A Fitting Tribute

Lois and Phillip Dupre

Sitting at one of the tables reserved for friends of Lois Dupre Schuster, I was engaged in a conversation with Angel and Andy Michanowicz and Willis Croker. Willis is a bright young guy involved in commercial real estate in Pittsburgh and I ended up apologizing to him for Andy and I rehashing 50 year old ski stories of friends and events. That is kind of the way it was at the induction ceremony this weekend at Seven Springs Resort for the Pennsylvania Snow Sports Museum Hall of Fame. Willis’s grandmother Lois and her late husband Phillip were inducted this year into the Hall of Fame and it was a fitting award for two people who really shaped the soul of Seven Springs back in the day.

Lois Dupre Schuster

Lois not only developed the rental shop at Seven Springs back in the day, as well as many other services, but served as the mayor of Seven Springs Boro for 50 years. Her enthusiasm for the ski area and the people who came as guests was only matched by her late husband Phillip who was the “go to” guy for a lot of daily things at the resort in the early days. Lois said that if you needed anything, you called Phillip. He was just that kind of guy who always had a resolution for any issue and was always willing to help. Lois had a great story about the early days when a congressman and his wife arrived at Seven Springs. The hotel was booked and when asked by the congressman if there was anything Phillip could do to secure a room, he responded that he had extra beds in his home. That is just the kind of person Phillip was. 40 years of Christmas cards that came in the following years from President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty, served to show how much they appreciated the effort. They had a great time and always remembered the kindness of the Dupres.

Stories like this abounded at the induction ceremony. Rus Davies, a local legend in ski instruction and ski patroller foundations at Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, and Laurel Mountain was also inducted in a most deserving way. And behind every good man is a good woman. Rus’s wife Miriam encouraged Rus all along the way in his illustrious career with the ski community.

Rus Davies

Western Pa has been widely represented in the nominations and elections to the Hall of Fame. Josef Cabe, Dick Barron, Jim McClure, Bill Bendl, Herman Dupre, Lars Skylling, Willi Klein, Doc DesRoches, and the founders of Seven Springs- Helen and Adolph Dupre. Even Olympic medalist and World Cup racer Dianne Roffe has also been inducted for her work with ski areas in Pennsylvania.

Michelle and Frank Pipak and Helen Durfee( Lois Dupre’s oldest daughter)

But as Charlie Hinchliffe and I looked about the room this weekend and at the subsequent reception at Lois’s home. we remarked that it was amazing to see how many people there look at skiing as a lifestyle and not just something that they do once in a while. People like Frank and Michelle Pipak, whose countless hours as PSIA Level III ski instructors have enriched the lives of their students in many ways. Rich Wright was there to honor Lois as he was the voice of Seven Springs for many years on the PA system. If you continued to scan the reception, it was amazing to see how well people are faring after many years. Skiing does that to you. It keeps you young and alive and enthusiastic for that first snowflake that comes as the herald of winter. There are people who ski, and then there are skiers. The people in that room and at the reception were skiers – there is a difference.

Now many of us have skied all over the world and appreciate the Rockies, the Wasatch, the Alps and other alpine venues. And although the Laurel Highlands do not offer the vertical drop of some other places in this country, the soul of skiing still exists strongly in our part of the world. We all consider the Laurel Highlands our home field and it is always great to reconnect at the beginning of the season and see our winter friends enjoying the slopes once again. The passion that the inductees into the Pa. Snowsports Hall of Fame have shown, indicates a love for something that is greater than themselves. They selflessly contributed and developed the opportunities for many of us to enjoy the sport of skiing- right here in our home state of Pennsylvania. The Eastern contingent of guests this weekend also feel the same way about their inductees from the Poconos and together, the blending at the reception of eastern Pa skiers and Western Pa skiers was really heartwarming to see.

Dupre memorabilia

As I drove home from the event, I thought about the 61 years that I have spent in the Laurel Highlands and the friends that I have made over the years. Skiing has brought so much to my life and thinking of friends who are no longer with us, but made an impact, was a bit nostalgic driving down County Line Road. Pennsylvania has a rich history in the sport of skiing, and to have it celebrated with events like the induction ceremonies this weekend, showcases the enthusiasm and passion that local skiers have for their home mountains. I am happy to have been a part of it and hopefully will have many more years on the slopes both locally and in other areas where there is another whole host of friends who share the same love of the sport of skiing. Thanks for reading, congratulations to all the inductees, and think snow!!

The Adventuremen

The Adventuremen plus Julie!!

Organized mountain bike rides are usually a lot of fun, especially when they are in the Laurel Highlands. Great trails, sunshine, beautiful state forest greenery, and challenging rock sections. But this day was special among the scores of organized rides at this time of year. http://www.adventuremen.org was the host with the founder Greg Nass at the helm. Adventuremen is an organization of Christian men who enjoy the outdoors together. The signature event is Adventurefest which is a camping event the weekend before Father’s Day. Great speakers, bonfires, mini-bike riding, fishing, Harley riding, mountain bike riding at Raystown, basketball, air cannons, drones, and a plethora of other activities that make the weekend a blast. The venue is at Agape Farm and I have posted on it before. Great group of guys and a great event. But Greg and I decided it was time to branch out from the fest and perhaps schedule some outside events like the ride at Laurel Mountain. It was special on many fronts.

Our fearless leader- Greg Nass.

First of all, my pal Jeff Chetlin came with his wife Julie- even though technically it is a men’s event. Julie rides the rocks better than anybody though, and she was a welcome addition. Jeff, as I have posted before, is returning from a stroke about a year ago and this was his first ride back on some technical trails. Our buddy Pete and Jeff rode together and it was amazing that Jeff has made the comeback due to a lot of hard work on his part and answered prayer. Julie rode the rocks with us. Jeff will ride them soon.

Next amazing story was my pal Tom Tiernan. He has come back twice from cancer and was in terrific shape. Tom pays a lot of attention to his fitness and it showed on the ride in the Laurels. He is an amazingly enthusiastic guy despite some pretty major health setbacks. He enjoys life and really likes mountain bike riding as well as road cycling. He is back and his health and fitness show it. And he talks the whole ride- can’t figure it out. He must have lungs of iron. He and I wouldn’t let anyone else get a word in edgewise. LOL!!!

The group was rounded out by the dentists- Steve Gurtner, and his pals Brad and Sean. All great riders with whom I have ridden many times. Along with Steve’s son Dan who decided to ride with the old guys this day. Julie and Jeff were in the dental field as well and if any one of us had any issues with our teeth on the ride- well we were covered. Roger Evans brought his posse up from West Virginia. Roger and I ride at Adventurefest every year at Raystown and it was great to see him again. My pal Sandy McKee came along and all in all- 16 riders of different backgrounds, faiths, believers, non-believers, and general good guys all hooted and hollered as we left the parking lot after a thoughtful prayer by Greg asking for protection. Greg also asked for prayer requests which were numerous in coming.

The West Virginia Boys and Pete.
Steve and Dan at Wolf Rocks- watching for rattlers.
Sandy taking a breather.

The cool thing about the outing was that even though it was sponsored by a faith based outdoor organization, there was nothing uncomfortable about it. Everyone, no matter if you have faith or no faith, likes to have a prayer said on their behalf. Greg handled it with grace and it was well received. The misnomer about a lot of Christian men is that they are extremists, right wing, condescending when nothing could be further than the truth. Real Christians recognize that they are sinners and in need of the Savior. There was no uncomfortable discussion, no shoving anything down anyone’s throat, just plain fun in the mountains on our bikes. Christian guys are not weirdos. Just come to Adventurefest and see for yourself. They know the good news of the Gospel and are willing to share it, only if asked. Just normal Joes like the most of us. No need to be intimidated by Christian men whose battle cry at the front of the pack was “Halle……….then the back of the pack responds ……..lujah.” And the whole group chuckles and keeps riding.

Mountain biking is a cool way to get 16 guys together and 1 cool lady for some exercise and fun in the woods, with some great dialog. People have issues, or have friends and family with issues, and no better people to discuss them with than the guys from Adventuremen at what they call ” Dirt Church.” I am happy to be associated with them and in fact Greg asked me to be on their board. I was truly honored. So guess what he gets out of me? An enthusiastic guy who organizes fun rides or as I call them Pleasant Pat Peddling. I am going to try to organize some more rides, hikes and even a ski day or 2. Check with me or http://www.adventuremen.org. Adventuremen on Facebook and Dirt Church on Facebook. If you have interest, join one of these FB groups and get all the latest information on rides and events. Greg, Shark, Pete and I invite everyone and it is amazing who God puts together. Normal people – mountain bike riders – in the woods, discussing life and its ups and downs, and how faith in the Lord can fuse it all together. Thanks for reading.

Send It

UCI World Cup Snowshoe- home of the “Senders”

So I go into Trail Flo Bikes the other day to pick up my mountain bike after a minor repair and after I say “thank you” for the quick service the owner, Tom Florcik, says to me- “send it.” I kind of chuckled because I always liked this expression of devil may care bravado. He basically was saying – ” take your bike Pat and go throw caution to the wind.” “Send it”.

Women’s UCI Downhill- Snowshoe, WVA

Now when you go to a World Cup mountain bike event, and watch the downhill, you see some real senders. They absolutely have no fear and go as fast as they possibly can to win. They stand in the starting gate and you hear their coaches and team mates say “send it” right before they launch into the course. If you have any thoughts of slowing down at any point, you are out of the top ten. Similarly, if you watch any of the Red Bull Rampage out in Utah- you see some amazing scenes of guys and gals riding impossibly steep descents complete with back flips off jumps. They send it for sure, again with no fear. Well, maybe a little bit in the starting gate, but for the most part, they are amped to compete.

Corbett’s Couloir- Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

I can remember standing on the edge of Corbett’s Couloir in Jackson Hole, back in the day, and thinking of where I was going to slide in and make my first turn. Something in me said, ” send it” and I went for it in my own way. Today’s kids start roughly 100 yards above the couloir and do a back flip into the abyss in the Kings and Queens of Corbett’s much to my amazement. Their meaning of “send it” is much different than mine. Today- at my age, I like to ride to ride another day and also stay on the ground. Mountain biking is exercise for me and not hucking off some cliff or big rock outcrop. Skiing is making nice turns and staying on the ground as well. “Send it” is a relative term these days.

Looking down from the summit of Mammoth Mountain, California.

I like to think that occasionally I can rise to the occasion and be like Toby Keith when he says, ” I ain’t as good as I once was, but I am as good once as I ever was.” Nice thought but for the most part only dreaming. ” Send it” today has a much different meaning to me than what it means to today’s generation.

Attitude plays a big part too in “sending it.” Take Missy Giove here back in the day after her loss in the dual slalom at the NORBA Nationals in Snowshoe. I rode up the chairlift with her and she was quite engaging and talkative, but you could tell she was pissed that she lost. She then got off the chair and launched herself back down the course with the attitude of ” send it” in a much different meaning. Kind of funny – the crowd thought so too.

Missy the Missile

When I think of the term, ” send it”, it conjures up nerves. I think about getting out of your comfort zone and with a little bit of reckless abandon, you do something you might not ordinarily do . You have to get the negative ” what if” out of your head and think positive. That can have consequences or if you pull it off, it will have you ” smiling like a butcher’s dog.” Even though I am fairly conservative these days, there are the occasions when I will try something relatively imposing, but that is the rare occasion. Getting hurt takes a little more healing time and you have to face the reality that you are not 25 years old anymore. ” Send it” might be something relatively docile compared to the old days.

I do think there are ways though these days where you can ” send it” under different circumstances. For instance, my friends who live in Florida volunteer for Samaritan’s Purse. They live a comfortable life in Florida but when SP calls, they are deployed to some really needy places in the world. They probably think, ” ahh, do we really want to go?” But then they “send it” and off they go to places and people who really need their help. We can ” send it” the same way when we have a friend in need, a sick neighbor, someone who needs some comfort or friendship, maybe some help with something with which you really are not familiar but you are willing to go out on the limb to help. You think, ” ahh, not now. I really don’t feel like doing that.” But as you stare into the possibilities that it might not work out, or you will be ridiculed, or you maybe can’t quite pull off the task, you ” send it” and hopefully come out smiling like that butcher’s dog.

Another sender.

My mother always said that ” Happiness is like a perfume. You can’t sprinkle it on others without getting a little on yourself” You feel good when you are able to help someone. Maybe you don’t feel like doing it or getting involved? But you pick yourself up and go for it. It is usually worth the effort.

Most of us will never be like the Red Bull athlete, or the World Cup MTB downhiller, but in our own way we can ” send it”. Look for the opportunities, think about standing in that start line of life, not sure of what will come by throwing caution to the wind, and …………………………..” send it!” Thanks for reading.

Snowshoe title picture courtesy of Steve Gurtner

My Neighbor the Southpaw

PITTSBURGH – 1987: Pitcher John Smiley #57 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during a Major League Baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1987 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

A couple of years ago- I saw this guy across the street struggling with the heavy snow in his driveway. I was using my snow blower at the time and went over to help him. He appreciated it and we got to talking. He looked kind of familiar and he introduced himself as John. Turns out he is John Smiley, formerly a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I remember him pitching and remember his great career of 12 years with the Bucs, the Minnesota Twins, the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians. With an ERA of 3.80 and a 126-103 win loss record, John has a lot to be proud of in his former career.

PITTSBURGH – 1989: Pitcher John Smiley of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during a Major League Baseball game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1989 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Fast forward and I see him a lot recently hitting whiffle golf balls in his yard as he has taken up the game of golf again after his arm is finally healed after all these years of curve ball abuse. Of course I engage him about baseball. I was always a fan of baseball as my dad used to take me to Forbes Field as a kid and I saw all the greats from the 1960s play. Sometimes professional athletes or former athletes hesitate to engage in conversation about their sport but John is an extremely knowledgeable and engaging guy who loves to talk baseball. Right up my alley. We got to talking about his fun times in the Fantasy Camps in Florida in which he participates. For those of you who do not know, fantasy camps are for old guys trying to relive their youth on the baseball diamond with their old heroes. They pay a lot of money to play and the former professional players like John love to participate and tell all the old war stories in the evenings around the dinner table. John loves to tell me how funny former pitcher Steve Blass is and also about Bill Mazeroski’s amazing stories about the 1960 World Champion Bucs. I was amazed that Maz still participates at his age but these guys love baseball.

The University Club Father Son Baseball back in the day with my dad.

John likes to tell me stories about the nuances of the game like when he was pitching and the opposing team would pick up on his cadence and signal to the batter what pitch was coming. They stole the signals. One game in Montreal, John and his catcher at the time decided not to use any signals to throw the opposition off. They won easily and it was a moral victory for John and his catcher. I asked him what he thinks of the new electronic strike zone and John enthusiastically applauds it saying that any technological advance in the game that takes bad calls and chance away is a good thing. I was always a fan of baseball and loved my time playing in minor league, little league and pony league as a fat little catcher before moving on to other sports. But always liked baseball and to have a neighbor who loves to talk baseball and knows what he is talking about is a plus.

John also talks about how his father worked with him and got him to be dedicated to the game at an early age. Like a lot of kids who grow up to be professional athletes, there was not much time for fun outside of baseball. You had to train, play and practice at a very high level to make it. He said that he missed a lot of things as a kid growing up but would have never made the major leagues if it had not been for his dad and the coaches he had. He said that making it involved a lot of playing in the south in the heat. That separated the men from the boys, in John’s opinion, and in order to make it in the majors, you had to be dedicated and able to perform in all weather especially the heat.

A lot of professional athletes, again, don’t like to engage in conversation with fans. But John is quite the opposite. He sees that I am enthusiastic and interested in what he has to say about the game of baseball. I love his stories. Jan thinks I may be bothering him but I always insert myself in conversation with John while he is practicing with the whiffle balls. He is always quite energetic and never minds my endless questions. But that is who he is. A successful retired professional who loves the game and now has a nosy neighbor with whom to trade stories. As you would suspect from maybe knowing me, I tell him stories too. But nothing can compare to a career on the mound for a professional baseball team.

I am a talker. I struggle with listening sometimes but I always make a point of listening to John. I force myself to shut up and listen. A skill which needs constant work. But my talkative nature has led to some great conversations and ultimate friendships with some really interesting people. If I hadn’t initiated conversations with John, I would never know the great stories he has in his head. You have to listen, but you also need to initiate conversations sometimes. You never know how you will be rewarded. Thanks for reading.

The Tour de Death

Make Chetlin Great Again- seen here on the right.

So in the continuing effort to MCGA( Make Chetlin Great Again) a couple of us got together the other evening and took Jeff for another mountain bike ride. He is making amazing progress after a stroke a year ago and soon will be back to full strength. So, after a rain storm, it was decided that the trails in Frick would be a little sloppy. So Jesse Seager, the restauranteur extraordinaire( go to Point Brugge in Pittsburgh to find out), Darryl Huber( uber athlete in from Colorado for a visit) and yours truly took to the roads of ………..a cemetery. We laughed and called it the Tour de Death but Jesse told us when the trails in Frick Park get too sloppy in the winter, he can get a good ten miles in on the mountain bike all along the roads that go through the cemetery.

The Benedum Crypt

The amazing thing is all of the famous people interred in this famous cemetery. Business leaders like Michael Benedum, Henry Clay Frick, Henry J Heinz, Senator John Heinz, Henry Hillman and Willard Rockwell. Entertainers like Erroll Garner and Walt Harper are also interred here along with Jock Sutherland – former Pitt football coach and Pie Traynor- hall of famer for the Pittsburgh Pirates. But the truly neat thing about cycling through the cemetery is the beauty of the place and the incredible mausoleums and crypts of some very famous families in the Pittsburgh area. It occurred to me that people really went into a thought process about their memorial places and what they wanted to leave behind as a memory and tribute to their lives here in the ‘burg. Jesse and Jeff, as locals, gave us a great tour and it was in no time at all that Jeff probably had the most mileage and time on the bike to date. Every ride gets better and better for this guy. It won’t be long until he is 100 percent full strength. Who ever thought that part of his rehabilitation would be laps through a famous cemetery?

No complaints from the customers here.
People are dying to get in.
Military Sections Too

As we peddled along, Jeff commented that among all the groups he is involved with- skiers, moto- cross riders, and snowmobilers, he seems to think that the mountain bike community is the best. More laughs, more genuine people, and one of the reasons he won’t move permanently to his other home in Bend, Oregon. He likes the mountain bike community in Pittsburgh, even if we do ride through cemeteries from time to time.

The cemetery makes you think a little as you go along as to what is really important in life. Jeff commented that as we get older, it is not about how fast we go on the trails, how many miles we did, or even where we rode. It is more about getting together and enjoying the great outdoors. It’s being with friends, talking and laughing, reminiscing, and in general enjoying each others company. It rained on us a little bit but as mountain bikers, we really don’t care. We enjoyed the ride, the company and the views.

So the next time you think that it is too muddy to ride, maybe think about your local boneyard. It is quiet, peaceful, and offers some dry riding in the worst of weather conditions – and no cars which is a bonus. Take a tip from Jesse and Jeff, go hit it and when the trails dry, you can tell some stories out there about how you saw Pie Traynor’s final resting place. Thanks for reading.

The Last Turns

The Durfees

At the invitation of our dear friends, Helen and Eric Durfee of Incline Village, Nevada, we spent our last week skiing at Beaver Creek out in Colorado. With some fresh new snow and intermittent sunshine, we enjoyed all that BC had to offer. I reluctantly made my last turns for the season last Friday over at Arrowhead and Bachelor Gulch. As I looked over at the majestic Gore Range, I was thankful for a great season locally, in Utah, and finishing out in Colorado. Thinking about big toe, little toe, ( a tip from my pal Eric) and keeping my stance lower and wider, I made a series of GS turns until my legs were toast and I made the last turn at the bottom of Bachelor Gulch. This is always a melancholy time ( the end of my 60th year of skiing) but I reflected on the week and all that it had to offer us.

The always energetic Lynne Hartnett

One of the highlights of the week was to connect with my old pal- Lynne Hartnett. Lynne is one of the most enthusiastic people I know and her infectious attitude towards skiing is always welcome. Sometimes it is hard to connect, but we pulled it off and Lynne, along with another friend from the past, Robin Ouimette, seemed excited to ski with our group of four. A former Vail instructor, Lynne knows the mountain well and took charge much to the delight of our group. She encouraged my wife Janet to jump right in her tracks and as she made her beautiful turns down the mountainside, she really helped Janet and we all said- she upped Jan’s game for sure. Jan got some good pointers last week from Helen and Eric as well as the always affable Lynne Hartnett. Lynne runs women’s clinics at home here in Pa. and she was more than happy to share her experiences with my receptive wife. What a great time we had with Robin and Lynne , culminating with some beverages and hors d’oerves back at our condo which were masterfully prepared by Helen, who along with her husband Eric, are very skilled skiers. Eric, an ex- ski racer- fast and solid, and Helen- great technique who can ski anything and ski it all day long.

Pat, Robin, Lynne, Helen and Janet.
McCoy Park. Beautiful scenery .

I always am a bit sad when the ski season ends. We had a decent season locally although we got a late start. But for me, making turns and riding the chairlift is always a joy. When the last turn comes, I kind of shake my head knowing that another season has come and gone. Jan and I will try to stay healthy and be fit for another season. Hopefully we get many, many more but we are grateful for what we have experienced. As I sat on the plane ride home, I thought about what a great sport skiing is. Not only is it rewarding to make carved arcs on groomers, and skiing the uncut of a new fallen snow, but I thought of the wonderful social aspects of skiing. I think of all the fun we have had with the Durfees, the Birsics and the Flying Smittys from Philadelphia, and the always enthusiastic wonderful skier and friend- Mark Hutchinson. I think about my local group at Laurel Mountain and Seven Springs. Shark and Tina, Jon Brady, Melissa and Jaime, Dixon, Bob Potter, George Skylling, Daryl, Porter, Johnny Mac, Monty, Angelo Ross, Jamie Edson, Paul Barrante, Race Jace, and Dave “everyday” Gault, and a host of others who make the local scene exciting even in the worst of weather conditions. Finally, we all look forward to the weekly “Chair Report” by Jason Eshleman! Skiing fosters lifetime friendships and I am hoping that I have a lot more seasons to come. More runs, chairlift rides, , and more good times with those with whom I have skied for years. My mountain bike friends laugh when I talk about skiing all summer (most of them are skiers and boarders too). But in reality, I ride a bike to keep in shape for skiing. As much as I like the change of the seasons and the move from skis to wheels, I always look forward to the changing leaves and the first flakes, which will usher in more good times with all my winter friends. Thanks for reading and here is to spring!!!

Affirmation

Affirmation with the Cow Bell.

So the other day, I was riding my mountain bike at our local park trying to get back into some semblance of shape after a tough winter on our trails. Once the snow came and the thaws and freezes, the ice on the trails was too tough for me because I don’t have studs. So with the recent spring like weather, I figured I would go out again and start riding. I was making my way up a hill when a guy who was hiking with his wife said, ” Hey!………..good job”. I kind of chuckled at that comment and said thank you and kept riding. It kind of reminded me of the old mountain bike racing days when I would be killing myself up a hill and some kind soul observing on the side of the trail would look at me and say………..” Hey- good job.” Those kind of comments kind of spurred me on to the top of the hill and then helped me make my way enthusiastically to the finish line. It is amazing how a little positive commentary can spur you on.

I always returned the kindness at the World Cup Mountain Bike Finals in Snowshoe, West Virginia with my cowbell. When the pros would be making their way up a heinous climb, I would encourage them with my cowbell. Many of them were so focused that they they never wavered in their concentration. Others like American Haley Batten would smile and enthusiastically say “thank you” and keep riding spurred on by the pro-American spectators wishing her well.

The Shark and the affable Haley Batten

Affirmation is usually the result of the acclaim of a job well done. At Snowshoe, you can see the result of hard work of the world class athletes, and the support they got from their home team and trainers. We cheered them on- affirming their hard work. Affirmation comes after the support of someone trying to do something positive. Support them first- then affirm them.

We all have the opportunity to support people on their way up or maybe on their way back. For instance, I have a neighbor who had a severe stroke and is making his way back. He has been through a lot along with his supportive wife. The guy is a noted, retired orthopedic surgeon who has had some tough breaks with his health. I have tried to support him as well as his wife in different ways, but the other day- I saw Dr. Tim out on a walk using his walker encouraged by his ever supporting wife, Joyce. I looked at him and said, ” Good job, TIm.” You could see the smile on his face because I affirmed the hard work he has done to make it back. When I was at his house the other day, he showed me his strength by pulling me with his arms. The guy is a big strong guy and although he is in his 80s, he has made a remarkable come back. He deserves affirmation and we give it to him.

I have another friend who has had a stroke as well and he is making his comeback. Although he is younger, he has worked hard to come back. He is an avid mountain bike rider, skier, backcountry adventurer, snowmobiler, and traveler. He has his moments of despair, but I always affirm his hard work and tell him that he will be back stronger than ever. People need support when they have difficult times and we all can give that support. And when they make their way up over the hill metaphorically, we can give them the affirmation that they deserve.

Jeff on the comeback trail.

There are a lot of people today that can use our help. Friends who have had a death in the family, are having health issues, maybe are going through a divorce or other personal issues, or people that just need a boost up that hill. We can make the effort to support them and when they make progress, we can affirm that progress with a kind comment like- ” Good job- keep up the good work.” You may not need to use a cowbell to affirm them, but you can certainly recognize that people go through a lot and can use a word or support, a kindness afforded to them, and affirmation that gives them that boost that they need. To have a friend is to be a friend. Thanks for reading.

55+ years of Friendship.

My Pal- Dixon Rich

Dixon Rich and I have been friends since the minor league in baseball. We both talk about how we forged our friendship on the bench. I was a fat little catcher and Dixon played out in left field, but we talked a lot about how thirsty we were and couldn’t wait to get to Dixon’s house for a drink.

Fast forward- Dixon senior bought a cabin on County Line Road and all of us neighbor kids spent the weekends crashed out on the cabin floor in sleeping bags. What a wonderful way to grow up. The winters were always special to me and still are thanks to the Rich family and my pal Dixon.

Dixon, Melissa and Jaime. Laurel Mountain friends for life

Dixon is an accomplished attorney and tax specialist. You might not know that if you visited him and he answers the door with a red bandana adorning his noggin and baggy shorts and construction boots doing someone’s tax work. He plays the Dead while he works and really doesn’t know the difference between night and day. He works when he feels inspired and that may be in the middle of the night. Naps are important to Dixon as he takes them between work sessions. He is a character. A skillful tele-mark skier, Dixon likes to hide out at Laurel Mountain where it is quiet, scenic and he has the place basically to himself most days of the winter. He can work from anywhere and the Laurel Highlands are his home for the winter. The other day he pulled out a pair of old 70’s era alpine skis and attacked Lower Wildcat on an icy morning. I have not seen skis like that in a while but Dixon has a whole houseful of 70s era skis which he uses with tele equipment and a few selected pair for alpine outings.

Valuable nap time for the tax man.

Dixon and I have skied together for over 55 years. But we also have had many adventures in cycling. We used to ride from his cabin to Confluence, Pa on our mountain bikes, getting lost on the way home, running out of daylight and crashing exhausted at the Red and White Store in Indian Head hoping to get a ride back. One time in West Virginia at the Wild 100 Backcountry Race, we both ascended Prop’s Run just outside of the Elk River Touring Center. When we got to the top exhausted, Dixon smiled at me with vivid blue teeth and asked if I wanted some bubble gum. That was his ” Power Bar”. He loves Captain Crunch cereal and other sweet treats. I am trying to get him back into riding more and he claims he will join me again this spring and summer. But his antics on the slopes and on the trails are legendary. Ask him about the plastic shower cap he used to cover his fanny pack when riding. A bright floral pattern which protected valuable cargo in his pack. LOL!!

Dixon does not like to be pinned down with a schedule. He is happy to meet you and ski with you but it is on his timing and on his terms. I call it like seeing an “albino deer” – wonderful to see but never planned. Like me- he likes the quiet of a remote ski area and enjoys the scenery without all the hassle of what takes place at Laurel’s sister area – Seven Springs, which can get a bit hectic during the winter. He has a great head of hair and never wears a hat – no matter how cold. I am amazed sometimes but my wife always says that with that great head of hair, she wouldn’t wear a hat either.

But the most important thing about Dixon is that he is a good friend. They say if you leave this world with friends that you can count on your right hand, you are a lucky man. Dixon is one of those fingers to me. I will always remember when my father passed away unexpectedly in his sleep back in 2001. Dixon was one of the first guys there for me and tirelessly helped me to close down my dad’s business. I could not have done it without him and will always be grateful for his kindness, his help, and his expertise.

Friendships are important. Especially as we age. We need to stay active, pay attention to our health, and most of all, spend time in the great outdoors with friends like Dixon. Thanks for reading and if you see the albino deer sometime, say hello. You will instantly gain another good friend.

The Lift Line

WOW!!!!

You know, one of the more aggravating things in the ski world is the lift line. Now usually one can avoid such things when you arrive early and try to get some runs in before the hordes of people descend on a ski area. But sooner or later a perfect storm of events happens and it produces one of the more distasteful by-products of the ski experience- the lift line. Here in the east, we got a late start, the weather has been warm and sketchy, and when the first measurable snow hit, everybody who bought a pass, got new ski equipment for Christmas, hasn’t made it out yet because of the weather and the holidays, and those who looked at a sunny day and decided this was their day- all descend on a ski area and cause gridlock. This isn’t the case all the time especially when the weather isn’t up to snuff or it is raining or it is too darn cold to stand around. Those who survive those events can usually avoid lines. But if you choose to ski on weekends, and the perfect storm hits- both literally and figuratively- you will have lines. So what to do?

Well, like I said before, if it is one of those days- on the weekend, you can get there early and ski until it is unbearable. You can try the single line- if there is one. You can look and see where the smaller line is on either side of the lift or with experience, you can see whether the inside of the line is faster or the outside. You can look for a friend or friends and try to sneak up politely to join them. Lots of tactics. Or you can give up and head out if it becomes too crazy. You give up a nice day but you can fight to fight another day especially when you might be able to ski mid- week. But even that with people working remotely, sometimes lines form on nice days mid-week and we all just have to deal with that. Again- it doesn’t happen all the time and when a lot of terrain is open, there are lighter lines because people can spread out to multiple lifts. But when things are just getting going, and not much terrain is open, and only a couple of lifts, it can look like a sea of rats all converging to get that ride up the lift, getting dinged in the helmet by an anxious fellow rider who is itching to get the safety bar down. What skiers go through to get those coveted runs and turns. In the east it usually is a good 8 months between ski seasons so most people try to ski locally and get their trips west planned. But it is a short window and to get up early, schlepp all the gear, put on your boots, zip up, click into your equipment and make it finally to the slopes, it can be a real pain in the a@#. But we all like to ski and we have to deal with inconvenience to participate in our favorite sport. So lift lines be damned, we get out and do it. How can we make it bearable if we choose to ski on a perfect storm day?

Well I for one, try to be positive. I am usually one of the first guys on the chairlift in the morning and when the hordes come out, I always figure that I at least got several quality runs in already. I also like people and skiing is a great social activity. Early in the year, you see friends whom you have not seen since last ski season and you connect with them in line. By the time you have caught up on their kids, the holidays, the new equipment they have purchased, the new clothes, and where they are planning to ski west this year or in New England, you are already sliding towards the loading area. When you are engaged in a good conversation and catching up with ski friends, the line seems to move better than when you are by yourself. I also like to hear people’s take on how things will go this season. It is interesting to hear people’s opinions on the resort, the snowmaking, the grooming and in short, their thoughts on skiing in general. You hear some great stuff on the chairlift and to me- people are interesting. Covid, skiing, kids, families, the occasional politics, and other conversations make the ride go quickly and then you are in line again to start it all over again- after a few good turns. Not so bad if you can remain positive and appreciate the camaraderie of those who find the winter and the outdoors as pleasant as you.

So yes- the lift line will try your patience even if you utilize these tips. Sooner or later you will decide that you have had enough and will leave to ski another day. The perfect storm days come and go no matter where in the country you are skiing. And with the season passes selling like hotcakes by the large conglomerates who are buying up resorts, you never know what is ahead. Just know that if it is wicked cold, raining, you have mid-week options, and maybe more terrain open, there will be more days than not when the lines will not be too bad. So if you can, stay positive, take advantage of some fun conversations in the line and enjoy the day. Things always look darkest before they turn black……………….just kidding. Think snow and thanks for reading.

The People Who Made a Difference

Peter Duke helping out in his son’s ski shop.

Scrolling through Facebook last week, I came upon an ad for Point 6 socks. Really great socks that I use for skiing and mountain biking. The owner and founder is seen above helping out in his son’s ski shop in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I know this guy and was happy to see him again in a photo even though I have not seen him for many years. Peter Duke was a great influence in my life at the time that I met him and this is the story.

When I taught skiing at Sugarloaf, Maine back in the day as a young guy, I was working towards my certification for ski instruction through the Professional Ski Instructors of America. I took many clinics in New England and met Peter as one of my course conductors. As it turned out, I had Peter for several clinics and we got to know each other. He was tough. At the time, we had to do what they called final forms which are basically maneuvers on which we would be tested and Peter wanted to make sure that they were perfect. He was a taskmaster that made us all work hard to get the final forms correct and to make sure our teaching was up to snuff in order to pass the exam. He had no problem whacking me on the backs of my ski boots if my ankles and knees were not flexed and telling me that I needed to perform or I would not pass any test much less an evaluation for the clinic in which I found myself. It was my good fortune that Peter was hard on me. I needed the work and he was demanding but fair. I respected him and was happy that I was getting what I think was the best teaching at the time. At 21 years old and just out of college, the exam was important to me because it was a way to validate what I had invested in ski teaching up until that time. It was not a career but was a great avocation. You learn a lot about your own skiing while teaching and taking clinics with the best in the country. Peter was one of those people.

Fast forward, I was at my exam in Killington, Vermont and Peter was there He was not one of my examiners but took the time to talk to me and remind me of what I had learned with him. I passed the test and became” certified” and will always be grateful to Peter for his skills, his teaching and his demand for perfection. He even introduced me to the greatest rain gear at the time- Bukflex. It was a sailing outfit and when I saw Peter wearing the gear, I had to get it. I used it for many seasons skiing and teaching in the rain. Seems like Peter had it all going on and whatever I could glean from that guy- I took it.

Several years later I was skiing in Heavenly Ski Resort out in California and I remembered that Peter and Stu Campbell ( of Ski Magazine fame), were running the ski school out there at the time. I went to the ski school office and had a nice chat with the both of them and they gave me comp tickets for the week. Nice!!! We talked about the days when they were at Stowe. In those days, the guys from Stowe were the kings and kind of a fraternity of the best examiners and course conductors. Peter and Stu got the opportunity to run the ski school at Heavenly. I told Peter what a great influence he was on me as a young guy seeking my certification. He acknowledged and said it was a tough test that many people cannot pass. He was glad to be a part of my success.

Lake Tahoe from Heavenly Ski Resort

Several years ago, I had heard that Peter had founded SmartWool socks and eventually sold the business. He was a savvy businessman and I was happy to see that he had founded a company with such great notoriety. At the same time, I was running in an off road team trail race out in Colorado called the “Colorado Relay”. Lots of fun with my Armada Supply Chain Solutions team mates and we were enjoying the expo associated with the event. I came upon a booth with the name Point 6 and went to investigate. They were giving away socks for the runners to try. I was talking to the rep in the booth when I heard him say that the founder of Point 6 was the same guy that had founded SmartWool. I looked at him and said.” Peter Duke?” He smiled and said yes and asked if I knew him. I said yes and he said, lets get him on the phone. I think he was kind of calling my bluff but when Peter answered, he said” Hello Pat. What are you doing these days? ” I think he actually was happy to reconnect and was also happy that I visited the Point 6 booth. We had nice chat and after all these years, it was nice to hear his voice again. A lot of time had passed and the exam process was a distant memory, but I always remembered his clinics and a lot of what he taught me is still ingrained in my skiing today. I still buy Point 6 socks because of the quality. But I also like the fact that I am supporting the company of a guy who had a lot of influence on me in my younger days.

Facebook takes a lot of criticism for many things- warranted and not so much. But the nice thing is that sometimes, you see these pictures of people who you have not seen in a while and they remind you of good times in the past and maybe how people have come and gone in your life but remain an influence. Peter is one of those people. He probably does not realize the impact he had, but when I saw his picture on Facebook under the Point 6 ad, I was happy to reflect on our past association. Point 6 is a great company that makes quality merino wool apparel. If you get the chance, check them out. You will not be disappointed and now you know a little bit more about them. Thanks for reading and think snow!!!