February 28, 2005

Heavenly, South Lake Tahoe, California

We drove and drove and finally around 6pm on Wednesday we made it to South Lake Tahoe, in time for dinner with Peggy and Justin. We worked with both of them in Vail and were thrilled to get to hang with them again. Thursday we learned that we would have the difficult task of building an RC car course. Dan, Justin and I got right to work shoveling snow, building kickers, bank turns and tunnels. Really it wasn’t work, but more like kids in playground. Saturday I got to ride the mountain handing out free snacks and prizes, I was the most popular girl on the hill that day. The event went well and we had a lot of fun with our co-workers and friends.

One of the RC Jeeps jumping on our course.

Th event we worked was the Warren Miller Experience, a two-day expo at the base of Heavenly, where Warren's latest film was shown, bands played and it all ended in a big party at a local casino.

One of the treats associated with working this week was the opportunity to stay in a hotel for almost a week. Here is the view from our room. Not too shabby huh? After you have lived in a camper for eight months, the chance to shower every day is a welcome change, and the hot tub is a nice bonus too.

As a special treat, my best friend Beth came up to visit us. We were thrilled to see her and to get to go riding with her. Poor Bethy is a grad student at the San Francisco Art Institute and all her time painting has been keeping her from snowboarding for 3 years now. Beth had to leave us this morning which was particularly sad since we awoke to 10” of fresh and no crowds. Sorry Beth.

Heavenly has some great terrain. Weekends are crazy, far too crowded for my tastes, but if you can hit it on a weekday, then it is great. The Mott lift has some fantastic tree skiing and where else can you be in a different state with every turn? We love that their trail signs say California this way, Nevada that way.

Beth and I on the mountain on Saturday.

The views from Heavenly are worth the cost of a lift ticket alone.

Dan, Beth and I riding the gondola on Sunday.

We couldn't resist a ride on the double black diamond tubing hill.

We are having so much fun here in California that we have decided to stay for a few more days. Tomorrow we are checking out of S. Lake and heading for a new ski area.

February 23, 2005

Snowbird, Utah to Heavenly, California

Since we last posted, we skied Snowbird in Utah, returned to Telluride, skied with some of our dearest friends and settled in for the remainder of the ski season, or so we thought.

First we rode Snowbird, which is a big and fun mountain. We spent the day riding bumps and choppy open bowls. Snowbird is worth visiting just for the views, and if you have the money then it is worth visiting for the heli-skiing. We opted for the view and the in-bounds terrain. Special thanks to the Snowbird marketing department for hooking us up with cheap tickets.

If you look closely you can see the sluff from where Dan jumped this cliff, dan is the dark spot below the cliff, lower left.

Inside the tram on the way to the top.

From Snowbird we headed down to Moab to visit Brother Pat in his new home. Friday afternoon we all drove over to Rico (near Telluride) to visit Jamie and Eric (see Sept. 15 post for their pictures). Meredith, Frank and Marc Snider came to visit as well. Frank is Meredith’s brother and one of Dan’s oldest and best friends. We all skied Telluride on Saturday and Sunday and even though they all made me ride bumps all day long, I still love them.

Monday Dan and I began what should have been our routine for the remainder of the winter. We rode for a few hours, then went into Telluride proper and afterwards went to sleep in our camper parked in the 14-day lot. This morning we woke up, had a lazy morning and rode with friend Jon Reed (a Wolf Creek patroller). We were falling into our routine very nicely. Then at noon we got a call from O.C. and everything changed yet again.

Salt Lake City as seen from the top of Snowbird.

O.C. is the guy who hired us to work in Vail at the U.S Freeskiing Open. He offered us a few days of work in the one place we haven’t skied yet and really wanted to, California. So because we are easily bought and will get to ride some new mountains, which have tons of snow, we are currently retracing our steps to Moab, Salt Lake City and then on to Cali. No doubt this will make for a more interesting post then… “T-ride got another 2”, we rode from 10-2, then had beers at the Gorrano. Later, we got chased around the parking lot by the snowplow all night.”

Additional note: My computer has been a naughty boy and apparently has not been “using” protection like he should while hanging out with some seedy programs. He has contracted a nasty virus which is making my life interesting and eternally frustrating. Hopefully I will be able to remedy this in the next few days, otherwise I may chuck this thing out the window while speeding down I-80. Keep your fingers crossed.

