Tag: mountains

Whiteout Conditions

I went skiing the other day with some friends. A typical day, although a bit foggy when we rolled into the parking lot. We pulled on our gear and trudged across the icy parking lot to the lifts. I stretched a bit and tried to loosen up before our first run. As we clicked into our ski bindings, the fog suddenly went from 4/10 visibility to 0/10 visibility. As in, we could barely see the lift ten feet away. No matter, we are hearty soldiers and got on the chairlift anyway.

As the lift climbed the mountain, visibility remained poor. But we held out hope – it’s not uncommon in our area to have the fog/cloud layer dissipate at the summit. Alas, it was not to be. The summit was socked in with thick pea soup fog. We slowly made our way to the first run we could find, just to get down the mountain. Skiing in zero visibility is weird. It’s not uncommon to get a bit of vertigo, as your brain wrestles with slopes and angles without any visual clues.

We stopped about halfway down the run and just looked at each other. One of the guys proclaimed, “This sucks. I’m going to the lodge and getting a beer.” So down we went, carefully picking our way through moguls we couldn’t see. At the bottom, the pessimist headed straight for the lodge. The other optimist and I debated and decided to do one more run before calling it a day. As the chairlift carried us up, the fog started getting thinner and thinner. We looked at each other and laughed – wouldn’t it be funny if the cloud layer burned off and the pessimist missed out?

Sure enough as we neared the top the fog dissipated, and it was nothing but bright blue skies. Beautiful! We headed down a run, whooping the whole way. We stopped several times and texted and called the pessimist, telling him to get back out here. At the bottom we zoomed right back to the chairlift so we could head back up. More texts and voicemails telling our lodge-bound friend to dump the beer and join us. No word from him, so we went back up into the sun and bombed down another run.

Once at the bottom, we ran into the lodge and convinced the pessimist to abandon the beer that had just been delivered and come back out with us. He reluctantly gave up the tasty beverage and trudged outside to put skis on again and make his way with us back to the chairlift. He was quiet on the ride up. And disturbingly, the fog seemed to be thicker than the last two trips up. Visibility dropped the further up the mountain we went. And sure enough, we reached the summit and… whiteout conditions again. Zero visibility. Mr. pessimist just looked at us without saying much. There wasn’t much we could say other than, “honest it was blue ski fifteen minutes ago.” Down we went into the soup.

Back at the bottom, tail between our legs we all went into the lodge for some adult beverages. We spent some time enjoying the warmth of the bar and mostly ignoring the elephant in the room. As everyone was finishing, I looked out the window and it appeared as though the fog was lifting a bit. I got smart this time and used my phone to bring up the live summit webcam. Sure enough, bright blue skies! I excitedly showed the video to my friends and suggested we hurry up and get at least one more run in while the sun was out. I was met with very skeptical looks. I kept pointing to the video – it’s a live look and I see sun! Let’s go!

Skis back on, hop on the chairlift, and back up we go. Do I even need to say what happened?

I have officially been fired as a weather and conditions prognosticator.

P.S. A bad day skiing is still better than being at work. Just saying…

The Minimalist Traveler

  • We traveled out of town for Thanksgiving (gasp, he crossed state lines?). It’s been a while since I traveled and one thing is clear… to travel well takes practice. Part of that experience is packing. There’s an old adage that I’m a firm believer in – you expand to fit your available space. It’s human nature. This was made abundantly clear a number of years ago when we did a whole house gut and remodel. It wasn’t possible to live in the house during the work, so we put everything we owned in storage and moved into a motorhome. Initially I was worried. How could I possibly live for a year without all my stuff? A few months later and I realized I was perfectly happy with a few shirts, a couple pairs of pants, and my mountain bike. For a full year I didn’t miss any of the stuff in storage. When the house was done, whoomp, we quickly expanded to fill every room. Then went out and bought more crap to fill space. What’s that have to do with travel? I didn’t have a small overhead bin size suitcase, so I had to use a bigger checked bag. And what happened? When packing I threw everything but the kitchen sink in. Workout clothes I never wore. Approximately 23 pairs of socks. Power cords for electronics I didn’t even bring. Pajamas. I don’t even wear pajamas at home. Sweatshirts and hats. Jackets. Dress shirts and slacks. What did I actually wear? The same two outfits every day. In reality I could have traveled with a reusable cloth grocery bag and been just fine. We went to a luggage store on the way home and bought a small overhead bin bag. I already own packing cubes, so I should be good to go for at least a three week trip now.

  • Speaking of expanding to fit available space, it applies to food as well. At one point we subscribed to the Blue Apron meal delivery service. We thoroughly enjoyed it. (we cancelled only due to ongoing delivery issues) What struck me when we first started was each dinner was a perfectly portioned 700 – 1,000 calories and when we finished cooking and put it on the plate… it was a tiny amount of food! The “plate” of food we’re used to is huge. What they say for dieting is true – use a small plate otherwise you’ll fill up that big plate. My point? The Thanksgiving diet plan was a disaster. We won’t be stepping on the scale again for a few days.

  • At a migrant camp in Reynosa Mexico, the United Nations International Organization for Migration gives out debit cards to aspiring US border crossers. A family of four gets about $800 a month. How is this even possible? How is this not making the news? We’re shutting down travel due to the Nu, Xi, Omicron virus variant, how are we still letting hundreds of thousands of illegal border crossers in and then shipping them around the country? How… oh, never mind. There’s no point.

  • Last year on this date I was already cross-country skiing. We’ve had no snow this year. I’m not worried… yet.

  • A recent survey of NY police officers showed that more than half of them wished they’d never joined the force. That’s a frightening statistic and perfectly shows the state of policing in this country. When something goes bump in the night and you dial 911, are you positive someone’s going to come? While in the Bay Area for indigenous peoples remembrance and appreciation day, a family member showed the state of her neighborhood. Her condo is across from a lovely park. A park that is now a full-on, garbage strewn homeless encampment. The homeless use her front yard water spigot to shower and fill drinking containers. They pick the fruit from her backyard trees. The police won’t do anything. City council won’t do anything. The news won’t report it. As a homeowner, what are you supposed to do? How does anyone actually think this is ok? Say anything about this and you’re an uncaring, right-wing, MAGA loving, racist. Is it any wonder there’s a mass exodus from big cities?

  • My driving route to the mountains has been blocked for over a week by a ginormous rockslide that covered the road. They just announced that it’ll be at least another 7-10 days before it opens. There is another route, but it adds about an hour to the drive. Selfish me is annoyed that I’m being inconvenienced. But… I should be grateful that I have access at all. The outdoor opportunities I have nearly in my backyard are beyond what most people have available to them. I need to remind myself that many folks save up vacation time just to come visit what I take for granted daily. I promise not to grumble this week while driving a bit longer than normal.

  • The US has 63 national parks. This is a neat list of all them, ranked by crowds, accessibility, amenities, etc… I’ve been to 12 of them. Not bad, but I clearly have work to do.


Song of the day: Cake – Never There