Tahoe Skiing Bliss (And a Bit of My Backstory…)!

This past month I’ve been living in a tiny town on the shores of Lake Tahoe.  It’s absolutely gorgeous–with cool mountain air, plenty of trees, an abundance of peace, incredible views, serene sunsets, and some of the best skiing of my life!

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I came here kind of on a whim.  I was in Marin last month, and it rained a LOT.  So, while I was sitting inside WAY too much, I had the thought that if it was raining here, it must be snowing in the mountains…just a few short hours away.  So, I did a bit of research and  discovered that a late-season ski pass was not outrageously expensive (it would be in Colorado), that there was plenty of housing available (again, usually not the case in Colorado ski towns), and that there was an absolute abundance of snow.  Thank you El Nino!  It had been dumping in the mountains indeed!

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So, I packed up my bags and headed to Tahoe, and what a great decision that has been!

I love it up here.  I’d only been here three times before:  two drive-throughs on cross-country road trips and 1 weekend ski trip to Heavenly resort on the Nevada side.  None of those visits were long or deep.  So, to have a month here has really been a gift.  Tahoe is amazing!  I like it so much better than expected, even!

The house I rented is super cute…a charming guest house cabin right in the national forest.  There is a great deck, with peek-a-boo views to the lake (about 1 block away), a wood pellet stove, artsy decor, a front porch, and trees all around.  It’s magical!  The kitchen table (that I’m currently writing from) also has peek-a-boo water views…and plenty of beautiful, direct tree views, too.  I just discovered last night (3 weeks into my stay here) that there is an incredible national forest hiking trail right in this neighborhood!  It’s about 2 blocks up the hill from the house!  Mostly I’ve been going skiing and touring different lakeside parks and towns in my free time.  I hadn’t even really walked around the block (assuming it to be just a neighborhood).  I know better than to not explore close to home, however, so finally last night I went out for a tour of the neighborhood (expecting to just see some charming cabins).  And low and behold…I pretty much went straight to a deadend at the national forest boundary, and what was there…  A hiking trail!  It was completely deserted (being basically unmarked in the back of a neighborhood).  It wound up for miles into the mountains behind the house, offering great views of the lake, complete solitude in nature (something that I LOVE), amazing forest smells, plenty of great rocks for meditating, and even a flowing stream.  I hiked on it for about an hour before it started getting dark (and I came back down).  It was getting pretty snowy towards the end of my explorations since the elevation was steadily increasing, so when I go back (maybe tonight), I’m going to wear my hiking boots (not my tennis shoes).

Something weird happened that made me want to go out for an exploring session last night. I was sitting on my front porch, and this man riding an odd yellow bike with a long pole under the seat (? Purpose of that? Seemed too long for fishing…) rode by going up the hill.  There aren’t many houses up the hill or very much street, for that matter, so I thought it was curious.  I supposed he lived up there, however.  I went inside to check on something, and when I came back out again (maybe 30 minutes later) the same man was riding his bike up the hill again!  It was really bizarre!  I’d never seen him before, couldn’t understand what “loop” ride he was doing (the neighborhood is not big), and had no idea why I was now seeing him twice in one night.  So, my curiosity got sparked, and I decided to see what was up that hill.  And what was up that hill was a hiking trail!  I still don’t know where the man on the bike went, however!  Bit of a mystery!!  I didn’t see him or his bike at any of the houses up the hill (nor did I see him come down).  Hmmm.

Anyway, he got me moving, and for that I’m grateful!

I looooove exploring!

Besides exploring my own neighborhood and little town, I’ve also explored a bit on the Nevada side of Tahoe and also, of course, the ski resort.  There are many ski resorts around Tahoe, but the one I bought a pass for is Squaw Valley.  I’d always heard it was an incredible resort (and I knew the Olympics had been held there in 1960), so it was the one I wanted.  And the one I got.  I’m sure the other resorts are pretty cool, too, though.  I just went for Squaw and am glad about that.  Maybe some other year I’ll explore other resorts, but for one month Squaw was more than enough.

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I liked the skiing so much that I would consider moving here.

