Wagner Bowl

Wagner Bowl – Seven Springs, Pa.

For most of my life I have always looked forward to this time of year when the ski season in the mid -Atlantic rolls around after 8 months of waiting. You have to be a real enthusiast to be watching the weather and looking for the snow reports. As a kid, I used to scour the weather on TV and call the ski report to hear the iconic Lars Skylling tell everyone that the ski season has begun and the skiing is ” good to excellent with a few izzzzzy spots.” It is tough to be enthused with the climate change affecting our ski seasons but none the less, I always get excited to make those first turns- no matter where. If you are a skier, you understand. If you are a person who goes skiing here and there, you might not have that same vigor. And the first turns for about 60 years now have been on Wagner Bowl at Seven Springs Resort here in Western Pennsylvania.

My last turns for the season were with my friends Mark Hutchinson and Eric Durfee at Mt. Rose out in Nevada. I make an effort to get out west twice a season and also get up to Western New York and the Adirondacks to try to stretch out the season and possibly make up for any shortfalls here. I live in Western Pa and can’t be out west all the time, so I try to ski locally as much as I can. People harass me and say why would you go to Seven Springs and ski Wagner Bowl when you have the opportunity to ski elsewhere? I tell them point blank, I like to ski. I like to make turns. And if that is limited to Wagner Bowl, so be it. At least I am on the snow and making that first turn over the crown of the bowl every season. More will be open at Seven Springs and Laurel Mountain as the season progresses, but for the moment, if Wagner is the only game in town- I am in.

The Chutes at Mt. Rose
The Summit Chair at Whiteface – Lake Placid
The Daly Chutes at Deer Valley, Utah

I can remember as a kid skiing Wagner Bowl with wooden skis, cable bindings, and leather lace boots. No snowmaking then and no grooming. Cold Friday nights with icy conditions. I couldn’t get enough. Richard Nicolette and I would rush in and grab a hot chocolate and warm ourselves by the roaring fireplace being careful not to melt our jackets or gloves. We then would rush back out the door and head up the Wagner chair lift for more. We hated it when the lifts stopped. I still do.

Young Pat in front of the old Ski Lodge

So yes, I have plans for this season skiing with my wife out west and some other plans that will stretch our ski season. But it will all start with that first turn over Wagner Bowl at Seven Springs. Just as it has for the last 60 years. People will laugh and think I am crazy or I will get the usual jazz from people who say that they just ski out west. I tell them so do I, but if you only do that, you ski maybe 5 days a season and you are a person that skis, not what I would consider a skier. A skier who lives here makes the best of it. I ski in the rain and whatever the weather throws at me. The more days I can get in the better. It is a short season in the mid-Atlantic and the Laurel Highlands and you have to make hay while the sun shines. Because in spite of your trips, the season will end and it will be a long 8 months until you ski again. Some people are not hooked like me. Some have given up. But I try to maximize the ski experience. I watch the World Cup on TV and watch carefully how the world’s best make turns. I always learn something every year and that keeps me going.

Love to watch Mikaela Shiffrin ski. A portrait of balance
Mammoth Mountain , Ca. But it all starts on Wagner Bowl.

So I am waiting. And so are lifelong ski friends around here. I have skied with most of them for 60 years. We all started as kids and still text, email, and call each other in anticipation of the coming season. I can’t wait to see them and really folks, I can’t wait to ski Wagner Bowl. Think snow and thanks for reading.

Dixon, Melissa and Jaime- still skiing after all these years.
The Nicolette Brothers at A Basin- still skiing strong.

The Wrap Up

Enforcement

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

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

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

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

June Mountain , Ca. views never disappoint.

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

Gratitude

The Ski Lodge

We are halfway through winter and the groundhog comes out soon to let us know what he thinks about the rest of the winter. I wonder if he will be masked? In any event, this has been a little different ski year with booting up in the parking lot and eating lunch in the vehicle, or at a small tailgate. The good news is that the snow has been really good this winter and lots of folks are getting out to enjoy the slopes- nationwide.

The view that never gets old

Locally, here in Western Pa, the snow has been plentiful especially in the ridges and all of our ski areas have been operating well. There have been a few glitches along the way but for the most part, I am grateful that the lifts are spinning. The outside fireplaces are roaring and when there are only a few people in the lodge, I will sneak in early to sit by the fire- one of my favorite things to do.

