February 27, 2006

New Job with American Skiing Company

Well it's official. I've given my notice at my current job with Whitney Advertising in Park City. Starting March 16th, I'll be the new "Interactive Media Designer" for American Skiing Company. Headquartered on Historic Main Street in Park City, ASC owns The Canyons, and Steamboat (CO), as well as New England Resorts Sunday River, Sugarloaf, Killington, Pico, Mount Snow, and Attitash/Bear Peak. The corporate office employs a streamlined marketing department, to service each resort as a group of clients. So although I'll be leaving agency life behind, there are many similarities.

My role will predominantly entail high-end Flash and new media design, rather than general web design. I will also be working with several great developers to execute and populate sophisticated interactive applications. Our goal will be to find new, slick and useful ways to integrate rich Flash media into the ASC sites. So it should force me to step up my game a bit. But there will also be opportunities to take courses to advance my skills.

And while the money and benefits associated with this job are attractive, it also seems a logical progression for the transformative process Sarah and I have undergone in the past year. Although I don't plan on completely becoming a "Ski Bum" per se, being here in the mountains puts things in a new perspective. Moving here was a way of proclaiming our priorities of life over work. And while I expect to continue to work hard, it makes sense to apply my passion to an industry that inspires my personal pursuit of happiness. ASC seems to understand that its employees are very lifestyle oriented and they encourage people to take advantage of the outdoors. I'm even told that a "powder day" is a perfectly acceptable reason to be out of the office. No questions asked.

February 12, 2006

Deer Valley, An Elegant Kick in the Ass

Sorry it's been so long since our last entry. These winter months have been busy. But as the sun starts setting later, we find ourselves getting motivated again. We're training for some triathlons this spring...Well Sarah's training. I'm starting to think about training. And we're still skiing our butts off. Which brings me to my story.

This weekend was one of the only weekends since November with no fresh snow in the forecast. So we decided we'd take advantage of Sarah's free passes to Deer Valley in Park City. Deer Valley is among the swankiest ski resorts in the country. We half expected to feel out of place, but we were able to adjust our mindset from fresh tracks and big drops to corduroy and sweeping GS turns.

For my first run I used my Salomon X-scream 9's, the very skis I had learned to ski upon in the seemingly distant past (through last year) at Sunday River in Maine. I figured they would handle the groomed conditions with ease. However, I have evidently become so accustomed to my newer, wider Salomon Pocket Rockets, that I immediately switched back. With 30 millimeters more girth underfoot, I strutted back into the lift line with Sarah and some friends from Park City.

A few runs into the morning, I was looking for a diversion from the groomed superhighways we had been skiing. I hopped in and out of the trees, scoped our rocks to huck and even happened into a few mogul fields. Most people who ski with me know that I'm not a traditional skier. I learned late in life and skiing for me is more about adrenaline than peaceful bliss. What's more is that without any formal ski training, I also don't possess some basic ski disciplines, such as skiing moguls. You might call them my "nemesis". Fundamentally, I understand some basics of skiing moguls, but have never been fond of the idea. Today, though, I lost sight of that...momentarily.

I stood on the edge of the groomed run, staring down a line between ice-filled snow goblins. A voice inside said, "Forget it. Take the Groomer. You have nothing to prove. This will end horribly." It's that same voice that tells you not to put your coffee on the edge of the table. You ignore the voice, thinking "Well it's not like I'd be stupid enough to knock it over!" Then in the same instant, as if predestined, you're swatting the hot coffee to the carpet and kicking yourself.

That said I decided to give it a go. As instructed (directly or by eavesdropping atop other mogul runs) I pictured myself as a stream of water, falling down the path of least resistance. It seemed simple enough. I made about 20 turns fairly convincingly (to myself at least). Then the pitch lessened and gave way to a point of rest before the next section of lumps. Feeling confident from the first pitch, I entered the next section without so much as slowing down. As I came over the lip of a cat-track I saw my line for the first time. I was no longer a babbling brook happily trickling down a serpentine path. Instead I was a bucket of murky rainwater tossed from a rooftop on an unsuspecting patsy; neither necessary, nor funny.

I absorbed the first few blows like a series of sucker-punches in a bar-fight I had not only initiated, but deserved to lose. With a feeble sense of self-preservation, I pointed my heels and leaned back trying to slow down, or at the very least, hoping to live. My evasive maneuvers proved too little too late, as one large disapproving ice-lump kicked me skyward. My internal soundtrack went from pounding speed-metal to a serene adagio movement. Then my calm was interrupted by the crunching noise of torso meeting mogul. I had landed on my lower spine at the crest of an unrelenting bump. Maybe I bounced a few times, but my immediate thought was that I might have broken my back. I struggled to breathe as well-meaning passersby rushed to my assistance and proceeded to ask me essay type questions. With the wind-knocked from my chest cavity, I simply gave a weak thumbs up and weezed "How did it look?"

I laid motionless for a minute or so, going through a checklist of self-diagnosis. First, I wiggled my toes to eliminate paralysis. I started to rock back and forth looking for the sharp pain of broken bones. Then I laid back to open my lungs and overcome the tendency to hyperventilate. Sarah and her friends caught up. I decided I didn't need Ski Patrol's assistance, especially considering that a ride in their sled, although it looks like fun, is not covered by insurance. (Thanks Patty Caret for finding that out for us.) I made my way up and clicked into the one ski that had released in the process. As I met up with the groomer and headed for the lift line, still weezing and suffering mostly from blow to my pride, i noticed a lack of edge response from my left ski (the one that stayed on). When I met up with the rest of our party waiting in line, they noticed the tail of my ski was sticking up in the air. So to literally add insult to injury, I had snapped my ski in half.

We decided to call it a day and headed right for the emergency clinic in Park City. (Readers may remember this clinic from the previous story "Utah Rocks...") X-rays on my spine came back negative for compression fracture. However the doctor was amazed at the almost perfect alignment of my discs. So thanks Dad for the lifetime of free chiropractic care. He wrote several pain prescriptions, which I was uncharacteristically quick to accept since my muscles had at this point seized up completely.

So as I sit here, on a bright Sunday morning, medicated through the roof while my wife enjoys a safe bluebird day with friends, I suppose I caution you readers to listen to that inner voice. Don't spill your coffee. Don't leave your plate on a chair. Don't pee into the wind. And don't ski stiff moguls, under the chairlift, with a bunch of friends if you SUCK at skiing moguls.