HKD- the man, the myth, the snowmaker!

Scene:  A charlift at a ski area out west somewhere.

Skier in chair:” Hey buddy, where are you from?”

Pat:” Pennsylvania”

Skier in chair:” Where do you ski in Pennsylvania?”

Pat:” Seven Springs Mountain Resort”

Skier in chair(snickering):” How good could it be in Pa?”

Pat: “See those big snowmaking towers over there?  If the man from Seven Springs had not invented them, you would not be skiing this early season fluff here, skippy..  You can thank Herman Dupre for your early season western fun.  Also the US Ski Team would not be training hard at the Speed Center at Copper Mountain if it were not for HKD Snowmaking.” image002

I met Herman Dupre, the former owner of Seven Springs, many years ago when I was a young lad.  When I would see him on the mountain as I do today, his cheery smile and sparkling eyes always greet me with his standard line, ” Hi Pat- welcome to the mountains.”  I have always felt that when I saw Herman, he was truly interested in how I was and that his greeting was always heartfelt.  That is the personality of this larger than life man who I have always respected and admired.  Herman is first and foremost an engineer and a tinkerer.  How many guys do you know that put together their own power plant on the local Youghiogheny River? Or were instrumental in reclaiming wastewater at the resort and using it for snowmaking?  I would see Herman from time to time in the coffee shop at Seven Springs and ask him things like,” Hey Herman- why don’t you buy Laurel Mountain and run it as a sister ski area?”  Herman would smile and sit me down, buy me a coffee, and tell me,” Pat- I will give you 38 reasons why and began illustrating to me the folly, in his mind, of investing in a state ski area two ridges over.  download

Another time, I was skiing in the Poconos with my sister and came back excited to tell Herman about the 55 gallon drums that had large funnels attached to the top of the barrels.  They served as waste recepticles for people who wanted to drop cans off the chairlift.  Once again, Herman sat me down in the coffee shop, bought me a coffee, and explained to me that he knew exactly how much each unit costs to build.  He said,” Pat- I can send a guy up there at the end of every shift and clean up all the cans for a lot cheaper that it would cost me to build a bunch of those units.”  Once again, the wisdom of Herman and his practicality came shining through along with his wit and his smile.  I enjoyed the coffee as well.

Aside from building a ski area and a major mountain resort, Herman’s claim to fame is that he is a pioneer in snowmaking.  He always tinkered with how to utilize high pressure air and water to help Mother Nature spread some snow on our local area which is hampered by cyclical warm weather/cold weather events.  When you ski in the mid Atlantic, you need some help to keep the slopes open.  Snowmaking was the answer and Herman was at the forefront.  In 1973, he applied and received his first of many patents, and in 1990, he introduced the standard tower snow gun that was the first of many low energy products that he and his son in law, Charles Santry and his daughter Anni would bring to the ski area management market.  If you look at their website, you will find all the technical detail of their tower guns, and their new fan jet technology with their recent acquisition of a Canadian company which has increased their R+D capabilities as well as their engineering expertise. http://www.hkdsnowmakers.com   Check out the website because I need to get back to giving you a vision of the founder of all of this.  impulse-landing

Herman is obviously very successful but when you see him driving his Subaru or his motorcycle puttering along at the resort, you would think that this is a maintenance guy checking out equipment on the slopes.  His flannel shirts and jeans are standard attire and his low key, non-“highbrow” demeanor is most welcoming in this world of recently gained affluence and the attitudes that go along with it.  Herman is a working guy and his engineering aptitude keeps his mind fresh even though Herman is well along in years now.

There are new owners currently at Seven Springs and they run the resort a little differently.  Skier visits and  bottom lines are the drivers now in what is a business atmosphere at this long standing resort.  Not that Herman ran it without those considerations, but it is just different now – not saying that it is good or bad- just different.  One thing is that Herman knows snowmaking.  He still experiments in his workshop up near the area and although his company, now run by the Santrys ( Charles -son in law, and Anni- daughter), no one can discount the influence that he has had. HKD Snowmakers is now the leading manufacturer and engineering company in the business with equipment in resorts worldwide.   Automation is big in the industry now and you can see the module components of complete snowmaking systems on the website.  But in the back of your mind as you peruse this site, think of the guy who always thought out of the box and how he influenced an enthusiastic young skier back in the day………..and today on the mountain as well.  ” Welcome to the mountains, Pat.”  That greeting completes that Laurel Highlands experience for me.  Think Snow and thanks for reading.

