Anyone Can Be a Father. It takes Dedication to be a Dad.

Curt Wooten on left. AKA “Pittsburgh Dad.”

Curt Wooten is a funny guy. As “Pittsburgh Dad”, he has created a comedy routine that is really popular here in Pittsburgh. But for those of you out of town, you will still appreciate his antics on his weekly You Tube videos. Remembering this photo from a few years back and also the poignant statement above about being a dad, many memories are filling my head on Father’s Day.

I will never forget the day we brought our son Jack home from the hospital. I said to my wife Janet, that life will never be the same. As a rookie dad, I was always trying to do the best for Jack and it all began with me trying to get him to do the things that I like to do. Skiing, riding a bike, hiking, all the outdoors stuff.

Mt. Rose, Nevada
Skiing with the boys.

I even made an effort to teach him all about American history with trips to Ft. Ligonier( of French and Indian War Fame), Fort Pitt, Williamsburg, VA and our famous trip to Gettysburg on the way to the shore. We looked like the Clampetts with fishing gear on the roof, bikes on the racks and tons of luggage I hired a guy to guide us and he drove our vehicle around the famous Gettysburg Civil War sites and after about three hours, he lost Janet and Jack – but I was enthralled. Again- it was all about me and what I liked and what I thought was important.

Jack at Williamsburg

After many days of hikes, bike rides in the woods with Jack on the “tag a long” and skiing, he came to me in the 6th grade and said he wanted to play basketball. I said” Basketball?” We are outdoors people! Janet looked at me and said,” it’s not all about you big guy.” So we began the basketball wars and I became fully engaged in Eden Christian Academy basketball, North Allegheny Basketball, and AAU Basketball

AAU Nationals in Florida with the DeJuan Blair All Stars.

Jack and I would attend Pete Strobl’s Scoring Factory at the Pittsburgh Athletic Association and I was fully on board with his training with Pete. http://www.thescoringfactory.com Pete- who currently coaches a Pro team in Europe, taught Jack a lot about basketball but more importantly he taught him about commitment, hard work and effort that pays off in life.

The most fun times were with Darelle Porter ( former All American from Pitt) who coached Jack when he played for the Dejuan Blair All Stars in AAU Basketball. Darelle and the other coaches would ask me if I played and if I coached Jack. I politely responded that I was an outdoors guy, never visited gyms, and couldn’t even dribble. They took me under their wing and thus the fun times with DB.

Time moved on and Jack lost interest in basketball and became a gamer. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around video games which are extremely popular but conflicted with my image of Jack as an outdoors guy or a seasoned hoopster. College came on the horizon and Jack finished up with an accounting degree and magna cum laude from La Roche University. He now lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan and works with a company that does audits of credit unions. I can’t even balance my checkbook.

Marisa and Jack

The interesting thing now is that Jack’s girlfriend is getting him to do all the things that I liked to do outdoors. Hiking, walks along Lake Michigan, kayaking, and he is even playing hoops again at his local health club. He still has a deadly three point shot and has always been a fan of the NBA.

These days, as empty nesters, Janet and I look back and think about all the good times we had raising Jack here in Pittsburgh. We miss having him here but realize that he has his own life now and he is different in many ways than we are. As a type “A” guy, I always wanted to direct Jack’s life but realized that Janet’s adage that ” its not all about you big guy” is a real fact of life. I think often of how I tried so hard to be a good dad and not just a father like the saying above says. We all have the calling as dads to teach our children principles, raise them in the faith, and in general get them started on a good path in life. But the lesson for me is that now Jack has his own life and I must let him live it. In many ways, Jack teaches me now. But I am still old school in a lot of areas. Still write checks, put stamps on envelopes, mail things at the post office, and I think things like Venmo are cartoon characters. Jack just shakes his head as he tries to get me into the 21st century.

We don’t see Jack as often as we would like. He makes his excursions to Pittsburgh and we have a whirlwind time catching up with him and just letting him tell us how life is for him without offering much advice( or at least we try). We make the treks to Grand Rapids to spend time with Jack and Marisa and go to the lake and to other mid west attractions like the Tulip Festival in Holland on a recent trip.

But for the most part, on Father’s Day, I think about the privilege that I have being a dad. The opportunities that we gave Jack pale in comparison to the blessing that we have had with Jack as our son. Father’s Day is about being a dad. And for the record, I did ask Jack, now that he is again doing some outdoor ventures, if he would like to ski again? He was a decent skier. But he said, ” Truthfully dad- I never liked the cold.” Go figure- Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thanks for reading and happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.

