On Saturday, February 3rd, I went to Cataloochee for a quite interesting session of skiing! First, we arrived late (about 11:30 am) and we had to park in the overflow parking and be bussed in. As soon as we reached the lodge I looked out at the slopes and to my amazement, I saw hundreds of people! There had to be over a thousand people at Cataloochee that day. Even the food line inside the lodge was 45 min long with at least 150+ people wrapping from the door though almost every open isle way in the lodge! Furthermore, the lift lines took about 10 to 15 minutes and slopes were almost as crowded as inside. Now, if you have ever been to Cataloochee you know all the runs eventually feed into one main run making it a very interesting experience with all these people! I personally found myself playing “Avoid the beginners” or as some may know it “Avoid the ski mice” (the little ones at the bottom of the run). And although I did not hit anyone, I came very close a couple of time because I got boxed in by so many people.
So was there anything beneficial about skiing that day aside from all the runs being open? YES! Cataloochee opened the Upper and Lower Snowbird runs which, as I have been told unofficially, have not been open since 1967! Either way I have never seen them open in my years of skiing there, so it was a nice treat. At the beginning of the Upper Snowbird, there is a jump to the left of the run, which sends you about 12ft above the slope on a 3ft wide patch of snow. Once you are up there, the only way down is to jump off! You then have to cut-off everyone by skiing strait across the ski run, jumping off the side of it and “hopefully” landing on the lower side of the trail around the bend, which is about 7ft down! I personally though it was great fun, but fellow skiers (who were going down the regular run) were a little less pleased about me cutting them off and then almost hitting them when I was flying though the air! Cataloochee also built a mini-half pipe. Unfortunately, it was only 3ft high and icy on the edges so it did not really work well. The rest of the train park was decent, but weathered from so much use though-out the day.
Moreover, the snow quality was decent at first, but as soon as people started falling, all the powder off it scraped off, leaving an ice sheet so slick that I lost my edge twice and almost went down. There were also many other people taking injuries from this icy patch. For example, on one of my runs, I saw the ski parole pass me going down Lower Omigosh and my eye caught a pair of skies in an X formation meaning “In need of help.” The problem was that ski patrol passed the skis and kept on going to a major injury at the bottom of the hill. As I slowed down to a stop, I saw a man trying to pull a woman up from the side of the cliff. I rushed over, as he called for my help, slid down the 6ft side of the slope to push the women up. As I later realized, just two feet behind me was a flimsy part of fence that was supposed to protect skiers from falling down a 60ft+ drop! However, it was now above the snow level, leaving a hole wide enough for someone to slip through. Fortunately, the man and I finally managed to drag and push the women up from the ledge and get her back on the slope; she was not injured in this ordeal.
So all in all, although it was an icy and crowded day, it was action packed and I got to save someone! This day, in my opinion, just what the doctor ordered!
Until next time, Kasey Baker
See both of the images that Kasey submitted on full size by CLICKING HERE!