If you check out my Janury 23rd blog post about my time in Austria called “The Rodelrennen” you will see some funny things that happened along the way there. If you are a skier, at some point you will meet an Austrian. Even if you are not a skier, you will still like the stories of a very passionate and humorous people whose lives revolve around winter sports. As I said in the post, my first experience with the Austrians was on an exchange trip between U.S. and Austrian ski instructors. I was a guest for two weeks in that country and participated in the Rodelrennen(read about it), skied in many areas including the Soelden glacier where the recent World Cup opening races were held, and taught for a week in Kuhtai- a small resort near the Italian border. Witnessing the Hahnnenkamm World Cup Downhill…
Janet and I had the opportunity to visit Park City, Utah last week and do some hiking in the spectacular Wasatch range. We generally visit the west during the winter for skiing but decided to augment that with a trip to see Park City in the summer. The town is bustling and the weather is usually downright perfect for walking around and hiking in the neighboring ski resorts like Park City, Deer Valley, and the Canyons. We also took a trip to Sundance which is well worth the drive and the hike up to Stewart Falls was spectacular. We enjoyed that opportunity with our dear friends, the Birsics, who are Park City residents.
Janet likes to hike and we do a lot of that at home. This was a little different in that the hikes are a little more strenuous but she was a trooper as we climbed lots of vertical feet to witness some of the most breathtaking vistas in the Wasatch. As we hiked through aspen groves and wildflower lined hiking trails, we marveled at just how beautiful the mountains are in the summer. Crossing some of the ski slopes, I reminded Janet of where we were and how she had skied them this past winter. She remarked that they looked a lot more steep in the summer. A typical comment for someone viewing ski trails in the off season. We just missed the fall season with the changing leaves but we had a hint of it here and there where a short storm blew in and the leaves began to fall in the chillier stormy wind. We could see the beginning of fall with some of the leaves already starting to turn in what is a rather short season in Utah.
All week the weather was beautiful and we took advantage of great restaurants, shops, and other places of interest in Park City. On Saturday, September the 11th, we visited the McPolin Farm for a little walk on their well maintained hiking paths and our eyes became fixed on the huge American flag that hangs from the iconic white barn that is visible from the highway. People were clamoring to get a photo op in front of the flag and I wondered to myself if they just wanted the photo op or whether they had some sense of patriotism on the day commemorating the tragedy in the twin towers, the Pentagon, and Shanksville. Jan and I had our opportunity for the photo and thought about what President Bush had said that morning. In an eloquent speech from Shanksville, site of the Flight 93 crash, the former President tried to rally all of us to move on from the partisan politics and realize that we are all Americans. Whether you are conservative or liberal in political persuasions, white, black, Latino, native American, or whatever, we are all Americans and should band together to realize that we all are brothers and sisters under this banner of democracy and freedom. The former President said it so well.
As we wound down our week of being in the beautiful mountains, we kept telling ourselves how blessed we were to visit such a great town in a great part of the country. The 9/11 date gave us pause to reflect on how all of us who live in America are blessed to have great opportunities, the chance to help our fellow citizens, and the general feeling of kindness that should be the hallmark of all Americans. We live in a beautiful country and people from all over the world come to visit what we call home. As I looked at that flag one more time, I said a little prayer that all of us come together. Just like we did on that fateful day in 2001. I will never forget that day and neither will all of us who saw the details of that day unfold. We need to appreciate our country, the landscape from ” sea to shining sea”, and know that we are better than what has transpired in this last year. I look at those mountains and think what a great country we have. Happy to be able to see it and thankful for the opportunity to enjoy it. Thanks for reading.
Its funny, people come up to me and ask if I play golf? I respond,” only if I have to.” I am a little too nervous and jerky for golf and I always remark that if they could pitch the golf ball to me, I might do better. In any event, outside of the occasional 9 holes for fun with Janet(my wife), I really don’t play much golf. However, I do have a history of sorts with the sport. I rented clubs at Ballybunion, the famous course on the west coast of Ireland, and promptly lost 6 balls on the first 6 holes because the rough was so high. I ended up returning the clubs because the shop was closed and walked the rest of the course just to see it. Very scenic but not a place for me to play golf.