The “Renaissance” Man

We had a former pastor say one time that there are people in this world who are “drainers.”  People who will suck the living life out of you with their neediness and high maintenance ways.  Then there are people who fill your personal cup to the brim and overflow it with kindness, appreciation, information, friendship, and other enhancements to your life that make you appreciate with wonder- why do they do it?  How do they do it? ” Boy, am I glad that they do it.” ” They are a real force in my life.”Usually people like this have many talents and interests.  I call them Renaissance men or women.  They appreciate life and all it has to offer and are willing to share their talents, wisdom, care and friendship with those around them.  One such person in my life is a guy named Don Cunningham.  photo

Now I am not going to DWELL on the fact that Don is an accomplished freelance engineer for sports television or that he has traveled the world working events like the Olympics, the US Open Golf Tournament, the Masters, Steeler games, Penguin hockey games, Pirate baseball games, the Tour of California bicycle races, the US Pro Cycling Challenge.  Nor am I going to DWELL on the fact that he takes his gear with him and gets a road ride or a mountain bike ride in, or even some slope time skiing.  But Don makes the most of his travel and is not a “slam clicker.” http://chroniclesofmccloskey.com/2013/05/19/dont-be-a-slam-clicker/

Again, I am not going to BELABOR the point that Don is also a very accomplished mountain biker who has an enthusiasm for the sport that is infectious to others around him.  When you see his fitness, and skill level in negotiating rocks, roots, stumps, steep downhills, and grueling uphills, you are amazed at his riding ability.  Don has competed in some of the most daunting MTB races on the planet including the Trans-Alps in Europe as well as being a 10 hour finisher at the Leadville 100 garnering the coveted silver belt buckle.  But he is very humble about his accomplishments.  Kind of like a “ho-hum- yes I did that”  response.  But with all his ability on the bike, he is willing to ride with new riders and show them the ropes of the riding game with a smile on his face and a willingness to spend whatever time it takes to introduce a newbie to the sport.

I similarly am not going to PONDER on how he skis with fluidity and enjoys the winter months almost as much as the more comfortable months because he is willing to subject himself to the weather or any ski conditions. We went to Holimont last season in Western New York and had a wonderful day together at this private ski club and Don handled the cut up Lake Erie fluff with style.  His turns were strong and deliberate but his enthusiasm for the day was the most memorable thing to me.  We both are ski nuts and it was wonderful to share the winter wonderland with a friend like Don.  He even drove which was even more pleasant.  photo

The guy has been everywhere, done everything, and always seems to be in the mix of the fun events that mark our outdoor sports world.  If there is a big ride – Don is there.  If the skiing is good locally or out west- Don is there.  He makes friends easily as is evidenced by his recent meeting with a good friend of mine in Aspen on a mountain bike ride.  He was a bit lost and rode up to some folks on top of a ridge in Aspen.  With a smile, he asked for directions and the girl noticed the pronounced Pittsburgh accent.  After a few exchanges she found out that Don was a friend of mine.  Laughs abounded and now Don is a new riding buddy for Liz Talenfeld when he goes to Aspen.  He is like that.  Makes friends easily and people like to be with him.

Finally I am not going to GO ON SHAMELESSLY, about how Don makes absolutely the best beer in the universe.  His skill as a craft brewer is legendary and at every mountain bike picnic whether he is there or not, his beer is there and the accolades ring far into the night fueled by the current Cunningham IPA.  He is a Renaissance man, I tell you, in every sense of the word.  Traveler, athlete, educator, brewmeister, but most of all…………Don is a friend.  He probably has mastered that skill the best.  He is truly one of those individuals who fills your cup or fills your spirit and when you have spent some time with Don on the slopes, or on the trail, or sitting by his keg of IPA, you feel so much better just having spent the time with him.  He is compassionate, knowledgeable, energetic, and in most instances can grind you into the dust at his chosen sport.  But being an enthusiastic friend is what he does best.  If you can assemble some Renaissance men or women in your life, you are truly blessed.  We all have our share of drainers.  Oh, and one more thing………he does it all with a prosthetic leg.  Be inspired.  Thanks for reading.

