Dr. Syed Hyder is not only my physician, but also my really good friend with whom I like to ride mountain bikes. He and Sandy McKee and I rode Laurel Mountain the other day on a truly glorious day. Syed and I usually ride up together in my Jeep and we have really great discussions on a myriad of topics from healthy eating, to planning the next mountain bike trip together with our pals. Looking at the beautiful sunshine on the way up through Rector, Linn Run and up the mountain to the parking lot at the ski area, we remarked how great it is to take advantage not only of a great day, but a truly spectacular venue with the mountain laurel just about to burst forth in full bloom. Then per his usual custom, Syed became philosophical which is where he truly shines in my book. He said it is so important to ……….” expand the present.”
I like to listen to Syed and although I am a talker, I make it my business to listen when Syed speaks. I asked him to comment on “expand the present” and his logic was insightful. He said, we need to really enjoy days like we had at Laurel. Enjoy the moments, and really try to get as much out of the day as possible. Little things like enjoying the cool temperatures, the absolute perfection of the trails, and the challenge of Spruce Run which always takes a backseat in conversation to Wolf Rocks. As we pounded the Spruce Run rock section, Syed remarked that he thought it was as challenging if not more challenging than Wolf Rocks, especially where it comes at you at the latter part of the ride. But expanding the present in that sense, is to really enjoy the challenge, enjoy your body working to maintain balance, and relish in the aftermath of making it through a tough part of the ride. Syed likes to ride every tough section, and in his mind, he is expanding the present through his experiences. He and Sandy and I really enjoyed the scenery out at the Wolf Rocks overlook and I observed Syed looking off into the distance truly reveling in the moment. He said to me later that not only is it important to expand the present, but to “retract the future and the past.” That meaning that you really can’t do much about the past other than learn from experience, and nothing can be done about the future so why worry or spend time on what will happen. Enjoy the moment, enjoy the day you are given, as it is all really a wonderful gift. Too many of us worry about what will happen tomorrow, next month, or next year, and let the current state of affairs slip out of our hands. Enjoy each day as it comes and make the most of it. Expand the present.
Thinking about what Syed said, as I write this on Memorial Day, I think about expanding the present and thinking about what a great country we have. The opportunities are boundless if we enjoy the moment and the days as we get them. Freedom is not free and when I think about the guys that made it possible for us to truly enjoy our freedom and make the most out of our daily lives, I can really” expand the present” because I have the freedom to do so. I can ride in the Laurels on a sunny day, I can worship when and wherever I choose, I can enjoy my family without any dangers or issues that arise in countries that are not free. They don’t have the chance to expand the present.
Think about those veterans who gave their lives today. Think about the great opportunities we have as a result of their sacrifice. We can enjoy our days because of what they did. Enjoy your day today. Thanks for reading.
Vertical is a term that skiers and mountain bike riders use when describing their day on the hill or trail. Vertical drop is generally described as the measurement from the top of the mountain to the base lodge. Particular ski trails are listed with a certain vertical drop, and you can track these statistics on a number of apps today including the popular Slopes app. It gives you information like how many runs you made and what total vertical drop was achieved in your day of skiing. My friend Mark Hutchinson and I used an app called Alpine Replay which was the forerunner to Slopes to track our runs at Northstar at Tahoe one day. I have posted before that we achieved 57,000 vertical feet that day and the next day at Mt. Rose in Nevada, we achieved 52,000 vertical feet. It was kind of fun to track our runs and see how many we made and what the total vertical or vertical drop we had achieved skiing. Plus we totally honked off a French guy who held the record up to that point. A couple of old geezers took him down. The app developer loved it. LOL!!
Another fun statistic is to see how high the summits are at different ski areas and to see the total vertical drop based on those summit elevations. When you ride the Summit Chair at Whiteface as seen above, you will see markers on the chairlift towers that show your elevation and also how it compares to similar resorts in Vermont and New Hampshire. The summit at Whiteface is actually higher than a lot of New England ski areas. So, elevation vertical and vertical drop are used a lot when describing your day on the slopes at any ski area. How much vertical did you ski and what is the vertical of the summit? Cool statistics that are apres ski conversation pieces.
