So How is it Out West?

The Ski Lodge

So this year has been a little different in the local ski areas. The chair above has been my lodge as I change my boots in the parking lot and try to minimize contact except for outside skiing and rides on the chairlift. Personally, as I have posted before, I am happy to be skiing and have to hand it to the ski areas to even be operating in this era of the Pandemic. I am grateful. So how is it in other areas around the country you might ask? We all have heard about the long lines in Colorado and Tahoe and even locally the lines have been robust. I am thinking that the Pandemic has encouraged people to get outside and also the snowy, cold winter around here has brought about a renewed enthusiasm for skiing. It has also been a good winter around the country. My friends have reported huge snows in the Pacific Northwest and some longer lines in several other western areas.

Last week my wife and I ventured to Park City, Utah at the invitation of some very good friends who live there. They have been careful with social distancing and so have we, so our only unknown was the airport and plane. We were careful but the airports were reasonable and allowed for distancing. Even the planes were sanitized and we were fortunate to not have anyone in the middle seat. We wore our masks, sanitized the seats and tray tables and also our headrests. All was well and we made our way to ski at Deer Valley, Utah.

The Empire Canyon Area at Deer Valley.

One of the first things we noticed was that Deer Valley was not really that crowded despite what we had heard about neighboring Park City Resort. They limit the lift tickets and since I had an IKON Pass, I was able to ski without a reservation and my wife was able to get a buddy pass at the ticket window each day without issue. In typical Deer Valley protocol, the slopes were impeccably groomed much to my wife’s delight, and the sun shined brightly every day, even though there were cold temperatures . I noticed that the indoor dining was restricted and a reservation system was in place for all the ski lodges. You could get “Grab and Go” meals either by ordering on the Deer Valley App or ordering at the window. Eating outside was encouraged. But there was very little indoor warming encouraged.

In the lift lines, signage was plentiful regarding social distancing and all Deer Valley employees were on alert to instruct anyone who had their facemasks down to pull them up. Even on the exit ramps on the chairlifts, there were signs to use your mask when unloading. Instructors had masks on when teaching and all of the employees had masks for every function in the area. It was expected that all guests complied and it was a small price to pay for the privilege of skiing Deer Valley.

Main Street in Park City was still pretty crowded and even though there were protocols for social distancing, the amount of people made it so that we did not shop or eat on Main Street. We dined with our friends in their beautiful home and did take out one night.

Best View in Park City

So, even though there are consistent similarities in Covid protocol in all ski areas this season, the west is doing a good job with the amount of locals skiing and also visitors who now are a little more comfortable traveling. Like the McCloskeys. The atmosphere seems a bit subdued out there as the apres and dining scene are affected by restrictions. You could actually feel it when walking around. Something was definitely different. All bets were off at the No Name Saloon as it seemed to be a haven for the ” cabin fever” crowd. We stayed away for now. I will see what Mammoth Mountain is doing at the end of this month, but if I have the experience that we had in Deer Valley, I will be comfortable and again grateful to be skiing. Thanks for reading.

White Knuckling

Classic New York State Thruway

You know- when you are a kid, you are fearless. Take me for instance. Whenever there was a snow day at school, I would jump into my mother’s ’64 Buick Special and head to the mountains. I threw some sand bags from the garage into the trunk, and headed out with big honker snow tires on the back. Rear wheel drive in those days. I remember taking it to Canaan Mountain, West Virginia for my very first PSIA clinic. What a ride on those backcountry roads. My dad called it ” The Yellow Bomb”. My mother always laughed and said” too much snow to go to school, so you drive to the mountains?”

The Yellow Bomb

Fast forward- after college I taught skiing at Sugarloaf , Maine and there were some harrowing drives to the ski area in Bob Irish’s VW which I used for the winter, staying in his cabin in Stratton, Maine. 40 below straight temps were not uncommon and I had to heat the oil with an electric dip stick otherwise the bug would not turn over. There were many subsequent drives on the New York Thruway over the years, going to Vermont and the Adirondacks to visit friends and attend the many PSIA clinics after passing my certification for ski instruction at Killington. The difference was I got smart and started to drive four wheel drive vehicles. They inspire confidence but they slide just like any other car. My first one was an orange International Scout which was a heavy bucket of bolts that seemed to always have some kind of mechanical issue. But it generally got me where I wanted to go.

I had a tow strap in the Scout and pulled many a stranded motorist out of a snowbank including the Honorable Richard Caliguiri – Mayor of Pittsburgh. He thought I was some kind of Somerset special and gave me a brief nod of approval before driving off and leaving me with my strap and a soiled ski school jacket.

