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Grand Indeed

February 15, 2005


Yes, it was that time again, when I disappear from the Internet to go play in the mountains. In this instance, I went to Wyoming–well, mostly Wyoming; there was some Idaho and a very little bit of Utah in there, too–where I took my last ski trip of this season. Much as I would like to be able to go again before the snow melts, I need to save some vacation time and money to do other things this year. Still, it was a decent ski season for me; I got to try three places I’d never been before and revisit three others.

Mr. Karen and I started our trip with a flight scheduled to leave at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday, earlier than we non-morning people like to book, but people using miles to get their tickets like we were do not have the best choices sometimes. So we got up early–the faux dawn alarm clock really did seem to make this less of a trial than it’s been in the past–and got to the airport and got on the plane and taxied out and then sat and sat and sat some more–Detroit Metro was fogged in. I don’t think I’ve ever had that problem before. I wasn’t too worried, as we had an almost three-hour layover in Salt Lake City, and surely the fog would clear before that much time had gone by.

“Hah”, said the fog. It hung around and hung around and kept all the planes right where they were for about two and a half hours. By the time we got to Salt Lake City, we had ten minutes before our connecting flight was scheduled to leave. I didn’t think there was any way we’d make it, but we ran anyway and got to the other gate (two concourses away, of course) just as the final boarding announcement came over the loudspeaker. Well, Mr. Karen got there then; I am not in as good shape as he is and wheezed up several seconds behind. Our luggage did not share our sense of urgency and failed to arrive in Idaho Falls when we did. Since we’d missed lunch due to being trapped on the first plane and having no time to stop on our layover, we went out to eat and came back to the airport to meet the next flight from Salt Lake, which is the one our bags had gotten on.

Reunited with our stuff, we drove through the Idaho twilight to Grand Targhee, just over the border into Wyoming. It was snowing when we got there, which I took as a very good sign–that must mean the resort likes us, right? My first impressions of it were certainly positive–there were no pushy valets wanting to park our car and take our bags, the general store was fully stocked with Coke products, and everyone who worked there seemed friendly but not forcing it.

I didn’t get off to the best start on Sunday, our first ski day. I fell getting off the lift our first ride up–just pitched over sideways and ended up sitting at the edge of the ramp as people coming off the chairs behind ours slid past. I haven’t done that in ages. Once I’d gotten back up, it took me a while to get my ski legs back under me, and then when I thought I’d accomplished that and was whizzing down a road, I crashed and lost both my skis. On a road. Not really any gradient to speak of or any tricky moves to make on a road. How embarrassing, then, to be marching back up it to retrieve my skis as more competent people glided by.

Monday went much better. We go about three inches of fresh snow overnight, which meant I got to use my powder skis and feel that magical floating sensation as I whispered down the hill with just the merest movement needed to turn. Well into the afternoon it was possible to find barely tracked places to ski. After the lifts closed, we went to a welcome reception where we got to talk with the general manager (“hey, it’s the guy from the brochure”, I thought to myself), pet a sled dog, and hear about the development plans for the resort. I left with a warm glow, in part due to the free wine and cheese but also thanks to the hope stirred in me that we might just be able to afford to buy a place there. The places haven’t been built yet and so are not definitely out of our reach like the ones pretty much everywhere else we like to ski.

Tuesday it snowed all day. I was very glad it wasn’t our first day on the mountain, as visibility ranged from poor to none. It was great fun to swoop around in the powder, especially since I already had a feel for the mountain and knew I wasn’t going to accidentally ski into trouble. One of the great things about Grand Targhee is that I’m able to use almost all of it. Yes, there are a few cliff areas, but they’re clearly marked and easily avoided. Everything else was my playground; a few of the tree areas were a bit challenging, but it’s good to have the chance to push my limits.

By Wednesday morning, there was about ten inches of new snow on the ground. It was light and fluffy and wonderful and the mountain never got too crowded even though several extra buses of skiers arrived to play in the fresh.

Thursday we went to Jackson Hole, because everyone we talked to about it said we should. It was only about an hour’s drive, though we did have to go into Idaho and then over a pass back into Wyoming to get there. I’m glad we went because now I can say I’ve been, but Jackson Hole is not my kind of mountain. I don’t need that many steeps–it made me anxious just looking at some of them from the safety of the lift–and I don’t like having to deal with the people who are attracted to them. Crazy ass fast guy screaming up behind me on the intermediate slope, I’m talking about you. And you, equipment snob guy. (He took one look at my skis as we were riding up the lift together and asked when I was getting new ones. How rude. At least say hello before you diss my equipment, dude.) I also wasn’t enamored with runs that started out as nice blue cruisers and turned into ugly, bush- and rock-strewn messes of bumps farther down. But still, I can now truthfully say I’ve not only ridden the tram at Jackson Hole–complete with annoying loud music in line and the whole way up the mountain–but I’ve skiied down the famous Rendezvous Bowl. I did it without falling, too, but no one gave me a medal at the bottom.

Friday we were back at Grand Targhee. I ended up taking the afternoon off so I could go into town and explore the quilt shop we’d driven by a few times but never found open. I also revisited the corner drugstore we’d stopped in the night we went down into town for dinner (at Tony’s Pizza and Pasta in Driggs, Idaho, which I highly recommend). It had not only drugs and related items, but also souvenirs, scrapbook supplies, towels, fishing rods, shotgun ammunition, toys, a soda fountain, yarn, and many many other things, all in a space no larger than the first floor of my house. I had to buy something there to support that business model.

And then we came home. There were no lengthy delays this time, though it was snowing when we left the mountain. It likes to tease, evidently. We’ll definitely be going back. Grand Targhee is our kind of place–relaxed and low key but with enough to do that boredom isn’t a problem.

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