Wind Dwellers

This past weekend was supposed to rock. A number of friends and I took off early from work on Friday to brave the trip from the South Bay to Tahoe with a Winter Storm Watch in effect for the northern Sierras. Eight feet of snow was predicted by Tuesday. It was raining pretty heavily in the Bay Area on Friday, a sure sign of new snow headed for the mountains. Unfortunately, we didn’t count on the wind.We made it over Echo Pass with no problems. There was some accumulation of snow at the summit, but it was not enough to cause any issues. As we made it down from the Tahoe rim, we found that there was very little snow at all on the ground. The storm hadn’t made it over the mountains yet. Winds were fairly strong, though, so we figured the storm might hit overnight.Saturday morning we awoke to dry land. No snow had fallen, and the temperatures were in the 40’s. A little disappointed, we headed to the California side of Heavenly. Rob and Robert drove separately to rent gear. I drove Justin and Mike directly there to get them signed up for lessons. Neither of them had ever skied before (Rob had skied for the first time last weekend). After getting them on their way, I bought my full day lift ticket and waited for Rob and Robert to arrive. We were planning to meet Ed, my boss from Xetex, at the East Peak Lodge around 10am and then meet up with Justin and Mike for lunch around 1pm at the Sun Deck. At about 9:45 we started to work our way over to the Nevada side via the Gunbarrel lift. We descended to the base of the Powderbowl lift only to find that they had just closed it due to high winds. The Waterfall lift was also closed, so with little choice we hopped aboard Patsy’s to get back to the top of the Gunbarrel lift. When we descended again, one of the ski patrol announced that they were shutting down the whole mountain due to very high winds. Gusts were reaching 80-100mph near the top, and the chairs on the lifts were starting to sway enough that they were hitting the supports. Robert and I took the Roundabout run down to the base but Rob decided to take the chair lift since it was an Intermediate run.We met up with Ed at the base of the slopes, who ended up just turning back around to head home due to the closure. It was about 10:30am and Justin and Mike were still in their lessons, scheduled to be done by 12 or so. So Rob, Robert, and I picked up our refund vouchers (good for a full day pass this season) and headed out to pick up some breakfast/lunch. We called around and found that Kirkwood had a few lifts open and weren’t expecting to close any of them. After breakfast we synced up with Justin and Mike. We tried to get a refund for them for the 1/2 day of equipment rental and lift ticket they were going to miss out on, but Heavenly wouldn’t do it since it was part of the lesson package. Rob and Robert still had their rental gear and wanted to make use of it, so the three of us decided to head to Kirkwood while Mike and Justin headed back to Ed’s place.It was about 1:20pm when we got to Kirkwood. We parked by the Red Cliffs Lodge and hurried to the lift ticket booths. The ticket lines were moving rather slowly, so I decided to take a chance in the Special Tickets line. They were talking about shutting down lift 11 as we entered (they had said they weren’t going to over the phone). They still had 4 runs open, though two of them intermediate. We decided to buy the half day passes anyway since we had driven all the way there (a 45-60 minute drive from Heavenly). Robert and I scurried to lift 11 with the hopes that we could get a run in but they were shutting it down just as we approached it. So we hurried over to lift 5, which they also promptly shut down. With one intermediate lift remaining, we hoofed it all the way to lift 7 near the Timber Creek lodge. Thankfully it was still running. We quickly got on and rode it to the top, where we were promptly met by a member of the ski patrol saying they were going to shut the mountain down. Utterly defeated, we milked the run for all that we could. As it turns out, Rob didn’t even get one run in. He had jumped in the Snowkirk lift line and was the next person in line to get on one of the chairs when they announced the mountain closure!Thoroughly disappointed, we made our way back to Ed’s place in hopes of jumping in the hot tub and eating a nice steak dinner. It wasn’t to be. As we drove up to his house, the wind and snow really started to pick up. A few minutes later, it was a white out. The winds were strong and gusty. Trees were swaying more than I had ever seen them… at times, almost hitting the house! Visibility was next to nil. Then the power went out. It was about 4pm and we hadn’t even gotten in our swim trunks or heated the oven. We spent the evening in front of Ed’s fireplace playing guitar, singing songs (or trying to), and cooking potatoes, green beans, and chili in the fire. We then played a little Trivial Pursuit by firelight before heading to bed. The power didn’t come back on until about 4:15am.We didn’t even consider hitting the slopes on Sunday. It was still very windy, though the snow had subsided. Rather than deal with the rejection and rental costs going to waste due to another of mountain closure, we decided to head home. Another storm was headed toward the lake and we didn’t want to get stuck in Tahoe due to the pass closures, too!So all in all, it was a terrible ski weekend, but it ended up being pretty fun nonetheless. It was great to finally hear Ed play the guitar for an extended period of time and fun to just sit around the fire like we were at camp. Lemons to lemonade…

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