Hey you kids, see what happens when you start hucking around. You can lose an eye—or, at the very least, a knee.
It was only a few days ago, when I was lamenting about massive crowds of marauding minions of vacationing skiers and boarders at Lake Tahoe area resorts, towards the tail end of the Christmas-New Years holiday.
So yesterday seemed like a good day for a do-over, with my expectation that valley and bay area schools—at least those of the younger yutes—would be back in session, thus enabling me to find a parking spot closer than a two-mile walk to the chair lifts, which I would have suffered the previous week.
For those of you who have never walked in ski boots, think, the concrete-filled buckets that you see the movie mafiosos use to deep-six anyone crossing them.
Things started looking up right from the drive up the hill, when I saw dozens of bright yellow school buses, filled to capacity with yawning, goggle-tanned youngsters, and only four ski/board-laden vehicles pass me on the road to Kirkwood. And, upon my arrival—which was after the resort was already open—I was able to park only seven cars from the walk to the chairlifts. Both, very good signs.
Once the fog and overcast burned off, the sun was shining, there were still pockets of undefiled powder from the small storm the night before, and as evidenced by the traffic and parking lot, virtually no one to disturb my rhythm and graceful skiing techniques—and by rhythm and graceful, I mean flailing arms and unrestrained leg action.
Nevertheless, I was really enjoying trying my latest equipment purchase, which are my new rocker skis, so called because the wife-person must have been off hers to let me spend that much money for my winter toys.
But, this day, I was going big. It was over to Chair 4, and the backside of Kirkwood. This is the view at the top of Thunder Saddle slope.
The next picture is the double black diamond run I skied down, which was a lot steeper, a lot narrower, and a lot rockier than the picture really shows, and a run which would have been beyond my nerve or desire not to die on my older skis.
Then it happened. (Here is my, bright, happy smile transmorphing into a heavy, sad frown.)
I came upon, what I will call from this day on, “Deadman’s Cliff.”
(Although, “Broken Knee Cliff” might have been a more appropriate name, as you will see).
Part way down one run, the ski patrol had dutifully placed bamboo poles across the run, to mark a drop-off, where a plowed cat track crossed the ski run. As I came to a stop just above the “You Might Need A Parachute Cliff” (new name), I wondered how I might get to the bottom, so as to continue down the hill.
As I inched sideways ever closer to the lip, while peering down the abyss, I wondered if possibly enough snow might slough off to allow me to ease down the drop, and land in the vertical position with skis remaining afoot.
(It should be noted, that I also wonder where Easter eggs come from.)
The next thing I remember, I was freefalling down the “You Really Should Not Ski Alone In The Backcountry Cliff” (new, new name), and I had this feeling that I was flying, as in the following picture.
That peaceful mental picture took about a nanosecond to be violently erased as I hit the packed cat track with a loud KATHUMP. After laying there in repose for a moment to enjoy the fact that I was, indeed, not completely dead, I noticed that one knee felt like someone just hit it with a sledgehammer. A rather large sledgehammer.
For those of you who have never attempted to stand up after falling down while wearing skis, which are attached rigidly to your body by way of plastic boots with the stiffness of a steel beam, you might imagine if someone had nailed six-foot long, 2 by 4 boards to your feet. And, the degree of difficulty of having to do this on flat ground, is to imagine doing it with ten-foot long, 2 by 6 boards.
It is less standing up and more trying to use your ski poles to stiffly raise up from one side before your skis slide away from under you and fall back on the ground. Repeatedly. (Always a crowd pleaser to watch.)
I finally resorted to removing my skis and hoped they would not slide off the level cat track and onto the adjacent ski slope. Ski brakes, or not, I have seen loose skis turn into unguided missiles.
While, upon thoughtful reflection, the height of the drop-off that I flopped off was probably a lot closer to what is depicted in this photo.
But, nevertheless, my left knee maintains it still feels like I hucked the drop-off as depicted in the previous picture of the “You Only Thought Your Other Knee Was O.K. Cliff.)