55+ years of Friendship.

My Pal- Dixon Rich

Dixon Rich and I have been friends since the minor league in baseball. We both talk about how we forged our friendship on the bench. I was a fat little catcher and Dixon played out in left field, but we talked a lot about how thirsty we were and couldn’t wait to get to Dixon’s house for a drink.

Fast forward- Dixon senior bought a cabin on County Line Road and all of us neighbor kids spent the weekends crashed out on the cabin floor in sleeping bags. What a wonderful way to grow up. The winters were always special to me and still are thanks to the Rich family and my pal Dixon.

Dixon, Melissa and Jaime. Laurel Mountain friends for life

Dixon is an accomplished attorney and tax specialist. You might not know that if you visited him and he answers the door with a red bandana adorning his noggin and baggy shorts and construction boots doing someone’s tax work. He plays the Dead while he works and really doesn’t know the difference between night and day. He works when he feels inspired and that may be in the middle of the night. Naps are important to Dixon as he takes them between work sessions. He is a character. A skillful tele-mark skier, Dixon likes to hide out at Laurel Mountain where it is quiet, scenic and he has the place basically to himself most days of the winter. He can work from anywhere and the Laurel Highlands are his home for the winter. The other day he pulled out a pair of old 70’s era alpine skis and attacked Lower Wildcat on an icy morning. I have not seen skis like that in a while but Dixon has a whole houseful of 70s era skis which he uses with tele equipment and a few selected pair for alpine outings.

Valuable nap time for the tax man.

Dixon and I have skied together for over 55 years. But we also have had many adventures in cycling. We used to ride from his cabin to Confluence, Pa on our mountain bikes, getting lost on the way home, running out of daylight and crashing exhausted at the Red and White Store in Indian Head hoping to get a ride back. One time in West Virginia at the Wild 100 Backcountry Race, we both ascended Prop’s Run just outside of the Elk River Touring Center. When we got to the top exhausted, Dixon smiled at me with vivid blue teeth and asked if I wanted some bubble gum. That was his ” Power Bar”. He loves Captain Crunch cereal and other sweet treats. I am trying to get him back into riding more and he claims he will join me again this spring and summer. But his antics on the slopes and on the trails are legendary. Ask him about the plastic shower cap he used to cover his fanny pack when riding. A bright floral pattern which protected valuable cargo in his pack. LOL!!

Dixon does not like to be pinned down with a schedule. He is happy to meet you and ski with you but it is on his timing and on his terms. I call it like seeing an “albino deer” – wonderful to see but never planned. Like me- he likes the quiet of a remote ski area and enjoys the scenery without all the hassle of what takes place at Laurel’s sister area – Seven Springs, which can get a bit hectic during the winter. He has a great head of hair and never wears a hat – no matter how cold. I am amazed sometimes but my wife always says that with that great head of hair, she wouldn’t wear a hat either.

But the most important thing about Dixon is that he is a good friend. They say if you leave this world with friends that you can count on your right hand, you are a lucky man. Dixon is one of those fingers to me. I will always remember when my father passed away unexpectedly in his sleep back in 2001. Dixon was one of the first guys there for me and tirelessly helped me to close down my dad’s business. I could not have done it without him and will always be grateful for his kindness, his help, and his expertise.

Friendships are important. Especially as we age. We need to stay active, pay attention to our health, and most of all, spend time in the great outdoors with friends like Dixon. Thanks for reading and if you see the albino deer sometime, say hello. You will instantly gain another good friend.

Pushing the Season

Boyne Mountain, Michigan

This time of year, I always got anxious to start the ski season. I pushed it many times by traveling north to New Hampshire while I was in college to ski with a friend of mine. We visited a friend of my dad’s who had a cabin near North Conway and we skied Cranmore and Cannon. Fast forward and I made a lot of early season trips to Killington to ski with my friend Eric and some of his pals who eventually became some of my pals due to frequent visits to the Beast. But some of the more interesting early season trips were to a place where you might not expect. Boyne Mountain , Michigan.

