Thursday, November 9, 2017

Say Hey, it's Opening Day ... and we're all freaking out!!

Ahhh. The glory of opening day.

But beyond the glory of the first turns and the celebratory ride on the chairlift, comes all the chaos and stress of haven't having done something in over four months.  Especially when that something happens to be the most important thing in your entire life, except perhaps maybe your spouse.

Ready & Waiting

First of all, the announcement always comes at the last minute.  Even though you have been trying to schedule your life around skiing, missing opening day is always heartbreaking.  That's why we hear stories of people frantically moving meetings the night before and college kids guessing how many classes they can attend and still make it to the mountain by noon.  Perhaps you even reschedule your flight home from a business conference because you think you can make it before the mountain closes on that glorious first day.  Last minute also means that you probably have made absolutely no effort to gather your stuff, leaving Day One morning to a ruckus of throwing gloves willy nilly everywhere trying, without success, to find a matching pair - or even ones that will fit you.  You've got the wrong lenses for your goggles, you grab your puffy coat because you think it will be cold but then, wait, you could be blasted by snow guns and then what are you going to do???  Do you wear long johns or not?  You have no idea but it doesn't matter because whichever choice you make it'll probably be the wrong one for either the staircase or the chairlift.

Yeah, I got a DAY ONE hat!

Next, you have to get your pass in order.  Oh man, why didn't you do this before?!  This would seem to be an easy task, but it never seems to work out that way.  Vouchers, pay stubs, money transfers, receipts all need to be found before you even try heading to the pass office.  Desperately hoping that no one is blocking the line ahead of you, sweating - and I mean, seriously sweating - in all your ski gear as you constantly look down at your phone and try not to rudely tap your foot.  Nothing is worse than trying to get your pass on Opening Day.  Dumbest thing you could do, but sometimes there is no way around it.  Waaaaay too much stress and then your picture usually sucks on top of it all because you had to take your hat off and now you have embarrassing hat head for the entire season.  ugh.

The Stairway to Heaven

Now you are freaking out because not only are you going to be later in the line, missing the cherished first gondi ... but now you might miss getting your DAY ONE hat!!  So now you are practically running to your car and going way too fast up the Access Road to Snowshed only to see SOO MANY PEOPLE ahead of you!  Noooo!!  Now you start getting a little more stressed because you can see the amount of boxes of hats and the amount of people in line and you are seriously getting worried that you won't get that damn hat.  Which really pisses you off, because it should be about the skiing that you're finally going to get to do but instead all you can think about is whether or not you got there early enough for a hat and how much earlier would you have had to get there to get the Yeti thermos ... So you sigh in frustration and try to get your breathing under control while you wait "patiently" for the next hour and a half for the lift to open.  And you think to yourself that maybe you could have come after lunch and been all relaxed with no people ... if only you didn't want that hat!!

Perfect Snow Angel Snow on Upper Double Dipper

And then the waiting ... the time when all you can do is focus on your breathing, hoping that the butterflies in your stomach will go away before you vomit on the person next to you.  You see friend and after friend show up with sleep in their eyes and the weirdest outfits of the season.  Yep, those mismatched gloves look completely normal once you see that no one else could find the right stuff for the day anyway.  Amidst all the hugs and cheering, you are quietly working your way toward the front of the line, hoping that no one will notice as you use that friendly hug to pull you ahead of another group of people.  Your skis split apart and drop on the concrete, and the muscles in your neck start to tighten as the lifties move closer and closer to dropping the rope ...

Snowmaking makes everything beautiful

.... and then you are off and running, using the final dash to make the first gondi, or the second if you could just get in front of that person and ... damn it ... you get pushed out of the cabin and feel everyone laughing at you as you make your way to the 3rd cabin like the newly found loser that you now feel like.  But don't worry, you think to yourself, I'll be faster on the walkway.  Ahhh, the damn walkway and your love-hate relationship with it all.  The gondi ride seems like a dream as you soar up into the wintery wilderness that is the top of the mountain.  Korey stands by as you jump out of the cabin, grabbing your skis and running full speed in your wretched alpine boots down the Cascade headwall and ... OF COURSE you get stuck behind the older/injured/super slow person who has no intention of allowing you to pass or them to speed up.  You keep kinda bumping them, not wanting to make an enemy of anyone on today of all days, but still so absolutely anxious that you have GOT TO GET THERE AREADY!!

