Opening Day!

Signs of the Times.

We didn’t quite know what to expect. The forecast called for rain and highs in the upper 50s for opening day of the local ski season. But the folks who showed up were the regular enthusiasts who don’t allow weather to spoil their fun especially on the opening day here in the Mid-Atlantic. All of us were clad in Gore Tex in anticipation of the foul weather but to our surprise, the sun came out and the atmosphere in the parking lot was electric. I looked at the lady next to me and asked, ” Excited?” She smiled and said,” look at all these grins in this parking lot.”

Melissa Thompson had her mask- don’t worry.
Margaret and Barry Boucher- opening day stalwarts.

Most people were masked and compliant with the social distancing rules in the chairlift lines. Everyone was respectful but anxious to make those first turns including me. I was shortchanged my last trip out west in March when everything shut down. It was a little disappointing for me to end the ski season that way. But understood seeing the circumstances of Covid.

The Pandemic has added an additional bit of uncertainty to the opening of the new season, but outdoor exercise along with restrictions in food service and time in the lodges allow for safe skiing for all of us. Our local area- Seven Springs Mountain Resort, was well prepared with signs, restricted lodge time, take out food options, and other anomalies that were accepted by the skiers. Heck, we all wanted to ski so if we had to wear a mask, try to social distance, and eat and boot up outside, no big deal. This is the way it is all over the country this year and I am prepared when I try to ski west this year. For the moment, my Jeep is my lodge.

But back to our opening day. One of the things I try to do when I first start is to concentrate on making nice rounded turns with both feet spread out a little bit and on the ground throughout the turn. No lifting the inside ski as per my old school technique. I watched a lot of video this fall in anticipation of my first turns and noticed the World Cup racers stance and several You Tube videos on carving that gave me a mental image of where I wanted to be. The good thing is that the snow was good and our local area made a good effort to make snow, groom, and open what they could, despite the fickle weather conditions. Things are starting to look up this coming week with a snow storm that might be significant.

My friend Scott Dismukes- a true hard core
My Jeep- My ski lodge

It is always good go make those first turns of the season. You build the confidence with each run and the effort to get to the parking lot early and on to the lifts, is well worth it. My smile was wider with each run and the excited conversations in the chairlift lines, although muffled by masks, made me thankful that the opportunity to ski had once again returned. This is my 59th season and I was as excited on opening day this year as I was as a kid all those many years ago. I couldn’t sleep well the night before thinking about it.

Yes – the terrain was limited but the conditions were great. I always say that you can’t be out west or in New England every week if you live here. So why not ski locally and then you are prepared when you do go. I have to tell you that if you like to ski like I do,, you will take every opportunity. The seasons are getting shorter so make the best of it. The folks at Seven Springs made it happen as they do every year for us. I am appreciative. Thanks for reading and think snow.

The Global Warming/Climate Change Disappointment.

So far this winter season, I have had to chase the snow. From skiing and hiking in the rain, to heading west earlier this month, and later next month, to actually ski in some honest to goodness snow. But like I always say, I can’t be out west all of the time so I need to maximize my winters right here at home. Recent meteorological history suggests that climate change is a reality around these parts. Here in Southwest Pa, we are right on the borderline of the snow/rain events. So you really need to head north of Interstate 80 to get to snow country that so far has eluded the climate change issue. At least for now. We had that opportunity this past weekend when Janet and I ventured north to Bradford, Pa. The Icebox of Pennsylvania. I love winter and have posted about that love many times. But when you are standing on a pair of snowshoes and stopping to view and hear the gurgling of a winter mountain stream, it takes your breath away. There is complete silence in the wilds of Pennsylvania save the running water under the ice laden streams. One of the cool things about snowshoeing is that you can easily manage the trails by staying on top of the snow instead of post holing with your hiking boots. We use ski poles as well to aid in our balance and the movement among the snow covered pines and over the bridges of the streams. And if you want to go off trail and bushwhack to get to another stream or point of interest, the drifts are no match for snowshoes. I love bounding over drifts and off trail to enjoy all that the woods have to offer this time of year.

I always struggle to get the most ski days, schlepp equipment to the airport and to the ski areas, get some snowshoe days, look for snow, and in general get what I once had as a regular thing. I never had to search for winter. I grew up with it. Sled riding in the neighborhood with snow all winter. My dad built a skating rink for us in the backyard. We never had issues with weather. Winter was winter. Now we fight the weather, the rain, the sleet, and try to make the most of it outdoors. Sometimes we just have to go on the search for winter because this issue of climate change is affecting our weather down here in the banana belt and it is frankly discouraging to a winter guy like me. At the end of the season, I almost breathe a sigh of relief that the tension I put on myself is over for another year. I get mad at the forecasts, I constantly look at ski reports, I DVR ski races to ease my pain. I can vicariously root for Mikaela Shiffrin or Tommy Ford on the TV after a rain soaked ski day here in the changing weather scene. I will do whatever to enjoy the winter and that includes making things as easy as possible for my wife whose passion for the winter is not as keen as mine. Please note that my wife calls me the Sherpa. Ang McCloskey Sherpa. Two pair of skis, two pair of boots in the pack, two helmets and goggles. She handles the poles. Full disclosure, not that she won’t carry her own stuff, she is perfectly willing. I just do it to make life easy for her and encourage her to chase the snow like me.

So bottom line, I am discouraged at the local winters anymore and kind of bummed at climate change and global warming. I do what I can to help the environment in my own small way. I am a contributing member of POW ( Protect our Winters), the Jeremy Jones endeavor to lobby Washington to heed the call on climate change. I know that weather and climate have cycles over the centuries but there is something to be said about what we do to our atmosphere by way of CO2 emissions . I get it. Other countries better get it too!! Otherwise, our winter scenes, mountain streams, ski slopes, and snow clad peaks will be a distant memory for many folks. Support POW. http://www.protectourwinters.org Thanks for reading folks.