I passed my PSIA certification for ski instruction at Killington, Vermont way back in the day and when I returned to Pittsburgh, I had some really great opportunities to expand on what I had learned out in the mid-west of all places. Larry Cohen, Bob Irish and Chip Kamin were all mentors of mine when I was preparing to take my test. Chip was an examiner in the central division of PSIA ( Professional Ski Instructors of America) and he invited all of us to attend some clinics at Boyne Mountain. I didn’t know much about skiing in the mid west other than it was an 8 hour plus drive to the top of the mitt of Michigan – similar to my driving times to New England. The ride up was interesting as we talked about skiing and instruction most of the way. These three guys were probably some of the most enthusiastic guys I knew at the time and it was a great way to start the ski season heading off to the mid-west for these clinics. Chip had a fellow examiner , Peter Battiste, who was quite impressive and was able to convey some things in the clinics that I had not heard in my clinics in the east.

Chip Kamin and our crew at Tuckerman Ravine back in the day.

There are differences in teaching at a smaller mountain that I was able to use in subsequent years while teaching at Seven Springs here in Pa. An interesting note is that some of the best ski racers in the country cut their teeth in racing programs at ski areas smaller than Seven Springs and Boyne Mountain. I taught skiing at Sugarloaf, Maine right after college and prior to my certification. Sugarloaf was a big mountain and the clinics I attended there were excellent but based on miles and miles of skiing and teaching on a big mountain. Boyne had less than 1000 ft vertical but Peter and Chip and his cohorts made the most of it and the early season learnings there were ingrained in my head to this day. Short radius turns, make use of the hill, edging exercises, and many other drills that utilize a smaller setting can still be beneficial in personal skiing and teaching. I see so many people at a smaller mountain not making use of the terrain. But the clinics at Boyne back in the day taught us all how to utilize a smaller mountain not only in skiing tasks but also in the teaching progressions which do vary from teaching at a larger mountain. How to get a student to be successful in a smaller crowded area is not easy and with conditions that are icy and not optimal for learning, you had to make the best of it to teach a successful lesson. But aside from the drills and exercises, one of the main things I learned is that enthusiasm many times can carry the day. We learned that when the weather is not optimal, the class size is large, the hill is crowded, there are a lot of factors that work against the instructor. But if one has an infectious passion for the sport, it can carry the day and these three guys who mentored me were a prime example of that enthusiasm.

Early Season in the Mt. Washington Valley in New Hampshire.

Sadly, my three mentors have all passed away as well as Peter Battiste. Ken Griffin, my old ski instructor pal and executive at Boyne Mountain , told me the news about Peter. I think back on those days and how their enthusiasm and passion ignited a young Pat McCloskey early in the seasons. I have retired from ski instruction but still maintain my certification status and have an interest in what is new in ski teaching. There have been many changes since my exam. Penn State has been retained as a consultant for PSIA and the education process is now very similar to a college and grad school level course. There are also revisions that will make the certification process more uniform across divisions of PSIA. Examiners will all be trained to be consistent in their evaluation or “assessments” to limit the variation of interpretations across divisions. I try to keep in touch with the process but mostly these days, I try to utilize what I hear and learn in my own skiing and no longer in a teaching mode. You never stop learning and Larry, Chip and Bob taught me that a long time ago. They are missed but the result of their passion is alive in me today. Thanks for reading and think snow!

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 End of an Era

So, I was on a mountain bike ride with my pal Steve Gurtner the other day and he said, ” did you hear they tore the cabin down on County Line Road?” I said- “Dixon’s ?” He said yes. “nothing but a big old hole in the ground now” I was a little shocked and took a drive over to see for myself. Sure enough. A big old hole in the ground where once stood the Rich’s cabin or as my dad used to call it…..” The Dixon Hilton.”

The cabin had come into some neglect and disrepair in the last number of years and my childhood friend Dixon Rich said that it was time for it to come down. Dixon bought the cabin from his folks a while back and as the years went on, it didn’t get much use and was becoming a liability. So Dixon sold the property to some friends who will build a new place. As I stared at the hole in the ground, lots of memories came rushing back to me from my childhood weekends in the cabin near Seven Springs Resort where we all skied as kids

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The old ski lodge and yours truly.