Free Lunch at the Peak Lodge!!

You come around the final turn and there it is.  In all it's glory.  The unloading ramp of the North Ridge Triple and the entrance to the Reason Park.  You made it.  You MADE IT!!  There is snow everywhere - on the ground, on the chairlift, on the trees and you take a deep breath because you can smell the wonder of the white world.  You throw down your skis and try clicking into your bindings, only to find that you're so anxious and excited and everything else that you can't line your heel up properly and you impatiently knock your ski over.  Now you have to bend over and do it again with people are launching all around you and you're MISSING IT ... but wait, you hear that first click and then the second one.  You pull your goggles down over your face and adjust your pole straps, pushing off with one final breath, you make that first turn ...

Last cabin for the night

And you are skiing.
And all is right with the world.

May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You,

Monday, October 23, 2017

Welcome to Ski Country

I was raised by a second generation builder with the heart of a ski bum.

Conversation at the dinner table alternated between analyzing the newest ski techniques and the placement of the septic tank for dad’s newest construction project.  I’m not kidding.  My first hikes weren’t up mountains, but bushwhacking around undeveloped parcels of land with my father discussing the path of the sun, water drainage and the ideal placement of a possible home.  Beyond the obligatory Barbie obsession, Legos were the toy of choice in my home.  After the directions were tossed aside, great structures were built from the depths of my mind.  Words like “planned unit development,” “kitchen triangle” and “septic system” were as much as part of my family lexicon as “edging,” “hip angulation” and “counter-rotation.”  I was, without a doubt, expected to go into the family business and spend my weekends skiing.

My most favorite science fair project was a home that I designed in sixth grade.  I remember my mom shaking her head and bringing us Oreos as Dad and I spent hours using his drafting tools to make blue prints.  We then meticulously cut piece after piece of balsa wood and painstakingly glued them together.  It was a pretty baller 4000 square foot home that any 1980s kid would have loved to live in, with a double giant staircase in the foyer that would have been right at home on any soap opera.  This was the project that convinced me that complicated roof designs and variable angles cause nothing but problems as I spent more time getting all the stupid angles to line up than anything else on that project.  When searching for my first home, my biggest requirement was a simple roof design.    

Boarding school offered me the opportunity to take semester after semester of architecture and design classes.  I studied spacial awareness, ancient architecture and could sit at my drafting table for hours reworking the smallest details in an elevation drawing at the detriment of my calculus homework.  When my parents would come up for the weekend to watch my ski races, I would ask my dad for feedback about my latest design project and he would tell how about his current development plans.  The car ride to USSA races was filled with analysis of ski wax as well as classic architect - engineer arguments.  We made a pretty good team until I got swept away by American History my junior year.  After that, I would suffer through dad’s construction musing with snarky comments and rude one liners, as only an ungrateful daughter can so successfully do.

It was only recently, as I sat down to draw architectural renderings of my future home and spent hours scrolling through homes in the Killington Area, that I realized what my life has been missing for the past few years: real estate.  Since my dad’s death, there have been no random dinner discussions about what angle the home should be at to catch the winter sun, no talks about the thermodynamics of a building, no more arguments about the size of a grand entrance or the placement of windows as seen from the outside versus the inside.  Even though I wasn’t actively involved in his business, I had become a sounding board for ideas and I truly miss those daddy-daughter conversations that began with the unrolling of blueprints.  Rolling out a blueprint onto an architect’s table is a feeling that I will forever associate with my father.

This past winter, I made a decision to change my life.  When I good friend of mine asked me to join her real estate firm as an agent, I reluctantly said yes.  And as I began my real estate classes, I felt at home with the language, the topics and the industry.  Here was a place where I could honor my building heritage, not miss a day on the slopes and bring balance to my life.  The only decor in my office is an black and white photograph of my father, blueprints in hand, pointing out some feature in his recently finished model home to his mentor, harshest critic: my grandfather.  I remember him analyzing plans on his death bed, his two builder sons around him, proud in knowing that not only had he built so many good homes for so many people, but that his sons would continue his mission.  As I was studying, I suddenly realized that I had found myself again.  Helping people find the perfect home is what I had been raised my whole life to do.  

