ski trip misadventures
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JimK - DCSki Columnist
January 7, 2009
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,987 posts
In J. R. Patten's Vail Misadventure story he says: "The things that stick out will be what was unexpected instead of what was planned. Never be afraid to relish in the mishaps and off-kilter experiences. After all, it's not what went right, but what went wrong that makes a trip truly memorable."

Back in the early '90s I had a Colorado white-out road trip that was similar to JR's and in the '80s got lost in the Catskills during a snowstorm at 1am with low gas and flashing check engine light, but the worst was about 15 years ago when my spousal unit sent me on an urgent wild goose chase for a breast pump in Aspen...

Who else will share ski trip misadventures?
January 7, 2009
Member since 02/18/2008 🔗
177 posts
I don't know if I'd quite call it a misadventure, but the first time I went to Park City was quite memorable. Went with my father in April. Arrived in the pouring rain. Still pouring the next morning. Really quite depressing, so we rented a car drove down to Moab, rented a second hotel room and had a great time touring Arches and Canyonlands parks.
January 7, 2009
Member since 04/11/2003 🔗
1,326 posts
Last January, we couldn't get a flight into Reno or Sacramento. Actually, it was the Sunday after Christmas, so no surprises there, really.

We decided to drive from Vegas to Minden, NV. AAA/Triptik estimate: 6.5 hours. Right. Well, OK, we should arive by 9pm, right?

First problem: AAA triptik agents have no idea of which roads are closed in winter.

Rental truck is a Toyota Highlander. Plenty of room inside and nicely comfy appointments. We didn't see the downside at that point.

We drive out of Vegas fine and wind up re-routing the AAA route to go up I-95 to Tonopah (past Death Valley. Anyone wants to know a good candy shop, LMK) , over west a bit to Hawthorne. Hint for desert driving: Fill up at half a tank! 3 closed stations later we cruise into Hawthorne on fumes to find an open Exxon at 9:30 pm. Well, OK.,-118.223877&spn=2.89071,2.785034&z=9

Lots of wind. Martian landscape past Walker Lake gets even more bizzarely alien as we drive over a spine of White Mountain to Yerington, NV.

At this point we have seen signs for:
buffalo crossing
bear crossing
turkey crossing
deer crossing
sheep crossing.

We pay no mind.

From Yerington the road (208) is a bit rural, except then it enters a really twisty slot canyon through Mt. Wilson:,-119.218826&spn=0.179909,0.174065&t=p&z=13

Now, that is a really fun bit of road to drive. In the summer, in the dry, with no wind.

Did I mention the wind? Did I mention that a Toyota Highlander is rather shaped like a giant sail? With a tentative hold on the highway to boot?

Ooof. We're fighting the car up through, it gets even worse going across the valley to Wellington. I slow down even more, as we're not gonna get there before midnight anyway.

The bit between Wellington and Topaz Lake was meh, boring.

You know you're in Nevada proper when the casinos pop up everywhere. We'd arrived, just the other side of Kingsbury grade from Heavenly.

Minden has natural hot springs, btw.
I highly recommend them.
I also highly recommend driving to Homewood by the southern route on a clear day, see a bit of the lake'n'all.
I also highly recommend staying on groomers if Tahoe hasn't had any snow for the season as everything off marked runs was 3-inch thick ice crust.

Oh well, not to worry, there's a storm due in on Wednesday night, should give us lotsa pow action Thu and Fri. Right? Right?

So we ski Sierra at Tahoe, Donner, Diamond Peak. All good fun.

Storm hasn't arrived quite yet.

THIS storm:

Thus. am we're to Alpine Meadows.


You know it's bad when you fight the wind to get across the parking lot.

The sun is still overhead, but the ridge at AM looks like a volcano of snow, for all the stuff being blown off the top. Top of the mountain is on wind hold.

O-K. Worth skiing? Other half sez: no, only the kiddie lift is open.

For some reason we decide to drive around the north of the lake, past Kings' Beach. Oh, now I remember me, we stopped for some XC skiing, for a half day.

At this point, it really is starting to look like the Storm of the Century, big ginormous black anvilheads. It is NO FUN driving the Highlander over the pass at Mt. Rose down towards Reno. Mt. Rose is shut for skiing, of course.

We pop out of the car for some eats at a generic mall at Mt. Rose Hwy and South Virginia st. The movie theater cannot keep its doors closed for the wind, gusting up to 50-60 in the parking lot.

We go into this place that looks like a DiMaggios from outside and proceed to have the best Italian food I have ever had outside of the NY metro area or Italy.