I grew up with Dixon Rich and we have been friends since the minor league in baseball. His dad bought the cabin a long time ago and every weekend, Bob Rose used to take all of us kids up in the station wagon to spend the weekends at the Rich cabin. Sleeping bags all over the floors were common and the bunk beds were filled as well. Usually it was either Sally and Bob Rose, Barley and Dixon Rich Sr., or Ted and Mary Struk who had the chaperone duties and cooking detail to keep all of the neighbor kids from the Berkley Hills area fed and in line. That was the standard weekend in the winter for all of us thanks to the generosity of Dixon Rich Sr. who got the place for all of us to enjoy. I couldn’t wait for the phone to ring on a Friday afternoon when Bob Rose Sr. would call and say- ” 15 minutes- be ready and have all your gear ready.” We would ski Friday nights until 11:00, all day Saturday, Saturday night, and all day Sunday until we would pack up and head back to the burg. That is where we all really learned to ski at Seven Springs, and spending our nights at the cabin on County Line Road. For years!!!!

Dixon and I still skiing together nearly 60 years later.

As the years went on, kids became teen agers and there were all kinds of cars in the driveway. The key to the cabin was always on the top of the entry door and the only rule was before you left, you better put the key back where it belonged. If those walls could talk, you would hear some tall tales from that cabin with all of those raging hormones and visitors coming from near and far to ski weekends with the Berkeley Hills crowd. The parents would still show up from time to time but their git up and go for us had gone up and left as they aged a bit. The Dixon Hilton was party central for many of us growing up on weekends in the Laurel Highlands. Dix and I got into mountain biking around the same time and we used the cabin as a meeting place for our growing number of riding friends. It was cool to have a place to stay and hang out after a big ride from the cabin, over to Hidden Valley and back again. Dixon and I would also take mega rides to Ohiopyle and often get lost on the way back. We relied on the sunset to give us direction and if it got too late, the kindly neighbors from Indian Head would give us a ride back up the hill to the cabin where we were completely exhausted. When they had the NORBA National Mountain Bike series at Seven Springs, Dixon and I raced in our category, and then watched the national class races. The whos who of mountain bike racing came to Seven Springs in those days and somehow they all heard of the parties at the cabin on County Line Road. It was not uncommon to see luminaries of the mountain bike world show up in Dixon’s yard. Maurice and Elaine Tierney of Dirt Rag Magazine, Sue Haywood, Kurt Vooreis, and even Gary Fisher graced the grounds of the Dixon Hilton. The cabin became the meeting place for rides and the after ride festivities for years and it became our little year round resort.

Tough Trail at the NORBAS

Time flew by and our little band of neighbor kids spread out all over the country. The cabin didn’t get much use in recent years and one time Dixon was staying there and he called me on the phone. ” Hey Patrick, you wouldn’t believe it. I was sleeping and at about 3:00 AM the deck fell off.” ” I didn’t know you had to shovel snow off the deck to relieve the weight.” ” All of a sudden it was gone” We both had a good laugh about that one along with some other good memories.

I talked to Dixon the other day and he told me about the sale. I asked him if he kept some memorabilia from the cabin and he said that he had, including the valued pair of Jet Stix. We both laughed and said most people would not even know what they were. For you younger folks- google Jet Stix. Also- he said he kept the flashing yellow light that they used to alert people coming up County Line that the cabin was open and people were there.

Looking at this hole in the ground, I will miss the old days. But I will always be grateful to the Rich’s, the Roses and the Struks ,and my parents, for their investment in the kids in the neighborhood. That cabin was our home in the winter and I could not think of a better way to grow up. I am still skiing sixty years later and my enthusiasm has not waned one bit. That love of the sport was ingrained in us as kids and I will always be thankful for the cabin on County Line Road. Thanks for reading.

