Skiing @ Heavenly

This last weekend I went up to Heavenly with Steve & Nils, to partake in some skiing. The trip up on Friday night was pretty much perfect – the roads were clear from the warm week and the lack of recent snow, so we made about as good time as can be made.

We stayed at the Lakeside Casino & Hotel, which had the virtue of being relatively cheap but not a whole lot else… the room itself was fine enough, though nothing outstanding for that price point; the real issue was that they didn’t allow a rollaway bed; in the end Steve & Nils opted to share, which I graciously permitted them to do. ;)

Saturday was pretty good… the conditions weren’t nearly as bad as one might think; just compacted snow, but not too icy for the most part. It started snowing, and the wind did pick up, such that the summit was closed for the afternoon along with the gondola, forcing us to ski down to California Lodge and take a bus back. But that was fine, because it let me go down The Face and Gunbarrel, which were fun even if slightly tricky in the conditions. And I also discovered that California Lodge has a bar with live music, which was quite cool.

Anyway, that went fine; Saturday night we ate at the Hard Rock – Nils had never been to one – and saw ‘Knowing’ before retiring for the night. Steve had pulled a muscle in his foot, one of my toes was being temperamental and making me a little paranoid if nothing else, and in any case we were all pretty tired. That’s the excuse I’m going with, anyway. :P

Sunday morning we woke up to find a good solid snow cover – up to two feet at the Heavenly summit, we were told – which was great. The weather was a little iffy in the morning, but we didn’t get on the mountain ’til 11am or so anyway; it was clearing up by then.

Nils nipped off on his own from the start, while Steve and I started together but separated at the summit – intending to meet again, but I took Pinnacles down not realising it didn’t offer access to our meeting point on the Nevada side. I got there eventually, but in any case couldn’t find Steve because he interpreted “stay somewhere obvious, sit down if you must” with “go inside and find a table somewhere in the crowd at the back. Don’t answer your phone”. :)

From there I headed up over towards Mott Canyon and Killebrew Canyon, just following others who were randomly cutting across. I started down what I believe is called ‘Boulevard’ in Killebrew Canyon, and was really enjoying the fresh tracks in two+ feet of powder, when I found what was apparently the only patch of ice on the whole mountain. I was in the middle of a turn when I hit it, and it unsettled my standing such that when I hit the powder again moments later, my skis were no longer parallel. This is not wise in deep powder. I went A over T immediately, and tumbled down the mountain a good twenty or thirty metres.

There were two significant consequences of this. The first was that I hurt my shoulder immediately as I went over – I think my stock caught somehow and pushed my shoulder back quite hard – and I was then faced with the overwhelming task of trying to stop rolling, dodge trees and somehow avoid rolling on my shoulder repeatedly; all but the latter I was successful at.

The second consequence was that my skis disappeared. Completely. My poles both ended up next to me, even though neither were on my wrists anymore, but skis… nadda. After sitting for five or ten minutes until the acute pain in my shoulder subsided, and ’til I’d finished cursing the fact that I’d pretty much ended my skiing for the day, even in the best case, I started to search for my skis.

I found the first one pretty quickly – it was just visible through a gap in the snow. How it got on the angle it did, I don’t know – with the tip pointing up but downhill, as if it slid under and bounced off the compacted snow below.

The second ski, I did not, ultimately, find. I reckon the tumble occurred at around 1pm, thereabouts. At 3pm or so the ski patrol came through to ostensibly help me find the ski, but ultimately to help me get out of Killebrew Canyon as it was then closed. A good ten or so people, at various times, stopped to offer assistance; some took a moment to slide down in the rough area I’d fallen, hoping to reveal a submerged ski. To no avail.

Somewhat disconcerting was the number of people that just skied straight past, not even ten metres away, either oblivious or indifferent to my condition. I didn’t expect anyone to put aside their own activities to help me find my ski, but I consider it an important responsibility to at least stop and check if a fallen person is okay.

But I digress. Curiously enough my shoulder, while sore and very weak, didn’t give me too much trouble – I could still carry my remaining ski or poles, and was using it for those two hours to dig out a quarter of the damn run.

On the upside, I did eventually get a lift back to the gondola on a snow mobile, which was pretty fun and certainly appreciated given it was a couple of kilometres to walk. In two feet of powder. It took me a good fifteen minutes just to climb back out of Killebrew Canyon, even though I was at most maybe forty metres from the ridge. Hands and knees – to keep from falling four or more feet into the heavy drifts – while carrying a ski and two poles. I took some consolation in the rare style of exercise it provided.

When I eventually returned back down to the village, I went straight into the ski shop, and long story short bought the skis. Loss is of course never covered – too obvious a means for fraud – and while the guys in the shop were nice and sympathetic… that was that.

