Tag Archives: Skiing

Windchill, Frostbite, and Winter Storms Coming

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She’s back. Winter that is. The past few days at Crystal have been quite cold. While we haven’t yet been pounded by mounds of fresh snow, the snow from last weekend is still cold, dry and fluffy. And, it’s about to get a whole lot more wintery.

First, let’s look at the current weather. Temperatures are minus Fahrenheit and the wind is coming from the east. Since Crystal mainly runs along a ridge oriented north and south, east winds rake up the slopes and blow hard across the top ridges. East winds are generally cold and miserable. If you’ve ever traversed across the top of Green Valley with a brutal wind on your right cheek, that’s east wind. Usually we get these winds during periods of high pressure, when cold air trapped on the east side of the Cascades leaks over the passes into the west, finding its way over places like Crystal.

windchill

Windchill Calculator courtesy of NWS

Take yesterday for example. The above chart, courtesy of NWS, shows that winds in the 35 mph range can significantly impact temperature. At the top of the High Campbell chairlift yesterday, we measured the air temperature at -11 F. Add in the windchill and it feels like -41.

According to the chart, bare skin will suffer frostbite in ten minutes. I can attest to that. While trying to stay warm up there, a fellow patroller and I hiked the ridge to try to raise our body temperature. During the hike, my neck gator slipped down and a sliver of skin was exposed to the full brunt of the east wind. After less than five minutes I felt a sting on my cheek, which turned out to be frost nip.

Crystal Mountain

Hiking the Queen with the Hiking Queen (aka Michelle Longstreth)

Today the winds are even stronger and the temperatures are starting out even lower. While the Crystal telemetry is advertising spikes into the 100s mph, human observations aren’t validating that. But even a steady 30 mph is going to feel like -35 F. So bundle up. Keep moving and make sure that neck gator doesn’t slip down.

As for the weather forecast, the temperatures should moderate over the weekend. We might pick up a little bit of snow, but not much. A more normal winter weather pattern should set up next week, with Tuesday and Thursday bringing cold precipitation our way.

7 Day Forecast for Crystal Mountain

7 Day Forecast for Crystal Mountain

It also looks like Tahoe should finally get some snow. And as stingy as our snowfall has been this season in the PNW, those guys down there need it even more than we do.

Riding a Chairlift

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Niseko Japan

Single Chairlifts offer lots of time to think

The number one objective of a ski area is to provide uphill transportation. All the other stuff–the schincter-tightening bowls, the alpine-style restaurants, the crowded bathrooms, the fresh corduroy, the terrain parks with the their diligent crews raking and raking, the ski instructors with impossibly perfect hair–all of that is just a bonus. A ski area wouldn’t be a ski area without a way to get you uphill.

I’ve ridden a lot of chairlifts in my life. And yes, they are very efficient at getting me back to the top. But they have another purpose too. Chairlifts are a place to stop, to regroup, to remember why it is I live in the mountains, why I love to slide on snow, and why I could never live in the city.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve lived entire lifetimes seated on a lift. I’ve laughed with friends and cried alone. I’ve been mesmerized by the brilliant sparkle of sun on snow; I’ve witnessed marriage proposals and spectacular crashes. I’ve also noticed work to be done–tower pads that needed raising, sticks of bamboo that needed straightening, pieces of trash that needed to be picked up.

Last week I spoke at my father’s funeral. The very act of getting up in front of family and friends and declaring the importance of such a great man in my life has altered something in me. It has made me reevaluate what is truly important.

Big Sky, MT

Big Sky, MT

For years on my father’s desk he kept a motto written on a yellow sticky note. It read, “If it’s green, golf it. If it’s white, ski it. We’re not here for a long time. We’re here for a good time.”

Life provides us with all too many opportunities to waste our days. Jealousy, anger, having far too thin of skin, taking things personally, these all help us squander our short time here. Distraction from real life is another wasteful act.

We're riding a lift!

We’re riding a lift!

 

But riding a chairlift is an opportunity to engage. Sometimes draw-droppingly picturesque and other times cloaked in clouds, the views always change. No matter what the scenery offers, I always remember to stop. To breathe. To look around. To remember what it important.

Because like a brilliant man once said, we’re not here for a long time. We’re here for a good time.

