Category Archives: ski bum life

Ski year summary–2017

For the first time I only skied a few times, over about three weeks, similar to what a lot of people do with their ski vacations. I’m–not thrilled with that amount of limitation. That said, I could have gotten more ski time in, including in NE Oregon, if I had been able to get my feet into my boots sooner in the season. But I couldn’t, so there’s no crying now over spilt milk.

We had five ski days in total in late April and early May. That more than brought the cost of our spring ski passes ($118) down to about half of what a regular pass would cost for me and less for the husband at age 65.

Besides being away from the slopes for two years, the big challenge was that the snow is just plain different in April and May than it is in November/December starting out skiing. Even when there were heavy snowfalls, they were different from the heavy snowfalls earlier in the season…not as dry and cold, for one. And even though we had plenty of cold exposure in NE Oregon over the winter, it wasn’t ski exposure.

I don’t know. There was only one session where I found my flow and rhythm, and skied well. The rest of the time? I struggled more than I like to do. It seemed harder to get back into it than it does at the beginning of the ski season. Maybe it was just the awareness that I only had these few short days or something like that…but whatever it was, it wasn’t working that well. I may have just not been trusting my cranky ankles.

Oh well. Maybe next year.

Comments Off on Ski year summary–2017

Filed under ski bum life

Ski day four

A couple of days late, but there was a Day Four on the ski slope!

Since it was the first day of the changeover from warm weather back to cool and wet, we were slow-moving in the morning and debating whether it was worth it. Then hubby looked at the web cams and pointed out that despite the temperatures, it wasn’t raining at Timberline–yet. So we saddled up and went skiing.

I’m glad we did. I hooked into the flow this time, despite a knee locking up on me in the parking lot. Once we started skiing, though, the knee was quiet. I glided from side to side, smoothly curving and transferring weight, just like I wanted to do. No problems with thigh burn or the aches that go along with overcontrolling the skis. Everything was balanced and in control.

One factor was a fresh wax job. The snow was wet and could have been sticky, but with fresh wax on the skis, it wasn’t. I did comment at one point that “I can just feel the wax stripping off of these skis!”

I was right. We got home and I saw that the skis needed another hot waxing.

In any case, we got in two runs on the Mile before it got socked in and we retreated to Norman. Four runs on Norman, two on the mile, for a total of five miles skied. Getting the legs back, getting the flow back…but I’m still not entirely feeling the passion that I did before. Maybe it’s because of the lateness and missing the big seasons. We’re looking at two more sessions at most, for a total of six ski days this season. Not bad, but…at the end of six I’m just getting tuned up.

Oh well. Maybe next year.

Comments Off on Ski day four

Filed under ski bum life

Ski Day Three: Up to the Mile

So Day Three of getting back on the skis was a more typical spring ski day at Timberline–foggy down below, and then breaking through above the clouds once we got to the lodge. The snow was typical Cascade concrete, not even corn snow. I had some problems getting my left binding to catch when first locking in (this will become important later) but finally got it going and we headed back out to Norman.

But something wasn’t right. I kept muttering about having control issues going on. I was having problems with turning and had a couple of bobbles that didn’t go all the way to falls. Still. Something wasn’t right. I couldn’t catch the flow, couldn’t find my rhythm, and meanwhile the snow was warming up and turning to slush. After the third run on Norman I suggested we go up to the Mile.

As we got off of the lift to the top of Norman and headed for the cat track that goes to the Mile, I skied out of my left ski. Didn’t fall because we were on the flat, but it just popped off. So I popped it back on, started up again…and off it came. Hubby noticed I had ice on the bottom of my boots, so he helped me scrape it off. I took off and this time everything worked.

Still, coming off the top of the Mile, hips didn’t want to cooperate. It took a few turns, but I was starting to get the feel again–a good long run with no complications. We did a second run and I started feeling the flow again. At that point we called it a day–three runs on Norman, two on the Mile for about 4 and a quarter miles, maybe closer to 5 when you figure the ski out to Norman and then back to the Mile.

