"Good thing I was wearing a helmet." I didn't say that after crashing into a tree or being blindsided by a boarder; I said that after hitting my head while dismounting the Apex lift at Solitude yesterday. My quads need all the help they can get and I'm not going to waste energy pushing off lifts. I prefer standing up and letting the momentum of the chair push me down the unload ramp; it seems more dignified as opposed to planting your poles and skating off in a start house explosion of fury. You can call it lame, I call it genteel. Unfortunately for me, Apex's ramp didn't have the required angle to allow gravity to carry me away and I got bonked in the back of the head by the bar that runs over the top of the chair. So there Lexi, your plea for me to buy a helmet has already paid off on the first day of the 2009-10 ski season.
The jury is still out on whether I "like" the helmet. Like spell checkers and texting, it's hard for me to like something that I never needed for most of my life. "If the Pilgrims skied without helmets, than so can I!" Strong arguments from my girlfriend and the realization that all it takes is one rogue skier, one low hanging branch, one exposed rock, one F-14 Tomcat canopy to not open while Maverick and I are ejecting during a failed dog fight with a Russian MIG for me to realize the value of protecting my head. My main complaints with my new helmet are that the chin strap interferes with the freedom to manipulate my neck gator (I like to move that thing around from Cobra Commander mode when it's REALLY cold to Noel Coward-ascot mode when I just want a little insulation around the neck) and that I can't hermetically seal the small gap above my googles. But it will all be better when I get the headphones that insert into the helmet and I can rock out to Christina Aguilera while doing laps on Powderhorn II.
Which leads me to Solitudes new chair, the afore mentioned Powderhorn II. Not really anything to boast about from my perspective. I thought it would be a high-speed chair that ran the same route as the old Powderhorn. Instead, it's a fixed chard that only covers half the distance. Jared pointed out that now advanced skiers can enjoy Concord, Paradise and Diamond Lane without going all the way to the Village base, which makes sense. Looking at Solitudes recent chair improvement history though, it's a bit of a head scratcher. To review, this is what Solitude has done in my brief history of living in Utah. Install Moonbeam, a chair that takes you a quarter of the way up the mountain, then tear it down a few years later and put in a high speed quad that takes you a third of the way up the mountain. YEAAAAAAH! Then, put a high speed quad in to replace Apex, a lift that really only takes you a little further up mountain than Moonbeam. I guess the reason for that was so southerners on straight skis that are overpaying for a room at the Village can get to the middle of the mountain faster. Which leads us to this season, where Powderhorn, the only top to bottom chair on the east side of the resort, is torn down and now starts in that cozy little nexus between Apex and Moonbeam. Unfortunately, this is a fixed chair, so while beginners can enjoy fast access to all the great green and blue terrain, advanced skiers now have more time to drink and swear at the idiots who still can't get the automated, infrared lift gates.
I know I'm whining here, but I did work for Solitude for one season and learned that ski resorts are like restaurants, you don't want to see how it's really done. The disorganization and focus on cost cutting makes my broadcast employer seem well run by comparison. "Where is all this bitterness coming from?" you may ask. Well, that season I worked at Solitude, my limited ski breaks were painfully short as I fought the snails pace of their lifts, and now that I'm trying to fit in as much skiing as I can before work, I feel like once again, these guys are hosing me. Put in a high speed quad and I'll have less idle time on the chair to work up these rants!
On the plus side, Solitude still stays true to their name and the lack of high speed quads helps control the crowds on the runs. Alta used to use that argument back in the days when they had none, now you have to line up and take a number to ski Greely on a powder day. I guess I won't miss those warp speed, worn out traverses this season. And if I do get a new pair of skis or boots this season, it will be because I got my Solitude Monday-Thursday pass for the half the cost of Alta's Monday-Friday pass.
One thing I almost forgot to do yesterday on the inaugral day of skiing is make a proper offering to Ullr. The small flask of Jager was in my pocket, but I kept forgeting to pour some out for him. Then, on my last run through the trees near Paradise, Ullr knicked my bottoms a few times with some barely covered wood and I was reminded to thank him for getting the season started. Taking half for myself, and then pouring half in the snow, (as if a licorice stick took a leak in the woods), I offered my appreciation for the light, fluffy powder and thanked him in advance for the more that we needed.