It is Tough to Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

So,I am up here in the Adirondacks visiting my old friend Mike Smith who I have skied with for 45 years. I have posted about Mike before. Acrobatic pilot, skydiver, marina owner, and general gas pedal to the floor guy. That is him on the left in the picture above. The other guy is Mark Hutchinson, my friend from Vermont. Ex ski race coach at Stowe and PSIA Level III 40 year ski instructor. Hutch coached Eric Schlopy and Chip Knight who were US Ski Team members, World Cup racers, and Olympians. Hutch knows skiing and makes great turns.

Now going back to Mike on the left, he has been hampered as of late with some knee issues because of past sins on a motorcycle. So, I have been hammering him on the use of the new ski equipment which allows for easier turns and shorter lengths. Despite the knee issues, he refuses to ski on the modern skis and insists on skiing with a 20 year old pair of Heads. He ridicules us for using the new skis and vows that he never will even try them and hurls a bunch of expletives which I cannot recount here. Hutch on the other hand, is a proponent of modern ski equipment and will never even think about skiing on anything that is not state of the art. He has had two hip replacements and is skiing like he did 30 years ago. He is in good shape, skis really well, all day long.

Now Smith, because of his knee issue, will only ski half a day any more and if it is not perfectly groomed, he will not ski. He is trying to preserve his knee. So when a foot of new snow fell on Sunday night and we went to Gore, I pulled out the fat boards( 107 under foot) and enjoyed the windblown powder and the skis performed flawlessly in the cut up snow as well. Smith said no way with his old skis and went to the lodge. I told him how easy the new fat boards are but he had no interest. His curmudgeon attitude was coming out strong and he missed a perfectly good ski day

The Summit Chair at Whiteface was beckoning the next day, and as Hutch and I got ready to board, Mike said he would just ski the lower groomed trails and missed all the new fluff at the top of the mountain. Again, his old skis were limiting his fun but he refused to try the new skis that I sent up to him. He has a nice pair of Stockli GS skis in a 183 length sitting in his rack at his marina and refuses to try them. When Hutch and I rode him hard at The Cottage after skiing, over a nice Switchback Ale, he once again rattled off a bunch of lines about how he will never use skis like we use. Hutch and I had a great day at Whiteface, Mike once again packed it in at noon.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to paint a bad picture of my old friend, but he refuses to listen to advice about new equipment that would make his skiing so much more enjoyable and also easier on his knee. Mike has always been a good skier but if you don’t keep up with the times, you are limiting yourself and it only accelerates with age. Granted, Mike is a few years older that Hutch and me and has had a plethora of injuries due to his high risk hobbies. He says, ” McCloskey, I have 100,000 miles on my body and it is starting to show.” And I keep telling him that if he would only try the new skis that I sent to him, he would be so much happier. He said, ” when the Heads break, maybe I will try them.” That is the closest thing I have gotten up here to a capitulation. For a guy who has a successful business, survived 3 plane crashes, and has jumped close to 2500 times out of an airplane, he has lived all of his dreams for sure. We love the guy.

The tough part is that Hutch and I ski all day. We can do that because we take care of ourselves and we use equipment that helps our skiing. Mike admitted that he was sorry that he could not ski all day with us, but it is not for lack of skill, or even the knee, it is his refusal to come into the 21st century and it is costing him time on the hill with his buddies. He is an excellent skier. He could be so much better. He also needs to take care of that knee somehow with some surgery that would render it new again. But that is another discussion that did not go well.