Similarly, mountain bikers rack up vertical while climbing up a trail. We all have devices that track different statistics like heart rate, distance, time on the ride and vertical. In this case, vertical means what is achieved when we climb on our mountain bike. My Garmin Fenix watch tracks these efforts, and I can log how many miles I have ridden, on what trails, what was the distance and other metrics that are interesting to see at the end of a ride. I can compare them to my friends’ metrics and see how we do in comparison to each other’s efforts. Gaining vertical on a mountain bike ride takes some effort and it is what usually gets you in shape when you have to climb a hill on a bike. This time of year, the effort is making us stronger with each ride. No pain – no gain. When we climb hills on a mountain bike, we sweat, breathe hard, and fatigue our legs to the point of exhaustion. So vertical in this case is all uphill effort with trackable results.
So, thinking about this the other day while looking at my Garmin statistics, led me to some conclusions which will show you a little bit about how my mind works. This winter, I always thought about the vertical on the summits where I skied. I thought about how many vertical feet I had skied and how it felt to achieve those metrics. Usually, I work hard at making clean turns and I learn something new every year. But the effort is assisted by gravity and even though sometimes I am breathing heavy at times due to altitude, or working the turns, the effort is not as difficult as when I am riding uphill on a mountain bike to achieve vertical feet in climbing. It occurred to me that the two different efforts are really like what goes on in life. Some days we flow downhill through the day, with little effort and appreciate the beauty of the world similar to a ski run on a sunny, groomed slope. Gravity is our friend as we make our way through the day with no encumbrances. But then there are the other days where it is tough. Like climbing a steep hill on your mountain bike in 90 degree weather. The sweat is pouring, you are breathing heavy, and your legs sometimes feel like lead. Those days, while achieving vertical feet of climbing, can be tough. But here is the good news. The effort most of the time yields great rewards. You get in better shape and the adversity turns you into a stronger rider and the no pain no gain axiom is found to be true.
There are those days when you think that there is no way you are going to make it. Like riding that mountain bike, you think you cannot make one more pedal stroke ……..but you eventually do. You don’t give up and you get to the top. You look back at the ride or the day, and you realize that life can be tough sometimes. But when you summon up some effort, learn to accept the pain and the adversity, you can achieve many things – a lot more than vertical feet. There are downhill days and uphill days, but when we learn to appreciate both efforts of gaining ……………..vertical………….we can see how it makes us a stronger, better person. Right? Thanks for reading.
Back when I was getting tired of playing tennis, I saw a guy run by the tennis courts every day. You could set your watch by him and I decided in a very Forrest Gump way, that I wanted to run. I started out with some guys that I met and in no time……I was a runner. I entered races and even marathons eventually, and really liked the feeling when I was finished running. Kind of like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop. But running became my life before I got into cycling. Even then, I still ran in the winter but eventually gave that up to preserve my knees for skiing and road cycling and mountain biking. But suffice to say, I always enjoyed running in one way or another. I passed that enthusiasm to my friend from work-Danny Sigmund.
When I first started working at Armada Supply Chain Solutions, I met Danny who was s supervisor in the warehouse. He was real friendly and liked the fact that I was into running as he was as well. He was also very interested in staying in shape and the two of us had many talks walking the warehouse floor. He taught me a lot about supply chain and how Armada fit into the McDonald’s system. I was looking for all the information I could get at the time and Danny was always willing to talk and relate his experiences in serving the system. I always joke that we work for a clown- Ronald. You know. The guy with the red hair and the big red shoes. In any event, Danny loved his work and his enthusiasm spilled over to me as a relative newcomer to his world . I was working in customer and field service and needed a lot of information and help from the warehouse and Danny was always willing to provide any help he could.
One day he took me aside and told me in confidence that he had been diagnosed with cancer. It was not good and he needed a friend in a very real way. I tried to be there for him and we had a lot of talks about the “what ifs” and how his wife and family would be affected. As his case was pretty terminal, I felt the need to share my faith with him to explain the Good News and that there was a better world waiting for him if he was willing to believe. I gave him a very treasured picture in a little silver frame that my wife Janet had given to me. It was a picture of a runner with the verse from Paul’s letter to the Phillipians. Phillipians 3 verses 13-14 which talks about running the race and seeking the prize in Christ Jesus. You can see it above and below. I treasured this piece because it was from Janet and featured a scripture that referenced running. I gave it to Danny and told him the story about how Janet had given it to me. He was touched and appreciated the gesture and took it home as a reminder to stay the course and trust the Lord in all things – even with this very grim diagnosis.
