The Tribe

I am reading an interesting book by Dr. David J. Rothman called,” Living the Life- Tales from America’s Mountains and Ski Towns”. I thought it was going to be some fun stories about the ski life but it has turned out to be so much more in the description of the lifestyle of the sports that we are all passionate about. Dr. Rothman suggests that there was a certain “cause and effect” that took place when we realize that something that we were attracted to as an outdoor activity became a passion. The resulting experiences and stories are shared by a group of people that are communities in effect and we understand the stories that we tell about ourselves.

I remember coming back from Tuckerman Ravine2013-02-05-the-bowl one year and telling my folks about the steepness of the skiing and the ice block avalanches and the weather and the total experience of being in the mountains in it’s most raw state, and my mother’s response was, ” That’s nice dear- would you like some more potatoes.” Not my mom’s fault but she just didn’t get it or appreciate it. But the Tribe does. That is what Dr. Rothman so eloquently describes in his book and what I am about to describe here to you.

There are groups of people who I call fans. They are football fans, baseball fans and many of them have played the sport but most of them are fans of a sport in which others perform. In sports like skiing,mountain biking and snowboarding, there are groups that are formed and friendships made that last a lifetime. IMG_0803 These groups also merge into what I call ” The Tribe” which is a gathering of many groups celebrating the passions of these activities. The gathering of the Tribe can take place at a mountain bike festival, a race, or at the bottom of the slopes in the springtime for instance at a ski area where folks are celebrating the weather, the friendships, and the stories around a beer and a burger on a sun splashed deck.

If you are not involved in a group or a Tribe of people, chances are you will be lost in the conversations of the Tribe. ” Hey- did you see that endo that Joe did over the bars into the creek with all that splooge on his face?” ” Hey- did you see Mike ski down that couloir with rocks on every side?” ” I looked down that couloir and had to really think about that first turn.” ” How about that climb out of the canyon?” ” How about that rock strewn singletrack with the slimy root section- hairy wasn’t it?” These are the types of conversations that infuse the gathering of the Tribe at a festival, race, or ski area. IMG_0723

The disappointing thing about being with the Tribe of your peers, is that when you come back to work, or home and try to recreate the vibe of that weekend or time spent with the Tribe, you cannot adequately describe it. But the cause and effect and the passion that resulted in the decision to join a group and the several times a year gathering of the Tribe, is necessary because these are the people who are ” your people.” Nothing against your co-workers, family, friends who may not participate but there is nothing like the feeling of when the Tribe gathers and the stories begin at the end of the day around a campfire or an outdoor deck. IMG_0811

Recently the local mountain bike tribe gathered in the Laurel Highlands for a celebratory ride for a birthday of a friend. A whole cadre of folks came out representing many groups of riders all there to celebrate the big day of one of our own. Elaine Tierney, of Mountain Bike Hall of Fame and Dirt Rag Magazine notoriety, said it best when she was amazed at the gathering of different age groups represented. Elaine remarked,” We have people riding here in their 20s, 30s, 40s 50s and 60s. All age groups riding together and enjoying all that the mountains and the friendships have to offer. Age means nothing when you are passionately involved in a sport like mountain biking, skiing, or snowboarding. So, I always encourage older folks not to shy away from an activity because they think they are too old. There is a group for you and also a Tribe who will welcome you with a smile, a beer, and conversation that you can understand once you are a member. Thanks for reading. Be a follower of the blog

