On Tuesday, we packed up Alex’s Volkswagen to the roof, and hit the road to Tahoe. It was a long drive, but uneventful. We had booked a package that included hotel, breakfast, and lift tickets for 2 days for $165 each. Not bad. The room was extremely cramped, but we managed to survive. We got to Tahoe City, bought the essentials (beer and snacks), I rented some boots, and then hit the slopes at Squaw Valley for some night skiing. There weren’t many slopes open, and the ones that were open were lame. The snow was sparse and there were lots of icy spots, but at least it was a good introduction to the concept of skiing, which I haven’t done since last year at Mammoth.

For dinner, we hit the Blue Agave, which is a Mexican restaurant down the street from our place. It was pretty good, and the hot food hit the spot after a night of skiing.

The next day, we were on the hills again after a late start. I rented a different pair of boots from the place across the street, which was better and cheaper than the rental shop at the mountain. It was bright and sunny, but quite windy. From the cable car, could see little whirling snow tornadoes attacking and blowing down small children on the icy slopes. Because of the high winds and thin snow base, there were few lifts open, and we felt a bit limited. The talk among the ski bums was that there was a storm coming that night, and indeed by the afternoon, we could see the clouds rolling in.

Back in Tahoe City, it rained all night, and into the morning. That rain would be translated into snow at the higher altitudes of Squaw Valley. By the time we got there the next day, there were whiteout conditions. There was a ton of new snow. Although visibility was really bad, and many lifts were closed again, we were having a great time. It was fun and much less stressful to ski on the new snow. The ice of the previous two days had been a bit nerve-wracking and exhausting.

We decided to hit some of the more deserted back trails of the mountain, and took a very long chairlift to the very top. The snow was absolutely beautiful. The slopes were steep, and covered in trees and rocks, but the fresh powder was at least waist-deep. Even falling down was fun. That is, until disaster hit me. I was bombing down the hill, and decided to dig in and stop suddenly. My skis stopped instantly in the deep and heavy powder snow, but my body twisted over them. The ski bindings are supposed to release in this situation, to prevent injury, but they didn’t. My feet were firmly attached to the skis, which were dug into the snow, and my body was still moving and twisting. I felt and heard my right knee pop in and out of its socket. It was a sickening feeling. Even as I write this, my stomach is turning from the memory of it. Afterwards, lying in the snow, I couldn’t feel the pain, but i knew I was in trouble. I couldn’t move my leg. I managed to get the skis off and put my legs on the downhill side. Without the added weight of the skis, I could move my right knee, but it didn’t feel quite right. I rested for a few minutes and then put the skis on again. I was about 3000 feet up the side of the mountain and didn’t want to be stuck there. I tried skiing a bit, but when I tried to put any weight on the right leg to turn, I collapsed again. I was stuck in the snow with my right leg on the downhill side and I couldn’t get up. I did a roll to put my left foot downhill, and stood up. That was fine. I told Alex and James to continue skiing, and I would make my way down the hill slowly, and meet them at the pub when they were done skiing.

It took me 2 hours to sidestep down the side of the mountain using mainly my left foot and ski poles for support. When I got to the intermediate slopes again, I snowplowed like a kid down to the bottom, and limped my equipment back to the car. Then I sat in the pub and drank beer until Alex and James showed up at the end of the day.

We headed straight home after that. The storm was pretty intense in the mountains, and driving was perilous. All cars and trucks were required to have chains on their drive wheels. We waited at a tire chain checkpoint for at least an hour before we were allowed through the mountain pass. We had chains on the VW, but even so, it was dangerous. Traveling down a slight, curving hill at about 40km/h, we went into a 180 degree spin on the black ice, and ended up bumping to a stop at the side of the road. We were lucky we didn’t go over the edge of the cliff. We dug the car out of the snowbank and James and I used our three good legs to push it back onto the road again.

After we got below the snow line and were back on normal pavement, Alex and I shared the driving back.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures in Tahoe. Someday I wouldn’t mind getting a car and driving around to find some of the beautiful spots we passed on the way up, and be there at the right time of day. I walked across the street on our second day there to take this shot of the lake, but the thin air made it a bit tough to hike around a lot with heavy equipment. I’d need to spend some time there to get used to it. I’m pretty sure that I’m genetically predisposed to the hot, thick air of Southeast Asia. 😛 In this photo, you can see that it was windy, and the choppy water of the lake hints of the storm that was approaching.


I’ve rolled the rest of my snapshots into this little movie I made about the trip.