WINTER OLYMPICS @ SQUAW VALLEY - TAHOE RECAP PART 2 (THE MELTDOWN)

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As the Winter Games come to an end, but apparently the snow out in Tahoe does not, here below is Part 2 of our Tahoe trip. I found this an appropriate time to post since this weekend they were hit with 5 feet of snow (while the east coast was battered by monsoon winds, rains, and power outages).

The reason we flew out to Tahoe on a Thursday was to maximize as many crowd-less days as possible on the slopes during the holiday weekend. Our strategy was to ski Friday and Saturday, skip Sunday and then ski again Monday before our red eye back to the east coast.

As it turned out, this strategy played out in so many ways – we got the best weather for skiing and also the best weather for running (on Sunday, since it was so mild).

The drive to Squaw Valley was sunny and scenic – I had to hold my jaw in my hands because it was just so stunning, especially since we hadn’t seen it the day prior due to our late arrival. What seemed like glacial waters, surrounded by snow topped mountains rooted in beach and trail footpaths.

I spent most of the first half of the day on green slopes to “warm up” and re-acclimate. Before lunch, Tae and I tried a few more challenging blues which I was able to confidently navigate my way down Super-G style.

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We turned in for lunch at Terrace Restaurant & Bar on the mountaintop where we tucked into some pulled pork topped tater tots (highly recommend), wings, and the first brew (or in my case, bloody mary, of the day). The food was good here, unfortunately I can’t say the same for the service. Our waitress neglected our table after the first round of drinks, and when I asked her to explain to me what was in the “seasonal salad” item on the menu, she could recite 2 things (lettuce, and radishes). Surely there had to be more than 2 ingredients, but it was pulling teeth so I didn’t persist. Only when another guest asked the same question (because, common sense…) did I say, “apparently they don’t know because I asked the same thing…” did she finally say, with an attitude, I’ll just go get the list. She came back and read off a list of about 13 ingredients. Great, I’ll have one, with salmon. My salad was the last to be served, likely because they were waiting for the salmon to cook through. Now I like my salmon cooked the right way (meaning, semi translucent pink inside). But this was straight up sashimi on my plate. So back it went, and wait I did. So overall, a great spot to go for some light bites and some drinks, and the salad was really good and pretty. But really you go here for the views, not for anything spectacularly special otherwise. You’ve been warned.

The second half of the day was rough. Since the higher temps couldn’t keep much of the snow from melting, and since the sun sets down the back of the mountain, the slush turned to ice. We’re talking east coast conditions. And there is nothing more paralyzingly terrifying than the sound of ice beneath your skies on downhill turns. There were a few falls, and definitely a few cries. But alas, I made it out alive.

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Dinner that night was home-cooked. A bunch of folks were eating “clean” on the trip (whole 30, paleo, the like…) so we decided a big roasted chicken and healthy sides would do the trick. The chicken was super easy – rubbed with tons of spices, and olive oil and stuffed into the oven on 400 for like 50 minutes. This is a great option for a ski house. One entire chicken served 6 people with leftovers. But because I have an innate fear of never having enough food (I’m Italian…), I also made some lemon chicken breasts just in case. The sides were roasted veggies (carrots, onions, lacinato kale), and truffle parmesan red skin mashed potatoes.

Method:

I bought a bag of red skin potatoes, quartered them, boiled them in water and garlic until soft enough to pierce with a fork, then hand-mashed them with roasted garlic, milk, truffle oil and salt; mixed in grated parmesan and then spread in a baking dish and topped with shaved parmesan. 10 minutes prior to serving dinner I threw this under the broiler to crisp the top.

Whole 30 Adaptation Method: 

Because I’m a people pleaser by nature (I’m a “high I” in DiSC management…), I adapted this for the girl who was following a whole 30 diet by mashing her potatoes with chicken broth and omitting the cheese (I know, cheese should never be omitted, but different strokes for different folks).

Our lovely housemate Diana who has a knack for style and presentation is responsible for plating this roasted goodness. ‘Twas a good night all around. Our last couple of the group also arrived that night, albeit pretty late – but they are true champs and woke up early to head out with us! We were a smaller group heading out the slopes that day, only 5 of us. The remaining three were pretty banged up from boarding the day prior – the struggle is real you guys. I could never even try snowboarding seeing how banged up your butt gets. (CHLOE KIM I BOW AT YOUR ALTAR).

