Sunday, February 21, 2010

Ohlson Mountain Revisited: Weekend Fun in Homer

Last year our trips to Ohlson Mountain consisted of dropping off Aurora for snowboarding. Another Christmas vacation to Alyeska renewed our interesting in skiing, and we were able to find used downhill ski packages for both Doug and Denver, opening up the possibility of skiing at Ohlson Mountain each week (no local rental place).

A season pass of $125 for the family makes this an economic reality, though the benefits are not excessive: the rope tow is only open Sunday's from 11-4, it doesn't usually open till the end of December, it is not groomed, and it is, after all, a rope tow. The Kachemak Ski Club that runs it is a nonprofit organization, and the tow operators are all volunteers pieced together from week to week, often pulling from whomever is there and trained.

The slope has never felt crowded, though most weeks I would say at least 50 or more people are out there. Most are kids (85%); parents usually just drop them off and then come to pick them up a few hours later. Some people out there are very good while others are beginners. It really is a great place for kids to get experience on skis since it is local and relatively cheap. A lift ticket at Alyeska might start at $45 per person, so you don't just bop in there for an hour or two like we do at Ohlson Mountain.

The rope tow is my nemesis. The first week we headed there this year we skied an hour, took a break for a half an hour and then skied another hour. We were all exhausted after that, and spent the week complaining about how sore our (shoulders, back, neck, hand, arms, wrists--choose any of the above and add your own) were. Ouch. The skiing was fun; the rope tow was torture. I missed 3 weeks of Ohlson Mtn. fun and returned last weekend. I had 2 goals: get a video of the rope tow and actually ride the rope to the top. I got the video: I got on the rope, got Doug to get on right behind me to help hold the rope up, and away we went! I held on as long as I could with 1 hand, which is what you see in my clip (I hope it works!). I didn't make it to the top. At the end of our 2 hours we got all our gear, backpacks, poles, etc. that were scattered around and all got on the rope at once. Doug went first, then Denver, then me. By that point my arms were exhausted from a couple hours of holding on, and where the mountain gets really steep at the top I just couldn't hold on any longer. I fell off it and sidestepped the rest of the way up (15 feet maybe) on my skis. My arms were, literally, shaking from fatigue. I am no wimp; I've got plenty of muscle mass and I lift weights and exercise daily, but that rope tow gets me!

Last week's snow was a fresh 6 inches of wet stuff. It was a day made for bombing: we would get off and just bomb straight down the hill. I go faster on my cross-country skis! I considered my job to "groom" as much of the hill as possible with my skis in 2 hours, and I did a good job!

All in all, it is a fun place to go every weekend, it gets us out for family fun, and the kids get better so when we go to Alyeska we'll get our money's worth!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ice Cleats, YakTraks and Studs--Necssary Footwear!

Signs like this are a common sight around Homer. This winter has been very mild, with temperatures dipping below the teens rarely, and 40 degrees not unusual. The mild temperatures have meant lots of rain, which turns into lots of ice! Thus, comments like one of my friend's, "I need to put on my chains," refers to putting on some sort of ice handling footwear. Yaktraks are popular, as are studs and cleats.

I have often joked this winter that there ought to be a new Olympic sport: icewalking! I have gotten so used to walking on ice as I traverse my slippery driveway from house to cabin. As of the past couple days, the ice has melted to the point that dirt is showing through, so now we'll have the mud problem rather than the icewalking problem. Take my pick!