The Earth Awakens

Still waiting for the trails to dry, but we are getting close in this neck of the woods. In the mean time, I am watching the world awaken from the seat of my road bike.IMG_0154 It is interesting when you go on solo rides through the country roads this time of year, that you can take the time to appreciate spring and how the word awakens to a new season. The sun splashed hillsides yield new floral growth similar to a newborn baby smiling when it is fed after a nap.IMG_0152 If you take it in, you can almost feel the frozen ground melting and draining and enjoying the benefit of longer days and warmer sunshine. The grass grows greener instantly, the air smells fragrant with the scent of blooming plants and blossoming trees. I have to say that for many years, I did not notice. I was always working hard to stay on the wheel of the guy in front of me in a pace line on a road bike. Like the saying goes,” if you aren’t the lead dog, the view is always the same.” I did not take in the signs and the scents of spring in my early days of road riding and road racing. Now I do and it is a very pleasant experience. IMG_0150
My fascination with spring growth was fostered, I suppose, by my dad. He loved flowers. When I was young, he grew marigolds, geraniums, alyssum, and other plants in the basement under artificial light. When he built his new house, he purchased and built a Lord and Burnham greenhouse and spent many a winter night meticulously planting seeds in his plant trays and carefully watering them with the appropriate nozzles and sprays. Miracle Grow was his “go to” plant food and the result was gardens full of thick, colorful growing flowers and planters and hanging baskets groaning under the weight of the thick lush flora.IMG_0124 Whenever I see flower beds or go to the spring flower show at Phipps Conservatory here in Pittsburgh( a National Historic Landmark- built by Lord and Burnham), I think of my dad. IMG_0126 When the plants came out of the greenhouse and were ready to be planted, my dad the engineer, devised a quick way to plant them. He had a drill with an over-sized auger and would drill the hole and yours truly would plant literally hundreds and hundreds of flowers in the beds every year. It was amazing how spring came to life at my dad’s house in Wexford and also our old house on Siebert Road.
My current road riding routine includes stops to enjoy the sights of the back roads of Sewickley, Pa. I will climb to Allegheny Country Club and sit on the bench and watch the golfers approach the holes on the back nine.IMG_0145 The lush green fairways, and the manicured greens remind me of my old caddie days and I take the time to drink it all in on sunny days. I pass horse farms and stop again to visit the horses grazing in the field. Sometimes they make their way over to the fence where I am standing wondering if I have an apple for them? Power Bars and Cliff Bars are not to their liking but maybe I might start bringing an apple or two for their enjoyment? Climbs up out of Sewickley back home are steep but I don’t ride them the way I used to, suffering to keep up with my group. I drop the gearing down and spin my way to the top without taxing myself too much. It is a much more enjoyable way to ride as the 60 year old kid. I enjoy the back roads and even though I can’t wait to get back in the woods on my mountain bike, I do enjoy the road with the sights and scents of spring- including the horse manure. ūüôā
Forsythia is another blooming bush that is verdant in the spring. My mom used to bring in sprigs from our bush on snowy spring days and ” force” the blooms in a vase of water.IMG_0167 It was her way to welcome spring although Pennsylvania spring weather was not always cooperative. My dad never planted anything before Memorial Day but we were in high gear on those following weekends. It cut into my riding routine a little bit, but I enjoyed the time with my dad and always managed to get my rides in somehow.
As we age, we tend to appreciate things a little more. I am enjoying the spring and enjoying the growth and scents of an awakening earth. It is great to do it from the seat of a bicycle. You can enjoy life and “stop and smell the roses.” Thanks for reading and enjoy the spring. IMG_0134

Johnny O’s Excellent Adventure

Well, most of my ski group has been pounding the high speed chairlifts both at our local area and out west in search of the biggest vertical, and most runs that we can ski in a day. In our zeal to be the first on the lift, we look forward to reaping the most vertical before the crowd gets too cumbersome. So, it was a nice change when our nordic and mountain bike guru, John O’T contacted us and suggested we take a day locally and either use backcountry skis with skins or snowshoe to one of our favorite ski areas that has been closed for some time.photo As we assembled at an undisclosed location we donned our gear. The backcountry equipped guys began xc skiing the trail to the closed location and Hiller,Jeff B, and I used our snowshoes and carried our skis and pack with ski boots tucked inside.photo The weather was blustery and it was snowing heavily as we forded the miles and finally arrived at the closed lodge. Hiding ourselves from the wind, Hiller,Jeff B and I changed into our ski boots, put the hiking boots in the pack and joined John and the rest of the group as we en masse headed down the steepest and most challenging slope in Pennsylvania.IMG_1574 It had been a long time since I have skied there and although there have been several other scofflaws that have done the same thing, the turns made on that slope in the last 10 years have been few and far between. photo

I wondered what the slope conditions would be like. I knew that the snow would be good but what had grown on that slope in the last 10 years? As we made our way through the sparse puckerbrush on the upper part of the slope, we were greeted by only a few small trees that had grown up over the years. The powder snow was deep, the turns were fun, and no one seemed to heed the warnings of the state workers that we might be fined for making this excursion into a closed ski area. There were no signs, it is a state forest, and we pay taxes so …………we ski!!!