February 15, 2005

We’ve Got Our Mojo Back.

So how deep was it???

The drive down proved a bit exciting. I-90 through eastern Idaho and Western Montana was icy and snowy. The plows seem to have been caught off guard and so were many motorists. We passed about a dozen cars, trucks and trailers in the ditches alongside the road. All the while in our truck, whoever was not driving was trying to get an Internet signal and track the storm that was heading just south.

Finally yesterday around 3pm we felt sure that Targhee was the place to go. According to The Weather Channel, The Wyoming Avalanche Center and Intellecast, the brunt of the storm was heading there and not into Utah, which was our other destination. We pulled up to Grand Targhee Resort around 4pm and decided to just check to see if they had any ski and stay packages that would make a night in a hotel feasible for us.

The view from Targhee.

As it turns out Targhee is a really reasonable resort. A refreshing twist on the super-conglomerate, highfaluting, mega resort areas in Colorado and Utah. Why, you can pull right up to the base of Targhee at a respectable hour, the night before Valentine’s Day and get a slope side room for $59.00. Since neither of us had come up with a way to carry a dozen roses in the camper, we decided this would have to substitute. We fell asleep under heavy down comforters, with snow falling outside and in our own beds, (Valentine ’s Day or not the chance to sprawl out in a queen size bed all by ourselves was too much to forgo for the sake of romanticism).

I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. A socially prescribed day of flower and chocolate buying isn’t my idea of showing my husband that I adore him. That said, today was my best ever Valentine’s day.

This morning we awoke to 7” of fresh on top of the 7” they’d gotten the day before. We were ecstatic! Powder, lovely, soft, forgiving powder, I had almost forgotten how good it is. We got second chair (seems there are some really die-hard locals there who beat us to the first one) and rode beautiful gladed, mellow, powder fields all day long. The lodge where we spent the night has a lobby complete with fireplace, overstuffed chairs and free cocoa, we made frequent visits to it, since it was really cold out. After riding from 9-4 we took a quick soak in the hot tub and now we are off for Utah.

Dan riding at Targhee.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005
The Beav.

Before I can really tell you about our day today you need to understand a little bit about snow. If you ski you have heard about Champagne Powder. Well here’s what that really means. There is a method for determining how light snow is, to do this you measure the water content. An area or an avalanche center, will measure the snow in a cylindrical container, the container is capable of assessing the inches of water in the snow. So if 10” fall and the water content is 1” then you divide 1” by 10” and you get 10% snow. Champagne is generally thought to be anything less than 10% snow. So basically the lower the percentage the lighter, and by my way of thinking the better, the snow.

If you are not familiar with the sensation of riding in Champagne then know this, it can make even the biggest hack feel like they are a rock star on the slopes. A single day of riding in Champagne Powder has resulted in throngs of people abandoning friends, family and careers to ski the rest of their lives. Today we skied 17” of 5% snow. In scientific terms this is known as heaven.

The shiny crystals you see here are surface hoar. The winter equivelant of dew. It forms on cold clear nights, and leads to blue bird days. Surface hoar is what makes snow sparkle on days like today.

Unfortunately our fantastic day comes at a hefty price. I am not referring to the $30 lift tickets (really a screaming deal) or the $9.00 lunch (also a screaming deal), but to the debt we now owe to the person who turned us onto Beaver Mountain. That person is the one person you never want to owe, Brother Pat. You see until very recently Pat lived in Logan, Utah. For years he’s been calling us and leaving messages like “you punks, hope you had fun skiing that inch over there in Colorado, I just rode 20 at the Beav.” Well until today I didn’t know how much of a dig this truly was. The Beav is fabulous! Too bad for Brother Pat, he lives in Moab now.

Here are some pictures from our great day.

Dan tuckin in the trees.

Me in my happy place.

One of the runs takes you trough an old burn area.

Me still happy.

This picture makes me smile, an untracked tree line, what's not to love. Even though this picture doesn't look very steep, I promise the trees at Beaver Mountain are really nicely pitched, making for fun fast turns.

Dan? Where'd you go?

February 12, 2005

Red Mountain/ Rossland, BC

Well we did it, we drove to Canada even though everyone told us there was no snow here. Unfortunately THEY were right, and worse, according to The Weather Channel, The Farmer’s Almanac and the Canadian Avalanche Center there is no snow in the foreseeable future. That is with the possible exception of Saturday when there is a 20% chance of flurries. But do not be dismayed, ever the optimists, we are happy to report that BC is only a short two-day drive away from Utah and thus powder.

