The Ski Swap

This time of year- the Ski Swap notices start coming and people get excited for the coming season. The Ski Swaps are not only an outlet for selling and buying equipment, but also a social time to reconnect with your ski buddies who perhaps you have not seen since last winter. But there are plusses and minuses for these things and I believe that there should be an acronym for the word SWAP( S#$% we all purvey) Yes- we are purveyors of the “s@#$” from our basements and garages and in most cases, we just want to unload and if we get a buck or two for it, so be it. But the main reason is to clear out so that we can make room for new equipment. Old boots, helmets, skis, and various auxiliary ski items can be moved but the funny thing is the difference in what we think they are worth compared to what people are willing to pay. If your main reason is to unload stuff at the swap, then you will take whatever is offered. But if you think your “stuff” is worth more than people are willing to pay- you will be sorely disappointed. If you want to get rid of your “stuff” then you better be prepared to let it go for next to nothing.

Let’s go through a couple of examples shall we? Skis- if your skis are straight skis and not shaped, meaning they are “old”, you have next to no chance to sell them.. You are better off disposing of them or donating them to those guys that make Adirondack chairs out of old skis. Or hang them up above your fireplace if they are real old. Anything 10 years or older – the ski shops will not work on the bindings for liability purposes. Kids skis?- There is a market for these. But again, they cannot be too old or they will not sell. But people are willing to at least purchase used kids skis because they grow in and out of them quickly. My opinion- it is better to go to a shop and be a part of their seasonal rental program. Better equipment, and you can return it after the season. Better skis like you see above? If you want to move these, you need to be realistic about the price. You may have paid over $1000.00 per pair for them with bindings in the past, but people are not going to want to pay more than half of that if they are a number of years old- no matter how well they are maintained. And in my opinion, you are better off marketing them on line rather than take them to a swap. You will not get anything near to what you want at a swap. Sad but true.

Lets talk about boots. A discerning buyer will look at used boots to see what kind of shape they are in. Are the liners worn down? Are the toes and heels of the shell worn? They won’t work well in the bindings if they are. Are they more than a couple of years old? If the aforementioned things are true, don’t expect much from a swap. Take what you can get and leave the building. Rear entry boots- use them for a flower pot. Not worth a hoot. My dad’s old buddy had a pair of Hansens that he wanted to sell back in the day. I told him to plant his geraniums in them in the spring. Nobody in their right mind was going to buy those things. Be realistic.

Clothing- a lot of swaps do not have clothing options because of COVID. However, there are some that may try it. Again, don’t expect much for used clothing. Your old Bogner one piece may have been cool in the day, but it is not worth a thing today. Again- lower your expectations and try to unload if you can for a cheap price.

People are amazing at swaps. There are those who find it entertaining to seek out the hidden great deal on a pair of used skis, boots, or other equipment. Every once in a while you will find someone who is unloading some good “stuff” because they have to move, or they have quit skiing for one reason or another. It is fun to look for these things but buyer beware- there are no guarantees and usually all sales are final. The great pair of skis you bought at the swap may appear to be in pristine condition until you get home and notice that core shot in the base, or the edge that is damaged by a rock. You may be able to repair them, but no chance of getting your money back. Most sellers at a swap just dump off their stuff and put a price on the items and wait for the swap people to give them their money or shop credit at the end of the day. Sellers are usually nowhere to be seen. But buyers are there for several reasons.

Some ski shops will sponsor swaps and perhaps give shop credit for items sold. They also have old equipment from trade ins, or perhaps some items that have not sold in the regular shop sales. It is an opportunity also for the shop to market its new wares for the season. Get people in the shop or venue and allow them to perhaps change their minds and get new equipment.

There are some swaps where there is a beneficiary like a charity or kids ski program that benefits from the sale of the equipment. If you are in the generous mode and are willing to donate for the express purpose of supporting the cause, it is a successful day. You have unloaded some stuff out of your basement or garage for a good purpose and these types of swaps are becoming more popular.

