Thursday, December 30, 2010

Visibility? Optional.

Sorry to go MIA on you all of a sudden! Even the most diligent of bloggers needs a break sometimes, and I just spent three days skiing in Tahoe with Sister2 and her boyfriend (just like last year) without internet access.

The first day skiing at Mt. Rose was absolutely gorgeous - a perfect high-20s blue-bird Tahoe day. The second day was just as fun, but not quite so nice. It started out a little gray and snowy, and progressed to become a no-visibility ski-in-a-cloud experience. I didn't mind too much, I've skied in pretty much every condition imaginable. We still managed to have fun despite the fact that our faces were buried in our jackets and every now and then a gust of wind would attempt to blow us off the mountain. 

Which reminds me of another no-visibility experience I once had...

Gather round kids! It's time for a story about a day, not too long ago, when I was much more hard-core than I am now.

When I was a junior in high school, I raced in the Junior Olympics at Mt. Bachelor (Oregon). Mt. Bachelor would be a great place to ski except for one thing: I'm pretty sure it's always in its own personal cloud. 

Our first race of the series had already been canceled twice due to weather, and the race organizers were getting antsy. So they decided to try to run the downhill anyways, despite the fact that we couldn't see a thing. It was so windy on the top of the mountain that the chair lift was closed, but that didn't stop us. 

We piled into the back of a snow cat -- kids, skis, and poles -- and braced ourselves to stay in as we made the treacherous trip up the mountain. Once we got to the top there was no going back down (that snow cat trip was a one-time thing, thank you very much!). 

I sat huddled with my teammates, backs to the wind and hoods pulled up over our helmets, just our very red noses sticking out between our goggles and coats. After what seemed like forever the race was about to start. 

One of our coaches came over, Alright girls, a little rough out there but it should be ok. But listen up! If you're skiing, and all of a sudden you're in a white-out, do not panic. Just stand up, throw 'em sideways, and go to the side of the course. You'll get a re-run or we'll figure something out.

Oh great, I thought. The fact that we're getting a what-to-do-if-you're-blinded talk does not bode well for this race. 

[I should mention here that downhill is the fastest ski racing event. It's not unusual for even junior racers to hit speeds well above 60 mph.]

We watched the first few racers disappear into the clouds, listening to the coaches radio up how the course looked (they were positioned lower down where you could actually see something). 

Ok girls, one more thing. When you drop over the waterfall pitch, be wary of the winds. Some racers are getting a head-wind, so stay low to make yourself aerodynamic enough to maintain your speed. But a few have gotten a gust of tail-wind, so if all of a sudden your maching down the pitch, DO NOT stand up because you'll the wind will push you to go even faster and you'll totally loose control. 

It's a fine line in ski racing between wanting to live and wanting to go fast, so I hoped for a gentle tail-wind as I stripped off many many layers down to my speed suit and ran a few laps around the start area to warm up. 

My coach clicked me into my skis and I waited in the line-up to go, visualizing my run in my head and jumping and shaking an an attempt to stay warm. I slid into the start gate, clicked and planted my poles, and looked into...nothing. Pure white-out. 

Racer ready.! Racer on course.