Hat on Top, Coat Below


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Mountains in the Pacific Time Zone

March 3, 2009

As some of you reading this already know (and others of you probably suspect based on the time of year and number of days since my last entry), I was gone skiing last week. Mr. Karen and I used this trip to go somewhere we’d never been before: Schweitzer in northern Idaho. To make a long story short: we liked it; we really, really liked it. To get the long story, keep reading. If you’d rather just look at all the pictures, they’re here.

View from my seatThere was a winter storm warning in effect for Detroit the day we left, which of course I worried about even though I cannot control the weather so there was no point to my feeling extra stress about it. It was not snowing when we got to the airport about two hours before our flight. It was not snowing when we were standing in the check-in line which stretched beyond the maze setup to hold it (an airline employee told the man in front of us that “it’ll go pretty fast; if you’ve got an hour and a half before your flight you should be fine”–that employee and I have very different ideas about what constitutes a fast-moving line). It was not snowing when we got to the front of the line and paid our baggage fees (cheaper than renting equipment at our destination but still it rankles). It was not snowing when we shuffled through security in our socks or later when we got onto the full plane (why no fee for oversize carryons? –that would not rankle me at all). In fact, it did not snow until we were well on our way to Seattle, where the weather was not rainy as predicted so we did not get even slightly damp on our walk to the plane that would take us to Spokane, which we boarded via steps which folded out of the aircraft rather than using one of these new-fangled jetway thingies. On our flight to Seattle, I’d been thinking about how unpleasant it is to fly these days, but this hop to Spokane on Horizon proved that doesn’t have to be. It seemed that someone at Horizon had thought about what would make the experience more pleasant and then actually did those things, like boarding through both the front and rear doors to speed the process and providing a glass of wine in flight for no extra charge. I was actually sorry the flight was so short (and am now a little sad because Horizon doesn’t fly out of Detroit). I maintained my good mood from the flight into Spokane even after we got into the airport; the TSA agent at the exit from the secure area said hello to me as we passed her, and all of our luggage arrived soon after we showed up in baggage claim our own selves. Then the trudging began. No moving sidewalks for the citizens of the Inland Northwest; we dragged our bags what felt like miles before we found the rental car desk, way down at the end of the airport. The guy in line ahead of us was trying to mount a hostile takeover of Thrifty or something equally complex so we spent longer waiting to get our vehicle than we had for our bags. Once on the road, it took about an hour and a half to get to our motel in Idaho. We’d decided to save some money and see more of the local color by staying in town the first part of the week, so we didn’t see the ski mountain at all that first day, though we did look at the brochure for it we found in the motel lobby.

SceneryWe spent Sunday, our first ski day at Schweitzer, exploring the trails and admiring the scenery, including Lake Pend Oreille, and marveling at how good conditions were given that they hadn’t had any new snow in several weeks and how short the lift lines were on a weekend. It was partly sunny all day, which gave us a chance to get our bearings and learn the layout before the clouds rolled in on Monday, when it rained in town and snowed wet snow on the mountain and we got pretty soaked but had great fun skiing through dripping trees. Tuesday it snowed some more and we switched to our powder skis and kept having fun, even though some of the lifts had to be closed due to gusty winds. We left a tiny bit early that day and went into town to see what we could see before moving up to lodging on the mountain. Not coincidentally, we ended up in a yarn shop where I bought a couple skeins of sock yarn as souvenirs. We also spent some time browsing an antiques and collectibles store where there were many, many things I would have loved to buy, from a Disneyland poster to a Chinese medicine cabinet.

The more it snows, the happier I getWednesday and Thursday brought still more snow and because there are no spouses on powder days, Mr. Karen and I skied separately in the mornings, which gave us a chance to do the runs we liked the best at our own paces. We’d meet up for lunch and share stories of where we’d been and who we’d met on the lift and how many times we’d fallen and what equipment we’d become separated from in the process (okay, the falling part was mostly me—sometime Wednesday I got a big bruise on the inside of one of my knees and didn’t even realize it until that night, so distracted was I by the nice fluffy snow and friendly trails). Friday the snow tapered off and then stopped entirely, which was maybe just as well because it would have been even harder to leave if it were still dumping on us. As it was, we were looking at real estate listings and trying to figure out just how crazy it would be to try and buy a place there. Friday night there was a torchlight parade before something called the Outrageous Air Show, which had 11 guys doing Olympic caliber freestyle aerials off a huge jump that had taken most of the week to build. Saturday it was noticeably more crowded on the slopes but even so we had a good day and didn’t leave until just before the lifts closed for our drive back to Spokane.

The only semi-affordable flight we could find that got us home on Sunday at a reasonable hour left Spokane at 7:05 in the morning. Now, I’ve been getting better at getting up early to do things like run and go to the gym, but even then I’m not up and moving until a little before 6 a.m., and we were going to have to be up and dressed and at the airport well before that for this flight. I was not filled with delight at the thought of dealing with the airline and TSA stuff before the sun was up. We did everything we could to minimize the pain, turning in the rental car the night before, staying at the hotel just across the street from the terminal, and getting a cart for our luggage (I’m not 100% sure the Smarte Cart people wanted us to take the cart to the hotel, but the directions didn’t say not to and it wasn’t like we took the last one and we’d have it back to the airport well before most people were even awake the next day and we weren’t the first ones to do this, as we found a second cart in the bushes out front of the hotel). There was rain in the forecast for that Sunday, but if it came it came after we left. Perhaps my packing my rain pants in my carryon, ready to don at the last minute, made the weather gods decide in my favor. It’s not as much fun to rain on someone who’s prepared, after all. Sunday morning we got up at an hour I will not mention due to it being too horrifying and were through security with enough time to have breakfast at Quizno’s, another first for us. I’ve never had a toasted scrambled egg sub sandwich before. The plane boarded on time and then, after we were all crammed into our seats, the pilot made an announcement that there was a problem with one of the computers and it would be at least a half hour before maintenance could determine if it was fixable. I get that flying a broken plane is a bad idea, of course, but I also believe that having a procedure to check that the plane is not broken before putting passengers on it would be a dandy idea, especially if it not a plane which serves wine at no extra charge. The good news is that the computer was fixed (no word if turning it off and then back on was the solution) and we made our connection and got home with all our luggage and the house didn’t burn down while we were gone and refreshingly there wasn’t even any snow in the driveway for us to shovel.

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