Opening Weekend!

Melissa and Jaime – center and right. Peter Nicholas on the left.

Well, when you have not skied in 8 months, and you live in the mid-Atlantic, and you get the super bonus of skiing over Thanksgiving weekend, you take it. No matter what the weather is, or the fact that minimum terrain is available, it doesn’t matter. You still go and enjoy the opening of the ski season. You see the usual cast of characters, many of whom you have not seen since last season, and you smile, enjoy their company, and catch up from the long spring and summer.

Our local area, Seven Springs, has been purchased by Vail along with Hidden Valley and the management of Laurel Mountain is in the mix. The vibe is generally positive, and we all are waiting to see how it all will shake out for skiing locally here in Western Pa. So, as I woke up Friday to rain and the prospect of only a few trails and two slopes open, I thought about it and was hesitant. However, as is always my custom, I put on my Gore Tex and headed for the mountains. You never know what the weather is like and even if it rains, I have the positive attitude that the weather will keep the crowds away. As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, the rain stopped and a slight mist ensued for the rest of the morning. Glad I had the Gore Tex.

As I made my way to the lodge, I was welcomed by my two friends, Melissa and Jaime Thompson, seen above, and to see their smiling faces and their anticipation of the day ahead as well as the popping of the cork to the new season, my decision to come was solidified. It really is a social thing and great to see the people who, like me, are enthusiastic about skiing. Melissa and Jaime and I have skied for years together mostly at Laurel Mountain which we hope will open soon. Yes, we all have our western trips booked, bought the passes, made the airline reservations and rental car reservations and are looking forward to skiing in the west. But there is something special about skiing at your home turf in the Laurel Mountains of Western Pa. And who cares whether not much is open, we are all addicted to making turns and when you have fun following a guy like Robb Alarcon and see his big strong GS turns, you know that it matters not where you are. You can make turns anywhere and yes- they are addicting. Robb and Billy Boucher and I made a lot of runs together and it was great to see Bill who is always positive. He told me he wants to ski until he is at least 85. I love that. Especially if he still can ski the way he does now which is still great. Ran into Bill’s brother Barry and his wife Margaret, and Barry showed me a new pair of boots that he bought which are kind of a rear entry boot. I gave them the hairy eye but Barry, who knows a thing or two about skiing, told me they are the new thing. Whatever you say Barry. They both looked great( not the boots…… Margaret and Barry) and it was wonderful to reconnect with them again.

Johnny Mac in blue and Porter.

Skiing with these two guys on Saturday when the sun came out was also special. I have skied with Porter and John a long time and it is always fun to ride the chair with them and talk about skiing, ski racing, equipment, as we do all summer because we mountain bike together. Johnny Mac has two new hips and a knee and some issues with the other one, but you would never know it by the way that he skis. Smooth as silk and no inkling of the hardware in his joints. Porter? Always rock solid with the best balance. But the opening runs of the season always bring a smile to our faces and the fact that we got out on Thanksgiving weekend is a real bonus. Anything before Christmas here in the mid-Atlantic is a plus and to start Thanksgiving weekend was a real tribute to the snowmaking team at Seven Springs and to the tenacity of Vail to make it happen.

Other mountain bikers, who turn to skiers in the winter, all came out. Tina and the Shark drove in from seeing their relatives in New York and hauled out their snowboards for another season. John Cassucio was testing out his new hip. Dave” everyday” Gault and his lovely lady Stephanie were making turns together. Saw some smooth telemark turns out of the Seven Springs Director of Health and Safety- Bob Horrell and his lovely lady Jamie Forys who used to be the snow sports director at Seven Springs and has gone on to a great job as a buyer for ski and snowboard equipment as well as bicycles at Public Lands. Bob filled us in on what he knew was ahead with the Vail purchase. Things like all new uniforms for the ski school and ski patrol-all Vail issue Helly Hansen uniforms.

