At home on the slopes sliding on Sierra cement

So this is Sierra cement.

Hmmm, more soup than the fluffy cloud that spoils skiers in the Rockies. Better exercise, certainly. Feel those quads.

With the family still back in Colorado, I'm stealing parts of weekends learning the new job by sneaking up to Heavenly, 20-25 minutes up Kingsbury Grade, closer to Gardnerville than the nearest resort from my house in an official ski community. Not that Carson Valley residents are ignorant of the bounty above. A readership survey I found in the office shows that 22 percent of the population skis or snowboards.

An icy New Year's Day matched the icy days at Vail. The middle of that 10-foot storm less than a week later matched snowy, windy days in Colorado, too. I feel right at home.

Heavenly generally has been a little warmer, which is always nice, and the lake view compares well with the peaks above timberline in the Rockies. Generous spacing between the trees here goes easier on the heart.

Cold wind and frozen beard and mustache on the lift during snow globe days are, well, pretty much the same everywhere. The old chairs are fast in the wrong places and oh so slow in the wrong places. The workweek stress ebbs just as fast.

You might have to be more patient with the crowds during weekends at Heavenly than Vail. The average Vail skier or boarder seems more experienced than here, at least where I've boarded so far.

Also, The Face and East Bowl above California Lodge, both listed as double-diamond blacks, match Beaver Creek's Rose Bowl and Grouse Mountain's single diamond runs.

There might be more pockets at Heavenly where you can escape the crowd, though. And that's where I had my ah-ha moment Sunday. I had slipped behind the Olympic Express to try North Bowl.

Sunday was crowded enough that I couldn't find parking at Stagecoach around lunch, even after three passes through the parking lots.

I finally surrendered grudgingly to Boulder's eternal (and infernal) old-school lifts. Warmed up and weary of the company where the high-speed quads work, I braved the "experts only" warning sign even though my skills don't quite match my enthusiasm and found myself knee-deep in only lightly disturbed powder.

It was pretty much a regular run that I'd expected to be skied off by now, and I had it all to myself. Wow.

And ouch. Soup on bumps burned the quads and brought on a distinctive cramp in the lower right side of my back that comes with working hard on the board. I'm not good enough that it's easy, which makes for a better workout anyway. No elitist champagne cracks from me. I don't mind the soup, something new to figure out.

Off to my left, in the trees where I couldn't see them, kids were yipping as they came down and the sun broke out.

That's skier for two thumbs up, wherever you are.

n Don Rogers, publisher of The Record-Courier, can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 208.


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