Danny eventually succumbed to his illness and we were all distraught at work because we had lost such a good guy and a brave and relentless fighter. Danny’s wife was so appreciative of all the nice gestures from the company and the many friends that Danny had made there. Then the unthinkable happened. A few weeks after the funeral, Danny’s house burned down and virtually nothing was left. His family was devastated and everyone once again went into overdrive to help his family. It is amazing how tragedy follows some people and I really felt for the Sigmund family in a most heartfelt way. There was really nothing you could say that could possibly comfort them after the tragic loss of their husband and father and unthinkable devastation of losing a house to a fire. We all did our best at the company but after a time, the focus kind of waned and life kind of moved on. I tried to keep in touch but after a while, the Sigmunds regrouped and went on with their lives.
A while later, I received a letter from Danny’s wife and it was enclosed in a box containing my framed verse from Phillipians. I was stunned as I kind of forgot about it but was so glad to see it. The letter said that the picture meant so much to Danny as he explained to the family that it came from my wife Janet. They went on to describe in the letter that everything in their house was basically destroyed with the exception of a very few things which included this little frame and verse. They were amazed that it survived the fire and wanted me to have it back. We all chatted a few times after that and now that framed picture is sitting on my bookcase reminding me to run for the ultimate prize. It also reminds me of my wife Janet and her kindness. And finally Danny, who was comforted in his last days with the uplifting and positive message from the apostle Paul.
This taught me some lessons. Always share your faith because you never know when or how much your care and concern will matter. Share your treasures with your friends as they will most likely need them more than you. And finally, always be that friend to someone in need- no matter what. Even if it is inconvenient, late in the day, at a bad time, whatever. Be that friend that you can count on. Keep running that race. Thanks for reading.
When I say still at it, yes! Just came back from some amazing skiing in Mammoth Mountain, California. A real treat and was still at it for the winter of 2022-2023. A bonus trip came my way with my good friend Eric Durfee. But “still at it” also means that I am still skiing with my friend Eric for over 45 years.
We have had great adventures skiing, and this week was another on our list. The skiing in Mammoth was incredible for May. Mid Winter conditions with so much snow that they believe they will ski until September. I took a 5:15 AM flight out of Pittsburgh last Monday and arrived in Reno at 9:20 AM and Eric picked me up at the airport and we drove the scenic RT.395 to Mammoth. We were in the chairlift by 1:40 after I changed in the parking lot. Boxer shorts flapping in the wind. The week gave us interesting weather as it was usually sunny in the morning and clouded up significantly in the afternoon which made the visibility late in a day a little challenging up top. But we made our way to the lower runs and did just fine.
The great thing about skiing with Eric is his enthusiasm for the sport. 121 days on the snow this year and would have had 14 more if he had not injured his thumb. But he is a student of the game of skiing, and has really worked hard on getting his turns to be more in line with modern technique instead of old school. I am old school too in that I ” A- Frame”, which basically means that I can have my weight on the downhill ski but the inside ski is rather docile. But we worked on a lower stance, a wider stance, and moving the inside knee actively into the turn like the racers do. Eric has it down pretty well and I am getting there. Nice to work on something new at 68 years of age. Generally speaking, Eric and I can ski anything, but working the new technique with the skis that work well with that kind of technique is really enjoyable. We had the wives with us in Oregon recently and that was a lot of fun skiing with Helen and Janet. But to have a bonus week with your friend of 45 years, ripping GS turns, and getting the added treat of some fresh snow was truly memorable.
But the really memorable thing about being “still at it” is that I can see Eric maybe a couple of times a year, but when we get together, it is as if I had never left. Isn’t that the way it always is with a good friend? We take up right where we left off and continue to tell our old stories and make new ones along the way. When you can drive for three hours each way, and stay for a week and not run out of any conversation, you know you have a great friend. We talk politics, skiing, and life in general and he always has some sage advice for me as well as a way to shed some light on topics in a different way than I hear most of the time. They say to have a friend is to be a friend and Eric definitely embodies that sentiment.
So yes- we are still at it. Skiing is a great sport and it gives us an excuse to get together and enjoy the mountains. We are getting older and we realize our limitations, but for the most part, we are in good shape and can still enjoy making turns and look forward to doing it for many years to come. I have made many friends through skiing, and am perhaps one of the only people around my neck of the woods that gets a little bummed out when winter is over. As I sharpened and waxed my skis for the last time this season, I was a little down. But I look forward to the next season and will enjoy the summer activities with the mountain bike crowd. But when those first flakes start to fall later this year, I will be ready for 2023-2024. Thanks Eric for always keeping me in the game. Thanks for reading.
