the week that was.

Here it is, y’all: A blow-by-blow of our week at Snowmass. Thanks for waiting.

Monday:
A tune-up day for everyone. The Wife had a great time skiing around the Funnel and Fanny Hill areas, and even tackled a gentle blue run in the Two Creeks area. She was very pleased, and rightfully so. The rest of us spent the day on the Burn and Alpine Springs, skiing my folks’ favorite runs. We all had a good time, except for the fact that Uncle Crappy’s skis had so much wax on them — thanks to the idiots at Willi’s Ski Shop in the North Hills — that the tips hung up each and every time I tried to turn. The techs at Gene Taylor’s Sports straightened that issue out with no trouble overnight, but I’d still like to take the time to thank the morons at Willi’s in the North Hills for fucking up the first day of my vacation. That’s Willi’s Ski Shops in Pittsburgh, folks — more wax than Madame Tussaud’s. Fuckers.

Tuesday:
Caught up with my folks in the morning, after The Wife forgot to put her ticket on the jacket she was wearing and headed back inside for a while. Mom got tired first, and after Dad when in, something told me I should call the condo, just to see how things were going.

When I turned my phone on, I saw there were like six voicemails from The Wife’s phone waiting for m, but I got the live version on the phone first, and she told me she had spent much of the morning in the ski patrol clinic, getting her ripped-up knee worked on. I flew back to the condo from the top of the Burn and heard the story:

She was pissed off because she had forgotten her ticket, and considered not skiing at all that day. But she went out, skied a few slushy runs down low on the mountain, and was actually going to head in after she got to the bottom of Two Creeks, an area she had enjoyed the day before. But while passing under a bridge, just a few hundred feet from the end of the run, she hit an icy then slushy patch and her accelerating skis just stopped.

An older guy in an Ohio State knit hat was the first one there, and The Wife sent him down to the bottom to call for help from the patrol. She got the full treatment — a sled ride down the rest of the run, x-rays in the clinic, etc. The diagnosis was a torn lateral collateral ligament and perhaps a partial tear of her ACL in the left knee. She got a fancy brace — much nicer than the one she got from OU when she blew her right knee playing softball in college — and, a couple days later, an nice Snowmass Ski Patrol hat — complete with the slogan “You fall, we haul” on the back — from her thoughtful husband.

Fortunately her sense of humor was not injured, not on Friday, when I gave her the hat, and not so much on Tuesday that she couldn’t hobble up to the Snowmass Mall for the annual Mardi Gras parade, an exercise in silliness that a bunch of Groundhogs were quite comfortable with. And Uncle Crappy came back to the condo with about three times as many beads as he showed up with, and all without flashing anybody. Much.

Wednesday:
You’ve heard me say previously that I wanted just one powder day. Just one. The rest of my party wouldn’t be thrilled, because to my folks, anything that’s not groomed is to be considered bad snow. I can’t blame them too much, because Dad broke his leg in fresh snow at Boyne Highlands the year before, just two weeks prior to the Snowmass trip.

So when we woke up to six inches of fresh snow at the condo Wednesday morning — and still falling — Mom just said she wasn’t going to bother. Dad gingerly tried one run and headed inside.

It’s been said that there are no friends on a powder day. This is true. Call me a shithead if you want, but I wasn’t too upset when he went inside, because I was able to head directly for some of the fall-line runs on the Burn before they got tracked up. Once they did, I skied a few runs through the Sneaky’s and Powerline glades in the same area. Fucking perfect: No traffic, no tracks, just floating through the pines. This is what I had been waiting for since Juan and I had skied A-Basin in a whiteout as 18-year-olds.

I also spent a lot of time on the lift looking up at the Cirque, which was closed because of avalanche concerns. The skiing up there would be just silly-good when the patrol opened it up … Maybe later in the week…

So I took a few more runs in High Alpine, but the snow had slowed, the temps were rising and the powder was starting to get a little heavy. By 1 p.m. my legs were jelly … so I went back in, rested up and we had dinner at the Woody Creek Tavern, seated just below a Steadman print — signed by Steadman and Johnny Depp — commemorating the cannon shot that blew HST’s ashes all over the valley. Nice.

And then we spent the rest of the evening in the condo, drinking and following the score of the Ohio State-Northwestern game while I frantically refreshed the ESPN page on my Treo. There’s some comparison between our situation and the olden days, when people huddled around a radio. I’m just not sure where it is.

Thursday:
Great skiing, especially for Mom and Dad — all that fresh snow groomed into sleek, soft carpets. We wore Mom out by lunchtime, and I took Dad down Campground, a rolling and not-too-steep black run that had been groomed in the morning. He loved the run and was tickled to death to have skied a black run in Colorado. And I was tickled to have taken him along.