Bitten by the Ski Bug

Back in 1961, my mom and dad( who did not ski) took my sister and I for the first time to Seven Springs Resort here in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania.  It was a terrible experience of travel that cold March night on the turnpike and I remember clearly my dad white knuckling our car all the way to the Donegal exit.  What transpired that weekend was a lifelong love of skiing that was made possible by the generosity and care of my parents.  On a subsequent visit to Hidden Valley the following year, my mom skied for two feet.  At the prodding of her friend Virginia Ruth, my mom put on the skis, slid for two feet, fell on her head and said,” That’s it- take the damn things off.”  She never skied again nor did my dad who had back surgery and skiing was not in the picture.

Fast forward and I was a regular on the Friday night ski bus from the little ski shop in the North Hills Village shopping center.  My dad made friends with the owner and she said she would look out for me with all the high school kids on the bus.  How I skied with my wooden skis, cable bindings, and leather lace up boots is still a mystery to me.  The slopes were icy, no grooming to speak of, early primitive snow making or no snow making at all, at night, cold as hell.  But I loved it!!!  The ski bug bit me and the venom of that bite still flows through my veins- 53 years later.  I spent weekends after that at the Rich cabin on County Line Road and the weekly trip to the Laurel Highlands was the norm for me.  I had a smile on my face the whole way.  Franklin Park-20130307-00105

I have skied in 108 different areas to date and still manage to take several trips per year out west and to New England.  If you look at my bio, it shows my history in the sport and people ask me why I still ski at Seven Springs when I have the opportunity to ski elsewhere during the season.  The reason is put best by a guy that I rode the chair with last weekend.  As we braved the new snow on opening day at the Springs, I remarked to him that people asked me why I was going up to ski 3 slopes this early in the season.  He said,” Why not?  You make the same turns here that you do at Jackson Hole.”  How true.  I love to make turns- whether it is at Seven Springs or elsewhere, skiing is fun.  What else should I do on a Saturday morning- watch cartoons?  My friends from 53 years of skiing are still there and we all get together on opening weekend to catch up, drink coffee and tell each other about the new equipment we have and trips we will take.  Skiing is addicting and it is a lifestyle not just something we do.  I like to consider myself a skier and not just someone who skis.  There is a difference.  I also noticed this past Thanksgiving weekend that there were as many gray hairs and beards out there as there were young kids.  When you are bitten by the ski bug, you are a skier for life.  Whatever metaphor you like- bitten, hooked, etc, skiing is part of your life and that opening day no matter where it is excites you.  I still can’t sleep the night before.  Just like when I was a kid.  Love the Laurel Highlands.  O'Hara-20130104-00081

Returning back to last weeks post, ” Pay it Forward”, the ski bug or hook can be set by someone bringing new people into the sport.  My friend JR who I work with, has taken the time to bring his son Isaac to ski.  Along with Kate, Sydney, Joey and Jackson, they get up early, make the trek to the mountains, and ski together.  JR is a good man.  He is not wild about skiing but sees that Isaac and his pals and cousins love it and so he puts himself out there as the sherpa much like my dad did with us when my sister and I started.  Sometimes a friendly word from an outside source such as yours truly helps the process.  JR was skiing at Hidden Valley last spring and called me to tell me that he had the group there.  I immediately went to my car, drove with my ski boots on( a real acquired skill as a skier), and located them at HIdden Valley.  One of the boys was struggling a bit and I saw the problem and asked JR if I could intervene.  He responded in the affirmative and with a few friendly pointers, the kid who might have quit for the day became hooked- or bitten, and this past weekend, he skied better than ever according to JR.  You need a good start in the sport and whether you take a lesson or you learn from someone who knows, the initial experience is crucial.  So many people go skiing with a friend, get hurt, have a bad experience because their start was not good.  Take the time to learn properly.  Kids acquire skills naturally and take to the sport reasonably well.  But a few well placed words of instruction can mean the difference between someone catching on or someone quitting and never returning to the mountains again.  Guys like JR, my dad, Bob Rose all took the time and made the sacrifices so that kids like me and this group, could take up the sport of a lifetime.  I will always be grateful to my dad and Bob Rose- and this crowd will always be grateful to JR.  In the immortal words of Oswald, the old mascot for Seven Springs in his Tyrolean hat and Leiderhosen- ” Leben Weider” – Live again!!!  The excitement, the passion, the fun all reside on the slopes for me and I can’t wait for each season to start.  850 vertical feet and 3 slopes- you bet.  I will be there!!!  Thanks for reading and be passionate about something.  IMG_20141129_122823049