Swaps may be more popular these days because of the economy. Seasoned skiers and real enthusiasts are going to always buy good equipment and maintain what they buy. But the skier who perhaps is watching their bucks, especially with all the increased costs of skiing today, may be willing to compromise a little bit and get some used stuff at a swap. Typically these are the casual skiers who want something to do every once in a while in the winter. But the real skiers- they will buy the good stuff and scrimp somewhere else.

But the bottom line is see your friends, see what s@#$ they are trying to buy or sell, laugh at the curmudgeons, and enjoy one of the highlights to the beginning of ski season. Think snow and thanks for reading.

Where you are- it’s happening.

Bondieu Lake. The Lodge at Glendorn

Kind of a Yoda like title but really- it’s true. Where you are…….it’s happening. Just like this fall for the last three weeks around these parts. The fall colors have been spectacular, the weather sunny and cool. So many people have remarked how wonderful the fall weather has been in the northeast and no matter where you are………it’s happening. Enjoy it, relish it, and get lost in the moments.

My last stretch of this fall weather and spectacular colors began three weeks ago in Bradford, Pa. Driving up through the Allegheny National Forest was nothing short of breathtaking. The sun was out, and my wife Janet and I took in the drive and also our time at one of our favorite places up there which I posted about last week. Whether you are a hiker, a road cyclist, or a mountain biker, all of these activities have been enhanced by the spectacular fall season around here.

Fall hiking has been unbelievable.

I even had the opportunity to see two black bear cubs on one of my rides up there that had me jazzed for days.

The cubs scampered to safety.

The next week at Laurel Mountain was again – perfect weather, riding mountain bikes with a great group from Pittsburgh Off Road Cyclists and the group from the Laurel Highlands Off Road Bicycling Association. 45+ riders and all taking in one of the last fall weekends in the Laurel Highlands. Miles of smiles and a fun after ride party in the lot up there.

Weekday rides at our local parks have been really scenic too. The colors even in my own neighborhood have been brilliant and the riding and hiking locally has been cool, clear, and colorful.

The leaf covered rocks make you pay attention.

Finally- this weekend I ventured south just across the border into Wild Wonderful West Virginia. A place where I love to ride and a place that holds so many wonderful riding memories for me. This time it was at Cooper’s Rock State Forest.

Really cool rock sections in Cooper’s Rock.

The group I was with this weekend were the Adventuremen. http://www.adventuremen.org. Adventuremen or Dirt Church is a group of really fun guys from Western Pa and West Virginia who not only are good riders, but also love the Lord in an outdoor setting. We can all appreciate the Creation with the fall scenery and the Adventuremen make it happen. This was the second Adventuremen outing this fall and Dirt Church was in session at Cooper’s Rock and also at Laurel earlier in the year.

The Adventuremen- Roger Evans put together a great time. Plus his post ride chili got rave reviews. Roger is the tall guy in the back.
The Overlook at Cooper’s Rock

Aside from all the ravings about the leaves and the weather, the point of all of this is – where you are……..it is happening. I hear so many people say” I wish I was somewhere else, I wish I was out west or down south.” The fact of the matter is all of those folks are enjoying their weather and their fall seasons. But we have a lot right here in Western Pa. and West Virginia. We just need to appreciate what we have. Sure the west is cool and other places in the country have their appeal. But everyone needs to appreciate their home turf. I am sure some of them are saying what a beautiful fall it is out east right now. But no need to do that……..enjoy where you are.

I watched the World Cup ski race from Solden, Austria this weekend and as much as I am wanting to ski, I love the fall. I am in no hurry for this to end and I hope we can get some more of this spectacular weather for a little while longer. Enjoy what we have, get out in it, and take in a huge breath of cool, crisp, fall air. Thanks for reading.

Return to The Lodge at Glendorn

The main fireplace in the dining room.

If you ever wanted to take your significant other to a fabulous place for a special occasion or just any occasion for that matter, look no further than the Lodge at Glendorn in Bradford, Pa. My wife Janet and I have visited this place at least 10 times and every time we go, we are amazed at what a great experience it is.

