Connections

The Minarets- The View that Never Disappoints

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

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

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

Andy and Robb
Smiling Perry- Don was there somewhere?

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

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

June Mountain Perfectly Groomed

The Rose of Tahoe

For many years, I drove up the Mt. Rose Highway out of Reno and passed the Mt. Rose Ski Area on my way to the Durfees in Incline Village, Nevada. I often wondered what the skiing was like at Mt. Rose seeing that it is the first area that I passed on that trip from the airport. A lot of people pass on their way to North Lake Tahoe resorts but the locals know better than the tourons. It seems like Mt. Rose has been a favorite of the Reno locals for years and when I finally skied it a couple of years ago for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised and it has been a regular stop on my ski trips to the Tahoe region in Nevada. I will be touching down in a few weeks again to ski Tahoe and Mammoth with my buddies and the convenient location of Mt. Rose allows me to have quick access to the slopes there. In fact, the drill goes as follows:50year_anniversay

1.) Pick up skis and baggage at carousel- check
2.) Change clothes shamelessly right there at the carousel into my ski garb with onlookers curiously giggling. Who cares- I don’t know them. -check
3.) Put on ski boots and drag gear to curb- check
4.) Eric picks me up and knows the blue Lange boots waiting for him on the bench outside the airport. Dead giveaway from 100 yards out. -check
5.) Eric misses 2 runs as he picks up Hutch and me and we are back on the hill in 45 minutes. IMG00143-20100212-1420

Not only is the proximity to the Reno Airport good, but Mt. Rose is a very nice place to ski. Personally, I like areas where you can drive into the parking lot, put on your boots, walk a couple of hundred feet and get on the lift. You can do that at Rose. A nice family feel to it. Great groomers to warm up with and then you can make your way to a series of lift serviced chutes aptly named……The Chutes. The gates to this area describe a series of steep drops with some intimidating names. This skiing is not for the faint of heart and if you can’t make quick turns on some pretty steep vertical, you really should not pass through the gates. Every year I go there, it is the first wake up call for me that I am once again out west on non- groomed steep terrain where you better be paying attention. If we are fortunate enough to have powder conditions, The Chutes are wonderful. They are steep enough that you have to check the snow report and make sure that the avalanche conditions are in check. But the ski patrol won’t let you through the gates anyways if there is any possibility of a slide. But it is good to be aware nonetheless. Not often do you get steep terrain like this inside the boundaries of a ski area. IMG00331-20110323-1707
One day, a few years back, we saw a group of guys with baggy clothes and full face helmets blasting down the Chutes howling and laughing and having a great time. We saw them at lunch in the lodge and when they took off their helmets, there were gray beards and gray hairs everywhere. I introduced myself and remarked that we thought they were a bunch of kids with their garb and how well they skied. They appreciated the comments and said that they have been skiing together since they were 16 years old. These guys were all in their 60s. They motocross together all summer. Great bunch of guys who have called Rose their winter home for close to 50 years. It is guys like these and the other locals and families that make up the wonderful atmosphere that this ski area exudes. The owners are devoted to skiing only, as evidenced by a t-shirt that I bought that states ” Mt. Rose” simply on the front of the shirt and “Summer Sucks” on the back. These folks live for the winter and they run a nice area that is the highest elevation in the Lake Tahoe region. Consequently, they get snow when some of the other areas get rain. On the down side since it is so high and exposed, they do get high winds. On those days you can retreat to Diamond Peak just over the summit or go to Northstar and hide in the trees and escape the wind. MR Chutes

One last bit of trivia is that the Mt. Rose Ski Area is actually not Mt. Rose. That peak is actually across the Mt. Rose Highway. My family along with the Durfees hiked that a few years ago and the summit of Mt. Rose actually yields a nice view of Lake Tahoe, Reno, and the trails of the Mt. Rose Ski Area. If you go to Tahoe, don’t pass up on an opportunity to ski Rose. It has become one of my favorite areas not only in Tahoe, but overall. I am so happy we finally made it a permanent stop on my trips with the guys. Thanks for reading and keep enjoying winter- I do. IMG00243-20100809-1600

The Comfort Zone- last time- I promise!!

