On climbing mountains with ski poles

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On Friday, February 3, I climbed almost 100 feet up the side of a mountain in ski boots and only armed with ski poles. Why? To fetch my skis perched on the bumps above me. It was awesome.

No really, it was.

How steep was it? If you’ve ever been to Breckenridge, we were on Peak 10 making our way down a very bumpy double-black called ‘Dark Rider’.

Peak 10 from Breck trail map

Doesn’t look too incredibly steep from the trail map. But oh, it was. Don’t worry, this whole post won’t be entirely about this experience or a break down of every little thing I did while I was away. No one cares about that. I just thought it would be funny to start off with this comical situation I found myself in when my ski decided to pop off mid -turn. Yup. It just popped right off. (This was taken care of after a few more… incidents with a ski who won’t stay on and some double black diamonds)

My uphill ski (right ski) popped right off as I made a turn. I slid down on my side and attempted to stop myself for about 15 -20 feet with my ski poles. The slope was mostly packed powder and ice/rocks. I managed to stop myself on a small bump with my ski pole lodged into the snow in front of me. *Sigh* ok. Time to stand up. Nope. As soon as I took the ski pole out and attempted to stand, my other ski popped right off and down the mountain I went – the ski stayed where it was. After many attempts at stopping and oh so many curse words, I managed to stop myself about 60-70 feet down the mountain. It was almost a full yard sale. I still had my two ski poles and managed to stop myself on a small bump. Maybe someone will come down the mountain and bring my skis. Nope. That didn’t happen. It took me about 25 minutes to climb up to my skis by shoving the toes of my boots into the side of the mountain and using my ski poles to dig out hand holds (which then became foot holds). I had one particularly grueling 10 feet that was mostly powder up to my thighs. Most of this time was spent scrambling and getting next to nowhere while panting and giggling. Probably less panting at a lower altitude, but we were up there.

I finally made it to both skis! Wait… no flat spot to put them back on. Awkward.

Speaking of awkward, almost the same thing happened the next day except I didn’t slide away from my ski. While I was attempting to get it back on (again, not flat at all), this guy skied down and asked if I was ok. I explained my situation – that my ski just popped off and I was attempting to put it on, but the ground wasn’t flat. His response?

“Yeah… that’s awkward.”

Yes. Yes it was. Made even more awkward because he was making me laugh. If you know me, you know I laugh at almost anything. This was not helping my ski endeavors. His friend came down to join him just as I was saying “why thank you for your words of encouragement” to this his friend replied in a very excited (read: sarcastic) tone “Wow! Good luck! You got this!” I finally managed to inch my way over to a larger, flatter bump about 10 feet in front of me straight across the face. Success!

Not the last time that was an issue.

I was in Colorado from February 1-6. I had never been skiing in the Rocky Mountains. I had never been skiing anywhere but the east coast. Even then, the largest ski resort I had been to was Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, NY where I spent every Saturday from the end of December until Mid-march with my ski friends. (Check out some Maplewood Ski Club videos on Youtube! We had some good tricksters.. and some sweet crashes  – and yes, they did jump off the ski lift on purpose.)

I was not ready to come back to the 50 and 60 degree weather on the 6th. I was not at all prepared to leave snow mentally. I grew up in a very small town north of Pittsburgh. We were right in the snow belt outside of Edinboro, PA, so for most of my life, I spent a good 5 months covered in at least a foot and a half of snow.

Less snow in Pittsburgh, but still snow.

DC? We had about 2-3 inches for a day or so.

San Fran? Forget about it.

I was told by several people when moving here, “Don’t worry you’re so close to the snow. You can just drive there and play, and then come back and not have to deal with it.”

Well, snow is one thing I have no problem ‘dealing’ with. Shoveling snow? Love it. Driving in snow? No problem. When you’re forced to drive through it through most of your permit period, you get used to it fast. I love it and just going to it a weekend or two a year, not going to cut it for very long. (I think Boston will be my next move).

I had planned on 3 full days of skiing and that is exactly what happened. I hadn’t skied, like really skied, in over 3 years. The last time I went skiing was with my brother at this tiny ski resort in Edinboro called Mountain View. They have 2 T-bar lifts and that is it. Don’t know what a T-bar is? Look it up – I’m not doing it for you. Most ski resorts that have them use them to reach their tallest peaks/bowls. Edinboro uses them for their whole ‘mountain’.

So. Much. Pain. After the first day (at Keystone), my body was revolting. My thighs were killing me. My shins hated me from being shoved in ski boots. My arms hurt. Day 2? So sore. Did I let it stop me? Nope. Day 2 was the sliding-down-the-mountain fiasco. Powered right through. Say 3? I think at this point my body was numb. I could definitely tell that my legs were having issues turning. I think if I attempted a day 4, I would have done some major damage. No bueno.

It was a blast though.

We headed up to the Imperial Lift my second day to the very top of the tallest ski lift in North America. I hit my first bowl – nothing too exciting, that part of the mountain didn’t have every drop in point open. Colorado definitely needs to get hit by a major snow storm… or 7.

Sign at the top of Imperial Express Lift, Breckenridge Colorado

Let me clear something up really quickly. Yes. Colorado was hit by a giant storm while I was there. No. It did not reach Silverthorne (where I was staying) or the ski resorts in that area. It didn’t make it much past the first range. All the snow was dumped on the plains/Denver/Boulder. Breckenridge got about 3 inches while I was there. That’s it. Just 3 inches. I couldn’t count the number of people who messaged me about this on my hands and feet. So here is what really happened. Everyone not in the mountains got snow. The mountains? No snow.

A quick paragraph long list of the other things that I did complete with a conversation: We ate. A lot. Cooked. Made some rad guac. I attempted to watch football again and made it through the first half before pulling out the computer, g-chatting my friend, and reading through the 1000+ posts on my RSS feed. Slept. Played a lot of Mario Kart 64 and Goldeneye 64. My friend R – who is a lady – and I decided to break out 007 after cooking/running errands on Sunday while we waited for her boyfriend to drive out from Boulder and our male friends to get back from work. Our friend A – a dude – came out of his room after a nap to find us glued to the TV like 12 y/o boys.

A – Chili smells great!

Me and R not taking our eyes off the the screen – yeah. BOO YOU WHORE!

A – What did you guys do today?

Me and R, still not taking our eyes off the the screen – stuff. cooked. this.

A – Cool. Have you heard from your boyfriend?

R – no.

A – He’s still coming right?

R – yeah.

That’s about how it went. No full sentences, just ‘yeahs’ and short one word answers, never tearing our eyes away from the screen.

Oh, a fun way to play multiplayer Goldeneye? Normal mode, Capture the Flag style, throwing knives. Hilarious. Throwing knives are so hard to aim at moving targets…

Right then.

That was my trip to Colorado.

I wish I could say that it was a nice jaunt to the world of mountains and cold and snow, but really it just made me realize that I left a place with very little weather and loads of humidity for a place with no weather and no humidity. I love San Francisco, but I don’t see this lasting for more than a year. Who knows where to next or for what!

Let the planning begin…




One thought on “On climbing mountains with ski poles

    […] I made it through the first half, but then after a few beers at a high altitude (I was in Colorado. It was when I fell down a mountain.) my mind began to wander and I started surfing the internet and reading my RSS feed. I have […]

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