"Uh-oh. Big mistake," I quietly thought to myself. "What's next?"
Actually, what's next was obvious. There wasn't a choice. Aim my skis downhill, make turn after turn and, eventually, rumble down the ice-encrusted slope.
Over the years, I've skied the West Face run at the Mt. Shasta Ski Park dozens of times. It's rated as a black diamond level, but it's really more a high intermediate. Usually. Not last Tuesday.
Instead of powder or even semi-soft snow, the run was frozen. Solid. As I diddley-plunked my way down, the feeling on my skis was something I've only imagined in nightmares — using an dulled razor blade to scrape whiskers off my face without using any shaving cream. The skidding sound wasn't much better — like 1,000 monkeys simultaneously clawing a blackboard.
The West Face goes under the Douglas chairlift. Because it was a weekday, there weren't lots of people to see me floundering as I scratched my way downhill, skidded through a series of turns, and after taking a deep breath, repeat the process again. And again.
It was supposed to be my last run before lunch, but I wanted to stop on a positive note. So instead of rejoining skiing friends Dave Mauser and Mike Reeder, I hopped back on the Douglas chair. Instead of West Face, I enjoyed a zippy-fast, nonstop ski down Highland Glide, an intermediate run. It was icy, but in comparison it was a zippity-doo-dah breeze.
After lunch, the runs seemed easier. Although lower sections had softening snow, runs off the Douglas and Coyote chairs were still hard-packed and icy but, after West Face, they seemed quick and fun.
After telling Jason Young, Shasta Ski Park's general manager, an abbreviated version of my West Face tale, he laughed.
"I'm a ski racer," he laughed. "I call those fast."
Changing weather — fresh snow was expected the past few days — will make West Face and other "fast" runs more doable for nonracers.
In any weather, Ski Shasta is excellent for all ranges of skiers and snowboarders. It's especially good for first-time and beginner skiers, with a series of easy to increasingly more aggressive green runs off the Marmot chair. Intermediate and expert skiers can be challenged from both the Coyote and Douglas chairs.
Also available are two terrain parks, Silver Tip for beginners and Revolution for advanced skiers and riders, offering everything from small rails, table tops and boxes to more diverse and difficult rails, boxes and bonks.
Beyond the Boundaries, a program offered through Shasta Mountain Guides, takes backcountry skiers and riders out of the Ski Park to neighboring Grey Butte for pick-your-own routes through open glades, old-growth tree runs and meadows.
Less daunting is the tubing hill, a kids-oriented activity offered Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"We try to have a variety of things for people to do," Young says, referring to the tubing hill, terrain parks and backcountry ski outings.
But Young emphasizes Shasta Ski, which last month celebrated its 31st anniversary, is focused on opportunities for downhill skiing and snowboarding, insisting, "That's what we're providing, good skiing and snowboarding."
After some difficult winters — Shasta Ski was closed two seasons because of drought — Young says heavy snow last winter and this winter have revived the area.
"This has been a good year for us. We're ecstatic to have everybody out on the mountain enjoying themselves," he says, terming this season's snow the best in a decade.
While holidays and weekends can lure upward of 3,000 people, that's not the case Mondays through Thursdays, when reduced rates are offered.
"You could about have the mountain to yourself," Young says. "That's one of the beauties of Shasta."
— Reach Lee Juillerat at email@example.com or 541-880-4139.