2010 Ski Trip
D'68 Ski Week: It's Not Just a Trip, It's an Adventure
Check out the photos and videos.
Peter Fahey's Squaw Valley powder video.
D'68 Ski Trip 2010: The Tour de Tahoe
by Gerry Bell
Welcome to ski trip wrapup 2010, boys and girls. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this will be easy -- Peter Emmel's accompanying photos of the trip speak volumes. Here are a few highlights to serve as additional captions, arranged chronologically from the bare-bones diary notes I keep for each trip.
Thursday, February 25 -- I fly out a couple of days early to help our Tahoe hosts Jim and Bev Lawrie in finalizing arrangements. Ordinarily not necessary to assist their proven organizational genius, but they'll also be busy lodging their daughter Dawn, son-in-law Craig (Woody) Allen, and granddaughters Jessica and Katie at their Tahoe Vista house, so I want to lend a hand (and get first dibs on Bev's bottomless dish of pistachio nuts before anyone else!)
Friday, February 26 -- As a first step, Jim and I make certain that Northstar ski resort is ready and waiting for our troops, due to begin arriving the next afternoon. It's drizzling at the bottom of Northstar, but fresh snow and superfast cruisers aloft. We even feel good enough to ski showoff bump run The Rapids right under the lift!
Saturday, February 27 -- Final powder checkup before the first arrivals: Jim and I ski local hill Diamond Peak in 10" of freshies Saturday morning. Lots of kids and families at the base, virtually no one up top where the new snow is. If you know you'll have work to do on a Saturday, easing into it with a morning of powder at the neighborhood ski area is a great warmup!
By evening, virtually everyone has arrived for Arrivalfest at reunion HQ Cheshire Estate, a beautiful luxury home overlooking Lake Tahoe. The usual revelers include Larry and Julia Griffith, John and Chris Blair, Hap and Susan Ridgway, Paul and Kathy Fitzgerald, Clark Wadlow, Jim Noyes, Peter Emmel, Dave Dibelius, '68 wannabe John Manaras '67, and John's brother and sister-in-law Steve and Lindsay Manaras. New recruits Steve Schwager and Max Milton join us, along with Dave Stanley and wife Cindy. Dave and Cindy rashly repeat to everyone what Dave has already told me: we're all invited to their vacation home in Truckee for a spaghetti feast on Tuesday night. (Not to be confused with Sunday night spaghetti at various '60s-era fraternity houses -- this will feature Cindy's gourmet cooking and Dave's able wine-pouring!)
Sunday, February 28 -- Biggest surprise of the trip: Mt. Rose, local ski area for Reno, NV. Mt. Rose has the highest base elevation of any Tahoe area resort (Read: drier, more powdery snow, and more of it), and a less convenient location (more driving miles) for all potential weekend California skiers. So -- no big weekend crowd, a clear and sunny sky, and some surprisingly challenging testosterone-secreting terrain. A great day, especially after Dibelius comes up with a jacket for Paul Fitzgerald to wear!
Monday, March 1 -- Featuring Squaw Valley and the Miracle of the Snows. After a morning exploring the endless reaches, steeps, deeps, and bumps of Olympic legend Squaw, we repair to the slopeside al fresco patio of the Blue Coyote for a civilized lunch. Whereupon John Blair announces that, during the morning's adventures, he's lost his iPhone. Blackberry. Whatchamacallit. Whatever. Pretty much the files for his whole life. Really inconvenient at best, disastrous at worst. But that afternoon we retrace John's ski steps, find the generous sitzmark he left on a steep, bumpy trail, and Brighteyes Wadlow finds John's iPhone! And -- here's the miracle part -- immediately turns it over to him rather than let him twist in the wind for a while! Who says '68s aren't warm and fuzzy?