Disclaimer!!!!!- This is a guest post by Jeff Chetlin. Although his friends are kind of shy about the flatttering comments that Jeff has made here, he asked that he could write this as a testament to his amazing comeback from a stroke. He has a lot of friends and he has very complimentary things to say about us. But the real story is his comeback. So………here is Jeff’s guest post.
I spent a week in Central Oregon with my good friend Pat and his wife Janet. It was a week that was very eye opening, and made me want to write a little story that I have been wanting to tell to a lot of people. Most of you may already know this, but for those of you who don’t, I have been a very active person throughout my 30s , 40s, and 50s. I was a swimmer and a baseball player in high school and in college played many years of golf. I got into mountain biking prior to suspension and clipless pedals in the early 90s and was instantly hooked. That led me to learn how to ride a dirt bike and I have spent many years loving that as well. I also want to tell you that skiing has been in my blood since I have been a child, and I love it still to this day.
Where the story gets interesting is in June, 2021, I experienced a stroke in my cerebellum and after many months in the hospital and in rehab, I was released to my house. There my wife took care of me 24/7. During that time, I went from a weight of 185 pounds down to 130 pounds and for six months I was basically on the couch or in my bed and unable to eat. As you can imagine, this changed my life considerably. But not as much as what happened in March of 2022.
My dear friend, Pat McCloskey, came to my house every Friday around noon whether I wanted him or not. He would bring these giant sandwiches, chips and drinks, and sit with me at my kitchen table. In the beginning, I could not even eat them, but he still came. As the weeks and months passed, one day he said that he and Pete Hilton and Mark “the Shark” Sauers were coming to my house and were going to take me on a bike ride. I was very unsure of that but they showed up at my house on a cold March day. Pat put my mountain bike in the back of his Jeep and drove it down to a flat grassy area in Frick Park. He and Pete and Shark ran beside me as I attempted to pedal my bike even though I was riding in circles. It was truly the beginning of my recovery and I think we all had tears in our eyes.
They were the first angels that came to my side and propelled me towards healing. The next person I want to mention is Dr. Syed Hyder. I was at his medical office in Mars, Pa and after a check up he walked out to the car with me and said,” you are good and must start moving yourself into uncomfortable situations.”
After I began to improve by riding my mountain bike, my good friend Jesse Seager would come to my house every day not knowing what I could or could not do. He didn’t care. We would ride our mountain bikes around the cemetery because there were no cars and he would tell me many funny stories along the way and the healing continued.
The next people that I want to mention are Tim Girone and his lovely wife Barb. I spent most of the winter out in Bend, Oregon. On the second day I arrived there, he and some other couples were taking a snowmobile ride up to a high mountain hut with food and drinks to watch the sunset. Tim thought that we should attend. My awesome wife Julie said we are in. But I was not sure I could do that because I was still dizzy and did not see too well. But I continued to push through and be persistent, and face my fears. Not five minutes into the ride, Julie and I crashed and I reinjured my broken shoulder. The accident did more than hurt me physically it hurt me mentally because I knew that Pat and Janet were coming out to ski with me in March. I was confined to walking and laying around for six to eight weeks while my shoulder healed. Tim, Barb, and my wife Julie belong to an amazing gym in Bend called Embark. The owner of the gym is Dorian Adam. In undying friendship, Tim kept telling Dorian that Jeff needs to move again. I had been laying around very sedentary. In a subtle way, he orchestrated getting me back to the gym where Dorian would work with me twice a week for a half hour. It was very difficult mentally. I had some stomach issues but Tim said that would eventually go away and it did.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my amazing wife Julie. She is a pusher. And I mean that in an amazing, positive way. She said,” you are going to the gym.” “I don’t care how much it costs.” One day she woke up and said,” I warmed up your ski boots and we are going skiing today.” I was very afraid and could not sleep the night before. She said,” Pat and Janet are coming and they expect you to be able to ski with them.” So we went up a few beginner runs, and on the second run she skied right up to me with giant tears in her eyes and was crying how happy she was to see me doing this. The next day we went back again with Barb Girone. I skied four blue square runs and had stomach issues again. But that was the last time it happened and I kept pursuing it. Then Pat and Janet showed up for a week and on their last ski day we were celebrating Tim’s birthday. We all skied together and had a party in the parking lot. On the fourth run of the day, the clouds came in and you could not see a thing. Pat, who used to teach blind skiers, said,” I got this, I am going to lead you down the mountain like the blind skiers.” We all had a good laugh at that. Tim eventually got me back to the car after a couple of visually challenged runs.
