Skiing in California

Jamie – 13 December 2011

It turns out American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 (bankruptcy) on the day we flew from Washington to Orlando. I doubt that had anything to do with our delay and subsequent re-routing via Dallas but it highlights the problems the US airline industry continues to have.  Chapter 11 allows them to continue to fly while they attempt to sort out their debt problems. The flight from Orlando to San Francisco was an average one at best but at least they got us to our destination, using the route we had paid for, and in broad accordance with their advertised times.

We had a one night layover in San Francisco before driving 3 hours to the Northstar ski resort, which is part of the Lake Tahoe ski region on the northern border between California and Nevada. Skiing was never intended to be part of our itinerary but we figured we had some surplus days and why not make the most of our location.

It is definitely early season, which means snow levels are below normal, however Northstar is famed for its snow making capacity and while not all runs are open those that are average an excellent foot and a half of snow (excellent by Australian standards).  We have had great weather – lots of sunshine (and consequently no natural snow) but the nights have been clear and cold which has allowed them to make lots of new snow for the next day.

All three children have had two full days of lessons which has them now skiing independently (including Sari) and that was our goal. Now at least we can go skiing back in Australia and have a good skill base on which to build. Bec has skied since she was four and remains a beautiful skier.  I can handle any slope but have little of the natural technique that Bec so effortlessly displays.

After yesterday’s lessons the boys were keen to demonstrate their new found talents to me and Mylo suggested a nearby lift which we boarded.  This proved a mistake on my part. Nothing but blue and black runs from the top.  The top was relatively flat and it started well but them things steepened and I found myself having to shuttle each between my legs one at a time (hiking back up each time to retrieve the next son).  It probably took about half an hour but felt like three and I was desperate for some feet-up time and a beer at the end of it.

It is day three today and we decided to have a quiet day with Bec and the children staying in the lodge by the fire and knocking off some homework.  I meanwhile downloaded my favourite songs onto the Ipod and hit the slopes early.  There is something indescribably wonderful about skiing hard to your favourite music on a cloudless day down long slopes lined with towering fir trees.  It is midweek and so there are no queues.  I basically went from summit to base (about 700m of vertical descent) continuously for three hours, using the chairlifts to catch my breath while I soaked up the panoramic views.

Technology has long played a role with skis, bindings, boots, etc – and now it has made its way to the lift tickets, which now work a bit like a toll-road e-tag.  You can wear it anywhere on your body and the scanners at the entrance of each lift will read it regardless.  Using wireless technology it also keeps track of the number of runs you have done, the vertical metres you have descended, etc – all of which can be accessed by logging onto the ticketing website and entering your ticket number.

On the subject of technology, I realised coming up the lift that my match-box size Ipod could record video, so here you are – summit to base (takes about 5 minutes):


My legs now have the kind of satisfying ache that tells you you’ve actually engaged in some serious exercise for a change. It has been a while since I’ve felt like this and I love it.

Our lodge is part of a new condominium complex known as the Tahoe Mountain Resort. We are in the heart of the Northstar Village which boasts a 9,000 square foot skating rink just outside our front door, surrounded by outdoor fire pits to warm ourselves by.  There are loads of restaurants and bars built around the rink but our condo has an enormous kitchen and so we have self catered all our meals – much better quality and value for money!  The boys have hit the (free) skating rink for an hour each night which is impressive given their full day on the slopes.

Tomorrow is our last day here – we head back to San Francisco on Thursday for a week. Weather permitting we plan to have the children back into ski school so that Bec and I can have a bit more quality ski time.  When they finish we will find a nice GREEN run and have our first real “family ski outing”.

The Tahoe Mountain Resort, with the ice-skating rink in the foreground.

Foster and I on the rink after a full day of skiing and skating - he's ready for bed!

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