“Welcome to the Mountains”

One of the nice things that I will always remember about Herman Dupre, was his genuine happiness to see you on his mountain. I would often be riding my mountain bike and see Herman driving in his Subaru and he would stop and always say, ” Welcome to the Mountains, Pat” ” How are you?” He was genuinely interested in seeing how you were. He always had a smile and twinkling in his eyes. We would chat and he would continue on his way surveying the property and seeing what improvements could be made. Here was a guy that was an icon in my mind and a guy that we always looked up to as kids growing up skiing at Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Herman did so much to develop the resort that his mother and father started way back in the 30s. Much has been written about him being the pioneer in snowmaking around the world. I posted about all of this before. https://chroniclesofmccloskey.com/2014/12/17/hkd-the-man-the-myth-the-snowmaker/

But the thing that I always remember was that for a guy of his stature, ability, and downright fame, he was always approachable and willing to talk to you about your interests and his projects on the mountain. I can remember seeing him in the coffee shop at Seven Springs one day when I was younger and asking him why he doesn’t get Laurel Mountain running again. Interestingly, Laurel is managed today by Seven Springs, but at the time, there were various encumbrances. Herman said to me, ” Pat- lets sit down and have a cup of coffee and I will give you 38 reasons why.” And he did, and I was amazed at his knowledge of water, the environment, and the various other factors that played into his decision not to get involved. Another time, I saw Herman and told him enthusiastically about these 55 gallon drums with large funnels attached that were placed under the chairlifts at an eastern resort that I had skied. They resolved the litter problem that is caused by people throwing beer cans and other trash off the chairlift and on to the slopes. He listened, as he always did, and said” Pat- I know all about them. In fact I have costed them out and figured that I pay my guys to be on the mountain anyhow and they can remove that trash quickly without having to deal with the cost of all those barrels. Why did I think for one moment that I had an idea that Herman had not already thought about?


Courtesy of Greg Bowlby and Bart Raitano Jr.

Herman was famous for his quotes of which one is displayed above in an old card from the Greg Bowlby collection that pretty much sums up Herman’s description of how he operated at Seven Springs. Pretty humorous but again showing the humility of a very capable guy. I have a deck of cards that Herman’s daughter Anni gave to me that has “Hermanisms” printed on the 52 card deck. Sayings like” always put a 20 dollar bill in your shoe.” Or, when he would see his guys in the parking lot after a big snow storm he would say, ” brush those cars off- I need the water.” So many great sayings that they are forever preserved in a deck of cards distributed by HKD Snowmakers- the wildly successful company that Herman started along with his daughter Anni and son-in -law Charlie.

Mike Smith, my pal from the Adirondacks, and the former mountain manager at Seven Springs, always said he learned more from Herman than from any other human being. He would call Herman every Christmas from his marina up on Lake George and wish him well. He would tell Herman that story and Herman would humbly say,” We had a lot of fun didn’t we Mikey?”

With all of his success, Herman was extremely benevolent. He did a lot with his alma mater- St. Vincent’s College and the new engineering building is named after Herman and his wife Sis. He always supported our blind ski program as well as a host of other volunteer programs at the resort and took a keen interest in how we were teaching blind people to ski. One day in the Foggy Goggle, I had our skier, Fred Siget ,put on his headset and I guided him around the bar. When I saw Herman, I guided Fred over to him and told him to tell Herman what a nice red flannel shirt he had. Herman was astonished and after we let him in on the gag, he said, ” I have been giving that guy free passes to ski for years and he says to me what a nice red flannel shirt I have.” We all had a good laugh about that and Herman gave Fred a big hug.

Herman always had a flannel shirt, jeans, and work boots and always referred to himself as a farmer. Again, as a young guy, I was always impressed with his humility in the light of his amazing achievements. Recently at a birthday party for Bif Swager, I asked Herman how his projects were going. My pal Jaime Thompson, a retired structural engineer, and Herman always had something going, and Herman responded to me, ” Pat- I have to live to 124 because I just have too much to do.” Pretty amazing for a guy in his 80’s who should be slowing down a bit. His wife Sis, laughed and said with her dry Irish wit, ” I will give him till 100 and that’s all. I am done then.”

We lost Herman this weekend and his passing sent a shock wave through the ski industry as well as the mountain community in and around Seven Springs. He lived a full life and we will all miss him terribly. Herman was such an influence in my life. His hard work, humble spirit, and generosity told me that just because you are successful does not mean that you are not interested in anyone but yourself. He influenced me more that he would ever know.