Pay it Forward

Thought I would send the weekly post a little early due to Thanksgiving.  Speaking of which, I am thankful for people like Bob Bannon, the Lord of Lumens, for his friendship and being the glue to the local mountain bike community.  I am waiting for ski season but will still ride until it becomes a muddy, icy mess on the trails.  So last Saturday it was 18 degrees and I put out the message about the ride and only Bob, and a new young guy named Matt, and I showed up in the Family Dollar parking lot.  Our mission was to ride the fast and flowy trails of Deer Lakes Park here in Allegheny County in Western Pa.  Now Bob, being the Pied Piper of all mountain bikers here in the burg, was happy to show the new guy around.  Matt is a nice kid but really, I have socks older than him and Bannon is older than I am by a few years.  So it was Matt and the old guys heading out on the trails.       In true Bannon fashion, Bob makes the ride enjoyable because he describes where we are going to ride, what to look for by way of obstacles, and what trail maintenance he has done on the trails to make them flowy and enjoyable.  He puts a lot of volunteer time in and enthusiastically sends out weekly messages about rides in the area, where to meet, and when.  Getting back to the frigid ride, we were bundled up and as Bob went through his routine, we both noticed that Matt had a nice bike and was riding in running shoes.  Being the inquisitive guy that I am, I started asking him about where he was from.  Turns out he went to IUP and spent some time in forestry in the wilderness of Northern California.  Tough kid, good rider, but running shoes have to go.  Bob and I both gave Matt some advice about the virtues of clipless pedals and shoes.  The kid took it in stride and I think we may have made an impact because I think he sees the value and will get those items shortly.  photo

As the ride progressed, Bob and I were impressed at Matt’s fitness and his riding ability despite the handicap of running shoes. He also rode with no gloves.  Amazing!!! 18 degrees!!  We came across a guy we know from riding who was walking his dogs.  As I handed him my camera to take some pictures of the frozen trio, the big dog climbed up on me and barked in my face and the ratty little dog bit my shin.  I don’t have much luck with dogs.  I tell people that dogs like me………I taste like chicken.  You can have dogs, but that is another blog post followup.  We had lots of tales for Matt about local riding and riding in the west.  Matt met us through an organization called Meet Up. http://www.meetup.com.  Bob’s posting of weekly rides is on their web site and Matt hit it right when he had the opportunity to ride with Bob.  photo

The freezing rain started falling at the end of the Deer Lakes ride and as we ventured out into the parking lot, I gave some more advice to Matt to get back on the grass because the pavement was slick.  Too late.  Matt was down and I was a little late with more advice that would have enhanced his experience.  Bob and I were happy to have Matt that day.  We both like the opportunity to get people enthused about mountain bike riding and never miss an opportunity to “pay it forward” like people did for us back in the day.  Bob pays it forward big time every week……every day.  Good guy.  Lots of people like to ride with Bob.

An additional payoff was when I was tipped off at the OTB Thursday night ride that we would be stopping at the Deer Creek Diner for their famous pancakes after our ride on Saturday.  Matt was all in,  and we changed clothes and gingerly made our way our of the park on the glazed roadways to the diner in Russleton,Pa- right around the corner.  The coffee was hot and good, the service was very friendly, and the pancakes………….well…………..have a look.  Amazing!!!  I bring my own Vermont maple syrup when I have a chance to prepare like this outing and it is the only syrup that would do justice to these colossal cakes.  Matt had the chance to experience Grade A fancy syrup and Bob and I relished the morning knowing that we had given Matt a good ride, a good breakfast, and as a grand finale- Bob wrote down the exact specs for Matt to purchase a light so he could ride with our group on the trails after dark.  I hope that Matt reports back to” Meet Up” that he had a good experience with two knowledgeable, fun old codgers who showed him a beautiful trail system, fed him well, and gave him valuable lighting options.  photo

