February 4, 2007
Jerry and Will Ski Mt. Baldy
One of the attractions of Harvey Mudd was that even though it was located in sourthern California there was skiing only thirty minutes away. That seemed like a shorter distance than certain other campuses in Pittsburgh or upstate New York advertised. When we dropped Will off in the fall of his Freshman year Odette and I drove up to the Mt. Baldy ski area to see what was happening there. It was an epic trip in a daewoo subcompact. Odette was terrified of the road and even more terrified of the prospect of me driving. Bicycles passed us going uphill. We got out at the parking lot but Odette retreated to the car after one look at the lift. The car filled with smoke from the brakes on the way down.
In February when it was cold and rainy in Seattle a break to visit Will seemed in order. We went down to Claremont for Family Weekend and I took along my snowboard boots and bibs. We stuck around the Sunday after the festivities and picked Will up at 10:00 in the morning for a ski trip. Once we figured out how to fold down the back seat we fit Will into the front and his gear into the back of a small Chevy.
I drove this time and the trip seemed much shorter and less scary. Once we got Odette talking about religious experiences she even seemed to relax her death grip on the door handle. There was no visible snow on the way up and the parking lot was sunny and dry. Will didn’t want to take his skis with him but I cajoled him and he gave in when he saw other people with skis on their cars. They gave us a 50% PSIA discount. Odette got a $15 sightseer ticket.
We only saw traces of snow on the way up lift one. The lift towers were identical to those on the old Thunderbird lift at Snoqualmie. The guy at the top station was wearing a ski mask. There seemed to be a small patch of snow for beginner lessons, otherwise desert.
I went to the rental shop and discovered that I’d forgotten my regular glasses. I guessed at what went in which block on the form and for $25 they gave me the most beat-up board I have ever seen. The base looked kind of like it had been worked over with a cheese shredder. The bindings were too close together and they were set up duck-footed with way too much front angle.
We skiied down between big rails and around a corner into a gully with a single cat track width of snow which we followed to the bases of two lifts. We took the bigger one and rode it up to the top of the ridge where a single cat track of snow took us back down to the bottom. It reminded me of Timberline in August.
After two runs we took the baby lift back to the lodge and had lunch with Odette. Two more runs with the camera (on one of which I lost my lens cap) and we were done for the day.
I’m not sure you could call what we did skiing, but it was actually fun. With four feet of snow the place would be awsome. Overall it reminded me of Meany – old gear, decrepit vehicles all over the place, buildings patched together – marginal climatic conditions – but potentially huge fun. The bowl where the intermediate lift is located looks entirely skiiable with well spaced trees. The upper lift wasn’t running so I don’t know what that terrain is like but it looked big and wide open.
The ride down was uneventful (except that I made a fool of myself blurting out when the folks in front of us couldn’t figure out how to get on the chair.) I don’t know if I’ll ever get back, but now at least I won’t be one year older when I ski the San Gabriels!