For years, I have written this blog to show people the true greatness that is the ski bum life.  Photo after photo, blog after blog, I have demonstrated both my love for the sport, the mountains and the community of people who have chosen to call Killington their home.  Now, as a real estate agent, I will be able to take that message one step further and actively help people make their ski bum dreams a reality.  Whether it be for a season, a few years or a lifetime, any time spent in the mountains will truly change your life for the better.  I am proud to formally announce that I have joined Ski Country Real Estate in Killington as a Realtor and look forward to helping everyone “Live the Dream.”  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Changing of the Mind

Seven years ago, I ripped my ACL for the first time .... 
Six years ago, I ripped my ACL for the second time ...
Five years ago, I ripped my ACL for the third time ....
Four year ago, I ripped my ACL for the fourth time ....

Seeing a pattern develop?


Little by little, my addiction to skiing has eaten away at the fibers of my anterior cruciate ligament until there is nothing left.  A lifelong strength athlete, I lied to myself and blatantly refused to admit that perhaps I should ease off.  Maybe some other body couldn't handle it, but I was convinced that mine would be able to continue skiing sans ACL.   I totally had this.

And then the problems started.

I didn't have enough strength to drop my right knee for a tele turn, so I put my tele skis away.
I didn't have enough range of motion to carry a high edge angle, so I skidded all my turns.
I didn't have enough strength to take the vibrations, so I skied slower.  Much Slower.

And still I lied to myself.
And made excuses.

If I could click in to my binding, I could ski.

Anything to not admit to myself that perhaps the continual shredding of my ligaments was taking away my choices on the snow.  I convinced myself that it wasn't that my knee couldn't do these tasks, it was because I didn't want to do them.  Tele skiing was dying anyways; efficiency of movement requires more skill than strength; and that anyone can ski fast.

The problem was that I really want to do all these things.  I found myself skiing more and more alone, going to crazier and crazier locations in the woods because no one could see the bizarre reality of me making step turns around down logs and gnarly branches.  I found skinning to be a way to increase my time on my skis without making turns and then the pre-opening conditions would be perfect and, therefore, less challenging, for the descent.  

I would try anything, just so that I wouldn't have to admit to myself that maybe, just maybe, I couldn't solve this problem on my own.  Even after my collapse at the beginning of May, I stubbornly lifted the heel of my binding when I couldn't push the heel piece down myself.  I skied on one leg, knowing that one misplaced ice chunk could leave me with my lower leg dangling and unattached.  Even as I rode the lift, unable to dangle my weighed ski booted foot, I knew I was being just so unbelievably stupid.  I could barely walk to the lift, but I had convinced myself that I was NOT going to miss June.

I was so frightened of not skiing, that I destroyed myself.

Now I am trying to mentally prepare myself to miss the entire 2017-2018 ski season.

But I must see this as my golden opportunity, a chance to grow up and change the way I look at skiing and life.  A chance to break my obvious & dangerous addiction and come back both physically stronger and mentally wiser.

Time spent celebrating the culture of skiing and not just the sport itself.

My favorite days this past ski season were not the ones spent racing for powder or that perfectly groomed morning.

They were the days in May that I spent icing my knee at the bottom of the Superstar Quad, celebrating the Killington lifestyle with a community of the most amazing ski bums that I have ever known.

I cannot wait to listen to your stories; to share your adventures on our mountain; and to celebrate ski bum life by sharing a shot ski with you in the parking lot.

Look for me.
I may not have my skis on, but I will be there!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Deer Tracks through the Snow

Where I am going,
I do not know.
I am following the tracks
of a deer through the snow

With skis on my feet
I can slide through the pow
Over logs and under bushes,
where is this deer heading now?

We've been sharing a skin track
for just the past few weeks
We take turns breaking trail
and then being the meek

This time he is the leader
through the newly fallen snow
And so I blindly follow
I don't really care where we go

Because the snow it is everywhere
on the ground and in the trees
On my hat and down my jacket,
A blanket as deep as my little deer's knees

I can't help but blindly wander
through the snow drifted wood
I just know this deer is taking me
To where the skiing is just too damn good.

Somehow it will keep snowing,
I can't tell you how I know,
But I can feel it in my skis,
this year, we should expect a lot of snow.

It's not even Christmas, or New Year's!
we're already skiing stuff we haven't in years
I think our whole town has gone sappy
Because I am not the only one crying tears.

Have you been out and skied it,
the snow in this unbelievable year?
I mean, look at this photo -
I'm almost mid-thigh over here!