Respect

Good kids doing good work

Things are changing rapidly in this world. Some for the good and some no so good. One of them is respect. Respect for people, respect for property and respect for the environment in which we live and play. Take our local ski area for instance. Most of us love to be in the mountains and love it when the slopes are blanketed in snow and the sun is shining brightly. We understand what it takes to maintain that opportunity both with the management of the ski area and what they do for us, and also with all of us who ski there. We all have a responsibility to respect the area and keep it clean so that we all can enjoy the pristine, cold crisp winter days of skiing.

That is why when I boarded the chair lift this weekend, I was disheartened and downright infuriated to see beer cans and beverage cans carelessly strewn below the lift and lying on the ground. I thought to myself, ” What kind of person drinks a beer in the chair lift and then just carelessly, and with no respect, tosses it to the ground?” People with no respect who are ignorant of all that we love about the outdoors. Enter Rocco Lorence, Ali Bruno, Elise Wadas, Juliana and Mariella Contini to the rescue- pictured in the photo above. These kids were raised right and appreciate the opportunities given to them every weekend at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.

It touched a nerve with Juliana, Mariella and Ali when they saw the garbage lying under the North Face lift and they decided to do something about it. Along with the other kids in their WPRC posse, they got garbage bags from the Contini household and began to ski down under the lift and pick up all the eyesore beer cans and eventually place them in the resort garbage collection bins. Not only were they an example to all the other kids in the local ski programs, but people in the lifts saw them and marveled at the consideration of these young kids who no doubt were taught to respect all that has been given to them. The conversation spurred comments on social media and also started a movement among the ski school. Lou Marshall and Eric Tolbert and their ski instructor groups picked other lifts and began the same process of cleanup. The kids started a movement and the resort also noticed with a nice reward for the kids and the ski school members who participated.

I don’t know about you, but I thought it was pretty cool that these good kids started to make people think about litter. About how it scars the places that we love. Sure, the area will no doubt put up receptacles and maybe signs to try to encourage people to discard their garbage in the proper container. But the tougher job is to change the mindset of people who just don’t give a damn. Maybe if we see that behavior taking place, we all can join together to make a comment to that person or persons and ask why they don’t use the proper disposal containers? Trying to change behavior doesn’t need to be confrontational but maybe positioned as a question to make the person think about what they are doing. It might change the behavior- one person at a time. There will be some people who just don’t care, but like the movement that we saw this weekend, maybe some kids and their respect for the mountain will change behavior- one violator at a time.

If nothing else, I tip my helmet to Lou and Eric and their teams. And I also tip my helmet to Rocco, Ali, Elise, Juliana and Mariella and their parents who raised them right and gave us all something to think about. Thanks for reading and thank the kids if you see them.

Scenic photos courtesy of Rhonda West.

In Search of Gemutlichkeit

Kitzbuhel, Austria

I have always been an atmosphere guy. Nothing did my heart better this year than having a white Christmas here at home. It just added to the atmosphere or the Gemutlichkeit as the Europeans would say. Getmutlichkeit officially is described as a feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer. But it is so much more with the creation of atmosphere in a particular setting.

I love to ski but there is so much more to skiing than just sliding down a hill. The first time I learned that was when I was a kid and walked around our local ski resort – Seven Springs, and took in the Bavarian atmosphere. The log, stone, and glass architecture of the old world was present in the original buildings built by Adolph Dupre back in the 30s. I related skiing to this wonderful world of European elegance which I could not wait to take in someday.

The Town of Kitzbuhel

Fast forward and I was in a little church in Engleberg, Switzerland for midnight mass at Christmas. As I listened to Silent Night sung in a German dialect, I was enthralled with the atmosphere of this little town in the Alps. Later in my young life I returned to Europe and was part of a PSIA Ski Instructors outing in Austria where we skied and visited many places in the Austrian Tyrol. I learned the significance of plum schnapps (tough on the stomach but you can never refuse it),and the fun tradition of the Rodelrennen which is a sled race down the mountain roads in which I took part. After the race, we all went to the awards in the town of Kuthai and I reveled in the Gemutlichkeit of the local party and the understanding that skiing is a lifestyle in Austria. The atmosphere that is created there with the food, the beer, and the traditions celebrates everything winter. I was hooked for sure.

