I'm a little bit of an adrenaline junkie. I like to go down steep, rocky stuff on my mountain bike. I like to go down twisty mountain roads FAST on my road bike. I like to climb way up high with only a rope and some cams to keep me from falling (not crazy enough to be into free climbing). I really get off on the feeling of "Oh Shit, have I pushed it too far?"
I had yet to really capture that feeling on tele skis. Sure, I've pushed myself and gone down terrain that got me out of my comfort zone. But nothing that has scared me in that exciting and satisfying way you feel in your belly. Nothing that made me think, "Oh Shit, now that I've committed to this, can I do this without hurting myself?" The last time I scared myself that way, things didn't go so well
when I executed this section not so well. Notice the man walking behind me; it was steep and technical!
More ghastly pictures here: http://picasaweb.google.com/COIttyBittyBetty/GhastlyWound
Here's a pic of me scaring myself with significantly more success (see I can ride my bike!). This is Horsethief Bench in Fruita and it's pretty scary! Full disclosure - I didn't make it all the way down, but I successfully bailed with no injuries.
So, I went to A-Basin this Saturday. I had been there in the late 80s or early 90s when I was a mediocre Blue Run Alpine skier. Now I am an orders-of-magnitude better tele skier, so I was able to try runs I didn't even consider way back then (actually, I can barely remember anything from that long ago day). Jesper has a nice write up here on the whole day at A-Basin http://jesperperl.com/words/arapahoe-basin-and-montezuma-bowl/.
But I just want to focus on one run we did in the afternoon. We went to the frontside via the Pallavicini Chair. If you look at the trail map of this area, you will see that it's pretty much all black diamond and double black EX terrain in this area of the resort. Pallavicini is over on the far right side of the mountain.
For those not familiar with the skiing trail designations, black diamond runs are the Most Difficult (Green are the easiest and Blues are in the middle). I guess the ski industry decided that they needed to be able to designate even more difficult runs when they came up with the double black diamond. Then they came up with the EX designation, which stands for EXTREME!
I have so far avoided EX terrain, as it typically entails exposed rocks and cliffs, not to mention super steep slopes. However, our friend Tim, who has skied all the runs at A-Basin and has seen us ski, thought we could ski the double black EX runs at A-Basin. Jesper and Tim had hit a couple Double Black EX runs in the Pallavicini area while I was resting before lunch. They skied some stuff in the trees Jesper considered really steep, 2nd Alley I think. So, after lunch he led our group over to the Pallavicini area to try out 3rd Alley and West Alley. These Alley runs are narrow cuts in the trees on some of the steepest terrain in any Summit County resort. Apparently, 3rd Alley and West Alley are steeper than 2nd Alley.
Holy Shit! Once we tucked into the trees, the slope got even steeper and the opening for the run got even tighter, maybe 8 to 10 feet wide. There were exposed rocks. Tim went first and executed some nice parallel turns (he's an alpine skier, but otherwise we love him). Then Jesper made a go of linking some tele turns, promptly fell and kept going downslope very fast until he was able to self arrest his slide. It looked rather frightening from above! I started down and the same thing happened to me. After I arrested my slide, I stood up and looked down the slope. It was by far the steepest slope I'd ever been on. Jesper estimates it to be a 50 degree slope, but it looked steeper to me! As an added bonus, it was tight and treed pretty thickly once out of the narrow gully of the run. Jesper ventured over into the trees hoping to find less steep terrain, to no avail. So he skied back into the gully and successfully executed some nice tele turns on the steep slope. Way to go Jesper! Tim went next and hooked some nice turns together, although it didn't look easy.
I just stood there looking down. It entered my head that I had to ski to get out of this situation, as it would be incredibly embarrassing to have to take off my skis and scootch out on my butt. Plus, that would be pretty scary in itself. But I was quite frankly scared to try a turn, even a parallel one. So I just stood there. I was having an OH SHIT moment. I wasn't sure I could do this without hurting myself. Then I realized that Jesper had made some tele turns, so I could do it too. I took a deep breath and launched into a series of tight tele turns on the steep slope. I did it! I skied my way down. I was pumped up with adrenaline. I knew I'd be able to ski other steep stuff I normally had trouble with, 'cause it wasn't steep at all in comparison!
Whoo Hoo - I yelled, let's do it again!
(sorry no pics, we were too busy trying not to pee our pants to take any!)