Nothing like a fire in the Lodge,

There have been a lot of changes this year in the operation of skiing. We don’t really know the half of it but I am sure that operating a ski resort in Western Pa. is challenging enough let alone in a year with a pandemic. In the fall, there was a lot of question whether there would be skiing this season, but the resorts have made it possible even though their bottom lines are probably not as robust with the lack of bar and restaurant business. Tough to survive on take out and limited indoor seating. But they are doing it and for that – I am grateful. When I ride up that chairlift and look out over the Laurels, I am so thankful that I have the health and the skill to enjoy skiing. And for an hour and a half from where I live, I will take it.

Janet and I are headed west in February and I will be going again in March. From what I am hearing from friends out there, the resorts are doing a good job in general. Sure there has been the issues with long lines due to social distancing on the chair lifts, but it seems to have sorted itself out as the season has progressed and this past week, most of the west has seen a significant snowfall which will hold them in good stead for the rest of the season. Outdoor recreation is essential to all of us if we want to get through this pandemic and nothing better than enjoying the snow in the winter- no matter what you do.

Masked up and playing by the rules.
The PSU Pals

So- as I sit in my chair at the beginning of the day and boot up, I look around and think we are much better off than we thought we might be. The weather has been cooperative and it has led to good times outside for a lot of us. So the next time you see a snowmaker at the resort- here or out west- thank them. They work hard in really adverse conditions. When you see the patrol, the ski school, a groomer , restaurant employee, ticket booth personnel, or management at an area, take a moment to thank them and tell them how much we appreciate their efforts to keep us all going strong this winter. The good news is that no matter what that rodent says, we have a lot of winter left. Enjoy it and ………..be grateful. Thanks for reading.

The Stoke

The Daly Chutes – Deer Valley, Utah

” Dude- I am stoked”. ” Man- the stoke is high today.” ” Stoked man.” You have all heard this in a lift line or elsewhere on a great day. Young people still get excited about skiing and they verbalize it in different ways including the word………….”stoke”. Now I am beyond the stoke vernacular in age, so I would not be caught dead calling anyone a dude or that I am stoked. However, the neat thing about skiing is that all ages can participate. I have skied for 59 years – as a kid and now as a grown kid. But still- I know my place among the millennials and keep my distance when verbalizing how I love a great day of skiing. I get ……. well ……..excited ,or at the ragged edge of adjective description- ” pumped” LOL!!

Mammoth Mountain , California.

So really- for the older generation of skiers, what exactly is ” stoke?” Well- it can be used to describe something about to happen. Like when your skis are hanging over a cornice and you are about to drop in. The excitement is high as you visualize your first couple of turns. And you are ….” stoked” . You drop in and make a series of linked turns and when you get to the bottom, the stoke turns past tense and you are ” stoked ” with that run. You have finished a high anxiety opportunity and you made the best of it and your smile is a wide as your face and you are ……………”stoked”. Me………………I am happy to have made some good turns and I silently say………..” alright!!!!!!” Would never yell out ” stoked.”

Stoke can also be used to describe the atmosphere of the moment. Like when you are standing in a lift line on a huge powder day. You hear the whoops and yeeeeeeowwws of the younger set as they recover their skis that they strategically placed in line at the front and they wait for the rope to drop. The ” stoke is high” as they impatiently wait on the chair ride for those first untracked turns in great snow. You hear the word ” stoked” all over the place as the crowd rushes from the lift to make those first signature turns. ” Dude- I am stoked” Not for me. I stay my course and politely ski out of the way of the dudes.

Laurel Mountain, Pa. 8:00 AM

I get excited as I look out on a perfectly groomed trail ready for the first turns of the day. I smile and click into my bindings, push off, and feel pretty darn good as I make my first turns on a sunny winter day no matter where I am. Out west or local. I am …….excited” I probably didn’t sleep real well but that is ok. I still have the enthusiasm of a kid as I slide down the mountain. Yes- I guess I am ” stoked” although I would never admit it or say it ……..except to you.

