Jim B. has covered most of the 18-23 Jan. trip to Tahoe.  I'll cover only
a few personal highlights.  The real heroine of this trip was Carolyn, my
wife and Kathleen's Mom, who selflessly did a great deal of grandson
watching while the rest of us skied.  She did it both for the pleasure of
being with the little guys and the pleasure of seeing Kathleen get in the
kind of skiing that busy young mothers find all too little time to do.
It was deeply appreciated.  I helped some but a good deal less.  Having
put in a hellacious couple of weeks at work to meet a major deadline
(successfully) I didn't get up til noon the first day and didn't ski.  My
fist day on snow was at Sugar Bowl, a personal favorite that I have
visited several times previously.  It has a quaint old gondola that takes
you a mile or base village devoid of motorized vehicles.  Carolyn is still
mad at me for not remembering that the gondola travels at treetop level;
she doesn't like heights.  Once there however she found the facilities
ideal for watching Conor and Patrick.  Conor got in a little skiing each
day but typically 1.5 hrs. or so were enough for him.

Sugar Bowl has 2 great features; it is steep and it gets tons of snow.
Did I mention steep?  Half the stuff off the Disney chair and virtually
all of it off the Silver Belt is well beyond anything found on piste in
the east.  The snow quality is so good that you soon get to trust your
edges and your ability to get down anything.  I would have been more
cautious alone, but with Marc Guido and Jim Bauman along, I fell into the
habit of just trusting them and following.  That makes me certifiable I
think. :-)  The highlight of the day was a late PM venture into the far
skiers left of the area for Crows Nest and Strawberry Fields.  Sugar Bowl
has a good mix of trees and rock lined chutes and you don't have to work
to get there.  It is (at least) my second favorite Tahoe area.  For those
who like to scare themselves it kicks the butt of anyplace in Colorado.

Next was Alpine Meadows, a first visit for all of us.  I looked for a
friend formerly of my ski school, Teen Winter Sports, who is now retired
and full time teaching at Alpine.  He was busy so I hurried to catch up
with Jim & Marc, aided by radios.  After a traverse to get to another lift
we found ourselves atop a densely forested slope called Sherwood Cliffs
with a very scary looking chute that was convex so we could see only the
first 50 ft., then space.  I said, hey Marc, this is my warm up run.  (He
did this to me at Jay 2 years ago.  I decided to move along the ridge a
bit to the right and found a beautiful steep nearly untouched glade, the
best snow of the entire trip.  When I met up with the top guns down below
they were visibly shaken - what would my fate have been?  After Carolyn
took Conor and Patrick home Kathleen and I skied Keyhole and Palisades
which are rock lined and steep although not long.  Kathleen's boots were
killing her feet so she did not want to hike up with Jim and Marc to do
Saddle Bowl.  I enjoy skiing with her so I also passed on the climb.  We
watched them come down throwing beautiful rooster tails.  It looked
superb.  I was tired and announced intention to hit the bar after a blue
cruise to the bottom.  Marc said he'd join me but on the way he said, hey
Denis check out this neat little run.  It was Hot Wheels Gully, a narrow
little pinball thing.  It was indeed fun but my legs were dead and the
light was going flat.  Near the bottom, when it had mellowed out I caught
a tip in an "invisible" mound of soft snow and did the wildest recovery I
have ever done.  Have no idea what happened or how I managed to recover.
One instant I was a pretzel heading for disaster and the next instant I
was recovered.  Marc couldn't believe his eyes.  The binding on the buried
ski took a severe jolt; more on that later.  Marc and I enjoyed a reeb on
the deck and Kathleen & Jim went back up.  On the previous run she said
she just couldn't do the climb for Saddle Bowl.  Now, with the old man
gone she decided to do it - @#$%*  I was to get my revenge a week later.
:-)  Alpine was my least favorite area but it is still terrific.  It had
the best snow of the three and the best trees.  The treed slopes mostly
face north keeping the snow good.  It is work to ski yheir steeps, a lot
of traversing and hiking is required.  (Of course like Alta, that tends to
keep the snow good.)  The drops are rather short but they are very good.
It is really family friendly with a great layout for beginners and kids.

On the final day Jim and Marc headed for Kirkwood while Kathleen, Conor,
and I headed for Squaw.  For years I have told anyone who will listen that
Squaw is the best ski area in the US.  I still do.  Kid problems bering
what they are we got on the snow with Conor at 11:30.  To my astonishment
the beginner chairs at Squaw don't have safety bars.  How utterly stupid!
Taking a very squirmy 3 year old on those chairs was very worrisome.  The
thought would be enough to send me somewhere else next time.  I filled out
a "tell Alex" comment form.  On the bottom it says "we care".  I doubt it;
how many times have they ignored this complaint?  Thousands?  The ski
industry can't figure out why the customer base is slowly declining.  One
possible reason is that ski industry people don't listen to their
customers; they listen to each other and, surprise, they always hear good
things.  (Rant over)  We sent Conor back with Carolyn when he got
exhausted and after a warm up on Shirley Lake, boarded Granite Chief at
2:00.  It was a good but slightly rock strewn run, and by now not steep
enough for us.  We ratcheted up to The Funnel.  Ah! what a run.  That one
has true character.  Down long boring dangerous (heavy traffic and
skilless bombers) Mountain Run to the KT-22 chair.  That chair and it's
runs define Squaw.  Nasty mogulled very steep _no falls_ entrance to a
looong chute, Chute 75.  My little girl, who I taught from age 4, led me
down this path to perdition.  It was fabulous.  Enough adrenaline to raise
the level of our game yet not enough to be paralyzing.  We were light; we
were powerful; we were on.  (Didn't see anybody else on free heels.)
There are at least a dozen comparable 2000 vert. ft. or so runs on that
one chair.  Then there are the Olympic Lady and Red Dog lifts that look
equally good.  I've never ridden them.  There it is; Squaw has an
"attitude" but Squaw kicks butt.  At the bottom I knew that my legs didn't
have another one of those and I was unwilling to do a lesser run.  3 runs,
1.5 hrs. and I defy anybody to beat it for quality at any other US
mountain.  Having made the decision to quit I fell hard on the flat runout
50 ft. from the lodge.  What???  In getting up the reason was clear.  The
welded toebar on my Superloop binding was broken and ripped open.  I'll
bet it cracked in that miracle recovery at Alpine.  If it had opened at
the top of that Chute I would have been in very serious trouble.  As it
was this was the final run of the final day of a great trip so no damage
was done.

Part 2 - Mammoth yet to come.

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