As I mentioned in some of my other posts I am really passionate about skiing.  It’s one of my main avenues to bliss.  It’s both a thrilling and relaxing experience for me (to ski).  It takes me there!  Strange and funny backstory: I kind of always knew how to ski.  I do believe in past lives, so maybe this is a case of a past life skill brought over into this one.  You see, I was born in Georgia to parents who don’t ski or like cold weather.  But ever since I was a child I was always talking about skiing, begging for a ski vacation, dreaming about Colorado and other mountain locales.  My parents were baffled, but eventually they sent me on a youth ski trip to North Carolina when I was about 13 or 14.  All the beginners in the group were given a ski lesson.  It didn’t start for about an hour.  So, I just put on the skis and went up the bunny slope.  I came right down–skiing…in parallel.  And I could stop…in the wedge.  I skipped the lesson and went straight for the lift after another round or two on the bunny slope.  I could turn, control my speed, and stop…intuitively.  I just knew how to ski.  I was in about 1 run already figuring out the parallel stop (hockey stop).  Other people were falling down like crazy, but not me.  I didn’t fall once.  I just knew how to ski.  Pretty interesting!

So, my parents actually took me to Breckenridge, Colorado the next year.  I took 1 semi-private lesson to further develop my technique (pole planting, unweighting, small bumps, etc.), and I was off.  By the end of that week, with only 1 lesson ever, I was cruising the blacks and handling moderate-sized bumps with ease.  And loving it!

And thus began my obsession with skiing!

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I went maybe one more time in high school (to Vail) and once or twice a year throughout college, and I promptly moved to Breckenridge after graduation.  I cruised up to the Breckenridge ski school office (having skied maybe about 5-7 weeks total) and tried out to be an instructor.  I was selected and put to work teaching others to ski.  It was super fun–definitely one of the most fun jobs (and times) of my life.  I took one 11-year-old boy from never skiing to skiing blacks in under a week.  He was a natural, of course, but still.  It was really gratifying.  I loved it!

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(Flashback photos:  post-college pictures of me on the slopes in Breckenridge (above) and Telluride (below))

After my year in Breckenridge I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to go to medical school.  I went skiing twice, I think, in that 4 year time (once to Whistler, BC on a spring break and several times during a 1 month elective rotation in Denver).  I was always going tropical on my vacations because Ann Arbor was so cold!  After med school I was determined to return to my love (skiing), however, so I decided to do my residency in Colorado.  Only option.  I was going to be where there was skiing, and that was that!  So, that’s what I did.  I started out as a pediatrician (now I’m a psychiatrist), and I began my post-graduate training at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado, which happens to be a very highly ranked pediatrics training program.

Despite loving Colorado and children, I ended up (much to my surprise…and everyone else’s) not loving pediatrics.  Really intense experiences in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) changed my feelings about the specialty and made me question what I really wanted for my future.  Around this time I was becoming increasingly passionate about VERY holistic approaches to medicine and healing.  I was interested in approaching patients from very wide angles–looking emotional components of illness, social components, familial components, spiritual components, and biological components.  I was interested in the role of passion and play in the healing process…and also the role of nature and creativity.  There really was almost no mention of these things in my training, however.  And thus, my interest in classical medicine started to seriously waver.

Internship is probably one of the most intense things a person can do in life.  Really.  It’s no sleep, extreme work hours, serious stress, minimal pay.  It’s so hard.  Many residents develop illnesses themselves during residency due to the horrible self-care that happens during such extremely unbalanced conditions.  Divorce is common.  Anyway, there is almost no way to make it through such a challenging situation without complete conviction.  With half interest, you just cannot do it.  It’s too hard, too painful, too much sacrifice.  You have to really want it to make it.  I didn’t really want it.  I didn’t know what I wanted…except to ski.  I knew I wanted that.  So, as it kind of worked out, I left medicine…to ski.

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(The guy on the left is my brother.  This photo was taken during my “ski break” from medicine.)