My friend Janice and her husband are great winter sports buddies for Tae and me because while they both board, Janice and I can stick together (read: fear the blues together) while our guys head off to conquer advanced terrain. The first half of the day was great – we conquered some pretty good runs with minimal falls. Hopes and confidence were equally high. Also, got to scope out the world’s first ski-in/ski-out Starbucks (!!!).

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We met for lunch at KT Base Bar where it was basically tank top weather, in January. We ate outside, face in the sun, chowing down on nachos, flatbreads, and some pretty epic burgers. Our server was AMAZING – super entertaining (he engaged with the guys on all things superbowl) and made sure the drinks continued to flow (which may or may not have contributed to my tears that would soon follow once back on the slopes – but this is my own fault and not his or the resort’s obviously!). I highly highly recommend lunching here.

After lunch it was back out on the slopes – and once again, the slush began to turn to ice just as it had yesterday. Except everything was even “slushier” because more people + more sun = more slush! Yay, math!

The same last run of the day (that I had done 3 times prior that afternoon and the day before) had now become an insane challenge for me. (For the record, the run is Mountain Run). I was so terrified of an upcoming turn that I sat too far back, fell, and both skiis came off. I couldn’t find a flat enough surface to “clip” back in and worse, I was on an icy downhill with a sharp turn (in front of which was a cliff). I basically stood there frozen for about 5 minutes trying to work out my strategy in my head. When I decided to go for it, I quickly force-jammed my foot into my ski, and of course, as gravity would have it, I started sliding downhill. Yay, science! (We’re going to cover all the subjects here, guys. Just wait ‘til we get to vocabulary…).  The problem is that I didn’t have my uphill ski on, so I had to unlock, and start all over again, go walk up to get my ski, and try to juggle holding two skis on a downhill as I searched for a flat spot.

At this point I began to cry from frustration, and more importantly, out of fear. All the while Tae is below, watching me, telling me what to do and shaking his head as I insist that I should just walk down and he should go on and meet the others. Except walking was a challenge too because of all the ice. So a very lovely (advanced) skier comes down to give me a history lesson (I told you we were covering all the bases here).

He looks at me, and says “Common sense says you shouldn’t walk down – use your ski. The skis were made to get people down terrain like this. It navigates through snow” I swear I think he sensed the rage in my eyes because my history teacher gracefully skid away before I could give him the day’s psychology lesson.

COMMON SENSE? I’M SORRY SIR BUT COMMON SENSE DOESN’T EXIST IN THE FACE OF IRRATIONAL FEAR!

Now, Tae is still down below waiting for me and I am slowly walking my way down, skis in hand. Step by step. And now I am so beyond disappointed in myself that I yell to him, JUST GO! JUST GO WITHOUT ME!  And here comes the vocabulary lesson, folks:

WHERE THE F*CK DO YOU WANT ME TO GO?! TELL ME…WHERE!? WHERE THE F*CK.

I am literally laughing so hard right now recounting this story… but just envision the scene – I am crying, Tae is yelling expletives. And now this day at school is about to transition with a very nice geography lesson as I tell Tae exactly where I think he should go.

Fast forward and I did finally make it to a flatter area where I was able to get a grip and ski the rest of the way down. I had never been happier to be out of my skiis. Give me a powdery straight down blue or black and I am fine as long as I can make my turns. But give me a green or blue with winding turns and I am as fearful as I am watching the Olympians take on the Slalom.

My ideal run - wide, straight, steep. 

My ideal run - wide, straight, steep. 

Sunday was a designated “off” day for the group so we made Saturday dinner reservations for the whole group at Lone Eagle Grille & Restaurant – a great spot on the lake. The crowd was a little sceney (and we had to wait about 45 minutes for our reserved table in said scene) but I always find those types of ski town “hot spots” to be wildly entertaining for people watching. The older men with younger women, the families with young kids in a place that is so not appropriate for young kids, the waterhole grazing bachelor party on the prowl, the expense account large groups schmoozing over martinis. I mean, if you’re going to spend the day in school, isn’t sociology the best lesson to end the day with after all?

Lesson, learned Tahoe! Part 3 (and the best part IMO because of trail runs, days off, brunch, and exploring town!) coming soon. x

samantha giordano