Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winter- A love story

I’ve decided after having a real winter for the first time in a long time, I’m in love. I love you winter and I can’t stand the 40 deg rains of spring that are coming. In fact I loathe spring. It’s the ultimate tease season where one week it’s in the mid 60’s and the next it’s 37 and raining. If it’s going to be cold I want snow and lots of it. Abby (love her right before my newly kindled love of snow and winter) and I decided to put off our Valentines Day this year until the week after. While everyone back home was getting out their T-shirts in celebration of coming spring weather, we packed up every bit of extreme cold weather gear we could, and headed to the mtns. To get one last glimpse of winter before stupid spring came to town. Our plan was to do a hike on Roan on Saturday and Ski Sunday at Beech mtn in NC. The past week was a bad week for sleep for both of us so we slept in Saturday and got a late start, but made good time.

On Saturday we headed to Roan Mtn. I used to frequent Roan in my high school days and last summer rediscovered it through a road race that went up the side of it. We went for a hike earlier this year with a respectable amount of snow on the summit, but it paled in comparison to how much snow had accumulated from the last time I was there. The snowdrifts on the road that was mostly clear of snow and ice for one lane were higher than I was tall in places. We got up to Roan in the late afternoon unfortunately so we didn’t have a whole lot of daylight to work with. (had to go to my home in Bristol to get my skis) We hiked up the snowed in road, which had about 2 feet of packed snow on it this time and veered off onto a trail a few hundred yards up. The last snows that hit the mtn must have been super wet because the amount of snow on the trees was amazing (it looked like someone had gotten in a giant pillow fight with he forest) and gave a very soothing smooth, rounded, and white ambiance to everything around it. After hiking on the trail that was less traveled for a few hundred feet we realized leaving the car without the snowshoes we brought was a mistake. We were post holing 10-15 inches just about every step as we made our way up the trails.

We headed back to the car and decided that we would instead hike up the bald side first to the first of two summits, to check out the views before the sunset. This side of Roan never has a whole lot of snow on it because of its wind exposure, but I decided this time since there was a lot I was going to do what I’ve always wanted to do on the balds…ski. We saddled up with snowshoes with my ski gear and headed for the first summit. I knew hiking up by the frozen layer of ice over exposed snow, this was not going to be a “quality” ski run but at least I would get to say yes I’ve skied Roan to my kids and grand kids one day. This reminded me a lot of backcountry skiing in CO with friends, but without the spoiled powder conditions they always seem to have. It was also incidentally the first time I had been on my alpine skis in about 3 years. I managed to skirt and traverse my way down the mtn back to the gap with 2 good feeling turns and the rest I wrestled with a frozen layer of ice over soft snow. The wind had sculpted some very nice formations around any bushes and exposed sticks no the summit as well.

After returning to the gap we still had a few minutes of daylight to work with so I gave Abby a piggy back across the pavement in her snowshoes, dropped the skis off at the car, and then mounted up with snowshoes to explore the snow we were post holing in earlier. We ventured off the trail a few times and found pretty consistent light and fluffy snow in the woods that was about 2-3 feet deep and lots of fun to pop and run around in snowshoes. I had a brief thought of getting lost when we were running headlong through the woods laughing in deep snow but realized there was no way we could get lost with first tracks 1-2ft deep in the snow. We ran around until dark, which wasn’t even that dark because of all the snow, and then high tailed it to our abode for the evening in Valle Crucis.


There are 3 foot tall guard rails under there somewhere...

We stayed Saturday night at the Taylor Inn, a small bed and breakfast and were wowed by the beautiful surrounding scenery and work that had gone into the house by a foreign couple that moved there a few years back to run the business. It was neat to stay in an old house and enjoy French cuisine cooking by the owners. While it wasn’t the cheapest thing in the valley, for the atmosphere and company it was the best deal going for the weekend and great choice of venue. (the best western without continental breakfast was more than this place) Definitely will recommend this place in the future to those who are looking for a secluded unique getaway experience, friendly company, and great food.

The tea/coffee/hot chocolate bar with homemade cake for us made the sell very easy.

Wipe your feet and your shoes go in the tray by the door.

Fresh Kisses...

And Flowers.

Sunday we headed to Beech mtn where we skied all day in near perfect conditions. The slopes had absolutely great snow (soft powder by eastern standards) and the temperature although a bit warm was pleasant all day. The lines were short as well, I don’t think we ever waited more than 10 minutes for the lift. We stopped a couple times for snack breaks but for the most part skied all day long till the lifts closed. (26 runs) Also it seems I’m getting to be an old man with old technology. I was the only person I observed with “straight skis” all day on the mtn., and they were a conversation starter on many lift rides up. Everyone’s gone to shape skis apparently and gone are the days of squashing your bananas (forwards shin positioning in the boot), pizzas (snowplow positions), and French fries (skiing parallel- hard to do with shape skis without overlapping tips). I saw some old faces from the days of Ski Patrol in High School and we shared a couple of stories. It was nice to be on the mtn again and see for a change the resort was doing well, as we’ve had some pretty bad winters these past years.

Beautiful clear day with picturesque views.

Snack Time!

And finally us in action trying to remember how to ski....

Great Valentines trip and we got lots of winter outside activity in. Here’s to 6 more (or more) weeks of winter!