The Dalbello boots are much easier to work with than the equally stiff Lange boots were. I start out stiff in the Dalbellos but they start loosening up and getting comfortable after a couple of runs. I’m getting to really like them.

That said, I’m glad I didn’t ski last year. The right ankle I injured in the fall with Mocha in 2015 was aching when we got back to the house, and I can just imagine what it would have been like then. I am feeling better, and stronger, though. It’s easier to get up off the chair than it was the last year I skied. I’ve noticed it’s easier for me to swing a leg over an impatient Mocha when we get ready to ride off as well. Not sure what is bringing that about, unless it’s the hours I’m spending in the saddle…or something. And then tonight, I waxed and scraped the skis without feeling as achy and tired after as I was in the past. Yay?

But something still is missing. I haven’t gotten the joy of skiing back. I don’t know why. It’s improving, but…something’s still missing.

Comments Off on Ski Day Three: Up to the Mile

Filed under ski bum life

Ski Day Two: Aprilary

Our second ski day was more like the depths of winter than the end of April…unless you’re on Mt. Hood. The weather system that Cliff Mass calls “Darth Vapor” is dumping snow on the Mountain, fine, wet powdery stuff…and I got a reminder that Timberline Road in some ways is a tougher drive than crossing the Blue Mountains via Tollgate.

The official snow count this morning was 199 inches at the lodge. I’m willing to bet it had gone over 200 by the time we got our skis on and got out there. It continued to snow, a wet powder that formed rime ice on our ski pants and parkas along with a mild wind. We went back up to Stormin Norman simply because given our level of conditioning, it’s the easiest run to do with blowing and drifting snow. My knees were fussing at me first thing this morning so I didn’t want to push it.

Not sleeping well last night didn’t help, either. I started with fatigue and it didn’t help things. My first run down, I bobbled a couple of times but didn’t tweak anything and stayed upright. The second run was better, and the third run was when I started to feel the flow coming. But then the fourth run was just not quite right, so I didn’t find the flow. The wind was also such that above the trees it was occasionally hard to see where the snow ended and the air began. When we headed back to the lodge, I encountered a few surprise drops, and had to stop in one place to figure out where to go.

On the other hand, my feet didn’t cramp up in the boots today. That’s a big plus. I’m getting them back into shape.

There was a big living quarters horse trailer in the parking lot. Obviously there weren’t any horses in it–I had to wonder if it was hauling equipment while the owners were staying overnight in the living quarters, or maybe that was the only trailer they had.

We saw some very happy snow doggies in the parking lot, romping in the snow. On Tuesday we saw one dog who was ecstatically rolling in the snow–nothing like that today, but nonetheless there were happy snow doggies around.

No spectral whooshes from the ravens today, though they were scouting the parking lot for any food scraps.

By the time we left, a little six-inch drift was forming by the rear driver’s side wheel. Driving down Timberline Road had some interesting moments with slush and ice.

But we’ve survived another ski day, and I’m beginning to trust my legs and feet again. One thing I am noticing is that my hips are stronger than they were before. It’s easier for me to stand up and get out of the chair. I can thank those long rides on Mocha for that, I think.

Now I just have to be in better shape….

Comments Off on Ski Day Two: Aprilary

Filed under ski bum life

Back on the planks again

Skis, that is. It’s been two years since we went skiing. The first year, we had our Fusion passes ready to go, but no snow. Last year, because of my fall with Mocha in the summer, I couldn’t get my injured foot in my ski boot and I lacked confidence in the strength of my ankle. I missed skiing not just at Timberline but at Ferguson Ridge, the little ski area in Wallowa County.

This winter was and still is epic snow. Nearly 200 inches at Timberline right now. But I still couldn’t get my feet into those damn boots. So I finally broke down and went to the chiropractor for two sessions of footwork that my massage therapist recommended. After the second session, I shared with the chiropractor that I still couldn’t get my feet into the boots.

He frowned, and had me sit down so he could examine my feet further. “It shouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “Your feet are flexing properly. Go talk to a boot fitter.”

