State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.

heavenly

by Natalia

According to their website skiing and snowboarding at Heavenly presents you with a number of different choices. At the moment this number is limited to bare rocks and man made snow, falling a tad short of Experience of a Lifetime trademarked by Vail Resorts that owns Heavenly since 2002. No amount of grooming and reverse tiling can hide wind-polished sheets of ice covering ski runs.

Americans are never beginners at anything. They put themselves in an intermediate group 5 seconds after stepping into their ski bindings for the first time. But even those who clearly would be lost should nature blessed us with white powder over carefully prepared corduroy are not above complaining about the quality and quantity of snow.

Apart from lack of the requisite precipitation the weather leaves little to complain about. It's been ages since we've seen a cloud on the very blue sky; Lake Tahoe offers numerous vistas ready-made for snapshots, and the temperature during sunny days slowly but surely edges north of 50°F (10°C). Around noon people start abandoning sweaters, jackets, scarves and gloves giving the place a distinct atmosphere of a make-shift clothes bazaar. For single track minded lift riders absent snow provides a never-changing conversation topic, which saves us from answering awkward questions about our ethnicity, profession and uncommon enunciation. Everyone is in a waiting mode: the avalanche control crew and their dogs, in the absence of avalanches to control, ski around doing PR work: chatting people on lifts and starring in commercials.

We are diligently watching weather patterns expecting the ridge (whatever that may be) to build over the Pacific and tunnel cold air from the Arctic. So far none of the snow storms decided to veer south when making landfall. There is hope it may happen in the next 10 days, except we've been a week away from a major snowfall for over a month now.

Faced with the shortage of snow Heavenly unapologetically turns to sex and alcohol: half price drinks and scantily clad girls are known to bring guys to seedier places than icy slopes. What about the women though? A chance to win a title of Heavenly Angel may be enough to lure them to post their bikini photos online but I doubt it persuades any female skier or rider to shell out full price of the lift ticket. It's really hard to figure out what the marketing team is thinking. Either they are stuck in the pre-equality era after watching Mad Men and not realizing that it takes place in the early 60s. Or they are under impression that seductively posed chicks are more compatible with the family friendly resort image than go-go boys would be. The sexism though is so adorably inept that it's almost too hard to take offense. Still I'd rather Heavenly unstuck itself and provided some masculine muscle for the enjoyment of the other 50% of the population.

In the meantime, until some real snow falls, we are taking advantage of a dense network of hiking trails and unseasonably warm weather and experience beautiful Sierra Nevada) mountains on foot. It's ironic, the last time when we visited Lake Tahoe in June 2011 most hiking trails were inaccessible because of snow. And yes, we complained about it too.

quiz

Conversation on the lift #3055. Participating: yours truly and a lovely lady in her prime. It starts after we've already exchanged the views on trails, weather and disappointing snow conditions. So, where are you from? she asks. Where do you think I am from? I do get this question a lot and I have a list of rotating answers. She gets to play name this country game - mostly because I am a bit bored. And a bit evil.

sea

Have you ever wondered what happens to the Colorado river? If you look at a map it's pretty clear where it begins, but not so obvious where it ends. There is a good reason for that: Colorado is pumped out dry and disappears long before it has a chance to reach its delta in the Sea of Cortez. If US did not have any other moniker it could be the country that kills its rivers. In an amazing display of newspeak, building dams and reservoirs is called water conservation. It's as if water goes to waste if the river is allowed to continue to the ocean.