I am sure that as he made his way to his heavenly home this weekend, he gathered a crowd around the Pearly Gates. I am sure he had one of his Impulse or Impulse R5 high efficiency snow guns in tow as he explained to the Lord and the angels all about snowmaking. I can hear him say,” There is no such thing as artificial snow…..just snow that is made artificially.” It probably gathered some smiles all around as he was welcomed home. The next time you ski on a perfectly groomed trail and see those large towers with the orange guns attached, think of Herman. They are everywhere- world wide. Condolences to Sis and all of her fabulous 9 daughters. Thanks for reading.

Transition- Ready to Ride?

 

So the ski season is kind of winding down. Skied a lot in the rain,and was out west for some real snow. Dropped a couple of chutes. Came back to some decent local conditions and one more trip to go with the guys who hold me accountable. Things kind of rattle around your head when you reach 65 like- can I still do it? So far so good. Feel good. Don’t feel much different. Made some good turns. Looking forward to ending the season with these guys. But now the thoughts are starting to rattle and I am thinking – ” Did all the winter riding pay off?” Pete and Bob K,Syed until he blew up, and the Shark held me accountable during the winter as we rode our mountain bikes at night in some pretty horrendous weather.IMG_1014 The Frogg Toggs suit served me well by keeping off all of the muddy splooge as we showered the bikes and ourselves off in the car wash, but you think to yourself, ” Can I still ride like last year?” ” What will I feel like riding this season?” Scot Nichol always says, ” Don’t even think about it- just keep riding” Which is sage advice that I always subscribe to, but you can’t help those thoughts rattling around your head questioning your conditioning comparatively speaking. I am generally the oldest rider in my main MTB group and I try not to think about that and just ride but …….. </

And I am not ready for an e-bike yet!

So really- what does the upcoming season look like? The spring is always tough because all the conditioning you developed by the fall is usually compromised with the onset of winter. Sure you can go to the Y if the weather is too heinous, but there is nothing like actually riding outside versus a spin bike. Generally I believe that you just have to start out slowly and build up your stamina and strength again and not be in any great hurry to blast out of the parking lot trying to chase people. I have turned into a diesel engine, not fast but slow and steady after a good warm up. My disclaimer here is that I am not going to relay any great scientific points of wisdom. You can read about that anywhere. My main point is what works for me and maybe for you? Start out slow. I love the saying,” Start slow and taper off”. Jokingly initiated by our pal John Hinderliter but a lot of truth to the saying. IMG_1201

Which brings me to my next point which is if you are trying to get in shape, turning over a new fitness leaf, making a comeback after injury, or trying to ward off the ravages of time,you really need to start slowly in the spring. Ease into it. Don’t be a world beater early or you will surely burn out. The more you ride or run, or whatever, at a moderate pace, the more you will be likely to continue and each workout session you will get more fit. What is painful in the spring, is usually nothing come June or July. Just believe it and start slowly.

Another recommendation would be to believe what Chris Crowley says in his book ” Younger Next Year.” Chris makes many points in his famous book which I have given to lots of people. But one of the things that does stick out is if you are a senior or anyone for that matter, get the best equipment. Give yourself the absolute best chance at succeeding. I have always subscribed to that notion. I remember getting the first over sized tennis racket from Prince. I put the first retrofitted shock from Rock Shox on my mountain bike back in the day. I believed in the shaped ski and still try to get what I consider to be state of the art ski equipment. Lastly, I have been riding a 29er plus bike with 3″ plus tires to give me the best chance of success in the rocks and roots around the trails in our tri-state area. The carbon frame and wheels are a help with weight but it is more important to me to stay upright than it is to have a featherweight bike. Most likely the thought process of aging. Ride to ride another day I always say.

Lastly, as I gauge how the winter fitness program worked out for me, I also think it is important to think about what we put in our body. Again, lots of writing out there that refers to proper diet but my main tenants are cut out all the crap and sugar, eat healthy, salads, fruit and vegetables, lean meats when you have to, and generally, give yourself a fighting chance to succeed with your diet. My friend John Cassucio turned me on to Hammer Nutrition products. http://www.hammernutrition.com I use their gels and also a product called FIZZ which you can add to your water bottle or hydration pack to replace electrolytes lost in exercise. I feel better when I use them and it helps as I try to keep the younger guys in sight.  I also use Tru- Niagen, GNC Fish Oil Pills, and MCT oil in my coffee in the morning.  I posted about all of that earlier this winter.

So, yea, I think about things, but in general, once I embark on the activity, I don’t give it much thought. I can still do it for the most part and I don’t feel much different as I have aged. You should not either and instead of some people we know who have one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel, we can get excited and look forward to another season of fun and good health. Thanks for reading and start slow and taper off. LOL!!!

