We shared a lovely lakeside cabin with our friends' family at South Lake Tahoe over the long weekend. We drove there late on Friday night. I did the entire drive because G fell and hurt his right elbow a week ago (he tripped while chasing a soccer ball). The place was not too difficult to find. It's right off Rte 50 and only about 7 miles away from Heavenly ski resort.
Our first trouble started the next morning. We had planned on skiing whole day on Saturday. However, when we tried to back our car out of the driveway, we found the snow on the ground had frozen into ice overnight!
So I went back into the cabin to boil water while G attempted to install the chains left by our friends (they left earlier to send their kids to ski/snowboard school). Only he didn't have the strength in his right hand to tighten the chain around the wheel. He thought he could get away by tightening it halfway, but the chain kept falling off every time he put the car into gear. Finally I got out of the house (the boiling water didn't work). With his help, I got the chain fastened (Yay! for me). I saw G successfully backed the car out of the icy driveway, then I headed back inside to collect my son. By the time we walked to the car, I found we were in trouble once again!
After getting out of the driveway, G decided to take the chain off all by himself. Since he didn't have the strength to put it on in the first place, he didn't have the strength to get it off either. But he figured if he untied it halfway, it would fall off just like earlier once the wheel started to turn. What he didn't realize was I tightened the chain very well this time. So when G drove the car forward, instead of coming off like he'd expected, the half loosened chain got entangled around the wheel shaft! I was pissed. If only he had waited for my help, I could've untied the darn thing easily!
So the next 45 minutes, we found ourselves busy trying to untangle the chain from the wheel. It was a messy and frustrating endeavor. But together we did it.
When we finally got to the California Lodge, one of the base facilities at Heavenly, we were told to turn back because the parking lot there was full already! But this time our luck turned. Instead of going back like the others did, G urged me to drive forward to see if we could catch anybody leaving. Fortunate for us, we did just that and found a freshly vacant spot not too far from the lodge!
For the next 3 and half hours, we skied almost non-stop! The day was sunny and pleasant. We had a great time on the slopes. My son who normally was a very cautious kid managed to surprise us both. Last year he judiciously did snowploughs and wide turns to control his speed going down the hills. Now he practically flew down the those slopes! We ended up chasing after him all afternoon. Our day was capped off with a nice run on the blue "Round-A-Bout" trail that turns into the "World Cup" at the end.
Since we had such a great time skiing the day before, we couldn't wait to get back on the slopes on Sunday. However, the weather significantly changed on us. We noticed it was a lot windier in the morning. But we didn't care.
We left our car at Horizon Casino, where there are free parkings and shuttle service to Heavenly. The bus took us to the Gondola, an express lift that takes guests from the base (6,255' elevation) to the heart of the mountain (9,156' elevation). We've taken it last year. The ride offers breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe. But this time it was closed due to high wind. Luckily there was another bus waiting that would take us to Boulder Lodge.
Therefore we spent the entire day skiing on the Nevada side of the mountain. We started at "Boulder Bowl," the only green trail in this area. After a couple of runs, we got bored and caught another bus that took us to the Stagecoach Lodge instead. From there, we skied to "Olympic Downhill", a nice long blue trail. We liked it so much that we did 6 to 7 runs there.
The weather was bitterly cold though. I thought my forehead was frozen while sitting on the ski-lift. The going-down-the-hill part was fun, but the sitting-on-the-lift part was intolerable. By the middle of the afternoon, it started to snow really hard. It was kinda surreal and a bit dangerous skiing down the hill while we could barely see things through the falling snows.
My son stuck with us for the most of the runs. I was impressed that he wasn't even a bit fazed by how steep the hills are! But he was afraid of the cold though. Finally we had enough of the bone-chilling cold, and decided to move to the lower parts where it wasn't as windy. We came down "Olympic Downhill" for the last time and switched to "Boulder Chute" that took us back to Boulder Lodge.
There we skied a couple more runs until the resort closed. We then went inside the lodge to get warmed up. An hour later, after downing a couple of hot chocolates and warm food, we caught the bus that would take us back to the casino where we parked our car.
However, less then ten minutes later, the bus stopped on this road that goes downward. The driver announced the road was backed up because there was an accident ahead, we had to wait for the road to clear up before we could move again. Most people on the back of the bus (where we were sitting) decided to ski/snowboard or simply walk to the Stagecoach Lodge, the next stop for the bus. One by one, they all stood up and left. But we were all cold and sore and done with skiing for the day, so we stayed.
The only people left on the bus then were the bus-driver, a bunch of Heavenly lift operators (they were a group of nice young men from Brazil plus a sweet girl from Chile), and us. Everyone except us were gathered at the front of the bus. While waiting, we witnessed a car sliding into another car when its impatient driver tried to drive it forward. Even those people on foot walking down the hill were falling down left and right because the road was too slippery. That was when our prudent bus driver decided to put the chains on the wheels.
I saw him took one chain and went out. Several minutes later, he came back for the other one. Soon after he walked off the bus with the chain, I felt the bus started to move.
I looked around, most people left on the bus were either dozing off or talking to each other. Nobody had realized yet something was wrong.
But something was terribly wrong. The bus should NOT be moving while the driver was away! I grabbed my son and started to scream for somebody to stop the bus!
One of the lift operator jumped over to the driver's seat. But he was not an experienced bus driver. He turned the steering wheel trying to avoid collision. The bus started to slid all over the place. It made several wild turns. At one point I thought it was going to flip on its side. Some people in the front were crouched on the floor. The whole time I was horrified thinking the bus driver was still under the wheel putting on the chains. I was so scared the bus had run him over!
I wasn't particularly worried the bus would slide all the way down the hill because I knew there were lots of cars in front of us. Sure enough, the bus soon slammed into an SUV down the road and stopped.
We were all stunned at what happened. G started to wince because he had gripped onto the rail so hard that his injured hand was in pain. My son, the eight-year old announced almost gleefully: "Wow! This is the craziest bus ride ever!"
The bus driver ran back on the bus while shouting: "Is everyone alright?!" I was very relieved to see him unharmed. We told him we were all fine. He told us he narrowly escaped being ran over because the bus started moving right before he was going to lay the chain under the wheel. He had no idea how this happened since the brake was fully engaged the whole time!
The SUV we slammed into had a family with kids in the back seat. They were terrified witnessing an out of control bus coming at them. Amazingly the vehicle didn't seem too damaged. Probably the spare tire at the back of the SUV had absorbed most of the impact.
We were then told it was not safe to stay on the bus. Those lift operators offered to help us carry our skis so we could all walk down to the Stagecoach Lodge and wait inside with warm cups of hot chocolate.
We made the difficult trek slowly and carefully. By the time we got to the lodge, it was already closed for the day. But the manager of the place heard what happened and opened up the place for us. He also fed us free hot chocolates.
We waited a couple more hours until the road was cleared and the resort was able to send another shuttle to pick us up. Around the same time, the original bus and police arrived at the lodge also. Strangely, the SUV had already left the scene as soon as the road was cleared. So we stayed a little while longer to give our statements to the policeman.
By the time we got back to the cabin, it was almost 10:00 at night! But we were happy to get back all in one piece.
Then G found out Greenbay lost the football game... C'est la vie!