While we were en route, our excitement, while already building, built more rapidly because it started snowing and fresh snow, of course, makes for better skiing/snowboarding. About 5 minutes from our destination at the Cascades Lodge, our joy was briefly put on hold by some icy conditions on the road. Hali's van was having an awful time trying to make it up one of the rather steep, mountain roads. Our worry quickly turned to relief when Hali whipped out some chains to put on the tires. The inclines were no problem after installing those, and we arrived in no time.
Since it was already about 2:30am when we got settled into our room, turning in for the night was the most wise choice. Of course, we're all children at heart, and the "conversation" of sheer silliness after the lights were out continued on for a little while longer, but we eventually resolved to just stop talking so we could get some sleep.
It seemed like only a few moments passed when the alarm went off and it was time to start getting ready to head out on the slopes. We dragged ourselves to breakfast, got all geared up, and headed outside. It was way colder than I'm used to, but I was bundled up quite well - almost IMPERVIOUS to the cold! Muahaha! No, I didn't look like the kid from A Christmas Story, but I did stay nice and toasty all day.
Conveniently, there was a shuttle bus to take us the 30 second trip over to the equipment rental area near the Ramshead ski lift. I needed to rent a snowboard and boots and Ronin rented skis and boots. Once that was taken care of, we went straight to the lift. It was really rather crowded, but the line attendants kept the traffic regulated and the lift was a real people mover.
Once we were at the top of the mountain and being only the second day, ever, that I had been on a snowboard, I wanted to go down a green circle trail called "Easy Street", 'cause that sounded right up my alley. Not paying enough attention to the signs, I fairly quickly ended up on a trail called "Header", which was a blue square (the next level up). I can't say that I didn't fall a few times, but I did make it down to the bottom in one piece. Once, I spilled in such an epic fashion that I tumbled backwards with snowboard in the air, head on the ground, and kicked up a pretty large cloud of snow. Lynxkitten was around to witness it, and we both got a good chuckle out of it.
Saturday was our day for exploring the mountain and finding out which trails fit our fancy. Ronin, Hali, Darius, and Zschamm are quite a bit more experienced than Lynxkitten and I, so we typically separated so that Lynx and I could take it at a slower, less bumpy pace and the rest of the guys could hit black diamond trails and/or take treks through the glades (that's right... trees). Lynx and I were definitely content with staying out in the wide open on the more... gradual slopes. Regardless of where we went, though, the conditions were excellent! When I went with Lynx and Ronin to Cranmore last year, it was all icy and was a completely different experience.
On our way down a trail called Bunny Buster (a blue square), we were supposed to link up with another trail, called Great Northern (a green circle). I misread the sign, and ended up starting down a trail called Mousetrap, instead. Well, Mousetrap is a black diamond trail (not what a beginner really wants to face), and when I saw how steep it was, I pulled over to the side and waited to see where Lynx was. Thank goodness I did, 'cause I finally hear, "Scott!" coming from the intersection. I'm so glad she saw me! I had to get unstrapped from my board, and trudge back uphill to meet up with her and head down the trail that was more my speed. I can see where the trail got its name, though. :D
Shortly after that little mishap and while we were continuing down Great Northern, I didn't take a turn quite well enough, and ended up just off the trail in the trees - at low speed. It turns out that the snow was REALLY FREAKIN' DEEP, 'cause when I got unstrapped, I was sinking in snow up to my belly button! I was rather winded by the time I trudged my way back out of that, so I took a short break, strapped back in, and headed back down around a bend where Lynx was waiting for me and asked what happened. We both got another little chuckle out of that side adventure.
Still battling with the finer aspects of control, I was going down another blue square trail, which had some steep spots, at a speed that was probably a little more than I was ready to handle - especially when there were other people on the slope to be wary of and to avoid. A slow-moving skier came into view after I crested a steep area, and since I was really only comfortable on my board's toe edge, I tried to make a best attempt at slowing down to avoid her and her travel companion. Unfortunately, that attempt failed because I couldn't figure out how to switch to my heel edge fast enough, and I plowed right into her and knocked her right off her skis.
I was ultra apologetic and stuck around to help her get back on her feet, but the guy she was with was being obtusely unreasonable about it. I already felt completely embarrassed and like total shit, but he just wouldn't let up. "That's bullshit! I saw the whole thing! He had plenty of room to go around! That's bullshit!", he said. Luckily, that was one of the trips where all six of us had decided to go down at about the same time, so some of the guys were there to come to my defense. They let him know that it was only my second day on a mountain. The woman that I hit was being very reasonable about it, and finally asked him to back off a little.
