Big Sky, Montana for Wilderness Medicine Conference 07-14FEB2008

We decided, much to Betsy’s chagrin, to drive to this conference. At first, it seemed slightly unlikely that we would make it since the West was having more snow than we initially imagined. We had to travel across several passes, including Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades and Lookout Pass in Idaho, and both were intermittently closed due to excessive snowfall. Fortunately, we made it across both passes in a narrow window when they were open. Before the start of our adventure, we were blessed by a visit from several of our beloved relatives, Jim & Joann Dietrich from Silverton, Oregon, and Wes & Esther Moser, from Lester, Iowa. They also were heading for the mountains, going to Leavenworth, Washington for a brief break from herding sheep & electrons. Joann and Esther are cousins of mine, on the Feucht side of the family. I had stacks of old Feucht photos that mom left when she died, and nobody in our family knew who they were. Well, Joann and Esther immediately recognized just about everybody. There were even childhood photos of Joann and Esther, which I felt their children would prize more than I would. So, I let them take the whole shebang. (Last year, I scanned all the Sam Feucht family photos and digitized them, so that everybody in the family has access to our photos on request. It’s a nice way to not only preserve photos but to distribute photos without everybody fighting over who gets what.) Anyway, after lunch, they took off, and then we took off. Barely making it across Snoqualmie Pass, we arrived in Spokane, Washington for the night. The next day, Lookout Pass was formidable but open, and Montana was quite easy driving.
Big Sky was a beautiful resort, and the conference was quite delightful, in fact, probably one of the finest medical conferences that I have ever attended. You might see more details on the corresponding blog site. I downhill skied two of the three free days available, since the conference lectures would start in the early morning, end around 10 AM, and then re-convene at 1630 in the afternoon. There would also be an evening lecture, as a preview of a new upcoming documentary film on the events on Mt. Everest detailed in Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air”, or Conrad Anker speaking with slides, on his climb of the Tibet side of Everest, leading to his discovery of the body of Mallory, and how he showed that Mallory probably did NOT summit Everest.
Skiing was nice the first day on packed snow, but much harder the second day, since there was fresh snowfall, and I was totally not used to skiing in 6 cm of powder. It takes too much work to turn, and I was sore after only about 3 runs down the mountain.

Getting ready to do some blue runs. I’m not quite good enough for most black runs but was really tempted.

Self-photograph. I wear the ugliest orange helmet so that my friends can easily find me when I am up skiing. Also, I prefer a helmet, in order to protect my second favorite organ. This boy will not get photo-keratitis or snow blindness, and I am wearing SPF 50 suntan lotion.

Second day up skiing. Lots of powder, visibility down.
As a little tidbit that we learned at this conference, the rule of threes… most ski injuries happen after the third day of skiing, at three in the afternoon, after a third beer. When studied more carefully, the number one factor that falls out in ski injuries is visibility. So, I now retreat to green slopes or to the lodge when visibility deteriorates to the point that I can’t see the texture of the snow I’m skiing on.
Betsy and I brought our cross-country skis but decided not to cross-country at the last moment. This area is ideal for cross-country and would love to cross-country into Yellowstone someday.
Driving home was another stress on poor Betsy. We came on I-90 and decided to return on I-84. Getting to I-84 was a problem since the road to Idaho Falls was almost entirely mountainous, and also in extreme winter conditions. We got down to West Yellowstone and found that a large semi-truck overturned across the road, and so nobody was getting through and the road was closed. Quickly looking at the map, I saw an alternate route by going back about eight miles. After going about twenty-some miles through the most desolate roads, not seeing another soul on the roads, Betsy began to freak. I began to be thankful that I had just learned winter survival techniques and was ready to practice these newfound skills. Finally, after about 30-some miles of the most desolate winter conditions, we saw a caravan of semi-trucks roar by us in the opposite direction, so knew we were on a road that led to somewhere. After reaching Idaho Falls, and the weather looking a bit better, we got onto I-84, but we ran into the most frightful snowstorm, with only light snow falling, but high winds, and snow freezing on our windshields, making visibility almost impossible. We survived by following a truck that seemed familiar with the road, until about 30 miles later, we broke through into a wonderful sunset. That evening, we learned that that section of I-84 was just closed because of the problem we experienced. I’m just glad we got through in time, having a truck to follow.  We stopped that evening in Boise, Idaho, then drove the next day on I-84 to Portland, across the Blue Mountains, and down the Columbia River Gorge, stopped at Roses in Portland to have a Reuben, and headed home, arriving home at 1530.  We thank the Lord for safe travel. Next time, I’ll bring some Valium for Betsy.
Stay tuned for our next adventure to Deutschland und Österreich in April.