Friday, December 25, 2020

No Sleep For the Wicked: Pandemic Skiing Sucks


I ski at Mt. Hood Meadows, a resort serving metropolitan Portland. I was hoping to go skiing often as a diversion to get me through the dark days of quarantine. I’m rethinking this as pandemic skiing sucks.

The first reason is that the weather recently has been crap – rainy snow, or snowy rain.

And if a good day arrives?

Back in November I read Meadows’ operation plan to limit skiers to 3K each day. Note, according to a three-season averaging of peak day stats, on the most crowded days there were only a few hours when the number of skiers were above the 3K mark. This combined with no lodge facilities, no public transit to the mountain, would result in my getting to the mountain’s parking lot and finding a space easily.

Nope. When the days aren’t total washouts, the lots fill up even quicker than non-pandemic days. This is because most people are driving cars with just one or two people inside of them.

Management also thought that dynamic pricing, making skiing off-times cheaper than peak times, would reduce congestion. Maybe it has to a moderate degree. But if conditions are good one can’t get a break going mid-week, as the entire state, or nation, is work-from-home, meaning schedules can be jiggered and mid-week skiing is easy to do for the masses.  

The notion that people will show up in the morning and leave in afternoon only applies if conditions are bad.

Then there is the singles line. Before, even on crowded days, one could always get runs in by jumping on a chair with other groups. The high-speed quad chairs, which are the backbone of Meadows’ operations, whisk hundreds of skiers up the mountain, the singles line usually moving at a good clip.

Now, singles need to social distance, one skier at either end of the chair – or ride up alone if that’s possible. So, any efficiently to skiing solo is now gone. 

Still, I’m not giving up, yet. During this super peak time of winter holidays, I’m stumped as to when I am able to ski and when the crowds and conditions might be worth the hassle.

A couple of weekends back there was the occurrence of a brisk, bluebird day right after a significant snowfall. Not only was there no parking at Meadows for the entire day, but the entire system of parking, from Government Camp to Cooper Spur, was shut down by boneheads with no traction tires taking up space.

On days like that, the outside feels like a rationed commodity, available only to a select few. This is not a good feeling.

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