Thursday was also the day I felt guilty as hell because The Wife was home by herself. Nursing the bum knee. She seemed to be handling it better than I was, but I still felt bad.

Until I tried to call her in the afternoon while I was waiting for the bus to Aspen, where we were all meeting for dinner. Mom and The Wife had headed over early to do some shopping, and I was going meet them for a drink. But when I turned my cell phone on to call, I first had to negotiate voicemails from my mother-in-law, who was babbling about … Ringo?

Huh?

When I got The Wife on the phone, she was almost as hysterical, BECAUSE RINGO STARR HAD JUST WALKED BY HER ON THE STREET IN ASPEN.

Celebrity sightings in Aspen aren’t unusual. The first time I was there I spotted Goldie Hawn and her children — I assume one of which was Kate Hudson, making my sighting a sort of double-in-the-making, since Kate Hudson would have been like 6 and a long way from being famous by her own self — wandering through the Snowmass Mall. As we arrived in Aspen on Sunday, I also saw Chris Davenport, a world-champion big-mountain skier who lives in Old Snowmass, in the Aspen airport.

BUT THE WIFE SPOTTED A BEATLE, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE. That beats just about anything.

(Here’s a question for y’all to consider: Who’s more famous than a Beatle? We talked about this at dinner, and could only come up with a very short list.)

And that led into dinner Thursday night, which was the culinary highlight of the week. We ate at Rustique, a relatively new country-French place in Aspen. Um, holy shit, good. Yum. Wow.

Friday:
Mom wasn’t skiing, so Dad and I kicked around the Burn in the morning. We took one ride up with an instructor, who started talking about the Cirque. Most of the bowl was closed on Thursday as the patrol blew up the now-wet cornices that had built up from Wednesday’s snowfall.

“It’s going to be great up there when it opens,” he said.

Yeah.

I still had doubts. There was no way Dad was going with me, so I’d be skiing alone. I had never ventured onto one of the double-blacks out there, partially because I knew that skiing back there by yourself isn’t a good idea … and mostly because I was scared shitless, by runs that I had never really seen.

So then Dad starts poking at me: “You should go. I’ll wait at Gwyn’s High Alpine where you come out.” He said if I didn’t show up within an hour, he’s assume I was dead and call the patrol. Very reassuring.

OK. Fine. Let’s do it.

Except that the surface lift to the Cirque still wasn’t open, and you could still hear charges being detonated off in the distance. A little dejected, I skied down to the top of Sheer Bliss, a nice blue run that heads straight down alongside the east side of the Cirque.

And then I noticed the gate for KT Gully, a steep chute that runs down into the Cirque from Sheer Bliss. The gate was open. And without thinking much about it I gingerly skied through.

You coast down a gentle slope about 30 yards until you get to the edge, which looks like it drops straight down. It’s bumped up pretty good, probably because it’s much easier to access than some of the other Cirque runs. As I’m peering over the precipice, a guy about my father’s age skis up next to me.

I grin. “Any suggestions?”

He smiled back. “I’ve never skied it either.” And then he hops off the ledge.

OK. If the old guy can do it, so can Uncle Crappy. I sideslip down the first five feet and start my first jump turn, landing on the front of a mogul. Another jump. Another.

And then I realize I’m actually linking deliberate turns down the face of this beast. I’m not in good enough shape to really ski bumps well, and skiing them on a face this steep is a different thing entirely. The East German judge wouldn’t have given me many style points, but after about a dozen turns I was standing at the bottom, looking up at KT Gully.

And that was pretty cool.

I got out my camera and took some shots, both of the run and of the walls of the Cirque spread out around me. And then I headed down this natural half-pipe that led back to Green Cabin and the Alpine Springs area — a trip that was actually more difficult than the descent down KT, lined with more bumps and trees. I was pretty beat when I made it out on to the groomed surface of Green Cabin, but I was pretty fucking happy as well.

Look. This isn’t a huge deal to some — I’m thinking of Dirt Merchant and Kewyson here — but on Friday I crossed a big boundary, one that I had spent years building up. That seal is broken, and I’ll be ready for more next year.

Our last night was spent at Krabloonik, the game restaurant where we had enjoyed a perfect meal the year before. It wasn’t this time — in fact, it was a bizarre experience from start to end — but by that point it didn’t matter much. We had a great trip, despite The Wife’s injury, and were all ready to wrap it up.

OK. There you go. I’ll get some pix posted in the next day or two, although the stuff from below KT Gully doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. And although I wish I had some pictures of nekkid breasts from the Mardi Gras parade on Tuesday, I’m afraid the best I can do is a chick in a gold bikini and body paint. Selah, as Dr. Thompson would have said. See y’all back there next year.