The first run was pristine. At the bottom, I dropped my pack and we all boot packed up the slope all the way to the lodge at the very top of the run. Once more we made turns in the uncut snow and as we made it to the bottom, we sat for a moment relishing what we had done in the softly falling snow. The skins went back on, snowshoes were donned, and the group began the slow slog up the side trail that would eventually lead to the outbound trail to the cars.photo We noticed the varying efficiency of the different equipment- backcountry skis with skins versus snowshoes. The snowshoes seemed to have an advantage on the steeper parts but once we made it to the flats up top, the xc motion of the skis was faster than walking in snowshoes. On our way out, we saw a guy with a snowboard on his back. I said to him,” What are You doing?” He looked at me and laughed and said, ” What were You doing? We both had a chuckle as we saw another guy with backcountry gear. He looked over and said, “You know, I just left Jackson Hole to come back to Pa for powder. Should have just stayed here.” We agreed but time in Jackson is well spent no matter what the conditions.

We all pulled out some micro brews back at the parking lot and I brought out a cheese platter with crackers for the group. As we discussed the days fun at our ad hoc picnic, seeking shelter from the storm under my tailgate, we all were appreciative of Johnny O’s excellent suggestion that led to the excellent adventure. We all are used to western adventure, but were sure happy that we got to have a true backcountry adventure right here in our home state of Pennsylvania. Sometimes you have to slow it down in order to really appreciate the beauty of the mountains.photo It isn’t always about the most vertical or how fast we can ski. We really appreciated the muffled silence of the woods in the falling snow.We took the time to look around and enjoy.photo As we parted and I made my way down the mountain, I had a big smile on my face knowing that we all had pulled off something special with the hopes that someday, this amazing local treat of an area would once again be open to the public. Our merry band of outlaws, Hiller, John O, McWilly, Jeff B and me will be back if in fact the area remains closed, and perhaps another day of skiing through great snow and puckerbrush will lie waiting for us as we trudge out way through the Laurel Highlands snowfields. Another example of how to enjoy the winter. It is hard, it is long, but if you take the time to be creative and enjoy, the winters are wonderful. My favorite time of the year. Enjoy. Thanks for reading.

The Standard Race

For all of us growing up at Seven Springs Mountain Resort here in Pa., Lars Skylling, the Director of Skiing, was like a god to us. Handsome, with the Swedish accent, and great skier to boot, with Stein Eriksen form. We all looked up to Lars and wanted to emulate him on the slopes. Lars is shown here in this picture below, receiving his award for induction into the Pennsylvania Snow Sports Hall of Fame. He has the Tyrolean jacket on with the green tie- third from left in the back. Great guy, we all love Lars. He is retired now but I had the opportunity to ski with him a couple of years ago in Vail and for a guy in his elder years, he still made elegant turns. IMG_4952
So, when we were kids, Lars was the ski school director and he started an open race every Sunday after the day session ended that was called the Standard Race. My buddy Porter said it was called the Head Standard Race but in any event, it was an open, four gate flyer from the top of the front side of the mountain down to the finish line in front of the old warming hut. If you came within a certain percentage of the time that Lars laid down, you received either a gold, silver, or bronze “7” pin that we all clamored for with every run that we made. As we all got older and into our early teens, we were able to finally get that gold “7” because we were catching up to the master. However, Lars threw a surprise for all of us when he added the upper trail on the Stowe slope and jumped the corner when he made a right hand turn down on the Cortina Trail. Whoa!!!!! We all were taken by surprise and the conversation on the hill that day and on the chairlift to the start was whether we had the guts to jump the corner like Lars did. If we didn’t, there was no way we would get the gold so we all had to see if we had the bravado to do it and if we survived, we got the coveted pin. photo
One year, I decided that if I leaned forward at the finish line and tried to break the beam with my hand, I might be a little faster. Unfortunately, I blew out of my bindings when I lurched forward and took out the whole timing device and the electric eye. John Fraser and his dad came running out of the hut to see if I was ok, but the real challenge was to get the timing device up and running again. As we all crossed the finish line, Bob Rose would herd us into the station wagon that he had strategically placed outside the warming hut and the North Hills clan would eventually make it back to Pittsburgh with a dinner for the crowd at my folk’s house. My parents didn’t ski but they sure could cook and entertain. That was their contribution. All the kids talked about the race and how we ended up. If you got the gold pin, you were a stud, and everyone knew that the next step was the day that you would finally be able to beat Lars straight up. That day eventually came for most of us as we got older and faster. But no matter the outcome, we all loved Lars and if we were able to finally best his pacesetter time, it was a milestone in our skiing career that we would never forget. photo

