Monday, March 3, 2014

Snow Skiing at Snow Basin, UT

The good bulk of my work at NASA this last few years has encircled the SLS-Booster project. If you are unfamiliar, please go take a look at the rocket that NASA is currently developing. Or, you can read this link. Anyway, I am the NDE (Non-destructive Evaluation) lead engineer for SLS-Booster, which is similar to the solid rockets on the space shuttle(big white rockets on the side of the shuttle). These motors are built in Utah. Well, the last two years or so, we (ATK & NASA) have had some trouble with manufacturing them, so I have had substantial time flying to and from Utah to work for around 5-6 days at a time. (I will admit, many of my coworkers work far longer and harder than I, sometimes for 2-3 weeks at a time!) But, I know yall don't want to hear about work. Right?

Well, this last go-round, my wife was able to get a day free to fly out and see Utah. And, magically, we had some spare money laying around. This would be a special trip since until 2 years ago, she had never been west of Mississippi. She had heard about me travels over the course of my life to Wyoming, Montana, and California and she really wanted to join me. Additionally, we hope that I could wrap up work so that we might steal an afternoon to snow ski. She has only been twice, both times at eastern resorts that were not very good. Additionally, the last time I went, I blew out my ACL and had to have it completely replaced. It was a bet, since I was determined to work as much as I could and get all of my tasks done, that we would even be able to ski. Alas, the best laid plans and all, and indeed I found myself free at lunch on my next to last day. Meanwhile, she was awe stuck by just the view out of the hotel window. "Baby, you ain't seen nothin' yet!" I told her as we loaded up.

Susan Cross, the sales lady at our hotel (Comfort Suites, Ogden) is also a ski instructor. Obviously they also have very close ties to the resorts. She was able to get us some discounted ski passes for Snow Basin. And, we figured we would need every cent, since ski resorts are known to absolutely fleece people out of money for everything from ski rentals to food. The ride from the hotel was a short one, only about 30 minutes, and the roads were in great condition. The drive through Ogden Canyon is gorgeous, though not for the claustrophobic. It's a bbiiittt tight!

 I have to admit that the snow wasn't in very good shape early on, mostly because it was in the 50s! I was able to get by with my Tackle Warehouse T-shirt and my hand-knitted fish tabogin. After a few runs, we decided that it might be dangerous for us, since we had a lot of bad luck in nasty conditions, both of us having a knee claimed by ice. So, what do you do? Go eat! We headed to the VERY top for a meal at Needle's Lodge. That way we could get the absolute best view at 8,700 feet! And, we were told that it wasn't too busy.

 I was expecting to pay no less than $30. Maybe even more. But, there was something I HAD to do. See, growing up, we went skiing every year. For lunch, I always ate a loaded up baked potato. While I LOVED them, one of the reason I always ate them was that condiments were free. And being a young boy, I was burning calories like no tomorrow. I remember that the potatoes were $8. Those are 1990s dollars, no less, and we didn't have a lot of money for extras. So, free bacon bits. Free butter. Free sour cream. And a little potato to go with it. I bet I had 300 calories in condiments. Anywho, it was something I HAD to have for nostalgia. Oh, and throw in some tomatoe bisque and a roll. WOW! What a meal, and it was only $16.

 Alyse had a slightly different and equally good meal, beer and potato soup, turkey and avocado panini and a chicken Caesar salad!

After we were crawling out of our food coma, a storm blew up and managed to deposit some FINE powder on the top of the mountain. We went out and took full advantage! Alyse did a few more runs and left me to my own devices for the late afternoon. I guess she thought I was going to go "hog wild" or something. I had told her that I wasn't interested in going fast, just enjoying myself and seeing the sites, something that I never did as a kid. In fact, the only thing I did as a kid was to see how many runs I could do in a day while managing to cross off every run on the map. Green, blue, black or otherwise. Didn't matter, as long as I could point the skis down hill and go! Well, I am here to tell you that the combination of lack of confidence in my knee, thighs that won't quite keep up to the task, and ability to really see the forest through the trees have slowed me down. And also a terrible fear of going under the knife again......

Anyway, can you imagine what the locals though when they saw the two of us in our Auburn gear and Tackle Warehouse T-shirts? I actually brought my cammo coat, but managed to avoid wearing it.

When we got back to Comfort Suites, we relaxed in the hot tub, had a few drinks at their free guest social, then headed to Ruby River Restaurant for some prime rib and local brews! They brew their own right there at the restaurant! I have eaten there on every trip and LOVE it. Additionally, the Comfort Suites has been fantastic to me. They have great amenities such as the heated pool and hot tub, terrific breakfast at the attached restaurant, and the willingness to help you explore Utah! If you find yourself out that way, look them up! 

As I have told my wife and friends, I find myself feeling guilty that I have been unable to share the same experiences that my parents were able to afford me with my family. To be able to take my wife out west and ski at such a fabulous resort, even for a day....even an afternoon....makes me feel like I am doing the right thing! We are already planning a return trip with all 3 (gasp!) kids!