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oh yeah … basketball.


So back in January I mentioned that college basketball wasn’t doing much at that point to fill the void I inevitably feel at the conclusion of college football season. I’m sure I meant it at the time, although I’m equally sure the dearth of other fun winter activities was a huge factor in my post-holiday gloom.

We’ve gotten one of those straightened out — I think I might have mentioned something about skiing? — and college basketball season has just skipped past the “interesting” stage and headed straight to “hysteria.”

OK. Maybe not hysteria; That’ll come as we get deeper into in March. But Ohio State just kicked the crap out of Michigan State in East Lansing, in a building where visitors DO NOT WIN. The victory leaves the Bucks in a tie with Iowa for first place in the conference and, with three games left — home against Michigan, on the road against Northwestern and home against Purdue for the finale — in a position to do no worse than a tie for the regular season title if they win out.

Let’s look at that remaining schedule again: Home games against Michigan and Purdue and at Northwestern. That should be three wins, boys and girls, although the road game is a little scary considering that Northwestern’s version of basketball is an ugly stepchild of Dr. Naismith’s game, one that can force good teams to wilt out of sheer boredom. They almost did that to us in Columbus a couple of games ago, and they’ll be tougher in Evanston.

And then you look at the Hawkeyes. On Saturday, they travel to Illinois … and that’s a loss. They then host Penn State, a game they should win, and close out at home against Wisconsin, who’s always scary.

Another thing that could make it tough for Iowa is the incessant questions Steve Alford and his team are going to have to endure about the Indiana job. That can’t make those last three games — and the subsequent Big 10 tournament — any easier.

We’re not immune from that, I should add; after Mike Davis announced his resignation, a poll by an IU fan site named Thad Matta as the favorite, over Alford, to lead the Hoosiers next year. And while Matta has said he isn’t going to let outside speculation about the IU job be a distraction for the rest of this season, he hasn’t said he isn’t interested.

With the recruiting class he has coming to Columbus next fall — and with the fact that it’s unlikely the NCAA will hit OSU with another postseason ban as a penalty for Jim O’Brien’s, um, “loan” to that Serbian guy he, um, wasn’t actually recruiting — I don’t think Matta is going anywhere. Still, it would be nice if he would put it to rest.

But that’s all stuff for after the end of the season. We’re allowed to play in the dance in 2006, and it could be that Ohio State will be playing for a while.

ready. go.

Sorry. Getting caught up with work, dealing with hangovers, taking care of business, just being lazy. Cooking. Eating. Rocking. Rolling. Zigging. Zagging. Sleeping. Waking. Baking.

And now I’m back.

While Uncle Crappy was away:

* Winter ended. That’s been part of my alarming lack of focus since I last posted. No more college football, and no skiing to take its place. College basketball just isn’t picking up the slack, and the Penguins and Blue Jackets both suck. Pray for snow. Soon.

* I’ve been delving deeper into the soundtracks of the Warren Miller films I own — and some I don’t — via iTunes. Pretty cool stuff. But it doesn’t make the skiing jones any easier to deal with.

* Did I mention college football? We’ve already discussed the Fiesta Bowl, of course. Sugar Bowl? Happy that WVU won, especially since The Coochie Doctor’s new husband has been so supportive of our cause, and he deserves a BCS win for his boys. Orange Bowl? Happy with the outcome, but just an ugly freaking game. And I couldn’t help but think Ohio State would have kicked the shit out of Penn State if we had played in January. Rose Bowl? Wow. Vince Young? He’s good, and coming out to the NFL now is the right decision for him.

* Some of you are aware of the Groundhog thing. Info is coming soon. I promise. Keep the first weekend in February open. Spread the word.

* Remember my mention of the kick-ass chef’s knife I got for Christmas? I finally put it to use yesterday, while I prepped to make a Thai stir-fry kind of thing for dinner. The recipe wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but using a knife that feels that good in your hand is pure pleasure.

* Really. I meant it about the knife.

* I just got the XM Radio unit I got The Wife for Christmas up and running. I’ll never be without satellite radio again, boys and girls. If you haven’t tried it for yourself, Uncle Crappy gives it his highest recommendation.

* Work? Getting caught up. Dead bodies. Municipal-level bickering. Pretty much the same as it was last year.

* My picks in this year’s office Dead Pool: Ariel Sharon, Lady Bird Johnson, Patrica Kennedy Lawford, Ronnie Biggs and Karl Malden. Wish me luck.

* Via several friends, we’re about to be overrun by new babies. Uncle Crappy is available for light playing, babytalk and singing the occasional Grateful Dead song. But don’t look for me to change any diapers. It just ain’t happening.

* This year? There’s changes coming. I’m cautiously optimistic.

OK. We’re ready to go.