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Week 14: Mike Goes Skiing

CANBERRA AUSTRALIA - 7 August 2000 - This week, Mike went skiing at a real ski resort, but first a couple things happened on Thursday. On Thursday morning, Mike gave a presentation to members of his group about his work at the University of Minnesota. Everything went well with that but afterwards, they got into a discussion about Smarties. Dave began by describing them as convex and loose in a box. This didn't strike me too much but then Mike described the Smarties that he remembered and said they were stacked together and concave. They continued along this track for a while until Mike found out they were made of chocolate. This changed everything. Mike didn't think they were made of chocolate but a packed sugar. Staey, the Canadian, thought he was crazy and Mike nearly believed her. Thus far, he hadn't encountered any differences between American and Canadian culture. After lunch, Staey returned with a box of Smarties that she recognized thinking that Mike would too. To Mike, however, they simply looked like M&M's and generic ones at that. Mike knew he hadn't seen these before and with a little help from the computer figured it all out; The American Smarties Website FAQ describes it all. Apparently, Nestle holds the rights to Smarties almost worldwide and they sell them as M&M type candies. However, in the US, Smarties are made by Ce De Candy, the makers of other candy products like necklaces, bracelets, rings, lipstick, and double lollies. Thankfully, an international incident was averted.

Now to the skiing. Mike found out about the trip on Thursday at lunch and Friday at 5:50am, Mike was on a bus for the Snow Mountains and Perisher Blue with Danne. On the two and a half hour bus ride, Mike saw a beautiful sunrise as the sun began the day by peaking over the mountains and through the fog. After they got their skis, they headed for the slopes. After a few easy runs on the Earlier Starter (Bunny) hill, they headed for some more challenging sections. The ski area was much larger than any Mike had encountered before and so Mike was pretty excited. In addition, the weather was gorgeous as it was sunny and about 45F (7C) in the afternoon. They worked their way around the surrounding mountains and used something Mike had never run across before: T-bars. These are little bars that push two people up the hill; As Danne knows, you have to be careful to keep your skis pointing in the right direction or you'll veer off the bar.

By about mid-morning, they were feeling in form and started working their way away from where they started. On one run, they encountered a woman walking back up the hill saying, "It says it's blue but it should be black" (meaning that it was marked intermediate but should have been marked expert). She added that it was a pretty short section. We went down slowly looking for the spot and stopped at the top. In the mean time, another woman caught up to us. All three of us looked it over and came up with a plan. Danne picked a spot to the left that he thought was the best. The woman and Mike stayed in the middle more and went through the powder only falling a few times. Once they'd all got through the section, they were pretty excited. It wasn't the prettiest piece of skiing but they avoided all the rocks and bushes and most importantly didn't break anything. Once they got towards the bottom of the hill, Mike had a revalation: They'd just gone down the section that Mike jokingly said from the lift ten minutes earlier they should avoid.

After lunch, they found another challenging run. From the top, it looked a bit hard, but was wide enough to not be too tough. They worked their way down falling a few times but then they encountered a row of signs that said the trail was closed. They saw a narrow trail off to the right and followed that a little ways. In this section, it wasn't so much downhill skiing as it felt like uphill skiing. At one point, Mike tried to build a little momentum by cutting across to a lower trail but then he wiped out. The snow was so soft that it was hard for Mike to get his skis on again. After sitting there about ten minutes, Mike walked to the clearing a little ways ahead. Things didn't look too good. There appeared to be two ways down: one was on the other side of a ridge and had a black diamond (expert) next to it; the other was steep but wider and had no sign. Mike opted for the unspecified trail and Danne followed. They fell a few times through the first section then did okay as the trail narrowed. The next section was nearly straight down and relatively narrow; clearly this trail too was a black diamond. The real problem with this is that they had to turn more and not being experts, there's a point where their skis are pointing straight down the hill. This got them going too fast then they'd encounter a little bump and fall in a huge plume of snow. On one fall, Mike couldn't decide if he really wanted to stop himself or just let himself slide down the hill. The other problem is that it's hard to put on skis when the grade is so steep. Finally, Mike made it down to the bottom. He stood there in front of the lift waiting for Danne to make his way down. In the meantime, the lift operator was getting ready to close down for the day. At one point, Mike conteplated asking one of the staff if they could take their snowmobile and go get him. After several words of encouragement from Mike and the ski patrol, Danne successfully made it down. They were the last people on that lift for the day. Danne was pretty excited as he'd made it down an expert hill without breaking any bones. It had taken about an hour but that didn't matter. Mike wasn't quite as positive; he was frustrated and his confidence shattered. Once they got to the top again, Mike requested a nice easy run that they were familiar with. This time they were sucessful. After a few more runs, they called it a day and had a beer. They then caught their bus as the sun set.

On the way home, they discussed Australian versus American pronounciations of certain words and products. Some words that are pronounced differently are Addidas, Mazda, Nissan, and lever. Unfortunately, this medium does not allow for further explanation. Then the bus driver put the movie "Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead". We had a few good laughs as Christina Applegate navigates her way through life in this 1991 comedy. One of the highlights of the movie is David Duchovny's character that is considerably different from his Mulder role on the X-Files. That and the early 90s clothes and hair-style he has. The movie wasn't very well written but still provided some entertainment on the way home. Afterwards, they went to dinner with a bunch of Danne's acquaintances and their friends that had come along skiing. They were all exhausted as it had been a long day.

The rest of the weekend, Mike worked some and upgraded his web page.

Here ends Mike's fourteenth week in Australia.

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