Thursday, January 31, 2008

Light Skiing: Brandywine and Seven Springs

I've said before that I don't really like the Ohio winter because it's cold and dreary and you can't bike everywhere. To be fair though, all this would be forgiven in my mind if there was one decent-sized hill anywhere in the area because then you could at least go skiing or sledding or commit other friction-defying acts of winter mayhem, but there really aren't so we have to make do with what we have. So it goes.

Anyway, last week we had off for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day so to celebrate our free day a few of us decided to go skiing. My friend, Alison, lives about 40 minutes outside Cleveland near the tiny ski area called Brandywine, and has connections that let us get free ski tickets. Hooray! As you can't beat free, a few of us headed out to Brandywine to spend an afternoon of skiing. It was a fair bit below freezing (in case you haven't detected a general trend in this observation) but the sun was out and blazing, and that can make all the difference.

So how tiny is Brandywine anyway? Well here's the view from the top-
Ok to be fair, that doesn't really tell you much, so here's the view from the bottom-
Realize at this point that the first picture includes the top part of the second picture, and there you have the entire vertical (which I think is about 250 feet, compared to nearly ten times that at a place like Wildcat, NH). What you're looking at here is the "black diamond" run of the resort that probably has the same inclination as a more difficult intermediate trail nearly anywhere else, and would be decent if it wasn't over in 15 seconds. I kept running an experiment to see if I could go down the whole thing without turning once, and would've succeeded except I was on rental skis and wasn't sure if I could trust them to abruptly stop as quickly as my own skis do.

Anyway, in our group three of the five were beginning skiers so luckily that only left two of us to commiserate about the lack of difficulty. We ended up doing the terrain park of sorts several times, except paradoxically you didn't have enough hill to do more than perhaps one jump of the five or six so you just coasted over the man-made ridges to make things interesting after your one jump. Somehow, this left something to be desired, but we still had fun hanging out and since it's not like I had to pay for the privilege of my lift ticket I suppose I should stop complaining. After all, it's not Ohio's fault that it's not, say, Colorado.

The interesting thing about skiing last week, by the way, is I actually went twice in one week! Yay! This doesn't happen too often due to a combination of work and geography, but I went home to Pittsburgh this past weekend and convinced my mom and dad it would be a great idea if we spent Sunday at Seven Springs (about an hour to the east of Pittsburgh). Seven Springs isn't exactly a giant mountain either if we're looking at vertical, but at 750 feet it's got Brandywine beat by a decent shot so it was fun. It was actually around the freezing point, and snowing-
It was fun to ski at Seven Springs because I used to go there several times every season right until I left for uni (I started skiing when I was 5 years old), so this was my first time skiing there in four years. The only annoying part about the whole thing was there were quite a few snowboarders who didn't know what they were doing- I don't mind snowboarders who are actually in control and are not idiots (no, really! I swear!) but there's something about boarders who go on trails too difficult for their skill level and scrape off all the good snow that really annoys me. (Such as the lack of good snow that there wasn't much of to begin with.) Now it really is kind of comical to be heading down a difficult run only to have snowboarders falling to the right and left of you, but this starts to become a lot less funny when one of them runs into you.

Yes, you read that last bit right. I was heading down my very last run when there was a Snowboarder Dude who was out of control and barreling down the slope, and boarded right across the top of my skis. Luckily I'm good enough at this to regain my balance and not fall when someone does something so asinine as run into me because he literally can't control his own actions, but Snowboarder Dude paid for this by falling head over heels a fair fraction of the slope before stopping. After noting to myself that he was all right I went past him without stopping, because to be fair I don't want to socialize with anyone who just hit me. I noticed later that he scratched up the top of my skis pretty well, too, so it's probably best I wasn't near him when I discovered that detail.

But anyway, to finish off I will note that I brought my skis and ski stuff back to Cleveland so anyone who wants to make a foray to one of the little places around here should let me know! And as my joke of the day, here's something my high school physics teacher used to tell me whenever I mentioned skiing while he was around-

Q: Why are skiers like crack addicts?
A: Because it's all they think about, all they talk about, all they do on weekends, they're obsessed with white powder, and it's going to kill them eventually.