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Interaction Begins with A Warm Glazed Donut

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So it was my turn to supply the donuts. Bob Potter was so gracious for the last couple of weeks to furnish the donuts for our group at Laurel Mountain on Saturday mornings. I thought I better step up and stop at the Pie Shoppe in Laughlintown to get the warm, glazed donuts and they were received at our table in the lodge with enthusiastic smiles. You see, our group at Laurel interacts with several other groups to form what we lovingly call our little private club in the middle of the Laurel Highlands. As the group munched on the donuts and drank coffee waiting for the lift to open, our view of the Ligonier Valley was sunny and spectacular. I really look forward to being with our group on Saturday mornings not only to ski, but to chat about the pending conditions and the day ahead, and also to find out how everyone’s week went.

The interesting thing is that you can write about the good times at Laurel, post on Facebook which can give you a thumbnail sketch in time of what happens, but it is nothing like personally experiencing the skiing, the mountain, the employees and especially our friends. The interaction is wonderful and we all look forward to seeing each other.

Switching lanes a little bit, personal interaction seems to be waning these days. I am kind of old school in that I call my friends and make it a point to get together with them. Local friends and out of town friends too. If someone is sick I send a card or visit, in short, I believe that personal interaction is so crucial in maintaining friendships. You have to see someone face to face to really gauge their feelings. If they are happy or sad, you can see it if you are with them. Sure, you can text because it is quick, and you can post on Facebook for those who you don’t see often, but social media pales in comparison to seeing your friends smile when you personally interact with them. That is losing ground today. I see it in the workplace. I tell the young folks all the time, don’t send emails back and forth, if you have an issue, pick up the phone and talk to the person. I spent 21 years with my current company building relationships. I took the time to visit suppliers and distribution center purchasing contacts. I would take them to lunch and dinner, hack around a golf course with them, and even ski with a few of them. Most of them became my friends not just because of business, but because I cared about them. If there was an issue, we could talk about it, solve it, and move on. You don’t get that kind of relationship texting or emailing. I have developed long standing friendships in the business world because I made it a point to care about their issues and how we could service them better. They jokingly call me the Director of Happiness to this day. I may not be the brightest bulb in the halls of Armada Supply Chain Solutions, but I do care about our customers.

I recently took my son Jack, who is finishing up his MBA, to visit my friend Fred Kohun who is a long standing faculty member at Robert Morris University where Jack is studying. Fred took the time to show Jack a lot of pictures, memorabilia, and things of interest from all over the world in his office. At the end of the meeting, Fred remarked to Jack that the reason he spent the time to show Jack all of that was to tell him how important it is to network in the business world. Most of Fred’s success as a consultant, and faculty member, was because of interaction with people and networking all over the world in his career path. Not sure if that resonated yet with Jack, but like a lot of kids in his generation, they would do well to take a break from the Internet and social media and personally interact with people.

So, the group in the lodge at Laurel booted up as we polished off the box of donuts and coffee and sprinted for the trail as soon as the closed sign was lifted. Everyone was smiling and ready to attack the freshly groomed trails and slopes. It all started with anticipation of the day, the “Cheers” like atmosphere upon entry to the lodge, and the warm glazed donuts. You can’t text that experience. You have to be there to hang with whom Rus Davies lovingly refers to as Laurel Mountain characters. Go call a friend today and meet with them. Maybe someone you have not seen in a while? Use the phone app on your I Phone and take a break from social media. Your friends will appreciate doing things with you and seeing your smile in person. Thanks for reading.

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Several photos  courtesy of Rus Davies. Long time Laurel Mountain skier and enthusiast.

The Global Warming/Climate Change Disappointment.

So far this winter season, I have had to chase the snow. From skiing and hiking in the rain, to heading west earlier this month, and later next month, to actually ski in some honest to goodness snow. But like I always say, I can’t be out west all of the time so I need to maximize my winters right here at home. Recent meteorological history suggests that climate change is a reality around these parts. Here in Southwest Pa, we are right on the borderline of the snow/rain events. So you really need to head north of Interstate 80 to get to snow country that so far has eluded the climate change issue. At least for now. We had that opportunity this past weekend when Janet and I ventured north to Bradford, Pa. The Icebox of Pennsylvania. I love winter and have posted about that love many times. But when you are standing on a pair of snowshoes and stopping to view and hear the gurgling of a winter mountain stream, it takes your breath away. There is complete silence in the wilds of Pennsylvania save the running water under the ice laden streams. One of the cool things about snowshoeing is that you can easily manage the trails by staying on top of the snow instead of post holing with your hiking boots. We use ski poles as well to aid in our balance and the movement among the snow covered pines and over the bridges of the streams. And if you want to go off trail and bushwhack to get to another stream or point of interest, the drifts are no match for snowshoes. I love bounding over drifts and off trail to enjoy all that the woods have to offer this time of year.

