Da guida-Win-skiing with an open container. 1/22/09
WTF? No answer at cell or home, he must be on his way and his communication systems have taken a dump. I lean on the side of the pickup in the Mill parking lot at Mammoth, looking for a flash of blue truck and talking to my almost 60 year old sister. She is xc skiing in new Hampshire and is awed by my birthday present: 2 boxes of vintage 45s with all the oldies from the 50s we partied to, a healthy dose of elvis, carl perkins, all the classics. We talk, she trying again to get me to come east for her 60th party, but im scheduled up now with gigs in soco, but im thinking of the possibilities.
“great, here come my skiis” I spy the blue pickup 2 dogs poking their faces out of windows fore and aft, and a smiling face, ringo mop of hair, sharp nose of my ski guide, ski surgeon, painting contractor, neighbor and fellow explorer, win lewis. I sign off with cindy, promising to think about the east trip, maybe combine with a night in las vegas to see “love” with Eileen, that would be cool, but my mind now is rigging for the slopes.
We banter as I struggle with my boots, always a pain to put on, and dress for the worst, a storm is coming in, we can see the minarets disappearing already. This is good, no fresh snow for 2.5 weeks, with a high sitting on the face of California, shunting all moisture to the north. Too long this pattern, global warming again. “gotta get one day a week in, at least, I tuned your skiis and the edges should be nice and sharp, you might find yourself catching edges on the tips, so if you do, ill get a file and detune them, but try em out first, your first day on the hill. Well take it easy and build up, snow is hard and fast,but should be soft lower and on southfacing slopes, Oh I forgot to tell you, my dog in the back had an accident, but I wiped most of the dogshit off of your skiis.” Ugh, dogs again, a constant factor of life with my friends, dog people, I have to accept them as friends, but the dogs are free spirits and will shit anywhere.
Win is the guide; He knows the mountain like the back of his hand, when we ski together we have a constant planning banter going on, wheres the good snow? Where was it good last week? Or last year? We talk with a patrol friend and he gives us some tips, and we are off. Win breaks open his first bottle of beer, skiing one handed with an open container, two more sticking out of his belt pack, First thing we do is ski into the woods and hang out. I'm not sure of my reaction to high elevations, major exercise and a replacement pacemaker, and an ejection fraction of 35% in my left ventricle due to congestive heart failure. We yellow the snow, talk a blue streak about the mountains, new job as surgeon general of the Ski Surgeon ski repain/tuning shop on the mountain. Painting contracts are slow in coming, so he’s picked up an old gig at a new place, more experience, late nights in the shop, big bucks.
“ok we’ll head down some groomers then work our way up toward the top. Get you broken in good and slow. I dunno about any steep stuff, it is hard and fast and if you make a mistake, itll be a long fast slide”. I know of what he speaks, several of these slides off of cornice and dave’s have made me conservative. I survived intact, but the danger of breaking a leg, or conking my head is high, and I don’t want to screw up my great joy of exploring the outdoors. We work our way up to face lift, and he sneaks up on a cute patrol, named Terri, hugs her, and we exchange banter and she gives us more tips on where to go for the good snow. I go over the origin of my name: from william h wright iii my mom extracted terry from tertiary for the third, “a Harvard radcliffe union thing, my parents” both gone now, but still living on, indelibly imprinted on my life and actions. We joke and laugh and shes beautiful, perfect mountain woman, we peel off into the open.
The guide is thinking and talking about the routes, the snow, the infinite possibilities. We head down rooster tail, my first dive off this steep run in soft, mushy, south facing snow and we traverse across to the bowls. “we don’t wanna head down dry creek, big boulders there and monster moguls, well traverse over 2 ridges and down the face, much smoother over there!”
I follow as he skiis with poles in one hand beer in the other down the black diamond steeps, me hanging on for dear life and shaking with joy.
A couple runs on chair 5, good hard snow,but the skis are unsteady, getting knocked around by little ridges of snow, but I handle it, and find I don’t have to rest as much, losing 10 lbs and hiking and acclimatizing has set me up for an enjoyable time, less concerned about being worn out after 2 turns. We look back up at dry creek at the moguls, and down come the military, marines from the mountain training base. “I would have gone that way but it looks like they are struggling, it would have been good for the entertainment value” win comments. Wryly.
I think about being back in nh for the big party, my sibs will all be there as will a good crowd of the old gang, and there will be snow on the mts and we could ski together again, if her adult add doesn’t carry her off on some other tangent. Hmm, maybe I can reschedule, ill see what I can do later.
We break at the mill, he stays out side with his personal beer and I get hot chochlate with a shot of coffee for 2$, the price has gone up, have a great conversation with the teller lady, “its starting to come down out there, big flakes”, “ya I go out every once in a while and get excited!” she smiles and dosent seem to upset about the lack of tip. When the hc was 1.50, there were quarters to burn, and tips were better. Sit by the fire and unwind, aching a bit but feeling better,but definitely tired. A couple more runs this afternoon if the weather doesn’t completely flatten the light looks good. Win sits down, burping from his second beer of the day and we banter, look at the possibilities, I mandate another 10 minutes of rest. We banter with a nice older lady with lots of rings and looking like a tiger of a skier, praying for snow.
Dress up and out into the storm, its getting windy and the big flakes are pelting down, raining at the base, but better up high. We traverse the summer road from the top of 23 in flat flat light, and do a couple runs on the back bowls of 14, exploring the woods once more for another hit. Nice smooth groomers and a little crud, highly varied snow conditions, but im handling it. We coast back to base lodge, win on his 3rd beer. We get to the trucks at 3 and finish off with lunch at angels, fish tacos and hot brandy for me. Rob Henderson joins us, old friend of wins and my buddy, and he produces the photograph I bought last spring a great view of setting sun on mountains and flowery meadow in the foreground, perfectly lit. It is beautifully framed and ready to hang. We bid farewell, I flail around vons, forgetting some stuff and remembering others not noted in my list left in the car along with the cloth bags.
Back across the Benton crossing road, talking to mark, who is headed out south to consult on botany, hes in the big projects now,desert solar farms, all needing to know if they are going to molest some endangered species. I am tired, the house is a mess, but I shower an flop out for 2 hours, no nap this afternoon, and wake to wonder where the princess phone has gone off to. It isn’t in all the usual places and the remote fancy phone is acting up, giving me all kinds of weird beeps and messages and being generally useless. Princess is hiding, and I scour the clutter for her, no where to be found, and I need to make/take calls. This is the second mysterious phone disappearance in several months, what is going on? I finally give up after crawling on all fours poking under furniture and looking in all cabinets, and head over to harrys, to borrow their spare phone. Harry is naked, wrapped in a towel talking to his mom, I wait as june shows me the beautiful Indian portraits her sister did, she is a good artist herself, did a great picture of the mountain during my potlatch party, and her daughter is finishing chico state as an art teacher. She retrieves their spare phone, “you gotta have one of these when the power goes out.” “I know, but mine was stolen, or developed legs and walked off and hid somewhere I cant find.”. Back to the ranch and some calls later to line up more takers for Fridays potluck, should be a blast, with new and old locals, wine, food, talk, banter, Alaska slides, and a show of the last year.
I don’t light the fire, its still warm from this morning’s blaze in the wood stove, and read and write and so to bed, tired but satisfied, my demons quenched for the time being, bubbles carrying them off, drifting silently toward the surface of this nice warm pond.
copyright 2009, Terry Wright