Wednesday, February 23, 2011

All Good Things Must Come to an End...

All good things must come to end; or at least for a few months. In the past couple weeks the weather in North Carolina has been unseasonably warm and it had taken its tolls on the slopes in the mountains. In addition, I had been spending a considerable amount of time prepping the bikes for riding season that is about to start in full swing come March 10th. As we approached the middle of February the crew gathered up again for one more trip to Sugar and Beech Mountain before hanging up the boards and ski’s for the spring/summer/fall.

Friday afternoon in Raleigh, it was 78 degrees out and I was walking out of work at 3pm and heading home in hurry. I had packed up everything I needed for the trip the night before so all I had to do was pick up Zeus, my new Sy-Max II and head west.

It was beautiful day out, so much sunshine and clear blue sky. The windows were down and the radio was up; it was hard to believe I was on my way to go snowboarding! I dropped off Zeus with mom and went across town to pick up Josh and Will before heading west to Boone.

After a couple hours of driving, cutting up and joking about anything and everything, we finally made it into Boone. We stopped at the Lowes Foods off 421 to meet up with Drew and our buddy David who had been recently married back in May or June. (I am such a good friend, lol) We picked up some snacks and of course a few 12 packs that were on sale and then made our way to Banner Elk and up to Echota. Now fortunately the weather had been warm here too which meant there was absolutely no snow on the roads, which was good news for me considering our last trip up to Echota… While there wasn’t any snow, it was raining a bit and there was still a lot of salt/sand on the roads that ended up covering my headlights and windshield making it damn near impossible to see anything. After a few close calls on the two lane up we arrived safely to the condo and settled in for the night, brews in hand. Robert and Carrie showed up a little while later and join us all on the couch to laugh the night away. A couple hours after that, Joel, one of Drew’s good friends came up to ride as well.

The crew hanging out around the fire in the living room.

Telling stories from the trip last month... Robert doesn't remember them...for many reasons.

David chatting it up with Josh and Carrie.

Saturday morning, I was up and moving by 7am and shortly after so was everyone else. Travis Smith was planning on joining us for a day of boarding as was Alicia, so to give everyone time to get up the mountain we decided to get a twilight pass (1pm to 10pm). Once everyone got up and motivated (which was a bit difficult as you can imagine after a night like we had) we headed down the mountain to pick up some breakfast.

After our breakfast adventure at the local country store we headed back to the condo to change into our gear and head over to Beech Mountain. We stopped at Alpine Ski Center on the way in to meet Travis so he could pick up his rental gear and Will could pick up a pair of boots for his skis.

When we pulled into the parking lot we could tell that the slopes were going to be packed. Once we got our lift tickets we jumped on the high speed lift and went to the top of the mountain for our first run of the day. We were right in our assumption; the slopes were pretty busy today, but mainly with young kids and with that I decided to hold off on the “drinking and sliding.” The first run we made was down the OZ run which was the run I knocked myself out on last season. The slope was pretty gradual, decent snow coverage but thin in a few spots. It didn’t take long to get to the bottom and once we were gathered up again at the top of the mountain, we took off down the black diamond “White Lightning.”

Somehow we talked Travis into riding White Lightning with us, he was doing great till we got to the steep part and suddenly he wasn’t so sure about things. I am pretty sure he rode down most of the slope on his butt and once at the bottom he was giving me an ear full. Needless to say he wasn’t up for riding that one again.

Back at the top of the mountain, Alicia had texted me and let me know that she had made it to the slopes, so I strapped in and made my way down one of the blues pretty quick to meet up with her. While getting her ticket the group went ahead and went back to the top of the mountain. This gave Alicia and I some time to get some runs in together. She hasn’t had the time to get up on the slopes much this year, but she had improved since the last time I rode with her. We made a few runs down the blues on the side of the mountain until we met up with Robert and Travis.

Chilling at the top of Ski Beech.

Alicia getting strapped in for her first run of the day.

On one of the slopes, Beech Mountain had left a couple sections of their board-o-cross track intact. This included a couple smaller drop off jumps and two berms. The jumps weren’t all that great, but the berms were so much fun to ride!

After we made several runs down the blues and few down the blacks the group was starting to get a bit tired and we were getting close to the shut down time. In the past couple weeks Drew and I had been talking a lot of junk about boarders vs. skiers so with the slopes thinning out and most of our group taking a break we decided to race down White Lightning. We started out side by side and neither of us was pulling away. When we got to the steep section, neither us checked up we just dropped right in which was a bit nerve racking… about half way down I looked over and saw drew starting to carve and check up a bit, so I did the same. After a few cuts were still neck and neck but then when drew made a cut to the right I noticed his ski tips up in the air and snow flying everywhere and he was headed my way… I tried to speed up and move out of his way and just as I started to cut again he ended up catching the tail of my board and spun me around. I gathered myself up and came to a stop since it was apparent Drew’s race was over as he has slid all the way across the slope and lost his skis during the fall. Laughing my ass off I asked if he was ok, he gave me a thumbs up as Joel came sliding over and sprayed us. With Drew ok I stood up and made my way on down the mountain to inform Will of Drew’s crash. Once Joel and Drew made it down we met up with the group and headed back to the truck to go grab some dinner at the Brick Oven.

