Friday, March 4, 2011

Not so Heavenly...

Day 29, Mar 3rd

Pockets of sunshine could be seen over the mountains when we woke as the cloud appeared to be breaking up and it was looking promising.

Clive and I headed out at 8:30, jumping the shuttle for the short ride to the gondola base station where we needed to hire our skis. I'm not sure if my feet and ankles were a bit swollen due to the altitude, but I was having problems with my boots with the very bottom of my shin, just above the ankle, pressing hard against the tongue of the boot on both feet. It was a problem I first encountered in Big White on the right boot only, but after a few tweeks it was alleviated. By the time I left Big White the boots were fitting fine. This of course made walking very painful, but also made skiing painful as I found out later because when I flexed or tried to get forward in my boots, I was taking the whole pressure on that one spot.

We hired our skis at one of the dozens of rental shop at the base of the Gondola, Powder House Skis. The casinos and just about everywhere else is full of vouchers, 10% off this, 15% off that. Ski rental is no different and the concierge had given us a voucher for 15% off at Powder House, although there were similar vouchers in at least 3 coupon books I looked at. They had a pretty good setup and friendly staff and although busy, we were fitted out reasonably quick. They have an unusual setup because all they take is a credit card authorisation for $50 and you pay for the skis when you return them after you have finished your skiing for the trip. At less than $30 a day and every 4th day free, it is a pretty good deal.

As I said, the whole process was pretty streamlined, but we were in no real hurry. When we arrived, the line for the gondola was at least 150m long!! It snaked up one side of the mall, around the top and back down the other. Clive went and bought lift tickets for both of us and we were shocked when they cost $90. They were under $80 if bought in advance online, but as we were unsure just how much we'd ski we decided we would just buy daily's. Even though $90 is less than the $100+ we pay to ski crappy snow in Australia, by Nth America standards it is pretty steep.

The trip up the gondola is spectacular, no way else to describe it. It runs fairly flat for a couple of hundred metres before steeply rising to the summit. The views back over the lake and town are breathtaking. I didn't bring the camera, but when I next go up the gondola I will be taking lots of pics and probably shoot a video as well. It has a small mid station right at the top of the first summit where they have a viewing deck and a small cafe. It is accessible only on the trip up where you can get off, have a look around and then get back on a gondola going further up the mountain.

When we got to the top of the gondola, we were presented with about 20 or so steel steps to get down to snow level, however there was a lift which was used less than I thought it would be. We jumped the lift and arrived at snow level. We then head to the giant trail map board to work out where we could go. Amazingly, you have 2 choices. An almost 100m walk up a slight hill to a lift on the Nevada side or a 200m walk, push, skate to pick up the California Trail and ski on the California side of Heavenly. Already I was less than impressed.

We opted to go to the California side which was little more than a wide cat track leading down to some lifts. The snow was very nice however, so we just picked one of the 2 lifts and headed up. At the bottom of the lift was a small sign where they list which runs have been groomed. We took a look and saw which runs had been groomed. When we got off the lift at the top we discovered another thing that Heavenly doesn't appear to do well. The directional signposting of runs is pitiful. I guess for regulars it doesn't matter much, but for first timers, it was sadly lacking.

We skied down a few blue runs which were decidedly on the greener side of blue. In fact by the end of the day, we had skied half a dozen or more blue runs which were much less difficult than the green runs in Canada that we have skied in Big White and Whistler. We stopped at about 11am for some lunch because we hadn't had anything for breakfast in our rush to get out on the slopes. We both had a burger and a cold drink and it was definitely 'on hill' pricing.

My shins were now killing me and I was not a particularly happy camper. We did a few more runs but my skiing was not good. I could not get forward in my boots because the pain was terrible, so I'm sliding down like 'Sammy Straightleg', conscious not to get in the back seat but unable to flex my boot. I asked Clive would he be OK skiing a few runs on his own whilst I went inside to a cafe and took off my boots hoping the 30 minutes rest without the boots on may help. He was fine with that so I headed into a big cafe/eatery and was lucky enough to find a seat straight away. I was soon joined by a couple of 30'ish girls on holiday from Florida and later by their husbands. All 4 of them were here for the first time and all 4 commented on how poor the signage was.

Clive came in after a bit and we had a coffee. He told me of a few nice runs he had found so after finishing our coffee we headed back out to them. They were nice gentle runs, all blue but they were barely blue even by Aussie standards. My shins weren't getting any better and Clive knew I was struggling, so I made the decision to come back down the mountain on the gondola. Clive stayed out and skied the extra hour and a bit until the lifts were ready to close.

I hobbled back to the ski rentals and returned my skis as I knew I wouldn't be skiing the next few days. The cost is a daily cost, no discount for multiple days, so it was pointless keeping them when the process to go thru hiring again is pretty painless anyway. I have a decision to make now. At the hire place they told me that they have a master boot fitter who works at shop 5 (they have 7 outlets throughout the town) and they were sure he would be able to get me going. I'm worried if I get the boots 'blown out' a bit, when things return to normal they may be too big. I guess I could just try some hire boots until I find a boot that is comfortable for now. At any rate, my shins will take a few days to recover, so I'll see what happens over the next few days.

I then needed to get the 200m back to Harvey's. I seriously contemplated taking the boots off and walking in my socks, but that would have been agony in the cold as I then remembered when we went to the general store the other day that they had cheap walking boots. I needed a pair, so I went in there and bought a pair, wore them out of the shop and threw the ski boots over the shoulder and walked back to the casino and room.

Diane and Lorraine were out shopping when I got back to the room, but soon enough they were back. They went downstairs for a bit of play, in the meantime Clive arrived back from the mountain. Clive said he finally found a longish run, but he was still unimpressed with the layout and infrastructure of Heavenly, as was I.

We had dinner at Hard Rock Cafe inside the casino before attending a show. It was a Comedy Central type show with 2 comedians and a comedian/MC. It was very funny and all the acts were quite good, although the final and main act, Rocky LaPorte, a New Yorker of Italian heritage was a class above.

There's really not much more to say about today, the mountain was disappointing, the skiing was even more disappointing from a personal view and I didn't remove the camera from it's case so I have no pics to show.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.


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