After many ” white knuckle ” experiences behind the wheel of my 4 wheel drives, I got pretty comfortable navigating the roads of New England, Pennsylvania and Upper New York State. Recently my Jeep has served me well but I find as I get older, my driving has become more conservative. I rent 4 wheel drive pickups on ski trips and sometimes the tires are suspect. I have driven many times on I-70 in Colorado in whiteouts, and on 395 headed to Mammoth, the roads can become like driving on a mirror. My white knuckling on the steering wheel is the subject of laughter with my friend from Vermont and the other from Tahoe who ask if we will eventually get to the ski area say in June? My wife prefers 4 wheel drive SUVs on trips, but the boys prefer the pickup. The Mt. Rose Highway in Tahoe has been the site of many a harrowing night’s drive with epic snows either closing the roads or sending us on an alternate route.

Sierra Snow Conditions
The Sportmobile

When my friend Eric offers to drive his Sportsmobile, I am most grateful knowing I will not have to fight the roads with a rental pickup. We will get there safely and even when there are two foot snows during dinner, we will always get back to where we need to be. This is some kind of vehicle. Eric and his wife Helen take it all over the west.

So, I am not as fearless as I was in the 64 Buick or even the Scout, the Blazer, or the Montero, which went sideways one day down Highland Ave with my young son in his car seat. The blood eventually returned to my knuckles about an hour later in that storm. But the subsequent vehicles, including my current Wrangler, have served me well even though I take my time so as not to end up in the median or on a guard rail. Driving in the snow is not for the faint of heart, but with a lot of experience, and a certain amount of earned respect, I am a pretty good navigator of all things winter. Even though I may not make it to the destination until June. LOL!! Thanks for reading and drive safely this winter.

Be a follower of the blog. Hit the box to the left of the page here or at the bottom of your smart phone and see the fun and insanity of the Chronicles once per week. Slainte’

The Jeep Wrangler

The Crowbar

We all know what a crowbar is. It is the tool that is used to pry open a door or a trunk and see what is inside. It is a rough way to open something. Just use that crowbar to get something out. You can just hear the nails squeaking and that groaning of the wood under pressure. That is what Janet and I say when I get her out of the house to do something active. It’s not that she doesn’t want to do it, and once she is out, she has a good time. It is just getting her out of the comfort zone of our house and out and about. I say- ” I just crowbarred you out of the house.” The groaning and squeaking seem to stop once the door is opened.

As with an actual crowbar, there is always the initial resistance. Take this weekend for instance. We have a lot of snow on the ground and I always say take advantage of the weather when you can. Jan likes to snowshoe but when it is 20 degrees and the wind is howling on the golf course near our house, it can become a real sales job on my part to crowbar Janet away from the fireplace. We set up the camp chairs, strap on the shoes, and then trudge off into the north wind. She is bundled up and moaning a bit but then the sun shines and we move towards the valley to shield us a little from the relentless biting wind. Things get better. The hands warm up a little bit and the conversation between the two of us distracts her from the bitter temperatures and wind. Clothing helps too in that she has a nice Patagonia Gore Tex shell and pants.

No such thing as bad weather.

I try to pick the good days to make the crowbar a little easier. When the sun shines, I have a better chance and nice groomed conditions doesn’t hurt either when we venture to the slopes.

Nice weather out west.

But sometimes, we get caught in nasty weather which makes the crowbar situation a little more resistant. Like when we get caught in a freezing rain situation.

Thanks Pat- freezing rain.

But for the most part, Gore Tex always does the trick especially when you can successfully get out of the house. And Janet always admits when we return home, she was glad she went and feels good that she got another day outside. Whether it is hiking, cycling, skiing, snowshoeing or just a plain walk in the neighborhood, once she is crowbarred out, things seem generally to go well. Some initial complaints wane as the outing progresses. Jan is a good sport and I have put her in some pretty nasty weather situations which never seem to be daunting to me. But I am a different type of person. Janet would prefer warm weather but she will take the good with the bad here in Western Pa.