The Last Turns

The Durfees

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

The always energetic Lynne Hartnett

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

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

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

P.J- A.J

These little acronyms stand for Pre- Janet and After Janet. My wife always laughs when talking to people when she says that I have a whole other life. That is why she got me to write my stories in a blog. A lot before my marriage to Janet and still a lot A.J, because Janet gives me a pretty long leash. LOL!!

I actually have three volumes of this blog printed into coffee table books so that someday- it will be a reminder of all the fun times that I have had- P.J and A.J. Maybe my son and his kids will read it someday? Because really- Jack has no idea of all the antics that I have been through. He is not married yet but someday……?

The Coffee Table Books.

Now if you have been reading my blog, you will find that I have done nothing really spectacular. But in over 360 posts, I have chronicled a lot of life. My main purpose is to get people our age to keep doing things. That is important. I try to tell stories that make people chuckle- especially if they know me. The Pre J stories are fun. Skiing, cycling, hiking, etc. In fact- Janet picks up the coffee table books from time to time and says,” I never knew about that?” “That’s why I wrote it so that you and Jack can see the fun adventures that I have had.” My music that I blare at high volume in my Jeep by myself would surely be strange to her. The New Riders, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Susan Tedeschi, etc. Not her deal but that is part of my ………………..other life.

Heli Skiing with the Terrible Towel.
Fishing trips with my grandfather.
Mountain Bike racing with the Greenlee’s Team. ADJ trips!!

Then there are the stories that are A.J and also a new category that I call Adjacent to Janet. ADJ. Like I said- my wife give me a lot of leeway and I have adventures that she prefers that I do by myself. When I was first married, Janet was still flying for US Air as a flight attendant. I would use those buddy passes for many trips to the point where I would see her friends in the airport and they would say,” Pat- are you taking another free flight without Janet? Where is she.? ” I would laugh and say,” She is working” This was all pre Jack. My neighbors would call me the married bachelor. I would live my adjacent life when Janet worked and then when she returned, we would do things together. That still holds true today.

Snowshoeing with our pals the Flying Smittys.
Rails to Trails at Niagra on the Lake.
Skiing Locally
Skiing West
Hiking. An activity we do together. A.J

Janet and I are empty nesters now and she is doing a lot more things with me that she had not done before. Or more accurately, more of what we do. And the good news is that she is enjoying it. She still lets me go when she doesn’t feel like going and I take advantage of the time with myself. I enjoy my own company. I talk to myself and get answers. There are times that she is finished skiing for the day, for instance, and I can go rip a few by myself. Just to make sure that I still have it. There are days locally that are too cold and windy for her with low visibility. I like those days and take advantage of skiing by myself and work on things. I have my local posse of skiers and mountain bike riders that definitely fall into the category of ADJ. But for the most part, if I can do something with Jan, I do it and we build our memories together.

So- yes, I have had a whole other life as Janet would say, but those are fun memories and the concentration now is A.J more than anything. The more you can do with your significant other, the better. The empty nest makes us pretty flexible. Thanks for reading and go hit the outdoors.

An ADJ hike in the woods. Complete with bloody nose. LOL!!!

55+ years of Friendship.

My Pal- Dixon Rich

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

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

Dixon, Melissa and Jaime. Laurel Mountain friends for life

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

Valuable nap time for the tax man.

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

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

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

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

How to Ski an Area Effectively

Whiteface , NY

Jon Weisberg from http://www.SeniorsSkiing.com suggested that I write a piece for him on how to effectively ski a given area. Interesting topic which can be shared in his magazine and also on my blog here. Kind of kill two birds with one stone so to speak. So here goes.

Let’s start with the smaller areas like we have here in Western Pa. and Western New York. Moving from slope to slope or trail to trail regularly can be an effective way to maximize the satisfaction out of an area with a smaller vertical drop. I also try to make as many turns as I can in order to really utilize the terrain. Maybe a ski with a tighter turn radius can be used and often if you combine the tactic of ” keep moving” and “make turns”, you can see where the best snow is at a smaller area and then focus on lift lines and crowded conditions. My favorite local area has one really good slope- the best slope in Pa. It also has a number of trails and glades as options, but really, I like to lap Wildcat at Laurel Mountain and utilize its steeper terrain to the best of my ability. People ask- ” Pat- how can you ski the same slope all day long?” I tell them it is the best slope in Pa. and I change up my lines every run. Skiers left, middle and skiers right always yield a different challenge each run and really you can make the most out of limited terrain if you vary your lines. I mix it up with some selected runs down the trails at Laurel- often taking in great views of the Ligonier Valley. But for the most part, you can see me lapping the Cat each time from a different line.