The new revised plan is to ski Red Mountain on Saturday, maybe Fernie on Sunday and then retreat to the one place in North America that is set to be dumped upon for the next ten days, our old stomping grounds, Southwestern Colorado.

What a strange twist of fate it is that as much as we tried to get out and experience the rest of North America, we keep getting pulled back home. Is this a sign? Are we meant to be in Durango? Well you may rest assured that it will take a mighty big frying pan to beat that message into us if this is really the case.

We knew things were really getting bleak when we went into the Albertsons north of Spokane and the 70 something year-old checker commented upon learning that we were not from there, “I sure hope you didn’t come all this way to ski.” I laughed…to keep from crying.

This is one of the tree runs on the north side of Red, not so good right now. See all of the ice?

We got to Rossland this morning and visited the ski area right off. First let me tell you that this is the place! If there was even a slight chance that it would snow here in the next few weeks or so, we would buy passes and settle in. Alas, as I said before there is no hint of snow, in fact rain is much more likely. Red Mountain is a glade/tree/powder skiers dream come true, our dream come true. Except, it would seem, this month and perhaps this year. The Mountain is quaint, and friendly. It has produced Canadian Olympiads and was recently ranked in the top 25 ski towns by Powder (I think) magazine, and the #1 by Canada’s Ski magazine.

We learned that this was the first ski lift in Canada. Yup, it is still running.

The town nestled a mere ridge line away is small, charming and utterly gear toward the hard-core, live it-love it, no friends on a powder day, skiing way of life. There are 4000 acres of slack country (lift accessed backcountry) accessible from the top of Red. There are acres upon acres of epic, beautiful cross country trails, some leading right back to town. For goodness sake its Main Street is four blocks long and it has 4 coffee shops on it, none of which are giant US corporate chains! I am meant to live here!

To make this decision even harder on us there is the fact that Red Mountain offers, free RV camping complete with electrical hookups, and not in the boondocks somewhere but right up front, perhaps 50 yards from the lift. They will even allow you to buy day passes and then credit the cost of the passes towards a season’s pass should you later decided to buy one.

This is the run you can take back to Rossland.

So to recap, we are on the doorstep of our dream ski area and town. We have free ski-in/ Ski-out camping and the ability to use our electric heater to keep us nice and toasty. We can buy no-risk day passes and turn them in for a season’s pass when it becomes cost effective to do so. We love the town, more so than any other that we have visited (save for maybe Sayulita), and we pre-bought beer this time, so we could even afford to drink here. Sounds like our idea of Mecca wouldn’t you say? Except there is no snow. Why God, why???

As our dear friend Erik Wienk is prone to saying when something he’s done goes array, “the blueprint was SO good.”

Rachel's first ever Magic Carpet ride.

To drown our current sorrows we opted to drive north and spend the night at Ainsworth Hot Springs. This place is gorgeous, it is located right alongside Kootenay Lake and surrounded by mountains. Camping here runs $5/ night and a soak is $4.60 U.S. Tonight we will soak and drink and pray for a snowy miracle.


Ainsworth was great and made for a nice distraction from our woes. The springs boast a 150’ long horseshoe shaped cave, which has in its depths the mother spring and acts as a hot springs/ sauna. It is fantastic. We tried to take pictures inside, but the steam made it very difficult.

Yesterday we soaked in the morning then drove over to Whitewater Ski Area, outside of Nelson. Yet another area that looks like it could be great if only there was snow. With our depression mounting by the moment we returned to Rossland. The base of Red is covered in frozen granular; it looks like mid April snow, not February.

Across the street from the mountain is the Rock Cut Restaurant and Bar where we spent last night drinking jugs (Canadian for pitchers) and chatting it up with some locals. They assured us is has to snow, although they are all banking on March and calling February a loss.

The 20% chance of flurries seems to have turned into a 100% chance of partly cloudy skies with no chance of precipitation. Today we will ride granular and appreciate the water proofness of our ski gear, while touring what was to be our home this winter. We have set a 2pm deadline for the next decision to be made. Stay, go to Fernie or go home and ski SW Colorado, we shall see.