There has been a lot of talk about global warming lately and the ski areas are concerned about shorter ski seasons and the revenue concerns that are a result of this weather phenomena. A lot of areas have been promoting summer activities like golf, conventions, hiking, lift served mountain biking, bike parks and other ways of bringing the public to the mountains in the summer to boost bottom lines at resorts.
Back in the day, my buddy Mike Smith, who I have referenced in this blog as my ski buddy from Lake George, NY, was the mountain manager at Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands. Mike was instrumental in designing and installing one of the first Alpine Slides in the country and Anni Dupre Santry and I were his crash test dummies during the installation. The slide basically was a concrete slide which made…
I love the Olympics. Have always been fascinated with them since I was a kid. Love to watch the summer and the winter games and try to see as much of it as I can. I even spent a week at the winter games in Lake Placid in 1980. Long time ago. There has been a lot of controversy around the Olympics especially in these times. Costs, political issues, Covid concerns, but the Olympic spirit in my mind, always remains no matter what. Even though the games have been compromised by outside issues, the fact of the matter is that they are still the visible pinnacle of sport to many around the world and also seem somehow to unite all of us under one athletic banner.
I was talking to a friend this weekend about a book that I am reading about Everest and what drives people to climb such a peak. The drive is the same there as it is in the Olympics or sports in general at a world class level. I am always amazed at the personal interest stories about how athletes make it to the Olympics under great personal hardships and sacrifice. If you ask any world class athlete, they will all have similar stories of practice, missing life events, growing up too fast, spending time in foreign countries in difficult conditions. Love to see the stories of the parents and their sacrifices too. But what does it take to make it to the top? Luck, passion, skill, drive, or a combination of all of these?
Simone Biles- the GOAT.
I have always been a competitive person. I dabbled in a lot of sports regionally but as I age, my get up and go for a lot of that has gone up and left. But I have always been a fan and when the Olympic theme comes on the TV, the hair stands up on my arms a bit because of my respect for the games and the athletes who have sacrificed so much to get there. I like watching a lot of events that I would not ordinarily have an interest in and the athletes all have one thing in common- drive. Listen to the interviews. You can see the passion and the one sided focus and the stories of personal sacrifice that make up the athletes persona. You can see the tears on their parent’s and coach’s faces as they compete to win the gold medal.
Lots of folks are negative on the Olympics these days because it has been so politicized but I always look at it from the athlete’s perspective. No matter what extraneous issues are presenting themselves, theirs is the story. Not the politics, not the pandemic, not the costs, – for me, just the stories of the athletes and their passion to win with humility and lose with grace. Some of the stories are humorous at the world class level. Take Missy Giove here. She was not happy a few years ago at the NORBA Nationals Mountain Bike Championships when she was beaten in her semi final heat for dual slalom. Missy was always a character on the mountain bike circuit and I loved to hear her interviews and see her compete at the national level. She was tough as nails but when she lost, her humor took over and she gave the crowd a show they will never forget.
For me, again, it is always the stories. The GOATS. Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Allison Schmitt, Michael Grady ,Nino Schurter, and a host of other incredible athletes that make up the Olympic games. Weekend warriors like me will never truly understand the competitive drive and the level at which these athletes perform. But in my own way, I can remember what it feels like to have butterflies at the start of an event. The thrill of winning something and more often of losing something. But at the world class level, it is incomprehensible to the mere mortal. But the scenes presented at the Olympic Games are priceless in my book and I am always happy every four years when they come around for our enjoyment. Don’t get caught up in the politics. Just enjoy the games. Can’t wait until February for the winter games either. Ba da bup ba badda, budda bup baddup bup bup badda! Love that theme. It gets me excited. Thanks for reading.
I read in Ski Racing Magazine this week where Dave Gorsuch passed away in his home in Vail, Colorado at age 82. Many of you may recognize the name if you ski Vail, as the proprietor of the uber- successful ski shop in Vail -Gorsuch LTD. The brand has expanded to several other large ski areas and always specialized in high end ski clothing and ski equipment. Dave’s history was in ski racing where he was a junior national champion, an NCAA downhill champion, and competed at the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley before he took his energy and passion into the ski business. Along with his best friend Max Marolt, who also competed in the Squaw Valley Olympics and was a member of the US Ski Team, Dave and Max were icons of the sport for many years.