Mammoth Mountain, California

Moving on to larger areas, a number of tactics come into play to effectively ski an area. The first one is to get there early to beat the crowds. This is true everywhere you ski. Oftentimes the best grooming is available in the morning or the morning’s best powder stashes can be accessed if you get up early and get to the parking lot and on to the slopes early. Once there, I often follow the sun. Look for where the sun shines first and go there for good visibility. If the slopes are not crowded, feel free to rip some big GS like turns because there is no fear of lots of people impeding your progress. Once the slopes begin to assemble people, those moving targets need to be respected and you can move on to another area which may not be as sunny and perhaps less crowded. I try to avoid the crowds at all costs. At Deer Valley a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the lifts servicing the black diamond slopes seemed less crowded. The reason is that the entry to those slopes were pretty icy and people tended to avoid another run. For me- that is the green light to keep skiing them. If you can stand a little bit of adverse conditions, you will have a particular run or runs to yourself with no lift lines.

Steins Way at Deer Valley

Skiing at lunchtime is another tactic where you see the lines dramatically disappear. Make use of the time and pump in a snack bar or some fruit that you have packed in your parka and wait until later in the day to eat lunch. It is amazing how areas empty at lunchtime and then especially on a Sunday, when people tend to leave for home, you can access a lot of vertical. I remember being in Austria with my friends Mark Singleton and Kenny Griffin. The local lift attendant looked at us quizzically and asked why we were skiing so much at lunchtime? We were supposed to be taking a “siesta” but as Type ” A” Americans, we were trying to access the most vertical we could get and take a break from the Euros stepping all over our skis in the lift lines. People want to ski and they want to get by you. Sometimes your skis tended to take a beating. LOL!!

On a powder day- people tend to hunt the fresh lines and leave perfectly good snow behind that is cut up from the masses. I ski with wider skis ( 107 mm under foot) on powder days and no matter how the new powder gets cut up from the crowds, the wider skis just plow through without even a thought. People with narrower skis tend to egg beater and disappear when the smooth, powdery, runs are cut up. But if you have the right equipment, you can continue to ski the cut up lines and avoid lift lines and the rush by the locals for new lines.

Arapahoe Basin ,Colorado
Northstar, California

Also- don’t be afraid to try new areas. It is easy to get into a rut and ski all the same areas on a trip or regularly in your home region. But the more terrain you can access that is different, the more your skiing will improve. I have skied in a lot of different areas in my lifetime and I am glad that I took the time to do so . I get in a little bit of a rut locally but even at that, I try again to mix up the lines, and the runs for maximum use of limited terrain.

When skiing with my wife, I also employ another tactic in that I check the area grooming report. I see where the most recent grooming has occurred and head there. She thanks me for the recon. Lastly- another tactic that can be used is to ski the lower part of the mountain after most of the crowd have moved on to the upper portions of the mountain. People will take a few runs down below and then head up to the rest of the terrain. Oftentimes if you ski the upper part early, you can come back down and the lower half of the mountain is empty. And the best is that- most of it is usually still in the sun on a good day.

Think ahead. Out think the masses and you will have a good day or week navigating the areas the most effectively. Ok Jon? LOL. Thanks for reading.

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.

The Poma Lift

The Moment of Truth

Leslie McKee suggested a post on the iconic Poma lift. She said it would be a good post in and of itself and she is right. How many of you who started skiing battled with the monster of surface lifts as a kid? I can remember moving from the rope tow( which itself burned up many gloves) to the Poma lifts at our local resort. Although we got many comments and instructions on how to ride the Poma, it was always a matter of getting prepared in the track, waiting to grab the right one, and presto……off to the races. As a little kid, they always told me if I fell, not to hold on to the Poma- just let go. But what did most people do? See below. LOL!!!

Don’t hold on………LOL:!!!!!

The other frightening thing as a little kid was if the spring in the Poma was quirky, you would oftentimes be lifted right out of the track, high into the air( or so it seemed) and tried to set your feet down in the track again without falling. You never sat down. You would place the platter between your legs and hang on. Never sit down. The mantra for all of us. Poma lifts became a thing of the past in many areas but still are used to get skiers from place to place in the larger areas out west. There is still a need to connect chair lifts and in a lot of areas the only way is to transport people across a flat via a Poma lift. I have so many memories when I step into the loading zone of a Poma lift these days. I am heavy enough now not to be spring loaded into the stratosphere and I certainly know not to sit down or do what we always did and try to move in and out of the track. We all did that and tried to hang on the pole for as long as we could and launch it at the end of the ride up and laugh when we let it go. We were always the same jagoffs who would jump out of a chairlift if it was low enough and ski away from an operator who was yelling at us threatening to take our passes. Kids!!!!

