Winter is back! After a long drought, new snow arrived this past week just in time to make WinterFest feel like WinterFest and prevent local powderhounds from committing hara-kiri. In fact, it presented us with a classic Central Oregon dilemma: What is the best way to utilize a perfect powder weekend? Which, of course, is part of the much grander existential question of how to maximize a lifetime of powder, waves, singletrack, endorphins, full moons and sunshine. I've been pondering such things lately.
Let's tackle the more immediate question of "Carpe Diem," Latin for "Seize the Weekend." Do you grab your snowboard or fat skis and a lift ticket and get on over to Outback? Do you get out the AT or Tele gear and make some turns on Tumalo? Or do you gather together your touring skis and some friends to help break trail and do the Flagline?
I heard from a friend, who shredded powder (and her knees) for the entire three-day weekend, that the blue ice at Backbone was treacherous, but there were some awesome powder stashes to be found left off of Boomerang and right off of Rainbow. "Fun, deep and surprisingly uncrowded," was her description. I'm not naming names because I would get her in trouble with her physical therapist.
Maybe all the people were across the road on Tumalo Mountain because it seems like everyone I know skied it at some point or other this past weekend. From the sound of things, there was enough powder to go around.
After a fun Friday night of ski racing, rail jamming, ice carving and wine walking, I opted for the Flagline, bright and early Saturday morning. We assembled a group of six, which is just about the right number when breaking trail. We left my van at Swampy, piled into Andy Scott's Toyota pickup, and unpiled at the Nordic center. We skied out the Common Corridor and across Dutchman where we picked up the Flagline Trail. About six inches of new snow filled faint older tracks, which made it easier to follow the blue diamonds. Not that I don't manage to get ever so slightly lost every darn time, which is embarrassing for an adventure racer.
I love breaking trail because it keeps me warm and my friends don't seem to mind, but I think Andy loves it too, so we took turns. For some reason, I like to lie and say, "Flagline is all downhill," but the truth is that you climb gently for the first hour and then descend gently for about two, all the time through beautiful conifer forest. We enjoyed a truly ideal Flagline day, with bursts of snowflakes interspersed with bursts of sunshine interspersed with bursts of laughter.
On Sunday, I traveled down to Diamond Lake where I gained some insight into how to seize life and make the most of it.
I cheered as Bendites Muffy Roy and Eric Martin won the 20K skate at the annual John Day Ski Race. Both are 40-something parents who are still amazing athletes who can pretty much school the youngsters in any race they enter. Once upon a time I thought 40 was old, but once you're there, it doesn't seem like your best days are behind you after all.
Gordon Riggs is one skier who inspires me to believe that I haven't even enjoyed the half of it yet. I met Gordon at the race and, if he hadn't told me he was still married to "Wife #5" after 27 years, I would have thought he was flirting with me. Gordon, 89, bow-legged and sporting a Crater Lake Race t-shirt from 1996, has been ski racing for countless decades. The race director told me that one year he hitchhiked to the race from his home in Gold Hill, Oregon and was dropped off a few miles away. He managed to make an impressive arrival in a sheriff's car, just in time for the start. At this year's event, Gordon had a keen race strategy that he executed flawlessly-a solid start followed by a well-timed turnaround so that he could make it back for the post-race spaghetti feed. As we chatted afterward, I tried to pick up on some of his secrets to health, happiness and longevity. Gordon said, "I loved all my wives" and "My knees hurt if I don't keep moving."