Tuesday, December 4, 2012

One Month of Skiing at Killington...And I am Completely Obsessed

I have been a very bad girl.
I have fallen into the abyss.
I have gone skiing.

And I have forgotten about the rest of the world.

It happens.
Every winter.
Where I forget about absolutely everything except where and when I am going to make that next turn. I fall asleep debating whether or not to skin for Dawn Patrol or stand in line waiting desperately for first cabin. Dinner is eaten early so I can be in bed by at least 10pm - if not wicked earlier - so I get enough sleep to ski. Nights at home consist of making dinner and then trying not to fall asleep on the couch before bedtime.

I eat. I ski. I work. I eat one more time. And then I sleep.

All the mundane things of life slip away, consciously at first and then i just plain forget. Only a timer on my phone reminds me that the mortgage is due or that I have to pay the electric bill. The grocery store seems so far away, and Neil Diamonds at the Phat Italian are just soooo much closer. We eat spaghetti, mac & cheese, whatever I can make work in the fridge. I don't really care, my mind is already wondering which section of the mountain is going to have the sexiest snow in the morning,

I mean, I knew this would happen.
It always does.
But I never imagined that it would happen this early in the season.
It is kind of frightening, really.
For a girl who likes to be in control of all things,
the thing I have the least control over is my life once skiing begins.

The mountain rules my life.
And I am not really sure if I want it back.

Let's Look at the facts.
1. My Dad is skiing through his bi-weekly chemo treatments. We meet for first cabin in the mornings and ski until he is ready for a nap (which can be one run or two hours). This is freaking the awesomest ever.

2. My boyfriend is skiing 5 days a week after two years practically off snow from a traumatic brain injury. After almost eleven year together, I am falling in love with him (and his unbelieveably gorgeous turns) all over again.

3. I have a pretty swet job in which I get to talk about skiing all day long. And working at Base Camp has come with some pretty sweet perks, like skis, boots, some unbelieveably sick ski gear from Mammut and owners who llve waking up at 5:30 in the morning to earn their turns. It is like working in a ski bum toy store.

4. It is December Fourth and My 35th Day of Skiing. Holy Shit!!

4. My sister actually got up for first gondola to ski with me and dad.
Hell just might have frozen over.

5. If the world has indeed frozen over, shouldn't we ski it?

And it has snowed (a little)
And been cold (just enough)
And there is no Dew Tour (so Killington can actually make snow!!)
And I have gotten fresh tracks pretty much every day for the past 25.

Sounds like the season is shaping up to be epic

May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You
And let it take control of your life - at least just a little!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Marker of Thanksgiving: Let the Counting Begin!!

Sure, you've heard plenty of guys in the liftline ask the liftie the question.
Perhaps you've seen the parantheses surrounding the number at the end of a facebook status. You must have heard it late night in the bar, surrounded my high fives and shots.
When we were little, my mom would write our first initial on the calendar.
I liked when there were lots of M's.
The local at the bar pulls his glasses to the brim of his nose and looks at his watch. He looks to the sky and does some calculations in his head and comes out with an answer that will probably astound you.

These are the day counters.
This number can be seen as badge of honor.
A way of measuring one's true dedication to the sport.
The larger the number, the greater they glory.
Every day like another notch in the belt of the season.
Tagged This One.
Skied that One.
Self-Proclaimed members of this group greet each other
with handshakes of acknowledgement.
They celebrate in varying degrees as different milestones are reached.
While twenty might just receive a handshake in the liftline and fifty a beer at a bar, 100 gets you a night on the town.
150 might be a pat on the back...
but by 200 they hate you.

They stand as markers of time.
10 Days
20 Days
35 Days
50 Days
75 Days
100 Days
125 Days
150 Days
175 Days
200+ Days
Every season you try to ski a little bit more than the year before.
And you can't end of the season with 48...you gotta pull out two more.

You should congratulate that guy who just passed another milestone...
we work hard for those numbers.
Besides Life, there are days where we, like, totally go to work and stuff.
How about Kelly?
who drove to Boston, ran in the Fenway Spartan Race and then drove home to sneak in a few runs before the lifts closed.
Or Heidi?
Who is willing to get up at 5am and skin up
in order to make sure she can ski before work.
Or Dylan and Joey?
Two young gentlemen in the liftine this morning
waiting since 7:30am for the gondi to run
so that Dad (oops, I mean they) can grab that first cabin...

