Sunday, February 4, 2007

That's MINUS Seventeen

It seems lately that I only get to go skiing once or twice a year. It's always a good time, and I usually can hobble around without too much discomfort afterwards. But, for some reason, it always seems to be on the coldest blooming day of the year. And so it was today. The high was to reach a balmy 6 degrees, but when we bailed out of the Jeep at high noon, it was all of 3. With a wind chill (at the flat airport) of -13. I was pretty certain that on the slopes, with weird wind patterns and the highest point in the county we could expect some nastier wind chills. I had promised Boy after our Long Beach trip last weekend I'd take him to the hill, and since church was canceled and the sun was peeking out, we decided there was no better time than the present to burn a day on the slopes. Boy is halfway through his season pass, and every time he goes out he has a blast. He has a friend on the ski team, so we called after we hit the road to see if she'd join us. She would, and we picked her up on the way. The roads were loosely packed with cars heading to and fro the beer stores and party destinations, as I hear there was to be a game on teevee today (yay Colts!). We arrived at the local 'mountain' and I coughed up my bank card so it could be bent over. I have my own skis, and Boy has his season pass, so we kinda got a twofer. But, it still came to $39 for a 4-hour pass. All I could do was shrug and get dressed. Boy and his friend had been here several times and wanted to ski The Face, this hill's attempt at an expert run. I tried to talk them into a run on the bunny hill, since I was certain to be rusty. They almost relinquished, which means we were immediately riding the chair lift to the tallest point on site. The uphill ride was lovely and serene, except for the harsh, biting east wind. Even though I had 14 layers, I wished for a couple more. We dismounted the chair lift and I remembered what was so thrilling about skiing on the 6-foot unloading hill: I am completely at gravity's mercy. Oh sure, I could influence my destiny, but only Gravity truly controls it, as far as a fat man on skis is concerned. This is the same hill I first skied upon, way back in 1981. The place is largely unchanged, except for the addition of snowboard terrain. The same chair lifts that hauled my shivering butt up the hill way back then are still chugging along, the same fences (mostly) keep daredevil kids from a certain doom, and the same menacing snow cannons are mounted along the sides of the hills. I remember getting off the Ski Club bus, watching a few skiers slalom down the hill, and thinking, "This looks easy. Let's hit the biggest hill." On that day, The Face was littered with moguls. I had no idea how to get off a chair lift, let alone ski a mogul. I spent 65% of that run on my snow-packed tookus, and decided I best take advantage of gentler slopes until I sort things out. I rode the Double to the top of a long, straight, shallow hill ideal for the 'advanced beginner.' Since it was long and straight, it was possible to build up some impressive speed after a while. Especially if you go in a perfectly straight line, since you have no idea how to slow or turn yourself. I feverishly willed myself to the left or right, and sometimes my skis would miraculously obey. Sometimes not, such as the time I neared the creek that divides the hill from the lodge and rental buildings. I willed myself to a stop in a hurry, since the bus wouldn't be leaving for another 2 hours and I had just learned about hypothermia in science class. My methods were sloppy, but effective: simply fall over. Worked every time. Not much for impressing the snow bunnies, but I was sure falling in the creek would impress them less. My technique has improved over the years, and I can hang with most of the folks I ski with (my kid). Falling over is a thing of the past, for the most part. Except for one time today, when the young decided we were all going to make a sharp right turn to exit the chair lift. I was on the right, and wasn't in on the plan, so I skied straight ahead. They steered me firmly into a steel stake, planted ever-so-solidly in the snow. Ow. We had an awesome time, rocketing down long and nearly deserted slopes, veering off through the woods, and even trying out some jumps. I tried several by sheer accident; once I followed Friend of Boy up a steep hill, only to find that the steep hill ended in a pretty serious jump. Nothing but sky. I'm sure it would have been graceful and amazing, if done by someone younger and less fat - and who expected a jump to be there. I landed it, and was wiping my frozen brow when I found myself standing on air again. They had cleverly cut a ledge into the hill, so one moment you're on snow and the next you're not. Again, this could have been cool were it not a total surprise. I landed on my skis, but my hips, knees, and teeth slammed together as I mentally reviewed my company's health plan. No permanent damage that I know of, but I couldn't do 4 minutes on the stair stepper this morning. Boy got in the habit of losing one of his skis every time he got on the chair lift. If you've never practiced, it's a challenge to get off the lift hill with one ski. He would routinely veer left, bounce off the wooden fence and fall over. There he would wait until someone a few chairs back delivered his escaped ski. It was great fun to watch. At the end of 4 hours, we retreated to the lodge for some nutrition (elephant ears and hot cocoa) while we shed our gear. My face was showing the effects of the bitter cold. I'm told I had purple cheeks, which is not good as far as I can tell. My bandanna face-warmer was frozen solid, the fog on my glasses had turned to frost, and my toes, legs, and butt were numb. My pantlegs were mashed into my skin inside my ski boots - I can still feel the phantom creases in my shin. The most glorious feeling was peeling those hard plastic boots from my feet. Okay, the 2nd most glorious - a long shower set to 'boil' was pretty darn nice at the end of the day. I can't wait to go again. =================== By popular demand, here's the recipe for the chili I made last night. Note: this is NOT health food. Bacon grease and tofu do not go together. It was a smaller batch, and turned out very red and tomatoey. I skipped the cooling step, and it was slightly noticeable, but it still turned out delicious. I'm having it for lunch today, and really looking forward to it. Yum! Spiffy Chili Big can dark kidney beans 1 1/2 lbs ground beef 1 lb REAL bacon (NOT turkey bacon) Green, red, and yellow bell peppers Onion Fresh garlic 2 big cans chunk tomatoes Small can seasoned tomatoes V8 juice (optional) Chili powder Ground red pepper Cayenne, Tabasco, or other spiciness to taste Corn flour

Drain beans, toss in stew or crock pot with all the tomatoes, mix. Dump a heap of chili powder (4-5 tsp) and 1/2 tsp red pepper over top and start simmering. Fry bacon extra crispy. Set on paper towel to cool. Sautee chopped garlic and ½ onion in the bacon grease, toss in pot when done Fry ground beef in same pan - add a generous sprinkling of Montreal Steak seasoning and chili powder, drain well Crumble bacon into pot Chop and add remaining onion, bell peppers Simmer covered 2-4 hours, stirring occasionally Add V8 if more liquid is needed Refrigerate 2-4 hours or overnight Return to simmer or crock pot 2 hours Add spice to taste. If too spicy, add sugar 1 tsp at a time. ½ hour before serving, slowly stir in corn flour to thicken. Serve with shredded cheese, corn bread or rice, sour cream.

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