Sunday, January 2, 2011

First Weekend Shred Session

After waiting for what seemed like forever, it was finally Friday (December 17th) and I was heading home from work. I had packed all my gear the night before, all my bags and boarding gear were sitting on the kitchen table ready to be loaded up. While waiting on Eman to finish up in a meeting at work I went over all the items to be loaded up and took Zeus for a nice long walk before loading him up as well and heading to Lexington to stay with my parents for the weekend.

This weekend is the first weekend snowboarding trip of the winter. A good friend of mine Robert has a condo in a mountain resort located outside of Banner Elk, NC called Echota. Robert made arrangements and the guys were rounded up as we planned a weekend boarding trip to the slopes in Boone, NC. For this weekend it would be Robert, myself, Josh Beasley, Eman, Bruce Wiggins and Mike Brown. In addition, Will Greene would be making an appearance for our session on Saturday.

Eman and I left Raleigh (with Zeus riding in the back) our way to Lexington just after 5pm. Once in Lexington we dropped off Zeus with the parents, picked up Josh and headed west on 421 to catch Robert, Mike and Bruce just outside of Boone at a local grocery store to load up on snacks and beer. After a few shenanigans in the grocery store we began our trek UP the mountain to Echota. I am not exaggerating when I say this condo is on top of a mountain! It’s a good 5 minute drive up some skinny bitty, twisty, steep mountain road to get to the resort entrance. Once in the resort we made our way up the mountain a bit further to get to the condo itself. It’s a bit of a pain to get to their, but the views more than make up for the drive!

After we arrived we spent some time getting settled in and getting unpacked. We poured a few cold winter lagers, kicked on the TV as well as the gas logs and had no intentions on leaving until the sun came up the following morning. However, while we were getting things situated, Robert had noticed the amazing view from the deck as the clouds were settling in the mountain valleys bellow us. I grabbed the DSLR and the remote trigger and started playing around some long exposure shots…

This was taken around midnight on Friday with a 25 second exposure.

Our view the next morning before heading to Boone.

The next morning we got and decided that we would go to Ski Beech for a twilight session (1pm to 10pm) but in the mean time we were hungry and Bruce needed some new socks. So we headed back down the mountain to Boone to get some breakfast and make a stop at Footsloggers down on Kings Street in downtown Boone.

The night before we spent some time geeking with our smart phones and realized that the Touch To Talk App had crossed platforms which meant that both iPhone users as well android users could now communicate with the TiKL app! So while we were in Boone we had split up and gone to a few different stores, however we were all TiKL’ing each other as a group the entire time. This became very annoying to those around us I am pretty sure since there were echoes across the stores and streets of the sound effects and our comments.

Back in the condo we changed into our snow gear, packed up the vehicles and made our way to Ski Beech. When we pulled in, the entire parking lot was one big sheet of ice. Since my truck is only 2wd and ice offers no traction what so ever, I decided not to follow the parking attendant’s instructions and made an immediate right into a parking spot that was not covered in ice. This didn’t sit well with the attendant as he tried to inform me that I needed to park up on the polar ice shelf that was currently being over run with cars and trucks performing a ballet of un-planned doughnuts and spins. I let him know that I really didn’t feel like playing that game and declined his request. Will (who had met us at Alpine Ski Center on the way up) had somehow managed to make his way across the ice with his truck, however he later had problems when his truck would start to slide down hill when he got out and shut the door…

The real trick came a few moments later when we all had to walk across the ice shelf in our stiff boots while carrying our boards and skis. After several close calls we managed to make our way to the ticket booth, grabbed our passes and boarded the lift which took us to the top of the mountain.

Strapping in at the top of Beech Mountain (~5300 ft)

Eman was stoked about his first run down the mountain.

Beasley was ready to shred, as always.