Again, I was a smiling dog on top of Whiteface, and so was Hutch. But I missed my old friend when he threw in the towel and went in at lunchtime. So, what lies ahead? I think I have finally admitted to myself that I will not change Mike’s mind and it will only be him that makes any change. That seems to be a recurring theme with me anyhow and I need to let things go and let people make their own decisions. I can’t force my opinions and beliefs on anyone. I need to let people decide for themselves and if I have presented my case and they don’t follow the advice or the suggestion, I need to let it go. I am hoping that my buddy will get competitive again and get on the new boards and ski with his pals who so desperately want to ski with him. He is a crusty old tough guy, but I know he wants to be able to ski like he has always done in the past. So, if you see him up at the Pilot Knob Marina on Lake George, tell him to hang those old Heads up over his fireplace and get with the times. But don’t tell him I said so, because he will throw you in the lake. Thanks for reading and stay current in all that you do.

The Olympic Buzz

Well, the Winter Olympics are coming up in two weeks and I am excited. I have always liked watching all the events and remember the time I was in Lake Placid in 1980 to witness it first hand. The village was abuzz with international visitors and athletes. Pin trading, and general feelings of good will ran among all of the folks walking the streets and taking in the events. It was cold and as I waited in line to get the bus into the venues, I saw the Olympic flame in the distance. I was enthralled but the buzz was quickly killed by the guy behind me who said he wanted to sit his a#$ in that flame right about now. In any event, the Olympics are amazing for a spectator but I cannot imagine the thrill of competing as an athlete. I will be headed up to Lake Placid again right before the opening of the games this year in PyeongChang, South Korea. The cool thing about Lake Placid is that they have kept up all of the venues there and continue to host international and national competitions which keep the Olympic buzz alive in the little village tucked away in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks.

As an avid skier, I am a student of the game and spend many hours watching the Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Network not only for the results of World Cup ski racing, but to take in the slow motion analysis of the ski racers which translates technique in my brain. I learn by watching and to have the opportunity to DVR the races and watching the analysis is really enjoyable for me. I am a fan and in my wife’s terms, a fan…..atic. I love the winter, skiing, wool hats, snowblowers, snowshoes, sweaters, parkas, wood fires, wood stoves, ice rinks, oh boy, oh boy……… all things about the season and I take in every experience I can during this 4 month period of the year. I actually get depressed when the winter comes to a close. Most of my vacation time is spent on the slopes out west or in the northeast and I can’t get enough of it. I love to ski locally at my beloved Laurel Mountain. Watching ski racing is a bonus for me much to the consternation of my family who think I am off the deep end. But soon, we all will take the time for a couple of weeks to witness the Olympics and even they have to admit, they love watching the races and the pageantry.

Aside from the events themselves, I enjoy the personal stories that NBC shows on its nightly broadcasts. The sacrifice that the athletes make to get to that level of international competition is really compelling and to hear the interviews and see the families and the efforts that they made to support their children’s Olympic dream is pretty fascinating. Nick Paumgarten recently wrote an expose’ in the “New Yorker” called “Confidence Game.” It is perhaps the most insightful analysis of the success of U.S Ski Team phenom Mikaela Shiffrin. Download it and read it because it is great journalism. I will be interested to hear Julia Mancuso’s commentary this year as an NBC analyst. The most highly decorated female Olympic racer of all time just retired and will be part of the broadcast team including another huge figure in the sport of ski racing- Bode Miller. Those interviews, and commentaries will be most interesting as well as all the other similar stories and reports for all of the other events this year. I even love curling. Watch those brushes go!!!

Do yourself a favor even if you are not a winter person. Watch the Olympics- opening ceremonies are on NBC on February 8. The stories and the competitions are really good TV especially seeing how dismal network television is now. This will be a bright spot for your viewing pleasure for the first two weeks of February. It may even inspire you to strap on a pair of skates or skis and try it yourself. And for those of you who are avid skiers, skaters, etc. – your time is here. The every four year focus on something other than football, basketball, and golf. Not that anything is wrong with those( PC – please Pat). But the Olympics are special. Think of me on the Summit Chair at Whiteface and the Cottage in Lake Placid, sipping an IPA getting ready for the Games. Yahoo!!! I am excited. Thanks for reading.