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Dave and Max on a heli skiing trip years ago at the Bobbie Burns location for Canadian Mountain Holidays. There were three groups that week in house. Our group from Pittsburgh, a group from New York City and Dave’s group from Colorado. The Bobbie Burns was a new location for CMH and thus there was a dining area, a small lodging area and a log sauna. That was it for 500 square miles and we were all brought into that location by helicopter. The protocol was for the helicopter to fly all day and pick up each group, transport them to a ski location with a guide, and then fly on to the next group. We didn’t get a chance to ski with any other group but our own, but in the evenings, there was lots of time to have a beer, eat together, and have robust conversations with each group because really there was nothing else to do.
I didn’t really know of the pedigree of the Vail group as well as I should have, but in the conversations that ensued during the week, I knew I was in the presence of greatness. I loved listening to the stories of ski racing past, people in the industry who Dave and Max knew well, and in general- I took in some really good history of the sport of skiing through these two guys. For some reason, they took a liking to me and to my friend Rolf Sigmund who was an Austrian transplant here in the US and migrated to Pittsburgh. Rolf was rather humorous and the Vail group got a kick out of his antics. But the main thing that I took with me as a result of their kind friendship that week was to ………listen. That is hard for me. I like to talk. But knowing that these guys were the real deal kept me quiet and I learned a lot that week just from having beers and eating with the two world class skiers and entrepreneurs.
Juxtaposed to my keen interest in what these guys had to say was the demeanor of the group from NYC who had no idea who these guys were and could care less. All they wanted to do that week was to impress the Vail group with their prowess at Hunter Mountain and Killington. To Dave and Max’s credit, they politely listened to these guys and were polite and courteous in their responses. I admired them all the more- Dave and Max- not the NYC group. Too bad really because it was an opportunity to really learn about skiing and the history of skiing if they would only listen and not talk so much. I am really happy to have had that opportunity and although it was not planned, that week with Dave Gorsuch and Max Marolt was a week I will never forget. Oh yes- the skiing was good too.
I like to listen to stories about skiing because I have such a keen interest in the sport. Take my two friends who I ski with every spring. One guy lives in Tahoe and the other in Vermont – they both grew up together and ski raced as kids. Hutch was a race coach at Stowe and Eric raced for Cornell University back in the day. Both of them have great stories about New England ski racing and the history of skiing in New England. Again, I force myself to keep quiet and listen to their stories. None of the ” first liar doesn’t have a chance” one upsmanship conversations, because I really can’t compete with their knowledge and ski racing pedigree. So again, it is great to just listen and take in some fun tales about the sport that I love. And yes, the skiing with these guys is always good – no matter what the conditions are.
So I guess the takeaway from all of this rambling is that it is really important to recognize where you can learn some things from people who are the real deal. Recognize their talent and ability and most of all, listen. I need to focus on that a little bit, but the times that I have forced myself to do it, I learn a lot and am grateful for the opportunity to spend time with some quality people. Dave and Max are both gone now but I will always remember the week in the Canadian Rockies where I had the opportunity to be with them. RIP Dave and Max. Skiing together in Paradise. Thanks for reading.
Several years ago, I traveled to the west coast a lot for work. I always took my skis or mountain bike with me and enjoyed some of the beautiful outdoor recreation places that the west has to offer. Some of this wilderness has been compromised by building and commercial developments. It is progress, I know, but it often encroaches on land that has been the home to wildlife for centuries. Take this scenario in Laguna Beach, California where I did a lot of mountain bike riding back in the day. Beautiful trails in the Laguna Wilderness Park with majestic vistas of the Pacific Ocean around every corner. I was surprised when I saw this sign at the trailhead but it made sense. With all the beautiful homes popping up in and around Laguna with incredible views, it made sense that the development had squeezed some privacy away from the natives- that being mountain lions. A rare sight to be sure but nonetheless something that you had to watch for and if possible ride on trails with other riders and hikers.
On another cycling trip to the Skyline Drive in Virginia, my friend Frank Habay and I rounded a corner on our road bikes and came to a screeching halt when we saw two black bears in the middle of the road. I looked at Frank, he looked at me, and the bears looked at us. I knew we would not out run or out ride them, but they rambled up over a wall and into the woods. After breathing a sigh of relief, we continued and the conversation between Frank and me was that they don’t bother humans anyhow. Easy to say after they left but at the moment, it was a little un-nerving.