What happened next will remain in my memory for a long time. About 15-20 people showed up at Tim’s van. Tim had a fire and we all laughed and sat in the freezing cold. It was snowing and windy. I kept thinking that there is no way I can sit out like this but it was so much fun with everybody laughing, and shaking and freezing. At one point I looked over at Pat’s wife Janet who was freezing. I kept thinking that Janet would want to leave soon and that I would leave with her. But she never did leave and was one of the last ones to go.
I have been back in Pittsburgh for about a week now and every day my coach Jesse picks me up on our bikes and we head to Frick Park. He is upping my game every day and tells me we will begin doing some single track. He has become an amazing recovery tool and I realize that in some ways, I am helpful to him.
The reason I wanted to write this is there are lessons to be learned here. As in most of Pat’s Chronicles, there seems to be always an underlying lesson. And here it is…..from Pat, to Shark, Jesse, Syed, Barb and Tim, and mostly to my wonderful wife Julie, they have all taught me what life is really about. It is connections. It is people, it is movement, it is laughter. It doesn’t have to be skiing or riding a mountain bike. It could be just sitting around in the freezing cold parking lot after skiing or sitting on the edge of an Oregon beach laughing and enjoying the beauty. If you know me well enough, you know I enjoy my friends. They have been invaluable in my recovery which will go on for years to come. So what I have to say to all of you is in order to have good friends, you have to be a good friend. My lesson to all of you is without my friends, I would not be here at all. Friendship is a gift.
Well, even though most of our crowd has ridden mountain bikes all winter, it is nice to see the weather change and ride some dry trails for a change. We try to ride responsibly during the winter but even though our choices involve trails that drain fairly quickly, it is still dark, and winter, and it takes some effort to get out. That’s why when the time change comes and the weather starts to improve, all of us are excited to see each other. Some of us have not seen each other due to a lot of us being skiers or snowboarders and the weekends and trips are generally reserved for sliding on snow. So the guys who do not partake in the winter sliding don’t see much of us and it is nice to reconnect in the spring.
One of those guys is our doctor- Syed Hyder who rides all winter and is always patching someone up on the ride. Last Saturday it was Pete who fell in a hole and Syed attended to him during a real dry ride in a local venue. Syed is funny. Not only is he entertaining and a real good rider, but he also has some interesting things to say including the details of his recent trip to Morocco. I always laugh when he tells me I am his only patient who rides a mountain bike and skis while on Coumadin. But he is not worried because I have been on it for over 30 years due to a DVT and a pulmonary embolism years ago. Syed monitors my bloodwork monthly and he monitors all of us on the rides. He is good to reconnect with in the spring.
I always think about riding hills again and how I will respond to the early conditioning that takes place after a winter of “maintenance” riding. Nobody kills themselves in the winter but when the spring comes, we like to get back into shape and that involves some climbing in the hills of Western Pa and West Virginia. My wife, son and I are plant based eaters now and it is interesting to see how some weight loss has seemed to help my early season preparation. Plant based eating is not for everybody but it seems to work for us. We watched “The Game Changers” on Netflix and also “What the Health” and were convinced that a better diet that eliminates meat and dairy would work well for us. So far, so good in the spring riding preparation.
Lots of events coming up and it will be fun to switch gears from skiing to riding and have fun with some really great people. Like skiing, riding mountain bikes brings together some really interesting people who enjoy the outdoors. Some of us do both, but for the non-skiers, or non-snowboarders, it is always fun to see each other in the spring to ride again, and talk about what we want to do this summer and fall. The post ride comradery around some beers and snacks are what I miss in the winter ( thanks Bob Kowalski), and the post mortems on the rides are always fun to rehash with each other. Mountain bikers are fun people and being with them always is a good time which creates a lot of good memories. I am 68 now and have elected not to go the e-bike route. Again- it is what works for me as I need all the exercise I can get. But to have this crowd push me as one of the older guys is really gratifying. Spring has sprung for sure and another new season is upon us. Thanks for reading.
You know, one of the cool things about ski trips is that you can get together with a lot of your friends and have a great time in the mountains and afterwards at apres ski. I have been trying to get the four couples on this trip together for a long time. The Chetlins who are part time residents of Bend, the Durfees of Lake Tahoe, the Hutchinsons from Vermont, and the Girones- fomerly from Pittsburgh and now full time residents of Bend, Oregon. They all have their own different worlds of existence but they all collided finally last week at a really fun time in Bend and Mt. Bachelor. I have been trying to get the Chetlins, the Durfees and the Girones together because of their mutual love of camping with their truly amazing vehicles. Once they got to know each other, they got a good look at their respective camper vehicles and there was a lot of chatter in the parking lot at an impromptu tailgate to celebrate Tim Girone’s birthday.