The Adirondack Experience

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As I was winding my way through the Keene Valley this week en route to Lake Placid and Whiteface Ski Area, I was once again reminded why this road is voted one of the most scenic highways in the country. It is winter in the North Country and despite all the conversation of global warming, this region not only gets winter weather, but the residents enthusiastically embrace it. Whiteface was the scene of the 1980 Olympic alpine skiing events and my group of aging enthusiasts skied the Summit Chair reveling in the crystal blue skies and packed powder of the runs that once served as the start of the women’s and men’s downhill. Following a great day on the mountain, Lake Placid offers an atmosphere that still is electric with Olympic fever. Lake Placid was the host of the Winter Olympics in 1980 and 1932 and the Olympic Regional Development Authority manages all of the venues which still offer competition sites for many different winter sports to this day. img_1356img_1353

Every year, I make the journey to the Adirondacks to see my old friend Mike Smith who owns a marina on Lake George. Joining us this year, making the trip from Randolph Center, Vermont, was another friend Mark Hutchinson. Hutch coached ski racing at Stowe for 20 years and at 150 days per year in those days, he has a lot of experience in those legs of his. Couple this with Mike Smith, my skiing, sky diving, acrobatic plane flying, speed boat selling, motorcycle riding, gas pedal to the floor friend, you have the recipe for a couple of days of great skiing in a beautiful venue. But more than the skiing, there are many reasons that I like visiting the Adirondacks. img_1370

First and foremost, the scenery of the High Peaks region is incredible. As you wind your way through the mountains, along some of the most picturesque streams, and the Hudson River, you see nature at it’s finest. The roaring rivers choked with ice are a dramatic reminder of the power of water. The trees at the summit of the mountains remind you of giant ice cream cones covered in a white frosting. But another part of the Adirondack experience lies with the people themselves. Sitting around Bean’s Country Store in Queensbury, New York, you have a relaxed atmosphere of sitting over a coffee and talking to the locals who regale you with tales of snowmobiling, and skiing, with really no rush to go anywhere. The people are hard working and used to braving the elements, but you get the sense that they love living where they do and the harsher the winter, the more they embrace it with their enthusiastic attitude. img_1369

We made our way to Gore Mountain yesterday which has that Adirondack feel to it. But as most ski areas that are run by the State of New York,there is not much real estate development, which leads to a private ski club atmosphere. The Backwoods Ski Club meets there regularly which basically is an organization of local retirees and active people in the ski community whose sole purpose is to enjoy skiing and sit around and talk about it over a meal and a cold one. No dues, no meetings, just show up and ski together. The oldest member is 91 years young. It is so neat to hear his tales of life in the Adirondacks back in the early part of the 20th century.
At Gore, you can ski two of the steepest runs in New York State. Rumor and Lies both make you think about that first turn and it is not a rumor or a lie to say that they are challenging. But the locals love it when the challenge is extended to outsiders. The fireplace at the end of the day offers definite rumors and lies about the performance of the skiers that day, but the smell of that fireplace along with a beverage is one of the reasons why I always return to the Adirondacks year after year.IMG_0084

Making my way home along NY State Route 8, I am always amazed at how remote some sections of the Adirondacks can be. I took some pictures and hardly ever saw a truck or a car along the route. The North Country is rugged and although my wife likes the summers in Lake George and the vistas from Mike Smith’s Pilot Knob Marina deck, I personally like the winters. Not just for the skiing, but taking in the whole atmosphere of small towns, crystal clear streams, the High Peaks, and the charming Olympic town of Lake Placid. Nothing like a cold beer at The Cottage looking out on Mirror Lake where you can see pick up hockey games everywhere. photo

Sometimes I think I am misplaced living down here in the banana belt where you have to be tenacious to ski and get your days in. But it is nice to know that I have good friends in ski country and if you make the effort to visit, their welcome is enhanced by the region of the country that offers great vistas and challenging terrain. Think Snow. I want some more winter before it is all said and done. Thanks for reading.