The years have gone by but a lot of the guys who I still ski with at Seven Springs still have their pins. Porter, Jamie Edson, and me. Porter and Jamie proudly wear theirs in remembrance of an era gone by. NASTAR had taken over the citizen race arena with a much more sophisticated national ranking system and national championship. But the old Standard Race was a free form flyer that we all loved, and no matter what improvement we made with equipment upgrades, the prestige of that pin was something that is still remembered to this day. The Standard Race is a memory for all of us growing up at the last resort. So, Greg, Brad, Melissa,Dave Helmick, Heidi, all the Dupre girls, Johnny Fraser, Johnny McCarthy, Andy, Richard Nicolette, the Rose clan,the Edsons, the Rich clan, the Siegle clan, ………….dig out those “7”s and wear them with pride. You cut the corner, you survived the races, and you got your pins. Thanks for reading and enjoy the winter.

Ski the South- you may be surprised!

Back when I was a senior in college, I took the next step in ski instruction by taking a registration clinic in order to be affiliated with the Professional Ski instructors of America(PSIA). The closest one to me at the time was at Canaan Valley Ski Area in West Virginia. As I made my way south over the Mason Dixon line, I was thinking to myself that this was a strange place to go skiing. My experience up to that time, besides skiing in Pa, was either north to New England or west to Colorado. What was this going to be like? The back roads through the Monongahela National Forest were twisty and dark and I had visions of moonshiners, junk yard dogs, and other Appalachian thoughts where I would be lost in some “holler” and never to be heard of again. I was surprised at the beauty of West Virginia and when I got to the Canaan Valley, I was overwhelmed with the charm and the friendliness of the area and the people. “How y’all doin?” was not something I had ever heard from a liftie before and the clinic went well. The clinic leader was from Vermont and he stated to me that he loved coming south to ski because the resorts make a special effort to make sure that the snow conditions are as good as they can be given the challenging conditions of weather in that area. 7bf16d8ee7504bc98e7da791b93d6272

Fast forward and our Seven Springs crew made our way to Snowshoe Resort for the annual Cupp Run Ski Race. Snowshoe is a huge ski area with an elevation of over 5,000 feet. It has the topography of a small New England area and the Intrawest property is very well run with a lots of snowmaking capacity and a village that is built like Whistler at the top of the mountain. Our crew at the time was there for this annual race and although my ski instructor form in the race course was pretty, it never was fast. But I always had a good time traveling with some of our guys who were actually pretty accomplished racers. John Steitz, who had a pedigree of prep school and college racing, as well as the experience of coaching at Whiteface, went with us one year and won the race. His victory was pretty strong seeing that his main competition at the time was Hans Truckenbrod who was a Vermont based pro racer who always came south to cherry pick this classic race. Boy was he surprised when the “ragpicker” Johhny beat him and took first prize. John was not a slave to fashion as he raced in a wool hat with a hole in it from his dog eating it for breakfast. He also wore green wool pants and a flannel shirt. When he stood on the podium to collect his prize next to Truckenbrod, with his race attire and the third placed guy also looking splendid with his ski parka with sponsor patches, the photographer for Snowshoe looked at me and said, ” Well there goes the publicity picture.” We all laughed as our buddy the “ragpicker” cleaned house and took away the grand prize. Snowshoe puts on a great race and is a wonderful place to ski with surprisingly a lot of natural snow because of its elevation and the frequent southern storms that come racing through West Virginia. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euxtPs3TUJ4

