Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Getting Back on the Slopes

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Recently, I decided it was time to jump back in the saddle and get back to a sport and hobby that I absolutely love, which is skiing. For various reasons, I haven't been in four seasons, and I was finally ready to give it a go! I was a bit nervous, as my balance and strength isn't what it used to be, and I've gained a fair amount of weight after Sara's birth that I haven't managed to lose all of yet, and I'm just really out of shape. Oh well, I thought, I'm ready to get back out there anyway, as it's a great workout!

I couldn't have chosen a worse day to go then the day I went! I knew that there was going to be a lot of mountain snow in the forecast, which was fine with me. I love skiing downhill in light and even heavy snow. I wasn't expecting a blizzard! The morning I left, I checked the pass conditions, and the roads were open, and all wheel drive didn't require chains. It was the first time I would be taking my new SUV, bought four years earlier, to the pass for a ski trip. But it wasn't the first time I had driven it in heavy snow, so I wasn't worried about how it would perform. It has an intelligent AWD system which turns on automatically.

I set out for Steven's Pass, and all was fine, all the way up past the snow line, and all the way until I was about 10 miles from the summit. By then, it was snowing heavily, and the roads were getting covered. Traffic backed up to a standstill, because of all of the other people having to stop and chain up. I finally made it to about a quarter mile from the summit and resort, and saw that all of the on site lots were full, meaning I'd have to go to their offsite parking, about another five miles to the east. No worries, I had to park there the last time I went. This is where things starting getting harry.

Because of the stop and go traffic on glare ice, every time we moved a bit, and then had to stop, my car would start sliding everywhere, and so did everyone else's. It wasn't bad at first, as I still had control. But out of the blue, as I was coming to another stop, I must have been going just a little to fast, and as I slowed down, the back of my car came all the way around, and I did a complete 180, which was a little nerve racking and embarrassing.  I was able to stop just before sliding into the snow bank on the side of the road, and I managed to get the car back on track and continued on. We were passing the summit, and the traffic directors were making everyone switch lanes. When I did, I got stuck on some deep snow in the middle of the road way. This would have been a great time to use the "snow mode" button that my car comes equipped with. This controls the engine output and tire spin when driving slowly through snow and ice, but I had completely forgotten all about it, and never used it!

I had to get out of the car in the middle of the road, and kick the snow away from my tires so that I could get going again. I did finally get out, and drove on to the offsite lot, which was thankfully still open. I caught the shuttle back to the resort, and was ready to hit the slopes! This was about the time that the heavy wind started picking up.

My first couple of runs were good, and it felt good to be on the mountain again! I had brought sunglasses instead of ski goggles, but they kept fogging up, so I went without, which was fine, even though the snow was driving down. I nearly lost my balance and fell, but managed to catch myself before crashing. I went up a few more times, and got more confident with each run.

First run in a long time!
By now, it was blizzard conditions, and as I was going up in the chairlift, we started having extremely hard, fast wind gusts. The driving snow stung my face like needles, and it was really uncomfortable sitting up there in that. They had to stop the lift for a few minutes to let it pass. When I was finally at the top, and ready to start my run, the wind really started gusting. Everyone had to stop where they were to keep from getting blown over, it was so strong. The wind wasn't stopping, so I made it slowly down the mountain.

Trying to wait out the wind.
By this time, just about everyone had gone inside to escape the driving wind and heavy snow. The lodge was more crowded than I'd ever seen it. I got my food, and had to eat standing up. It was just after 1 pm, and there were still a few chairs going, so I was getting ready to head back out, when an employee jumped up onto a table to announce that they would be closing the road-the only way back-at 2 sharp! If I didn't get out now, I 'd be stuck, possibly overnight, with no way back to Seattle! The only other way back, into Eastern Washington, and over the I90 Snoqualmie Pass, was also closed. I ran to get my skis, as did everyone else, many abandoning their food and beer, to get out. I quickly caught the shuttle, and got back to my car.

Throwing everything hurriedly in the back, I headed west as quickly as I could on the ice rink road, slipping and sliding all the way up. About a mile from the top, traffic stopped AGAIN because of several spinouts that ended up hood first into the 10 ft high snow banks on the the side of the road. It was just a few minutes until 2, and I began to panic. I did thankfully bring a credit card with me, so if I had to get a hotel in Leavenworth, about 30 miles east, I possibly could, if there were any available, but I was praying that they would go ahead and wave me through. They did. I was so relieved. I made it down a few more miles, and the ice on the road disappeared, and the roads were bare and wet, so I didn't have to worry about sliding anymore. 

It was a stressful trip, and I wish that I would've picked a better day to go for my first time back in awhile. I didn't feel like I got my money's worth for my lift ticket that day, but at least I wasn't stranded. I do want to go up again before the season ends, so I'll go up before the month end-weather permitting!
Top of Hogsback Express

From the Lodge

Just beautiful!

Some Blue Runs

My skiing essentials:


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