Listening to an Icon

Dave Gorsuch

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.

Gorsuch LTD in the Vail Clocktower Building

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.

Eric and Hutch

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.

The Wrap Up

Enforcement

The one thing I will say this year about the ski season was ………that I was glad that we HAD a ski season. From changing my boots in the lot at Laurel Mountain to the Covid 19 security seen above at June Mountain, Ca. the theme was always the same. Please comply with the mask and social distance rules so that we can stay open. Admittedly there is a lot of controversy about masks but it is a small price to pay for the knowledge that the areas were doing the best that they can to stay open during the pandemic. The gentleman above said to me that he appreciates all the public was doing this season to help them stay open. He was concerned not only about the skiing, but for the welfare of the many employees that operate a ski area. Their livelihoods depended on compliance from the public.

No matter where I went this year, the theme was the same. Please comply for us to stay open. It was interesting to see how things transpired as the season went on. The mask laws were always enforced everywhere. When Jan and I went to Deer Valley, Utah in February, they had staff monitoring the lift lines to make sure that people had their masks on and up and over the nose. Signs were everywhere in ski areas this year instructing people to social distance in the lift lines and everywhere on the premises.

The only thing that was hard to monitor for the lift line staff was riding the chair lift. In the beginning of the season, there seemed to be more of a concern for only riding two people per chair- whether it was a triple or a 6 pack. That seemed to expand the lines significantly. Then there was the polite request from the lift line monitors for people to ride together if comfortable. More and more people rode together which reduced the lines but face masks were still enforced no matter how many people loaded the lifts together. Everyone had the option to ride alone. We were at Mt. Rose in Tahoe last Monday and a guy beside me requested to ride alone. I told him I completely understood and he was very gracious. I also told him that we were all fully vaccinated and he said he was too but didn’t trust anybody. He was nice about it but stood firm that he wanted to ride alone and that was fine with us. Generally the line monitors everywhere gave people a chance to ride as they felt comfortable.

All in all, I had the opportunity to get a good read on how the ski areas were doing with initially skiing in the East and then two western ski trips to see how it was being handled in Utah, California and Nevada. One of the other comments from the ski area personnel was that they knew they were being monitored by the state. And their fear was that if the state saw non-compliance or lack of enforcement on the part of the ski areas, they would shut them down. This was the fear from last summer when there was a lot of speculation about whether the ski areas would open for 2020-2021 and if they would stay open. So far so good. My intel from friends in Colorado and Vermont also confirmed that initially there were issues with chair lift lines but as the season progressed, that seemed to wane a bit. The larger areas had lift line issues but the smaller areas or more remote areas had no issues at all.

June Mountain , Ca. views never disappoint.

So as we wrap up another ski season as the areas slowly start to close, I am again grateful that we had a season in these very trying times. It will be interesting to see how the areas did financially seeing that there was a different scene this year. No big apres ski scenes, restaurants at 50% capacity at best with the “Grab and Go” food options being the norm. Most areas got their money up front with the sale of IKON and Epic Passes which is the only way to go considering the price of daily lift tickets. But the food and beverage sales had to take a hit. Again- it will be interesting to see what they report as far as revenue and what lies ahead for the 2021-2022 ski season. I always get a little melancholy with the knowledge that I won’t be on the slopes for another 8 months. I thought about that when I was making some nice giant arcs on some great groomers at the end of the day at Mt. Rose. I thought to myself” Pat- this is what you need to think about this summer when you are getting that ski itch.” I love the feeling of making the skis carve on some great groomers. It brings a smile to your face for sure. Even though the western snow pack was down 50% this year, and the really cool stuff was not accessible, it was still fun to rip the groomers and that feeling of making a nice rounded arc turn never gets old. So bring on the spring and summer. They are fun seasons too, but I will be looking forward to another ski season as the leaves start to turn in the fall. Thanks for reading .

Connections

The Minarets- The View that Never Disappoints

Sorry I missed my Monday post but here it is a little late. I was skiing Mt. Rose, Nevada on Monday with my pals Eric and Hutch. We were on our usual spring trip to Mammoth and finishing in Tahoe. Hutch and I both said on the chairlift that if Eric had not moved to Nevada, we might not be here. It is our connection to him that enables us to ski in a great part of the country seeing that he moved there from Vermont. I have been skiing with Eric for over 40 years and his friend Hutch from Vermont for over 20 years. But it is just not the “hookup” of a friend in ski country, but rather a lifelong relationship that has developed between us as a result of skiing. The connection is more than skiing- it is true friendship when times are good and not so good.

Top of Diamond Peak. Maybe one of the best views in skiing. Lake Tahoe.

Then there is the spontaneous connection like what happened at Mammoth. My friend Robb from my local area, mentioned to me via social media that he and some friends were going ski touring in California and would we be available to ski with them at Mammoth before they went on their excursion? I texted back an enthusiastic “yes” and we connected at the top of chair 1 at Mammoth and had a grand day skiing together. Robb, Andy, Don, and Perry, all friends from my local ski area, were delighted to be led around by Eric who is the most familiar with the Mammoth terrain. It is not often that you can get a group of 7 and stay together. But these guys are all great skiers and the “group of seven” stayed connected and maxed out the vertical. Even though the really good Mammoth skiing off the the gondola was not available that day due to wind hold, Eric gave the boys all they wanted skiing the lower half of the mountain. The connection between the Pittsburgh boys and the Vermont/Tahoe boys was a good one and now they have connections in both Vermont and Tahoe.

