operators have to make their ends meet. But no one cares if you spread your own over and on  the outside picnic tables.  Some of us are classy enough to replace our brown paper bags which impressive cozies we’ve just purchased at the resort of our last visit. Classy, that is, if we can remember them or if we can ever find them  .

Such describes Snowy Range. I feel right at home. There is a fixed grip quad from base to top. The slopes and trails balloon out down the left and right sides. Well spaced pines separate each run but more importantly provide caches of untracked powder with steeps that shortcut uncharted connections between the groomed runs. It is close to heaven expect for the exertion necessary in the wet powder on such a warm day. Next year I’m going to get in better shape for my excursions. Hmmm, haven’t I heard that before?

If lunchtime does result in a crunch, everyone squeezes closer to make room and share with total strangers if need be. All are welcome. All are comrades. And what a great opportunity to share knowledge, advice, and experiences.

There is a second lift, about half the size of the main one, opens to the beginners and young family area, and maybe a few terrain features. But I don’t do those and admit I skipped this section. And I have to inspect the second floor where the restaurant and watering hole are.

Wow, I think this is a first. Snowy Range ski area concocts and ferments their craft brew. Naturally I had to try it, and like it I did. Of course the brew I like the best is always the one I hold in my hand. (Or maybe it’s my belly!). And the bar keep. Look, the bar keep sincerely my opinion on his pour and proudly beamed upon my positive affirmation.

So then there’s this guy quietly picking away at his disconnected electric guitar at the end of the bar, clearly tucked away by himself. Like my aged curious cat whom I have left to tend on his own while I wander about, I had to find the “why?” if not the what. Last time I checked, I hadn’t unpacked my guitar; at least not here, certainly not today; even if I ever owned one, even if I knew how to read music.

Now as I suspected Aaron Ehret is a local. As a matter of fact he is the maintenance guy, or as he informed me, the janitor here at the range. But he loves his guitars, loves music and actually plays for the folks during his lunch hour. Yea, I’m out on the WY frontier, where the characters are more colorful that me!

 

 

Aaron proudly relates the story behind this and another Rickenbacker guitar he owns and picks upon. It’s all “Greek” to me, this lead-eared tenderfoot! It is a story meaningful to music devotees, historians,  collectors or Beatles followers. Thus one of my buddies back east would probably understand and eat all this up. So Aaron and hey, Norm – here’s to ya! I immensely enjoy your talents and skill. I love you both!

But I’ve gotta be heading into the setting sun so I can make Idaho before it sets.

Come, SkiWithMe!

 

 

 

 

 

(This is 2nd in my “Idaho Odyssey 16” excursion, following my Gone South trip earlier in ’15- 16)
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Idaho Odyssey ’16

Original Intentions:

It wasn’t my original plan. But weather is always a factor. The Northeastern ’15-16 ski season was a disaster. I had to head west. However my teaching schedule was extended three weeks past the original closing. Then our family “reunion” in Monarch went an extra three days. Now that wasn’t bad at all, but it did use up three days from my Idaho days.

On the Road Again: Wyoming

After dropping the last of the family at DIA, I got a good night sleep at the Denver kids’ home base and headed west on Easter Sunday. First stop: Snowy Range, Wyoming. Yea, yea – it is not a 1K. But look: 1. They are honest in their reporting. 2. It was on right on the way to ID. 3. They just received two feet of powder. 4. I love skiing and will go anywhere. 4. It was Easter Sunday. 5. Utah was too far to go in one day. If I went straight through, I’d miss an entire day of skiing. 6. Lift tickets are free for super-seniors. Well I’m glad I stopped, but that’s another story.

Utah: Going, Going, but still …

Well, then there was Utah. I still had a couple areas around Ogden to ski before I could strike the beehive state off my list. Powder Mountain lived up to it’s name. Close to 30 ” of powder over 2 four day stretch made my day. It was tracked up a bit, and the warm temperature reduced the deep powder to a heavy challenge that literally kept you on edge and working the feet to the utmost. Powder Mt. actually has night skiing, a rare offering for large areas in the west. (see Powder Mt review). I said late but Thank the good Lord for daylight savings, as my return ride for th first several miles was complicated bt several inches of wet, slushy snow.

Beaver Mountain was a similar delight, but with the same conditions. (link to review) Oh, did I mention the steady snow that kept falling for these two days? I learned the hard way, I need new goggles! Both these areas are just a short ride out of the Ogden city limits. The Wasatch Mountains rise sharply at literally the city limits. The two areas follow a short but picturesque ride up the narrow Logan River canyon.

Had I been on my original schedule, a visit to Cherry Peak just a short distance from Beaver would have been in order. But alas, Cherry had closed the Saturday prior, not for lack of snow, but rather decrease in interest. So I still have that one low-hanging fruit still to pluck from the Utah tree.

Opening Idaho ’16

In a similar fashion, the Idaho ski areas were closing down. I had hoped to visit all but the “Northern Handle” resorts, but I will have to return another time as Tamarack, and Soldier Mountain, as all were closed for the season.

(This is the start of the string “Idaho Odyssey ’16, my 2nd ’15-16 excursion.)
[Link to next post en route of Odyssey ’16] k to my 1st excursion #1 of ’15-16: Gone South]