IMG00239-20100809-1331IMG00260-20100812-1501IMG00243-20100809-1600IMG00242-20100809-1556 You know, I appreciate you reading these posts because I need to get this stuff out of my head and into some legible form, so this is for me as much as it is to entertain all of you who read these posts. I appreciate it. In any event, I have this theme that has been rattling around in my head about pushing yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone. In previous posts I have told you about my friend Eric who lives in Incline Village, Nevada. He and his wife Helen have truly taken advantage of their environment out there in the west. They are expert skiers, they take their sport mobile out into the desert and camp, mountain bike and hike and enjoy their surroundings. Eric took his motorcycle and went from Tahoe to the Artic Ocean and back. They are adventurers but all of us can be adventurers too maybe to a lesser degree but nonetheless, adventurers in our own environment.

Three years ago, my wife Janet and Jack and I went to visit Helen and Eric and had a fantastic time enjoying the Sierras and Lake Tahoe. We visited Yosemite which by the way, if you have not been there or to a National Park, please by all means put that on your bucket list. Eric has the good habit of pushing folks out of their comfort zone which is a good thing and allows people to stretch their limits and take the experience home with them. He has done that for years on the slopes with me and in previous visits, he has stretched Janet’s zone in more mental ways than perhaps physical. By that I mean that we were out for Eric and Helen’s son’s wedding and we all went for a hike. Eric made note to tell Janet that there are bears who climb up over his fence and feast on the birdseed in his feeders. Her eyes were like saucers as we went out the door to the hike by the lake and Eric regaled some other stories that had Janet wondering whether hiking with Eric was a good idea. All was well and the only bear that we did see was crossing Rt. 50 in the main drag of North Tahoe. Both Janet and Jack had never seen a bear in the wild but here was a nice sized one looking like he had just come out of the Starbucks store on the left of the road. We watched from the safety of the car but Janet had her bear experience and had also hiked in bear country which definitely stretched………….her comfort zone.

So- getting back to the recent trip, Eric and Helen had us in the kayak in the lake, we swam in the lake, went for walks and took in the beauty of the Tahoe region. All pretty benign activites until the day Eric told Janet that we were going to hike Mt. Rose. Now what you must understand about my friend Eric is that he is the master of the understatement. He told Janet it was a quick three hour out and back hike. So, our merry little band of hikers, Eric, Helen, Jack and Janet and me, took off with some instructions and some nice delectibles in the packs. Jack had to use his hiking shoes that I bought him much to his chagrin but I told him that basketball shoes were not the footwear of choice when hiking in the Sierras. The wildflowers were in full bloom and the trail was dry and the day was crystal clear. We could see the summit of Mt. Rose and it looked like we could reach out and touch it. That is how things are in the west. So near, but yet so far and crystal clear, kind of like some goals in our lives. About two hours into the hike, Janet started to ask how much farther which indicated to me that she was approaching the end of the comfort zone. I told her that it looked like only a little bit more but that turned into an hour. As we reached the summit, the views of the lake and over to Reno were spectacular which masked the fact that Janet was tired. I told her it was all downhill from here which was pretty much true but there were some undulations in the trail in which vertical feet were gained and not lost. But for the most part, we were making our way down. The nice thing about Helen is that she is in great shape yet very understanding and was happy to be with Janet as she told Jack and Eric and I to basically get lost. This made the return trip more enjoyable for Janet and as we reached the trailhead…….6 hours after we started, Janet breathed an altitude deprived sigh of relief. Jack was undaunted as he gave a very simple statement of approval as per the teenage communication protocol,” that was cool.” He is the master of the understatement in our family.

Bottom line in all of this is that Janet stretched her comfort zone immeasurably that day courtesy of Helen and Eric. She is much more confident on hikes or other physical activities that she has taken up in the time since the big hike. She loves to hike now and she and I have taken some nice day hikes right here in Pennsylvania and enjoyed all of the seasons. We snowshoe in the winter- which is a form of winter hiking and again, the confidence that the trip to Incline has brought her has helped in so many ways beyond physical exertion. Mental confidence and experience brings a lot to the table and I thank Eric every time I ski with him for making me a better skier by stretching my limits over all the years that we have skied together. Lots of folks are hesitant to go out of their comfort zone and do not have the good fortune of having friends that help them expand their horizons. As we get older, it is very important to keep growing physically and mentally. There are so many healthy activities that can be experienced if we only have the courage to take on the challenge. It doesn’t have to be riding a motorcycle to the Arctic Circle. Lots of folks just have to get up and go for a walk. Everyone has their comfort zone staring them in the face. You can blast through it or you can go through it gently and at your own pace. Take a page from Janet’s book and slowly stretch your limits for the better. Life is to be lived. Lots to do. Enjoy it. Thanks for reading.