Things are a little weird now and my Jeep is my lodge as I now say. But we are happy booting up in the lot and eating our lunch in the Jeep. The stoke might be a little askew but we are definitely happy that the lifts are turning and we are skiing.

So although “stoke” is not really in my vocabulary, I am happy that the young people still enjoy the merits of skiing like I do and for that I guess I am …………………..” stoked.” Enjoy the winter and thanks for reading- dude.

Resolutions

Laurel Mountain

This time of year I usually see lots of people running our local park loop around the lake. People with the very good intention of changing it up for the New Year. Sadly, according to a study at the University of Scranton, 80 percent of people do not stick with their New Years resolutions for the complete year. I believe that a lot of people either start too fast or too hard to get in shape, lose weight, or whatever else motivates them. Then it becomes a chore and a lot of people quit what was to be a very good intention. I always encourage people to start easy and work into it. Then the chances of sticking with the resolution become greater and the benefits become apparent. You should be able to enjoy the workout and not stress yourself. I always say at this point in my life- no one is going to the Olympics. I have a friend who says to start slow and taper off. We all laugh but that is a good motto.

This time of year, I am usually skiing. I continue to ride a mountain bike for exercise but as I age, I have been trying to enjoy the activities and not stress myself with unattainable goals. I find that exercise 4 days a week including skiing and mountain biking is enough to keep me in shape. I have found recently that if I back off just a little bit, I can enjoy the activity so much more. Take skiing for instance. If you start out too fast, the turns are compromised and you end up fighting to get some kind of rhythm. I have found that if you start with some nice rounded turns, you can ease into the run and enjoy the quality of a good turn instead of trying to get as much vertical as possible. Quality instead of quantity is my current motto. I like to be able to look back and say, ” now they were some good turns.”

Mammoth Mountain, California

It also gets me ready for runs like the above when I travel. Same thing. Not too fast just make good turns and execute.

Winter riding is the same. This is not the time to be a world beater. Especially in my mid 60s where I am definitely not a world beater. I find that backing off a little bit enjoying the snowy conditions, and just appreciating the ability to get out and ride a couple of times a week is good enough. Alternate activities like snowshoeing are good too to mix it up a bit.

Winter Riding with the lights.
Snowshoeing with the bride.

In any event, enjoying the moment and not killing myself seem to be the ticket for me as I make my way into 2021. It has been an odd time with the pandemic but outdoor activities seem to be Covid resistant and if we are careful, we can enjoy the outdoors and not need to worry. I won’t live in fear but I also need to be vigilant.

So as we make resolutions into 2021, it is important in my opinion, to be realistic with your goals and what you want to achieve. You don’t want to be one of the 80 percent that falls short. In addition, I think that a lot of resolutions should include what you can do for others. The elderly, the shut ins, people who are injured, friends who are having a tough time financially, psychologically, or otherwise all need our help. Maybe as we run around the lake, ride, ski, or do whatever we do in the New Year actively, we can include some thinking about what we can do for others. I am no motivational expert here. Just an older guy trying to keep on keepin on, and making the best of what is ahead of me. It takes a village as they say and we all can do something positive for our physical health this year as well as using some time to help others. Thanks for reading and Happy New Years to all of you.

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.

Breaking the Seal

So finally after waiting 8 months to ski again,( mild depression sets in on the last day of skiing no matter how much I like mountain biking), we rode up the chairlift and effectively broke the seal on the new 2019-2020 ski season. I said to the group it is like breaking a seal on a bottle of Gatorade. You take that first thirst quenching taste and then replace the cap. You feel so much better and you have done what needed to be done and experienced opening day even though the terrain was limited. Seven Springs Mountain Resort( our home area here in Western Pa) did a great job of snow making and grooming to open some nice skiing for the crowd that had been waiting patiently amid all the postings from the Ski the East group on Facebook. We were finally in the mix and proudly posted that the Springs was open for business and all is well.

Now you might ask, ” Why go up for one slope and two trails?” But my avid skiing friends all remarked in unison, ” Why not?” After a nice breakfast hosted by Seven Springs for all the season pass holders, ( which was excellent by the way), the enthusiastic crowd converged on the two chair lifts and the lines were long. But the best part was that nobody seemed to care and everyone figured that they would eventually get on the chair to take their first run of the season. Waiting in line was fine with all the “hellos” and ” how was your summer” conversations and not one person had a frown on their face or a negative word to say. We are all skiers and we are breaking the seal on the new season.