I always struggle to get the most ski days, schlepp equipment to the airport and to the ski areas, get some snowshoe days, look for snow, and in general get what I once had as a regular thing. I never had to search for winter. I grew up with it. Sled riding in the neighborhood with snow all winter. My dad built a skating rink for us in the backyard. We never had issues with weather. Winter was winter. Now we fight the weather, the rain, the sleet, and try to make the most of it outdoors. Sometimes we just have to go on the search for winter because this issue of climate change is affecting our weather down here in the banana belt and it is frankly discouraging to a winter guy like me. At the end of the season, I almost breathe a sigh of relief that the tension I put on myself is over for another year. I get mad at the forecasts, I constantly look at ski reports, I DVR ski races to ease my pain. I can vicariously root for Mikaela Shiffrin or Tommy Ford on the TV after a rain soaked ski day here in the changing weather scene. I will do whatever to enjoy the winter and that includes making things as easy as possible for my wife whose passion for the winter is not as keen as mine. Please note that my wife calls me the Sherpa. Ang McCloskey Sherpa. Two pair of skis, two pair of boots in the pack, two helmets and goggles. She handles the poles. Full disclosure, not that she won’t carry her own stuff, she is perfectly willing. I just do it to make life easy for her and encourage her to chase the snow like me.

So bottom line, I am discouraged at the local winters anymore and kind of bummed at climate change and global warming. I do what I can to help the environment in my own small way. I am a contributing member of POW ( Protect our Winters), the Jeremy Jones endeavor to lobby Washington to heed the call on climate change. I know that weather and climate have cycles over the centuries but there is something to be said about what we do to our atmosphere by way of CO2 emissions . I get it. Other countries better get it too!! Otherwise, our winter scenes, mountain streams, ski slopes, and snow clad peaks will be a distant memory for many folks. Support POW. http://www.protectourwinters.org Thanks for reading folks.

Remembering Fred

A day on the ski slopes never goes by when I ride the chair lift and don’t think about Fred Siget. Fred was our original blind skier around here that passed away two years ago in his early 90s. He skied well into his 80s and whenever I think about the times that I spent with him, I smile. Fred is seen on the left here in the picture at the National Blind Skiing Championships in Blackjack, Michigan. I was his guide. Fred was an interesting guy. He was a retired bus driver. He was also a volunteer fireman who lost his sight as a result of a high pressure water hose accident that detached both retinas instantly. All of a sudden he was in darkness. At the time, Fred was in his 50s and wondered what would happen now. After a stint at the Greater Pittsburgh Guild for the Blind, Fred learned to function as a visually disabled person and became the first blind computer programmer for Koppers Corporation. An amazing feat as he was well respected for his work and positive attitude.

I first met Fred at a Pittsburgh Ski Club outing. Fred was taught to ski at Seven Springs Mountain Resort here in Western Pa. by Jim Connolly, a PSIA full certified instructor. Jim developed a system and we expanded on it in the following years as Fred became famous for his prowess on the slopes with a guide following him and calling out commands. I became involved in Western Pa BOLD( Blind Outdoor Leisure Development) and taught the guides at the time how to teach skiing. They in turn taught me how to work with the visually impaired and that began a 34 year relationship which included many hours on the slopes with Fred Siget. Fred had a transmitter device for me as I guided him and he had an ear piece which made it easier to call out commands without shouting. Funny story- we were in the Foggy Goggle at Seven Springs having a beer one night when Herman Dupre- the owner of the resort at the time, walked in. I said to Fred,” Go over to Herman and tell him how much you like his red flannel shirt”. As Fred made his way over to Herman with me guiding him past the people in the bar, he said what I asked and Herman had a quizzical look on his face. After we let him in on the joke, he said” Pat- I have been giving this SOB a free season ski  pass for years and he tells me how much he likes my red flannel shirt. I was ready to murder him.” We all had a good laugh about that one and I proceeded to take Fred out to the upper parking lot because he said he wanted to drive again. We did donuts in the snow covered lot in my International Scout. I guided him from the passenger seat. He had such a good time driving again.

I had many, many good times with Fred and all of our visually impaired skiers and I always say that over the 34 years that I had been involved, I got more out of it than any of them. They were hard core and skied in the rain, sleet and snow and loved every minute of it. Skiing was Fred’s life and he made the most of his impairment. In fact, he said to me that had it not been for his blindness, he never would have done half the things that he had done post accident. How is that for a positive attitude?