Another great memory for me skiing in the south were my trips to see Frank and Jan Habay in Charlottesville, Virginia. They took us to Wintergreen which is a beautiful ski area in the ridges above Charlottesville. After eating my customary southern breakfast with grits, eggs, sausage and gravy, I was excited to try yet another southern ski area. I had a friend, Mark Singleton, who was the ski school director down there who welcomed us and informed us that the World Cup and Olympic champions, Steve and Phil Mahre, were skiing there that day as a publicity event for K2 skis. We caught up with the Mahres as they were skiing on the two expert slopes and we got a first hand look at not only how powerful they were as skiers, but a good look at their humor which is legendary. You see, at Wintergreen, you can’t ski the expert terrain unless you ski down to two ski patrol members and show them your turns. They punch your ticket which indicates that you are skilled enough to ski there. The ski patrol makes an effort to keep people off those slopes that are not skilled enough to ski there. The Mahre brothers approached them at high speed and stopped right in front of them burying them in snow. As they frantically dusted themselves off preparing to take the tickets from the guys, they showed their anger and started screaming at the top of their lungs at the World Cup champions. As they discovered who they were talking to, their demeanor suddenly became sheepish as we all got a good laugh at the prank that was played on the local constabulary by a couple of guys who have raced all over the world. night-skiing

Skiing in the south has a special charm. The Appalachian mountains are beautiful in their own right and the gentle elevation, accompanied by the legendary southern hospitality is a welcome addition to anyone’s ski portfolio. If you get the chance, ski the south. West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina may surprise you and the effort they make to stay open despite weather challenges shows their passion for the sport of skiing. You never know, you may see some Olympic champions in the lodge eating some red eye gravy and ham with some corn bread. Thanks for reading and enjoy the winter.

