Leap Day: Option Two

Thursday night I got a text from Ernest who had conducted our chair ride interview (https://tinyurl.com/s8pafcc ). He had told me he was doing a Summit Challenge at Park City Resort and sent me the info. I was excited for him—the Summit Challenge required hiking to the top of seven peaks at the resort and skiing black and double blacks within one ski day. The proceeds raised were for SOS Outreach, a nonprofit that works with youth from 9-18, preparing them for college, work, and ultimately to give back to their communities. Skiing is a part of that development that helps build confidence, new skills and mastery.

On the website I noticed that there was an intermediate level that did not include hiking or extreme skiing, but required skiing five lifts that spanned the Park City Mountain and Canyons areas. Perfect!

I texted Ernest saying I was going to sign up for the Adventure Challenge level. As I was signing up, he texted that he had just finished a phone call with his friend, Ken, who wanted to do the Adventure Challenge, too. Later Ken and I connected and we planned on meeting up to ski the Challenge together. About an hour later Ernest added Colleen to the group of Adventurers! I was so looking forward to skiing with these newfound friends.

In 2016 Scot and I went to my 40th college reunion. One of the panels discussed whether or not today, with the increased competition to get into elite colleges, we alumni would be admitted.  It was a great self-introspective question. One of the panelists introduced me to the term, Aggregator. She said she thought she would be admitted today. She described herself as an Aggregator, a person who brings people, ideas, concepts, and/or resources together, and this trait set her apart.  I had never heard of the term (and I hope I remember the term correctly) but it fit exactly how I had thought of myself. I like taking divergent thoughts or concepts and recognizing the linkages between them. I like introducing people and bringing people of different backgrounds together.  I’ve always thought, because I am not an expert-type person and have been a self-described “Jack of all trades, master of none,” I must have some talent that adds to the whole. And being an Aggregator described what I thought might be my strength.

Ernest Oriente is the ultimate Aggregator. In a ten-minute chair lift ride, he recognized that I might add to the stew of friends, acquaintances, business associates and resources that swirled around him.

Bringing Ken and Colleen and me together was just one way Ernest aggregates.

Ken and I met at the parking lot before 8 am Saturday morning. I felt like I had known him all my life. He and his wife have had a home in Park City since 2016. We met up with Colleen at the sign-up stand in Canyons Village. Colleen is an elegant, 6’ tall slender woman. Ken and I were about the same height, though I probably outweighed him by 20.

Ken, Colleen and me. Summit Challenge, Adventurers

Our Challenge began at the Super Condor Express. We took the Orange Bubble Express to the top to get to the start, and at the top of each required lift there was a check in area where our badge would be punched. As we had started our day on the Orange Bubble, looking up I could see one person hiking up Murdock Peak—one of the extreme challengers. The entrance to the Murdock Peak hike is at the top of Super Condor—by the time we got there the line hiking the peak looked like a trail of ants.

Summit Challenge extreme skiers first summit hike

Park City was Ken’s home mountain, and he was intimately familiar with the lifts and runs. Colleen had a season pass to Deer Valley, so while she lived in Park City, she didn’t ski here often. And then there was me, an occasional PC visitor, though I had just skied the Canyons side two days before.

We skied Upper and Lower Boa and warmed up. The three of us were well matched. Ken guided us so we stayed on schedule and on groomed blues and blacks. Colleen was a beautiful and elegant skier, making smooth, rhythmic turns as though a waltz were playing on speakers. She reminded me of my good friend, Sue DeHoog, another tall, elegant skier. We took a few runs on Super Condor, and then moved to Sun Peak Express. After a few runs off Sun Peak, we skied beyond the Sun Peak loading area, beyond the base of Super Condor, and headed back to the Canyon Village. This route was the through the Willow Draw to the Rip Cord tow—yesterday I had seen the mother moose on the side of the mountain, so I kept scanning the hillside.

Just beyond the Rip Cord, I had the good fortune of a second moose sighting! I stopped to take a picture this time, but she was too far away, and all I got was a black spot beside a bush. But she was there, and I was lucky enough to see her twice.

The day was Leap Day and it was a Saturday. The crowds were so much larger than any I had been faced with all season. The wait to go back up the Orange Bubble was only ten minutes, but it seemed like forever. We took the Orange Bubble a couple times and then headed to our third checkpoint, Iron Mountain Express. Iron Mountain was crowded when we got there, and after skiing a few runs, we could understand why—the intermediate runs were soft, wide and great fun for cruising. We took Leadfoot, Double Nickel, Mercury, and Copperhead (twice!). Copperhead was nearly empty—it was the three of us! And the views of the valley and Canyons Village were spectacular.

The morning had begun windy so even though the temps were above freezing, it felt cold. I had not brought my Alchemy coat in favor of lighter layers. My gaiter didn’t quite cover the back of my neck, so I pulled a wool gaiter out of my backpack. And I was getting hungry. It was around 11:30, and I hadn’t eaten much for breakfast. I snagged an old salted nut roll from the bottom of my bag, and it was enough to tide me over.

To get to the Park City Mountain Village area there’s the Quicksilver Gondola to go over the separating ridge. At the top of the gondola, the extreme skiers were checking in to the Limelight peak, and the double black under the gondola. It looked icy. We all wondered about Ernest’s group that was skiing the extreme.

From the base of the Gondola we took an easy run to the base of King Con Express. Colleen and I were talking food more and more, and so we opted to get our badges checked off and go in for the food and beverages at the Mountain Village.

King Con: check; ride up Silverlode Express, ski down Home Run to Mid Mountain Meadows to get to Pioneer lift. Pioneer lift: check.

Pioneer lift is a slow, fixed chair, and a nice, relaxing last ride of the day. From the top of Pioneer, we skied to Summit House where Bonanza, Silverlode and Motherlode Express chairs converge. We began our descent to the Legacy Lodge at the Mountain Village by taking Home Run to Silver Queen. At the top of Silver Queen I paused for a second. In my mind’s eye I could see Scot ahead of me, making turns down Silver Queen the last time we skied together in January of 2018. Snow conditions were horrible at Park City, but we had been having a fun time anyway.

I paused only seconds. Ken and Colleen were streaking ahead of me, and as I caught up with them, Ken directed us to Drift run that traversed us to King’s Crown—an empty run, soft and fast that took us right to the bottom of the Legacy Lodge, where the extreme skiers were waiting.

We joined a group of about six, and Ernest’s wife, Patricia joined for the after party. Ernest offered me water from his Nalgene bottle. I took a big swig and was pleasantly surprised that it was some kind of whiskey—I’m guessing Jameson’s—and the party began.

After party on the Legacy deck

My Alchemy of Ride garb was a big hit with the group. Even though I didn’t wear the full Monty (jacket and pants) I had my Alchemy snow pants on. I passed out cards and told the story of how I had met Lynn and her husband, Dave Irwin, the Crazy Canuck. On the mountain one of the checkpoint staff recognized me from my pants.

As the party broke up, Ken and I met back at the parking lot. The traffic was jammed. Everyone was coming off the mountain. Ken invited me back to his home to wait out the traffic. I followed him home where his wife Claudia was waiting for him. They have a beautiful twin home on a golf course, and the views!! They look out onto Park City Mountain–just spectacular. Ken said that every morning he opens his eyes and, from the comfort and warmth of his bed, looks out at the Park City ski runs which lure him out of bed. Claudia’s beautiful artwork adorns their house.

And again, following Ken was right. The visit was long enough that all the traffic had cleared out and my drive back to Midway was smooth sailing.

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