Women’s Ski Day at Crystal Mountain

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WomensDay2013Hey Ladies! This Saturday is International Women’s Ski Day, and Crystal Mountain is hosting. That means you can come with your gal pals, meet new ones, take laps in the park or Southback, drink wine afterwards, and you get a discount. Kind of like ladies night at the bar but so much more fun (because this one is really for you). The details (from Crystal Mountain website) are below. I’ll be there too. So stop by and say hello.

K2 is declaring Saturday, December 14th, 2013 to be International Women’s Ski Day. Females are encouraged all over the world to just get out and ski! Women who mention “International Women’s Ski Day” at the ticket window will receive a $10 discount on your ski lift ticket. Meet other women, get a tour of the mountain, practice your beacon skills, try out some demo skis (conditions permitting), shred the hill and then meet from 3:30pm-5:30pm at the Summit House for a special hosted wine and cheese event with $5 appetizer plates and drink specials. Girls can either head into the Summit House after their last run or take the gondola up no later than 3:30pm. The gondola will shut down during Apres and begin downloading everyone at 5:30. Everyone must be downloaded by 6pm. KEEP IN MIND THAT IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT BRAND YOU SKI ON! This day is to simply encourage females to go skiing, regardless of what type of skis you use.

Crystal Reopens Tomorrow: Conditions Report

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John and Scott give two enthusiastic "thumbs up"

John and Scott give two enthusiastic “thumbs up”

Thanks to the new snow we received in the past 24 hours, Crystal will reopen tomorrow. This morning, when John, Scott and a few other patrollers and I headed up the Gondola for a look, I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as I was last Saturday. That time I had a feeling about the snow. My instinct was telling me it would be good, and it was.

This time I wasn’t so sure.

Green Valley covered in snow was a pleasant surprise

Green Valley covered in snow was a pleasant surprise

It rained hard last night at the base, and the telemetry wasn’t showing any new. I was a bit skeptical. But we headed up into the fog nonetheless, ready to ski down or ride back down on the lift or do whatever was necessary.

I was pleasantly surprised. The fog lifted and we found up to 6″ at the top.

The rain line made it up to about the elevation of the bottom of Green Valley. Above that is all new snow. It is thick and “buttery” as ski patroller Michelle Longstreth put it. Classic PNW base-building snow. The top portion is really good skiing.

Once John made the call to reopen, off-duty patrollers Michelle, Christina, Peter and I felt we had to do our part too. So we skied a few laps in the valley, then headed over to the cache run just to make sure it was fit for public consumption.

Christina and Peter survey the goods

Christina and Peter survey the goods

And it is.

Green Valley Bowl itself offered up 6″ of chalky powder, while the lower valley was a bit thicker. However, we didn’t run into a rain crust until we skied Lucky Shot to the base. I wouldn’t recommend breaking any closures and skiing to the base. As Michelle described it, the conditions below midway were “character building,” and from our most enthusiastic patroller (hell, our most enthusiastic employee) at Crystal, that’s saying something.

So come up tomorrow and make some happy laps in the valley. The forecast is calling for sun the next few days, and the conditions are pretty darn good for pre-Thanksgiving turns. I, for one, will be up here enjoying the sun and the lift-served skiing.

Green Valley looking good

Green Valley looking smooth and buttery

Possible Crystal Mountain Opening Tomorrow

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This is good news. Really good news.

It's dumping

It’s dumping

Crystal might open tomorrow. There’s almost enough snow in Green Valley to spin the lifts, and if we get the forecasted snow (fingers crossed) then we can do it.

I spent the day in Green Valley today, setting up bamboo ropelines and watching the skies carefully. It has now started to snow heavily–snowflakes the size of ten-year-olds. The old crust is supportive, and the turns were actually quite good. A little bit more and it will be like Rocktoberfest–the earlier “Valley Only” opening we did in October. If you were there, or if you heard about it, you know how good it was.

Tomorrow morning at 5am we will make the call. John and I plan to ride the gondola at 4:30am with our headlamps, take a lap into the valley and go from there. I, for one, am hoping for good things.

If you have plans tomorrow, you might want to put them on hold. Once we make that 5am decision, it will go out on the website and Facebook.

So stay tuned and think snow.

The Edge Radio Now Available as Podcasts

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With the winter season fast approaching (but not fast enough if you ask me), I’ve decided to take a small break from the radio interviews. But not to worry. All of my interviews from The Edge Radio are now available as podcasts. Hosting The Edge Radio has been a fascinating journey. I’ve met amazing people, heard some incredible stories and envied more than a few of my guests for their adventures.

