This past Thursday a few of us in the office, including my boss and his boss, played hooky and hit the slopes on Mt. Hood. A touch of short-timer's disease - apparently a particularly vicious and contagious strain. The day was forecast to be breezy, with potential snow showers in the mountains. This could mean foggy, snowy conditions with wind slicing through any cracks in the snow gear armor; but you know what they say - a bad day on the mountain is still better than the best day in the office. Since it was my first time back on the snowboard this season, I was a little apprehensive because I find decreased visibility hijacks my mojo and my runs all become a bit tentative. However, against the predictions, it turned out to be marvelous day to be on the mountain.
I have been boarding with this crew before - with my boss's boss, K, at the wheel ferrying us up there. He is a dubious multi-tasker when driving, carrying on intent conversations whilst checking messages on the crackberry and playing deejay to boot. His driving technique is legend in the office and has been the topic of more than a few conversations. However, when I once made an oblique reference to his lack of attention giving some cause for concern, he - without taking offense but with perfect incomprehension - asked "What ever are you talking about?" With some relief, we all accepted my boss A's offer to take on the role of chauffeur. A's driving gave us no cause for concern. His navigation, however, left a bit to be desired.
When you go up Mount Hood, there are only two roads across the mountain and the major ski areas are easily found along each of them. Mount Hood Meadows resort has not one but two parking lots with turns accessible from the main road. Somehow, A missed both of them. To be fair, the sign had blown down for the first turn. Also, riding shotgun, I suppose it might have been reasonable for me to help navigate and I completely missed my cue on that function. Anyway, after all having a good chuckle at A's expense, at which he slightly pouted but richly deserved after earlier joining in on merciless ribbing of K about why we were all so glad he wasn't the one doing the driving, we made it to the parking lot... and almost NOBODY WAS THERE! We parked near the lodge and were saved the usual long trudge from the back of the lot, which is located somewhere in, I don't know, maybe Idaho.
Then we got onto the chair lift and there was no wind. We got out onto the runs and the 1 inch (if we were lucky) of new snow lay over a fair few days of packed powder that had fortunately remained soft and not icy. Then the clouds began to part and the day got brighter until the sun arrived in the the afternoon. The rest of the crew were all accomplished skiers or snowboarders, which challenged me to keep up. Great to push oneself a bit, as it is all too easy for me to just kick back and enjoy the easy groomed runs. We went down the steep double-black "backcountry" Heather Canyon four times - and this after I had firmly stated "no thanks, I choose life" when the subject first came up. I'm generally a cruise-blue-runs kind of girl... can take on a single black diamond section when I must but wouldn't normally choose to do so on purpose(!)
But throw myself off veritable cliffs I did, on purpose and for pride. Geez, my legs were burning at the bottom of those runs. I could have happily collapsed into a snowbank and pled for a helicopter rescue, but I didn't want to look a complete wimp - so I pinned on a grin and agreed to go again until my quads could take no more punishment. It is fortunate that on a snowboard, one can generally get out of any overly challenging situations with a minimum of fuss. No ski bindings releasing or awkward crossed-legged positions with skis all tangled up. Skiing just takes a bit more, shall we say, commitment and skill when you take on a steep slope. Since I possess neither in great abundance, I will stay firmly and happily bolted to my snowboard. In fact, I developed a move I dubbed the "keenie beanie butt-turn" for which I may register a patent. When the slope exceeded 40 degrees or so, I wasn't comfortable executing normal turns, so I got quite good at traversing the slope, then tucking into a roll, flipping the board over in one smooth motion (either from my bottom to all fours, or back the other way) and continuing down across the slope in the opposite direction. Try that one with skis and poles akimbo... neehhvah gonna happen.
Steep slopes and burning muscles aside, it was a damn near perfect unexpected gem of a day. We had great weather, slopes almost entirely to ourselves and no lift lines... just run after run after run and more fun than we had any right to have on a school day. Which - even at my advanced age - is the term I still use for any day that isn't a holiday or weekend, probably because it lets me continue the delusion that I only recently left my college days behind.