Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Of Science and Skiing

I most recently returned from a scientific conference in Taos, NM. It is of the Keystone series of symposia. If you haven’t heard of it already, you should really check it out. They have conferences on all kinds of science, from migration in invasion and inflammation to the future of biofuels or the genetics of sleep. This is the second keystone conference I have attended in my stint as a scholar of science. The greatest thing about these conferences is that they are deliberately held at ski resorts. The intention being, you listen to the science in the morning, hit the slopes during the 6 h afternoon break, and then return for another evening of more science. The day is ended with an open bar and a full buffet-style dinner. Who could ask for anything more? Exceptional science, coupled with exceptional skiing.

My trip did not fail to disappoint. Luckily, I was accompanied by some great people who are a blast to hang out with and like to do “stuff”. Admittedly, we skipped out on the keynote address the first night to try watching the Carolina game at a local bar, Shadows. You would think with a name like that and a neon sign blinking beer that it would be a dodgy place. Actually, it was quite the contrary. There was live music and there were many families with children amongst the rest of us heathens. The manager Pedro was even so kind as to change the T.V. station, to allow us to watch our beloved Tar Heels.

We were able to spend two days on the slopes. I have to tell you Taos, NM when they have snow, especially fresh powder, is *the* place to ski. Long runs, friendly staff, and no people! It was relatively inexpensive as well (granted us Keystoners got a discount). Drive in, ski the better of the day, and drive out; it was as simple as that. Coming from the Midwest, this was a new experience for me. Usually, what we consider “ski resorts” (i.e. converted trash heaps, no joke) are constantly packed with people. The hills are always icy and short (we don’t have real mountains or powder for that matter), and you spend most of your time dodging the ski school if you were ever able to find a parking spot to even enter the place. Perhaps I am becoming somewhat of a ski-snob, but I don’t care. Especially as a beginner skier, a situation like that is counterproductive.

The rest of the conference was spent admiring the local color of the town, and experiencing the enchantment that is NM. It lived up to all my stereotypes, complete with red muddy earth, miles of nothing, and true cowboys that looked weathered by the earth and too much alcohol.

We also hit the local spa one day for a nice long massage after our first day of skiing (which was sorely needed, no pun intended). If you have the opportunity, try the RIVER STONES massage. OMG, heaven on earth. Then sit in the outside hot tub. Conference? I felt like I was on vacation. In the spirit of my first Keystone with Lil Kate, I just had to go snowshoeing again. My experience in NM was a little different then the Utah adventure. In Utah, we had a cute scruffy guide who carried our supplies and led us up to some beautiful panoramic mountain views. In contrast, the NM outing was more like being dropped off in the middle of nowhere and told that you have 2 h to be back at the spot you started or you would be left behind. Regardless of the odd circumstances we had a blast.

The remainder of trip, when not attending poster sessions and talks, was spent sitting around the fire, drinking beer, and partaking in witty banter. I think I could do this as a full time job. Although, by the time the symposium was completed, I was completely exhausted. I took a full day to recover (mainly sleep).

All in all, good fun. I highly recommend it!

Oh, and I'll try and upload some photos later (I'm sure you will all writhe with anticipation!!)


Lil Kate said...

Sounds like you had a great time - as expected with a Keystone Conference. How's that grant coming along? ;) Just teasing - I just noticed that you're posting when you're up to your eyeballs. A good distraction, eh? ;) Ha!

LabTech said...

Wow - I'm so jealous. Sounds like a blast! I'm glad you had fun! I've never been skiing - maybe I should try it. :-)

Dr. Who said...

Yes, expect more posts from me, now that I have serious work to do (;