One of the many tastefully decorated rooms in the main lodge.

This particular trip, we went at peak foliage season as Bradford, Pa is in the northern reaches of Pennsylvania right near the New York state border. As we drove through the Allegheny National Forest, we entered Glendorn through the black iron gates and it is always like we are taking a trip back in time to a place that does everything right. The staff is always so friendly when you arrive, and they are more than happy to oblige with anything you might need. The rooms and cabins are decorated with artifacts from the Dorn family who were the original owners of the estate. The cabins are not what you think because when you walk in to any one of them, you are amazed at the fine linens, beautiful artwork and fresh flowers that welcome you. The lodge rooms are beautiful and if you wanted to take another couple or two, you can rent anyone of the cabins because they have multiple bedrooms and bathrooms.

Jill Lake – one of many on the property.

The food is amazing as Chef David Haick creates breakfasts, lunches and dinners with fresh produce from local farms and orchards, local meat and fish selections, and can even prepare picnic lunches if you want to explore the property outside of the dining room. My wife can also attest to the quality of the Forest Spa, on site, which can refresh sore and tired muscles with deep tissue massage and many other spa services.

I particularly like the 1500 acres and their trails that are available for hiking, mountain biking, and cross country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter. We always alpine ski up the road at Holimont in Ellicottville, N.Y which is only a 40 minute drive from Glendorn. Lots of outside activities including fly fishing( Glendorn received the Orvis Resort of the Year back in 2016), and skeet and trap shooting. Guides are available to assist upon request and are very knowledgeable. Another note of interest is that The Lodge at Glendorn is listed in the Relais and Chateau book of top resorts in the world. It is quite an honor to be listed here and Glendorn has been on the list for many years.

Skeet shooting year round.

The amazing thing to me is that amidst the luxury at the resort, you can wander out to the trails in the 1500 acres adjacent to the Allegheny National Forest and feel like you are a million miles away from anything. I was riding my mountain bike on this recent trip after hiking with Janet, and a huge turkey or pheasant ( not sure) flew right over my handlebars and scared the heck out of me. Right after that while descending a trail, I stopped to see two black bear cubs scampering up a tree right in front of me. I snapped a shot but then got out of there quickly because I know mama was around somewhere and most likely would have taken a dim view of me taking photos of her cubs. I dropped my post and descended the trail quite rapidly.

One of the cubs .
From wilderness riding to fine linen dining
Hiking with the bride on our anniversary.
One of the many trout stocked streams on the property
Bondieu Lake

Of the many places where Janet and I have traveled, this is definitely one of our favorites and the great thing is that it is only a 3 hour drive from our home. No airports, no rental cars, just pack up your stuff and go. I have posted about The Lodge at Glendorn before, but I felt compelled to talk about it again because it is truly spectacular. You have to try it yourself and you will definitely rebook if you do. Warren Miller, the great ski movie producer always said, “If you don’t do it this year, you will be another year older when you do.” This is so true and why not visit The Lodge at Glendorn soon? Cliff and Tracy Forrest, the owners, have done a marvelous job of capturing the essence of a wilderness resort with first class lodging, dining and activities in the wilds of Pennsylvania. Go visit. I am not going to tell you again. LOL!! Thanks for reading.

Fresh flowers everywhere!

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.

Duckin

Breaststroke by the incomparable Michael Phelps

It’s funny. My wife says to me occasionally as we walk, ” Hey- you are duckin.” I laugh and say-” well maybe that is because of all the breaststroke I did as a kid?” Duckin is her word for saying that I walk like a duck. Left foot pointed left and right foot pointed right in a kind of fast waddle. I am kidding but as I remember back, all of us kids who were breaststrokers, walked like a duck. Perhaps it was a hallmark of the physiology needed to do the whip kick that is the engine of the stroke. The Rose brothers, me, Johnny Kane, Dru Duffy, all battled it out in the community pool wars and the YMCA teams. We all ducked. Even the Rose girls ducked ( sorry Annie and Mary). Breaststrokers all ducked. That is the way it was and apparently still is. I still duck.