The Hiker

Jan and I are empty nesters now. And with the pandemic, there is a lot of time spent in the house together. Not that we don’t like that, but it is important for us to be active outside. Jan loves her home and takes pride in having it well kept despite having to live with a guy who is a little less neat. She enjoys the comforts of home especially in the inclement weather. But when the crowbar comes out, deep down she knows that she will have a good time despite the feeling that she is being forced out into the frozen tundra. Or a rainstorm. Or blazing heat. That perfect day with sunshine and pleasant temperatures is the Holy Grail that we seem to rarely grasp. I am a ” stick your face in the wind and let it rattle your teeth” kind of guy and Jan bundles up and pulls her facemask tight. But that is ok. She allows me to crowbar her out and I do things for her at home. Together we are making the best of the pandemic, and also enjoying more time together. We are getting used to this empty nest thing and haven’t killed each other yet. My type A personality is motivating her and her common sense is teaching me – daily. After 33 years together, we have used the crowbar analogy to our advantage. You can’t buy much in the way of sports equipment today- all sold out. Lift lines are longer, and in general it seems like most people are trying to be more active outdoors. Maybe somebody is crowbarring them all out too. Enjoy the winter and thanks for reading

Gratitude

The Ski Lodge

We are halfway through winter and the groundhog comes out soon to let us know what he thinks about the rest of the winter. I wonder if he will be masked? In any event, this has been a little different ski year with booting up in the parking lot and eating lunch in the vehicle, or at a small tailgate. The good news is that the snow has been really good this winter and lots of folks are getting out to enjoy the slopes- nationwide.

The view that never gets old

Locally, here in Western Pa, the snow has been plentiful especially in the ridges and all of our ski areas have been operating well. There have been a few glitches along the way but for the most part, I am grateful that the lifts are spinning. The outside fireplaces are roaring and when there are only a few people in the lodge, I will sneak in early to sit by the fire- one of my favorite things to do.

Nothing like a fire in the Lodge,

There have been a lot of changes this year in the operation of skiing. We don’t really know the half of it but I am sure that operating a ski resort in Western Pa. is challenging enough let alone in a year with a pandemic. In the fall, there was a lot of question whether there would be skiing this season, but the resorts have made it possible even though their bottom lines are probably not as robust with the lack of bar and restaurant business. Tough to survive on take out and limited indoor seating. But they are doing it and for that – I am grateful. When I ride up that chairlift and look out over the Laurels, I am so thankful that I have the health and the skill to enjoy skiing. And for an hour and a half from where I live, I will take it.

Janet and I are headed west in February and I will be going again in March. From what I am hearing from friends out there, the resorts are doing a good job in general. Sure there has been the issues with long lines due to social distancing on the chair lifts, but it seems to have sorted itself out as the season has progressed and this past week, most of the west has seen a significant snowfall which will hold them in good stead for the rest of the season. Outdoor recreation is essential to all of us if we want to get through this pandemic and nothing better than enjoying the snow in the winter- no matter what you do.

Masked up and playing by the rules.
The PSU Pals

So- as I sit in my chair at the beginning of the day and boot up, I look around and think we are much better off than we thought we might be. The weather has been cooperative and it has led to good times outside for a lot of us. So the next time you see a snowmaker at the resort- here or out west- thank them. They work hard in really adverse conditions. When you see the patrol, the ski school, a groomer , restaurant employee, ticket booth personnel, or management at an area, take a moment to thank them and tell them how much we appreciate their efforts to keep us all going strong this winter. The good news is that no matter what that rodent says, we have a lot of winter left. Enjoy it and ………..be grateful. Thanks for reading.

ICE

The Streif

Well this was Hahnenkamm weekend over in Austria. The Super Bowl of Downhill – the speed event in ski racing. I love to watch it every year on the Olympic Channel as I had the opportunity a while back to view it in person. Nothing can prepare you for what you see there in course preparation. The Streif as they call it, it literally a sheet of rock hard ice all the way down the course and that is the way that the World Cup downhillers like it. Years ago, Kenny Griffin and I had the opportunity to witness this event along with about 50,000 other rabid Austrian fans.

This years winner, Beat Feuz of Switzerland

Kenny and I were skiing in Austria and made our way to Kitzbuhel to see this world famous race. We packed our daypack with apple strudel and some fruit, Orangina, and some cheese. As we made our way to the famous jump called the Hausbergkante, we were amazed at the speed of the racers as they soared off the jump and into the distance on the course. The finish is 90 plus miles per hour into a sea of roaring fans. No fans this year due to Covid, but when Kenny and I saw it, it was a real spectacle. But the really sobering thing was the condition of the course- rock hard, ice.