Andy and Robb
Smiling Perry- Don was there somewhere?

Finally there is the connection that makes you think. Why did it happen, and perhaps for a reason? We were skiing June Mountain after leaving Mammoth and taking in some amazing scenery. At the top of of one of the chairlifts, we heard a voice calling to us. Skiing off the chair behind us was a smaller person, bundled up with large goggles and helmet. As the person approached us, the conversation was about how we all met at the gondola at Mammoth and we were recognized by the person as the “Stockli” guys. This person was skiing Stocklis too and was very happy to connect with us that morning. As the conversation continued, it was noted that the person was 60 years old. I said ” well you are a young guy”, kidding as we were older. The person replied that “she” was not a “he” and my gaffe became apparent. She laughed and said she was a lesbian and for me not to worry about it. In fact , she said” I take it as a compliment” Hard to tell with all the clothes on, but Deb from Mammoth was happy to ski with us as she said we were “really good skiers” and that we got her psyched to ski that morning. She seemed to want to hang with us and I boarded the chair with her because I felt bad alluding that she was a he. Guilt ridden hell that morning but apparently I was meant to make that connection. Deb told me that she moved to Mammoth from Vegas and loved working at the gondola. It was a good gig for her retirement years. She had a tough time with some customers at the gondola the day before. Apparently they didn’t want to wear their mask and the altercation became a little nasty. She said most of the people are like us, very compliant. But this year, she said about 15% of the people have been jerks. We had some good runs together and when I saw her later in the lunch line, she looked at me and said” thanks for skiing with me. I needed that this morning and you guys were great.” Not sure what was going on with Deb, if the altercation the day before had her down, or something else? But again , the connection was meant to be and perhaps skiing once again proved to be a conduit. You never know what is going on in people’s lives and if somehow, you can make their day a little brighter, you have succeeded as a human for at least that day.

Lifelong connections, spontaneous connections, or random chance connections are all good. I know one thing. Next year at the Mammoth gondola, there will be a happy face reconnecting with us and thanking us for saying hello. Good on ya Deb. Thanks for reading.

June Mountain Perfectly Groomed

“When All Else Fails, We Still Have Trails”

Multi Use Trails

The motto above is the moniker of one of the most interesting trail systems I have seen to date. Round Valley, near Park City, Utah is a paradise for cross country skiers, fat bikers, hikers, and dog walkers. The well groomed trails encourage multi use and 25K is groomed for traditional cross country skiing and freestyle XC over 700 acres of preserve.

Perfect conditions for the Fat Bike.

This preserve was once slated for development until some of the townspeople thought better and put together a foundation- http://www.mountaintrails.com to encourage an alternate use for the land. They were successful and today, it is a very popular place for recreation. Well marked, and used for many pursuits, it shows how forward thinkers can offer an alternative to the rabid development of available land for housing or commercial pursuits. Especially in a town where recreation is king.

Tom Smiling Like a Butcher’s Dog.

Not only are the trails well marked and groomed, but there is a sense of pride that you can feel there with all the activity. Some of the different things that I noticed aside from the layout was the general health and shape of the people who regularly use the system. At altitude, it is impressive to see older people skating up a steep hill on freestyle XC skis. With a big smile on their face they greeted us as they hammered up the hill to the summit which has a breathtaking view of the surrounding Wasatch Mountains. You could see fat bikers off in the distance climbing on miles of trails and the traditional cross country skiers making good use out of the track setting- again for 25K. Gliding along they smiled and said hello as their dogs followed in hot pursuit.

Well Behaved and Trail Saavy Dogs

Speaking of dogs, I was amazed at how many of them were along with the hikers, skiers, and riders . At no time did they interfere with activity and they seemed to know to get to the side when going downhill so as not to impede the progress of their owners. All off leash, they seemed to have a sense of how to move with the flow of traffic and at no time did they seem like a menace to anyone on the trails. My friend’s dog always wanted to avoid the hill to the finish and tried to make her way to the short cut. Only to be encouraged to do the hill by my friend Tom. Even the dogs are welcomed to get into shape and never avoid a hill for fitness . But their sense of the trail layout and the difficulty of some trails and the gentle grade of others showed me that man’s best friends are more aware than I thought.

Just Smiling and Rolling Along

I always say when I venture west how impressed I am with the fitness of people out there. Even “older” folks seem to be in great shape and don’t let their advancing age hinder their pursuit for outdoor activities and the great visuals of the Wasatch. I suppose if you have over 300 days of sunshine, world class skiing, water sports, and multi use trail systems like Round Valley, you really have no excuse not to take advantage of the great outdoors. They have a great life out there. Again- for more information on a really well thought out recreation area, check out http://www.mountaintrails.org and see for yourself how active people can make a difference to better their lives and other lives as well. Thanks for reading.

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.

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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.