My wife and my son were visiting friends in Tahoe and during one of our hikes out there with our friends, my wife became concerned about seeing a bear. They are in the neighborhoods and if you have birdseed in your backyard, they are coming for a visit. Our friends had many experiences with the visitors when their bird feeders were out. We did not see any on the hike and when we were safely in our car, Janet lamented that we had not even seen a bear. I told her and Jack not to speak too soon because there, right in front of us crossing Rt 50, was a big black bear heading to a residential neighborhood looking for his next meal. I commented to my son Jack that it looked like he just came out of Starbucks. Probably had a latte this morning on his way to the neighborhood. We laughed but the reality of the fact is that bears are becoming more used to people as a result of development. As Joni Mitchell used to say……….” they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.” There are consequences.
I see a lot of wildlife in my local park and also in the mountains near us. My one friend likes to look for rattlesnakes in the mountains. I tend to look from a distance but the more people develop property and move towards the wilderness, the more they will see wildlife that has been displaced and looking for new homes.
I guess the point of all of this is that you can’t stop progress but it is nice to see that there are still places in the world where life goes noninterrupted in the wilderness. Locally, it is nice to see entities like the Allegheny Land Trust and the Hollow Oak Land Trust reserving land space for us to enjoy as well as provide a habitat for animals who are looking to thrive in a natural space. Sean Brady, Executive Director for Hollow Oak, told us on a recent hike that the stream that runs through the property has 23 species of fish that were endangered by development. Recently, a country club closed it’s doors locally and the thought was that it would turn into another housing development. Kudos to the residents of the area and their local municipality to turn the space into a park with trails and a natural setting for the neighbors to enjoy. It also provides a home to animals who would have been displaced again in favor of development. Again, I get progress, but there has to be some consideration for the generations to come.
So, the next time you are out and about in the mountains, on the trails or waterways, value any time that you can see wildlife in their own habitat. Nothing to be feared but instead, look at the sight with wonder. Take the time to get to natural places and take in the silence, the fresh air, and the beauty of our natural world. I am happy when they don’t pave Paradise and put up a parking lot. Thanks for reading.
The picture you see above is yours truly as a young lad at Tuckerman Ravine on July the 3rd. My friend Eric called me from Vermont and said that they still had snow at Tuckerman Ravine up in New Hampshire( see my earlier posts on this place). So being the adventurous, no obligations, do whatever I wanted guy( this was BJBJ-Before Janet Before Jack), I decided to make the trip and spend the Fourth of July in New England. I packed up my skis, boots, poles, spring skiing gear, pack, hiking boots, road bike, golf clubs, tennis racquet, bathing suit, and basically all the recreation equipment that I had at the time. My neighbors thought I was moving. They were shocked when I told them I would be using all of these items that weekend.
Scott Ross is a big dude. Aside from being a tech service engineer for Xylem, traveling the world on water treatment projects, he has a passion for trails. Oftentimes, returning from a trip to some exotic country for work, Scott can be seen out in the woods with his huge axe removing deadfall so that the trails are passable for hikers, and mountain bikers. Scott is a mountain biker himself but his passion is making sure that storms don’t keep trails closed due to trees falling and blocking our way.
Scott’s sphere of influence is usually in our local park system but he has been known to clear trails as far away as Canada. You can always tell where Scott has been by the remnants of his work……wood chips. These chips are collected by many people for use in their fireplaces, grills, etc. But whenever I see these chips, I know that some serious work has been done to clear a big tree that has blocked the trail in some form or fashion.
As you can see, Scott is a big guy and has all the tools to take some massive deadfall from the trails, all by himself. The county does not allow power tools for removal other than for the county workers who clear the trails for a living. But the county appreciates volunteer work and Scott is probably the most tireless volunteer out there now. Sure, he does it for exercise, but he also has a passion for trail systems and the people who use them. My crowd usually buys Scott a beer whenever we see him because we appreciate the work it takes to clear some pretty large trees that fall during storms. Scott loves riding his mountain bike, loves the trails, and makes sure that they are clear for all of us. But oftentimes, when I come up on a section of trail that Scott has cleared, thoughts come into my head.