Within a few months I left my residency, packed up my life in Denver, got a storage unit, and moved gypsy-style (just what would fit in my car) to Telluride, a place with which I’d have an obsession for the next 15+ years (still do).  I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with my career.  I wasn’t positive I wanted to be completely out of medicine.  But I knew I didn’t want to do pediatrics–at least not the way I was doing it in residency.  I thought maybe I might like psychiatry.  Or family medicine (done holistically).  Or maybe I would just become a transpersonal psychologist.  Or naturopathic physician.  But I wasn’t sure.  So I went skiing.

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(Telluride…the town is up ahead in that valley…)

What a dream!!!

Moving to Telluride that year was seriously the best (and hardest) decision of my life.  It was traumatic to give up all I had worked for for most of my life.  Understandably, my parents and most of my professional mentors were flabbergasted.  I was pretty shocked myself.  When when I spoke to those who knew me best about what really lit up my soul–skiing, art, exploring, travel, spirituality, and true HOLISTIC healing, most understood my decision.  My heart was not in traditional medicine.  I needed to go.  I needed to explore my other interests.  I needed to explore myself.

So, that’s what I did.  I skied.  I wrote.  I painted.  I hiked.  I jogged.  I slept.  I did yoga.  I meditated.  I went to concerts.  I danced.  I made friends.  I played in the mountains.  I dreamed.  I really, really enjoyed myself in a way that I never had before.  I had been such a dutiful student all my life.  I’d never really had such open expanses of free-time with no real plan or goal…other than to do what I wanted.  It was so freeing!!  And so healing!!  It was the best year of my life.

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I did work.  Two jobs, actually.  I worked as a concierge at a 5 star resort, and 1 night a week I worked as an assistant to the pastry chef at a 5 star restaurant.  Both experiences were amazing.  Minimal stress and actually pretty fun.  I really enjoyed the baking.  It was a peaceful, solitary job in a basement kitchen.  The concierge job was fun, too.  I had some amazing co-workers (met one of my best friends at that job, actually) — fun women and men who loved skiing and the mountains as much as I did.  And the families and guests of the hotel were generally really great people.  Many of them were return guests–season after season.  The resort had a timeshare component, so there was a feeling of home and ownership in a lot of the relationships.  I enjoy listening to what people love to do, and I also enjoy giving advice, so really concierge was a great job for me.  Yes, it didn’t pay tons, but I made it work (and learned how to do that–a great skill to have).

I also babysat now and then.  A medical doctor nanny.  Pretty good find for those who managed to work with me!  I did and do still love children.  I just didn’t ONLY want to work with them medically.  I like helping adults, too.  I like helping a variety of people, really.  But I also like having fun … during, before, and after work.

This was supposed to be a post about Tahoe and skiing, but somehow a bit of my backstory snuck in!  It’s funny how that happens with writing sometimes.  For me it’s really an opening up process to write.  And things just flow out.  I do have the opportunity to edit, of course.  But, sometimes it’s nice to just trust the flow.

This blog is clearly not just going to be an objective travel and lifestyle guide.  It’s going to be a personal blog with some hopefully interesting stories woven through my travel and lifestyle reviews and recommendations.  I’m hoping that the personal nature of some of the posts might add to the character and charm (certainly, the uniqueness) of the blog.  But, maybe not.  Being authentic is always a risk.  It is a risk I seem to have to take in life, however.  And by bravely being myself, I hope to inspire others to do the same.

Back to the story…

Eventually, after a bit of time in Telluride, I actually met an amazing man and fell in love.  To tell that story would be a big tangent…but a lovely one.  I’ll try to summarize.  I mentioned in one of my other posts that falling in love was one of the few reasons I would derail my gypsy journey.  This was an example of that.  I was very happy in Telluride.  I wanted to stay there forever at that point (though that was unlikely given my gypsy nature).  But I’d met a man and fallen completely in love.  One of the very magical and curious aspects of this story is that I had some premonitions about this happening.  I actually knew back in med school that I was going to meet a man in Colorado.  I knew he would live in Denver, be from the South, play guitar, and have a beard.  I could see him in my mind’s eye.  It was so bizarre!  When I moved to Denver I kept a lookout, but I never saw him.  But when I moved to Telluride, I met him…within several weeks.  He came to me!  Well, he actually came to play music.  But I met him at one of my new friends’ houses, and I recognized him instantly.