We all count for different reasons.
Simply Put,
I ski because...
that's who I am.
and where I live
and I am pretty much addicted.
But that's another blog.
(read here)

I count my blessings.
Each and every day I get to ski is a wonderful gift that I treasure.
Some obviously waaaay less than others.
Like yesterday. Didn't thrill me too much.
Honestly felt a little clausterphobic and didn't wanna to go.
But I would have felt a lot worse if I had not gone.
If I hadn't felt the snow sliding beneath me.
If I hadn't had my skis swinging beneath me
If I hadn't made a single curtsey or railroad track.
I shudder just thinking about it.
But the day before, and the day before that...and the day before that one
Now those were so spectacularly amazing!

Today marked Day 23.
Twenty-Three Days where I am Thankful that I am a Ski Bum.
I have seen wonderful sunrises and sunsets,
Packed Gondolas full of Dirty, Smelly Locals,
Laughed in the sunshine of the Glades Triple with Friends,
Skied a Whole Freakin Lot!!

How Many Days Will You Be Thankful For?

We all count for different reasons.
We all count for the same reason.
Because Deep Down...

We all just wanna be ski bums.

May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Week 2: There's a New-Old Spirit in the Air at Killington

As I sit down to write this week's blog, there are still a few stubborn leaves blocking the view of Killington Peak from my kitchen table. I can see what has become a familiar site to those of us living here over the past few weeks: the perfectly clear blue sky just beginning to warm up the ground and the snowy smoke rising from certain trails which are now having their turn as the focus of our wonderful snowmaking team's attention.

There's a new feeling around town
...a new spirit...
and it is not the same one that rises from the depths of post-foliage every year.

This is a new spirit, a lighter, happier one.
More like an old-new spirit, because I have felt it here before.
When I was a child, when I was little and felt that the mountain was young, like me.

And it is a pervasive spirit, one that seems to be growing larger and has effected almost everyone I have stood in line, packed a gondola or ridden a chairlift with in the past week.

Snowboarders & Skiers,
Young & Old,
Killington Newbies, the Killingtime Gang and theOle K-Town Die Hards

...there is something going on here...

Maybe it's the amount of snow that is being blown, non-stop twenty-four hours a day, with a slight pause only for this past weekend's sixty-five degree temperatures?

Friday morning, I remember this feeling fairly overwhelmed me as we crossed Great Northern while riding the Glades Triple: they were blowing snow on Powerline.

Maybe it was the fact that, despite the Chamber Pass Meeting being on a Tuesday, those of us with current paystubs and last year's Chamber passes could bring both to Guest Services for a lift ticket to ski on Monday?

Could it have come from seeing new President & GM Mike Solimano greeting guests at the entrance to the K1 on Saturday morning or the friendly smile from Kait, who has been there every morning checking tickets and passes and actually seems interested in how the skiing is?

There has been eclectic music blasting at the bottom of the Glades, as I have seen people zoom around but not come anywhere close to each other. Maybe that's the reason?

Has it been because we have been dancing with the snowguns for so many days...or was it Friday when they finally were able to groom and we all went so fast it shook us a bit?

Or the local snowboarder who strapped off his board to help the patroller pull a tobaggan across the flats.

Or maybe the thoughts of a re-incarnation of the Bear Mountain Mogul Challenge or the nightmares of last season's snowfall dead and buried...

There is a sense of time passing us by, like we are moving from the nightmares that have plagued us toward a new something else. This past week, Killington mourned the passing of one of it's magnificent co-Founders, Joe Sargent. The financial wizard behind our great mountain, the man who took Pres Smith's dreams and turned them into a viable reality, his passing has brought back so many memories for so many people in town. Thoughts of a Great Killington, one that could rise from a chicken coop to what will be a stunning peak lodge, have reemerged with a sense of obligation, commitment, quiet dedication...

A duty is being passed to us now, a mission, to carry on this freat legacy that he helped begin. To make sure that we have a mountain of which Joe's children and grandchildren can be proud. To stand guard over a mountain that for so many of us has become a home, the sacred place where we can be ourselves...

And for me, this week was filled with amazement, as my own father returned to the hill after being diagnosed with Stage IV Colorectal Cancer five months ago. While still going through bi-weekly chemo treatments, he now feels strong enough to walk...and for our family, that means skiing, too! The warm temps this past weekend meant that the cold weather neurological effects from the oxciliplatin would not bother him and we were free and clear. It might have been the longest top to bottom run I have ever taken in my entire life, but I can guarantee that I will remember every stop, every conversation, and every turn.

This mountain has to be wonderful if it means so much to so many.

So what is this spirit that has somehow reemereged over the past week throughout the mountains and town of Killington? Yes, it can be summarized and corporatized into corporate sayings and NPS scores, but it is rapidly becoming so much more than that.

It's the laughter heard as we load the chairlift after skiing sleeper pow on an early Tuesday morning when everyone thought it was going to be rain.

It's the Whoop Whoops let go by the people skiing in shorts beneath thsoe of us on the chair.

It's the beauty seen from the top of the mountain as we celebrate the existence of the Stwirway to Heaven.

It's the smile on the local's face because he can ride on Saturday mornings.

It's the amazement on our faces when we see guns lit up on Skyelark, Upper Bunny and Powerline weeks before Thanksgiving.

It's the pride returning to our town as we see all the hard work going into preparations for the Foundry at Summit Pond or the purchase of Bill's Country Store.

Great things are happening here, more than just the grooming and snowmaking, and the freakin' awesome snow with which have been blessed this past week.

There is hope and smiles, optimism and enthusiasm, and lots and lots of skiing!!

If you look through the snow covered trees,
you can see the magic is starting to return.

There is a new-old spirit in the air here in Killington.


May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You,

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Killington Opening Day 2012: Oh Winter, How We Have Missed You!!

"In winter, it's easy to give up on everything,everything I've planned, everything I've accomplished,everything I believe. In the face of the first snowflake, I see the face of God, and in those who follow lesser but infinite gods, bringing MUNDANE EXISTENCE to a freezing halt, and I feel convincingly that I've arrived in exactly the place at exactly the time I was meant to be...."

For weeks now, we have been living this mundane existence. Each day we wake up, go to work, maybe have a few drinks and ice cream with friends, celebrate a birthday or two...the same types of days that I would imagine a resident of the real world experiences. Money gets wicked tight and life becomes focused on merely moving from one day to the next. The Ski Bum Life seems like only a dream, a faint reality sometime hopefully in the future...

And then it happens.
The snowguns are turned on, the lifts begin to move...

Opening Day Finally Arrives!!!!

my life has purpose again, it has meaning.

each day is wrapped with a glorious white fluffy bow
- like maybe with some lace from the Greenbrier -
and it is a gift.

A Snowy Gift.
On which we can Schuss.

So Schuss we do.

Beneath the blasts from the snow guns, my legs swing like a pendulum beneath me. With the low visibility, i am forced to feel for the mountain through my feet. From toe to heel, I breathe what I hope is a caress of the mountain and try to become one fluid movement. The dance begins. I slide overe this mound heree, and around this bump over there. A lift stansion comes into view and I dive my tips up, over and around. A slick spot pulls me further down the trail than I was expecting, but I keep my upper body moving down the hill and pause to wipe my goggle lenses at least somewhat clear. A pole plant guides me around the next mini-whaleback and I can see the loading terminal come into my distant view. There is some upbeat music and I heard there was cheap beer...But it's a quick 180 spin and back up the lift...

On the lift, I can hear the BF talking to me. He has been up on tho since 9am, has taken approximaty 30 runs and is telling about how the morning went or whatever, but I am not really listening. My whole body is caught up by the snowy beauty to my right - the trees of the North Ridge. They are stunning, as they usually are. But today they draw my attention. The past few days of snow have turned the evergreens into that perfect balance of green and white that so defines a classic winter moment. From our viewwpoint on the chairlift, we are floating amog the treetops. It is a magical view, the perfect way to start a season, and The toothsome grin frozen to my face seems to ant merely to soak up every last drop of winter.

But no day in the mountains would be complete without a hike through the woods - and so we ventured out to that magical trail that connects Vermont with the rest of the east coast. The stone structure on her path is a mecca for the Killington Skiers, a second home that provides an opportunity to simpy keep calm and take a moment to let it all sink in.

Ski Season has started.
Now my days will be defined by whether or not I skied,
how much snow has fallen,
which trails should we ski,
which gear for the day...

ah, somehow, today,
life just seems to be right.

While I love earning my turns, theeer is something to be said for running laps on the chairlift. The flow is there, the rhythym, the grace. Run after run makes you think - or not think depending - only about skiing and you can lose yourself in the moment. You find your winter friends - the ones to whom you share the deep kindred bond of snow love - and you do what you do best.
And Ski some more.
oh man, the feeling of the schuss is just so magical, so ethereal, like floating on clouds but much silkier than I ever imagine clouds could be. My legs fall back into the old familiar motion, the muscle memory comes back easier each year, and I just let myself go. I feel like maple syrup, slowly oozing down the side of the bottle as i come down the mountain.

But all good things must come to an end.
And we will be skiing tomorrow.
And the next day.
And the next 150 days after that.
And more than a few more after that just for good measure.

Because that is what we do here.
That's Why We Live and Work in Killington.
The skiing.
It's Our Thing.

I feel like we're on our way to visit Santa as we make our way up the Stairway to Heaven, and I start thinking about how my holiday wish has already been granted.
I live the life I want, the life I need to keep me sane.

Days like today are the very reason I became a ski bum.

May You Find the Spirit of the Winter Mountains Within You,

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Wait is Finally Over!!: Opening Day Tomorrow at Killington

The hardest weeks of the year will soon be safely behind us.
We have been waiting
- some could even argue patiently -
for this season of torture to be over.

We started this past week with a torturously tiny flurry.
An amount of snow so freakin' tiny that Vespi didn't try to eat or roll in.
But after months of snowless depressions
(excluding that awesome week in October)
I was more than a little over excited for even just a dinkiness of fresh white wonderfulness.

In fact, on Friday I was late for work.
I had decided to myself that there was snow underneath that damn K Cloud and I wasn't going to stop hiking until I found the snow.
Which didn't happen until I was almost at the top of Snowdon,
a good bit passed the beginning of the cloud.

You would think that one would use up a "late for work" day over two feet of powder. Not me.
It was less than a half inch.

at least the mountain was stunningly beautiful in all her frosty glory.

Something that was creepy was discovering this huge section of blowdown. All of the trees were uprooted and leaning toward the Peak. Obviously, a microburst or some ofther such Sandy-ish freak of nature thing had just come threw and knocked the trrees over in just this one section of the mountain
Insepction of this area might also have contributed to my lateness.

But the week didn't end there.
More snow continued to fall.
I mean, it wasn't as much as West Virginia by anymeans,
but it didn't ease the pain of our decision not to travel through all the damaged areas of the country to go skiing.

So we stayed home.
And got up way too damn early.

We were a huge crowd.
Three lovely ladies,
and four dogs.

Walking in the wee hours of pre-dawn to get up and into the woods before the light came down.

Awesomely, no headlamps were needed even right at the begininng and we could enjoy a kick ass hike up to the cold summit.

I had told a girlfriend of mine she only had to come until we found the snow.
But she didn't turn around when she drove up to the K1 and saw the snow had made it all the way down to the Umbrella Bars.
Cause that meant there would be LOTs of snow at the summit!!

But first we had to move through the dark woods, listening to the crunch of leaves under our feet combined with the whish of silky snow. Our toes didn't get cold, but our hands definitely turned numb after a while. Which reminds me that ai really have to make a decision on my gloves skinning - Outdoor Research or Mountain HardWear.
Anyways, we kept moving upward, with increasing amounts of snow under our feet until we could finally hear it.
You know, that squeek.
The squeeky noise that just the right temperature of snow makes when you step on it. How snowflakes make noise when they heat up and consolidate I have no idea, but the noise is wicked cool and is one of the many things that mark the arrival of winter in the mounatains.

The dogs were having the best time.
Unlike just the day before, Vespi was able to roll in the cool white snow while Coopie spent most of his time simultaneously running and licking the snow from the ground.
Mountain Dogs are Happy Dogs.
Snow Dogs are even Happier.
Shop Dogs are the Happiest, because they get pet all day after a great hike up into the snowy mountains.

And then we were at the summit.
I know it's kind of anti-climactic when you come around the corner and see the top of the gondola...but that is just a weigh station. Once you get up that black metal staircase into the alpine zone, the world changes.
All is quiet.
And it just smells right.
Like Winter.
Like Pine Needles and Snow.
Like Heaven.

And somewhere in all this, the sun rose.
But the only way we could tell was that the world went from
blue-ish white to grey-ish white.

Sunrise in the K-Cloud.
You have to "see" it to believe it.

Here's Wishing Everyone the Best Ski Season Ever!!
May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ski Bum Life: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Twig Season

It was here not too long ago.
Like last week.
And now it's gone.
Just like that.

Talk about messing with a ski bum's brain waves and mental stability. I was all set to get my season started, getting stoked about adding more trails to the one proud Rime. But now, we are reduced to walking through fallen leaves as they completely cover the bike trails and litter the ski ones.

I was all set to ski...
and now I really just don't know what to do with myself.

It's nobody's fault.
There really isn't anything you can do about the weather turning from a frosty wonderfulness back to the warm days of Autumn. It'll be fantstic weather for the Halloween Parade tonight in Rutland.
I am fighting it, this warm weather.
Each day I start off with a silent protest, picking a wool hat from the hat drawer but it has to come off by around 10am because I am sweating to death.

Of course, it hasn't helped my mood any that my body crashed as the snow melted. I spent the entire last weekend under the covers, sweating like a bitch in hopes of breaking my fever. It was as if my body had given me absolutely everything it had to get through a week of October skiing - and then left me with nothing.
But I thank my body soooo much for holding off on letting whatever crap this is take over until the skiing was done.
My physical body knows my priorities :)

But sickness means that I have barely made it higher than lower Superstar on what have become more strolls than anything else this past week. I felt trapped, not able to look down on the valley and remember that I live in the mountains. I couldn't make it above tree line and so I had to force myself to look differently at the mountain. To focus on the small stuff, the little flowers, the one year old golden retriever that I have been trying to train.
I know these things are beautiful - sometimes I just have to be reminded.

And when you are forced to look at things in a new light, you notice new things. I found a few new sections that I am interested in exploring a little more when the snow fills them in. Perhaps I would not have noticed them if I had remained focused on walking higher or faster than the day before. The slow pace let the dogs run wild and we explored instead of committed. There are still so many places that I have yet to discover on this mountain, it amazes me :)

It's the curse of the seasonal lifestyle.
The moods of a ski bum depend entirely upon the weather,
the temperature, the precipitation, the wind speed.
I think this is what makes twig season the most difficult,
the most trying emotionally.

The excitement of the upcoming season contrasts starkly with
the passivity of waiting for the damn thing to start.
The leaves fall from their trees and we think, this is it!
The snow will be coming soon.

And it might.
Just enough to torture us,
to bring our hopes sky high and get us all over excited.

And then again, it might not,

And so we must find other things to do.
A lot of the time,
that thing is drinking.
(we are BUMS, after all)
or hiking.

or even sometimes,
working on getting our lives together & prepped for ski season.

Deep dark thoughts start creeping into your mind.
Maybe you start wondering what your life would be like if you had never become a ski bum, if you had taken that corporate job for the money.
You look through your closest and realize you could buy, I don't know, like real clothes or something instead of just ski pants and crampons.
You rearrange the furniture and think, wouldn't it be nice to replace this old rickety couch for some new furniture that doesn't smell like ski wax and stale beer.
You dream about all the things you could have done, if you had stayed on the straight and narrow path laid down by your forfathers.

But then you look across the room and see Vespi cuddled into her corner of the couch and think of how happy she is on our mountain adventures every day.
The joy of watching a sunrise or a sunset.
The smell of the fresh mountain air that greets you everytime you venture outside.
The feeling of your skis underneath you as you schuss down the mountain.

And you realize,
you made the right choice after all.

Being a ski bum isn't just about the days of skiing and riding in sick deep pow.
It's a lifestyle.

You shake your head,
hoping to chase away all the delusions of grandeur that were challenging
your simple and peaceful life in the mountains.

Don't do something stupid.
Just be patient and wait for the snow!!