Category Archives: Skiing

ski Saturday

I am currently catatonic on the couch, waiting for my husband and younger daughters to get home, at which point I’ll have to start getting things done.  But for now, I vegetate.  Yesterday, I took L and B skiing, and today I ran ten miles.  Given my current fitness levels, ten miles is enough to completely exhaust me.

The skiing was fun, if stressful getting there.  It’s nominally a 95 minute drive to the resort from our house.  J stayed home with S as he was a little under the weather from his last Covid shot, and we don’t want to necessarily take S with us every time.  Next time, he gets to ski and I stay home or try and teach S.  We’d had snow the night before, and the roads were a little dodgy all the way.  They weren’t terrible – you could see bare blacktop, but there was sometimes snow between black wheel tracks, and there was consistently snow or ice in the middle of the road and on the sides.  Traffic was slower so it took nearly two hours to get there, and I was pretty frazzled by the time we arrived.  I’m not used to driving in snow, and it stresses me out.  When we got there, we discovered they have a new shuttle system to get from the parking lot to the resort, and it sucks.  Yes, SUCKS.  It took 30 minutes+ to get the shuttle, maybe 40 minutes even, and I got yelled at for cutting the line.  (Obviously, I didn’t cut the line; the other person was confused and apologized, but it still didn’t feel good.)  It was very stressful because the kids had a lesson and the traffic delay plus shuttle delay made them late.  The front area is also under construction, and we didn’t know where to go.  When we finally got to the lesson place, we discovered S’s boot was missing a buckle, which just about made my head explode.

After all that, though, there is such a feeling of peace after getting on the lift and getting on the hill.  It’s just so spectacularly beautiful.  My stress level went from a 10+ to about a 2 by the time I got to the top of the first lift.

This photo only begins to capture it.  Truly, it was a stunning bluebird day.

The temperature was 20 degrees with occasional wind chill, but I took Becca’s advice and got a balaclava, and it made a huge difference.  Long johns + insulated ski bibs + turtleneck + wool sweater + down jacket + liner loves + ski mittens + balaclava + fleece cowl + ski helmet == comfort.  I actually felt great.  It’s a huge pain to get to Cry.stal as compared to Snoqu.almie Pass, a closer Seattle-area resort, but once you get there, the lift lines are short, the slopes are well-groomed, and it’s just wonderful.  (Come visit, and I’ll take you skiing!)

I was somewhat disheartened to realize that I’ve regressed a bit in a few short months.  I didn’t make it onto any blue runs, but just got comfortable doing the hardest green run again.  Next trip, I’ll ski the “easy” blue run again.  Still, I begin to wonder if it’s possible for a fit but uncoordinated and unathletic 42-year-old to really make any progress in skiing skill-wise.  I can never seem to get beyond easy blues.

I missed a run or two, but you get the gist.

The girls did great at their lessons, though.  At least they will be able to ski competently when they’re adults.  Still, even if I never do get off the greens, the beauty of Crystal would make a visit worth it anyway.  It just gives me a feeling of peace and happiness to see all the mountains and snow-covered trees in every direction.

ski fomo

I’ve been having major FOMO over skiing lately.  Washington got a bunch of snow in April, and so local ski resorts have been extending their closing dates.  The ski resort I usually go to, Crystal Mountain, for example, is going to be open until Memorial Day on Fridays and weekends.  However, I had my goal 10K race 3 weeks ago, our vacation to Oregon, another goal race this weekend, my first day of work Monday, and my daughters’ First Communion next weekend along with a visit from their godmother, a friend of mine from grad school.  All in all, there hasn’t been time for skiing.  That hasn’t stopped me from *watching* skiing on Peacock.  I subscribed to Peacock for the Olympics.  After being wildly disappointed with my subscription for the summer Olympics (which I canceled immediately afterwards), I’ve been really impressed since the winter Olympics.  Apparently NBC responded to criticism.  My $5 / month subscription gives me access to all of the World Cup skiing from ’21-’22 . . . and lots of other stuff, including, for example, most major professional cycling races.  It’s great.  I’ve been enjoying it so much, I don’t think we’ve turned on Netflix in ages.

Crystal hasn’t opened *all* their lifts.  They’ve opened most of them but left closed the lift that serves the most advanced green runs as well as the easier blue runs I’d been working on.  They recently added a new 3D trail map along with descriptions of the runs.  The interface is rather user-hostile, but hopefully they’ll improve it.  In any case, I think the trail descriptions are super useful!  When you’re moving up from greens to blues, or I’m guessing blues to blacks, you kind of want to know what you’re getting yourself into.

The first blue run I did at Crystal is called Downhill.  It is pretty easy except for one very steep section.  At least, I think it’s steep.  It’s wide, no trees, and everyone says it’s the first “easy” blue you should do.  I don’t find it easy, however.  Description:

This wide trail offers excellent terrain for carving on a groomer. The upper half of the run is a great place for beginners wanting to try out a blue. Avoid the steep section towards the bottom known as The Burn by taking the cat track to the right under the Forest Queen Chair. For those wanting a little more challenge, look for softer snow along the edges of The Burn. This steep section can become scraped down to firm snow and sometimes ice later in the day. Below, the terrain mellows again for what is locally known as the Afterburn before returning to the bottom of the chair. This run is best in the morning when the snow is freshly groomed. Starting below the top of the Forest Queen Chair, this trail is easy to find. Flanked by tall trees and a steep slope on the left, this picturesque trail rolls through varied terrain, making for a fun and fast run.