The Hutchinsons and the Chetlins have their own camper vehicles but generally use them in the summer months and Janet and I are the only ones who do not partake. However it was cool to see all parties discussing camping and their vehicles in the parking lot last week.
Another two worlds that collided positively last week were the Hutchinsons and the McCloskeys. We have been trying to get Nancy Hutchinson and Janet together to ski and it finally happened. They had a great time skiing together and their friendship bonded through the week on the slopes and off.
Mark and I have skied together for 25 years and Eric and Helen Durfee and I have skied consistently together for 45 years. Recently my wife Janet has joined this mix and it is nice to have all the couples together on the slopes and telling tales afterwards over a cold beer.
But the final world to collide with all of us was the Chetlin world. Jeff and Julie were really the glue behind last weeks collision as they made everyone feel welcome in their adopted hometown of Bend and also their favorite ski area- Mt. Bachelor, as well as in their beautiful home.
Jeff is nothing short of amazing. Part of the experience for all of us on this trip was to see Jeff make beautiful ski turns down the mountain. He also rode his fat bike and it was gratifying to see a guy who almost two years ago suffered a debilitating stroke and made an amazing comeback with the help of all of his friends and his wonderful wife Julie. On trips like this, memories are made and to see all these people come together and ski, talk about van camping, discuss food and wine from the Willamette Valley, enjoy all that Bend has to offer was spectacular. And to see Jeff back in his element with his friends and making classic turns down the mountain with excellent balance was a dream come true.
Now the finale to this story, is the fact that I love to do this. Part of my mission in life is to get like minded people together to experience each other as friends. Some people joke that I don’t really have to do this, because they like to do their own thing, and I understand that. But it is important to me to try to get people of similar interests together. Friendships are forged through memories and to create some new ones with new people getting together is something special. Mt Bachelor is an amazing mountain and the weather can be ruthless but the skiing is top notch and we all enjoyed our days on this beautiful mountain/volcano. It served as the backdrop to a really fun week with really fun people. Many of whom had met for the first time. Hats off to the Hutchinsons for getting the wheels in motion. One last thing……………Bend people are cool. So nice, considerate, and just plain friendly. Why wouldn’t they be? They all live and play in a great part of the country and they enjoy all that it has to offer year round. If you haven’t been to Bend, check it out. And take some friends along. Thanks for reading.
Depending on how you look at it……. it has been a tough winter. If you live out west, you have had colossal snows and are probably getting weary of shoveling, road closures and roofs that are buried in snow. As a skier, you have perhaps had one of the best winters in years but still tough to get around. We missed new snow on our recent week in Utah, but the sunshine was welcome that week. My powder skis are still collecting dust, but maybe I will get to use them at the end of the month on our trip to Oregon? But suffice to say, the west is buried in snow and at least it will end the tough drought conditions out there.
Back here in the mid-Atlantic, it has been a tough winter from a skier’s perspective. I always say that if you live here, you can’t always be out west and you have to make the best out of local ski conditions and local ski areas. Unfortunately, this has been a thin one, but our local areas have done a good job of making snow and grooming and trying to give us the best conditions that they can muster in spite of challenging odds. Vail’s first year or ownership has shown promise, in my opinion, because they have been really challenged in their first year of operating our local areas. Lots of comments pro and con out there and lots to do in the coming summer to get ahead of things for the next ski season ( think expanded snowmaking and new chairlifts), but Vail is data driven and sees the potential of keeping local skiers satisfied.
That being said, we have skied in a lot of icy conditions, rain, poor visibility to get our days in. We all talked about how much work it is to get the days in and what we have to put up with in years like this. But the Epic Pass has brought out all the diehards and the numbers of people skiing are increasing despite marginal conditions.
As a skier, it is disheartening to see all the rain we have had lately and the warm temperatures especially when the ski season around here is limited to 4 months at best. We do take our trips which kind of salvage the winter, but this season has been a struggle locally, and there is the need to follow the snow and somewhere within local distance. Enter Ellicottville, New York.