Now let me step back and say that all of us on this trip have been snowboarding and/or skiing before and were fairly comfortable with this sport, except Eman. This was his first trip and for some reason we just all figured he would be fine and drug his ass to the top. (I don’t know what we were thinking) Eman was trooper though and spent the first part of the day learning how to ride with each one of us spending some time with him on the slopes. He was riding a really old and worn out board that Robert had and it honestly didn't make things easy for Eman. There were hardly any edges on the board which made it hard to get any response from. He kept trying though and even spent a good bit of the afternoon on the bunny slope trying to figure the thing out. While he was doing that I managed to get in a few runs down the blue slopes (medium difficulty) with the guys and later made a few runs with Will and Josh down Beech’s only black diamond run (more difficult) . Robert and Bruce were normally skiers but had decided to give boarding a shot and both of them were doing surprisingly well.

Will grabbed a quick shot of me before heading down the black diamond.

I was doing great for the first time out on my new board/set up and after each run I was becoming happier with my decision to bite the bullet and buy my own gear instead of renting. The board has a lot of flex in it and my boots were very comfortable. I had adjusted my high backs into the most aggressive position for this trip and I soon found that it was mistake. This was pushing me too far forward on my toes and I ended up putting a lot of strain on my legs to constantly keep weight and pressure on my heels.

Josh has been riding for a couple seasons now and has even spent some time out west in Park City, Utah. In addition he has rode alot with our good friend Jon Mock who is (like everything else he does) amazing on a snowboard. Unfortunately he couldn’t make the trip. Josh is pretty comfortable in the terrain park and with this he started helping me out on the entry level obstacles. After a couple errors and finding out how hard those boxes are, I was able to do a couple rails and boxes, nothing fancy, just ride on ride off. At one point while we were in the park I watched Will take a nasty tumble on one of the boxes at the top of the park. Not really sure what happened as I missed his approach.,I just happened to turn to see Will's skis in the air and limbs out reached as he made his way off the box and into the snow. Fortunately he was ok, but we all got a good laugh out of it later.

The slopes closed from 4 to 6 for grooming so we headed back to the truck and made our way to a local pizza joint for some grub which was just around the corner. After having a few brews and some amazing pizza, we made our way back to slopes for the night session.

The crowd thinned out a good bit and the slopes were in great shape. Robert had switched over to riding skis for the night and let Eman ride his new board since we determined that the old one he was on was pretty much useless. It turned out that Eman was pretty good at snowboarding once he got a board that could actually turn and stop!

We hooked up the Go-Pro on board camera to the snowboards for a few runs, however they didn’t turn out as good as I had hoped they would. The lights on the slopes didn’t offer enough light to make the footage worth a darn.

We made numerous runs down the slopes that night, getting some air off some small jumps on the sides of a few runs, sliding across some simple rails and of course eating it hard when we did foolish things… Just another great day on the slopes!

10pm rolls around and Robert, Josh and I are the only ones still on the slopes out of our group. Mike, Bruce and Eman were pretty beat and left early. Will didn’t make it to the night session and left after dinner to go party with some friends that had come in from England the day before. We make one last run down the black diamond before calling it quits for the night. The three of us started racing down the slope which starts out pretty mellow then suddenly becomes quite steep just under the chair lift. At the bottom of a steep bit the run turns to the left and continues down the mtn. I was making my way down the steepest part just before the turn when I caught an edge on my heel side and the board got a bit of air under it. I lost my center and ended up on my butt and started to slide. Normally my slides are short, but at the time of this crash I was carrying a decent amount of speed and once I was on my butt there was now slowing me down… I probably slid a good 50 feet or more before slowing down to a speed at which I could pick myself up and keep going. During my slide I decided to have a little fun and did a little dance with my arms to amuse the riders on the chair lift above. (sigh)

Once the run was complete, we unstrapped and made our way back to the truck and headed to the condo. Mike, Eman and Bruce had already found the beer and were feeling quite good despite being extremely sore and tired. After we all had our showers we sat around the fire and the TV with a few cold ones and discussed the plans for the next day. Seeing as how we had a free place to stay and we were up there I figured it was a wise decision to go ahead and get another day pass for the next day and get two solid days of riding in for the weekend. Everyone agreed but unfortunately the day’s events had taken a toll on most everyone and no one was really quite sure if they would be able to ride worth a darn the next day. So we set our alarms early and decided we would see how we felt in the morning.