Bullet Proof

We had the opportunity to ski parts of the course the next day, and believe me, it was like skiing on a mirror. A real challenge just to get down let alone average around 70 MPH on that course for the World Cup. Now I am no stranger to ice. I grew up in the east where we have alternating snow and rain events – freeze, thaw which builds a nice base of ice for us to enjoy. LOL!! The key is sharp edges and a technique that is rooted in self belief that your equipment will win the day over the ice. Oftentimes, when it is real hard or ” scratchy” as the Maine people say at Sugarloaf, you have to glide over the tough parts until you can find a place to turn. Not so on the Streif. Those turns are mandatory and at high speed. Very impressive indeed.

I always chuckle when I ski out west and I hear someone say it is “icy”. They really don’t understand the magnitude of that statement for an easterner. I always joke and say ice is when you can see last summer’s dandelions underneath that black, mirror like glaze. They are fortunate out there in that they can ski on the nice days and leave the cloudy, not so nice, “icy” days to us visiting easterners. Bullet proof ice is what we cut our teeth on and my years skiing in New England with my friend Eric Durfee, and my season at Sugarloaf honed my appreciation for the slippery, rock hard conditions. They used to have the Can-AM Races( now the Nor-Am races) at Sugarloaf on the Narrow Gauge Trail. I watched the Canadians( Todd Brooker, Steve Podborski, and Ken Read) roar down that trail with reckless abandon. No fear of the ice and looking for speed at every moment. The tech guys worked real hard to put a razor edge on the skis and prepped them all the way to the start of the race. Skiing the Narrow Gauge after the races was a real interesting experience. Very hard and “scratchy” .

Kitzbuhel.

But again, nothing is more intimidating than a World Cup ski race course. Oftentimes the course preparation crew uses a technique called water injection to harden up the course with dropping temperatures. Or if the course is soft and sloppy, salt is used to firm up the conditions. When Kenny and I witnessed the race, the Austrian army hosed down sections of the course. It was as bullet proof as any trail I had ever seen. If you get the chance to see a World Cup race in person, do it. You will be amazed at the skill, strength, and technique of the world’s finest skiers. It will make you appreciate the meaning of the ski report phrase- ” icy conditions.” Thanks for reading and think snow.

The Stoke

The Daly Chutes – Deer Valley, Utah

” Dude- I am stoked”. ” Man- the stoke is high today.” ” Stoked man.” You have all heard this in a lift line or elsewhere on a great day. Young people still get excited about skiing and they verbalize it in different ways including the word………….”stoke”. Now I am beyond the stoke vernacular in age, so I would not be caught dead calling anyone a dude or that I am stoked. However, the neat thing about skiing is that all ages can participate. I have skied for 59 years – as a kid and now as a grown kid. But still- I know my place among the millennials and keep my distance when verbalizing how I love a great day of skiing. I get ……. well ……..excited ,or at the ragged edge of adjective description- ” pumped” LOL!!

Mammoth Mountain , California.

So really- for the older generation of skiers, what exactly is ” stoke?” Well- it can be used to describe something about to happen. Like when your skis are hanging over a cornice and you are about to drop in. The excitement is high as you visualize your first couple of turns. And you are ….” stoked” . You drop in and make a series of linked turns and when you get to the bottom, the stoke turns past tense and you are ” stoked ” with that run. You have finished a high anxiety opportunity and you made the best of it and your smile is a wide as your face and you are ……………”stoked”. Me………………I am happy to have made some good turns and I silently say………..” alright!!!!!!” Would never yell out ” stoked.”

Stoke can also be used to describe the atmosphere of the moment. Like when you are standing in a lift line on a huge powder day. You hear the whoops and yeeeeeeowwws of the younger set as they recover their skis that they strategically placed in line at the front and they wait for the rope to drop. The ” stoke is high” as they impatiently wait on the chair ride for those first untracked turns in great snow. You hear the word ” stoked” all over the place as the crowd rushes from the lift to make those first signature turns. ” Dude- I am stoked” Not for me. I stay my course and politely ski out of the way of the dudes.

Laurel Mountain, Pa. 8:00 AM

I get excited as I look out on a perfectly groomed trail ready for the first turns of the day. I smile and click into my bindings, push off, and feel pretty darn good as I make my first turns on a sunny winter day no matter where I am. Out west or local. I am …….excited” I probably didn’t sleep real well but that is ok. I still have the enthusiasm of a kid as I slide down the mountain. Yes- I guess I am ” stoked” although I would never admit it or say it ……..except to you.

Things are a little weird now and my Jeep is my lodge as I now say. But we are happy booting up in the lot and eating our lunch in the Jeep. The stoke might be a little askew but we are definitely happy that the lifts are turning and we are skiing.