Rodelrennen in Austria

My wife Janet and I spent our honeymoon hiking in the Swiss Alps and visiting Austria once again and together we experienced that Gemutlichkeit in places like Verbier and Zermatt , where a candlelight fondue set the atmosphere just right. We have not been back since, and it is on the bucket list to return someday to take all of that in.

Today- I still search for that wonderful way of life when we travel westward. Some of the ski areas of the west still create that Bavarian atmosphere and it makes the trip aside from great ski conditions . Perhaps the closest we get is when we visit our good friends the Birsics in Park City and take in lunch at the Stein Eriksen Lodge.

Although the atmosphere is Norwegian, it still celebrates the feeling of Gemutlichkeit in the mountains of Utah. Nothing like coming in from the slopes and walking in to the Stein and having lunch. Linen tablecloths, fantastic food and drink and looking at all of Stein’s awards and medals in the trophy case just make the ski day all that more special. Spoken by a man who currently eats a peanut butter sandwich and boots up in his Jeep due to Covid regulations at our local area.

We celebrate a little Gemutlichkeit in our home around the holidays. Janet makes it her business to create that Christmas atmosphere with the decorations and the food.

So, I don’t know, I am just an atmosphere guy. I love the winter and when I have an opportunity to create or take in that feeling of warmth, friendliness and good cheer, I do it. Covid has been tough and things are different this winter. But someday, it will be over and we can all search and take in some Gemutlichkeit whether it is in our home, a ski area, or even out in the woods on a pair of showshoes- with some cheese and wine in the back of the Jeep. Thanks for reading and have a great New Years.

Opening Day!

Signs of the Times.

We didn’t quite know what to expect. The forecast called for rain and highs in the upper 50s for opening day of the local ski season. But the folks who showed up were the regular enthusiasts who don’t allow weather to spoil their fun especially on the opening day here in the Mid-Atlantic. All of us were clad in Gore Tex in anticipation of the foul weather but to our surprise, the sun came out and the atmosphere in the parking lot was electric. I looked at the lady next to me and asked, ” Excited?” She smiled and said,” look at all these grins in this parking lot.”

Melissa Thompson had her mask- don’t worry.
Margaret and Barry Boucher- opening day stalwarts.

Most people were masked and compliant with the social distancing rules in the chairlift lines. Everyone was respectful but anxious to make those first turns including me. I was shortchanged my last trip out west in March when everything shut down. It was a little disappointing for me to end the ski season that way. But understood seeing the circumstances of Covid.

The Pandemic has added an additional bit of uncertainty to the opening of the new season, but outdoor exercise along with restrictions in food service and time in the lodges allow for safe skiing for all of us. Our local area- Seven Springs Mountain Resort, was well prepared with signs, restricted lodge time, take out food options, and other anomalies that were accepted by the skiers. Heck, we all wanted to ski so if we had to wear a mask, try to social distance, and eat and boot up outside, no big deal. This is the way it is all over the country this year and I am prepared when I try to ski west this year. For the moment, my Jeep is my lodge.

But back to our opening day. One of the things I try to do when I first start is to concentrate on making nice rounded turns with both feet spread out a little bit and on the ground throughout the turn. No lifting the inside ski as per my old school technique. I watched a lot of video this fall in anticipation of my first turns and noticed the World Cup racers stance and several You Tube videos on carving that gave me a mental image of where I wanted to be. The good thing is that the snow was good and our local area made a good effort to make snow, groom, and open what they could, despite the fickle weather conditions. Things are starting to look up this coming week with a snow storm that might be significant.

My friend Scott Dismukes- a true hard core
My Jeep- My ski lodge

It is always good go make those first turns of the season. You build the confidence with each run and the effort to get to the parking lot early and on to the lifts, is well worth it. My smile was wider with each run and the excited conversations in the chairlift lines, although muffled by masks, made me thankful that the opportunity to ski had once again returned. This is my 59th season and I was as excited on opening day this year as I was as a kid all those many years ago. I couldn’t sleep well the night before thinking about it.