Hahnenkamm- The Super Bowl of Ski Racing

You know, anytime you get to witness a sporting event up close and personal, it is electrifying. I have had the opportunity to stand on the sidelines at a Penn State football game, see Tiger rip off a drive at the US Open, and see World Cup giant slalom and slalom events from the side of the trail. It is amazing to see the skill level of these athletes. We have a local sports writer who pooh poohs the Winter Olympics and calls them games at best. He is also the same guy who does not consider Tiger Woods an athlete because he wears dress slacks to play his sport. I have had a running dialog with this guy who most likely never toed the line in a race or ever really had much experience as an athlete. Because, if he did, he would respect the talent and dedication that is needed to perform at a national level or a world class level in any sport. But in all of my experiences as a spectator, none was more electrifying than witnessing the Hahnenkamm Downhill Ski Race in Kitzbuhel, Austria. This race will be run again this weekend – the 75th edition, and if you have Universal Sports as a cable channel option, you can witness it live. I will have the DVR on for sure because I am addicted to the Universal Sports Channel.Erik Guay - Race - Atomic USA
A number of years ago, I had the good fortune of being selected to represent Western Pennsylvania along with Kenny Griffin and Mark Singleton on a PSIA trip to the Austrian Tyrol Region.photo The event was sponsored by the Austrian tourist board and the ski instructors group from the US had representatives from all of the national regions. We were each domiciled in a particular area for one week- teaching and sharing experiences with the local instructors. The other week was spent skiing different areas of the Austrian Tyrol , but the highlight of the trip for me was to see the Hahnenkamm up close and personal on the side of the famous “Streif” race course.AUT, FIS Weltcup Ski Alpin, Kitzbuehel Ski racing and bicycle racing in Europe is like the NFL here in the states. Eurovision broadcasts all of the World Cup ski races and cycling events and the European public is very knowledgeable about the details of each sport. They are rabid fans and show up in masses at events as shown on the famous climbs of the Tour De France. But there is no event that attracts more people in one venue than the famous downhill held each year in Kitzbuhel.Google Image Result for http--www.flags.net-images-largeflags-AUST0002.GIF (2)
To give you a little bit of the atmosphere, imagine if you will, 100,000 people lining the race course, schnapps and beer flowing, excitement mounting as the first racers descend the mountain at an average speed of 66 MPH. At the start at the Mausefalle, the skiers are airborne and reach a speed of 60+ MPH within seconds of starting the race. The Austrian army uses water hoses the night before in the course preparation to ensure that the track is rock hard and icy, which the downhillers prefer. As they make their way down the 2.06 miles of racecourse, they come up on an off camber left hand turn called the Steilhang. This is where Kenny and I stood and watched as the rabid fans with their cowbells screamed as the racers flew by. The technical ability of a ski racer to hold a turn, on rock hard ice,off camber, at speed is impressive and it is anything but a game as the local sports hack surmised. The year we attended was in the prime of the “Crazy Canucks” where Canada reigned supreme for four consecutive years. Todd Brooker, Steve Podborski, and Ken Read were the heroes of the day, spoiling the Austrian and Swiss dominance of the race. I had seen Brooker race before when I worked at Sugarloaf,Maine. As a young guy with wild, wavy red hair, and a devil may care attitude, he represented Canada at the Can Am Races at Sugarloaf on his way to advancing to the World Cup level. It was neat to see him ski again in Austria at this premier event. He has had a checkered past with this event, winning once and having the worst crash of his life in Kitzbuhel on the Streif.Hahnekammrennen2011
In the final straightway to the finish line, racers approach 90 MPH and as they cross the line, the noise is deafening. An electrifying sports experience to say the least. I have never seen a Grand Prix event or Indy, but I can’t see how those events could be any more exciting that seeing these world class athletes rocket down a steep alpine face at 90 MPH. These guys are all 220 pounds plus with massive thighs. ¬†You have to be that strong to hold those turns in that course at speed.

These days , my viewing is limited to what I see on Universal Sports. I love to see how these racers make turns. Lots of ski technique taught today at an advanced level is influenced by the way a racer turns. World Cup ski racing is the benchmark for equipment manufacturers which trickles down to standards in manufacturing and standards in ski instruction. Witnessing world class ski racing is something that is always etched in my mind. I will never forget the atmosphere of Kitzbuhel, the great apple strudel, the beer, the food,  and having the opportunity to witness an event as powerful as the Hahnenkamm. If you get the chance, try to watch it on Universal or streaming on line. It is not the same as being there, but you will get the idea. Thanks for reading and enjoy the winter.

Confessions of an Acrophobic Skier

Okay- I admit it. ¬†I have skied for 53 years but I am afraid of heights. ¬†I have faced my demons over the years and have managed to think nothing of the lifts in my local area. ¬†But even there, when the chairs start swinging in the wind, I get a little wigged out and hang on the the back of the chair. ¬†So, you ask, how can you be a skier and be afraid of heights? ¬†You have to get up the mountain to ski down – don’t you? ¬†The answer is a resounding “yes” but it is always a mental ordeal for me until I get back on terra firma with my skis on. ¬†Let me tell you about some ski lifts that I faced in my life. ¬†IMGP0205

The Single Chairs- Stowe used to have them and Mad River Glen in Vermont still has the single chair.  But they were kind of crazy in that they each  came screaming at you in the loading zone and before you knew it, the operator was loading you and giving you a wool blanket for the ride up because in most cases in mid winter in Vermont, it was wicked cold.  So there I am hanging in mid air, in a single chair, with a wool blanket wondering why this was the only option at the time.  The single chair is iconic in New England ski lore and most people love the history of the lift.  Me?  I just wanted to get off the damn thing and start skiing.  1196455234_3692