One of the main takeaways that I got out of my involvement with BOLD was an appreciation for all that I see when I ski. I don’t take vision for granted and appreciate what a blessing sight really is. I sit on the chairlift and look all around at the snow covered mountains and think that today, Fred sees it all. I believe his vision is restored and he is enjoying what he missed for over 40 years, in his heavenly home. When my ski buddies ask me what I am looking at in the chairlift, I smile and think about Fred. I just remark how beautiful the mountains are and how I like to get those visions etched in my memory.

Never take things for granted folks. Remembering Fred, I see a guy who made the best out of a bad thing and it changed his life. I can still see him skiing with a huge smile on his face and skiers stopping with amazement at the courage and determination that was on display. We all should have that kind of positive attitude. Thanks for reading.

” Oh Lord, Oh Lord- how majestic is your name in all of the earth” Psalm 8:9

The Scoop on Deer Valley

After a roller coaster ride on the trail through the trees leading out to the sign for the Daly Chutes at Deer Valley, Utah, I made my way to the cornice and peered down over the lip to the drop in for Chute # 4. After dropping in and making a series of steep jump turns down through the throat of the chute, I came out to a wide open field full of avalanche debris from the patrol blasting the cornice the day before. Weaving my way through the debris and then a chicane through the woods I popped out in full view of the lodge at the bottom of the Empire Canyon. Deer Valley takes a lot of heat for being a powder puff area servicing the rich and famous. But I am here to tell you that this area has all you can handle if you are a skier looking for challenge. Look no further than the Daly Chutes with steep pitches through trees and rock outcroppings. You can also get your fix way over under the Sultan and Wasatch chairs and ultimately lapping Stein’s Run named after the Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion Stein Eriksen, who was the Director of Skiing at the area for many years before his recent death. Big GS turns with nobody in your way makes for a lot of fun.

But on that other note of service and gentility, Deer Valley is unrivaled. My wife loves Deer Valley and at the kind invitation of our very dear friends who live in Park City nearby, we were treated to a fabulous time last week in the Wasatch Range of Utah.

From the minute you drive up to the base lodge, you are treated with respect as the valets take your skis and boots from your vehicle and place them in the racks. You can enter the spacious locker room where you can check your valuables and make your way out to the slopes that are perfectly groomed often accompanied by brilliant sunshine. This past week was a little cold but my wife braved the temperatures and enjoyed herself as she made her way down the perfectly manicured trails. The food at Deer Valley is unparalleled as far as ski areas go.The famous Deer Valley turkey chili is available in all the lodges along with freshly baked bread, pastries, and sumptuous salads. The real treat is to go to the Stein Eriksen Lodge where you can see the trophy display that features the gold and silver Olympic and World Championship medals that Stein Eriksen won in the 50’s. You can ride up the Viking Lift right to the entrance to the Lodge and as you walk into the Troll Hallen Lounge after perusing the trophy case, you are greeted by a waiter who seats you at a table adorned with white table cloths and napkins and appropriate wine goblets per your choice of vintage wines. The lunch options are fabulous and a real diversion from my standard of a yogurt and Gatorade at most areas. Maybe a cookie or Kind Bar if I splurge. Again, my wife Janet adores the whole experience and our friends are the most gracious hosts in a most gracious area. http://www.steinlodge.com

Deer Valley does everything right from the grooming, to the food, to the end of the day where you can store your skis and boots in a complimentary area complete with valets who again take your skis and store them for the evening. You can even have an overnight tune if you desire. Deer Valley is often ranked # 1 in service for all ski areas in North America by Ski Magazine each year and you can see why when you spend some time there. Janet tried out a new pair of Volkl Kamas that I bought her in the spring, and with the pristine conditions of the slopes, she made some of the best turns of her life. She likes her new boards but she also says that the total experience at Deer Valley not only is highly enjoyable but it inspires confidence because you just get the feeling that the area management and the employees want you to have a great experience in their end of the world. Our friends feel the same way and when they welcome guests into their home like they did for Janet and me, they do it the Deer Valley way. Nothing is left undone. Thanks Patter and Tom.

As a final comment, I try to make my wife’s experience on the slopes as pleasant as I can. She is not a fanatic like I am about skiing, but if I can get her to Deer Valley, she is a happy camper. I am turning her into a mountain girl slowly but surely. She will be ready for the Flying Smittys. Thanks for reading.

Head to Head, Flat Out Racing

As I licked my wounds from skiing another day in the rain locally, and longing for my upcoming western ski trips, I settled into the Olympic Channel DVR and watched the World Cup Women’s Dual GS Races from Sestriere, Italy. It has been so much fun to watch and is a real spectator friendly format that is re-igniting interest especially the night events in recent seasons on the World Cup. The World Pro Skiing Tour has also had a resurgence with a nation wide televised schedule. Ted Ligety, our Olympic giant slalom gold medalist and World Cup GS champion,  even competed recently in Eldora, Colorado during a brief respite from his World Cup schedule. Head to head is exciting and today I want to go back a few years when I had some brief experience with this format.