My personal explanation for this is that we had a “karmic contract”.  I believe in a highly conscious spirit world–a world in spirit where we plan our lifetimes, work with guides and/or angels, commune with friends and family, etc.  Some might call this Heaven.  I call it the “Spirit World”.  I believe in past lives.  Future lives, too.  Of course I cannot say for certain that they exist, but I have read a good many books by both psychiatrists and psychologists doing research on children who have memories of their past lives, on near-death experiences, and on hypnosis.  (If curious look up Brian Weiss, MD, Gary Schwartz, PhD, Robert Moody, MD, and Michael Newton, PhD.)  And my conclusion after having read all these things is that I do believe in a longitudinal soul experience…one that includes many lifetimes.  I think lifetimes are a learning experience–a way for us to progress as souls or spirits, not just as humans.  I think in lifetimes we try to learn new things and also remedy past errors (karma).  Again, this may or may not actually be true.  I cannot say it is or isn’t with absolute certainty.  I suppose no one can (or cannot).  It’s a mystery!  But it makes sense to me, and it feels true in my heart.  So, it is what I believe.  Until further notice…

So, I believe this man and I had a karmic contract–an agreement to meet in order to work together, learn some lessons, do some things, perhaps settle something from a past life, etc.  (For more info on karmic contracts see NYT best-selling author and world-renown medical intuitive {who built her career working with Harvard-trained neurosurgeon Norm Shealy, MD, PhD} Caroline Myss’ book Sacred Contracts, which I, “interestingly”, just “happened” to come across right at the time that I met this soul mate partner.)  I imagine we must have planned the meeting before either of us was born.  This is one of the explanations for deja vu–the feeling or sensation of having experienced something or someone before.  I had awareness somewhere within me that I was supposed to meet a man in Colorado, and when I met him, I had deja vu.  He was very familiar to me.  He fit all of the things I was expecting him to fit (he lived in Denver, played the guitar, was from the South, and had a beard).  He was the one I’d been waiting for, so of course I derailed my path to be with him.  I moved (back) to Denver.  We had adventures.  We experienced great love.  It was wonderful.  And challenging.

It was a tangent!  A great tangent, but a tangent.  (In real life and in this post!)

I did not end up marrying this man, which ultimately was one of the great heart-breaks of my life (and consequently one of the single best learning opportunities of my life, too).  Through heart break we learn our own capacity for love, and ultimately we have the opportunity to turn our love and compassion towards ourselves.  If permitted to stay with our beloved, we may never have the opportunity to develop our hearts as deeply for self-love.  But when denied the opportunity to stay with the beloved we must learn to love ourselves.  Learning self-love and compassion in this way has truly provided me with so much depth, so much capacity to understand the pain of others, and so much opportunity for self-reflection…it has been one of the key experiences in my life that has made me the person and healer I am today.

So, after this magical soulmate and I broke up, I came back onto my path…the path of a skiing, wandering gypsy…the path of “chasing the Muse”…the path of self-discovery.  And the journey continued…

All kinds of things happened, and many of them are definitely interesting enough to make into into this blog!  (All in good time, I suppose!) I did eventually finish my medical training, but that is definitely a long story for another time!  So, I’ll try to get back to the topic at hand.  Tahoe.  Skiing.  Bliss.  Oh yeah.  So, as I said in the beginning, I’m here in Tahoe, and the skiing has been amazing!  It’s started to get quite warm (way warmer than it ever got during ski season in Colorado), so I’ve been hiking and roaming around a bit, in addition to skiing.

The lake is GORGEOUS!

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In terms of the skiing, I’d like to share some of my favorite runs, views, and experiences…

I’m a bit of a night owl, so unfortunately catching fresh tracks is quite difficult for me.  I did manage to get relatively fresh tracks on at least one of the powder days, however.  Even just skiing on a powder day is super fun though, with or without fresh tracks.  The snow is so soft and silky.  You kind of live for powder days if you are a skier.  It’s floaty!!

