Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

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Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Jan 10, 2020 5:27 pm

I have not been to Mountain High since 2011. In the extreme volatility of SoCal ski weather Mountain High occupies an awkward middle ground. When there is abundant natural snow for off-piste skiing Mt. Baldy stands head and shoulders above the rest of SoCal. During the bad years (well over half of them since I retired) Big Bear is the only viable choice due to its robust water supply and snowmaking expertise.

We may be in that middle ground now. The prior day at Baldy was OK but it was mostly groomers and the ungroomed snow conditions were often difficult.

My criterion for considering Mountain High is that the East side is open as well as West. East never opened during 3 of my retirement seasons and was open for less than one month during most of the others. With Mountain High's limited water supply West has snowmaking priority.

We arrived at East just after 9AM and were greeted by a sign announcing $20 paid parking. I asked how far away we needed to park for free, and they said since we were skiers we could park anywhere, which meant very close on this quiet day. The pay parking is there to cut down on the weekend snowplayers using that lot.

The high speed lift at East is 1,600 vertical and serves SoCal's best groomer terrain, especially midweek. The top third of that is just one run shown here.
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Below this point it branches to 3 distinct groomed runs with a couple of variations. The best maintained is Goldrush at far skier's left.
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Midsection under the lift:
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Far skier's right are Sundance and Wildcard which have nice continuous fall lines.
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However there were occasional thin spots, not marked by warning poles or signs. These runs were empty so you could turn on the speed. I recall thinking that if you didn't see one due to high speed or flat light you might take a nasty fall.

Here's the high desert view.
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That lake in the distance is not on any map, so must be temporary from the rain/snow over the past month.

We skied 6 runs then took a short lunch break at noon. After lunch we tested this short ungroomed section.
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It was not the greatest, snow still fairly firm.

Thus we did not ski East's steepest run Olympic Bowl lower down.
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Temperatures were down from Tuesday (35F when parking vs. 44F). It was probably quite windy at Baldy (which is why we skied it first) but just a light breeze at the top of East. However the past weekend was in the 50's during the day, accounting for more hardpack snow today. I would say particularly at East most of the snow was natural. Groomed snow was a partially melt/frozen hardpack that loosened up as it got warmer, fairly similar to Robin's and Skyline at Baldy. There was very little frozen granular/boilerplate so it was not difficult to hold an edge.

At 1PM we moved from East (skied 14,500 there) to West, which I like to do by skating the fire road from the bottom of the Discovery beginner chair.
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We walked a short section, but it's still quicker and more convenient than taking the shuttle bus.

With current conditions I needed to take the bus from West back to East but when off-piste is good you can ski in Sawmill Canyon from the top of West to East's parking lot.

For a soon-to-be-obvious reason I only "survey skied" West for 5,700 vertical. East is noted for its long runs. West has some short but moderately steep shots and I think some of them have been widened and groomed more since I was last there, specifically Headwall, Vertigo and Gunslinger. The natural snow only runs off Inferno Ridge at the western boundary were roped off but I could see from the Conquest lift that some had been groomed when the snow was deeper. So I checked out Wild Fire here:
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Wild Fire and west facing Vertigo had some quite hard snow. Headwall and Gunslinger are north facing and shaded and skied similar to the steeper pitches at East. The problem with Headwall, our first run at West about 1:35PM, is that after skiing the mellow Borderline in the sun, the slope drops abruptly into the shade creating some flat light, especially for Liz wearing dark sunglasses. When I reached the bottom of that pitch I saw she had lost a ski far up the hill and was sliding down the hill screaming. She was still somewhat above me when she came to rest and while she couldn't get up I didn't know more than that so decided to go back up the lift and retrieve her ski. No one had come by when I passed overhead on the lift but when I got back there Liz was attended by two ski patrollers, who took her to the patrol shack in a sled.

None of the patrollers had any medical certification so paramedics came from Wrightwood. The paramedics would not give Liz meds for her intense shoulder pain unless they were sending her to a hospital in an ambulance. Given the intense pain off she went to the nearest hospital ~35 minutes away in Hesperia. When I got to the hospital about 4:15 Liz was checked in and had been given an X-ray. We soon learned that the shoulder was dislocated and broken, but Liz was not seen by the emergency room doctor until 5:30. With IV sedation but not general anesthesia the ER attempted multiple times over half an hour to relocate the shoulder without success, naturally with Liz experiencing off the charts pain the whole time.

Finally an orthopedist was called in. He sat Liz up, tried a different move that improved alignment and toned down the pain some. But when they X-rayed again, the orthopedist could tell the shoulder was not right yet, likely blocked by the biceps tendon that had moved into the vacated place in her socket. This was confirmed by a CT scan so Liz required surgery, which took place at 11PM.

