Call me a sissy skier if you want, but the only air I strive for while skiing is not hitting a jump to become airborne but rather having sufficient oxygen just to catch my breath.
Last week I was on the first day of a ski trip to Utah up at Brighton Resort, nestled near the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon.
At a base elevation of almost nine thousand feet, having traveled from sea level only a few hours before, I found myself gasping for breaths just clomping up the stairs looking for the men’s room.
A few years ago I did a “road trip” ski week in Colorado (home of ski resorts that are slightly colder than the dark side of the moon) and was surprised to find cans of oxygen for sale in the local mini-mart.
The friends I met at the Denver airport had a “head start” in the acclimatization process, since they live at about 4K’ year around.
Me, no so much.
Back to Utah, Brighton was a blast, especially with the new Milly Express; a rocket ship chairlift to a mountain covered in double black diamond chutes.
For you non-skiers/boarders–a double black diamond run means double the chance of getting to meet the cute ski patrol person after a spectacular fall on your way down the mountain, while laying on your back with your right knee stuck in your left ear.
The next day we made the drive up to Snow Basin, which was the home of the 2002 Olympics downhill races.
We took the Mt. Allen Tram up to the top of what was the start house of the men’s downhill race.
For many of you the term “tram” might conjure up an image of the huge trams you see in the movies or like the iconic old tram at Heavenly Valley, Lake Tahoe, where you can pack in almost a busload of boarders and skiers.
But the Mt. Allen Tram was used to transport only a few skiers at a time and is about the size of a hearse standing on end (but with more windows so you can appreciate what could be your pending need for a real hearse).
This is the only place I have ever skied where they have a full-time ski resort employee reading off, what must be an attorney-approved, script.
At this point, all my mind registers from our safety briefing is,
“…extremely steep…dangerous…icy…someone could die…if you had half-a-brain you would ride this tram back to the bottom and to the warmth and safety of the John Paul Lodge, where, by the way, they serve comforting local micro-brews on tap…and did I mention, you could die…”
So, I did the only thing I could do in the company of my nephew, along with my younger daughter and her snowboarding macho-man-of-the-mountain boyfriend…suck in my sagging gut and puff up my post-middle aged, overly hirsute chest and say,
“Hey, no problema, I’m in” (I figured, what’s the worst thing that could happen?)
In a clear sign of confidence of my sking prowess, my daughter quietly suggests,
“Hey, dad…how about letting me carry the car keys?“
My one advice for anyone contemplating this double black diamond run (did I mention, you could die) is to NOT look over the edge to the west.
One slip and you are down to the frying pan-flat valley, north of Salt Lake City. Just ignore the fact that it looks like it’s about five thousand feet straight down of mostly jagged rocks and not enough loose dirt to bury my worthless corpse.
Somehow, I was still alive on Day Three, so it was over to The Canyons, near Park City (home of the rich and famous with their Mercedes M-class Skis and designer one-piece outfits).
I should mention, the only way we could afford the lift tickets there, which were more expensive than a weeks lodging in many Third World countries, was that I found a “deal” in the local newspaper.
Two lift tickets, two beers, two hamburgers, all for $109. That’s a pretty good deal at ANY ski resort, nowadays.
Of course being able to actually enjoy all three items would have made it a great deal.
This day’s intrepid group was again my daughter, her devil-may-care snowboarder boyfriend (let’s call him, Jason), and yet another snowboarding friend of my daughter (we will call him, Ryan), who apparently was not happy unless his snowboard was anywhere, but on the relative safety of the nice smooth groomed runs.
What these two guys consider worthwhile fantastic snowboarding areas, I would call…how can I put this…
Rocks, Trees, Cliffs, and Other Deadly Hazards.
In other words, things to avoid.
Well, sometimes you can avoid trouble and sometimes it smacks you right in the face.
Just take Exhibit One, the picture to the right.
This was not quite the same deal as the last time the we had a Bloody Sunday.
The comment from Jason, as to what happened, must be categorized as one of the most understated, misrepresentations of reality,
“I saw the tree coming at me so I put my board up in front of me.”
So thusly, Day Three of the Ski Trip, actually was Day Two and One Half, as a mid-day trip was needed to visit the cute, female doc at the Urgent Care for eight stitches, a suggestion to get an x-ray of the olive-sized bump on the cheek (face-cheek, that is), and confirmation that the leg was probably not broken, just badly bruised.
And I really could feel the poor guy’s pain. I mean, after all, it was me that had to give up that free burger and a beer, so we could get off the mountain before Jason bled to death.
He probably would not have bled to death.
By the way, you might ask, what happened to my nephew from Day Two?
Well, funny you should ask, as so did my sister.
“I don’t think we left him on the top of the Mt. Allen Tram.”
Hey, I had bigger issues on my mind. I was out of Rumplemintz and had to pass on free beer.
Now, that’s pain you can feel.