Really- this is what mountain biking or skiing is all about.  Sharing knowledge, enthusiasm, planning, and general frivolity in a relaxed environment.  Good exercise with the hopes that guys like Matt pay it forward some day soon.  The more riders the better the riding.  So, pay something forward.  Help out a new guy.  Share your experience and knowledge with someone.  I have done that and now all the people I have taught are killing me out on the trails.  Go figure.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We all have a lot to be thankful for- health, happiness, and friends like Bob.  photo

Time to razor and wax em!!!

I usually get a celestial gift on or around my birthday in the form of snow flurries or snow showers.  They look after me up there and remind me that I am on their radar screen.  :)  But it is also a trigger to get some things organized so that when the first turns are made on the slopes, I am ready to go.  I usually put the ski magazines that come trickling into my mailbox in August, September, and October in a rack so that I don’t get too excited too early.  My mountain bike friends always joke about how long it will be before I will mention skiing on a ride.  They set their watches and look for new records in the discussions.  But when those flakes start to fall, the precipitation  reminds this big flake to get organized for the season ahead.photo

My friend Eric Durfee taught me the fine art of sharpening and waxing skis many years ago.  He is a native Vermonter now living in Tahoe and his son Travis was top ten in Downhill and Super G west of the Mississippi for many years .  He and his dad know a thing or two about tuning skis.  Back in the day, Eric got me a pair of these tuning vices which are now too narrow for the bottom work because of the width of skis these days.  I have to Magiver a little bit to do any work on the bottoms but mostly when needed, I take them to the local shop and use their Wintersteiger machine to get the bottoms flat. http://www.wintersteiger.com  In the old days, we used a 10″ mill bastard file to try to flatten the bottoms but ski bottoms are so hard these days that only a machine will get them flat.  The modern tuning machines can also provide a beveled edge and Eric and Travis can also do that manually with file devices with specific bevel adjustments.  I am not that sophisticated.  I get the bottoms flat and then side file with an 8″ mill bastard file and can feel the sharpness measured on my fingernails- old school.  The Durfees chuckle at this because it is so old school and how I cannot utilize the technology of bevel file tools.  But I prefer to have the edge sharp to my own liking.  There is something also therapeutic and comforting knowing that you are working on your own skis.photo

Waxing is another requirement.  I use Swix all purpose wax that I buy cheap through PSIA.  When I go to Tahoe, the boys grab my bar and throw it violently into the wastebasket.  But I use it here at home mostly because it works and it is cheap.  Nothing like a freshly waxed pair of skis.  I have a bit of nostalgia when I go to my garage on tuning days, especially in the beginning of the new ski season.  My dad made my bench out of a door that he bought at the hardware store many years ago.  He mounted it in his house when I was younger and then he helped me mount it in later years in my garage in my townhouse and then in my first house in West View, Pa.  I had it mounted in my current garage and every time I work on my skis, I think of my dad who helped me with many things.  He was the first guy who got me skiing 53 years ago and he didn’t even ski.  He loved the fact that I took to the sport when I was young and then when I asked him to help me design a bench, he was more than happy to help.  His mechanical engineering and general carpentry skills came into play.  I wish I had more of his talent, but it lies elsewhere.  I am a klutz mechanically.  But I can sharpen and wax a pair of skis.

