Hat on Top, Coat Below


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Sun, Snow, Rain, and More Snow

January 27, 2009

First glimpse of the mountains Nine days away on vacation and one day spent figuring out what went on at work while I was gone means a long gap between entries. For this first trip of our ski season, Mr. Karen and I flew into Salt Lake City and drove up through Idaho to Grand Targhee in Wyoming. Not the most efficient way to get there, but the difference in airfare between SLC and the airports closest to Grand Targhee was almost $300 a ticket, and to save that kind of money I’m willing to drive pretty far. A nice bonus was that the two hour weather delay in our departure from Detroit didn’t lead to angst about whether we’d make our connecting flight because the only thing we had to connect with was the rental car. (Given that on three previous trips to Grand Targhee, we’ve had trouble with connections twice—missing one entirely and barely making another—that’s no small thing.) Add to that the entertainment I had looking for celebrities headed to the Sundance Festival (I’m pretty sure Jeff Daniels was on our plane, which would make sense because he lives in Michigan, and thought another woman on the flight looked very much like Laurie Metcalf but she was in coach and Wikipedia tells me that she lives in Idaho so that most likely wasn’t her at all) and it was a pretty good trip out despite how late it was when we pulled into Grand Targhee (it felt later still because of the time change).

Sunset We hadn’t been able to book our first choice of lodging (found out when we got there that the Targhee Lodge was shut down entirely this winter) but the room we ended up with turned out to have great views which almost made up for the many stairs involved (three flights up in ski boots at the end of the day is no fun for sore knees for sure). I especially enjoyed looking out the back window, from which we could see sunsets, icicles forming and reforming from the snow melting off the roof, birds pausing for a rest on the balcony railing, little kids sledding, bigger kids making their own ski jumps after the lifts closed, and other activities on parts of the cross country trails (including a snowshoe race), the tubing run, and the beginner lift and magic carpet. I think I took as many pictures out the window as I did on the mountain. It was also a good trip for animal spotting though I didn’t get photos of most of them. There were avalanche dogs (we even got to see some training), non-avalanche dogs (including a tiny puppy romping and a black lab waiting for his master to emerge from a staff building—he’d sit by the door for a while, then go exploring, then return to the door), squirrels, and birds as might be expected, but also horses and even an ermine. What we didn’t see or hear were dogsled dogs, as that activity is no more at Grand Targhee (despite what some of the trail map signs would have one believe). There’s also no more breakfast buffet at the steakhouse (which isn’t called the steakhouse anymore) or salad bar in the cafeteria. The shop which used to stock home décor and women’s non-ski clothes and other fun things I’d buy has turned into a kids’ clothing store so I didn’t even go in. There was still a wine and cheese party but instead of many people presenting there was just one. There was also a good change—tasty pizza delivered to the room, as long as one got the order in before the place closed, which could be anywhere from 7 to 9 p.m. (the hours were listed on the sign as “4 to close” so we had to ask).

Cat skiingIn between taking pictures from the room, I did do some actual skiing. The weather was warm and sunny the first four days, which is great from a sitting around on the chairlift perspective (as long as one has good sunscreen, which I do—all hail Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch SPF 55) but not so great from a fun on fresh snow angle. To get on some different terrain, we spent the money we’d saved on airfare to do an afternoon of cat skiing (in which small groups are taken out of bounds on a snowcat). I learned an expensive lesson that day: I am not good enough for cat skiing. The element of good I lack is speed—I could get down the terrain but I was the slowest in the group and felt pressure (self-generated) to keep up and started rushing which led to bad decisions which led to falling which led to being even slower. Our second or third run was down a fairly steep slope covered with variable snow and stumps and when I finally got down it I briefly considered sitting out the rest of the day but decided that would be dumb; I’d paid my money and I wasn’t completely incompetent and I’d just do what I could. The rest of the runs went better, though I must admit by the last run in deep powder I didn’t even try to get up by myself when I tumbled in a flat spot—I waited for the sweep guide to help haul my butt up. The arrival of two of our friends from Michigan on Thursday coincided with a change in the weather; the clouds rolled in and on Friday we had an excellent powder day (well, Mr. Karen and I did—one of our friends started feeling ill a couple hours into the day and had to take a very extended break, but at least he’d gotten a fair bit of fresh in).

Iced overFriday night we drove down to Ogden, figuring getting closer to the airport well ahead of our Sunday return flight would reduce stress. Saturday morning we drove up to Snowbasin intending to ski there, but when we pulled into the lot at the base it was raining. Not misting, not drizzling, not sprinkling—RAINING. People were skiing in it, and that certainly would be a new experience for us, but we opted to call around and found it was snowing at Powder Mountain so we headed there instead. It was indeed snowing—heavy, wet, icy snow coming down through dense fog. Between not knowing the trails at all well and having to stop and clear my goggles every few minutes, I felt rather disoriented the first few runs down the mountain. As the day went on the snow got drier and the fog got less dense and I found some trails I liked and it turned out to be a good day.

Plane homeBecause the universe likes to tease, huge fluffy blobs of snow were falling in Salt Lake City as we sat waiting for our flight home on Sunday. Our departure was delayed somewhat by the deicing truck running out of fluid while servicing the plane ahead of us, but a headwind meant we landed as scheduled. It was even remarkably painless to retrieve our luggage in Detroit—we had all our bags, including both ski bags in undamaged condition, before we’d finished eating the dinner we’d grabbed on the way down to baggage claim. Not remarkably painless was trying to clear the tromped-down iced-over snow we found on our sidewalk and driveway upon getting home, but it is winter in Michigan so that wasn’t a huge surprise. I was hoping it would be warm enough to melt the stuff we couldn’t scrape off the pavement but no such luck; it’s colder here now than it was any day we were skiing in the mountains. Silly universe.


One and two years ago: no entry
Three years ago: Mountains of Fun
Four years ago: no entry
Five years ago: In With the New
Six years ago: Back to Real Life

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