The Edge Radio explores the motivations for getting out on the edge. From kayaking waterfalls with Brad Ludden to wingsuit flying with JT Holmes and Andy Farrington, to skiing and riding big lines with Ingrid Backstrom and Kimmy Fasani, below you’ll find interviews with some of the most amazing people on earth.

Why Crystal is Opening for One Day of Skiing Tomorrow

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John Kircher

This man loves snow

Maybe you’ve already seen it on Facebook. Perhaps you are one of the lucky 75 to comment first on Crystal’s post today. If so, you’ve heard the stoke. After a little investigative reporting this morning, when a few of us rode the gondola for some “exploratory turns” in Green Valley, my husband’s eyes grew wide. What if we could open up and let a small number of people ski this early snow? What if we limited it to just 50 or so people? Could it be done? We really shouldn’t let this snow go to waste.

This is how John’s mind works.

Even though this is a business, even though we are supposed to think about things like “the bottom line” and making a profit, really he’s in this business because he loves to ski.

He knows what skiers want because he’s one of them.

John turned his “what if” questions into reality this afternoon, by opening our online commerce page to 51 lucky people. So many people tried to buy those tickets, the site crashed. I’m not quite sure how many people it takes to crash a website, but I’m guessing it’s a lot.

Green Valley, Crystal Mountain

View into Green Valley this morning

So we shifted to Plan B, which offered 75 tickets to the first people to comment on our Facebook post (we wanted to open it to more because many, many people were glued to their FB page, unable to get anything else done).

Crystal Mountain

Keith Rollins and Martin Rand, rock stars

And now it’s really happening. We are going to run the gondola tomorrow for some lift-assisted backcountry skiing to 75 very lucky people.

It’s going to be a hoot.

Green Valley, Crystal Mountain

Green Valley this morning

There are still pockets of the ski industry that aren’t corporatized. Some ski areas are still run by people with a passion for the sport. And I’m so fortunate to be married to one of those people.

 

A Little Nostalgia Never Hurt Anyone

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Huleen_skiing

Skiing was so much better when mom rocked that pink CB outfit

Nostalgia is defined as a wistful longing for the things, people or places from the past. Who hasn’t felt that bittersweet desire for a past event or moment in time? It has the power to warm you up, offer comfort and even to ward off despair. According to a recent article in the New York Times, nostalgia isn’t the same as homesickness. Instead, it’s more subtle–a harkening back to a previous time that can make today feel better.

About a decade ago, Constantine Sedikides, of the University of Southhampton, developed the Southhampton Nostalgia Scale, and demonstrated that nostalgia helps contract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. Furthermore, nostalgia can warm us up on a cold day, make us more tolerant of strangers and increase generosity and optimism.

I am prone to nostalgia. I believe that the story we tell ourselves about the people and events in our lives make our reality. This is the power of story telling–we can actually create our reality by creating a story about our reality. Nostalgia is an important element in this. We look back at the past, either distant or more recent, and long for those moments. Glossing over the negative, we hold fast to sunny emotions and create our own oral history to play on our mental soundtrack.

I do this all the time. I’m the Queen of Nostalgia, replaying vintage scenes from bonfires on the beach to powder days on the slopes. I also have what Sedikides calls “anticipatory nostalgia.” In the midst of a beautiful moment, I can transport myself into the future and look back at that very instance with a nostalgic lens, knowing that I will cherish the terrifying beauty and the ultimate essential something of the moment.

I know what this looks like. It looks like I’m way too far inside my head. When I should be dazzled by the flames of the bonfire against the night sky or enjoying the fleeting spray of powder in my face, I’m thinking about thinking. I’m not in the moment at all. And maybe I am too far inside my head. At least that’s what Sedikides’ colleagues thought of him. Perhaps that’s why he sought to prove that nostalgia was actually good for you.

Being too far in the moment can cut us off from nostalgia, and from building judgment by learning from mistakes. Maybe being in the now all the time isn’t exactly what it’s cracked up to be. Sure, fearing the future and regretting the past is no way to be. But what if we’re longing for the past in a positive way and it makes us feel stronger and more equipped for the present?

Perhaps this is why apres ski bars exist at all. So that we can all rehash the day, nostalgizing (yes, that’s actually a word) about the conditions and the light and the cold quality of the snowflakes that fell that day. Maybe a little bit of living in the past can be a good thing, as long as our memory bank doesn’t keep us from getting out there to make new memories the next day.

What do you think? What are you nostalgic for?