Just like last, time this place was nothing short of amazing with great food and awesome beers from around the world. Our group took up two booths and I am sure all of those people sitting around us were thrilled, especially when I iced Drew at the end of our meal. There for a bit I wasn’t sure if Drew was going to hold it down, after all he had just ate a huge bowl of chicken parm and finished it off with a nice Oatmeal Porter. A few minutes later we cleaned our table and made our way back to the slopes for a night on the slopes.

Now at this point the temperatures had been well above freezing and the snow had been nice and soft but slushy. However as the sun started to set the temperatures began to fall and I was concerned that the slopes were going to get very slick and icy as the moisture on top of the snow started to freeze. Fortunately this was not the case! The snow in the high traffic areas around the lifts actually took on the consistency of beach sand, it was weird. With the colder temperatures the snow got faster and thankfully the crowds thinned out as well. White Lightning had gotten a bit slick as there wasn’t much power on top of it anyway. So with this we stayed on the main blue runs for the rest of the night. Josh and I made it point to bomb the lower part of Upper Shawneehaw and cut across Lower Shawneehaw into Meadows to hit the berms that were left from the board-o-cross and then make our way to the terrain park. Busting those berms were so much fun, it was almost like being back on the dirt bike again.

At this point Robert had switched over to riding skis again and David had decided to ride Roberts snowboard. David had never rode a snowboard before so Alicia volunteered to help him out a bit and get him going on the board. After a few runs down the bunny slopes David decided to go ahead and ride down one of the blues. Apparently he did really well from what I heard.

Beasley heading down the slopes at Beech Mtn.

Each time down the slopes Josh and I went through the terrain park to mess around on some of the jumps and boxes. There was a small jump at the entrance of the park that was great for learning on. In addition there were a few boxes that were great as well. One of these boxes had a nice 3 foot gap getting on to it and then an incline up to a flat section before it ended. I watched Josh hit it once or twice before trying it myself. On my first attempt I decided to just get on the box then ride off the edge just to get the feel for getting up on the box.

The approach was clean and the hop up on the box was smooth. Things were doing great until I started heading for the edge of the box. For some reason I decided to try and turn on the box to keep myself going straight. FAIL. When I did this the board went behind me and I fell forwards and caught the box with my chest and shoulder. Somehow I managed to roll over and I am thinking that it was over my shoulder because immediately there was a sharp pain in my right shoulder. As I get myself together and clear landing I begin cussing myself because I said when I came up on this trip I wouldn’t do anything stupid to injure myself before the Bun Burner Gold Ride. Shit.

I got to the edge of the slopes and laid down, stretched my arm a bit and headed down to the bottom of the mountain. After that I decided to just skip the terrain park for the rest of the night and just focus on my carving and having fun.

After a couple quick runs I met up with Alicia and the rest of the group again just before Drew, Joel and David left for the weekend. At this point it was around 8:30 or so and we are all getting tired. Fortunately Travis was there and was determined to ride as much as he could before we had to leave. So he pushed me to keep riding.

During one run Josh and I swapped boards to see the differences between the two. Joshes board was a bit shorter than mine and it made a huge difference! It was like riding on nothing it seemed when comparing it mine. I definitely like riding the shorter board, it was much more nimble compared to mine and I think my next board will definitely be shorter. However, after riding my board Josh was ready to sell his and get one like mine.

After another quick run down the mountain we packed up the truck and headed home for the night. We got cleaned up and headed down to Boone for a night on the town with Alicia and some of her friends. We went from Char to Portifinio having drinks and sharing stories. It was a great way to end an amazing day on the slopes.

Dirty windshield award! This is the hill that gave me so much trouble last time we came up to Echota.

Where we spent alot of time last time...

The next morning we up and moving, slowly, as you might expect. Travis left around 10 that morning but Robert, Carrie and I made our way over Sugar Mountain for a half day. (12-4:30) The snow was much more slushy than Beech was and the crowds were even worse. We started riding down switchback, the longest blue run on the mountain. Things went well, but with so many people on the slopes it got a difficult at times to get around without hitting people.

After our run down Switchback we headed back to the top to run one of the black diamonds. Robert was riding his snowboard today so he was a bit unsure of this, but he managed to do just fine as did Carrie. We stopped along the way down the mountain a few times to get some pictures and talk about ways to improve.

Carrie working her way down the slopes.

Robert was starting to get the hang of this snowboard thing.

Im going pro!

Going up the chair lift for the last time. You can see the bare spots starting to show.

Starting to get artsy on the slopes. Ill try to work on this more next year.

Yea... I hit that sign the first time I went down that slope.

Starting the last run of the season.

It was a great way to end the day and the season. I was tired and sore, but the trip was well worth it. We were lucky enough to get some runs in without dealing with ice though the conditions were not as epic as they were last trip.

The season had sadly come to a close; however the riding season will be starting up very soon. So look for updates soon with the FZ and our travels!

Leaving Robert's place at Echota for the last time.

Stick cleaned and stored for the off season.

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