Dave and Stephanie
Tina and Shark foreground- “new hip” MVP John Cassucio on right
Bob Horrell- Director of Health and Safety for Seven Springs sporting a Vail uniform.
Enjoying a post skiing veggie sandwich from the Highlands Market

Aside from reconnecting with all your old pals on opening weekend, is the fact that you can observe the change in clientele with all the young people. Johnny Mac suggested that we take a run in the terrain park and as we weaved our way around the features, we noticed that we were definitely out of place. No hoodies, snowboards, twin tipped skis, baggy pants, for us. We were definitely the old dudes showing up in the wrong place. Kind of funny but we didn’t return to the terrain park. LOL!!! But it was good to see that snowsports is alive and well with the younger set and no matter where you ski or ride, you will see the new guard taking over. But don’t push the oldsters aside too soon. Many of us can still hang despite our age. That is the cool thing about skiing. It keeps you young and gives you something to look forward to every year- despite the hip replacements, knee replacements and general wear and tear. If you can stay in shape in the off season, you will enjoy ski season so much better- especially as you age. Also, as I have said before, if you live in the mid- Atlantic, you can’t be out west all the time. Ski trips are great and the more you can ski out west or in New England the better. But don’t give up on your local areas. I have started my 61st year skiing and it always starts at Seven Springs with the exception of the one year that I taught skiing at Sugarloaf, Maine after college. Lots of mileage in many different ski areas in my life, (108 last count), but I never gave up on local skiing or my local areas.

So, as I ate a delicious veggie sandwich at the Highlands Market just outside the gate at Seven Springs, I thought about all the years that I have skied at this place. All the memories, all the friendships- many of whom I still have today. Porter and I have skied together for 50 + years. We all started as kids here and are still around. Many people ask me why I still ski locally and I just look at them and say……………..” Why not?” Opening weekend did not disappoint and I am looking forward to good weather which in my book is lots of cold and snow. Thanks for reading and think snow!

Apres at the Cottage

You know, the older I get, the more I value the social aspect of things related to mountain biking and skiing. I have posted many times about sitting around in the parking lot after a ride and sharing a beer with my pals and talking about the day on the trails. The same holds true for skiing. I have talked about the great places to go after a day of skiing out west. Places like The No Name Saloon in Park City, The Shooting Star Saloon in Huntsville, Utah, The Mangy Moose in Jackson and other iconic locations to sit down after a great day on the slopes. But there is something special about visiting the Adirondacks in Upstate New York and having an apres experience at The Cottage right on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid.

Let me set the scene a little bit here. One of my favorite things to do is pack my Jeep, put on my tunes and podcasts, and drive up to the Adirondacks to see my pals Mike Smith and Mark Hutchinson. If only for a couple of days, we make it our business to ski Whiteface in Lake Placid – seen above- and spend a good amount of time on the Summit Chair skiing all the great runs at the top of the mountain. Whiteface is not only a great ski area, but the views are spectacular. You can see all the way to the spine of the Green Mountains of Vermont so eloquently described by my friend Mark in several of my videos I have posted about skiing in the pouring rain on the Summit Chair trails and also on bullet proof ice. But we have had great days there too with brilliant sunshine and spectacular views of the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. Lapping that chair is such a fun thing to do and you can really rack up the vertical. But then comes the social aspect with an apres ski visit to The Cottage.

A visit to The Cottage is a must. I have had so many memories of settling into those bar stools, sipping a nice cold draught, and looking out at the skaters and hockey games on Mirror Lake. The food is always good, the conversations with Mike and Mark are fun with recounting all of our great runs of the day and good times there in the past. Again, as I get older, I value the time spent with friends post skiing at a great watering hole. I am kind of a one and done guy with the beer, but that first sip is always the best. There is so much history in Lake Placid with it’s Olympic background. In fact the Cottage is owned by the Weibrecht family who own the Mirror Lake Inn right across the street. Andrew Weibrecht, the Olympic Silver Medalist, is their son and the pride of everyone at The Cottage.

I spent a lot of time in Lake Placid for PSIA events and also taking in the Olympics way back in the day. But I have always made it my business to visit Whiteface and Lake Placid recently as the Adirondacks hold a special place in my heart. The nice thing about doing a road trip is not having to deal with airports, delays, rental cars, and other inconveniences. You can pack your vehicle with anything that you need including multiple pairs of skis for any conditions that might arise. Kind of a nice way to travel if you don’t mind driving.

The west is great for skiing and the experience of seeing the Rockies, the Wasatch,the Sierras, and the Cascades, but in my mind, I truly enjoy the Adirondacks just as well and topping off the experience with a session or two at a great apres place like The Cottage. So, if you are looking for something different or maybe an experience that brings you back to your past, look no further than Lake Placid. I am kind of ready for the seasons to change and for winter to start. Thanks for reading and think snow.