The Fixed Grip Doubles with the pole in the center of the seat- the two that come to mind for me were the Cloud 9 chair at Aspen Highlands and the High Campbell chair at Crystal Mountain in Washington. ¬†I was stuck in the most frightening place on the old Cloud 9 Chair one year. ¬†The lift stopped and all I could see was 1000 feet below me on one side of the ridge and 1000 feet down on the other side of the ridge with the chair swinging wildly in the wind. ¬†I was hanging on to that pole for dear life. ¬†The High Campbell Chair was scary as well because it rose higher and higher as you were coming into view of the summit.Mount_Rainier_from_west ¬†When you got to the top and did a little hiking, you had a great view of Mt. Ranier and Mt. St. Helens on a clear day, but getting there was harrowing for me. ¬†An avalanche took out that chair last year and it has been replaced. ¬†I was in Crystal last winter but didn’t get to ride the replacement chair. ¬†Oh well. ¬†mammoth-mountain-chair-23-660

The infamous Chair 23 at Mammoth Mountain, California- Mammoth is huge and so are the drops below the gondola as well as the chairs.  A lot of them do not have safety bars as is the case with Chair 23.  Every year, I face my demons again and load this chair with my friends.  Two years ago, my friend Helen had to talk to me to distract me on the ride up.  No safety bar and if I was in the middle I literally had both arms on the back of the chair looking straight up in the air.  Helen laughed at me and so did her rotten husband.  On our Mammoth trips each year, our group always delights in seeing how I will handle the heights of Chair 23.  My phobia is well known with our group and it is a laughing matter to all of them.  Sorry, but when I slide off the ramp at the top, I am a happy man.  chair 23

Gondolas and Aerial Trams- these are not as bad for me because I am inside, sitting down or standing and have the feeling that I am in an airplane.  In some strange way, I feel secure although the gondola at Mammoth rises to some astronomical heights and I mostly stare at the metal grating on the bottom of the gondola car until my friends tell me it is time to get off.  They chuckle as I grab my skis and head for solid ground.  I always feel better when I have my skis on. Tram_winter_A_1340x700_1_normal

Sometimes to get to the good stuff you have to climb. ¬†I have been on the High Traverse at Alta, Utah when part of it is eaten out and you have to take your skis off and walk across the rocks. ¬†That is real shaky for me looking to the left with a view of the base lodge and steep vertical in between. ¬†I can’t wait to get my skis back on and get out of the way of the crazy locals who are racing along that ridge to get to Eagles Nest to ski the deep stuff. ¬†At Tuckerman Ravine in New Hampshire, you have to climb to get anything. ¬†No lifts, and when your skis are over your shoulder, your knees are hitting the slope because of the pitch, and you are getting to the top of one of the gullies, putting the skis on and looking straight down into the valley- whoa Nellie!!!!!. ¬†It was amazing how much better I felt when at last my skis were attached to the bottom of my boots. I climbed to get to some good stuff at Snowbasin in Utah with my friend Jeff Mihalsky. ¬†He is a mountain goat and loves to climb. ¬†I was happy to ski his favorite lines but I must admit that the demons were screaming around me until I had my skis on once again.

Heights are definitely my nemesis in many ways.  I have driven 18 miles out of my way to take the San Matteo bridge in San Francisco instead of taking the dreaded Bay Bridge.  Whenever I have driven that Bay bridge, I have to talk to myself in the right lane all the way across and convince myself that I can make it.  The height of that bridge is real frightening for me. Just like in a chair lift.

I have survived the lift and climbing situations over the years but it has definitely been a challenge for me. ¬†But, I like to ski and make turns so much that I have been willing to do whatever I can do to ride the lifts and fight my fears. ¬†So, if you are thinking about skiing and you don’t like the idea of chairlifts, aerial trams, or gondolas, just think of me. ¬†I have been at the mercy of my fears for 53 years but I still love to ski. ¬†That should tell you something about the great sport of skiing. Believe me, if I can do it, you can too. ¬†Thanks for reading and hold my hand if you are on the lift with me.