So I called down to Portland to a boot fitter, and the boot fitter recommended exposing the boots to heat. Given that it was still winter, and the wood stove was burning, I parked the boots by the wood stove. A few hours later–et voila! I could jam my feet into the boots. I followed a further recommendation and yanked the tongues out as far as I could to see if that would also loosen things up.

Next, it became a question of when in a busy Portland schedule we could fit skiing in. By this point it was mid-March and the Timberline spring passes were on sale. But I knew from bitter experience that Spring Break at Timberline is total chaos, so…we didn’t go.

The stars finally aligned. I had started questioning if I wanted to ski again, but figured well, give it a try. I have a lot of things I’m wanting to do these days and not many of them are in Portland. Still, it seemed to be a good idea to give it a try, especially how epic this winter has been. Plus with the latest cold and wet spell, there’d been a fresh dump of snow in the Cascades.

We didn’t race up the hill like we had when cramming skiing in during time off on weekends, or like I did when skiing before work. All the same I had a brief sinking sensation in my stomach as I came down Cherryville, and had to remind myself that I wasn’t going to work, I was just going skiing and having fun.

The lot was almost full, which surprised us. It was as slick and icy as ever. Fortunately, several months of life in the snow and ice meant we were a bit more skilled at navigating the parking lot ice rink. Despite the full lot, we were able to get our passes quickly, then go back to boot up and unbag the skis. As I wrenched my snug boots on, I heard the whoosh from the wings of a parking lot raven flying low. I decided that was a good omen because I’ve always enjoyed watching the ravens play at Timberline. It was easier to walk back to the lodge in ski boots instead of my other shoes. I had some trepidation as I stepped into my bindings–woman, are you crazy?!!–but told my inner chicken to shut up and pushed off. It couldn’t be any worse than taking Mocha back out on the roads this spring after a layoff.

Lordy, I’d forgotten just how tight those Dalbello Electra boots are. And I gave myself a serious case of thigh burn overcontrolling every turn down the first slope to West Leg Road, and the relief of an easy glide to Stormin’ Norman. The second slope down to Norman was shorter and easier, and I found the whisper of a flow to my movement.

We hopped on the chair and rode to the top of Norman. It had changed since the last time we skied there, with a lot of big, big jumps. But the snow was powdery even though there were snowboard divots we had to work through to get to the really good part of the run.

I had to stop twice on the first run because my feet were still screaming about those tight boots. But I told myself to ignore it because tight is better than loose. I had a bad fall from packed out liners in soft boots so I’m paranoid about that now. My thighs were also unhappy because–again–I was overcontrolling and not skiing relaxed.

Everything clicked on that second run. The boots loosened up and I found myself able to use my feet more effectively. My arms and shoulders rotated from turn to turn as they should. After that first run, my thighs stopped aching so bad and I was able to pick up a little speed.

We decided after four runs that this was good for a first day. We both had more in us, but I knew that if something funky happened I was just tired enough to cause me problems. And after all, it was on par for what we’ve done in the past for our first days skiing. So we glided back to the lodge, and I had a wonderful glide down the bottom of the Magic Mile to the lodge.

And oh yeah, we did a selfie in front of the lodge. Because we could, and because this really was the first ski of retirement. Two years late, but we finally made it.

Comments Off on Back on the planks again

Filed under ski bum life

Real spring skiing for once

This Mother’s Day, I got up at 5:30 am, had some yogurt and almonds and an energy bar, hopped into the car with DH, and went skiing.

IMG_0807

Yeah. Lifts opened at 8. But the temps had dipped into the high 20s and stuff had iced up weirdly. By the time we went through our usual prep (plus me getting a coffee and! bacon!), the snow was just right. A little soft with hardpack underneath.

