Spring Break at Lake Tahoe

April 6, 2009

One downside to having a full time job, is finding the time to take vacation.  Most engineering companies offer 10 days of vacation to starting employees, and depending on how rigidly sick time is enforced you might be able to count on another 5 days.  I’ve now worked at my current company long enough to qualify for one additional week of vacation.  While those numbers might seem paltry, I find it most difficult to find a time that doesn’t negatively impact my projects.  But sometimes you just have to get away.

This “spring break” I traveled to Lake Tahoe, Nevada to meet with 10 college friends and go skiing.  We’re trying to make it a tradition; last year we went to Salt Lake City, Utah.  On both trips, we were able to rent an entire house.  This saves money, but it also reminds me of life in the dorms – only the good times.  We cooked large family style meals and gathered around the table to share old and new stories.

This year we skied at the Squaw Valley and Norstar resorts.  I actually prefer to snowboard, but the rest of the gang seeks out the skiers’ paradise.  Squaw offered some very technical runs; it was the site of the 1960 Winter Olympic Games.  I’m just good enough to allow myself to get into trouble, and those black diamonds were all I could handle.

The views at both resorts were absolutely incredible.  On some runs, it felt like we would ski right down into Lake Tahoe.  From an engineer’s perspective the lifts taking us up to the top of the mountain were similarly impressive.  For gondolas carrying up to 12 people, sturdy posts topped with steel trusses were necessary to carry the loading.  And at each end, concrete lift houses anchored the ends of the cable system and provided for an easy exchange of passengers.

Getting to the resorts may not have been so easy if it wasn’t for the efforts of local civil engineers.  Just days prior to our arrival, several feet of fresh snow were dropped on the Lake Tahoe area.  Driving up the winding mountain roads from Reno felt like navigating a narrow cavern.  Given the considerable about of snow removal required to keep the roads serviceable, I was surprised by the lack of potholes and icy patches.   What are they doing differently out there?

It was a great trip!  I’ve been back to work long enough now to be counting my vacation days again.  Come to think of it, I feel a cold coming on…

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