Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas at SkiBowl

Continuing my posts from the winter break, I was able to pull my wife away from her seemingly incessant workload to play in the snow for Christmas. Today's post covers that. No bus content this time.

Getting There
On its surface, this should be relatively obvious: get in the car and drive there. Duh. Well, the TDI Jetta, Flash, has been hard starting since the weather started getting colder in the valley. He had some starting issues in late Summer/Fall too. I verified the alternator and replaced the battery, even re-did the vacuum lines and replaced the anti-shudder valve along the way (the original had a bunch of PO goop on it presumably to keep it working). My last resort, which I probably should have done sooner, was to replace the glow plugs. I replaced the glow plugs in the bus a while back and that motor fires right up every time. Since I went off-script for sourcing those plugs, I went to the same source for the Jetta: AccurateDiesel. They are based in Michigan and manufacture glow plugs for all kinds of vehicles, mostly domestic trucks. For $55 delivered, they make TDI plugs. I'm sure some will read this and bristle at not using Bosch plugs. It's okay. Make your own choices. These plugs work great, and the Jetta starts more responsively than before.

Beer Stube deck
Anyway, I replaced the plugs on Christmas Eve, so we were car-ready. Boo had to work until after dinner time on Christmas Eve, so I got all our gear ready while I waited for her to come home. We awoke early on Chirstmas, not wakened by excited little ones, rather, an alarm like it was a workday. Swift shower, breakfast and coffee, and we loaded up Flash. We were leaving the Portland west side by 7:AM.

Expectedly, the traffic through the city was very light. It wasn't until we were on I-84 that we started really seeing other cars. With such light friction, we were in Sandy shortly after 8 and chaining-up along the 26 in the Mt Hood Forest by 8:30. We were met with cries of Merry Christmas from the parking lot attendant at SkiBowl, as well as a less-than-1/3-full lot.

The Fluffy
The weather guys in the Portland area have been trying to outdo each other with their descriptions of the snow that has been hammering the Cascade Mountains this past week. Each day,  there has been measurable snowfall of more than 6". Some days have seen almost a foot. With the weather folks going bonkers and the resorts also describing the snow as some of the best ever, our expectations were suitably high. Very high. We were gloriously not disappointed.
The snow was arguably perfect. There was maybe 2-3" of fluff atop a firm base. Aside from a little bit, and I mean little, of icy at the very top of Upper Reynolds where the sun break had struck, SkiBowl was ice-free. The riding was fast, but controllable, allowing new and experienced riders alike an opportunity to have a day of their choosing. Most of the resort had been groomed, but "Surprise" hadn't so we were able to get our rough-stuff-fluff fix in as well.

The Staff
Upper Bowl from lift
After the horrible season last year, SkiBowl had to almost completely re-staff. While there are a few folks around who have been there for a few years, most of the staff are brand new. Their new-ness was pretty apparent, but not entirely in a bad way. We met Josten, a brand new server in the Cascade Lodge who brought an energetic positive energy. There was a new woman working in the gift shop alongside a couple of old pro's who seemed right with the flow. At the lifts, though, the new folks didn't quite have the vibe yet. On Lower Bowl, there was some confusion, resulting in only one of the picket lines getting used. This created what looked like a backup on the SkiBowl camera, but the queue actually moved quite quickly. The biggest miss was at the Multipor lift where the guy managing the queue didn't have the vibe at all. He created a longer queue of more frustrated people because of how much time he would spend with each person, verifying their pass. I've had an easier time getting on an airplane. I'm sure he'll mellow out, but he needs to be paired with an old-timer to get a better handle on how SkiBowl operates.

The Services
Boo and I tried just about everything SkiBowl had to offer. We started at the Beer Stube after getting our passes, and sampled the platter of fries from the cafeteria next door. The pours were strong, and the pile of fries big enough that we shared it with the ladies at the table next to us. After some runs and another round, we took the shuttle over to the Cascade Lodge (SkiBowl East) for dinner. Once we conquered the queue at Multipor, we hit the Historic Warming Hut for Americano's. At each stop, the servers were great, friendly and responsive. The shuttle driver chatted us up as we negotiated the traffic in Govy.

The Crowd
Upper Reynolds from below
The Govy traffic was completely hidden from us on the slopes, but the crowds that blew in from that traffic were most certainly not. Around mid-day, SkiBowl got quite busy very quickly and the crowd changed from mellow and content. Turns out, there was a major car fire on Timberline Highway, blocking traffic in both directions to/from Timberline Lodge while the fire was put out and the occupants treated. Since it was Christmas, many had their holiday "ruined" by the blocked road, so they chose to suffer the rest of us at SkiBowl with their misery. As awesome as the snow and the workers were, many of the patrons were not. Boo made a point of shouting "Merry Christmas" at the lift riders as we slid under or from the lift as others passed. These calls were almost entirely met with a flat look. The restaurants and bars were filled.... with somber faces. To those who chose to spread their ruined Christmas, I ask that next year you just wander into the forest or go home. SkiBowl doesn't need your second-place attitude.

We had a great holiday, arriving home completely tapped from playing in the snow all day. With comments of the "best Christmas ever", we both look forward to what could be an amazing season on the mountain. So, if you were like me, skeptical of snow after last year, I strongly encourage you to go up... just bring your positive happy-to-be-there energy :)

That's it for today. Thanks, as always, for following along, This will be my last post for the year, so Happy New Year 2016.

No comments: