These are the Times

” These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country. But he, that stands by it now, deserves the love and the thanks of man and woman.”

Prophetic words from Thomas Paine, one of the Founders, which rings true today. We are all in a position to come together – although not physically with the “stay at home” rules, but mentally, in communication with each other, and prayers to the Almighty in these trying times. With social media, I-Phones and technology, we can stay in touch, communicate, send pictures, work from home and call and talk to each other. We can have some semblance of normalcy if we band together to beat this virus or at least stem the tide of its advancement.


Looking at pictures of our groups, we can remember good times and look forward to good times ahead. When you view a picture, sometimes you can see someone who you have not talked to in a little while. Text them. Email them. Call them. Ask them how they are doing in these unusual times. In many ways, that is the service to your country. It pales in comparison to military service or perhaps the service of our many first responders, nurses, hospital workers, but in many ways- bonding together even virtually for a time is service to us all.

Janet and I are trying to do our part by being responsible. Yes, I am getting outside but not in big groups. Most often by myself on the trails just to get some exercise and fresh air which is encouraged by the stay at home edict. Janet walks in the neighborhood and greets the neighbors from an acceptable social distance. We are trying to avoid large groups. Shopping when necessary but trying to keep Janet’s 89 year old mother safe. She lives with us and is most vulnerable.

So sure- we all are beginning to have some cabin fever. We need to return to some kind of routine with work, social life, restaurant outings, and in general an active lifestyle again. It will come. It may take a little bit but with some patience, understanding, generosity, and compassion and not being selfish, we can get through this. Stay in touch with your family and friends. Write an encouraging email, text or better yet- make a phone call. So important in these days of isolation.

We will get there again. Say your prayers, be kind and generous with others. Short and sweet but thanks for reading and ……….wash your hands.

Transition- Ready to Ride?

 

So the ski season is kind of winding down. Skied a lot in the rain,and was out west for some real snow. Dropped a couple of chutes. Came back to some decent local conditions and one more trip to go with the guys who hold me accountable. Things kind of rattle around your head when you reach 65 like- can I still do it? So far so good. Feel good. Don’t feel much different. Made some good turns. Looking forward to ending the season with these guys. But now the thoughts are starting to rattle and I am thinking – ” Did all the winter riding pay off?” Pete and Bob K,Syed until he blew up, and the Shark held me accountable during the winter as we rode our mountain bikes at night in some pretty horrendous weather.IMG_1014 The Frogg Toggs suit served me well by keeping off all of the muddy splooge as we showered the bikes and ourselves off in the car wash, but you think to yourself, ” Can I still ride like last year?” ” What will I feel like riding this season?” Scot Nichol always says, ” Don’t even think about it- just keep riding” Which is sage advice that I always subscribe to, but you can’t help those thoughts rattling around your head questioning your conditioning comparatively speaking. I am generally the oldest rider in my main MTB group and I try not to think about that and just ride but …….. </

And I am not ready for an e-bike yet!

So really- what does the upcoming season look like? The spring is always tough because all the conditioning you developed by the fall is usually compromised with the onset of winter. Sure you can go to the Y if the weather is too heinous, but there is nothing like actually riding outside versus a spin bike. Generally I believe that you just have to start out slowly and build up your stamina and strength again and not be in any great hurry to blast out of the parking lot trying to chase people. I have turned into a diesel engine, not fast but slow and steady after a good warm up. My disclaimer here is that I am not going to relay any great scientific points of wisdom. You can read about that anywhere. My main point is what works for me and maybe for you? Start out slow. I love the saying,” Start slow and taper off”. Jokingly initiated by our pal John Hinderliter but a lot of truth to the saying. IMG_1201

Which brings me to my next point which is if you are trying to get in shape, turning over a new fitness leaf, making a comeback after injury, or trying to ward off the ravages of time,you really need to start slowly in the spring. Ease into it. Don’t be a world beater early or you will surely burn out. The more you ride or run, or whatever, at a moderate pace, the more you will be likely to continue and each workout session you will get more fit. What is painful in the spring, is usually nothing come June or July. Just believe it and start slowly.

Another recommendation would be to believe what Chris Crowley says in his book ” Younger Next Year.” Chris makes many points in his famous book which I have given to lots of people. But one of the things that does stick out is if you are a senior or anyone for that matter, get the best equipment. Give yourself the absolute best chance at succeeding. I have always subscribed to that notion. I remember getting the first over sized tennis racket from Prince. I put the first retrofitted shock from Rock Shox on my mountain bike back in the day. I believed in the shaped ski and still try to get what I consider to be state of the art ski equipment. Lastly, I have been riding a 29er plus bike with 3″ plus tires to give me the best chance of success in the rocks and roots around the trails in our tri-state area. The carbon frame and wheels are a help with weight but it is more important to me to stay upright than it is to have a featherweight bike. Most likely the thought process of aging. Ride to ride another day I always say.

Lastly, as I gauge how the winter fitness program worked out for me, I also think it is important to think about what we put in our body. Again, lots of writing out there that refers to proper diet but my main tenants are cut out all the crap and sugar, eat healthy, salads, fruit and vegetables, lean meats when you have to, and generally, give yourself a fighting chance to succeed with your diet. My friend John Cassucio turned me on to Hammer Nutrition products. http://www.hammernutrition.com I use their gels and also a product called FIZZ which you can add to your water bottle or hydration pack to replace electrolytes lost in exercise. I feel better when I use them and it helps as I try to keep the younger guys in sight.  I also use Tru- Niagen, GNC Fish Oil Pills, and MCT oil in my coffee in the morning.  I posted about all of that earlier this winter.

So, yea, I think about things, but in general, once I embark on the activity, I don’t give it much thought. I can still do it for the most part and I don’t feel much different as I have aged. You should not either and instead of some people we know who have one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel, we can get excited and look forward to another season of fun and good health. Thanks for reading and start slow and taper off. LOL!!!

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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.

Remembering Fred

A day on the ski slopes never goes by when I ride the chair lift and don’t think about Fred Siget. Fred was our original blind skier around here that passed away two years ago in his early 90s. He skied well into his 80s and whenever I think about the times that I spent with him, I smile. Fred is seen on the left here in the picture at the National Blind Skiing Championships in Blackjack, Michigan. I was his guide. Fred was an interesting guy. He was a retired bus driver. He was also a volunteer fireman who lost his sight as a result of a high pressure water hose accident that detached both retinas instantly. All of a sudden he was in darkness. At the time, Fred was in his 50s and wondered what would happen now. After a stint at the Greater Pittsburgh Guild for the Blind, Fred learned to function as a visually disabled person and became the first blind computer programmer for Koppers Corporation. An amazing feat as he was well respected for his work and positive attitude.

I first met Fred at a Pittsburgh Ski Club outing. Fred was taught to ski at Seven Springs Mountain Resort here in Western Pa. by Jim Connolly, a PSIA full certified instructor. Jim developed a system and we expanded on it in the following years as Fred became famous for his prowess on the slopes with a guide following him and calling out commands. I became involved in Western Pa BOLD( Blind Outdoor Leisure Development) and taught the guides at the time how to teach skiing. They in turn taught me how to work with the visually impaired and that began a 34 year relationship which included many hours on the slopes with Fred Siget. Fred had a transmitter device for me as I guided him and he had an ear piece which made it easier to call out commands without shouting. Funny story- we were in the Foggy Goggle at Seven Springs having a beer one night when Herman Dupre- the owner of the resort at the time, walked in. I said to Fred,” Go over to Herman and tell him how much you like his red flannel shirt”. As Fred made his way over to Herman with me guiding him past the people in the bar, he said what I asked and Herman had a quizzical look on his face. After we let him in on the joke, he said” Pat- I have been giving this SOB a free season ski  pass for years and he tells me how much he likes my red flannel shirt. I was ready to murder him.” We all had a good laugh about that one and I proceeded to take Fred out to the upper parking lot because he said he wanted to drive again. We did donuts in the snow covered lot in my International Scout. I guided him from the passenger seat. He had such a good time driving again.

I had many, many good times with Fred and all of our visually impaired skiers and I always say that over the 34 years that I had been involved, I got more out of it than any of them. They were hard core and skied in the rain, sleet and snow and loved every minute of it. Skiing was Fred’s life and he made the most of his impairment. In fact, he said to me that had it not been for his blindness, he never would have done half the things that he had done post accident. How is that for a positive attitude?

One of the main takeaways that I got out of my involvement with BOLD was an appreciation for all that I see when I ski. I don’t take vision for granted and appreciate what a blessing sight really is. I sit on the chairlift and look all around at the snow covered mountains and think that today, Fred sees it all. I believe his vision is restored and he is enjoying what he missed for over 40 years, in his heavenly home. When my ski buddies ask me what I am looking at in the chairlift, I smile and think about Fred. I just remark how beautiful the mountains are and how I like to get those visions etched in my memory.

Never take things for granted folks. Remembering Fred, I see a guy who made the best out of a bad thing and it changed his life. I can still see him skiing with a huge smile on his face and skiers stopping with amazement at the courage and determination that was on display. We all should have that kind of positive attitude. Thanks for reading.

” Oh Lord, Oh Lord- how majestic is your name in all of the earth” Psalm 8:9

The Scoop on Deer Valley

After a roller coaster ride on the trail through the trees leading out to the sign for the Daly Chutes at Deer Valley, Utah, I made my way to the cornice and peered down over the lip to the drop in for Chute # 4. After dropping in and making a series of steep jump turns down through the throat of the chute, I came out to a wide open field full of avalanche debris from the patrol blasting the cornice the day before. Weaving my way through the debris and then a chicane through the woods I popped out in full view of the lodge at the bottom of the Empire Canyon. Deer Valley takes a lot of heat for being a powder puff area servicing the rich and famous. But I am here to tell you that this area has all you can handle if you are a skier looking for challenge. Look no further than the Daly Chutes with steep pitches through trees and rock outcroppings. You can also get your fix way over under the Sultan and Wasatch chairs and ultimately lapping Stein’s Run named after the Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion Stein Eriksen, who was the Director of Skiing at the area for many years before his recent death. Big GS turns with nobody in your way makes for a lot of fun.

But on that other note of service and gentility, Deer Valley is unrivaled. My wife loves Deer Valley and at the kind invitation of our very dear friends who live in Park City nearby, we were treated to a fabulous time last week in the Wasatch Range of Utah.

From the minute you drive up to the base lodge, you are treated with respect as the valets take your skis and boots from your vehicle and place them in the racks. You can enter the spacious locker room where you can check your valuables and make your way out to the slopes that are perfectly groomed often accompanied by brilliant sunshine. This past week was a little cold but my wife braved the temperatures and enjoyed herself as she made her way down the perfectly manicured trails. The food at Deer Valley is unparalleled as far as ski areas go.The famous Deer Valley turkey chili is available in all the lodges along with freshly baked bread, pastries, and sumptuous salads. The real treat is to go to the Stein Eriksen Lodge where you can see the trophy display that features the gold and silver Olympic and World Championship medals that Stein Eriksen won in the 50’s. You can ride up the Viking Lift right to the entrance to the Lodge and as you walk into the Troll Hallen Lounge after perusing the trophy case, you are greeted by a waiter who seats you at a table adorned with white table cloths and napkins and appropriate wine goblets per your choice of vintage wines. The lunch options are fabulous and a real diversion from my standard of a yogurt and Gatorade at most areas. Maybe a cookie or Kind Bar if I splurge. Again, my wife Janet adores the whole experience and our friends are the most gracious hosts in a most gracious area. http://www.steinlodge.com

Deer Valley does everything right from the grooming, to the food, to the end of the day where you can store your skis and boots in a complimentary area complete with valets who again take your skis and store them for the evening. You can even have an overnight tune if you desire. Deer Valley is often ranked # 1 in service for all ski areas in North America by Ski Magazine each year and you can see why when you spend some time there. Janet tried out a new pair of Volkl Kamas that I bought her in the spring, and with the pristine conditions of the slopes, she made some of the best turns of her life. She likes her new boards but she also says that the total experience at Deer Valley not only is highly enjoyable but it inspires confidence because you just get the feeling that the area management and the employees want you to have a great experience in their end of the world. Our friends feel the same way and when they welcome guests into their home like they did for Janet and me, they do it the Deer Valley way. Nothing is left undone. Thanks Patter and Tom.

As a final comment, I try to make my wife’s experience on the slopes as pleasant as I can. She is not a fanatic like I am about skiing, but if I can get her to Deer Valley, she is a happy camper. I am turning her into a mountain girl slowly but surely. She will be ready for the Flying Smittys. Thanks for reading.

Out of Disaster Comes New Life

I finished a book recently which told the story of the Big Burn forest fire that occurred in 1910. Three million acres were burned in Northern Idaho, W. Montana, Eastern Washington, and parts of Southeast British Columbia. Aside from the devastation to forest land, Timothy Egan tells the story of the origins of the US Forest Service. I am always interested in seeing the backstory on things and this book tells it.   The interesting tale related was how much the sitting President, Teddy Roosevelt, had valued conservation along with his associate Gifford Pinchot. Mr. Pinchot spent his whole life dedicated to the establishment and preservation of the National Parks and National Forests under the Roosevelt and Taft administrations. Timothy Egan spins an interesting side tale on the personality of Pinchot that is  worth reading.

Egan goes on to point out that the large forest fire and the resulting inquiries into the efforts of the rangers under the US Forest Service, were combative. Similar to today’s politics, there was national interest in conservation and the support of the USFS. The  opposition saw the USFS as a waste of time and government money.  In the opposition camp, were congressmen and senators who supported large scale logging and pillaging of the American West. Roosevelt fought hard against these lobbies and along with Pinchot, who later became Governor of Pennsylvania, kept the fight for conservation alive. In the end, the Forest Service was funded handsomely by congress and the lumber lobby eventually gave its support if only to keep the potential harvest in tact.

The compelling result of the fire, establishment of the US Forest Service and final support, let to the continued development of the National Parks Service and the continued development  of the National Forests and Monuments. The difference between a National Forest and a National Park is that the National Forests encourage use by the public to include skiing, mountain biking, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits. The National Parks are somewhat limited to public use other than observation with strict regulation of activities within the Parks. A little more stringent but a different ethos in preserving the pristine environment. However, with the foresight of people like Teddy Roosevelt, and Gifford Pinchot, we have these national treasures which are available to all of us.

I have had the good fortune of visiting Yosemite National Park with my wife and son a number of years ago and along with yearly trips to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area within the Inyo National Forest and visits to the Tahoe ski areas within the Tahoe National Forest,I am always impressed with the beauty and immense wilderness that is preserved. Janet and I also make use of the Allegheny National Forest near our home here in Pennsylvania along with use of many State parks along the way.

Recently I had the great experience of riding mountain bikes in the Deschutes National Forest in Bend, Oregon and was amazed at the quality of the trails and the maintenance of miles and miles of trail systems through this national forest. A lot of this maintenance in the national forests could not happen without the efforts of volunteers who preserve and develop trail systems for multi- use.

It all came together for me when I read this book ” The Big Burn” and realized that there was a lot of time, effort and anguish, in the establishment of national land and the need for preservation and conservation facilitated by the USFS. Not every available piece of land should be deemed for development. There has to be recreational opportunities for our children and grandchildren and I am grateful that men like Pinchot and Roosevelt, back at the turn of the century, had that same vision. If you get the chance to ever visit a State Park, a National Park, or National Forest, do it. You will see how a disastrous fire back in 1910 led to the conservation efforts which have served all Americans for well over a century. Hooray for Teddy Roosevelt- Bully!!!!!