The Ski Swap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Slave to the Watch

The Garmin Fenix 6X- Taskmaster!!

I have always liked gizmos. I had Polar heart rate monitors for many years as well as sports watches and devices mounted to my bike to tell me my mileage. I regularly entered information into Velo-News logs about rides, who I rode with, maximum heart rates, and all kinds of information that was interesting to me as a weekend warrior. I had the first app on the I-phone for calculating vertical feet when skiing, and when the creators of Alpine Replay( the name of the app at the time) saw that my buddy Hutch and I had broken the one day record each for his app( 57,000 vertical feet in one day at Northstar at Tahoe), they texted me wanting to know more about us. I had a backup battery in my parka so as not to lose any data and to make sure I collected all the vertical from 8:30 AM until 4:00 PM that day. In any event, I have always liked these things and they have been of particular interest to me with their amazing technology.

So at the suggestion of my friend Mark ” the Shark” Sauers, I recently purchased a Garmin Fenix 6 X Sapphire watch. It was available on the Amazon Prime sale and I got a good deal on it. I had not purchased anything like this in a while and have been amazed at the data and information that it provides. I am only using a fraction of that data because I am not a real techie. But what I have discovered is very interesting but the watch is starting to make me feel bad. It is subtle in it’s insults and I am hoping that the information I entered as an aging athlete would have tempered it’s comments. But to no avail. This thing in a subtle way admonishes me, and I am starting to think it has a personality all of its own.

The Aging Athlete

To give you an example, it tells me I am a poor sleeper and I need to focus on getting better rest. I think I have had a decent nights sleep but I guess with the frequent trips to the bathroom as an older guy, it senses that I am not getting enough REM, and deep sleep. And it lectures me. ” Although you slept enough, your sleep was restless.” ” Try a white noise machine or earplugs.”

There is a measurement called load focus which tells me I am balanced based on my running Vo2 max trend. It tells me that my training load is sufficient to maintain fitness but I need to work out longer and more often to improve. WTH- I am riding four days a week on my mountain bike. I don’t race anymore and ride to ride again. I use my mountain bike for exercise. But this thing says I am loafing. Come on!!! Guys I went to high school with are coming home and getting a hot bath and watching Fox News. They have one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel but my Garmin won’t give me any slack.

When I look at the training effect measurement after a two hour weekday ride, it says,” This activity enhanced your ability to maintain a moderate pace for a longer amount of time” ” You gained a slight anaerobic benefit from this activity” My heart was pounding at 169 beats per minute on many climbs. I would argue about the moderate pace. I thought it was a pretty good pace at close to 8.5 MPH moving average speed. Come on Garmin- I am an old dude. It did say I had 64 minutes of vigorous intensity and 22 minutes of moderate intensity, so what gives? I think it just likes to insult me.

This winter, it says that there are over 2000 ski areas mapped into the Garmin. So wherever I am , I should be able to map how many vertical feet I log without going to the standard I-Phone app for vertical feet. I wonder if it will tell me I am lazy or not making enough turns? How will it insult me on the slopes? The watch has an app that connects to on my I Phone called Garmin Connect. It takes the data from the watch and downloads it to the app. So both the watch and the app double team me. Admonishment from two sources.

The watch- motivating or insulting?

Speed, Timing, Heart Rate, Training Effect, Elevation, Nutrition and Hydration, Temperature MTB Dynamics, and Intensity Minutes. What did I do do deserve this? TMI if you ask me but I was the one who bought the watch. So buyer beware!! If you sale for one of these watches and you are an aging athlete like me, be ready to be humiliated by a device. I am sure in its own little way- it is trying to motivate me, but my giddup and go for a lot of these measurements has gone up and left. I just need the basics to give me the data on the rides or the slopes. I don’t need much more than that. But I will still look at the watch. Heck, I sleep with it to get the after hours measurements. It is part of me now. Thanks Shark!!! Thanks for reading.