So although “stoke” is not really in my vocabulary, I am happy that the young people still enjoy the merits of skiing like I do and for that I guess I am …………………..” stoked.” Enjoy the winter and thanks for reading- dude.

Respect

Good kids doing good work

Things are changing rapidly in this world. Some for the good and some no so good. One of them is respect. Respect for people, respect for property and respect for the environment in which we live and play. Take our local ski area for instance. Most of us love to be in the mountains and love it when the slopes are blanketed in snow and the sun is shining brightly. We understand what it takes to maintain that opportunity both with the management of the ski area and what they do for us, and also with all of us who ski there. We all have a responsibility to respect the area and keep it clean so that we all can enjoy the pristine, cold crisp winter days of skiing.

That is why when I boarded the chair lift this weekend, I was disheartened and downright infuriated to see beer cans and beverage cans carelessly strewn below the lift and lying on the ground. I thought to myself, ” What kind of person drinks a beer in the chair lift and then just carelessly, and with no respect, tosses it to the ground?” People with no respect who are ignorant of all that we love about the outdoors. Enter Rocco Lorence, Ali Bruno, Elise Wadas, Juliana and Mariella Contini to the rescue- pictured in the photo above. These kids were raised right and appreciate the opportunities given to them every weekend at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

It touched a nerve with Juliana, Mariella and Ali when they saw the garbage lying under the North Face lift and they decided to do something about it. Along with the other kids in their WPRC posse, they got garbage bags from the Contini household and began to ski down under the lift and pick up all the eyesore beer cans and eventually place them in the resort garbage collection bins. Not only were they an example to all the other kids in the local ski programs, but people in the lifts saw them and marveled at the consideration of these young kids who no doubt were taught to respect all that has been given to them. The conversation spurred comments on social media and also started a movement among the ski school. Lou Marshall and Eric Tolbert and their ski instructor groups picked other lifts and began the same process of cleanup. The kids started a movement and the resort also noticed with a nice reward for the kids and the ski school members who participated.

I don’t know about you, but I thought it was pretty cool that these good kids started to make people think about litter. About how it scars the places that we love. Sure, the area will no doubt put up receptacles and maybe signs to try to encourage people to discard their garbage in the proper container. But the tougher job is to change the mindset of people who just don’t give a damn. Maybe if we see that behavior taking place, we all can join together to make a comment to that person or persons and ask why they don’t use the proper disposal containers? Trying to change behavior doesn’t need to be confrontational but maybe positioned as a question to make the person think about what they are doing. It might change the behavior- one person at a time. There will be some people who just don’t care, but like the movement that we saw this weekend, maybe some kids and their respect for the mountain will change behavior- one violator at a time.

If nothing else, I tip my helmet to Lou and Eric and their teams. And I also tip my helmet to Rocco, Ali, Elise, Juliana and Mariella and their parents who raised them right and gave us all something to think about. Thanks for reading and thank the kids if you see them.

Scenic photos courtesy of Rhonda West.

Resolutions

Laurel Mountain

This time of year I usually see lots of people running our local park loop around the lake. People with the very good intention of changing it up for the New Year. Sadly, according to a study at the University of Scranton, 80 percent of people do not stick with their New Years resolutions for the complete year. I believe that a lot of people either start too fast or too hard to get in shape, lose weight, or whatever else motivates them. Then it becomes a chore and a lot of people quit what was to be a very good intention. I always encourage people to start easy and work into it. Then the chances of sticking with the resolution become greater and the benefits become apparent. You should be able to enjoy the workout and not stress yourself. I always say at this point in my life- no one is going to the Olympics. I have a friend who says to start slow and taper off. We all laugh but that is a good motto.

This time of year, I am usually skiing. I continue to ride a mountain bike for exercise but as I age, I have been trying to enjoy the activities and not stress myself with unattainable goals. I find that exercise 4 days a week including skiing and mountain biking is enough to keep me in shape. I have found recently that if I back off just a little bit, I can enjoy the activity so much more. Take skiing for instance. If you start out too fast, the turns are compromised and you end up fighting to get some kind of rhythm. I have found that if you start with some nice rounded turns, you can ease into the run and enjoy the quality of a good turn instead of trying to get as much vertical as possible. Quality instead of quantity is my current motto. I like to be able to look back and say, ” now they were some good turns.”

Mammoth Mountain, California

It also gets me ready for runs like the above when I travel. Same thing. Not too fast just make good turns and execute.