Wind still gusting. Blows the knit hat off OHrex's head and across the parking lot as we exit Cortina.


so on the way back we drive into a raging blizzard,

- it takes 6 hours to drive 40 miles,

- can't see the signs because they have 4 inches of snow cement stuck on them so navigating by blind luck and guess work

- (Sacramento and Reno airports shut, Vegas only one open)

- the Highlander gets sideswiped by a gust of wind coming through Jack Wright canyon and we spin into the guardrail

- 3 inches from the rim of the 5000' canyon,-119.404564&spn=0.090019,0.054417&t=p&z=14

- Ok, the truck still drives, we have 15 hours left to make the flight out.

- The road is closed at Yerington, we have to overnight

- 8 hours later (7 hours left to flight) we're driving at 95 mph even though the Highlander is yawing left and right, 40-50mph crosswinds.

- Tire blows out.

- 30 mins later we're at 95mph again on the spare tire, Highlander yawing -worse-, bits of the front airdam sparking on the pavement.

- Vegas - woohooo, fortunately the rental car cops don't notice that the front fascia is held on by duct tape

I don't care about all that. Lunch at Cortina -made- the trip.

January 7, 2009
Member since 12/29/2004 🔗
538 posts
I think my biggest was posted here last year, when I pulled off the side of the road in canaan to find and answer my phone when I discovered the snow covered side of the road was a 4 foot ditch that I had to get pulled out(luckily not a single scratch). My truck was balanced right in center on the skid plates. Even if I wanted to forget it, my son who was riding shotgun and climbed out of the truck Dukes style won't let me.
January 8, 2009
Member since 01/18/2005 🔗
2,067 posts
Too many to count. Most memorable though was the normally 3 hour trip from home to the valley that took over 12 hours. That was back in January 96, a week after what some called "the big one" or "Big Monday." Over 30" of snow in the valley. The following Friday, we were met with temps in the 60s and 2-3" of rain, Very heavy rain. Closed schools, roads, and businesses throughout VA, and, as we discovered, WV. We left home around 11 AM and made it to Franklin where we were informed that route 33 was closed in not one, but several locations. So was Rt 220 and most other roads heading north or west. Back to VA, I 81, and north to route 55. It was closed going west as well. Route 50 was closed at Capon Bridge, which left us driving north on 522 into WV. Police informed us that the road to Paw Paw was closed too. We got to I 68 and headed west to Keiser's Ridge and 219 south through Oakland. It was very dicey since the birms had washed out on both sides of the road, the wind had picked up, and the temps had fallen into the teens. Lots of black ice, but we went on our way. Finally, we made it to the valley. Snowing like anything, temps in single digets by now. Turned onto the t-line access road, and to be honest I didn't notice that the Blackwater was flooding until..... I got to the curve after the power line and all I could see was water... deep water over the road, halfway up the guardrail and ice. I was going too fast to stop and splashed into the swollen waters. eek SAVED BY THE ICE! It was so cold that a bobsled like bank of ice had been formed in the turn and over the guardrail from all the cars that had gone before me and I literally rode the turn without mishap. No actual steering occured. We got to our place around midnight. We had a similar occurance on our first trip to snowshoe back in the mid 80s before they paved the access road above Silver Creek and put up guardrails. Anybody ever make that trip in pea soup?
JimK - DCSki Columnist
January 8, 2009
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,987 posts
Originally Posted By: comprex

I don't care about all that. Lunch at Cortina -made- the trip.

Wow, what a trip.
My wife has noticed that male skiers have specially adapted memory patterns that within days/weeks block out all bad aspects of old ski trips.
PS: I forgot to mention one of my more recent misadventures - in Mar 2007 my party missed our 6am flight out of Denver back to BWI. Going standby with a group of five is a challenge these days, almost had to split up. Finally got out together after 7 hour wait and eventually made it back to BWI and home by midnight. Looong day - but no worries, happened at tend of trip.
January 8, 2009
Member since 10/24/2005 🔗
145 posts
New Hampshire Spring Break '08

New to RVing, we drove all day to a campground by Bretton Woods. Got there after dark only to find the campground was not plowed. Got stuck; got out using a hand winch - fun.

Drive to the only other campground open in Winter. They said they had no snow/ice on the road - they lied. Slide on the ice down and around a curve in the campground after checking in. Land in a snow bank. Spent the next several hours working with the clone of Denis Hoffman in Rainman to get the RV out.

Drive to Littleton WalMart and crash (did I mention it was about midnight now). We (me, wife, two boys) wake to find ice on the inside of the windows the next morning - heat had gone out. Did I mention I was new to RVing and all the systems?