On the first powder day I experienced here I went for the less-crowded chair lift–Red Dog chair.  I was relatively new to Tahoe at that point and didn’t know the mountain well.  Plus, I wanted to ski pretty easy runs for my first powder skiing in several years (I spent the last few years in Hawaii…).  Red Dog lift was great.  I basically skied laps on a black diamond run called Dog Leg.  It was fluffy bumps at a moderately steep pitch almost all the way back to the lift.  Great exercise, great fun, not too hard.  Just right.  I skied it about four times!  Then I wanted a rest so I skied a few cruisers on the near by Squaw Creek lift.  I got some wonderful fresh tracks (on blue runs) at nearly noon off this chair!  The runs were easy, but that’s okay!  I was tired!  And they were practically empty because all the locals and more advanced skiers were on more challenging parts of the mountain.

That’s kind of typical for me.  I ski way under my abilities sometimes simply because I love to be out in nature–just swooshing along at a moderate, peaceful pace.  I love doing steep, challenging runs sometimes.  But I also love getting off the beaten path, on deserted runs, where I can simply relax and be alone in nature.  This is what the Squaw Creek lift is all about for me.

Powder afternoons at Squaw (for me) are generally spent at probably my favorite place to ski on Squaw:  Siberia Bowl.  I seriously had one of the most fun days of my life skiing powder over-and-over-and-over in Siberia this month.  The lift is fast and the bowl is wide and wonderful.  On a powder day it is pure magic!  But it is a fun place to ski at other times, too (though it can get icy if too scraped off and not quite warm enough for slushy conditions).  The bowl is a black diamond, so not too steep.  You can look for steeper or easier places to come down depending on your abilities.  There are also several small, fun mogul fields between the bowl and the lift, so the “washout” after the bowl is pretty nice, too.

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Now that I’ve been here almost a month, I’ve moved on to more challenging terrain earlier in the day, and I finish the afternoon in Siberia.  My usual routine is to take the Funitel (gondola) up to the top.  Then I ride the Gold Coast Express lift and take the cat-track over to the Shirley Lake bowl.  I traverse over to the Funnel/Attic area of the bowl.  The snow here is consistently some of the nicest on the mountain.  It stays a bit cooler in the shadows in this location.  It also isn’t skied too regularly, isn’t groomed, and is steep but not overpowering.  It really is just some of the best skiing I’ve found!  You have to want it though (traversing).  Not a major issue, however.  Pretty easy to get there.

There is a bit of a washout down to the lifts, but not too bad.

After this little dip into Shirley Bowl I ride the Granite Chief chair until it closes at 3:30.  Usually I get 1-3 runs in here, depending on when I managed to get up in the morning!  I like all the runs I’ve tried off Granite Chief.  It’s a black and double black area.  But, it’s actually still not super hard.  I’m used to skiing Gold Hill in Telluride, which is double black and pretty challenging.  This terrain is easier than that, in a good way for me.  I can do the double ds, but I see them as a challenge, not as my usual lap-ski routine.  (When I was in my 20s I lap-skied the double diamonds…, but those days are gone!  My knees thank me, and thus, I’m okay with it.)  Granite Chief is a challenge while still being unstressful (physically or emotionally).  It’s the perfect place for me.

There is a great little spot up on Granite Chief that looks like a Zen sand tray but with snow.  I really love this scene.  It’s one of my favorite things I’ve seen all month, actually!

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There are a couple of other spots on this mountain I’ve come to appreciate, but those are my favorite places.  There is some challenging terrain off the Headwall lift that I’ve enjoyed and off KT-22, but I like the out-of-the-way more nature-secluded feeling of Granite Chief.  For me, as I said before, skiing is not just a technical experience.  I really like to connect with the beauty of the terrain, so sometimes my favorite runs are easy slopes in beautiful spots.  It’s all about priorities in life, right?  Beauty is definitely one of mine!

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Thanks for a great month Lake Tahoe!

You put me right into my happy place, and I will definitely be back…

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Snowy smiles!  ❄ ❄ ❄

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