OK, so at least they acknowledge that there is a steep section.  And yes, calling it “the burn” is apt.  After getting comfortable-ish on Downhill, I finally ventured onto another blue run.  An employee told me all the blue runs off this particular lift were pretty easy, so I tried Rolling Knolls.  I’d describe it as comparable in difficulty to Downhill, maybe a little more tricky in some ways because it’s narrower and if you don’t avoid the fall line, it is steep.  But you can avoid the steepest route down, so it’s not bad.

This challenging blue starts as a sidehill traverse from the Downhill run. Once you can see the steep dropoff, you are committed to the trail, so take caution. For skiers and riders wanting to avoid going all the way to the bottom of the ski area to transition to the Mountain Top side of Crystal, Rolling Knolls offers a fun, steep and sometimes powdery shortcut. The run drops sharply twice, making a slight right turn to end at the bottom of Rainier Express. The best snow can be found on the far right side of the lower drop, where the terrain is much steeper. This run is steep enough that it requires a winch for grooming. Stay in the groomed section for less challenge. The trees on either side of the run offer fun glades. The glade on the right side is often quite deep and steep. Watch for avalanches and tree wells.

Watch for avalanches?  Really?  OK.

In any case, since my favorite lift is closed, I’d need to ski either “Little Shot” or “Green Valley” if I were to go skiing again.  (We do seem to have one free weekend between now and the end of May.)

Little Shot:

A long cat track, Little Shot is the easiest route on Rainier Express. Start at the top of Green Valley Express, taking the Back Traverse to Powder Pass. From here, ski/ride down the first face of Lucky Shot. At the top of the second face, find the cat track on skier’s left. Follow this until it ends under the chair below the bottom of the third face of Lucky Shot. Either veer left here and take Upper Arwines or stay under the Rainier Express to the bottom.

This sounds very manageable to me, though I have very little experience with cat tracks.  I feel like I’m pretty comfortable with steeps at this point, but I am not comfortable with narrow runs.  I have basically done no narrow runs whatsoever.  I guess there’s only one way to rectify that!  The other option is Green Valley:

A long, snaking groomer with some steeper sections, this main run on Green Valley Express is also known as Greenback. Green Valley begins at the top of Green Valley Chair. Look for the groomed swath on the skier’s left of the vast Green Valley Bowl. There are many routes here, but this is the most obvious and popular. As far as blue runs go, this is a challenging one. It is steepest at the top. The second headwall is shallower than the first and the third headwall, if it can even be called that, is shallower still.

I feel like I should be able to handle this, but I’d hate to realize I was wrong at the top with no other way down the mountain.  If only I wasn’t such a wimp!

Skiing and cycling

I booked our accommodation for skiing next year!  We are going to Park City.  In the end, I decided the ease of travel made Park City a win over other potential destinations.  We seriously considered Steamboat, as it would have saved us some money on passes due to sharing agreement with our local mountain, but everything I read talked about Steamboat being great for tree skiing, and I am just not excited about this.  Also, there is only one direct flight from Seattle to Steamboat a day (and vice versa) to transportation there isn’t ideal.  I was seriously tempted by Beaver Creek, but accommodation prices meant we would have been able to stay *in* Beaver Creek but would have had to stay in the nearby town of Avon.  That’s a short manageable drive away, but with a three-year-old, I thought this was a good year to put a priority on convenience.  We also looked at Big Sky Montana but nixed that due to accommodation prices.

Most ski resorts were non-starters due to lack of options for three-year-olds.  Really only the very large resorts and lessons for younger kids and childcare.  If we continue to enjoy skiing, we’ll have many more options the following year.

The one outlier in terms of cost in Park City is rental cars.  A standard SUV will run us $1400 for seven days, much higher than at other locations (like Steamboat or Beaver Creek).  So I’m hoping they’ll run a sale or something, or maybe we can just forego a rental car completely.

The VRBO I booked in Park City is very close to Park City Mountain ski lifts.  It’s a short drive from Park City Canyons, which one can ski on the same lift ticket.  It’s also a short drive from Deer Valley.  Deer Valley lift tickets are completely exorbitant, but perhaps we could spend one day there.  Or Jonathan and I could put the kids in lessons at Park City and ski there on our own, ha ha.  We’ll see.

Meanwhile, my interest is shifting from skiing to cycling.  I have my last goal race of the “season” this weekend – a 10K.  The following weekend, L and B are getting their First Communion, and an old friend who is L’s godmother is coming in for the weekend.  I won’t be cycling this weekend, and may or may not be able to squeeze in a short cycle the First Communion weekend.  But I’m hoping that the following weekend I’ll be able to start cycling regularly.

I took the girls for a flat 10 mile cycle on a local paved trail.  It was the first cycle I’d taken them on in ages, and L has spent so little time cycling, she was a little uncomfortable on her bike at first.  However, once we got going, a good time was had by all.  The girls went about 7 mph, which is pretty slow, but they didn’t seem tired afterwards.  I think we could all go farther together.

I feel like I’ve never been able to make any real progress in cycling due to not doing enough of it.  I just don’t feel all that comfortable cycling on the roads during the week due to traffic.  Since I’m going back to work, if I wanted to cycle on a weekday morning, I’d be out during rush hour.  I think you’re asking for an accident if you do that too frequently, and I don’t really enjoy it anyway.  But only cycling one day of the weekend means I never get that much cycling fitness.  (Cycling both weekend days is obviously not practical due to family obligations.)  Therefore, I’m thinking about getting a trainer.  Decent bike trainers are expensive, so it would be an investment.  But I’ve been looking for a way to exercise at home, either running or biking, for a while.  I think maybe it’s an investment worth making.  Or maybe I should just join a gym!  But then I have to drive to said gym, and until recently, WA required masks even when working out, which is a nonstarter for cardio for me.  And it just feels like such a waste if / when I don’t use it.  Like most people, I never seem to get my money’s worth from gym memberships.