As many of you who follow @hulagrrl210 on twitter already know, I like to ski. In fact, I might even like skiing as much as I do flying. During this time of year it is always a struggle to choose between two competing interests, and after I missed most of last season because of my pregnancy, this year spending time on the mountain has won out over spending time on a plane; I actually haven’t even been on a mileage run since November. There still were a few trips to Hawaii, and one to Asia, but the rest of my free time has been spent a little closer to home enjoying on of my favorite places in the world- Lake Tahoe.
With Views Like This, No Wonder They Call It Heavenly
There’s no question that my favorite place to ski is at Heavenly. It boasts the highest terrain in Tahoe, and probably has the best views too. The 4,800 acre resort straddles two states, California and Nevada, and most, if not all of that terrain is accessible. If you enjoy tree skiing and off piste adventures, this is the place to come. I learned to ski there when I was a young kid and have been going back ever since. When I moved to the Sacramento area shortly after college I bought my first season pass, and each year since it has been a challenge to rack up more and more vertical feet than before and spend as many days on the mountain as I can. When I’m not busy working, traveling, or at home spending time with my kid, that’s probably where you’ll find me.
Throughout the year Heavenly puts on different fun events, the most recent of which was the #GoProHunt scavenger hunt. Anyone could register to search for one of three empty boxes hidden somewhere on the mountain. Find one, turn it in, and you got yourself a brand new GoPro Hero 3. After losing my GoPro surfing in Bali last month, I thought why not test my luck and try and win a new one. I’ve been skiing at Heavenly since I was 5 (and with more than a few spent days there this season alone), it’s safe to say I know my way around the mountain. That camera was mine!
Registration started at 10 and the first clues were tweeted out around 11. At 11:01am when I received the first hint on my iPhone, I was on the Nevada side at the top of Dipper Express Chair.
The highest lift at Heavenly- that’s easy, Sky Express! Too bad it was all the way on the other side of the resort from where I was. I quickly hopped on California Trail and headed in that direction. When I finally got to the top of Sky I noticed a few other people searching for the coveted GoPro we were all after. Once you get off the chairlift, the whole area is like a scenic viewpoint, but with so many people there looking in one place, obviously the camera wasn’t in plain sight. What a lot of people don’t know about Heavenly though, is that Sky Chair is not actually the highest point on the mountain; Monument Peak is and from there it’s possible to get a 360-degree of Lake Tahoe and the Nevada Desert. The only problem is, at elevation 10,067 feet, you have to hike to get there. It’s still in bounds though, so fair game according to contest rules. What a great hiding place! I followed Skyline Trail back towards to Nevada side until I found the secret boot path that I knew was the trail to the top. I popped off my skis, threw them over my shoulder and began my trek up to the true mountain top. No GoPro. There were however a lot of rocks, trees, and other obstacles…and not a lot of snow coverage. I take that back about this being a good hiding place.
Hiking to Monument Peak
Just then another tweet came in…clue #2 and this time I knew EXACTLY where it was.
It was the Fire Break gate on the side of Olympic Downhill. If you’ve ever wanted to ski down the Gondola line back towards the casinos, this is how you get there. The only other place marked with a skull and crossbones “you can die” sign is the top of Gunbarrel/The Face and with the Gunbarrel 25 also going on today, there is no way they would hide it there. It had to be Fire Break. I was already halfway back to Nevada at this point anyway, so I decided to go for it. Normally it would take a least 2 lifts to get there, but after I traversed through some trees and went for another little hike, I skipped a 4-minute Comet Express ride and was able to get straight over to the bottom of Olympic. It still took 3 minutes to ride to ride back up and as I got to the top of the lift, I saw a group of kids hovering by the gate. I skied over and confirmed that someone had just found the prize; All that was left was a small indentation in the snow.
Fire Break Gate
After that I skied back over to Tamarack Lodge and the GoPro tent to see if someone had found the first camera yet. They hadn’t! But with one more clue to go, I didn’t know if should go back to Sky Express or wait for another tweet. I decided to go for a quick lap on nearby Tamarack Express and stay close for clue #3. Just after I got on the lift, the next tweet from @SkiHeavenly came.
Of Course! Ripperoo’s Dog House- right at the bottom of the lift I had just got on…and FEET away from the GoPro tent and the lodge. #$%#! Not like I was going to jump off the chair (although to be honest the thought did cross my mind). What followed was the longest 2 and a half minute lift ride of my life! When I got back down to the bottom, sure enough, camera #3 was gone…I even checked the mailbox.
Ripperoo’s Dog House
With cameras 2 and 3 now spoken for, that still left number 1. After all this time, I knew my chances were slim, but I didn’t want to give up. @SkiHeavenly released another tweet making it painfully obvious where to go.
It was the scenic lookout on Ridge Run just below the top of Sky Express. It’s clearly marked from the trail (and on the map), and is along the side of perhaps the most popular run at the resort. I found it impossible to believe that no one had found that camera yet, but sure enough, when I made my way there, people were still looking.
Whoever found the case never turned it in and what happened to camera number 1 is still a mystery…all I know is that I didn’t come home with it. After my losing day of skiing, I eventually came down the mountain and reluctantly made my way back through the casino where I had parked my car. With $5 cash in my pocket, I thought wouldn’t it be fun to try my luck again…
Yeah, I didn’t win. But wouldn’t that have been great? That picture is actually from a few years ago, taken after some other fabulous day at skiing at Heavenly. Today I just wasted a half tank of gas driving up to Lake Tahoe, spent hours of my time searching for an empty box and then pissed away my lunch money in a $1 slot machine (luckily that sandwich place I stopped by on the way home takes credit cards). I still however feel like the luckiest girl in the world!
There’s a saying that goes something like- a bad day of skiing is still better than a good day doing anything else. I couldn’t agree more. While the spring conditions weren’t the greatest and I didn’t win a new GoPro, I still had a lot of fun. I skied 16,246 vertical feet, and as promised, that contest took me all over the mountain. I crossed state lines more times than I can remember, and after that little hike to the top of Monument Peak, which I’ve only bothered to do one other time, I took in one of the best views in the world. As the season draws to a close next week, I can’t help but look back on what a great year it has been. I’m truly blessed to have such an amazing place just two hours from home. I’m also lucky to have an incredibly patient and understanding husband who loves to spend time with our kid, and who puts up with me and all my crazy pursuits in life. Without him, none of this would be possible.
Up To No Good
At the end of this month, I start flying again. Instead of vertical feet, I’ll be chasing miles, and instead of pins on my EpixMix, I’ll be adding new lines on my FlightMemory. I now realize I have two incredibly different and very diverse hobbies. One of them takes me all over the world on a totally different kind of scavenger hunt for miles and points. The other keeps me a little closer to home, and for that I am grateful. All too often I think we overlook some of the fun that can be had playing in our own backyard.