7am, Im up and running (a bit slower than the day before), Josh is ready to get back on the slopes, as is Robert after loading up on the cold medicine. (His doctors thought it was rather foolish of him to go skiing this weekend) The rest of the guys opted out of boarding for the day so they were stuck with cleaning duty which only consisted of stripping the beds and washing the towels.

Josh, Robert and I made our way to Sugar Mtn for the day to see how their slopes were. Sugar is a bit more expensive than Beech but their runs are longer and they have a bit more to offer as far as slope terrain is concerned. They have two black diamond runs which made Beech’s black diamond run look like a blue, as well as a really gnarly double black diamond which boasts a 60% grade! All of their runs combine into a wide run at the bottom of the mountain which can get a bit crowded from time to time. However with this set up it is possible to make a run that is almost a mile and half long!

We started out on Sugar’s most popular blue slope that has an aggressive right hand turn in it as well as a narrow section through the woods that leads down to the main run on the mountain (the flying mile). The conditions on Sugar were much different than were on Beech the day before. Sugar had been making snow around the clock and had a lot of powder on the ground which made the board ride completely different than it did the day before at Beech which was a packed snow/granular.

Josh at the top of Sugar Mt.

Robert on his "new" board.

It was a bit colder on Sunday

After making a couple runs on the blue, we made our way to the one of Sugar’s black diamonds. This took a good bit of effort on my part as it was much steeper than I was used to. I crashed a couple times but I did make my way down it fairly good and was eager to try it again, however Josh and Robert decided otherwise… our next run was on the double black.

This double black run is located just off the side of the very popular blue run. So to prevent people from accidentally going down it, they have roped off the entrance to the slope so that you have a small opening to ride through. In addition to this they have put a large sign that reads, “EXPERTS ONLY” right in front of the narrow entrance which makes the rider make an aggressive turn around the ropes before entering.

So here I go, its maybe my 6th time on a board, and I am making my way to the double black. I get into this rope section and decided to run into the “EXPERTS ONLY” sign and fall over. This isn't starting off too good…

Josh takes off and instructs me to follow his lead. I get to the edge of slope and start to have second thoughts; however, I figured that if I didn’t do it I would never learn, so off I went. It didn’t get far before I fell and started sliding, fast! I was able to get the board to dig the icy snow that made up this slope and came to a stop. Josh explained to me that since the slope was so steep it was going to be impossible to turn like I was used to and that I was to hop the board if I wanted to turn from heel to toe side. On this icy slope that presented some challenges, lol. Eventually I made it down to the bottom. I spent more time sliding than I did on the board, but I made it down. It was absolutely no fun what so ever, but I’m glad I went down it so I know what I am trying to progress toward.

Josh riding up the chair lift to the top.

The rest of the day we spent riding the blues and the blacks at the top of the mountain making each run roughly a mile long. Our legs were getting the best of us and our riding was starting to suck. Around 3pm we all figured we were just too tired continue and headed for the truck. We gave it our all and had a blast but we were just too tired to continue. The three of us headed back into Boone to get some food and look around the Mast General Store before heading back to the condo to load up an head home.

We ended up leaving the condo around 8 and made our way to Lexington. We killed a little time in Lexington dropping Josh off and saying hello to the parents before making our way back to Raleigh. Unfortunately our late start put Robert, Eman and I back in Raleigh rather late and the three of us had to be at work by 7am. Needless to say we didn’t get much rest that night, but it was worth it. We all had a great time, enjoyed some amazing mountain weather (for December) and were eager to get back up on the slopes again.

Riding the lift up Sugar for the last time that day.

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