EVL as it is called is a nice shot in the arm when you are jonesing for winter. This week, my pals Porter Scott and Hiller Hardie and I made the decision to get out of Dodge for two days and take in Holimont and Holiday Valley up in EVL. A great decision seeing that as soon as we got to Meadville, the ground was turning white from the Lake Erie snow machine and it was starting to look like winter again. The three hour drive is well worth it and we always say that if it was a little closer, we would all opt to ski there all the time as a “local” option.
Ellicottville is a great town with ski and bike shops, great restaurants, and specialty shops. It is like a little New England ski town planted right in the middle of Western New York. For us, the short trip was just what the doctor ordered with snow everywhere and sunny conditions which brightened our spirits and kind of jump started the winter again for us in the beginning of March. We felt like we were getting robbed with an early ending, and that Phil the rodent, was less than truthful in his prediction. But we gave him a pass as we made our way into the Alleghenies of Western New York.
One thing about skiing with Porter and Hiller is that they are two friends who are as passionate about skiing as I am. Part of all the fun is the enthusiastic conversation about skiing on the chair lift and at dinner. We pull out all the old stories and as the saying goes” the older we get, the better we were.” But the undertone is that we all want to stay in shape so that we can continue to ski for a long time barring any catastrophic events. We love to ski and although we live in the mid-Atlantic, we make the best of it and try for as many days as we can. My wife thinks I am obsessed and maybe I am? I am passionate about some things and to me, there is no better feeling in the outdoors than a good carved turn on some nice groomed runs. And to ski fresh loose snow is always a bonus. Lake Erie fluff, as I call it, is special and to us- well worth the drive.
So until Oregon, I will try to finish up around here and again applaud Vail for trying their best. Riding the chair lift with brown grass below is not very appealing but making turns is, and after the season, it is a long 8 months until I can have that feeling again. Thank for reading.
Did you ever have one of those days where you said- ” this was the perfect ski day? ” Well, a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to ski with my lifelong friend Tom Birsic, whom I have known since Kindergarten. My wife Janet had had enough after 5 days of hitting it hard at Deer Valley, Snowbasin and Powder Mountain. Our friends the Flying Smittys had gone back to Philly. and Patter( Tom’s better half) had other plans for the day. So Birsic and I hit it early and it was a sunny glorious day at Deer Valley. Tom doesn’t ski anywhere else as he loves Deer Valley. In particular, he loves the Nabob Run and also the signature Steins Way- a black diamond that is so much fun to ski when it is groomed.
So riding up the Sultan Express, Tom and I welcomed a guy to ride with us who was from Australia. An interesting guy who was in Utah for 3 weeks skiing and taking in the NBA All Star Game. He was a developer for Microsoft and was invited to the game due to his work on the PlayStation platform involving the NBA teams. He asked us on the way up if we knew the mountain and could suggest where to go. We asked him what kind of a skier he was and he said ” black diamonds and double black diamonds.” Tom looked at him and said “follow us.” I love Tom’s confidence! We took him to Steins Way and the competitive streak came out in me as I got the jump on him and let it fly down Stein’s waiting for him and Tom at the chairlift at the bottom. He looked at us and said” so glad I connected with you guys” and we skied with him the rest of the morning.
The chairlift conversations developed, and we learned about his life in Australia, where he skied, what his job entailed, and then Tom, being the educated guy that he is, began to ask about Australian Rules Football. I looked at Birsic and said” what do you know about Australian Rules Football?” The Aussie was impressed with Tom’s knowledge of the game. Tom went on to discuss cricket and the finer points of that game and I was in awe of his knowledge. Tom in fact had spent some time in Australia representing K+L Gates- his firm with whom he is a partner. Birsic is a very successful litigator and lives full time now in Park City because he loves the mountains and he loves to ski. The Aussie was so glad he connected with us and we kept making runs with him. On one of the runs, he asked politely how old we were. He was a bit stunned when we said 68, as he was 52 and was hustling to keep up even though he told us he skied nothing but black diamonds and double black diamonds. Tom and I took him down Perserverance Bowl and Nabob and some other signature Deer Valley runs, and he was so appreciative of the tour.
I did tell the Aussie ( whose name is Drew), that Tom is in excellent shape. He skis a lot of days, takes hikes with his dog and hits the weights in his gym at home and at his club. So really, Tom works out about 3 times a day and he shows it. He is in great shape. Point being here that you need to be in shape to ski. As we get older, it is virtually impossible to ski yourself into shape and you are much better off being fit to really enjoy the skiing experience. I ride a mountain bike or hike 4 days a week, year round, but really need to take a tip from Tom and hit the weights. My doc, who is my mountain bike buddy, says that I could use a little upper body strength. I have been on this plant based diet and have lost 10 pounds that I did not need to lose. Thus, my doc says, ” Pat- you are in shape and your legs are strong, but you need to start lifting so that your upper body does not lose tone due to the weight loss.” I am taking his advice and starting that program slowly so as not to hurt myself. I will get there Syed.
