Monday, February 13, 2012

Equipment Failure

It is better to go skiing and think of God, than go to church and think of sport. - Fridtjof Nansen
Every year my company makes a pilgrimage from the office on the peninsula to Tahoe for a ski trip.  I've gone nearly every year, though not skied all of them.  This year was looking to be interesting and different.  The last few years that I've gone skiing there has been a beginner in my group, either a friend, or a coworker or Mrs.Chaos.  This year Mrs.Chaos' school schedule got in the way of making the trip and most of the coworkers I am good friends with have moved on to other places.  I had coworkers going, but many are from India and its their first time in the snow or they are on the exec team and so have do nothing but play in the snow all winter of the double black diamond runs.  It was going to end up being me going solo.
This year we've gotten the long summer and there wasn't a winter.  There hasn't been snow in Tahoe the entire season and the roads have been open and relaxed.  We bought chains for the car in December in case we needed them for a trip through the mountains, but had never opened the box--because of that 'no snow' thing.
On Sunday it was raining in Sacramento and I checked the weather report.  Still no chain requirements by Sunday night.  Monday's forecast was "chance of light snow."  So went to bed warm and cozy and woke up early to discover it raining and see that there were chain requirements to make it to Kirkwood.  That's okay, right?  Light snow and we had the chains we bought back in December!  So I jumped on the road at 7am excited for a good ski day and maybe a chance of a little powder.
They started requiring chains at the second spot where they do that sort of thing and I pulled over and put on the chains.  I've only put chains on a car one other time way back in college.  I'm no expert, but they sure looked loose to me.  But then I thought, "well I'm no expert, and the guy at AutoZone came out and looked at the car and then gave us chains, and he probably knew what he was doing."  But they sure did look loose.  So I crept forward a little bit just to see they had a good bite.  One of the chains just flopped right off the wheel. Flop.
Well, that's not supposed to happen and that confirmed my nagging suspicion: "I am smarter than the dude who works at AutoZone."  At this point it's only 8:30am.  I threw the chains in the trunk, took the exit, and headed back towards Sacramento to my father's house to see if I could borrow his SUV.  The gods were good to me (Note: "Game of Thrones" reference, not paganism) and he was home and the car was in working order.  So I tossed all my stuff into the car and headed back up.
The road was rough and it kept going into and out of chain requirements.  Luckily for me I had a 4WD with snow tires so there was no need to keep switching the chains on and off, but it made traffic slow and I didn't get to the mountain until 11:30am and didn't get on the slope until 12pm.  As I was leaving the lodge for my first run I pulled my goggles over my head and *crack*.  A small little crack appeared in them.  It didn't seem like too big of a deal.  Then I thought, "well I could just get my sunglasses which are... in the car sitting in father's garage. /sigh."  So I jumped onto the slope and started going.  There was fresh snow falling the whole time and it was beautiful.
I did my warmup run and had a great time and then jumped on the high-speed quad for the top of the mountain.  That's how I was trained--do one warmup and then go to the top of the mountain.  Yet once I reached the top I realized the only paths down were black diamond.  There was a time in life when I would proudly boast, "I'm not concerned about my ability to get down any hill.  Some I just can't do very gracefully."  Looking over the top of that black diamond, 10-years since I could call myself a skier, I would not make that boast.  Thankfully knowing how to get down a tough hill is more intellect than muscle and I worked my way down without my fanfare but also without much difficulty.
Except it was warm enough that the snow wasn't staying frozen.  It was melting.  Are my gloves waterproof?  Not so much.  Each chair lift ride up I'm getting coated in snow and my gloves are getting wet through to my fingers.  At least my jacket was fine?  Nope - the zipper kept separating on the bottom side and I would have to unzip the whole thing and struggle through the mismatched separated part and then re-zip it.  All the while my googles were slowly falling apart more and more.  Every time I got off the ski lift the operators would say, "dude you goggles are broken."  "I know, they just broke."  "That's dangerous you need to get off the mountain."  It looked far worse than it was.  They were holding together pretty well with my hat and the back side of the mountain opened up so I was struggling to make it over there.  *crack*  My goggles disintegrated on me.  I did my best to mold them into a semi-solid state and made a break for the lodge--making it there without any kind of problem.  A quick check at the ski shop to learn that a new set of goggles was going to runme $120-$160 and I decided it was time to be done for the day.  But golly-gee, those goggles look awesome!
The car got snowed on - but not that much.  I think that's just business as usual.