Sunday, January 28, 2007

Snowboarding at Snowbird

Snowbird rocks and is awe-inspiring, and must be heaven on a powder day. I'm not going to write a whole lot about it right now. But for those who sponsor my various adventures, here's me going down the mountain.

Thanks to Zach's awesome photographic skills for this picture.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Fabulous Life of Andrew?

My brother and I made plans a while ago to go snowboarding in Utah. Granted it was his plan and he skis, but yesterday he flew and I drove into Salt Lake City. If you were wondering about this, Nevada is big.

Anyway, I picked him up at the airport and we drove to the Ramada in Draper, where they'd given away our rooms, then to the Day's Inn, which shares an owner and has rooms. And a jacuzzi.

We got a latish start this morning, after finally getting our room sorted out around 2am. We went up to Brighton, where there were light crowds and some hard-boot snowboarders promoting their version of the sport.

I've been researching hard boots for a while, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to try it. That type of setup brings precision to a whole new level. Also doesn't forgive mistakes. The way the board's edge grabs the snow is terrifying. And the boots transmit every motion they allow you to make to the board. It was a lot like going back to being a beginner, except on the top of a pretty difficult run. One of my first heelside turns dropped me on my back and reminded me that it's a good thing I wear a helmet. After a second run, though, I started to get the hang of it, and on my last run on their gear, I was doing pretty decent carved turns. Not as good as theirs, and I was just a little terrified, but nearly what I can do on my gear, which I'm familiar with.

The verdict, for me, is that as long as I have to ride a "quiver of one" snowboard, it's going to be my present setup or one very much like it. I have the precision to do a pretty good carve, and it's a loose and forgiving enough setup for the sloppier style that I don't mind admitting I employ off-piste and when conditions get sketchy. If I could afford to have a second setup, though...

After Brighton, Zach and I had a really good Mexican dinner, then bought swimsuits to wear in the motel's hot tub, which we had to ourselves. Definitely worth the $13 for the suit.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


My friend had some comps for Northstar, so we went there today. It was... Amusing. Northstar is a very manicured mountain. It's kind of like a skiing theme park. Once we found the place, the fun started with looking for parking. There's paid parking for $25. Of course we opted for the free parking, which is a bit of a walk away from the Village. Which is the next amusement - it was hard to find the mountain past all the stores. Sugarbowl's village consists of various shops, condos, etc. scattered around the main lodge, but not too closely. For the most part, you walk around on snow to get to things. As the snow level rises, there are fewer steps to the front door. Sometimes there are steps cut down from the surface of the snow. Northstar has cobbled streets, front doors at street level, and no clear route for snow removal.

After navigating all the retail, we found the gondola that goes from the Village to the base lodge, which has some kind of cute name. Slow ride, but we got there eventually. Then up two more lifts to get to the top of Mt. Pluto, Northstar's main peak. The first run was a black diamond called "The Chute." It was broad, flat, and short. Then we moved on to the backside and my friend and I did a couple laps on the groomed runs there, passing everyone else. She was using a 90cm ski board today, and didn't get passed by anyone. I was on my snowboard, and didn't get passed either.

My friend's boyfriend was having some binding issues, so they went to go deal with that. I saw a banner at the lift line for the backside advertising Lookout as the steepest terrain at Northstar. Figured I'd give it a look. After one failed attempt, I found the Poma lift leading to the top of lookout. As a snowboarder, I hate surface lifts.

Lookout turned out to have one groomed run. I did it twice. The very top was so icy that my board slid out from under me and I slid down most of it. The main part was very steep, but quite short. Also fairly icy, so it was hard to get a clean turn past all the chatter. Then I had to get the heck out and go to work.

On the way back, along the run from the mountain to the village, I passed the entrance for a terrain park area called "The Mine Shaft." The entrance gate was made up to look like the entrance to a mine shaft. That really brought the whole Northstar experience into focus for me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Guess they don't want my money

A while ago, I broke the charger port for my cell phone. It's a discontinued, off-brand model - the cheap one at the time that I bought it, and I found a vehicle charger that semi-worked, but put an odd stress on the pin that goes in the little hole in the charger plug.

I carry the insurance thing for $6/month on my account, which is basically a scam but has given me a new phone in the past. They charge a $50 deductible on new equipment, so I didn't really want to replace it if I didn't have to. I clicked around the 'net and found what appeared to be a charger using the other port on the bottom of the phone, which is a data/power port. The charger was 99¢, with $5 shipping - a definite savings against $50.

When the charger arrived, which was a bit of a pain in itself, it turned out that unlike the picture, the plug was the standard circular one. Which is to say useless to me. I didn't do anything for a while because I was busy, then today I called Verizon to see if they would sell me a new phone. I figure I don't like my current phone that much and I'm due for a discounted phone in six months anyway.