When Tom and I bid farewell to Drew- he said,” I sure hope I can ski like you guys when I am 68.” Tom and I chuckled and told him what a pleasure it was to meet him and to ski with him. Somehow, I am sure he will tell his mates about the old dudes he skied with and what a nice tour they gave him. In many ways, Tom and I appreciated the compliment but really, it affirmed that we both were doing something right and hopefully we will be able to keep doing this for years to come. Tom and I really loved skiing with the young guy, and it kind of made the day even a little more special. We are still in the game.
I have written a lot lately about keeping active and keep moving as we get older. It is so important and if you like to enjoy things like skiing, riding a bike, running, or whatever floats your boat, as you age- keep moving. You can do things for a long time if you do. Thanks for reading.
You don’t quit skiing because you get old, you get old because you quit skiing.
There are a lot of iconic lifts at ski areas that most people always remember. The single chair at Mad River Glen, Vermont, Chair 23 at Mammoth, and this one at Snowbasin, Utah among others. Affectionately known as ” The Beer Can”, the Mt.Allen Tram has roughly a 12 person limit depending on the size of the people. I returned to Snowbasin last week with my wife and some good friends, and three of us decided to take a ride in The Beer Can before lunch. There are a lot of folks who take the John Paul chair lift to the John Paul Lodge up top for a scenic ride and view. They have lunch at the John Paul Lodge and then if they are adventurous, they take the Mt. Allen Tram all the way to the top to take in a breathtaking view of Ogden, Utah down to the left and the massive Wasatch Mountains to the right. They then get back in the Beer Can and take their spectator descent back to the base lodge. But for those who choose to ski from the top like the three of us before lunch last week, it is always an interesting experience.
Listening to the Snowbasin guide at the top, she has a document that she reads outlining all the do’s and dont’s of the skiing experience from the top of the Mt. Allen Tram. Don’t ski beyond the ropes as there is no rescue available from the ski patrol. Ski under control and other warnings fitting for what was the top of the Men’s Downhill at the 2002 Olympics. You can see the start house on the right in this photo above. But the interesting descent is a knife edge trail that leads to the slope right below the start house. As the rest of our crew that day went in to have lunch, three of us decided to have a go of the skiing opportunity.
Judy Smith, Ralph Phillips and I ascended the stairs to the tram and joined a bunch of younger “dudes” in the tram and began our ascent. The interesting thing about skiing is that it puts together people of all ages. We could have been the parents of these kids or maybe even the grandparents because I am not sure of age these days. Hard to tell with all the helmets and facemasks but the “dude” this and ” dude” that kind of gave it away. They kind of looked at us like ” what are you old dudes doing with us?” And we looked at them kind of the same way. But again, skiing unites all ages and sometimes people surprise each other. I looked at Ralph and Judy and said, “let’s go before we have to fight these “dudes” for a piece of the narrow trail in front of us.” We were halfway down before they saw us,and it was probably a good thing. Sometimes experience wins the day and maybe they thought that the old dudes and dudette could handle themselves despite their initial reaction to us in the tram.
After a nice lunch together in the John Paul Lodge, our group enjoyed all that Snowbasin had to offer. The views are breathtaking, there is something for everyone including the endless runs off the Strawberry Gondola. At the end of the day, Mike and Judy Smith and I took a few flyers on the Wildflower Downhill which was part of the Women’s Downhill at the 2002 Olympics. Steep and a little ungroomed, it proved a little bit of a challenge but great fun.
I think a lot about that Beer Can though. You can see Austrian Leonhard Stock’s name on the outside of the tram as he was the gold medalist at the 2002 Olympics in the men’s downhill. I think about all those athletes that were transported to the start in the Beer Can and as I always look down from the start, I think about how they hit 60 MPH quickly and then hit a compression at the bottom of that face. Downhillers are fearless and skilled and the Mt. Allen Tram saw the world’s best that day. If you ever get the chance to ski Snowbasin, don’t miss the Mt. Allen tram and don’t miss eating lunch at the John Paul Lodge and take in some truly spectacular scenery. Thanks for reading and think snow. We need it here in the East.