The catch was that the Magic Mile wasn’t open yet. Still in storm recovery mode (and one does not diss the gifts of Ullr and Skadi  at this point in the season; yea, even though it may cause Perfect Run Issues). So we went for Stormin’ Norman. Whereupon we discovered this:

IMG_0812

at the top of Norman. Essentially, there’d been a freestyle ski movie conference at Timberline, and that is what they made for it.  Then, when I saw where the takeoff hill for that set of jumps was, um, yeah. Pretty intense. It’s about halfway up the Kruser line on the Magic Mile, which means that it’s built for speed. Given the airs I saw on Facebook links from that conference…yeah. Fast and high. That’s what you need to get those big multi-revolution tricks. It’s as much of a science as a ballet pirouette. Trickers spot their turns just like dancers do. Eyes-shoulders-hips-feet. It’s a graceful sequence to watch on video, but in slow-mo you don’t always get a sense for how fast the freestyler is going in real life.

Anyway. Enough ski geekery.

I got up to my old pre-packed out boots, pre-fall speed. One of the beauties of Norman when it is relatively quiet is that you can have a nice side-by-side run, and for once this season I dang near passed the hubby. Mmm. I think I like my boots, at last. It’s taken a year to break them in, but now I’ve found their potential.

Back in the groove again. Feeling the flow of the fall line. Finally, damn it, after struggling with boots and injuries and stubborn aging body.

About time.

Comments Off on Real spring skiing for once

Filed under ski bum life

Spring ski day with horsey moments

Went skiing this morning at Timberline. About six inches fresh snow; got 3-4 more inches while we were skiing. Heavy powder. Not as heavy as earlier in the month. It wasn’t grabby powder, just heavy. I was glad I’d waxed the skis heavily as that turned out to be just perfect for the conditions. As it were, I still kept muttering that we weren’t in shape for these conditions. Heavy work for the quads, for sure.

There were several slopes where I just pointed the skis downhill with about eighteen inches between my feet (to keep the tips from tangling, a problem I have with my shaped skis, and heavy pow will do that), leaned back, and sledded down. Lots of bounce, bounce, bounce when I did that. Slow snow, so perfect for that. Powder’s much more fun when one isn’t hurting and the quads are in shape!

We tended to shun the wide open slopes (our usual haunts) for the narrower runs because they weren’t getting chopped up. If I’d been in better condition it would have been the perfect day for tree skiing. Lots of other folks were doing that, because otherwise the big slopes were just getting chopped up and heavy. We retraced our trails enough that we could see where the snow had filled in our tracks in ten-fifteen minutes.

Perfect little snow globe day.

Afterward, we stopped by the Burro for pork belly tacos and then to the barn and Mocha. I can’t believe how much she’s shedding this year. I think some of it is due to limited rolling due to limited turnout; still, I swear she’s shedding both winter AND spring coats at once!

She tolerates the restricted schooling routine. Key word: “tolerates.” We start out with me putting her on the bit and in collection. It’s a departure from the usual methodology I’ve done with this horse but given that I’m  striving to keep a bit of muscle tone on her, I want her first moves to be under restraint, and then move toward relaxation. While she’s never yet come out of the stall on tiptoes, it’s still pretty clear that she’s tired of no turnout, walk-only works. Today I got a bunch of grunting through the process, which is one way she expresses grouchiness with what we are doing. So–first lap slow, small, collected work, second lap I ask her to extend the walk while still being on the bit. Most of the time she lines right out but today she decided that meant I wanted her to break into trot. Not once, but several times.

Nope. Not yet. Not until that bar shoe goes (projected to happen–maybe–in June).

Besides weaving in and out on two tracks (half-passish), we also schooled boxes. As in walking box shapes with sharp haunches turns, about 10 feet by 10 feet. Then backing the same. One of the beauties of this mare is that after backing the first box, she started anticipating what we were doing. But instead of anticipating in an obnoxious, pissy way (ie, “we’re at the place where we do something, so I do it before I’m cued!”), she slowed and waited for the cue. Very nice when she does that. I think she was looking for her tracks because a couple of times, she sidepassed over to back in her previous tracks. Just a case of half a step or so, but…..very nice.

We backed six boxes. That’s probably enough.

