Monday, December 12, 2011

Day Trip to Ski-Beech

As we approach the middle of December, Mother Nature continues to tease us with ideal slope conditions. After it got nice and cool for the season opener at Sugar Mountain, the weather turned warm and rainy for a couple days. That pretty much killed all the snow that Sugar had built up. However, following this warm rain was a good cold snap that brought some moisture with it. Boone and the higher elevations were hit with 4-6 inches of powder and highs in the upper 20’s. The snow guns were running non stop, day and night. With this, Josh Beasley and myself were constantly watching Ray’s Weather as well as the slope cameras for Sugar and Beech. With these types of conditions it was looking like the major runs would be opening up shortly.

In the following week, Travis and Josh were blowing me up asking when we would head to the mountains for some boarding. Honestly, I wasn’t ready to go yet as I was hoping to wait till the black diamonds were opened up. Didn’t really feel like spending the money in gas and lift tickets to ride the same greens and blues all day on poor snow. This was fine and well until Josh had finally had enough of watching the blowers on the computer, he wanted to shred. With this urge he offered to foot the gas bill in my truck if we went. Well, that wasn’t a difficult decision to make. So I called Travis to let him know that we were going, and well… he got a bit upset because he couldn’t make it on Saturday. He will get over it, I’m sure.

Friday night I headed over to Josh’s place to crash; we were planning on leaving his house early to ensure we were on the slopes right after they opened. After dinner, Josh and I watched, “The Art of Flight”, Travis’ Rice’s new video. One word to describe that film, EPIC! Any boarder or skier should really watch this film as it tops his previous film, “That’s It. That’s All.”

5:30am, Josh and I are loading up the truck with the gear and headed out of Thomasville, NC and making our way towards Banner Elk, NC. Once on 421, we made a quick stop at Bo jangles for a Cajun Filet and continued heading west with sun rising behind us.

That day was the start of my second season on my Burton Clash and unfortunately it caught some hell last year when I was taken out by a couple kids at Sugar. The board had a couple large gashes in it and they needed to be filled. Thankfully I have made some good friends that work at Alpine Ski Center. Before our trip, I made arrangements with, “Fluffy” to have him wax my board before we headed up the mountain. After killing 20 minutes in Alpine, Fluffy gave my board back with a hand shake and out the door we went.

While we were at Alpine we made the decision to go to Beech for the day since Sugar was having their “Sugar Fest.” They would have the K2 reps there and you could demo the new gear, live band playing, rail jam, etc. Seeing as how Josh and I had no interest in buying new gear and weren’t going to enter a rail jam, we decided Beech would be the better option with the high speed lift.

By 9:30am Josh and I were on the lift for the first run of the day. The blowers were on all over the mountain, including White Lightning, their black diamond. (Still closed though)

After a couple runs the cloud cover had moved in, add the blowers into the equation and visibility was poor. At times it became difficult to see 50 feet out but we made the best of it and typically the poor visibility was only for short section.

Josh ready to make the first run of the season!

Not my first lift of the season, but stoked to be in my own gear and getting the season going.

Blowers were covering mountain that day.

Blower on White Lightning doing work. Never noticed that road there... explain the ledge that is right there every year.

Good photo showing the grade of that part of the slope. Fun run, just wish more of it was like that part.

After a couple warm up runs I began working on riding switch. For those that aren’t familiar with these kinds of sports, riding switch is riding backwards to what you are used to. I have learned to ride, “normal” or left foot forward as I go down the mountain. So to ride switch is to go “goofy” for me with right foot forward. Once you’re so used to riding one way and having each foot do its own task on the board, it’s hard to re train it.

I would ride switch on the lower half of the mountain, trying to practice going from edge to edge. As you can imagine I fell a good bit, mainly when I tried to go from my heel edge back to my toe edge. In addition to riding switch I began working on my spins. After a few runs I was able to complete multiple spins to my right side while moving down the mountain. I am still working on spinning to my left. Not sure why it’s more difficult, but it is…

Around 11:30 the clouds got really thick, Josh and I were ready for a break anyhow so we decided to take an early lunch. In an attempt to save some money, we packed our lunch and spent an hour resting in the truck. During that time the clouds began taperi off a bit, making visibility better on the mountain.

After a few more runs down Upper and Lower Shawneehaw I was slowly starting to get the hang of riding switch. With that, Josh and I decided to make an entire run down the mountain riding switch. As you can imagine, I fell, a lot. My legs were shot and I had to take a couple rests on the way down the mountain. Eventually I did make it and I did ride the entire run switch.

After a 10 minute break, Josh came up with the brilliant idea to race down the mountain. (Normal stance) The slopes really weren’t that crowded and the visibility was ok at the time. Off the start I was ahead, but not for long. Josh came by me pretty quick as I made a poor line choice in the middle of the slope. I started to gain on him after turning onto Lower Shawneehaw, however, a skier bit the dust right in front of me about half way down and I had to make a hard turn to avoid him and I lost a ton of speed. I tried pumping to gain speed back but my legs just weren’t having it. Josh pulled ahead a bit as we made our way into Crossover and onto Freestyle. However, on Freestyle he took a bit of a wide line to avoid the snow blowers. I wasn’t about to get my ass handed to me, so I sucked it up and got as tight as I could to the inside of Free style and did my best to tuck below the blowers. By the time we made it to the drop off just before the chair lift line I was within a couple feet of Josh. At the drop off (which we called the finish line) I cut hard to get to the inside of him. As I made my way to the lip I lost my edge and my board went up, my ass went down and I began to slide. As this happened, I looked up to see that my board was within inches of Josh’s calf’s as he made the drop. I almost had him! Since I lost, I had to buy dinner… oh well. It was a fair race.

Josh and I were both shot after that so we decided to take another breather before heading back onto the chair lift. At this point the cloud cover was very sporadic. They would be heavy one minute and then clear up the next. So each run we made for the rest of the afternoon, we would sit at the top and wait for a few moments for it to clear up before we made our run.

A little cloudy down there....

Good enough... time to shred.

Blue sky eventually showed up, for a bit.

On Lower Shawneehaw, Beech had a few small park features set up, one of which was 1 foot diameter pipe with a slight ramp leading up to it. There were blowers all around this area which had the pipe extremely icy. With that in mind I wasn’t about to try and ride it. However the lip leading up to it was pretty good so I start jumping off it. After realizing my vertical hop was pretty good, I decided that I could probably jump over the pipe by crossing it from left to right. Success! Josh was able to do it as well. After doing this a couple times, we decided to take some video of it.

Me jumping over the rail.

Josh getting a grab off the lip.

Around 4:15, Josh and I were beat. Our legs were dead and the cold air was starting to move back in. We called it a day and headed for the truck. After packing up our gear we headed into Boone to visit, Mellow Mushroom for some good pizza and cold beer.

We made it home that night around 8pm. Overall it was good day of riding considering the run that was open and both took advantage of the easier runs by improving on some of our tech skills. Looking forward to the next slope session! (If weather co-operates, it looks like I will be spending New Years on the slopes!)

Side Note: Today (12/14/2011) it is in the 50’s with clear skies in the mountains.

1 comment:

Runner said...

I'm cold and tired just looking at those photos of you. Fun!