Jan. 2

Skiing yesterday…missed the 9 a.m. shuttle so I decided to drive to the ski valley.  Driving up that last stretch, the road was pretty snowy and a few cars on their way down had hats of snow on their roofs a foot thick.  It looked sort of comical and I started to get pretty excited about the snow.  The trees were loaded down with it.

I decided not to take the parking lot shuttle even though my parking spot was at least a half mile from the base.  My legs were feeling tight and I wanted to warm them up a little bit before I got on my skis.  And its a good thing I did, because I ran into my friend Stefan in the cafeteria in the a.m. while getting ready…he already had his ski boots on and he waited for me.  He’d driven all the way from Albuquerque to Taos Ski Valley–three hours in the car that morning.

It was a little bit of a late start we were getting for a powder day–about 10:00 a.m. before we were on the chairlift.  Nevertheless hearing that he, though he works in Burque, bought a season pass and regularly drives 3 hours each way, to ski Taos for a day, made me feel pretty lucky.   I live a little over 1/2 hour from the slopes of a great ski mountain.  Taos was selected by National Geographic Magazine as one of the top 25 ski towns in the world.  Up there with the best.

I will talk in another post about why I haven’t bought a pass or skied in over 20 years but for now, meanwhile, winter is steady in the chimney business–I have work most days but not all day long–and so this year I can ski often and keep my phone with me and if somebody has a chimney emergency I can get there to help them that afternoon.

Anyway, yesterday.  First day of 2013.  First day the double black diamonds, the super steeps, the ones where when you are first starting to ski you can’t even imagine how anybody could get down something that steep–they were open.  The famous Al’s Run was open.  Reforma, etc.  I had my first wipeout of the season on Als, on the steep part at the very top, with a chair lift full of people watching, when a ski popped off as I was heading into that next soft bump.  Sort of humbling, since I’ll admit I skied Al’s, like most people do, to show off a bit.  And there I was doing a face-plant.  I was relieved that the ski popped off tho, because at least I know my bindings release.

Stefan ran a marathon about a year ago and is in pretty amazing shape.  I couldn’t keep up with him hiking the ridge.  (Taos has a think called “The Ridge” where you ride the lifts all the way to the top of the mountain and then you take off your skis and hike for a while.  There are actually two ridges.  But so you hike along the ridge and you can see a hundred miles or off to the West across the desert if you there are no clouds hanging around the mountaintops, and so you hike along carrying your skis or snowboard and then you ski down the avalanche chutes the descend down off the ridge.  Stefan insisted we hike it, twice.  And I couldn’t keep up with him hiking due to reduced lung capacity which I’ll explain in a minute.

But anyway, personally, as a middle-aged man myself at the age of 42, I like to take a few easy runs to start the day off to warm up but young Stefan wanted to head straight into expert terrain.  We compromised by warming up a little on Bambi, about two minutes of easy skiing and then we cut off into the long, steep run called Longhorn.

There are lots of skiers better than me, but nevertheless I am an expert skiier, and when you put a steep field of soft powdery bumps in front of me, I go for it and don’t hold back.  So far this year, there hasn’t really been any expert terrain open, due to lack of snow, and so New Years Day was sort of a grand opening of a lot of steep stuff, and after the recent snows it was fresh and soft and delicious.  But the physical exertion required of hitting those bumps hard, one after another, over and over, and even catching a little air and taking flight and adjusting position in the air to improvise a landing and transition back to bump-skiing, and keeping balance in all four directions  (left right front back) with poles planting between turns like little exclamation points or maybe more like semi-colons between each turns, and legs acting like stiff springs, at around 12,000 feet of altitude, is serious exertion.  A minute or two of that and I stop to catch my breath and my heart must be running 175 beats a minute and I’m sucking in air as fast as I can.

Because I was a smoker until 5 months ago, and after yesterday I’m pretty sure my lungs aren’t even close to full capacity yet.  Stefan quit smoking years ago, and he said it takes years to regain full breathing capacity.

“But don’t think of how long it takes to get back to normal,” he said.  “Think about the fact that every single day you get stronger.  Every single day.”

And so I will, for the rest of 2013, every day I will think of that.  Especially after the kind of exertion yesterday, where I could actually feel and smell some of the old smoker crud coming loose from my lungs and for the first time in months.  This seemed odd to me, that it would suddenly happen yesterday when I’ve been regularly working out cardiovascularly at the gym, and skiing easier stuff for a month now at altitude to the point where my legs got worked out hard enough so that when I returned to the gym during the ski-pass blackout period and did squats I found it a lot easier to lift a lot more weight that I could just a month ago.  So I thought I was in pretty good shape.  I can run 4 miles no problem, I can handle serious exertion for hours at the gym or at work, carrying ladders up ladders, hauling wood stoves around, etc.  But those steeps, that powder, at that altitude– took me to another level of exertion.  That kind of skiing, as Stefan said, is “100 percent or nothing.”

By the afternoon we were both pretty wiped out after skiing those steeps all day with only a couple of cruisers in between.  We quit a little after 3 p.m. and he had to drive all the way back to Burque to his lawyer job and his pregnant girlfriend.

I wish I could go skiing today again but I have too much work to do.  It is January 2nd, officially the first non-holiday of the year.

Which brings me to: Big news–Congress finally decided to do something besides obstruct the governing process, and actually sort of did a half ass job a little bit, voting for a deal to avert the “fiscal cliff.”  Which means payroll taxes are going up, as far as I know, for my employees.  And it means, as far as I can tell, that I will have to pay a bigger chunk on top of what they pay.  Which means, even tho the prez said taxes aren’t going up on the middle class, taxes are going up on the middle class.  Meanwhile, according to Forbes,  hedge fund managers get the best deal out of the thing.  Nevertheless, it was a supposed victory for the president, because he supposedly stared them down to the very end.  And so the prez is supposedly turning out to be a little tougher and shrewder in his second term than he was in his first one, when it comes to dealing with the domestic political opposition, though the political progressives, as usual, are very very upset and pissed off saying he caved in completely. 

Though I’m not actively involved in politics at the moment, I am still paying pretty close attention to the national and local news if not the statewide political gossip blogs.

As the year plays out, I’ll be using this blog to tell some stories not only about being a chimney sweep and a skier and a recovering smoker, but also about being a political organizer and campaign manager.   So stay tuned.

For today, at 7:53 a.m. that’s a wrap.