Monday, March 30, 2015

Texas Ski Ranch

Howdy! Everything is big in Texas. Except maybe the ski areas. To be exact, there are no ski areas, just a snowboarding hill made of plastic. But, there is still plenty of sunshine, water, speed, and yes, plastic.

I was in a conference in Texas, and had spent a week and a half almost completely inside the hotel. It was time to do something else. Fortunately, my flights home were leaving 8pm, leaving me with plenty of time to explore on Saturday. I googled for skiing, and found nothing. Except for this: Texas Ski Ranch. The ranch is south from Austin, and it would take about four hours to drive there from where I was in Dallas.

But what would I find from the ranch? The ranch sports a small hill covered by blue plastic, cables for wake boarding on a small pond, climbing wall, boating pond, and beach chairs. And of course, friendly Texans and sunshine. Not to mention cowboy hats and boots (on me, at least).

In typical American fashion, the first thing you need to do here is to watch a safety video and sign a release form. But after that it gets more relaxed, no major worries about anything. I was able to use my skis on the plastic hill, for instance, got help with taking photos, the staff kept watering the slope to make it more slippery, and they even offered a bucket of soap to make it more slippery. The slope is relatively small and not very steep. The watering was definitely needed to ski or board down. But it was a fun experience. I suspect that liberal application of soap would increase the speed further.

After skiing and snowboarding, I tried wake boarding. This a new experience for me, and a lot of fun! At the ranch there are two cable tracks to do this: a straight practice cable, and a longer cable system that makes a loop. Both run at around 30 km/h, but the practice cable is easier to start with, as only one person is in the system at one time, and it starts softly. The looping system accommodates maybe dozen people, but starts with a jolt and requires the boarders to know how to make turns.

The practise cable was easy and I found the boarding to be a lot of fun. Surprisingly, I was able to get on the bigger system on the first try, but failed on the first turn. I did not realise I needed to make a broad turn to not lose speed. Instead, I thought I could just board the corner straight, but instead I got a new jolt when my handle started to go the other way. Faceplant to the water!

And when you fall inside the cable track, you have to cross it to swim back to the shore. I felt I really needed to swim faster than I did, with the oncoming boarders zooming past. But I made it to the shore.

I had no time to retry the looping track, as I had to get back to Dallas for my flights. I also had to skip testing the climbing wall and the bar. Maybe next time. It would have been fun to spend an entire day here, now I only had three hours or so. Although it was enough to burn my skin in the sunshine. All the necessary information for a visit can be found from the ranch website. A two hour ticket to any of the activities starts from around 20$, with prices increasing on weekends and for people who need to rent equipment. All activities require a separate ticket. Lessons are also available, as are summer camps for school kids. I can imagine this would be a fun place to spend a week or two in the summer vacation.

Pictures and videos (c) 2015 by Jari Arkko. Tämä blogi löytyy myös suomeksi.

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