 

My friends Jaime and Melissa Thompson had been texting and giving me email updates all week on the gigantic snow whales that were forming because of the round the clock snow making . Armed with an arsenal of new HKD snow making nozzles and towers and a new 20″ main water line, Seven Springs was locked and loaded. The groomers eventually flattened the whales and the smooth groomed surface was ready for the taking. For the uninitiated, whales are huge snow piles that form in strategic areas from extended snow making. The water drains through the pile and when it is “seasoned” the pile become rubble for the groomers who smooth it over a larger area.

No matter what, your first run of the season is always exciting. From day one for me, back in 1961,  to the present day, I always cherish that first chair lift ride and that first turn down the mountain. I will always remember those first of the season outings with Bob Rose picking us up in the station wagon for the weekends in the mountains. I couldn’t wait for the phone call. My mom had dinner waiting for me when I got that call to be ready in a half hour on a Friday night. What a great way to grow up as a kid.  That excitement still is with me all these 58 years later. And although that first turn is always a little ragged. I thought to myself, “is the tuning ok or is something amiss?” But then I realize that I am in the back seat and need to get forward. Once that comfort sets in, the turns became more smooth and I realize that once again, ” I have this” and a new season begins.

Bill Boucher said it best when he stated in the lift line that it is hard to explain this enthusiasm to most people especially folks who don’t ski. But he went on to say that,” Pat, this has been such a huge part of our life and it still is.” Skiing is a lifestyle. We are not people who ski once in a while, we are skiers! It defines us, as Bill so eloquently explained. I agreed wholeheartedly as we lapped runs on the famous Wagner Bowl and Cortina Trail. Obviously we are anxious for more and as we eagerly watch the Weather Channel for upcoming favorable temperatures and snowfall, we know that to ski in Western Pa, on November the 23rd before Thanksgiving is indeed a true bonus. Yes, Utah, Tahoe and Mammoth await me and I am anxious as anyone to get this party started.

But like I always say with my pals Jaime and Melissa, ” you can’t be out west every weekend so why not enjoy what we have locally at Seven Springs and soon Laurel Mountain.

Our Laurel Highlands are most enjoyable and no matter what, as everyone said this weekend,” Why not!!” Thanks for reading.

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Overload

Have to tell you folks that no one loves the anticipation of ski season more than me. When that first frost comes or the leaves start to change and I smell the fires burning, I start to think about when the first turns will be made. Buy typically, I show some restraint. When the Ski Magazine comes to the mailbox in August, I set it aside because I don’t want to start reading that until maybe October especially if I am in no need of equipment for the upcoming season. Which is where I am right now. I have all my skis tuned, Janet’s tuned, and am in no need for further ski apparel. So in those years, October is fine for opening up the mag and seeing what is new and perhaps read a review or two. I start to look on the Outside channel and Netflix and Amazon for some ski flicks but only start those in maybe November. But have you noticed how we have been bombarded with social media all summer long and the hype for the 2019-2020 ski season began almost as soon as the old season ended. In many cases this past season, the end was much later than usual with the Beast and western areas like Mammoth closing well after Memorial Day and into the Fourth of July.

Now again, don’t get me wrong. I love skiing and talk about it all year, but this year, the media hype began in July and didn’t stop all summer. While I was into the mountain biking season and enduring the early season rain followed by oppressive heat and finally some nice September weather, the videos, clips, emails,and more videos all came rushing in on Facebook and Instagram and kind of confused me a bit. Is this summer or is it just an extension of a year long ski season defying the global warming discussion? I mean come on? What was once a great flick about guys sending it in far away places in steep terrain and endless powder, became commonplace. I was not impressed because of the overload of visual eye candy almost to the point of me thinking I could do all of what Mark Abma does or Sage does, and not even blink an eye. I can ski like that, right? It is not sensational anymore because there is just so much of it. We are desensitized and duped into thinking that we are those heroes and we can do all of that and better sign up for it for 2019-2020. Which is what I did. I fell for it hook, line and sinker and bought Ikon, Epic and the local Highlands Pass all before the last turns were made on Superstar at Killington in May. I didn’t want to miss out, made the ski plans with my friends, and signed up per all the savings and media hype.