The Allegheny Y Team back in the day- I am third from left at the top.

So as the days dwindle down for our community pool, I do take advantage of what we have left until Labor Day and swim some breaststroke from time to time when the pool is not crowded. Breaststroke was always a natural stroke for me. I could freestyle and backstroke, but the butterfly? No way. But breaststroke came natural and I competed as a kid for our community pool- Valley Brook Swimming Club, The Allegheny YMCA and also Shannopin Country Club. My dad drove me back and forth between venues a lot so that I could catch my heats. I would no sooner finish a heat in a relay or individual event when my dad would rush me into the car to catch the meet at Shannopin which started later. Breaststrokers were a valued commodity and all three teams needed a breaststroker for individual events and medley relays. There was a lot of competition between all of us “strokers” but it was a fun part of the competitive side of growing up.

Our community pool

Today I find that swimming in my community pool is relaxing and as I “stroke” along, I think about how the sport has changed. Watching swimming on TV I see the rules have changed as well. It used to be that you needed to touch both hands on the wall before you could turn. When you did turn, you had to push off the wall and get your arms above your head and make one giant pull under water and kick to surface and start swimming the next lap. Today- you can dolphin kick for as long as you can and then surface and start swimming. You also submerge your head after each stroke. In my day, your head could not go below the surface of the water. I try the new breaststroke and it is definitely more efficient and faster. But the main reason I swim is to stretch out. I tend to get tight from mountain biking and swimming helps me stretch out and relax those tight leg muscles. As I swim along, I think about all those old meets at Trees Pool at Pitt, with the Jello sticking to our feet. The energy powder in those days was Jello and it spilled all over the floor and made our feet sticky and we sported the many colors of cherry, grape and lime. I think about the summer meets at Valley Brook and the other away meets and finally think about how hard it was to jump in the pool at the Allegheny Y or Allegheny High School in the winter. Wool hats and parkas to Speedo suits in the indoor pools.

So as the countdown begins, I will try to take advantage of all the great summer days left before the fall takes the pool out of play. Another guy from the neighborhood swims every day and he is amazing. He plays golf every day and swims every day and I just found out……..he is 80 years old. Doesn’t look it. Swimming is a wonderful form of exercise – even if it makes me duck. 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 Rails to Trails Diversion

A sunny start

So it’s Memorial Day weekend and Jan says to me, ” I would like to ride my bike.” A little unusual because she does not ride that much but enjoys it when in the mood. I suggested a rails to trails ride and since we were making the effort, why not drive a little bit to maybe one of the more scenic Rails to Trails in our area – the Butler-Freeport Trail. For those of you who are visiting Western Pa. and want a diversion from the really impressive mountain biking in these parts, the Butler Freeport Trail is a relaxing option. As you meander through quiet farmland and along gurgling streams that seem to sparkle in the sunlight, you are amazed at how relaxed it makes you feel. Rails to Trails are basically flat as they follow old railroad lines that have been converted to bike trails.

Unloading the rack.
So many farms along the way
Jan says I look like a police officer. LOL!!

The Butler Freeport Trail is not unlike the many rails to trails that are in our region. Very well maintained and really not that crowded even on a holiday weekend. Runners, walkers and hikers enjoy the trails but for the most part, most of the users are cyclists. Mountain bikes are a good choice but you see all kinds of clunkers out there as well as the increasingly popular E-Bikes. Unlike mountain biking in the woods, the rails to trails allow one to look around to take in the scenery. You can cruise at your own pace and not have to worry about trees, logs, rocks, stumps, etc. that make you focus on a typical mountain bike ride. Personally I like riding with my wife, but I also like riding at the relaxed scenic pace on rails to trails. It is a great diversion from my usual mountain bike rides on the rocky, rooty, hilly, trails of Western Pa.

