“What Would Happen If I Lick the Metal Chairlift Bar?”

I actually can’t really remember what exact things have been going on in the snowy regions of California (… or at least my snowy regions) since the snow officially started… other than most of what’s been going on has been full of people, in the fullest possible way that full of people can be.

Calm after the storm.

The easy assumption would be that a snowstorm which results in feet (and feet and feet) of snow being dropped in a relatively wide area that shuts down transportation, knocks out power and closes major infrastructure pillars (like, um, money-making/job-providing ski resorts) would breed extreme isolation – it was the opposite. It was – like Christmas and the whole holiday season – one of those community-building events, where shared inconvenience actually made people come out and properly acknowledge each other.

There are many things I have been loving about living here outside of my constant ‘LOOK AT THE VIEWS!’ euphoric state, but I really, really like being back in a place where I am surrounded by a whole range of people. In San Francisco, I blended in, and for the first time (in a long time), I was one of a crowd. Being in tech was normal (and boring); having a PhD was not a conversation stopper. I instantly met a lot of people who had shared experiences and similar backgrounds and a common appreciation for things I liked, and I had no problem dropping myself in and making genuine friends who were in a parallel stage of life. In Truckee, I’m back to being an outlier. There’s obviously a huge Bay Area influence, but it’s mixed in with a diverse set of ‘locals’, who, for one reason or another, at some point decided mountain-life > city-life, and found a way to perch themselves by a large lake nestled somewhere in northern California.

The Truckee River, snow-style.

In the four (four? five? Time flies?) months I’ve been living up here, I’ve met some of the most interesting people of all ages and from all walks of life, through stopping and talking to shop owners, chatting to people on lifts, making small talk during morning assignments with the other ski instructors, befriending neighbors, bantering with the shuttle drivers… and it’s been so refreshing to be back to having that variety in my day-to-day, even if it is just in passing. I feel like I’m actually part of a community, and it’s a really nice feeling to have.

On the flip side, I am in a weird position. I’ve been doing a small (very precise, clearly) social experiment with the parents of the kids I’ve been teaching, where I mention casually that actually, this is a part-time thing I’m doing, and actually, I just moved up here from San Francisco, and I work remotely and am a software developer most of the time. It’s slightly (very) appalling how their tone changes and the conversation shifts, mostly in the direction of slight shock, and then (mostly from the fathers) a glare of extreme green-eyed jealousy (and then they (probably) tip me less, because oh hey, Bay Area software developers usually make beaucoup $$$, and we usually don’t have enough time to go into the whole, well actually, funny story, I keep only half of that part of the conversation). Anyway – it’s been interesting (for lack of a better word) to watch, and it’s inspired a lot of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ feelings and also a lot of #truckeelove pride. I’ve also been feeling an odd life dichotomy, where I’m switching in and out of Mountain Life and SF/SF Life, almost like I flip a light switch in my brain to ignite whichever personality and skillset I need.

Anyway, in other news:

My book this week was When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (thank you, Steve), which is a quick, very sobering memoir of a neurosurgeon who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer during his final year of residency. A sad five stars.

Saturday’s ‘Mango Minions’. Totally not in formation, possibly dancing.

As it was MLK weekend, I was on for skiing on all days, and so spent all of Saturday and Sunday hanging with some wee ones. I struggled on Sunday – I had two girls at the start who were amazing, and I was super psyched for the day, as they were genuinely the same level, and the one girl started her conversation with me by telling me she didn’t want to wear a turtleneck today because it looked weird, and it was ALWAYS important to look fashionable while skiing (instant kindred spirits). I then ended up adding two boys, who were about three levels apart but wanted to ski together, and it was… tough. Like, I ended up turning rapidly into the Broken Record Fun Police tough (No, you cannot throw ice at each other. Please do not ski through the trees. No, we can’t go down a black. No, we are not going down Vista. STOP THROWING ICE. No, we are not going down Vista. Seriously, kid, if you ask me one more time… no. Stop. No. Stop. ARGH.).

I might dognap Bandit’s puppy.

Ski patrol has (helpfully) been camped out in between two of the lifts with Bandit the Avalanche Rescue Dog and has lured the kiddos over with cute puppies and chocolate and promise of a demonstration of Bandit’s rescue skillz at 2:30. This has resulted in me having to have lengthy chats about avalanches, where they come from, why they happen, Bandit, puppies, training dogs, dying, ski patrol, mountain safety… and then having to have very extended cookie breaks watching the performance. It’s been a blessing on the overcast days.

I should really read up more on avalanches, so I can stop making stuff up. I should also read up on how ski lifts work, so I can really stop making that stuff up.

On avalanches: I’d read this NYTimes article ( back in 2012 when it came out, and it was eerie and fantastic.

Backside powder days.

I got called off work today, which meant I got to spend the entire day free-skiing with Torunn. I have not skied that much in years, but the snow was fantastic, and the mountain was fairly quiet (even given the holiday), and we hit long groomed runs with a light coating of powder and soft, deep moguls in bright sunshine from 9-4.

Torunn, and Martis Valley.

I am deliciously tired, but man, I was in my ski zone today. It was much better than Friday when I attempted to go out post-interval run at the crack of dawn (which was post an absolute thigh-burner of a second snowshoe in 4ft of powder the day before) for an hour over lunch – there was so much powder, and my quads hurt so badly that I (almost) sat down and cried on the side of a long run down the Backside that would normally have been glorious.

Snow sinkholes.

Instead, I coughed my way to the bottom, sobbed quietly in the lift line, and slogged home, tail between my legs, while coughing up stuff uncontrollably… and finally admitted that for the past two weeks, I have absolutely been sick, I definitely have bronchitis, I probably have a fever, and ignoring that was probably doing more harm than good. Maybe admitting defeat was what it took (…or just two full weeks of OD’ing on OTC meds), but I finally feel like I crossed the sickness hump.

A lot went on this week.


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