I think to myself, what kind of dedication does it take to do this on a regular basis after traveling and working around the world? You would think that Scott would be exhausted from such a work schedule. But like most volunteers, he has a passion for the cause to which he is so dedicated. I think about the past year and how so many of us have been isolated or forced to keep our volunteer activities in check because of the Pandemic. But, things are opening up now and people and causes need some serious help. We may not be able to take down large heavy trees to benefit the hiking and mountain bike community, but we certainly can help and be there for individuals or organizations that are trying to get back on their feet. People are hurting, restaurants are hurting, volunteer organizations are now opening up opportunities to engage once again. I heard it said once that you don’t have to go to a foreign land to volunteer. You have people right in your back yard who need a friend, comfort, food, and shelter, that we can provide- one life at a time. Scott’s volunteering is very graphic and public. People know what he does and appreciate his hard work. But there is also a need for many things these days that are not so public. Behind the scenes volunteering is so vital- especially in these days of recovery.
So when you see a nice clean trail- think of Scott. And when you see an opportunity to help someone, or a cause, think about chopping the barriers with your own axe and clearing a path for others. You will feel good like Scott does and the beneficiaries of your kindness and dedicated volunteer work, will appreciate it – like we do when we ride a trail in Scott’s wake. Thanks Scott and thanks for reading.
Recently on some mountain bike rides I have come across cairns marking the trails. These piles of rocks, sometimes artistically created, serve as a marker as to where the trail goes and how a hiker or mountain biker should proceed. There has been a lot of controversy about these piles in a lot of publications because the critics have said that the purpose of cairns has been distorted. The dialog has been around people using cairns to show where they have been like some kind of geological social media instead of using the cairns as the markers they are intended to be. I would see them all the time on the trails in and around Mt. Washington in New Hampshire and was happy they were there to mark my path in some pretty unpleasant weather. The fog and limited visibility sometimes made navigation impossible were it not for the strategically placed cairns marking the trail.
I witness daily the controversy on my local trail where a little cairn marking a left turn on the trail is built and torn down repeatedly apparently by people with different views on the purpose of cairns. Personally I like them and although I understand the view of not putting one up with no meaning, I do know that someone, somewhere marked the trail for a purpose. In a way, those people were saying ” look where I have been and mark your way on this trail.” So the controversy is a bit complicated because although cairns do mark the trails, someone had to build them as a guide for all of us who come upon a fork in the trail.
When I came upon my local controversial cairn the other day, the metaphorical meaning of cairns creeped into my mind as I bounced along the trail. I thought about people in our lives who serve as a kind of marker for us. Blazing the trail ahead and guiding us perhaps to places and events that we would not ordinarily see. Those people pile up the rocks of experience for us and guide us to a greater understanding of the world around us. People like Jeff Chetlin seen here in the middle leading a ride out of Yellow Creek here in Pa.
Jeff is our mountain bike, hiking, back country skiing, motorcycling, snowmobile riding, metaphorical cairn that inspires all of us. We are inspired by his infectious enthusiasm for the world around us. Recently, he and his wife Julie invited all of us to their home in Bend, Oregon where we were all treated to days of great riding. Jeff values his friends and as he says, ” there are only so many QDLs in life.” Quality Days Left. Jeff is a proponent of making the most out of all of them.
Recently, Jeff had a bit of a setback. After a surgical repair to some congenital issues with his heart, he had some complications that have him currently rehabbing. This has been a tough time for Jeff whose ” gas pedal to the floor” personality have him impatiently working through all of this. It has been tough on Julie and the boys and although all of us are praying for a speedy recovery, this has not been easy and Jeff is seeing some of his priorities shift a bit. But we all know he will make a big time comeback and will soon be leading us around again. I can hear him saying to me on a particular tough section of trail, ” Pat- is there a stoplight up there?”
It’s funny how I have recently been thinking of these little piles of rocks and then this metaphorical understanding of cairns in our lives. No one said it better though than Steve Gurtner who recently texted the following picture and verbiage:
” Like all of you, I have been thinking about Jeff and Julie. You’ve all seen these piles of stones, cairns, when we are out riding. When I came across one out there, I knew that Jeff probably blazed this trail, that I was on the right track, and I was encouraged to keep pedaling. So Jeff, here is a cairn at our house, so I can let you know you are on the right track and I hope to encourage you on your ride. Maggie and I love you both.”
Think about the people in your life that inspire you. Cherish them and make sure you get QDLs with them. Pray for Jeff and Julie and the boys for a speedy recovery. Thanks for reading and thanks Steve for the inspirational message.