We flew into Steamboat last night all geeked to hit the slopes today. We noticed it was really windy during the night and we kept waking up to the sound of the condo rattling and the sight of ratty white dudes with mangy afros flying through the air past our window. When I stepped out onto the deck I was immediately assailed by tiny glasslike shards of ice eagerly impaling themselves into the whites of my eyes.
Our condo is on a steep slope facing the ski hills so the wind here is enough to knock over a grown man, with the added insult of flash freezing him on the way down. The result, I expect, is that the poor soul would be smashed to frozen bits on the pavement without ever making it to the gondola. I wished to avoid this fate, so we donned our complete skiing attire before making the steep decline down a road with no shoulder in search of breakfast. The wind was terribly offensive.
We ate breakfast and a few concerned employees, seeing that we were dressed in full skiing regalia, apologetically explained that all lifts would remain closed the entire day, and that all employees of the mountain had been informed to stay inside. Our waiter explained that 120 mph gusts of wind were recorded further up the mountain. I couldn’t be sure whether this was an exaggeration or the truth.
A few years ago, I met an aged ski bum with a fondness for Billy Idol while skiing at Heavenly, overlooking Lake Tahoe. He explained that in his youth he had worked the chair lifts at Heavenly and was on staff the night when a few lifts remained operational despite high winds. The ghastly result was a lift whose seats were buffeted to the point where the cable bounced off the pullies, sending the passengers plummeting to the snow below. But that’s not all. You know how, when you hold a garden hose taut, you can yank it in such a way that sends a wave down the length of the hose? The same thing happened with the cable on the ski lift. The tension was so great that, after dumping its load of passengers from the lift, the cable rebounded and snapped back, sending a wave of energy down the length of the cable. As he explained it to me, a number of people were killed instantly. One teenage girl had both legs immediately severed above the knees, and lived. This guy explained how he had been involved in shoveling as much snow as possible to try and cover up all the blood staining the snow.
Suffice it to say, when Steamboat kept its lifts shut down today because of high winds, I was mildly annoyed until I remembered this story and made the conscious decision to appreciate my own two complete legs rather than one missed day of skiing.
Instead, we took the bus around and into town, where the wind was noticeably more mild and our ski clothes were much less necessary. Jen got embarrassed enough from locals apologizing for the unfit conditions that she removed her snow pants in the hope that they wouldn’t assume we were there for the skiing. We’ve got a condo in a great location, with a perfect view of those slopes that are just out of reach. I guess this afternoon will be one of hot chocolate, nachos, a good book, and some wine and steak. It’s not so bad.