Tag Archives: Skiing

2021 – A retrospective

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2021. The whole thing.

I started this post out by just creating a list of all the adventures that I went on in 2021. But… I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t particularly interesting – While it was informative, it was pretty dry, and the list didn’t really capture the feeling of the year.

Instead, I think I’ll just post my favorite pictures, along with a quick summary of the sort of the major adventures of the year:

  • The winter brought lots of backpacking and snow hiking – It’s still strange to me how much I’ve grown to know Oregon in the last year and a half… or, more accurately, how little of Oregon I really met in the preceding four years.
  • I visited friends in Sacramento in the spring; had amazing catch-up time, and saw some stunning views of Lake Tahoe
  • In the late spring, I visited one of the most photographed lakes in the Pacific North West – Colchuck Lake! I even summitted Asgard’s Pass with a friend… though the blood-price for that trip was steep. I injured my knee again, which put me out of hiking condition for nearly two months afterward.
  • The summer saw the death of my Grandmother, a blow to the entire family that we’ll never truly move on from. I was brought unexpectedly face-to-face with just how much of my personality came from her. Her passing brought an unexpected gift, though, in the form of nearly two weeks visiting family and friends back in New England.
  • The early fall brought my first dedicated rock climbing trip in quite some time – along with summitting what is probably the most iconic climbing route I’ve ever done. Devil’s Tower, in the bag!
  • The late fall brought friendship and comradery in amounts I haven’t seen in years. A backpacking trip with friends, and a huge event in my friend group – My friend Dillon’s bachelor party, and my role as best man in his wedding!
  • The winter is still coming in to Oregon, but the end of 2021 brought the return of beautifully snowy conditions up on Mt. Hood, and a reminder of just how glorious the Oregon Coast really can be…


**As always, if anyone would like a copy of any of these photos, please let me know. I have many of them already printed, but can always re-print anything that anyone would like.

The first cross country ski adventure of the season!

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Thursday, 30-Dec-2021


After my friend Mike headed out, I went up to the mountain!

The storm hadn’t fully receded yet, but it had definitely calmed down quite a bit. And, more importantly, traffic was pretty much non-existant. I mean, in comparison to the usual traffic on this road, that is. For some reason, the drive to Mt. Hood just… it just takes so much longer than it logically should. I mean, it’s 70 miles. Mostly on highways. Why does it take 2 hours???


Anyways. Drive looked good, I had newly waxed cross country skiis, and I was feeling energetic after having some good socialization time. Tossed the gear in the car, filled my coffee thermos with some hot drink, and headed into the blizzard!



Now I know what you’re thinking.

“Ben! How could you take pictures while driving in the snow???”

“Well, other-Ben, As you can see there’s quite a bit of space between me and the next car… that’s because traffic was moving at approximately 20mph, and had pretty frequent stops. Thankfully this was only for a short distance, but those stops gave me just enough time to snap a picture while waiting to make sure the car in front of me didn’t backslide into my sweet snow-stang”

Yeah. The drive was… not as bad as it could have been, thankfully. But it was still slow once we got to the snow.

Thankfully, traffic petered out pretty quickly after one initial slowdown, and I was able to make it to the trailhead without much difficulty. I should clarify – I didn’t go to the originally-planned trailhead.


See, I love Elk Meadows, so that was my original plan. I had my hiking ski boots on (ski boots that are crampon compatible, and comfortable for ascending in), crampons, and everything ready for some vertical movement… but the roads and conditions were getting pretty bad as I passed the pullout for the Timberline Lodge. I probably could have made it, but I wasn’t feeling particularly adventurous or risky today.

Instead, I stopped at Trillium Lake – usually jam-packed with people, but thanks to the snow it was only packed. I was able to find a pretty safe parking spot without much difficulty, geared up, and headed in!



The trail was beautiful and fun – Deep snow, clear going, and nicely downhill pretty much the whole way.

Then I made a mistake.

I went off-trail, excited that I had newly-waxed skis that I thought could take me anywhere. And they could! Anywhere that was downhill.



When I hit a river and decided to turn back, I learned the mistake I’d made. Remember how I mentioned that the skis were newly-waxed? Well… the folks that had waxed them put a nice, thick layer on… just like you’d do for downhill skis. But Cross Country skis have little scales on the bottom to grip the snow, giving you traction when you push off. Scales that are small, and easily covered by a thick layer of wax…

Going into the adventure, I hadn’t noticed that the scales were covered up. Downhill I’d just glided beautifully, no issue and no hassle.

When I tried to climb back uphill though, I was stuck. I stepped forward, and the ski slid backward. I actually made negative progress for a little while.

I tried taking the skis off and just hiking out. No dice – the snow was 3+ ft deep, not something I could crawl through.

I tried going sideways. No dice – the trees were thick, and I didn’t quite have the room to manouver.


I legitimately got scared for a while – I had the safety gear to be okay, of course, and even call for help if absolutely necessary… but I really didn’t want to have to send up a satellite beacon because my skis were slippery.

After quite a bit of sliding and falling and being frustrated (okay, maybe like 20min, max) I was able to struggle my way out of the low-ground. It was mostly a lot of creative switchbacks, using poles and trees for leverage, and more pizza-walking than I ever expected to do on a pair of cross country skis.



With my escape made, I seriously considered just turning back and heading home. I was tired, and had walked quite a bit in the last few days… and after nearly getting stuck in the deep powder, you can’t blame me for wanting a bit of an escape from my escape into the woods, right?

So I rested a bit, had a bite to eat, and drank some water from my unfrozen water bottle. I even chatted with some other skiers who, ironically, were having the opposite problem than I was! Their skis were sticking quite a bit on the heavy snow, and they were having just as rough of a time making headway as I was.


