We've been told so many times "you haven't really skied until you've skied out West", "once you try West you'll never ski East", "the worst day in the West is better than the best day in the East," that anything short of Heavenly being an actual ski heaven would have been a disappointment. And properly disappointed we were, which is actually good news for all of us, East-coast skiers. This is to all those who've always felt underprivileged for skiing in the marginalized northeast - you ain't missing that much. To the West-coasters who snicker at East-cost skiing - I extend an offer to take you to our best mountains (I am thinking Sunday River, Tremblant, maybe Stowe or Cannon) on a good day, and if you really love skiing and have good gear, you'll have to love these mountains, too. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, let me proceed ;-))
So we were unlucky with the weather. Somehow we thought that there wasn't such a thing as bad weather on the West coast. We thought that we are the only ones "blessed" with icy trails, winds, and fog. On the first day we got East-coast style trails with packed powder and some ice, but clear skies and nice views of lake Tahoe. We were lucky to have taken a few pictures, as it was the last time we'd be able to actually see the lake. Heavenly is the biggest resort in Tahoe, yet it has slightly fewer lifts and fewer trails than Sunday River. More importantly, it has overwhelmingly intermediate terrain, with both beginner and advanced trails being quite scarce. Of course, due to the icy conditions, about half the black trails we were simply closed. The one trail we did like was The Face on the lower part of the mountain. It was a steep run, with some skiable moguls, and quite long. The sign at the top read "Experts Only. You CAN die here. This is YOUR decision point." This actually kept me off the slope until the end of the day, when we tried it once, and then again.
On the second day it was supposed to snow, but it was just windy, instead, and so the entire upper half of the mountain was closed. We put on our face masks and sweaters and did not mind the cold, while the native Californians looked at us in envy. It got icier due to the wind, and so I did not enjoy my attempt at The Face. alehhandro, unfortunately, did, and so we skied separately for half a day. Note to skiers: you can score easy points by sticking with your partner, even if they say that it's OK to leave them to ski alone.
On the third day it was finally snowing, which made skiing quite a bit better, though the visibility was very low and so we couldn't appreciate the Tahoe scenery. There were a lot of trails with moguls, which I still don't know how to ski right, but enjoyed trying nonetheless.
On the plus side, it's definitely warmer and probably sunnier in California. The views, when you do see them, are great, although I appreciated them more hiking in the summer than skiing in the winter. The terrain is more varied, with a lot of mogul runs and glades (none of the glades were open yet, though). The lunch is expensive ($15 for a cheeseburger with hot chocolate), but you can eat it on a sunny deck outside. The general atmosphere seems to be much more relaxed, and skiing more accessible and so the level of skiing is generally lower.
When we discussed all this on the lifts in Tahoe, we were told that we picked the wrong mountain - Kirkwood or Northern Star at Tahoe, or Mammoth further South would have been more suitable for us. We'll check them out next time!
Act II: San Diego
And then we were off to San Diego to visit dyr. Somehow it turned into a gastronomical excursion, with a French brunch, followed by a Spanish dinner with a Tower of Sangria, then a Jewish bagel brunch, finishing with a Mexican dinner with authentic margarita. Yummy! And we got to meet and share drinks with some of the folks we'd be spending New Year with - alinaf, dalona, the_furman.
Act III: Big Bear Lake, CA
Finally, the highlight of the trip, the traditional New Year ski trip in sunny southern California - Big Bear/Snow Summit mountains. T'was awesome! Muchas gracias to dyr, who organized it all and got so many Bostonians to join. A real LJ-reunion - vollalol, marrazm, vinnipuh, zioshech, plus some non-LJers. I even imagined that I saw friday13 skiing on the mountain, but I am not 100% sure.
The skiing was so-so, with the weather not being too cooperative again, but the rest - drinking, dancing, outdoor jacuzzi, food, talking-talking-talking, catching up with childhood friends and meeting new ones - was great and I am sure the documentary evidence will be forthcoming from many cameras.
Random encounter on the mountain. Съезжаем с подъемника, говорим по-русски. Подъезжает мужик.
- А какая тут гора самая крутая?
- Тут - это в Америке или на этой горе?
- Ну, на этой горе. Я крутую гору ищу.
- Вот там, справа, черные спуски.
- А что значит черные?
- ?!? Ну это уровень такой, значит крутые.
- Ребят, а вы сами туда идете?
То ли чувак такой чистА крутой, то ли шпион приземлившийся на парашюте, то ли просто одиноко одному кататься.
The final day turned out a bit more dramatic than it had to be, though. We left the house with plenty of time, in our estimation, to have dinner on the way and still make the red-eye flight. After 2 hours of driving and 13 miles driven, we realized that we weren't quite right. Skip dinner, can we take a later flight? will this be a first time we actually miss the flight? call parents, sheepishly listen to the "I told you so" and "why didn't you"; there is a later flight, but it's only 45 minutes later, we still won't make it; adjust to the reality of not making it to work on Monday, but, on the plus side, getting a good night's sleep. Suddenly the traffic begins to dissipate and a glimmer of a hope appears that we can make the later flight and try standby. alehhandro makes the car fly, while I work out the logistics of repacking, can we leave part of our luggage? can someone else bring it later? Apparently, the cops have finished up their required speeding tickets quota for 2004 and were not too keen to start up again in 2005, so we made it safe, sound and ticketless to the airport, even with all of our luggage, a healthy 25 minutes before departure of our original flight, after 5 hours of driving, instead of the expected 2.5.
As I cut through the line and get our tickets, dyr and alehhandro are carrying and repacking our luggage, which does manage to make it on to the plane. We are stopped and fully searched at security but that does not stop us from being on the plane with 10 minutes to spare. So this was not going to be the first time we missed the flight, and even all of the luggage came out unscathed and on time. Unfortunately, this means that I am at work now. The adrenaline from the mad rush to the airport kept me going and so I ended up writing this whole epic on the plane instead of sleeping. When I looked up around 1am California time, I was the only one in the entire plane with the reading light lit.