Her haunches still look to be in good muscle tone, which pleases me because that’s why we do all the backing work. Her shoulders look good–well, that’s because we keep doing the small circles and the two-tracking work.  She’s put on weight in the barrel. I figure we’ll have to start doing aerobic conditioning once she’s out of that shoe, but…before then, I’m going to be doing more extensive walk work to try to at least get a head start on that.

At least she seems to have gained enough weight that I can put the English saddle on her. I figure we’ll start with that for conditioning, then move into Western once I deem her sufficiently fit for extensive canter work.

It’s a work in progress…and I groaned when I slid off of the bareback pad today, because between skiing slow deep stuff and then schooling horse bareback, even at a walk….OUCH.

Comments Off on Spring ski day with horsey moments

Filed under ski bum life, Uncategorized

Bluebird ski day

IMG_0768

Ski grrrl in the back of the Subaru at the end of a lovely spring bluebird ski morning.

We got up to Timberline about 8 this morning. I resorted to buying a cup of coffee in the lodge, because after chasing kids on Thursday, then canning like a madwoman on Saturday, I knew I needed something more. A 12 oz coffee with two doses of Chocolate Caramel and one dose of Hazelnut creamer worked right nice.

It was clear and sunny, although there was a thin layer of brown haze that floated over the Cascades and obscured Mt. Jefferson (and we probably breathed it in as well; it was aimed at Hood too). Chinese pollution? Slash burning in the Coast Range? Hard to say. But it was in a distinct air layer and it blew on through.

The snow was definitely spring snow, and Timberline had Palmer chair running. We didn’t venture up to Palmer but our only flirtation with lower levels was the short run down West Leg to Norman. Riding up, we got second chair, and I briefly flirted with the idea of a warmup run down Norman before moving over to the Mile. But as I eyeballed the snow, I made up my mind that we were going to the Mile.

And it was lovely. Gorgeous spring snow. Hard, with a little softness from the grooming. No death cookies of ice up high. I thought about Palmer, and then thought about this year’s boot struggles and everything else. The Mile was good enough for today.

The boots are working well. I wore my lightest socks on Thursday; washed them and wore them again today. No pinching, no tightness, and just a wonderful smooth flow between leg, boot, and ski.

Afterward, we stopped by the barn and I gave Mocha her slow-mo workout. We worked on trying to get her to take a cue as to which leg to start with over a pole. Um, not there yet. But working on it.

And now home, and the big computer’s messed up. Sigh. Oh well, such is life. At least I still have the laptop.

Nonetheless, it’s spring, and I’m enjoying the mild weather.

Comments Off on Bluebird ski day

Filed under ski bum life, Uncategorized

Ski Grrrl’s baaack

IMG_9684

First day back on the slopes–latest for some years, but given the conditions, well, that’s just the way it is. Even though the snow was lower than it should be, it was still a gorgeous bluebird ski day. Crispy groomed packed Cascade concrete. Yum.

(actually, well worthy of a big grin)

I was somewhat conservative today. While I try to do a ten minute yoga practice (with video) almost every day, with Mocha being ouchy I’ve not been riding as much. I’ve also just been tired and not wanting to work out as hard. Add to that the difficult new boots, and I wanted just a plain vanilla slope to make sure the hips and knees worked, and to get myself back into it with the new boots.

IMG_9663

I went photo-mad early on because the light was one I hadn’t caught before. There were some interesting cloud patterns over Hood, but I don’t think I caught them just right. The closest was probably one snap from the iPhone.

IMG_0615

But it would need edits. Nonetheless, I could see it as a story illo with some edits. Or maybe a cover.

Anyway. The new boots are working wonderfully, though I may need to get the toe area stretched a little. We’ll see how they break in. I love the way they stabilize my heel. My heels tend to like to wander and most boots run too wide for my heels. Not these. The Dalbello Electra is a stiffer boot than I’ve skied before, and they are a beyotch to wrench on, but once I get settled into the sweet spot in the boots, they are a responsive and easy boot to manage. Amazing, considering all my issues last spring–but that’s usually The Way of Boots. It’s better to start out the season with the new boots.