I assumed "broken shoulder" meant the the outer scapula, but the break was in fact the greater tuberosity with 3 rotator cuff muscles attached, shearing off from the top of the humerus inside her shoulder socket, as shown in this diagram.
IMG_5381.JPG


The bicep tendon was severely irritated but not torn. Dislocations can also affect nerves running to the hand, but Liz has full movement of her hand though of course the rest of her arm is immobilized in a sling. The broken tuberosity is reattached to the top of the humerus and held by a screw as shown in this "after" X-ray.
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The surgeon came out about 12:45AM to show and tell me the results. I drove halfway home to Garry's and slept there from 1:30 to 7AM. I was back at the hospital around 9:30 but Liz didn't check out until 2:15 with another hour wait after that to get her pain med prescription filled.

Having been there with the broken ribs in 2008, I know that broken bones are a 6-8 week recovery. Full recovery of the torn rotator cuff takes about a year. The ortho said Liz' ski season is over but perhaps he's thinking winter and doesn't know Mammoth may run much later.

Neither of us are going too far for the next few weeks and obviously Liz cannot go with me to Canada 5 weeks from now. We're looking for someone to take her cat skiing slot at Island Lake Lodge Feb. 24-26.
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby Sbooker » Fri Jan 10, 2020 6:36 pm

Not good news Tony. Best wishes to Liz for a speedy recovery.

This time last year I had a significant stack in Italy that resulted in me ‘tackling’ a rock just off the side of the trail. I had intense pain in my shoulder for quite a few days afterward. Once back home an X-ray revealed I had dislocated my collarbone at the sternum end and fractured it at the other end.
I opted not to get surgery to re-fix the dislocated end. It was 8 months before I had gained full strength in that area.
Unfortunately these things can take time.
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby ShiftyRider » Fri Jan 10, 2020 6:43 pm

Oh no, get well soon Liz!

What's the deal with filling prescriptions? When I open up the bottle all I see is somebody had to count out 28 pills, yet it takes longer than if they had to milk cobra venom or something. Can you imagine if you pay the pharmacist in cash, and now he has to count out your change too? "Have a seat and we'll get your dollar bills ready, it'll probably be about 20 minutes."

Next time I'm going to Tijuana.
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby Admin » Fri Jan 10, 2020 7:01 pm

Oh no! Give Liz our best.
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Jan 10, 2020 10:11 pm

sbooker wrote:Once back home an X-ray revealed I had dislocated my collarbone at the sternum end and fractured it at the other end.

I have consulted a few people's experience. Al Solish was waiting to take a snowboard lesson at Big Bear many years ago, fell and "separated his shoulder." That means breaking the connection between the collarbone and the shoulder, sounds a bit similar to your experience. Al also had a dislocated shoulder with no break at the end of an Iron Blosam week when I was not there. I would say Liz' injury is more serious than either of Al's. George's wife Buffy and Garry's wife Patti have also had shoulder/arm injuries and both warned me that I'll be assisting Liz for several basic daily activities for awhile.

ShiftyRider wrote:What's the deal with filling prescriptions? When I open up the bottle all I see is somebody had to count out 28 pills, yet it takes longer than if they had to milk cobra venom or something. Can you imagine if you pay the pharmacist in cash, and now he has to count out your change too? "Have a seat and we'll get your dollar bills ready, it'll probably be about 20 minutes."

Obviously Liz needs serious pain meds, and there is a lot of paranoia and red tape due to the opioid epidemic. It probably doesn't help that the SoCal high desert communities have somewhat of a "Breaking Bad" reputation.
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby Admin » Fri Jan 10, 2020 10:15 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:That means breaking the connection between the collarbone and the shoulder, sounds a bit similar to your experience.


That's an acromioclavicular joint, or "AC joint" separation.
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Jan 10, 2020 11:21 pm

I see Liz' injury has elicited admin's first FTO post in 8 months! Welcome back, but if that's the price I don't think anyone else here is willing to pay it. :lol:

The numbers say Alta has been doing well lately. :stir:
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby Sbooker » Sat Jan 11, 2020 5:31 am

Tony Crocker wrote:I see Liz' injury has elicited admin's first FTO post in 8 months! Welcome back, but if that's the price I don't think anyone else here is willing to pay it. :lol:

The numbers say Alta has been doing well lately. :stir:


Amusing comment above.
Liz’s injury is no doubt way more severe than mine.
My shoulder joint was completely intact and virtually unaffected.
As an aside I had nightly headaches for about 3 months after the incident.
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Jan 11, 2020 10:07 am

Yes I meant to say that Al Solish's collarbone incident was comparable to sbooker's. Dislocations are much more severe because per Al 99% of them involve tearing a rotator cuff muscle. And in Liz' case you add the broken greater tuberosity and repair surgery.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Jan 11, 2020 11:56 am

We also need to find a replacement for Liz' clinic with Kristen Ulmer Jan. 25-26 at Alta: https://www.kristenulmer.com/events/
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby sierra_cement » Sat Jan 11, 2020 2:33 pm

Sorry to read about Liz's injury. Hope she recovers soon.
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby jojo_obrien » Sat Jan 11, 2020 7:24 pm

Wow. When I used to ski Mtn High West at night I can only describe the snow conditions many a night as "concrete." With the freeze/thaw cycles and afternoon shadows in January here, machine groomed hard pack turns into concrete hard pack. Sorry to hear about this injury!