We had a really fun day at Red. It was the kind of day that was fun because we were exploring a new area, and because we were only there for one day. It would cease to be fun after a few days. We met up with a ten year-old Rossland native who described the conditions as such, "the snow is really bad, but the skiing is tolerable." He was right, as long as we stuck to groomed green and blue runs, we had fun.

Today made us realize more than ever that Red is a fantastic ski area. If we could have on a day like today, I can only imagine the sheer joy a powder day here would bring. We are already planning for next winter's trip up here. This year, however was not meant to be.

A quick call to meredith assured us that it is currently snowing back home and that the winter is shaping up to be an epic one. Finally we have received all of the signs needed. We are tucking tail and heading south. I post this from just north of Spokane.

If we try hard we can be skiing powder in Utah by Tuesday.

February 09, 2005

Which way do we go from Jackson Hole?

Those less hardy, (or is that fool hardy), than ourselves might re-think heading north after receiving first hand accounts of the blue ice phenomenon sweeping the Northwest. Still others might retreat to the champagne powder of Southwestern Colorado after being offered free Jackson Hole passes with the caveat of "you can have them, but you won't want to use them". There are some who would see a sudden electrical problem, a faltering marine battery and an illuminated check engine light as divine intervention. But not us. We press on, heading for the icy north with nothing but a faltering truck and a battery that can only heat us for half a night to back us up.

After losing an hour in Craig, Colorado, which resulted in the blowing of 10 fuses, the purchase of a new in-cab inverter and an unsatisfying chat with the Dodge dealer, we pressed on for Little America, Wyoming. You may remember this place from the very beginning of our journey. Little America bills itself as the largest truck stop in North America; it even has its own post office, affording it township status.

This morning while eating in Little America's diner I read the story of how this "Oasis" came to be. Seems the founder owned the land and one night got caught in a storm forcing him to survive a night out with no shelter or food. He proclaimed in his despair that someone should build a place where one could obtain shelter, a fire and a hot meal here on this god forsaken patch of land. Thus was born Little America. Now you can get a room, a latte, a pepperoni log, some of that fake speed truck drivers use and even kitschy Wyoming trinkets, all while filling up at one of their 60+ fuel pumps. Now that's a good time.

Jackson, WY
From our little haven along the I-80 corridor we headed back to Jackson. The lure of good friends and seeing the only mountain that has ever scared my husband was strong. We made camp at Landa and Keith's house again. Dan paid our rent by haying Landa's horses in the mornings and wrangling Raymond, the pet cow, out of the hay shed.

Dan the Cow Whisperer.

Dan went backcountry skiing with Mike and Carol (of Grand Canyon fame). On Sunday Dan, Carol and I went snow shoeing behind Landa's house.

Views from the snow shoeing tour. (This photo was taken by Dan, as was the barn one above, see he doesn't JUST drive ;)

That afternoon we settled in and watched six hours straight of television, The Super bowl. This probably is equal to all of the other TV we have seen in seven months.

Monday we skied Jackson Hole. It was my first time there. What a mountain! Like everywhere besides from whence we came, they need snow, but you can still have fun and I could see how amazing this place must be on a powder day.

Dan reviewing the trail map.

Me a the top of the tram. The ride and views are equally impressive.

There is an RV friendly lot at the ski area. We paid $10 for a ski in/ ski out parking spot. No frills, but a level space and only steps away from the Mangy Moose a classic apr├Ęs ski bar. Apparently the cost to park overnight is $10, the price to "camp" is $40. We "parked".

As the last post and its amendments alluded to, we are at somewhat of a loss for where to go right now. Our plan was always to return to Rossland, BC for the winter. We intended to spend about 3 months skiing Red Mountain and immersing ourselves in this charming Canadian town. However, due to a serious lack of snow, and an abundance of rain, we are lacking the excitement we once had for this part of the trip. We have weighed all of your suggestions, as well as some other options, and have decided to stick to the plan for now. Currently we are outside of Missoula, MT. We should be in Rossland by Friday.

We are going to ski Red, see how it is and make up our minds from there. Spending the remainder of ski season in Canada is an expensive endeavor for us which is a big part of the decisions we are trying to make. To stay in Rossland, we would need to buy season’s passes to the mountain and most likely rent an apartment.

We may decided that this isn't the year to live in BC, in which case we will do a quick ski tour of some of the BC mountains we have always wanted to ride, and then retreat to Colorado. Otherwise we will tuff it out in the great not-so-white north. Either way I am certain we will be able to make the most of it.