Winter riding is the same. This is not the time to be a world beater. Especially in my mid 60s where I am definitely not a world beater. I find that backing off a little bit enjoying the snowy conditions, and just appreciating the ability to get out and ride a couple of times a week is good enough. Alternate activities like snowshoeing are good too to mix it up a bit.

Winter Riding with the lights.
Snowshoeing with the bride.

In any event, enjoying the moment and not killing myself seem to be the ticket for me as I make my way into 2021. It has been an odd time with the pandemic but outdoor activities seem to be Covid resistant and if we are careful, we can enjoy the outdoors and not need to worry. I won’t live in fear but I also need to be vigilant.

So as we make resolutions into 2021, it is important in my opinion, to be realistic with your goals and what you want to achieve. You don’t want to be one of the 80 percent that falls short. In addition, I think that a lot of resolutions should include what you can do for others. The elderly, the shut ins, people who are injured, friends who are having a tough time financially, psychologically, or otherwise all need our help. Maybe as we run around the lake, ride, ski, or do whatever we do in the New Year actively, we can include some thinking about what we can do for others. I am no motivational expert here. Just an older guy trying to keep on keepin on, and making the best of what is ahead of me. It takes a village as they say and we all can do something positive for our physical health this year as well as using some time to help others. Thanks for reading and Happy New Years to all of you.

In Search of Gemutlichkeit

Kitzbuhel, Austria

I have always been an atmosphere guy. Nothing did my heart better this year than having a white Christmas here at home. It just added to the atmosphere or the Gemutlichkeit as the Europeans would say. Getmutlichkeit officially is described as a feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. But it is so much more with the creation of atmosphere in a particular setting.

I love to ski but there is so much more to skiing than just sliding down a hill. The first time I learned that was when I was a kid and walked around our local ski resort – Seven Springs, and took in the Bavarian atmosphere. The log, stone, and glass architecture of the old world was present in the original buildings built by Adolph Dupre back in the 30s. I related skiing to this wonderful world of European elegance which I could not wait to take in someday.

The Town of Kitzbuhel

Fast forward and I was in a little church in Engleberg, Switzerland for midnight mass at Christmas. As I listened to Silent Night sung in a German dialect, I was enthralled with the atmosphere of this little town in the Alps. Later in my young life I returned to Europe and was part of a PSIA Ski Instructors outing in Austria where we skied and visited many places in the Austrian Tyrol. I learned the significance of plum schnapps (tough on the stomach but you can never refuse it),and the fun tradition of the Rodelrennen which is a sled race down the mountain roads in which I took part. After the race, we all went to the awards in the town of Kuthai and I reveled in the Gemutlichkeit of the local party and the understanding that skiing is a lifestyle in Austria. The atmosphere that is created there with the food, the beer, and the traditions celebrates everything winter. I was hooked for sure.

Rodelrennen in Austria

My wife Janet and I spent our honeymoon hiking in the Swiss Alps and visiting Austria once again and together we experienced that Gemutlichkeit in places like Verbier and Zermatt , where a candlelight fondue set the atmosphere just right. We have not been back since, and it is on the bucket list to return someday to take all of that in.

Today- I still search for that wonderful way of life when we travel westward. Some of the ski areas of the west still create that Bavarian atmosphere and it makes the trip aside from great ski conditions . Perhaps the closest we get is when we visit our good friends the Birsics in Park City and take in lunch at the Stein Eriksen Lodge.

Although the atmosphere is Norwegian, it still celebrates the feeling of Gemutlichkeit in the mountains of Utah. Nothing like coming in from the slopes and walking in to the Stein and having lunch. Linen tablecloths, fantastic food and drink and looking at all of Stein’s awards and medals in the trophy case just make the ski day all that more special. Spoken by a man who currently eats a peanut butter sandwich and boots up in his Jeep due to Covid regulations at our local area.

We celebrate a little Gemutlichkeit in our home around the holidays. Janet makes it her business to create that Christmas atmosphere with the decorations and the food.

So, I don’t know, I am just an atmosphere guy. I love the winter and when I have an opportunity to create or take in that feeling of warmth, friendliness and good cheer, I do it. Covid has been tough and things are different this winter. But someday, it will be over and we can all search and take in some Gemutlichkeit whether it is in our home, a ski area, or even out in the woods on a pair of showshoes- with some cheese and wine in the back of the Jeep. Thanks for reading and have a great New Years.

Opening Day!

Signs of the Times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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