I just can't stop looking & staring,
at trees covered with so much snow,
Everyone's face is beaming,
putting off their own alpenglow

I never thought I would feel it,
A season where I almost didn't believe
But the disbelief in this December,
made me realize that perhaps I did grieve

But it's here, it truly is,
our world covered in marshmallow snow
The peace and quiet that goes with it
except when the strong north winds blow

Oh how I have missed you,
world covered with white,
To be wrapped in your spirit
Makes everything finally feel just right

The woods are a playground,
anywhere you want you can slide
Letting your skis take you down the mountain
Through a beautiful fluffy white ride.

I'm watching the snow as it piles up deep,
and dreaming of more that will fall while I sleep,
Together we keep wandering,
up mountains & through trees -
I will follow this deer -
Because for that, I will need my skis.

May You Find
the Spirit of the Mountains
Within You,


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Natural Snow, Skiing and Freedom

Pow Grins rule the day as Natural Snow Returns to the Vermont Woods!

Last ski season in Vermont, our world revolved around the placement of snowguns and the financial budget of our resorts.  Lap after lap, we were trapped on trails whose foundations had been built and rebuilt.  We watched, Wednesday after Wednesday, as the cold New England rain washed away the hard work of our snowmaking team.  The resort was painted white for winter as the surrounding mountains rolled away in their greyish-green of a not so-cold sadness.  In between the trails, you could still see the pine needles that lay on the ground, marking the woods as forbidden and dangerous territory.

We were trapped.  Trapped on ski trails that were firm as fuck, marked with thousands of stupid death cookies and the yellow of frozen groomer tracks.  Even ski racers, with their super sharp edges and course set variations were frustrated by the feeling on entrapment.  There was no where else to go.  Up and down, the same trails that we have skied over and over again.  The only variety coming from our minds, making up songs and perhaps skiing the left side of the trail this time.  In Vermont, after the third day in a row of skiing in the pouring rain, we learn to bring our own love of skiing to the mountains.  

It was all we had.

This season, however, has brought hope back to the millions of people who ski in Vermont.  With the snow-making success of the World Cup at Killington over Thanksgiving Weekend, skiers have chosen to once again believe that a snowy winter is indeed possible in our little state.  

And this past week has proved our faith.  

Killington is claiming 52" of snowfall for the 2016-2017 ski season so far - a whopping 65% of last year's total and we haven't even had Christmas yet!  In ski bum terms?  It means that we are finally - after what feels like forever - back to adventures in the woods!  

Oh my trees, my beautiful snow covered trees, I cannot describe how much I have missed you and the joy of once again wandering through your covered branches has brought me.  Look at these evergreens - covered in a beautiful marshmellow white that turns a grey day into a miraculous one.  To be surrounded by these majesties of nature, to have the snow brush off a branch and down the back of my neck, is a return to joy rather than a burden.  Screw the damn powder skirt - I want to FEEL the snow, to shudder as it melts against my warm skin, to be reminded that winter is truly here this year.

Winter is here, and with it a sense of freedom that only a blanket of white can provide.  There is no need to stay within the confines of highways of the well-engineered trail system.  Non-snowmaking trails are filled with the beautiful soft snow where you can freely bounce from pile to pile, rather than gingerly picking your way around a frozen clump.  My skis, thrown side to side without care, leave the ground because I know the snow will catch me.  Damn it, we skied powder again this week!

 To quote my favorite ski song, 

"My skis are the things,
that give me my wings
and make me an eagle on high."
  - In This White World, Bob Gibson

This winter, ... this winter is going to be different.  I have already earned more early season turns on real snow than I did all last season.  My legs are still shaking from the excitement of the past few days, diving off the groomed piste in search of greatness - and then laughing full-bellied when I actually find it.  In some moments, I just cannot believe that natural snow has returned.  I just can't get enough.  My body aches to have my skis on every minute, not wanting to waste a single hour of the day not exploring the natural snow that fills the woods right now.  

And so we shall ski, and skin and ski some more.  I will be excited to brush inches of snow off my car while I stand deep in snow.  I am pumped to wake up with the dawn and wander around in the woods while ascending a snow covered peak.  I will choke on cold smoke and feel the snow melt in the small of my back.  Everything is going to be wonderful this season, I can just feel it.

"Vermont must be beautiful this time of year, 
all that snow."
    -Danny Kaye, Irving Berlin's White Christmas

After waiting for two years, a truly white winter has finally returned to Vermont.  


May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You,