P.S. Shameless Plug: have you noticed the ads below here? See how well they correspond to whatever I have been writing about recently? Well if you click on them you can learn more and help us fill our diesel tank. Since putting the ads on just over a month ago we have earned $60 from your clicks. Keep clicking-it costs you nothing and may just help us get to wherever the heck it is we are going.

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Our beloved Wolf Creek Ski Area is owned by the Pitcher family. Also owned by a Pitcher, is Discovery Ski Area outside of Anaconda, MT. This is not the year to plan your family vacation there but, this place has serious potential! We will be back.
As this picture of Anaconda shows, as we go further and further north, the snow gets less and less. Uh-oh.

February 03, 2005

The Aspen Eddy

Voting results:
So far we have a vote for Cerritos, one generic go surfing vote, one for Yuma, one for and against Mt. Bohemia, and one for returning to Durango (I think- or is D-town too good for us "sorry slobering drunks hiding it behind an RV facade white trash barrel racing on skis no good vala-dick-torian gibber promoting movie star smilin bling, bling worthless, best friends a chump could have" types). Utah is a good suggestion, but alas Brother Pat lives there so that's out.

So in summary that's two votes for surfing, three for the 4 Corners states, and a nullified Mt. Bohemia vote. I was hoping for a more decisive spread here folks. Who else has an idea?? Mom- I see no suggestions for good old Ohio. Don,Sandra, where is the "anywhere is fine just get a job you idot brains", request? Brook, I was hoping you'd vote for a trip across the lake, I hear Austria's got snow.

Keep the suggestions coming. We are in Jackson Hole today and the snow is not falling- so unless Rossland is experiencing its own weather phenom- things are still not looking good.

Once back in Aspen we found ourselves stuck in an eddy. For those of you who are not familiar with river terminology, an eddy is a (usually) calm spot in a river where the water swirls back upstream thus creating an opportunity to slow your boat down safely, or in the case of big rivers, a dangerous spot which can require a helicopter to get you out of. I am happy to report that we were able to pull free from the Ahhhspen eddy with out the use of a helicopter, but just barely.

The view from Brook, Bjorn and Kip's ranch, otherwise known as the eddy.

Brook, Bjorn and Kip live on a ranch in Old Snowmass. From their living room you can see Snowmass Mountain and many other mountains which frame a beautiful snow filled valley below. Their house is hard to leave, very hard. The view is stunning, the company fine and as long as free lift tickets continued to appear, we were hard pressed to find a reason to leave.

Sunday Dan and I rode Snowmass, which is a very snowboarder friendly mountain. They had received some snow and the conditions were fantastic. Monday, Kip, Lexi, Blades, Dan and I rode at Aspen Highlands, again there was fresh snow and fantastic conditions. Dan and I hiked the Highlands Bowl for the first time.

The snow cat takes you about 1/5 of the way up the bowl, your feet take you the rest of the way.

Dan and I at the top of the Highland Bowl.

Tuesday we got really stuck in the eddy and never left the ranch. Kip had the day off and we enjoyed being utterly lazy. Dan lost miserably at a game of Risk, he learned the hard way not to invade Europe when your wife controls that continent. Kip and I finally called a draw after almost three hours, and our interest, had been lost. We ventured out once for about a half hour to throw the Frisbee for Kip’s dog, but otherwise were absolutely, blissfully, useless.

Skiing the Higland Bowl.

Wednesday we again rode at Highlands. After riding we enjoyed a few malted beverages at The Endeavor, the local's bar for Highland’s employees. Afterwards we went into Ahhhspen proper for a nice dinner. Thanks so much to our fabulous Ahhspen hosts and friends, you almost got us to stay ;)

The Endeavor is the bar where all of the Highlands instructors go after work. Thanks to Olga and Sarah for the use of the mug.

Now we are heading north, although we aren’t really all that sure this is a good idea. It seems that B.C. is severely lacking in snow, and has an abundance of rain. Did you know that Mt. Hood in Oregon is closed? Closed!!! It is on a glacier for goodness sake! This does not bode well for Northwestern ski areas. But alas, this was our plan all along and we are sticking to it, at least for now.

Or are we???? We are open to suggestions... Where do you think we should spend the rest of the winter? Click Here to tell us.

Bald Eagle outside of Carbondale.