I even bought my wife some new boards at the end of the season sale at Peak Ski and Board here at home and put them on the shelf freshly tuned and waxed for the upcoming season. If they did a survey on the typical skier who buys into the media frenzy, my face would appear front and center and as much as I complain about seeing ski flicks and clips all summer, it got to me. I needed to be ahead of the game and I was the perfect victim of advertising and promotion by the equipment manufacturers, the resorts and their passes, and even the FIS who enticed me with stories of the superstars on the World Cup of whom I am a big fan. I am complaining but yet I am the poster child for the ski consumer that they all want.

Last night I dreamed I was having a conversation with shop guys about ski equipment. The strange thing is that it was old equipment. I suppose in my subconscious, my fear was I was not up with the latest technology and was far behind for the coming year. I dreamed I saw perfect conditions but for one reason or another, I was not able to get to the hill and make the first turns. I woke up in a cold sweat thinking I was going to miss it and be out of the loop or out of touch. The promoters have even invaded my sub-conscious. What is a guy supposed to do? I will tell you what………relax!!!. It will come soon enough and there is a lot of fall weather to enjoy still on the bike and some hiking with my wife in the meantime too. The chairs are not spinning yet so relax. Enjoy what is now and not what is coming soon enough.

Did you get sucked in too? Tell me about it. We all need to take a deep breath. LOL!! Thanks for reading.

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Full Circle

So all of us were back from our western ski adventures, and once again at our home resort for what was probably the last weekend of the season. The sun was out and the snow was soft and the crowds were gone. Most people at this time of year around here are itching to get out on the golf course or ride their bikes, and skiing takes a back seat for the spring. But some of the nicest snow conditions are in the spring and if you don’t want to hit golf balls and have them plug on every shot or ride mountain bikes in amazingly wet and muddy conditions, you can enjoy the last turns of the season. I did and with this group of dedicated skiers, we bid farewell to the 2017-2018 season. I already purchased my Highlands Pass for local skiing next year and also my Epic Pass renewal for the trips westward. You see, I get a little depressed with the last turns of the season because it will be another 8 months until I am on snow again and I am not getting any younger. Although, I am inspired by Stan Friedberg’s Guiness Book of World Records achievement as the oldest heli-skier in the world. At 91, Stan can still turn em and it is an inspiration to all of us. Gives me a lot of hope for many more seasons.

Every year takes some effort to get the ski days in. We all start off with the first reports of the opening at Seven Springs, our local mainstay area, and we all clamor to make turns early on one slope and a couple of trails as snow making and cold weather allows. Then we look northward to the Lake Erie storms and make our way to Western New York to take in some of that early season fluff. Then for Janet and me, we made our way to Utah to ski with Mike and Judy Smith and their daughter Shayna and husband Nick for a couples trip that included a harrowing “thin cover” run that rattled Janet. She composed herself and skied well for the rest of the trip but was a little unhappy with me for taking her to “no man’s land” with thin cover in Utah.
Funny thing about skiing is that until you get to the mountain, it is a royal pain hauling all the gear like a sherpa, getting to and from the airport, and fighting the crowds on holiday weeks. Then you have weather. Like when I made my way to the Adirondacks to ski with my pal Mike Smith- the other Mike Smith. . Along with meeting my friend from Vermont, Mark Hutchinson, I braved probably two of the worst snowstorms I have ever driven in on the New York State Thruway. But the turns and days with those guys at Whiteface and Gore were worth every minute of white knuckled panic. I also ran a traffic light in Amsterdam, NY which got me pulled over by a State Police officer. However, after a nice chat between two guys alone in a snowstorm and my contrite explanation of why I ran the red light, he cut me a break and told me to get back on the Thruway and don’t try to take the short cut.

Moving forward, got up early most Saturday mornings to meet at Laurel Mountain with my group there and had some fantastic days until the 78 degree thaw and biblical rains forced an early shut down of Laurel.