I like to stay after tuning all winter because it really makes a difference in the way a ski performs.  Mentally it is an edge when the conditions get icy because you can feel confident that you have a pair of skis that will hold when you put pressure on a ski in the initiation of a turn.  The Durfees are way ahead of me when it comes to modern tuning technique but for the most part, my way has served me well over all the years.  When I go out west to visit though, I have to be at the top of my game because the Durfee boys will be inspecting and criticizing my work.  I am a tuning guru locally, but I am behind the times in the Sierras.  But it is all good and it works for the most part.photo

Funny how things like tuning can be passed down generations or even among friends.  My pal Art Bonavoglia and I used to ski in Vermont when the Durfees lived there and Art got his first taste of Durfee Tuning 101 in the basement of the Durfee home in Bethel, Vermont.  Art can really put a sharp edge on a pair of skis but these days he is spoiled because the local shops in Vail tune his skis. He is on the ski school staff there.  But his input goes into the shop as he drops them off and no doubt a lot of his requirements came from those Vermont days and also from days in the McCloskey garage where we worked together on the boards back in the day.Minturn-Red Cliff-20120202-00009

A lot of folks take their skis to a shop in the beginning of the season and then don’t touch them until the following season.  Not much tuning is required if you don’t ski in icy conditions but waxing is always a must for all skiers.  I am constantly preaching the value of sharpening and waxing on a more regular basis to local skiers.  But whether they take my advice or not, I know that I will continue to tune my skis and my wife’s skis and that the benefits are not only in performance of the equipment, but also in the memories of seasons gone by with my old bench and my 30 year old Geze vices that have withstood the test of time.  Thanks to Eric and thanks to his son Travis who keep us all in line.  Think snow and thanks for reading.

Single-Tracked Mind- Guest Blog Post.

As promised, here is a guest post from my blogging friends from the Bay Area- Jesse and Taylor of Single-Tracked Mind.  Check out their most excellent blog at http://www.singletrackedmind.com  Really well done fitness, trail running, running, and adventure blog.  Beautiful pictures of the Bay Area in and around Marin and San Francisco.

Prior to diving headfirst into endurance sports, skiing was my number one sport.  In fact, skiing was one of the main reasons why I decided to pursue endurance sports.  When I lived in NYC, I spent a majority of my free time and money flying out west in the pursuit of powder days.  After a few great runs, my excitement outpaced my fitness level, and I became frustrated with the status quo.  Determined to make a change, I experimented with different forms of cross-training that would benefit my skiing, and trail running has given me the most transferrable fitness thus far.  Here are some of the major benefits I’ve reaped.      Improved aerobic capacity: this one goes without saying.  While long, slow runs are great for boosting aerobic capacity, don’t overlook the importance of speed and threshold work.  Think of it as skiing down a mogul field filled with VW Beetle sized moguls.  You will be gassed, and it will hurt, but you will thank yourself in a few months once the snow falls.19042_663532792882_4647847_n

Well- rounded functional strength: trail running on hilly terrain is an excellent way to boost functional strength.  between the engagement of the posterior chain- calves, hamstrings, and glutes when running uphill, and the load bearing on your quads, while running downhill, trail running works all muscle groups in the legs.

Access to more terrain: If you are in shape, hiking for the good stuff becomes much less of a chore.  More powder, more turns, fewer people.

Muscular self awareness: I’ve learned that my glutes are proportionally weaker than the other muscle groups through trail running.  Uphill running made me disproportionally sore and tight through my glutes and I have spent time strengthening them this season.

Improved line sighting: much like skiing, trail running requires a keen eye and a strong ability to sight.  Practicing sighting on the trail while running downhill translates to improved sighting come ski season.  73105_736502006992_3455600_n.

Guest Post: Pat McCloskey at Chronicles of McCloskey

patmccloskey:

I was a guest blogger for Jesse and Taylor of Single Tracked Mind. They have a really cool blog about trail running, running, endurance events in the Bay Area. They will be a guest blogger on my post tomorrow. Follow Single-tracked Mind

Originally posted on Single-tracked Mind:

We jumped at the opportunity to do guest posts with Pat McCloskey at Chronicles of McCloskey. Jesse is an avid skier and started his segue into endurance sports to improve upon his ski skills. While I’ve yet to hit the slopes, Pat’s involvement with BOLD definitely makes me want to learn.

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to ski?  Maybe you have thought about it?  Maybe you have even scheduled a potential outing at your local area?  But for some reason, you have delayed, found other activities, or perhaps even a little fear is involved?  If you look at the video above you will see a visually impaired skier with a guide skiing down a black diamond slope in Pennsylvania.  As you could surmise, it takes great courage to attempt such a venture when you cannot see the slope, the snow, or the guides around…

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