Yes – the terrain was limited but the conditions were great. I always say that you can’t be out west or in New England every week if you live here. So why not ski locally and then you are prepared when you do go. I have to tell you that if you like to ski like I do,, you will take every opportunity. The seasons are getting shorter so make the best of it. The folks at Seven Springs made it happen as they do every year for us. I am appreciative. Thanks for reading and think snow.

Night Skiing

Keystone, Colorado

This time of year when I was a kid, I used to sit by our phone and wait for Bob Rose , our wonderful friend and neighbor, to call and tell me when he was picking us up for the weekly trip to the mountains. My mother would make an early dinner for my sister and me and we would pile into the Rose’s station wagon for the weekly ski season trip to the Rich’s house on County Line Road near Seven Springs The first outing of the weekend was night skiing and oftentimes it was brutally cold weather at night.

Dixon Rich and I still skiing together 59 years later
Seven Springs Mountain Resort at Night

In the early days, there was no snowmaking and the grooming was slim to none. We had to negotiate frozen slopes and trails with wooden skis, cable bindings, and leather boots. But all of us kids didn’t care because we were skiing and that is all that mattered. Seemed like more trips to the fireplace in the ski lodge than during the day, but as long as we could get a hot chocolate and thaw out in front of the roaring fireplace, we were fine and back out we went.

As we became teenagers with better equipment, the benefit of snowmaking and grooming became appreciated. But usually on Friday nights, the groomers were not out yet and night skiers had to deal with frozen moguls and deteriorating conditions until the groomers did their magic overnight for us to have perfect conditions the next morning. Didn’t think much about visibility in those days, just where we were going to build a jump so we could hit it all weekend long.

Fast forward and night skiing took on a new meaning as we included it in the itinerary for trips to Holiday Valley in Western New York with wicked snowstorms blowing in off Lake Erie. Night skiing there was at a whole different level. It was at that time that visibility became a little more important to me as we charged down the slopes making sure to stay near the edge to have the best lighting. Skiing at night is fun but you have to be able to see fairly well because the lights are limited in their range and you can ski in and out of dark spots. And again, it is really cold at night in a ski area. One of the more interesting signs that I have seen was on a chair lift stanchion at Killington and also at Whiteface that said” These slopes are as cold and lonely at night as they were during the 1700s. Don’t ski alone” Wise advice especially if you night ski.

Now in my 59th year of skiing and having skied in 111 different ski areas, night skiing is not a priority with me. Now don’t get me wrong. I still will include a night skiing session when my buddies and I venture northward to Western New York in the early season. We will take anything early on and if it includes a session at night, we do it. I have also night skied in Keystone, Colorado with my friend Norm which was an adventure. Keystone makes it their business to light some black diamond slopes which can be a challenge if the visibility at night is compromised by weather. But the same rules apply to when I was younger. Stay near the edge and take advantage of the best light coming off the stanchions. Norm and I got some extra skiing by venturing out at night. We loved to pack it in and that extra cold session in Colorado always will be remembered.

The bottom line to all of this is that at 66 years old, I still get as excited for skiing as I did as a kid. My first outings are local and then on to the scheduled trips out west and to the Adirondacks. But if someone said to me, ” Pat- lets go night skiing” – I would not hesitate, if it meant more time on the hill. I love to ski and will kick, claw, drive through brutal conditions, ski in the rain, sleet, blinding snow, and work real hard to get my time in. How about you? I close my eyes and think back to this time of the year when after all day Saturday and Saturday night skiing, Bob Rose would find me passed out in front of the fireplace in the ski lodge. ” Get up dummy. Time to go.” I laughed and poured myself into the station wagon. What I would give to do it all over again. You don’t quit skiing because you get old. You get old, because you quit skiing. Thanks for reading and enjoy the winter. It is upon us.

“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.

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 skiĀ  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