Eight runs on Norman, all told–about six miles. Not much wind, sunny, interesting light, packed powder and not ice–made for a nice ski morning. The first hour or so was mostly us older folk, and then about ten the kids and other folks started showing up.

My weaker leg ached slightly but it stopped during each lift ride, which meant I was working it but not killing it. I never felt like I was getting tired and sore enough to have control problems, or hips not working (which was another reason to hang out on Norman–straight shot down the slope with lots of little rolling pitches).

Not too bad for a first day on the slopes.

Comments Off on Ski Grrrl’s baaack

Filed under ski bum life, Uncategorized

Breaking in the boots

So last year was another hellish Year of The Boots in ski world. I’d skied enough days in my trusty Atomic 80s to pack out the liners. Some people can get away with cruddy footwear but I’m not one of them–for me, boots that are too loose lead to lots of falls and lack of control. But the counter is that I’m hard to fit. I need room in the toe box with a snug heel. That means boots with a last designed for a woman’s foot. Add to that the reality that I wanted to move up a level in responsiveness–that meant a stiffer boot. The 80 in my previous boot’s name reflected a measure of boot stiffness called flex–most beginners ski a 60 or lower flex. I wanted a bit more control.

So I went out to buy a new boot in April. Ski boot buying in April, in my size, sucks. I had a spare pair of boots around the house I tried to make work but they were too big, didn’t fit my arch, hurt my feet horribly and made me trip on the stupidest inclines. A short spell in rental boots in the right size pointed that need out sharply. But when I went shopping around PDX, I literally could only find five pairs of boots in my size, with the requisite stiffness, in the local shops. REI had pulled their stock for the summer and–well, given my foot issues, I’m not about to buy boots online. Nor was I going to forfeit six more weeks of ski season.

Ergo, the Dalbello Electras. I kinda sorta got used to them, but the crappy thing for me in buying boots toward the end of the season is that they usually don’t work well. If my feet are already unhappy in boots, they want to stay unhappy, and while I could feel the potential in the Electras, the reality was that I’d upgraded a level of stiffness in a ski year that already sucked due to packed out boots, a bum hip, and lousy May weather. I packed the boots away for the summer in June, planning to take them into the shop this fall to get some adjustments made to the fit.

I still haven’t done that. Part of my rationale goes back to carefully thinking through the process. The Electra is not only a stiffer boot by level (90), but they were on the stiffer end of a 90. They’re a higher skill level boot, so, instead of merrily pulling them on and going skiing, or hauling them off to the shop, I decided to suck it up and dedicate my Thanksgiving furlough break to breaking in the boots (and acclamating my feet to the dang thing). I look at it as being like a version of breaking in high-quality riding field boots–the more time I spend breaking the boots in and conditioning them, the better fit they’ll have. Rather than try to break them in and ski with them simultaneously, maybe it’s better to spend some time clomping around the house and doing stuff to break them in.

After all, there’s only two feet of snow at Timberline. No precip in sight. It’s close to ski time but not there–and no way am I going up with levels this low. My character Melanie would, but she’s also a hell of a lot better skier than I’ll ever be (and much more obsessed).

Last night I made it to an hour after wrenching the boots on. They came on easily tonight, and I did a light weight workout wearing them and I’m at two hours. One thing I’m figuring out is that perhaps I don’t need the heavier socks I’d started wearing in the Atomics (ulp, perhaps that was a sign of upcoming liner packing out). I’m starting to get the ball of the foot to spread out in the toe box for optimal ski tip control (it’s how I visualize the control) and the heel cup in the liner, while tight on my heels, is about the only dang thing I’ve run into that nails down my wandering heels hard and keeps them from wandering.

This could work.

Hmm. Maybe tomorrow night I’ll move beyond working out and clean tack while wearing ski boots.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking snow in probably one of the few places in the US that isn’t wet and snowy right now….which is unusual for us. And that makes me nervous in various other ways.

Comments Off on Breaking in the boots

Filed under ski bum life