The nice thing about making the effort to ride Butler-Freeport Trail is that when you are finished, there are many optional side things to do in Butler County. We always gravitate towards Freedom Farms who have a nice market, donut shop, and outdoor dining venue in an open barn. Freedom Farms specializes in fresh produce, and their own hormone free, grass fed beef, pork and chicken. If you grab their brochure, there are many events that take place on the farm all through the year. From farm to table dinners on specific Sundays during the year that are paired with beer tasting and wine tasting, to fall and Christmas activities that showcase the work of the farm in all seasons. The King Family owns 200 acres of farmland right near the Butler Freeport Trail that make up the Freedom Farms. They are a friendly, hard working family who take the time to stop and answer questions and show you around.

A stop at Freedom Farms is a must.

After picking up some produce and nice hanging baskets, we made our way to my standard stop at Hammer’s Frozen Custard. Now for those of you who have not sampled frozen custard like Janet, you are in for a real treat as no ice cream anywhere can beat frozen custard. So much so that we got a cone and then brought a quart home.

Bounty from Freedom Farms
So good!!!!!

I guess the point of all of this is advice to make a day of it. Take a nice relaxing ride in the country on a rails to trails, see the local spots and have a nice time of it with your significant other. I have vowed to take Jan to several more rails to trails systems and see the associated fun places to eat and shop along the way. For me, it is a nice diversion from the usual ride in the woods where at the end of the day you are exhausted and perspiring like you just jumped out of the shower. There are rails to trails systems everywhere, all over the country. Take the time to visit them, ride them, enjoy them and instead of always trying to beat your pal up a hill or beat your Strava time, relax and enjoy the ride. Thanks for reading.

Photos by Janet McCloskey.

The Theory of Self Selection

Stein’s Way- named after the famous Stein Eriksen.
The Barrister and his pal Jamie.

So, I was out in Deer Valley, Utah last week and while riding the chairlift with my friend Tom Birsic, who is a resident of Park City, I remarked that the Wasatch chairlift and the Sultan chairlift were not crowded. They both service some black diamond slopes including the famous Stein’s Way. Tom remarked with his wry sense of humor that Stein’s Way self selects it’s skiers and that is why the chairlifts were not crowded. I kind of laughed at that and asked about his statement of self selection. He then went on to explain, that with the limited snowfall that Deer Valley had experienced in the last couple of weeks, the terrain over on that side of the mountain tended to get scraped and icy as we had found out. People tended to try Stein’s and then quickly found out that the icy, narrow entrance had probably weeded out return runs. Tom remarked that he had even seen a guy crawling back up the trail looking for an easier way down. Steins’ had self selected there and that guy probably would not be coming back. We were still skiing over there but that is just us.

Sometimes slopes like Stein’s can self select just from reputation. There are those who hear of the icy conditions and decide not to ski it. Take my wife for instance. Janet is a good skier but didn’t have to have the icy, narrow entrance and opted not to ski over on that side of the mountain. Sometimes maturity and consideration win out over ego and the right decision is made long before one enters the danger zone of a slope on which they maybe don’t belong. I am convinced Janet could ski Stein’s because she has good technique. She finishes her turns well but just didn’t have to have the stress to navigate the narrow entrance with the icy conditions. So, Stein’s self selected her without even seeing her skis. LOL!!

There are many other slopes and trails that self select as well. Take our local Laurel Mountain with it’s famous Wildcat. It is the steepest slope in these parts and often I remark to my friend Jaime that the crowd seems to be getting sparse on Lower Wildcat. Jaime laughs and says- ” Pat- have you noticed how it is getting scraped and icy?” Not many people want to ski that and opt out for the rest of the day. The slope becomes empty and only the diehards tend to continue to battle the ice with no one else in sight. Some even do it in the rain – like yours truly. But that is another story.

Tom and I continued to discuss self selection on the chairlifts as the day went on and what I got out of his humorous discussion was that discretion is often the better part of valor. Even his friend Jamie who was visiting from DC, and was a good skier, remarked that he had slowed down a little as he has aged and decided that it was not worth it to ski too fast or go to slopes that would test his skill beyond which he felt comfortable. One can have a great time without being self selected from a place of no return.