I still felt awful about it for the rest of the day, though. There were so many things, in retrospect, that I wanted to say to him. Something like, "Are you implying that you think this was an intentional move? Do you think that I spent all day waiting for the perfect opportunity to completely wipe out a random stranger? I already feel like total crap, and your comments are just digging me deeper. If that's your intention, you've avidly succeeded. Thanks for your support." But, I didn't think to say those things at the time, 'cause I just clammed up and mostly stayed quiet. Once she was back on her skis and ready to continue down the mountain, we all parted ways.
For the rest of the day, I was determined to get more comfortable with switching edges and get a better, fine-tuned handle on controlling my speed and direction. That meant that I was really pushing myself to use my heel edge more often, and I paid for it once with a direct, high-speed planting of my FACE (and head) into the snow near the top of the Great Northern trail. I wasn't wearing a helmet, and now that I've been through that, I'm definitely going to invest in one, because it scared the crap out of me. I don't think I've ever hit my head hard enough to make the whole world change colors before, but for a few seconds after the red and black, everything had a yellow tint. I'm sure that I had at least a mild concussion, so I just sat there for a little while, regaining my senses and Lynx was there to watch after me. I monitored my symptoms for the rest of the day, and nothing got worse, so I kept snowboarding! I did take it a lot slower from then on, though - mostly 'cause I was learning how to take it slower.
Once the lifts shut down, we headed back to the shuttle bus and, subsequently, the lodge. We got changed out of our ski gear into some more comfortable clothes, had dinner at the restaurant in the lodge, and then went over to the bar for a couple of drinks. Hali and I ended up getting the same drinks - one called a White Hot Snowman (or something like that), which was the bar's specialty, and then we sampled a local beer. The Snowman was hot cocoa with Jack Daniels, Frangelico, and marshmallow fluff on top and was mmmm-mmmm-good.
So, the summary of Saturday was that I was battered, bruised, embarrassed, and ... ready to do it all again the next day! Although, I could do without the running into people part.
Sunday, we were off to a groggy start, but after taking showers and grabbing breakfast, we were ready to head back out on the slopes. Lynx and I had resolved to just stick to Ramshead all day, while the rest of the guys went off to do more exploring and thrill seeking. By the second or third run down the trail, I had managed to completely get the hang of switching edges and, best of all, NOT FALLING. It was exhilarating!
Darius came back to join Lynx and me after he did an exhausting run through a double black trail and wanted to take it easy for a bit. He's a bit of a speed demon, but I decided to try to pace him, and surprised myself with how well I was able to keep up. I met him at the bottom of the slope about 20 seconds after he got there.
The rest of the daredevils came back to join us for a few runs down Swirl and Timberline, partially to get some video footage of all of us on the slope, and also partially 'cause they just wanted to join us :). I got lots of compliments from the guys on how well I had improved after just one day, and I amazed even myself with how well I was doing on Sunday. To top it all off, it was Super Bowl Sunday, which meant that the trails and lifts weren't nearly as crowded as they were on Saturday. Thank goodness for football!
We managed to get back on the lift one last time before they shut it down, did another great run down Swirl, and wrapped it up for the day. Sunday was definitely the better of the two days for me, 'cause I tipped the scale on riding on my board way more than riding on my butt, knees, and face.
After returning the rental equipment, we went back to the lodge to get changed and to hit the road back to Boston. We only stopped twice: Once for gas, once for Subway. All in all, I had a superb time of it, and will endeavor to do it again. Now, I think I'm ready to head out to Colorado in a couple weeks for FSW!
The flight home was early Monday morning, and sleep was brief. I tried to sleep on the plane, but I was dozing off in my aisle seat, and someone was getting something out of the overhead compartment, causing a jacket containing a hard object in one of its pockets to fall out and smack me on the top of the head. That scared the crap out of me! The same guy happened to also have a child in his lap who was either crying or kicking the back of my seat for the whole flight. Oh well, can't win 'em all. Here's where the nuts come in: I had peanuts on the plane! :o
After arriving back at MCO, I took the city bus downtown to the office and finally made it home at about 10:30pm when kuddlepup came to pick me up.
*phew!* Now I sleep. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz