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!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

First Week of Skiing at Killington: Behold the Power of Krom!

What a Long, Strange Week it's Been...

It's my dad's fault.
I used to dream of weeks like this when I was a kid.
He had taken me one wonderful day,
to ride the K-Chair into October Skiing Glory.

The excitement of getting our ski fix in way before Halloween was probably about all this little ski junkie could handle...
Although I am pretty positive my dad must have been even more excited than I was.

But we had done it.
Skied in October.
Done laps off the mid-station until our legs couldn't move anymore.
If nothing else,
I will always be grateful to Pres & Joe for giving us those magical ski days.

Once you've skied in October in Vermont,
you want more.
You are itching for it.

When the mountain opened up for Saturday,
I knew there was no way I was letting all that snow go to waste.
I would be there.
I would ski it.

With the rain on Sunday also came word that Chamber Business Employees could get day tickets by showing a current pay stub.
A ticket?
To go skiing?
In October?!

I would wear that ticket plastic Zicketed to myself with pride.
Cause when there is skiing in October, you don't want to miss it.

Even if it's misty, rainy, kind of a miserable day that only true Vermont skiers would appreciate. Where the snow is a silky soft and your limited visibility through the cloud reminds you that blind people can ski, so why the hell you?

You eat Neil Diamonds in the Gondola and give the tele skiers big "Whoop Whoops" from the chairlift as they drop a knee beneath you. You get a little crazy, because your balance is gonna be slightly off anyways so might as well roll with it. Plus, the ever faithful ski patrol is there to peel you off the increasingly water logged snow.

Did I mention you are skiing in October?

But, as all miracles and bouts of greatness are want to do...
the lift service skiing must come to an end.
There would not be enough for hordes of people to come and get their fix, not enough snow to groom out what is now going to become small craters of snow in the pattern of intermediate terrain moguls. Thankfully, there is enough room to maneauver around these hardened fall bumps, skiing zippers or making bizarrely shaped turns through the developing patches of earth.

As the temperature drops and the sun sets earlier and earlier,
the snow becomes the challenge...
and it is almost the excitement accrued during the ascent that makes the journey.

We see new and different things every time up.
Runoff streams today...and small patches of fresh snow tomorrow.
The dogs
- for I am puppy sitting the Coopie for the week -
run here and there,
discovering new sniffs that might have been frozen yesterday or freshly marked today.

And we meet people.
People whose love of skiing has surpassed their desire to only ride a chairlift.
People who know that snow is there and it, therefore, must be skied.
People that are just a little bit on the crazy side,
like me :)

This is a logical argument...
Ski all that is Skiable.

And so we go.
Slowly sometimes,
other times with great enthusiasm and commitment,
trudging up the hill to arrive at our goal.

To try and get enough skiing in while the snow is there
to appease the itching,
to wane the wanting,
to ease the pain of waiting
for the ski season to actual begin.

But for now,
To make the most of our October Gift,
We Hike.

And the reward,
the sounds of bindings clicking in,
the rustle through backpacks as someone has inevitably misplaced their goggles,
the quietness that overtakes the group as the excited chatter from the upward journey stills and we can take in the scene that is played out before us:

Oh yeah, I lugged all my crap up here because I am going skiing today!!
I am not missing the snow
- no matter how gnarly the conditions might be
or how absolutely hideous my turns might look or feel.

Even the dogs get that joyful look and bask in the glory
that is modern snowmaking technology.
Sometimes I get a look of whoah - how did all this get here?
Are you serious?
They have been hiding snow up here?
When did it get here - it certainly wasn't here the last time we hiked this trail.

I wonder what they think of how snow comes to be,
how sometimes it will magically appear and
how other times we dance around and burn things in tribute
in order to make it snow.

Sometimes, everything just works out :)

And so we ski.

In October.

While we Can.

And then,
basking in the glow of our glory,
we put our skis back on our backpacks and make the long walk home.
Only it doesn't seem so long this time,
not because it's nice and downhill,
but for one reason and one reason only:

We were skiing in October!!!

thanks once again to Mike for giving our amazing snowmaking team
The Go to Blow!!
And much and many thanks to Krom!!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Greatest Gift: Killington Opens on October 13th!!!!

The Sky overhead was crystal clear - and dark as any good night should be. The stars shone brightly as we unloaded our gear from the car and strapped our skis to our packs. Ski boots were put into walk mode and we began our ascent toward wintery greatness by the light of the silvery moon.

Ever so slowly, the sun began to rise and we were able to turn off our headlamps. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness, we kept having to turn around. The light from the first sunrise of the ski season was poking it's colors out from behind Skye Peak.
And we didn't want to miss a second of the sun's majestic rise.

Slowly - and with great commitment - we weaved our way through the trees and up toward our destination. At about 2500', just past the top of Lower Conclusion, we began to walk on snowy covered ground. My buckles got caught on some still standing grasses as we made our way further upward. But we continued - there was greatness to be had in these mountain today.
We could hear it.

As we got closer, the snow began to cover the trees and we were welcomed into a deafening winter wonderland. I always forget how unbelievably loud snow guns are until I am standing under the first one of the season. Yelling to each other, we grinned in anticipation of what was to come. Yeah, there was more than enough snow for us :)

From the bottom of the snowmaking we quickly dove back into the woods, even more anxious to get up to the top of our wonderful section of what would count a the skiable terrain for the day. What did the middle look like? Or even the top? The excitement was building as we reached the Great Northern Crossover to take a peak at the trail in all its glory...

And it was glorious!

Any other year,
this trail would have laid hidden under the driving guns for days on end.
A base would have to be built up before the hordes of skiers would be allowed to play upon her beautiful white landscape.
Any other year, we would still be waiting.
Dreaming of that moment when the guns would be turned on and
the magic would begin.
Any other year, we would not be skiing.

But not this year.

This year we are making the trek to the top of the Glades Triple on October 13th.

instead of dreaming,
we will ski.

After the traditional stop at Cooper's Lodge, the safe haven of all True Killington Skiers, it is time to get ready. Because today we are not just here for the hike.
There are puffies and shells that need to be put on quick before our well earned heat goes flying away from us. I flex my fingers to try and bring some feeling back into them as I try to switch my muddy frozen buckles from walk to ski mode.
To SKI mode!
How exciting is that?
And it's back to business.
I switch my Skida hiking cap for my warm and cozy downhill one and dig in my bag for my goggles. A quick sip from the water bottle and my hands into the heaven that is warm and cozy down mittens.
Even if they are lined with frost.

Throwing our skis over our shoulder, we can barely contain our grins.
We come out from around our shelter and there she is.
The top of our glory.
We will be skiing today.
And the ski bum in me wonders:
Will we be the first?

Of course we were.
I was up at five in the morning for this moment.

Fresh Tracks on
Fresh Snow
on the First Day!!

Whoop!! Whoop!!

I don't think my grin could have gotten any bigger.
The snow was amazing!!
I mean, starting the first turn we were both so nervous that it was gonna be that fresh snowmaking breakable crust that is usually filled with the postholes of snowmakers.
This snow was fresh, new and blown last night.
Could it have set up enough to be that
wonderfully epic first run of the season
that we we hoping for?

I think our faces say it all:
This was all that...and more.

Because the old Killington Spark,
the one that is the first to open and the last to close,
where ANY day skiing is a wonderful day,
no matter the conditions.
Where the skiing comes first,
and everything else comes in a far distant second.

We are skiing on
man-made snow
in October.


Because this is the East Coast.

Because this is Vermont.

Because this is Killington.


Thank You, Killington, so so much.
Today was wonderful.
Today was a Gift.

Today was just
...and I am using this term in its utmost extent...

today was just

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Waiting for Winter: Canoe Camping in the St. Regis Canoe Area

We arrived, as usual, just as the sun was setting on the western shore of Hoel Pond. Quickly, we loaded up the boats, signed into the registry and launched. In fact, we we so quick that I hadn't bothered to take off my jeans. You know, just in case there might be a fashionable event somewhere in the upcoming no service area.

But I managed not to step into the pond and arrived nice and dry at our Campsite. For some reason, The Boyfriend decided to drag Out the fifteen year old Mountain Hardwear Tent to see if it was still backcountry friendly. Setting up the tent was helarious - no waterproof zippers, crinkly clear plastic to serve as windows built into the fly...and pretty heavy eastman poles. About the same size but about twice the weight as our newer tent, it was fun - and easy to cook out of with its one ginormous vestibule.

The next morning started out as any other in the backcountry - with Vespi heading down with all the other anomals to drink her fill from the water's edge. The brisk fall temperatures bring with them a thick fog on the pond, which slowly rises as the morning moves along. We had brought the big gas tank this time, so no stress as I crouched over the Whisperlite, working through the oatmeal, bacon and eggs. How can one go camping withhout bacon? Seriously.

We finally made it onto the water around ten, but were still rrewarded for our sluggishness with crystal clear glass. The foliage colors were holding on strong in certain places...but so many of the trees lining the shores of this adventure would be diffent varieties of
pine you almost couldn't tell what time of year it was.
But at the put-in for the first was definitely autumn :)

The temperature began its slow climb for its brisk 42.0 F as we exited the tent, but she hardshells never came off pretty much the entire trip. While most people look for breathability, I love the idea of trapping the warmth close to my body. Between the sun and the shell, I am never cold - at least while paddling.

A second quick portage led us through some gorgeous post-peak foliage and onto Long Pond, where we would be doing most of our exploring this trip. Thinking ahead, we chose to set-up camp where we ate lunch and paddle around with much lighter weight boats for the remainder of the day. This gave me time to take a nap...which Vespi thought was entirely agreeable.

After a quick paddle to the trailhead, we spent the majority of the afternoon hiking past Mountain Pond up to the summit of Long Pond Mountain. From there, we snuggled under our emergency bivy and watches the sunset over the autumn Adirondacks. We could see the many campsites we've stayed at over the years, see how long the lakes and ponds actually are...and even caught sight of a new pond on the backside of the mountain that we had nevere really noticed on the map. It was the kind of moment that most couples dream of - a private summit, snuggly warm under the blankets watching the sunset..and my ever present Hot Toddy thermos ;)

Vespi lead thhe way back down through the dark and we eventually arrived at what we thought would be a peaceful dinner at the already set-up tent. But as soon as we began to cook dinner, an army of small mice began their attack. These were brave mice, running through the boyfriend's legs, crawling on the tent and generally taking over the entire site. As we crawled into the tent to hide away from these crazed creatures and try to enjoy our dinner, a conclusion was easily reached. The water was glass and you could see the reflection of stars in the clear night sky in the water below. We would pick up camp, and paddle further down Long Pond until we reached a suitably mice-free campsite.

This might have been the best decision of the entire trip.
We turned off our headlamps and paddled to the stars. We could see the glow of the treeline above us and stayed in the middle of the pond to avoid obstacles. As we got closer to presumed site locations, the boyfriend would turn on his crazy bright Petzl lamp. The light would reflect off the trees along the shoreline and we would distance ourselves just enough to see the small reflective disc that marks legitimate sites.

This might have been one of my favorite paddling moments of all time.
And completely unphotographable (at least by me)

When the initial alarm went off, it blended in with the sounds of raindrops on the fly. Easily enough, the decision was made to pull the sleeping bags back over our heads and settle in for a few more hours sleep. Cooking breakfast in the rain was easier with the huge vestibule, and we were on the water -still raining - by about noon.

But we are not ones to be deterred from our plans by a little soaking, spine chilling rain. We cinched up our hoods and headed out to explore narrow sixe tunnels off of the main pond that led to even more secret places. Like finding the magical tree trail, paddle canals have very much the same aura. You slow down your pace, duck under fallen branch and hold your breathe over shallow passes. And then, you get to see the beauty that is hidden there, in the forests.

Eventually, it was time to go home.
So of course, the sun came out.