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Head to Head, Flat Out Racing

As I licked my wounds from skiing another day in the rain locally, and longing for my upcoming western ski trips, I settled into the Olympic Channel DVR and watched the World Cup Women’s Dual GS Races from Sestriere, Italy. It has been so much fun to watch and is a real spectator friendly format that is re-igniting interest especially the night events in recent seasons on the World Cup. The World Pro Skiing Tour has also had a resurgence with a nation wide televised schedule. Ted Ligety, our Olympic giant slalom gold medalist and World Cup GS champion,  even competed recently in Eldora, Colorado during a brief respite from his World Cup schedule. Head to head is exciting and today I want to go back a few years when I had some brief experience with this format.

A number of years ago, my mother’s cousin, Bill Carroll, was working for one of the beverage companies at the time. They were sponsoring the Peugeot Pro Skiing Tour stop at Camelback over in the Pocono Mountains of Eastern Pa. Bill told me that he wanted my sister and I to attend and enter the Pro-Am event. We were of course thrilled and were treated to all the amenities of the event with Bill holding court along with his sons, Jack, Patrick, and Jimmy. All characters from Philly who made us laugh the whole weekend. Fast forward to the event day, we saw the course and it’s two massive jumps. The amateurs who were entered into the event were told by the Peugeot Tour representatives that they did not have to ski the jumps, just go to the side where alternate gates were set up. For the event,my sister and I were paired with Kurt and Kent Belden, two pros who hailed from Pico, Vermont and were regular winners and competitors on the Tour. After being introduced before the event, the Beldens asked Molly and I to ski with them and they told me on the chair lift that they wanted me to ski the jumps. I was of course hesitant but they assured me that they would train me and give me the nuances of trying to negotiate the jumps and make the next gate without crashing and burning. My sister, who is an excellent skier, bowed out and decided not to do the jumps. However, I was shamed into taking them on and off I went with the Beldens for my training.

Slovakia’s Petra Vhlova (L) clears the gate on her way to win, during the final against Sweden’s Anna Swen-Larsson in the Women’s parallel slalom race at the FIS Alpine ski World Cup in St. Moritz, on December 15, 2019. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Believe me when I tell you, running the course with the first jump looming, was quite intimidating but Kurt, who was my partner for the event, just said to suck up the jump in a low position with my knees bent,hands forward, and then rise slightly and hold the position after memorizing where the next gate was on the course. I took it easy for a couple of runs until I got the hang of it and barely escaped full carnage until I sort of figured it out. The training was eventually over and now it was put up or shut up time for Paddy as I launched myself out of the starting gate. Coming up to the first jump, I did what Kurt said and successfully negotiated the next gate. Feeling good about myself, I thought ” one more jump.” It came swiftly and suddenly seeing that Camelback does not have the vertical of the New England areas where the Tour was contested regularly. As I approached the lip of the pro jump, I got into a low position and sat back slightly which was a mistake because I landed off balance and barely made the next gate. However, luck prevailed and somehow I managed to finish with Kurt in the finish line cheering me on and giving me a smile and a thumbs up. He was beside me on the other course and was finished well before me. Amazing how that guy could accelerate in the flats. My sister completed the course as well with Kent beside her and because there was not much competition, we ended up as the winners. The Belden brothers got a nice additional paycheck and my sister and I got a rather large, obnoxious  trophy which sat as a hat holder in my house for years. Fun times for sure and I learned something that day. However, the main lesson for me was not the jumps and completing the course with Belden approval, it was seeing the pros and how they handled the course.  They go flat out and the jumps are not even a consideration.  Amazing skills well beyond my comprehension. I will never forget that weekend, especially the heart shaped tubs in the rooms in the Honeymoon capital of the east – the Poconos. The Carrolls and I all laughed about the tubs and the pink shag carpets.  Yikes!  Long time ago and in a galaxy far far away.

I am happy to see the dual format and the excitement that it creates at the World Cup events as well as the World Pro Skiing Tour. Fun to watch and helps to get through all the rainy, sleeting, slushy days on the hill so far this season. Can’t get out west soon enough. Thanks for reading.

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