Rush to catch Easter Sunday mass at Our Lady of the Mountains. Turns out there are two Our Lady of the Mountains. The one at Bretton Woods is closed (the other, which I had called without realizing where they were was in North Conway). Rush to Bretton Woods resort because there was to be a service there. No Dice - Pastor sick. So we ski.

After, we drive to Cannon. All state parks are closed. Where are we gonna sleep? Find a plowed parking lot that is supposed to have hook-ups but hook-ups are under umpteen feet of snow. Do I mention that we hadn't worried about the lack of propane heat cause we were counting on hook-up? Got down to 18 degrees that night and our door was actually cracked open due to carpet getting caught in door frame. No heat again that night.

No matter. We ski Cannon. Close to first chair. At lunch we call a RV repair shop and he says he can work on us if we get there by 3. Great! A couple more runs and we're on our way right? Wrong. I wipe out and have a yard sale that sends a ski precarously close to the edge of the run, ski glides to almost bottom of run. Can't take time to walk down the slope - 3 o'clock appt remember? - gotta ride the butt down. Re-attach ski (which somehow miracuously didn't go over edge) and straightline down slope. At RV shop it turns out that our LP guage was busted and we had no LP gas despite the guage saying "Full".

Two more days of uneventful skiing.

Then the snow hits. Parking lot at Attatash not plowed; wheels spinning; wife saying "maybe we shouldn't ski today"; me scoffing and securing a front row space. I'm feeling good; good day of skiing. Go to leave - lots of slipping and sliding but I get out of my spot. Then while crossing the Kanamunges road, the wheels start to spin.....and spin...and we are no longer going up. Thank God no one on the road behind us. I start to slide backwards. Luckily the only pull-out we've passed for miles is about 100 yards behind us and I back into it. Now, can I get out of it? Wheels spin; rv slides oddly. Without saying anything, the kids and wife start rocking their bodies to get the RV to slide such that our nose is pointing downhill. IT WORKS. We're able to accelerate, pull out of the pull-out and go back down the mountain.

Crazy thing about it, we all can't wait to do it again (of course, I've now bought chains, traction pads, and new tires!!!)
JimK - DCSki Columnist
January 8, 2009
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,987 posts
Strong entry from Steve. smile Didn't Chevy Chase or Robin Williams make a vacation movie just like that?
January 8, 2009
Member since 04/11/2003 🔗
1,326 posts
Originally Posted By: JimK
Originally Posted By: comprex

I don't care about all that. Lunch at Cortina -made- the trip.

Wow, what a trip.
My wife has noticed that male skiers have specially adapted memory patterns that within days/weeks block out all bad aspects of old ski trips.

BatGirl never ceases to point out the little study FEMA did on disasters after Katrina: guys never leave in time to avoid them.

I'm just lucky to have a chance at living it down wink
January 8, 2009
Member since 03/27/2005 🔗
3,530 posts
& to still make it to the slopes??!!..That must have been the ole pioneering spirit still in you all!!...I have nothing that comes close to these stories...Hope mine is not in the future...
Denis - DCSki Supporter 
January 9, 2009
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,342 posts
Last year on our annual scout troop ski trip to Canaan Valley, a no skiing but driving Mom trusted her GPS which took her into the Dolly Sods on a road that eventually turned to dirt and then deep unplowed snow on dirt. She backed up about 1/2 mile to turn around after finding a steep droppoff on the driver's side (she said a 100 ft. cliff, but she is pretty timid. She showed up at our lodging place hours late and hours after dark. She was well out of cell phone range all this time so we had no idea what had happened to her. I think she asked the GPS for shortest route.

This fall I looked at the Cataloochee web site out of curiosity. They are first to open in the east in recent years and I skied there once long ago when I was living in Alabama. I wanted to see what changes they had made in 35 yrs. Their page had a bold font statement to not use GPS directions in winter. Many of the local roads are unpassible in winter. "Please follow our directions for access from any nearby city or interstate." What a smart idea! I wonder how many other ski areas have done this. I doubt that it is many.
January 9, 2009
Member since 04/11/2006 🔗
555 posts
My GPS always tries to take me that way also. A couple of years ago (in the summer) I decided to find out what it was like. The drop offs from that road (which is no wider that 1 1/2 cars) is easily 100ft in some places. eek The trip that the GPS said would take 30 minutes took 90, but it is a beautiful drive (if you have strong nerves)

Ski and Tell

Snowcat got your tongue?

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