The Daly Chutes

I like to ski the Daly Chutes at Deer Valley. But they even self selected me this year because of the thin condition of the snow pack there. Riding the chair, I noticed that no one was skiing over there and with the thin conditions, the rocks and stumps were showing through along with the fact that it seemed rock hard. As much as I like to ski there I opted out or perhaps in Tom’s theory- the Daly Chutes had self selected me out this year.

So Tom, the barrister, had a valid theory and although certain slopes and trails in his words can self select, we all know that we should really analyze where we want to ski and leave the bravado for another day or another slope or trail if necessary. Enjoy the skiing, and ski to ski another day. Thanks Tom. Thanks for reading.

Go Nordic!

Olympic Gold Medalist Jessie Diggins,

Years ago, I met a young lady who was a member of the Middlebury College Nordic Ski Team. She was recounting her workout routine while quickly demolishing a half gallon of ice cream right before my eyes. She had to pay close attention to her diet and make sure that she was eating enough calories to fuel her practices and meets. In many cases, they just can’t eat enough. You see, cross country ski racers are a rare breed. Among endurance athletes, they have the most impressive VO2 data and their engines are unmatched in the endurance sports world. We have a real superstar right here in the U.S with Jessie Diggins who is a member of our U.S Nordic Ski Team and a gold medalist from the most recent Olympic games in Korea. She has had tremendous success on the World Cup and is a favorite for gold in the upcoming Olympics in China. These athletes are amazing and their skill and endurance is worth watching on the upcoming coverage of the Olympics in February. Check them out.

More gold in China?

If you take it down several notches, there are opportunities out there for the mortal man to participate in this winter sport. I am an alpine skier and rarely get to go cross country skiing any more but I have always had respect for people who make use of Nordic ski centers like the one we have at Laurel Mountain right here in Pa.

Laurel Mountain Nordic Ski Center

The cool thing about cross country skiing is that you can enjoy it casually like a nice tour through the woods or you can make it a real workout. Traditional skis can be used in the machine made tracks and the feeling of gliding along with your skis floating though the tracked trail is spectacular. Shorter skating skis are also available and you can skate your way along groomed trails which is another great workout. Finally, there are wider touring skis that have metal edges which allow you to break trail on a freshly fallen snow landscape like a golf course. Many ski touring centers offer rentals and if not, most outfitters like L.L. Bean. Public Lands, and REI have equipment for sale or rent. With the recent big snow in the East, I see many people out on the golf courses and on the groomed trails these days trying to make the most of the winter weather.

Tracked Trails.

Years ago, I had touring skis and would ski at night on the golf course near my home with a light on my head. A fun workout on clear, cold nights. Oftentimes in those days, I would also visit my friend Eric in Vermont and as a diversion from alpine skiing at Killington, we would take cross country equipment out of his garage and head to the quarry near his home in Bethel, Vermont. It was there that we skied up and down gravel and sand piles showing off and usually crashing and burning many times until we either had destroyed his equipment or were so stiff and sore and snow covered that we left and headed home for a cold beer. Fun times in those days in Bethel.

I often joke with my friends who cross country ski. I call them communist skiers. They laugh because they know that I associate cross country ski racers with the Eastern Bloc. Most of the success in recent years has been with skiers from the Baltic countries or Russia as well as the usual suspects from the Scandinavian countries. But look out for the Americans. We are coming on strong and the term communist skier jokingly will be a term of the past for me.

As much as I like alpine skiing, I do miss the days when I used to cross country ski. I may take it up again although Janet and I like to snowshoe when we are not skiing. We take advantage of the snow when it comes. If you are looking for a good day in the woods, there is nothing like a sunny winter day with cross country equipment in hand. Try it and perhaps look up your local Nordic ski center or consult with L.L.Bean, Public Lands, or REI and enjoy the winter. Thanks for reading, watch the upcoming Olympics on NBC and Peacock, and think snow.