Skihad BCE: Winnemucca
Throughout the month, the snow had been iffy, but that was about to change. The forecast was for 50 inches of powder in Squaw Valley, an 18-podcast drive from Sun Valley that required an overnight stay.
Winnemucca, Nevada is not likely to appear in glossy ski magazines. It shouldn’t. It’s not a ski place. It’s role in Skihad 2020 was comparable to that played by Wendover, Utah in an earlier episode. Provide accommodation in the one- to two-star range part way between the valleys: Sun and Squaw.
It has competitors for this honor, but it beat out its nearby neighbors, thanks to an enthusiastic recommendation received in the more desirable Sun Valley mountain-top restaurant. The Winnemucca Pizzeria was the dinner destination of choice in that part of Nevada, and that led to a night at the Winnemucca Casino.
Had you asked, when I arrived, if Winnemucca would receive a mention in this adventure story, I’d have said “no,” but that would all change in a matter of hours and now here it is with a whole chapter of its own.
The future looked rosy with powder snow expected, unlimited days on my ski pass, a place to stay and an understanding wife, whose expectations as to this year’s trip had not been exceeded.
Partway through the pizza, I called my son to see if I could tempt him into joining me for the best days of skiing in the entire month. Some readers may recall the story called Fear, Uncertainty and the Land of Math about early adopters. That was inspired by him. He had been all over the coronavirus far earlier than anyone else.
He was so early and so correct in his assessment that he was once accused by a listener with a lesser grasp of what was to come as “having nothing nice to say about the coronavirus.”
I made my pitch for him to join me and he replied, “have you been following the news? Go home to your wife.”
Poof. The fourth edition of Shihad was over. No anxiety about getting hurt on the final run. It had already happened.
Entirely unknowingly, my last run of the trip was a late afternoon 3000 vertical foot nonstop down Limelight and Greyhawk, each a single black diamond adjacent to the Challenger lift on the Warm Springs side of the mountain. The others had called it a day and I wanted to see if I could do it top-to-bottom, without emulating Ernest Hemingway who killed himself in Warm Springs.
It is hard to imagine a more glamorous departure from the Winnemucca Casino with Bloody Run Mountain in the background. Pro tip: If you have a chance to get the words “Bloody Run Mountain” into a story aimed at an upscale demographic, take it. You never know when it will come your way again.
Friday, March 13 became a 12-podcast drive to San Francisco with intervening stops to gather up my FedEx boxes, repack my gear, ship it from Sacramento and bid adieu to the Mighty Ford Escape.
It was my first social distance dinner, sitting across the room from my son, daughter-in-law and near two-year-old grandson.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 23,185, after one of the biggest gains in history, but even that was no consolation as it was back to 20,188 the next trading day.
Virtually every ski resort in America closed before anyone could ski on what became nine feet of snow in Squaw Valley.
What did I learn?
Even an average day skiing is better than none at all and you have to be there to have any possibility of a perfect one.
The Mighty Ford Escape is an entirely reasonable choice when my car gives out or the repair bills put me into bankruptcy. Score one for American manufacturing.
Podcasts and books on tape are game changers for long-distance driving.
Skiing with friends is better than skiing alone.
Balance the certainty of planning with the benefits of flexibility.
Caution is required when selecting mountaintop restaurants in Sun Valley lest an earlier form of social distancing result.
Victory over Airbnb is not determined by price alone.
It is time to master the art of finning.
I am planning next year. Four or five weeks in half a dozen different places. If you would like to do the whole thing you get to ride shotgun. Those who sign up for a specific week have to sit in the back. Four-wheel-drive, plenty of room for gear.
Nine months away.
This is the sixth episode of Skihad BCE. The first is here; the second is here; the third is here; the fourth is here; the fifth is here; and another related story, written well before our lives took a sharp turn into lockdown, is here.