A Fitting Tribute

Lois and Phillip Dupre

Sitting at one of the tables reserved for friends of Lois Dupre Schuster, I was engaged in a conversation with Angel and Andy Michanowicz and Willis Croker. Willis is a bright young guy involved in commercial real estate in Pittsburgh and I ended up apologizing to him for Andy and I rehashing 50 year old ski stories of friends and events. That is kind of the way it was at the induction ceremony this weekend at Seven Springs Resort for the Pennsylvania Snow Sports Museum Hall of Fame. Willis’s grandmother Lois and her late husband Phillip were inducted this year into the Hall of Fame and it was a fitting award for two people who really shaped the soul of Seven Springs back in the day.

Lois Dupre Schuster

Lois not only developed the rental shop at Seven Springs back in the day, as well as many other services, but served as the mayor of Seven Springs Boro for 50 years. Her enthusiasm for the ski area and the people who came as guests was only matched by her late husband Phillip who was the “go to” guy for a lot of daily things at the resort in the early days. Lois said that if you needed anything, you called Phillip. He was just that kind of guy who always had a resolution for any issue and was always willing to help. Lois had a great story about the early days when a congressman and his wife arrived at Seven Springs. The hotel was booked and when asked by the congressman if there was anything Phillip could do to secure a room, he responded that he had extra beds in his home. That is just the kind of person Phillip was. 40 years of Christmas cards that came in the following years from President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty, served to show how much they appreciated the effort. They had a great time and always remembered the kindness of the Dupres.

Stories like this abounded at the induction ceremony. Rus Davies, a local legend in ski instruction and ski patroller foundations at Seven Springs, Hidden Valley, and Laurel Mountain was also inducted in a most deserving way. And behind every good man is a good woman. Rus’s wife Miriam encouraged Rus all along the way in his illustrious career with the ski community.

Rus Davies

Western Pa has been widely represented in the nominations and elections to the Hall of Fame. Josef Cabe, Dick Barron, Jim McClure, Bill Bendl, Herman Dupre, Lars Skylling, Willi Klein, Doc DesRoches, and the founders of Seven Springs- Helen and Adolph Dupre. Even Olympic medalist and World Cup racer Dianne Roffe has also been inducted for her work with ski areas in Pennsylvania.

Michelle and Frank Pipak and Helen Durfee( Lois Dupre’s oldest daughter)

But as Charlie Hinchliffe and I looked about the room this weekend and at the subsequent reception at Lois’s home. we remarked that it was amazing to see how many people there look at skiing as a lifestyle and not just something that they do once in a while. People like Frank and Michelle Pipak, whose countless hours as PSIA Level III ski instructors have enriched the lives of their students in many ways. Rich Wright was there to honor Lois as he was the voice of Seven Springs for many years on the PA system. If you continued to scan the reception, it was amazing to see how well people are faring after many years. Skiing does that to you. It keeps you young and alive and enthusiastic for that first snowflake that comes as the herald of winter. There are people who ski, and then there are skiers. The people in that room and at the reception were skiers – there is a difference.

Now many of us have skied all over the world and appreciate the Rockies, the Wasatch, the Alps and other alpine venues. And although the Laurel Highlands do not offer the vertical drop of some other places in this country, the soul of skiing still exists strongly in our part of the world. We all consider the Laurel Highlands our home field and it is always great to reconnect at the beginning of the season and see our winter friends enjoying the slopes once again. The passion that the inductees into the Pa. Snowsports Hall of Fame have shown, indicates a love for something that is greater than themselves. They selflessly contributed and developed the opportunities for many of us to enjoy the sport of skiing- right here in our home state of Pennsylvania. The Eastern contingent of guests this weekend also feel the same way about their inductees from the Poconos and together, the blending at the reception of eastern Pa skiers and Western Pa skiers was really heartwarming to see.

Dupre memorabilia

As I drove home from the event, I thought about the 61 years that I have spent in the Laurel Highlands and the friends that I have made over the years. Skiing has brought so much to my life and thinking of friends who are no longer with us, but made an impact, was a bit nostalgic driving down County Line Road. Pennsylvania has a rich history in the sport of skiing, and to have it celebrated with events like the induction ceremonies this weekend, showcases the enthusiasm and passion that local skiers have for their home mountains. I am happy to have been a part of it and hopefully will have many more years on the slopes both locally and in other areas where there is another whole host of friends who share the same love of the sport of skiing. Thanks for reading, congratulations to all the inductees, and think snow!!

The 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.