Perseverance was the call after slicing my tendon in my knuckle and making my way to the annual guys trip – this time in Colorado. Dr. J and the physical therapy team were cautious about my trip so early after the injury but after returning with 320,000 vertical under our belts, he was relieved that I came back with no injury to the healing tendon. Got to ski with my buddy the singing ski instructor from Vail- Art Bonavoglia listening to his tunes on the chairlift. Always a pleasure to ski with my old pal Art who is really skiing well. Also, got pulled over again in Idaho Springs, Colorado by the local police officer who said I was speeding in the 25 MPH zone. Most people think this is hilarious because I am the most cautious driver they know. A speeding ticket? McCloskey? But again, the police officer was from Pennsylvania and we had a nice chat about the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. He asked me if I was a Steeler fan and I said, ” What is the right answer?” He said he was from Harrisburg and I congratulated him on the Eagle victory. He let me go like the officer in New York. 2/2 in potential citation stops. Someone is looking over me.

Finally full circle back at the Springs with the group that you see above. It takes some dedication to ski locally and to make the time and effort for ski ventures out of state but this group does it and looks forward to every season. So, as I made my last turns for the 2017-2018 circle of ski life, I was a bit forlorn. But looking back, it was a good season and now I switch gears to spring and summer activities, patiently waiting for the cool weather of the fall, the turning leaves, and the first flakes of 2018-2019. Thanks for reading.

You Have To Be a Grinder

You know folks, you have to be a real grinder to be a skier in the mid-Atlantic region of our country. We had it rolling this winter with the cold that froze one of my pipes, and created great snow making weather. This coupled with the fronts steamrolling over the Great Lakes provided wonderful lake effect snow and then…………the bottom fell out. 78 degrees last Tuesday with torrential rains coming from, what the weather service calls, a once in a 100 year event. So we go into grind mode and ski in the rain, sleet and other borderline weather that results from low pressure coming up from the Gulf and a shift in the jet stream. But again, we are resilient here in the mid Atlantic/Ohio Valley/Laurel Highlands, and our enthusiasm never wanes.

Take Robert “Wags” Wagner for instance. He is shown above with his affable smile no matter what the weather is. A successful real estate broker, Wags has a real history of enthusiasm for the Laurel Highlands. http://www.laurelhighlandsliving.com wags@abeandwags.com A veteran Green Beret, a PSIA certified alpine and telemark instructor and ski patroller, Wags always looks at the bright side no matter what. He never says “die” and to his credit, he lit his sign again to hopefully bring more snow to the region. There is a lot of history to this sign which used to reside on the balcony of his girlfriend’s condo. Adrienne lived on the third floor and it was quite a task getting the sign up there. She is now Mrs. Wags. But in later years, it was reconstructed and it sits waiting to be lit every fall outside their home off of County Line Road. Now it is lit again hoping that we salvage some snow and ski weather in Western Pa. We need some help from above for some more winter weather which may return this weekend although now it is 66 degrees.

But again, you have to be a grinder here and be willing to ski in the rain, sleet and snow and faithfully get days in locally. I spend many a day driving to Laurel Mountain no matter what the weather. I even went to a snowmakers website http://www.chssnowmakers.com – Jason Sawin at jsawin@chssnowmakers.com , and purchased a pair of water proof snowmaking gloves to go with my Patagonia Pro Gore Tex bibs and parka. I am totally dry now that I have solved the issue of wet gloves. Like my friends, I will ski to the last flake especially here in Western Pa. Even if it is a soggy flake.

However, truth be told, you do have to subsidize your local days with out of town ski days, out west, or in New England. In the last two years, with the weather and all, I must confess that I have more ski days out of town than locally. My wife and I take trips with our friends and in a few weeks, I will finish off the season with the annual guys trip which this year is slated for Colorado. But like I tell people, you can’t always be out west unless you live there and we live in the mid-Atlantic so we make the best with trips and skiing the local scene no matter what.

But what is up with this weather, man? I have been hiking in this biblical rain., skiing, taking spin classes and trying to stay positive- like Wags. But it is tough when the meat of the winter is taken away by some gulf, moisture laden,sopping wet, low pressure system that seems to linger on and on. Good thing is the west is getting snow seeing that they had it a little thin early in the season. But hey, it could be worse. Just like I always say, ” Things always look darkest before they turn black.”……….. Just kidding!! Truly grateful for many things. Thanks for reading.