A number of years ago, my mother’s cousin, Bill Carroll, was working for one of the beverage companies at the time. They were sponsoring the Peugeot Pro Skiing Tour stop at Camelback over in the Pocono Mountains of Eastern Pa. Bill told me that he wanted my sister and I to attend and enter the Pro-Am event. We were of course thrilled and were treated to all the amenities of the event with Bill holding court along with his sons, Jack, Patrick, and Jimmy. All characters from Philly who made us laugh the whole weekend. Fast forward to the event day, we saw the course and it’s two massive jumps. The amateurs who were entered into the event were told by the Peugeot Tour representatives that they did not have to ski the jumps, just go to the side where alternate gates were set up. For the event,my sister and I were paired with Kurt and Kent Belden, two pros who hailed from Pico, Vermont and were regular winners and competitors on the Tour. After being introduced before the event, the Beldens asked Molly and I to ski with them and they told me on the chair lift that they wanted me to ski the jumps. I was of course hesitant but they assured me that they would train me and give me the nuances of trying to negotiate the jumps and make the next gate without crashing and burning. My sister, who is an excellent skier, bowed out and decided not to do the jumps. However, I was shamed into taking them on and off I went with the Beldens for my training.

Slovakia’s Petra Vhlova (L) clears the gate on her way to win, during the final against Sweden’s Anna Swen-Larsson in the Women’s parallel slalom race at the FIS Alpine ski World Cup in St. Moritz, on December 15, 2019. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Believe me when I tell you, running the course with the first jump looming, was quite intimidating but Kurt, who was my partner for the event, just said to suck up the jump in a low position with my knees bent,hands forward, and then rise slightly and hold the position after memorizing where the next gate was on the course. I took it easy for a couple of runs until I got the hang of it and barely escaped full carnage until I sort of figured it out. The training was eventually over and now it was put up or shut up time for Paddy as I launched myself out of the starting gate. Coming up to the first jump, I did what Kurt said and successfully negotiated the next gate. Feeling good about myself, I thought ” one more jump.” It came swiftly and suddenly seeing that Camelback does not have the vertical of the New England areas where the Tour was contested regularly. As I approached the lip of the pro jump, I got into a low position and sat back slightly which was a mistake because I landed off balance and barely made the next gate. However, luck prevailed and somehow I managed to finish with Kurt in the finish line cheering me on and giving me a smile and a thumbs up. He was beside me on the other course and was finished well before me. Amazing how that guy could accelerate in the flats. My sister completed the course as well with Kent beside her and because there was not much competition, we ended up as the winners. The Belden brothers got a nice additional paycheck and my sister and I got a rather large, obnoxious  trophy which sat as a hat holder in my house for years. Fun times for sure and I learned something that day. However, the main lesson for me was not the jumps and completing the course with Belden approval, it was seeing the pros and how they handled the course.  They go flat out and the jumps are not even a consideration.  Amazing skills well beyond my comprehension. I will never forget that weekend, especially the heart shaped tubs in the rooms in the Honeymoon capital of the east – the Poconos. The Carrolls and I all laughed about the tubs and the pink shag carpets.  Yikes!  Long time ago and in a galaxy far far away.

I am happy to see the dual format and the excitement that it creates at the World Cup events as well as the World Pro Skiing Tour. Fun to watch and helps to get through all the rainy, sleeting, slushy days on the hill so far this season. Can’t get out west soon enough. Thanks for reading.

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Creative Genius

You don’t have to be a Picasso, or Brahms or Mozart, or even Martin Scorsese to be a creative genius in my book. Lots of my friends are really creative and can look at an opportunity, or a problem, or a riddle and figure out how to best create a solution. Perhaps the best creative genius that I knew, who was able to solve most problems and riddles, was my father. A Carnegie Tech mechanical engineering graduate, Dick McCloskey saw most things as a fun challenge. His engineering mind was always at work and he relished the opportunities to create solutions that would last. He could plumb, do electrical work, solder, and artistically create things like the treasure chest that he made me as a kid. I still have it some 55 years later and store my mountain bike maps there. My dad made us an ice skating rink in the backyard by using 2X4s as rink perimeters and a large roll of Visqueen plastic as the liner to the rink. He would fill it with water every winter and we were not allowed on it until it was completely frozen for fear the skates would cut the plastic. Many nights were spent on that rink on the back patio and it was the centerpiece for the neighborhood kids for winter entertainment.