With my spirits buoyed by the snacks, and knowing I wasn’t along in my struggles, I forged onward. Instead of turning around, I stuck to the groomed trail for the rest of the trek – gliding pretty easily, though still being quite frustrated every so often by the backsliding that my skis were doing.

After a while though, it seems like the thickest part of the wax rubbed off enough that I could almost get traction! This gave me enough speed to make it all the way to the lake, where I got some… well, not views, really. but I did see the lake! Sort of.



Since there weren’t really any views, and the lake was completely exposed to the driving snow and biting wind, I headed back into tree cover. Ate a quick bite of lunch in a conveniently placed shelter, and took the chance to relax and enjoy the sheer simple quiet that fresh falling snow gives.

I think that’s one of my favorite parts about the winter. The simple quiet of the world… It was cold, sure, but I had the right gear to keep myself warm. And in that simple comfort, the entire world seemed completely still and utterly serene… not a single sound aside from those I made myself.

I rested a while, and even took the chance to patch up some holes in my snow pants, since I was warm enough without them. But daylight waits for no one, not even as intrepid an adventurer as I am, so I did have a timeline to keep. I ate a few more slices of brie, rearmored myself in the snow layers, packed the warmth layers into my backpack, and headed back toward the car.



I’ll admit – I was worried about the way back. My skis were getting a bit better traction, sure, but it still wasn’t optimal… and if you recall, the route from the car was mostly downhill. I wasn’t confident that I’d be able to get enough traction to get up the trail easily.

In the end, my concern was well founded. My skis didn’t cut it, but that’s where having backup plans come into play – I just took them off and hiked out in my boots. No hassle, no mess, and no forging through deep snow, thanks to the groomed trail. Soon enough, I was back to the car and warming myself up for the long trafficy slog home…

Skiing Squaw Valley, and my newest injury

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Skiing Squaw Valley, and my newest injury

Saturday, 25-Feb-2017

 

I went skiing in California!

Sarah and I had started skiing earlier this year, and I’ll be honest – I’d gotten pretty good, and was really starting to enjoy myself. Combine that with my friend Mike telling me all about how great skiing in California is, and that I hadn’t seen Mike for a while… well, I bought tickets and flew out. Rented get in Hood River, of course, which just added to the fun of flying. Yay huge bags!

I actually flew into Sac on Friday night, after a day of climbing with Sarah at the gym… I felt bad about running off, but she’d mentioned a desire to stay in Portland and see some friends of hers, so I figured that this would be a good excuse for us to have some individual adventures, and then catch back up the following week.

 

So I flew into Sac. Stayed at Mike’s place Friday night, and then drove out to Squaw Valley the next morning.

It was a drive. Mike and I hadn’t caught up in a while, and this drive definitely gave us time to catch up. What was normally a 2.5hour drive quickly turned into a 5 hour one, what with having to pull over to put on chains, be told that we couldn’t put chains on where we were (we were <5ft past one sign, but 10ft in front of another…), turn around, sit in more traffic, put on chains, then sit in more traffic, then get caught in some more traffic.

 

Then, after the traffic, we found out that the parking lot was full. So Mike, being amazing, dropped me off out front, and then went to get lunch while I got a few runs in.

By the time he got back, I’d done maybe half a dozen runs throughout the easy area, and was starting to feel pretty okay about Squaw. It was steep, and carved out, but definitely fun… and I was really looking forward to learning some tips and tricks from the ski extraordinaire hanging out with me.

Once Mike got a parking spot, we hit up the far side of the mountain, a lift run called Shirley. And that’s where I should have turned tail and run… it was all blues, but much steeper and more carved out than I was used to. In fact, the runs were mostly moguls… not something I’d ever dealt with before. But I gave it a shot, and our first run went pretty well.

 

Our second run didn’t.

 

I did the first half of the run well, and stopped for a quick breather about 70% the way down the run… before starting into that mogul field again. But this time, I didn’t hit them right. This time, I caught a ski, and went down.

My knee went another way. I screamed.

By the time I got down to Mike, shock was setting in. I couldn’t press down with my heel, and I was confident that I couldn’t ski out.

We asked a lift operator for a hand, and he quickly proved his incompetance by suggesting that I ski out… even going so far as to say that I needed to wait in line, and then ski down a green to get back to the lodge. Honestly, I’m like 90% certain that he was stoned… which I wouldn’t normally mind, but… you know… shock. Pain. Injured skier asking for help. Screw that guy.

 

So I walked away, and asked the next lift operator if he could help.

“Ohh god! Yeah man, get on this next chair, I’ll hold some folks back for you. What’s your name? I’ll call up, and ski patrol will be waiting for you”. THAT is how you react to someone saying that they’re in shock, and unable to ski out.

One snowmobile ride later I can’t put any weight on the knee at all, and I’m on a tram down to the urgent care area. Then two hours of waiting (1.5 hours of that in the outside waiting room), and then meeting a nurse for x-rays, and a doctor for a diagnosis.

 

Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament.

 

The four words that every skiier, soccer player, footballer, or really any athlete fears. I was told that I was now a member of that club, and that I should go see an orthopedist for an MRI within two weeks. That I wouldn’t be able to walk for a month, and that recovery could take anywhere from six months to a year.

The rest of the night was blurred. I called loved ones, then ate a huge plate of nachos. Mike helped me carry my gear into the motel room, and I settled myself into the bed, trying to learn how to hold myself to keep the knee elevated, but not painful.

I guess I’ve got time to learn, though… we’ll see how recovery goes.