Skihad BCE: Speed, Arrows, Groceries and Avalanches

This is the second episode of Skihad BCE. The first is here. To remind, the CE / BCE system we use today can be adapted to Coronavirus Era and Before the Coronavirus Era without even changing the initials. In my case, CE began on March 15, 2020, about a month after the events in today’s story.

After 54 days of lockdown, it seems hard to imagine that these things ever really happened.

Wendover, Utah sits right on the Nevada border and has nothing to recommend it other than being a day’s drive from Tahoe City, California. Those who award lodging and eating stars were parsimonious when they got to Wendover and they deserve proper recognition for this excellent judgment.

There is a big white line painted across the main street showing where freewheeling Nevada ends and buttoned up Utah begins. The line hardly seems necessary because of the abrupt end of a parade of shabby casinos bedecked with blinking lights, a high percentage of which still do.

Unless you have in mind setting a land speed record, you won’t likely be going to Wendover. It is just to the west of the Bonneville Salt Flats, where wheeled vehicles have been pushed to their limits by teams of drivers and mechanics, who are presumably housed and fed in Wendover during their quests to be the fastest ever at something or other.

Speed weeks support Wendover’s economy from August through October but finding a room there in February is no challenge whatever. Flight archery is another reliable money maker. That is a sport created by someone I’d like to meet. It tests man’s ability to shoot an arrow for distance but not for accuracy. Huge flat places are apparently conducive to this activity and I chose the picture to give you an idea of hugeness and flatness. Also, because I hope to win “most unlikely picture ever to appear in a ski story.”

Recall that my drive across California and Nevada was measured in podcasts. Splendid as they are, podcasts don’t include weather reports. After a restful night in my zero-star motel, the morning’s goal was a grocery store in Salt Lake City, an easy four podcasts to the east. There I would add to the previously earned points for flexibility by doing the week’s shopping for a daughter, a son-in-law, three grandchildren a nanny and me.  Though I noted unusual crowds in the Whole Foods, I did not associate them with an impending blizzard.

The daughter and family arrived in Snowbird within minutes of the mighty all-wheel-drive Ford Escape filled not only with ski gear but also two brimming cart loads of recently purchased food. Huge point totals were achieved.

If you are thinking about feeding seven people for a week and tapping your shopping list into your phone while flying across the country, it is perhaps unsurprising that a few items might be missed. This was relatively easily solved with a return trip to Salt Lake City (one podcast each way), but it could well have been a disaster.

I had made quite a hit at Whole Foods on my earlier visit as it is apparently unusual to see 70-something unaccompanied males pushing a brace of fully loaded shopping carts. There had been multiple requests for help in finding items that would not normally have been in my culinary repertoire, but then I am not three, nor six, nor eight, nor gluten free so my range of food flexibility is too broad for the precision required. Pretty much the entire line of checkout people burst out laughing when I reappeared and said, “I’m back.”

When skiing, snow is generally thought to be a good thing but too much of it, especially in Little Cottonwood Canyon, is a different matter. The famed valley east of Salt Lake City is steep on both sides and, combined with the fluffy snow that falls there, makes it well-suited to avalanches.

I returned from Whole Foods “take two” barely ahead of the road closing that would last for more than a day.

The closing of Snowbird on Presidents’ Day because of four avalanches was described in “Skiing is an Outdoor Sport” posted about a month and a half ago. Careful readers will remember Mr. Type A, a New Yorker who likely worked on Wall Street, berating a hotel clerk because the mountain was closed by the avalanche on the morning of the busiest day of the year and the first of his vacation.

So, how is the coronavirus lockdown working for you, Mr. Type A?

Here’s what you do when the mountain is closed, and you are three.

The fresh snow set up the rest of the week. On Tuesday, February 19, the Dow Jones Industrial Average would hit its all-time high. My listing of corona highlights includes nothing for this period.

Here are some of my Skihad teammates. How could I not have taken a picture of the three-year-old on his first magic carpet day?

A wiser and more experienced amateur epidemiologist would have paid more careful attention to a grandchild, a daughter and a nanny being felled by the flu, but how little we knew back then.

4 Responses to “Skihad BCE: Speed, Arrows, Groceries and Avalanches”

Bruns Grayson, May 07, 2020 at 12:34 pm said:

You missed seeing the Enola Gay which is in a hangar in Wendover.
Also, describing a six hour drive as a day’s drive is a very strong indication that you did not grow up in the west.


Haven Pell, May 07, 2020 at 12:49 pm said:

Bruns, Your comment sent me directly to Wikipedia for a refresher course. Here is what I found: It seems I missed the Enola Gay but more because it had been moved to the Air and Space Museum annex near Dulles airport. Had I but known that Wendover AFB was a bombing range, much would have been explained. Though you are correct about driving and my eastern roots, the reason for the six hour limit is the advice of my brilliant 14-year trainer who began her tenure with a request to help with my back. Whatever took you to Wendover?


Garrard Glenn, May 07, 2020 at 1:23 pm said:

Can anyone drive on the salt flats, or is access to them somehow restricted?

If access is not restricted, I suggest you rent next time a high-end SUV, and drive it as fast as it will go across the salt flats. Then slam on the brakes, and enjoy the long series of skids that will ensue. A kind of vehicular salt-skiing.


Haven Pell, May 07, 2020 at 1:27 pm said:

Probably can, but I am rooting against a next time.


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