Not only could Verizon not give me my "new every two" phone early, they couldn't sell me a phone at all. The call center guy told me to buy it online. The reason I was calling the call center, though, is that the web site won't sell me a phone either. So if I'm going to get a new phone, I need to go to a store. Nearest one's in Reno.

So I just filed a claim online with my insurance scam provider. DHL is supposed to magically show up with a phone on my doorstep on Friday. Of course, it'll probably be the sucky one...

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Secret Life of Socks

About a week ago, I lost a sock. I was a little startled because my socks don't go on a very long journey from when I take them off to when they go into my sock drawer, but I figured the washing machine ate it. I felt around the outside of the spin cylinder a little, and then figured the sock was gone for good.

About the same time, the washer also started having problems draining. I'd have to run the drain cycle multiple times. I didn't think much of it at first - the way that the washer evacuates lint isn't the most high-tech, and doesn't seem to incorporate a way of removing the lint from the water, so it didn't seem like a very outlandish idea that there might be a clog. I figured that it would clear up on its own, and didn't worry about it.

Which brings us to this week's laundry. For those who don't know, this is what I use to wash my clothes. The machine isn't exactly capacious, and a week's clothes generally become two loads, with a set of linens and a towel making a third.

The first load went alright, although I did still have to run the drain cycle a couple of times. The second load drained so slowly that I decided that I had to figure out what was going on. I figured it was probably the sock - I knew it had been eaten by the washer, and these things don't just disappear.

First I removed the spin cylinder. No sock. Then I went and found the manual to see if it would shed any light on the situation. It did, sort of. The manual gives instructions on draining the last water from the unit before leaving it somewhere in subfreezing conditions. I learned that I could get at the machine's internal plumbing from the bottom, and it's better to set the machine on its left side.

If you're curious about what the bottom of a washing machine from the '70s looks like, here it is.

The washed-out white fitting is the lowest point in the washing machine. Socks seem to be unable to make the corner going from the black tube that empties the overflow drain into the pump. So I was able to pull the sock out through the winterizing cap.

The part where all this gets really stupid is that after I pulled out the sock, I threw it in with the next load, which was too big. So the sock got stuck again and I had to put the machine on its side and remove it again. At least now I'm good at it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Naming ski runs

I bumped into an article on MSN as I was logging off of Hotmail about surviving a day of skiing. While it was clearly written for an adult perpetual beginner (I just had to click,) it got me thinking about the names of ski runs. I think it's kind of amusing that the beginner and high-advanced runs tend to have similar names - "Harriet's Hollow" and "Nancy's Couloir," for example, or "Meadow Run" and "Strawberry Fields." Meanwhile, intermediate runs get names like "Broken Axle" and "Sidewinder."

Of course, different resorts do this to different degrees. A ton of the runs at Sugar Bowl, the resort I pulled all those names from, are just named after people. Some resorts, on the other hand, have names written entirely by the Marketing department. One wonders, though, why the naming of runs is like that.

I think that a lot of the naming of the high-advanced stuff is descriptive. If a run or area is called "glades," it's probably something going through trees. If it's a bowl, it's called bowl. Or it might be named after the dominant terrain feature. "Sisters" is named after a group of rock outcroppings called the "sisters." At Sugar Bowl, most of the high-advanced runs are pre-existing terrain features. I'm sure that some cutting of trees has happened, but all the faces, gullies, bowls, etc. were there. So it makes sense that a run should keep the name it had when it was given a nickname by the first people to start skiing along the general path.

It seems like usually the people who are finding new lines don't feel a need to name things something intimidating. In fact, if the experience of the run is soft and cuddly (if you're really advanced,) the name is soft and cuddly too. "Sugar Bowl" does not sound like something to be scared of, but the reality is that you dive straight off a cornice and then it's steep until it levels out enough for there to be trees to crash into. Of course, if a person knows how to do cornices and steeps, the experience is that you drop a cornice, do some powder turns, cruise around in some trees, and then have to go back to the base of the lift on a run choked with beginners.

Perhaps the intermediate runs get the scary names because the intermediate skiers need them. They're skiing on something relatively flat and wide and usually groomed regularly, getting passed, catching edges, etc., and on the lift rides up they can see the advanced group down steep things and between outcroppings, darting through gullies, dropping cornices, etc. Some of the intermediates have been that way for a very long time. I think that if the run was named "turning practice" or "cool-down" or something like that, it would be a little disheartening for the people for whom it's an accomplishment. On the other hand, surviving "Railsplitter," "Stumpjumper," "Carnage Alley" or "Hail Mary" is something to be proud of.

A lot of beginners are pretty terrified of the whole thing. It wouldn't help them to name their run "Ankle Buster" or "Wrist Cracker." So "Cuddly Bear" becomes a pretty obvious choice.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

One of those shots everyone has to have

Also, for those of my fans who wanted to know where I was living this winter, it's at the other end of the snow tunnel that door enters. In a good season, we can get so much snow that the snow field sits evenly across the top of the tunnel, so it doesn't even create a drift. Thanks to my father for the picture.