Tuesday, March 2 -- Following another memorable Lawriefest at Jim and Bev's on Monday evening, we opt for the closest ski area on Tuesday morning -- Northstar, a mere six minutes from the Lawrie's neighborhood. Some serious accumulation of vertical feet ensues, centered on the Backside and Lookout Mountain black diamond terrain. (Still early enough in the week that we haven't beat the hell out of ourselves!)
That evening, the promised spaghetti dinner at the Stanley's. Everything Cindy and Dave promised, and made even better by the better-late-than-never arrivals of Rick Pabst and Peter Fahey. All in a gracious home in a beautiful setting overlooking Donner Lake. Thanks, guys -- let's do it again sometime!
Wednesday, March 3 -- Epic powder day at Sugar Bowl, the Donner Pass area started in the '30s by Walt Disney and his moneyed Hollywood friends. Hey, thanks, Walt! What a wonderful area, even though we could see only about 50 yards of it at a time! A fabulous powder day, on which Pabst demonstrated his powder prowess under the lift, Fahey demonstrated his cornice-jumping ability somewhat inadvertently, and the rest of us alternated between struggling and floating in bottomless powder. Also, a slice of history -- unlike the Donner Party in their infamous snowstorm, we made it back over the Pass to shelter. But only just ...
Thursday, March 4 -- Turned out the snow piled up at Alpine Meadows ski area, too. And the wind blew so hard on Wednesday that many of Alpine's lifts had been on wind hold -- which meant no previous day's tracks, and up to 30" of freshies in some places for us on Thursday morning. Soaring, flying, exhilarating, and humbling all at the same time. (Made even more humbling by Dave Dibelius' expertise. First he says, "Gee, I haven't skied in snow like this in 40 years!" -- then skis the pow like that's all he's been doing the last 40 years! Sheesh!)
That evening we tap once more into the Lawrie's seemingly infinite supply of hospitality, as we hold the annual reunion banquet at their home. Catered dinner by Men Wielding Fire (great name, huh?), fine wine, lots of fellowship. Everyone gets a Horse's Ass award. All deserved. Jim Lawrie, and by extension Bev (who shares in the honor but not the horseflesh), receive the Horse's Ass of the Year Award. Richly deserved, for all they have done to make this trip (not to mention previous Arrivalfests and Lawriefests) so successful. Thanks from all of us, guys!
Friday, March 5 -- A split squad game. Some of us revist Northstar for high-speed cruising and mega-vertical guided by Cindy Stanley, a Northstar regular. Wadlow, Fahey, and I prove that, while you can't always be young, you can always be foolhardy ... We revisit Squaw, and allow ourselves to be guided around by Michael Sahlman, extreme skiing turned Bay Area financier son of Clark's boyhood friend (and Squaw resident) Frank Sahlman. (At the outset, when Michael speaks of showing us "the real Squaw", we look at each other and silently ask, "Do we trust this kid?" And go with him anyway ...) So ... many chutes, funnels, cliffs, and headwalls later, we are rescued -- in a manner of speaking -- by Frank and by Michael's sister Tiffany, who take pity on us and dial it back to something like double black diamond. Nonetheless, a truly memorable day on a major league mountain.
We reassemble one final time on Friday evening, invited by Chris Blair to stop by for "leftovers", only to realize we've been had. Chris and John, and Hap and Susan Ridgway, and the Griffiths, and the Fitzgeralds, have all conspired to turn "leftovers" into the new tradition "Farewellfest" -- steaks on the grill, Caesar salad, fattening desserts -- the works. A wonderful surprise!
Saturday, March 6 -- Getaway day for most of us, one final day of skiing for the die-hards, who revisit Mt. Rose. Great skiing and great snow, marred only by our having to share lift rides with three different insufferable, irritable jerks. But, on reflection, they were the exception that proves the rule -- skiing and the accompanying laughter and fellowship are infectiously joyous, unless you choose to make it otherwise.
So -- choose to join us next time, won't you? Next time is the Big Mountain in Whitefish, MT, hard by Glacier National Park, March 5-12, 2011. See you there -- and thanks again to everyone who helped this time!