When I first started to go to Tuckerman Ravine in the spring for the ritual of spring skiing, I needed a way to lash my skis to the external pack that I owned. My dad rigged up some aluminum tubing with some hasps and wing nuts and presto, I had a frame that allowed me to attach my skis with the boots in the bindings to the outside of the pack. Skis pointed to the sky on either side of the pack.

Interestingly, my friend Eric who lived in Vermont at the time, was faced with the same challenge and he made his supports from wood. We have laughed about that in later years as the boy from Steeltown had metal supports and the boy from Vermont had supports made exactly the same from wood. Creative genius from two different perspectives.

But the masterpiece which was created around the same time by my dad, was the ski bench that he made me and I still use some 42 years later and is featured in my blog photo here. I remember going to my dad and saying to him that I needed to have a bench now that I knew how to tune my own skis. Thanks again to my creative genius friend Eric Durfee ,who taught me everything I needed to know about tuning skis. He was also perhaps the best ski instructor I ever had but that is another story. I told my dad that I needed to have a bench using the vices that Eric had given to me and he looked those over with great thought. What popped up in his creative mind was something I would never have imagined. A door from the hardware store complete with hinges. He knew that I needed to have a place for my bindings to fit and he cut the door to the specifications of my skis allowing the bindings to rest in a cut out hole in the door between the two vice pieces. He then mounted the door on the wall of my townhouse in the garage with supports underneath either side of the horizontal door. When I was finished tuning my skis. I flipped the door up to be secured by a hasp on the wall and pushed the supports up against the wall and the whole bench was out of the way until the next time I needed to use it.

The interesting thing is I still use the bench today and as an aside, it also serves as a refrigerator in our garage for items that my wife wants to keep cold. My dad never saw that coming, but the creative genius of my wife allowed her to think about a place to keep things cold in the winter and as long as I did not get metal filings or wax in the food, she was open to storing things on my ski bench when it was not in use for it’s original intent.

I could go on and on about my dad’s creative genius. There were so many things that he made for me that we enjoyed together when I was a kid. Today people just buy things. My dad made them, and his love for creating solutions is something I will never forget. Perhaps the biggest benefit about my dad’s creativity was the chance for me to spend time with him. I cherished those moments and I think about him every time I open up that bench, heat up the iron to wax the boards, and get the file ready for the side edge tunes. My dad never skied, but he and my mother made sure my sister and I did and I am in their debt so many years later. Creative genius is more than just the solution. It is the catalyst to education and a chance for guys like me to appreciate and look back so many years later with thankfulness and love for my dad and mom. Although my creativity is on the other side of the brain, I still look back with respect and love for those who educated me with their ability to see the solution. Thanks for reading.

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Make The Best of It

This time of year in Western Pennsylvania, people tend to get down because of the weather. We are right on the borderline of snow/rain/sleet/freezing rain/and with the time change, the attitudes of some folks tend to get a bit blue. It is also accentuated when the Steelers are not quite up to par and risk not making the playoffs. The major reason I write this blog is to encourage folks to get outdoors and make the best of it. With the weather pattern changing and the storms blowing off the Great Lakes, we tend to be like the Pacific Northwest and precipitation and cold weather go hand in hand.

For those of us who actually do make the best of it down here in the Banana Belt, the lights come out for mountain bike rides as we suffer through cold, wet and slimy conditions, at night, in the dark, illuminated by an array of really high quality lighting systems.


One of the things that makes it manageable is clothing. Rain pants and wicking underlayers are key. I happened upon an amazing full rain suit made by Frogg Toggs which I picked up in the hunting department of Dick’s Sporting Goods. Inexpensive, but it definitely blocks the wind and keeps you warm. And for 38 bucks, when it finally wears out, you can easily replace it. We even hang it in the car wash to hose off along with our bikes with a light spray.

Full disclosure here, we do use a light spray and not the high pressure spray which blows the grease out of all the bearings. We don’t want to incur the wrath of the Dirty Harry’s Bike Shop crew so we tend to be very conservative in the clean up phase after rides. When the splooge factor is high, we must visit the car wash. Splooge being the nasty, muddy, slop that coats your bike during wet winter rides. But it is all remedied at the car wash. And, you can hose off the suit too. And when I am lazy, I just hose off the suit while wearing it.  Just like a shower with the car wash wand.  Lots of fun rides in the winter if you have the drive to continue to ride year round.

A lot of us are skiers and snowboarders too, and we plan our western trips for the season. But living here in Western Pa, you can’t be out west all the time so you make the best of local conditions and just get out. No matter what the weather throws at us.