The T Bar

The cousin to the Poma lift is the T-Bar. More commonly used these days and especially in Europe to transport skiers up the mountain and get them across flats between chairlifts. This lift is ridden by two people and if you were a taller person and you rode with a shorter person, it became a difficult task. The taller person had the part of the bar riding up his or her back while the opposite was true for the shorter person. Constant adjusting and laughing in the case of us youngsters at the time and a little more concerning riding it as an adult. Now for those of you who know me, I am not a confrontational person. However, one time in Austria, I happened to be riding up a T Bar with a shorter French guy. He kept jawing at me in his Gallic dialect and basically was trying to get me to adjust the position of the bar to suit his shorter stature. After a while, and listening to his verbal abuse for longer than one should ever have to, I leaned over to him and said, ” If you keep yelling at me, you are gone.” He either didn’t understand or ignored my warning and he caught my left elbow and was sent careening down the slope never to be seen again. Viva la France!!!!!

Surface lifts were intimidating, frightening, and most of all loads of fun growing up as a kid. I don’t even give them a thought today but when Leslie reminded me of all the fun times we had as kids battling the Poma lifts, I had to jot down some memories. One last one was the Poma lift at our smaller municipal ski area where I was trying to get one of our blind skiers up the hill. Regis Sullivan was a heavy guy and I put the Poma between his legs and mine and we rode up together. I screamed ” stand up Regis” because if he sat down, I am sure the ski patrol would have been involved. Another time I had a nun with a colostomy in the same position with me on the Poma. I laughingly suggested that she stand up and don’t fall. I told her I didn’t want the fallout from that one. LOL!!!! She was very open about her colostomy and I was very open about me not wanting to face the consequences.

So, thanks Leslie. I am sure I will have a few laughs like all of you reading this. Think snow and ………..don’t sit down!!!!!

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.

You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Kathy Brennan- Eastern Division CEO of PSIA

At the invitation of my friend Angelo Ross who is on the Alpine Education Committee for PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America), I had the opportunity to recently ski with Kathy Brennan who is the new CEO of PSIA Eastern Division. Kathy is an accomplished skier and on the staff at Waterville Valley, New Hampshire. She is traveling the east from Maine to North Carolina listening to ski area management, snow sport school personnel, ski patrol, and industry suppliers all on the subject of how to make the organization better. Kathy is dedicated to promoting PSIA as an education platform and to be a true partner to all of the entities within the ski industry in the East.

Angelo Ross

Along with being an Examiner for PSIA and staff member of Waterville Valley, Kathy has been named as the new CEO and will have a full plate of responsibility. Hearing her vision for the organization and her mission to improve the relationship between PSIA and ski area management and to make them aware of the educational opportunities for those who teach their guests, was quite impressive. I asked her what her response was to the comments that ski lessons are extremely expensive and that the quality of the instruction does not often meet the financial layout by the guest of the area. Kathy said that her mission is to make ski area management aware that if they support the education of their instructors, they will get a better product to their customers.

Personally, I am a lifetime member of the organization seeing that I have passed my 40 year mark as a fully certified Level III instructor. Although I do not teach anymore, I still like to see what is happening in ski instruction and Angelo’s invitation was a welcome chance for me to sit in on a clinic that Kathy organized. You can instantly tell how competent a skier is by the shape of their turns, their balance and edging skills. As I followed Kathy during the clinic, I was impressed at how comfortable she was on skis in any conditions and how I could learn something from her. We had numerous discussions on the chairlift and when we had a chance to follow each other, she had some pertinent commentary on my skiing which I will work on this season. I told her I have been watching the World Cup and was anxious to activate my inside knee more during the execution of a ski turn. Gold Medalist Debbie Armstrong refers to it as “driving the inside knee” but my friend Mark Hutchinson, former race coach at Stowe, says differently. He says at our age we aren’t driving anything. We are putting our body position and our knee position in place to succeed. Our ski race knee driving days are over. LOL!!! Kathy understood and helped me understand that as a taller skier, it was important to create those edge angles. She showed us some drills where we could instantly see that if our upper and lower body were not truly separated( a flaw to many taller skiers), we would compromise our turns for success. I learn something new every year and breaking some age old habits is tough. But after 60 years of sliding on snow, there are still things to learn and I am not too far gone to try to keep up with the modern technique.

Our invited group of alpine skiers, telemark skiers, and snowboarders,

It was also interesting to see how pressure control, edging, and rotary movement are common to all three disciplines of snow sports. Our group had telemark skiers, alpine skiers and snowboarders. All in all a great day on snow with the new CEO and my friend Angelo Ross. It was great to ski with him as well. An accomplished skier and PSIA luminary in his own right. Follow his podcast- Chaos and Company on You Tube. No matter what you do, there is always something to learn each year. Take the time to research the latest equipment and technique. You are never too old to learn. Thanks for reading and think snow.

The Lift Line

WOW!!!!

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

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

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

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