With regards to parking....and places charging here in SoCal.....well that's an interesting point. I skied Snow Valley last Saturday. I was shocked when I saw a line going into the parking lot - $10 to park. I was floored -- so floored that I drove right by the tollbooth. "I'm not paying that." Five minutes later security came by flashing the red and blue asking me if I knew who the hell I was :) . I noted to the fine gentleman that I had been skiing here for 35+ years and I wasn't about to fork up $10 to park. We had a lengthy discussion at which time we came to the conclusion that I'd discuss this matter w/ the GM.

I wrote him the GM of SV an e-mail with my thoughts - to which he responded the $10 fee would be refunded for skiiers. I have purchased several day tickets which I will show when I arrive at the parking lot. I'm just amazed these places are now charging for parking (BB/MH/SV) -- is Baldy next?

Lastly, I'm shocked to see Admin posting -- I , along with others, do miss the REAL Alta reports -- the real deal -- the good, the bad, the ugly. Good as in -- "nipple deep" powder. Ugly as in -- I'd like to know how crazy it was trying to get up to Alta today in what this week looks to be some of the best conditions in the last 10 years. I like hearing stories and two of the best storytellers/TR's on these boards are only at 50% capacity these days......
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Jan 11, 2020 9:03 pm

jojo_obrien wrote:Wow. When I used to ski Mtn High West at night I can only describe the snow conditions many a night as "concrete." With the freeze/thaw cycles and afternoon shadows in January here, machine groomed hard pack turns into concrete hard pack. Sorry to hear about this injury!

In terms of skiing I tried to make clear it wasn't "concrete." There was probably a mild melt/freeze the prior weekend and the steep runs I mentioned at West were well groomed. It was not difficult to hold an edge, and remember Liz skied in the Northeast for 25 years so the Headwall run and its conditions were well within the range of her experience. But we don't think of the instinctive adjustments we all make to slight variations in contour or snow surfaces. With the flat light she missed something and in terms of the landing surface when she fell, yes that was like concrete.

Baldy has a sign out saying they charge $5 for the lot, but I've never been accosted to pay it. I've fairly sure some people have though.

Snow Valley sounds like Mt. High East, trying to discourage snowplayers. There's a lot of room around both of those lots for people to play in the snow. My understanding is that Mt. High does not charge to park at West, so that probably makes the distribution of crowds even more lopsided than it was already.

FYI we would have tried Snow Valley this week if Slide Peak had been open. Did it really lose its snow that fast? Steep and north facing doesn't make sense. Maybe it was the chair 9 terrain getting there that burned off. Or maybe they didn't want to bother after the holiday period was over.

Big Bear of course has the major pay parking controversy after Mammoth took over. I had extensive correspondence at the time with Mammoth management where I argued that the Big Bear clientele was very different from Mammoth's and some of their changes were antagonizing the locals. Mammoth contended that late arriving families, people getting lessons etc. would gladly pay for parking rather than be forced to get there by 8:00 AM on a weekend to park close. I opined that the then existing VIP lot at Summit was sufficient to meet that demand.

This Dec. 31 I may have been proven wrong. We arrived at Snow Summit at 9:45 and I would gladly have paid the $20 to avoid being exiled to Brownie and then wait half an hour for the shuttle. The paid parking was already full, though perhaps Dec. 31 is a worst case scenario.
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby EMSC » Sat Jan 11, 2020 10:25 pm

Yikes. Sorry to hear about Liz. Hope she gets better as soon as practical for such an injury. Or at least back to day-to-day living mobility quickly.

I can also be counted with the others in surprise that apparently Admin must still at least glance at the boards...
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Re: Mountain High, End of Liz' Ski Season?, Jan. 8, 2020

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sun Jan 12, 2020 5:39 am

Likewise, best wishes to Liz. Did the injury come from contact with the hard snow or did she slide and hit a rock or tree?

Cheers to Admin. Thanks for keeping the forum in operation despite having moved on to a new calling: the King of MAGA boondocking.

Finally, the word "snowplayers" -- I've only seen it used by SoCal residents. Is it a regional expression?
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