For these activities, clothing is just as important as seen here with my Patagonia Pro Gore Tex suit that keeps me bone dry along with my snow making gloves from CHS Snowmakers. http://www.chssnowmakers.com

If you can stay dry, skiing in rain is really good because of the soft snow and no lift lines. One of the best days I ever had skiing, was at Whiteface up in the Adirondacks in a torrential rain storm. The rain was cascading off my helmet and goggles as I rode the Summit Chair, but the snow was so soft and easy to ski. I hated to quit at the end of the day because the skiing was so good. Again, you have to be willing to get out this time of year. The cold weather will come soon enough and January and February and especially March, which tends to be more winter like. But in late November and early December, you take what you can get. Just get out and do it and you will feel so much better when you do.  I sound like Warren Miller?   

There are lots of activities in which you can participate during the “off season”. When the snow piles up, the snowshoes come out for my wife and me, and with a headlamp, you can snowshoe at night as well as during the day. Hiking is another fun activity for couples. As with skiing and snowboarding, the apres’ activity is also a fun reward. Nothing like a hot drink sitting next to a roaring fire. The IPAs in the parking lot after rides are pretty tasty too.

So, no deep message here this week folks,( not that I ever give a deep message), just some encouraging suggestions that will make you think about making the best out of rotten weather. Like my friend the Shark always says,” No such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices.” Thanks for reading.

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Evensong.

At this time of the year, I have always enjoyed choral music. I guess my appreciation went back to my college days when I would end the semester at Allegheny College with the annual pre-Christmas holiday concert in the chapel on campus. There is something special about choir music that sets the mood for Christmas and when I headed back to the dorm, my head was right for the celebration of the birth of Christ. There was something comforting in that music and it always took the burrs off finals and cramming to make decent grades. I felt like all was right with the world as I relaxed and headed home for Christmas vacation.

Fast forward and I found myself cycling in England a number of years ago. At the end of every ride, I would head back to the B&B,shower, and then hustle over to the famous cathedrals nearby and listen to the 4:00 PM presentation of Evensong. This has always been a tradition in the Anglican Church where the choir sings in the late afternoon or evening and the public is welcome. So much so, that in Salisbury Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, I was invited to come up and sit right in the middle of the choir on either side of the main aisle. What an experience listening to the beautiful harmony on all sides. It was quite moving and I remember it vividly to this day. Some days I was running late and went straight to the cathedral in my cycling togs. I was hoping I was not too disgusting for the sharply dressed, starched, choir in their vestments, as I sheepishly sat in with them and profusely apologized between songs, as I perspired all over the stone floor. They nodded politely and continued on with the presentation.

Nowadays, I rarely have a chance to listen in person, but I do tend to take in choir music on my Pandora Channel with some renditions by Libera, and even more secular music by Lorenna McKennett or Enya that gives you the same relaxed feeling as you drive. Their Celtic music with that haunting melody, can be equally relaxing. Sometimes, this kind of music can actually alter your mood and relieve stress if you do like I do, and drive the back way to and from work without fighting the masses on the freeways. I would rather go a little out of my way, enjoy the scenery, and take in the changing leaves or the gently falling snow which decorates the pines in the hollows of my commute. Those of you who know me might be wondering if I somehow have a loose screw. But I am here to tell you that as much as I like rock and R&B, I can equally be entertained and relaxed on the Spa Channel or choral music on my drives to work.

This time of year, I also have the opportunity to drive to the mountains on Saturday mornings for some local skiing in our Laurel Highlands. Being the Type “A” person that I am, the day begins well before sunrise and I am on the road in the dark. That quiet time in the car is a wonderful time for me as I anticipate a great day of skiing with my friends and have the opportunity to sip some coffee and listen to some relaxing music on the Libera station on Pandora. Sometimes I will listen to Gregorian Chant by the Benedictine Monks on the album “Chant”. The byproduct of this mood altering music is the fact that I am totally relaxed as I enter the parking lot, go to the lodge, and begin the process of booting up. Once I am on the slopes, I can still hear the chorale music in my mind which helps me make relaxing turns on the hill as juxtaposed to the headphone wearing death metal music that the crazies are listening to buzzing all around me. My elbows are out! Efficient skiing and boarding is smooth. Relaxing music creates smooth turns. Flex the ankles and finish the turns. Kyrie Eleison.

So what’s the point Pat? Well- simply put, give choral music, Gregorian Chant, and Celtic music a chance. This time of year it always gets you in the mood and is a nice alternative from Santa Claus is Coming to Town. And, if you are headed to the mountains for skiing, or a ride, or anywhere else where a car ride is involved, make the most of it and unload the stress from the week. Also, this type of music can make you think about the reason for the season. The words bring you to the real meaning of Christmas and release you from all the stress inducing secular time crunches for a consumer oriented holiday. I think of Evensong and am glad that I had that experience to make me appreciate the season. Thanks for reading and enjoy your Christmas or Hanukkah, and quiet times in the car.

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