So I now own an otherwise pretty nice pair of skis. It’s just that I don’t quite know where one of them is currently. Perhaps by spring it will be discovered and make its way back to me.

Just to add insult to injury, the trip back took ten hours; 50 was closed for many hours, even though the conditions were surprisingly good and chains weren’t even required. Most likely the usual hicks and dipshits in their unweighted trucks, driving too fast and smashing into each other and the walls.

And at one point, while doing 65mph somewhere around Placerville or one of the numerous ambiguous towns through there, a dog stood on the road in front of me, off to the side of the lane. I swerved slightly to miss it, and it seemed to spook at the very last second and leap away, but it was kind of… I just wonder what kind of animal is so retarded as to stand on a busy highway?

It did have a collar though, so I was very glad I missed it. Hopefully it learned a lesson and made its way home quick smart.

Prior to departing Heavenly we sat for a while at Fire+Ice, while I consumed a slightly larger than necessary proportion of ice cream, and Nils, Steve & I conversed with the random people we shared a table with. They were quite cool, though we never bothered with formal introductions so I’m at a loss to identify them for posterity.

The point I was in fact attempting to get at was that, having sat there for a while, my arm became noticeably stiff and uncomfortable. By the time I got home at 3am or somesuch it was outright sore, even when by my side, unburdened and supported. When I woke up Monday morning and started the morning routine, I found I really wasn’t able to use the arm for anything it entailed, which while not incapacitating was certainly annoying.

But the real kick was when I put my shirt on. ’til this point I wasn’t too worried about it; I was pretty certain it was neither broken nor dislocated, and that while there was perhaps muscle damage, it was just a particularly bad instance of the pulls and strains I usually get while skiing (though usually in my legs, particularly hamstrings). However, when I tried to put my shirt on I found it required my arm to move into exactly the most undesirable position, and furthermore when I tried to do so the pain disrupted it, but by then I was caught so I couldn’t even back out. Long story short, it hurt even more than the original injury, so much so that I became immediately light headed, my feet were attacked by pins and needles, and my ears rapidly began ringing as if I’d been at a rock concert the night before.

Apparently this isn’t particularly extreme, but I’ve never experienced that before. After fifteen minutes of sitting down completely motionless, the symptoms (including the pain) had mostly dispersed, I determined that I would in fact need to see a doctor about it, if only as a precaution. So I did that.

I tried Stanford Hospital first. They best they could manage was Wednesday, which was no good as I’ll be in Vegas by the offered time. Waiting ’til Monday seemed pointless; by then it’d either have proven self-healing or otherwise, and might well be too late to effectively address in the latter case.

Luckily Palo Alto Medical Centre actually has this crazy system whereby you can go in and actually see a doctor, you know, that week, so, I was looked at. Three hours and two x-ray sessions later, I had little to go on other than a sling, a referral to a sports doctor, knowledge that nothing was broken, and that while a minor dislocation was possible, it wasn’t serious.

I didn’t get to work until nearly 7pm. I worked ’til 11:30 or so, but couldn’t get a whole lot done with one arm in a sling.

Today I went to work as usual, but managed to score an afternoon appointment with said sports doctor, which I attended and was told in short order – after some prodding and stretching and whatnot – that it was certainly not “the AC”, which apparently is on the front of the shoulder, and which I gather to mean neither a torn ligament nor a serious dislocation. The doctors – for I was indeed seen by two simultaneously, for which I’m sure I will be billed inappropriately – indicated I’d probably come very close to something – whether a torn ligament or a dislocation wasn’t made entirely clear – but that it should heal by itself in three or four weeks. Mostly; I’ll probably have to use this as extreme but entirely appropriate motivation to actually kick off a weights regime at the gym again. Once it has healed; I’ll have to wait and see if it does, though judging by how it’s improved – slightly but noticeably – over the two days already, I’m pretty confident it’ll be just fine.

If only I’d been a little less stupid as to how I put my shirt on, I could have saved myself the whole ordeal. :)

On the upside, I’d intended to try out some performance skis that day, but the guys in the shop never actually asked what package I wanted, so… at least I got a cheaper pair of skis. :)

And while I don’t particularly like sitting in a cell with little natural light, no running water nor food, it is convenient that I can do so with a sore arm with minimal disruption. Yesterday was problematic, as noted, but today I managed alright. I suspect by Monday I’ll have no problems in that regard.

So, that was my weekend. I had kind of positioned the ski trip, in my own mind, as my last one of the season, though I hadn’t intended that decision to become so final. This weekend it’s Vegas instead, which should have minimal physical exertion – though I had intended to wander about the Grand Canyon – and following that… who knows. Probably work.

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