Monday, December 15, 2014

Winter Storm Damon: Ski Camping in the Killington "Backcountry"

It snowed.
It rained.
And it snowed a bit more.
And snowed again.
Until the mountains turned from a dismal fall
Into a winter wonderland.

And what better way to experience the beauty of winter
Then by jumping into it full force

So I followed him.
The boyfriend.
Up the mountain,
And around the side.
Under trees so heavily laden with snow
that we worried they would break any minute.
Big, fluffy, Dr. Suess type trees
We discovered our own hidden Narnia
As we skinned through the Vermont woods,
Looking for a place to call home.

And we needed to do it soon.
The sun was setting through the clouds
- or so we guessed because the snow was falling so heavily
we could barely see a thing
As we skinned deep into the woods
To find our magical spot hidden amongst the trees.

Then it was time to shovel.

And shovel.
And shovel some more.
We had to dig a space to put our little winter tent,
Needing to make sure that the falling snow
would not drift around our home
And suffocate us while we slept.

Then we pack down what snow is left,
Stomping around in our little space,
First with our skis
And then with our boots.

Only then,
With our snowy platform ready,
Could we throw up our tiny winter tent.

With the tent up
And all our gear stowed safely inside,
It was time for a little ski adventuring by headlamp ...

Followed by a little warm-up session
Of some super yummy dinner
(carrot ginger soup with quinoa and chicken)
And just a little touch of whiskey
To keep us warm on the inside
Under the protection of a nearby stone cabin

Still - we were not tired,
And - still - the snow was coming down...
No harm in playing with those silly skis
for just a bit more
Before it was time to snuggle deep
into our sleeping bags

And so we skied.
And skied.
And skied a bit more.

And then it turned to grappel.
So we went to bed.

It might be a teeny tiny tent,
But it felt bigger this time.
It was just the two of us.
The boyfriend and me.
We just couldn't help but miss
Our dear sweet little Vespi
And how much she would have loved this adventure

Morning comes all too soon
When you are freezing your butt off.
Only a few shakes and shivers,
Because we had decided it was going to be "warm"
And had brought our autumn sleeping bags
wrapped in emergency bivvy sacks
instead of our ginormous winter ones.
And one sleeping pad instead of two.
Winter minimalist camping.
Even I thought we were a little "off" this time.LOL

It's all about the adventure,
Taking the small and making it big.
Adding a little bit of magic
Goes a long way in a winter wonderland.
This was our Christmas,
So excited we couldn't sleep
Anticipating the beauty of the morning

As we peel back the tent flap,
The cold air comes rushing in
And the dream becomes a reality.
It really did snow 30 inches over the past two days.
And here we are, buried in the woods,
Not just experiencing winter,
But living it.

Shoving our liners into our ice cold ski boot shells,
Trying to unfreeze the shells on our mitts and our jackets
Even the inside of my helmet is cold as I plop it on my head,
But we do not care.

We do not care
Because just up ahead -
Just outside of the forest,
Is a world of untouched white goodness.
Just waiting,
Waiting for the crazy people
who decided to sleep
at the top of a mountain
in order to ski.

Was it worth it?
Our winter wonderland date?
This shivering and shaking in the cold?

Skiing is always worth it.

May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You,
Merisa & Aaron

Monday, December 1, 2014

Making Winter Where Really There is None

It feels like an endless celebration.
The mountain is gradually opening
One hard worked trail at a time
Making Winter where really there is none.

So we raise a glass
And then stand for one shot ski after another.
We toast a bottle of champagne
And pass around the first bottle of whiskey
- and then a misjudged second.
Making winter where really there is none.

Trail after trail as the snowmakers work it off,
Lugging hoses this way and that,
The rats and k3000s stand strong
fighting for space with the new High E mysteries
Making winter where really there is none.

The groomers take the snow that is left,
Piling up what snow they can find
and spreading it out where they can
Turning dirt into white magic
making winter where really there is none.

The lifties are chiseling snow off the chairs
cursing the snowmakers for a misaimed gun
Or the groomers for a misplaced blade
Shaking their heads in laughter at those of us who are here,
Making winter where really there is none.

Patrol is here,
Putting up ropes and dropping them,
And signs, and ribbons, and SADs and more ropes
Picking up the pieces and shaking their heads,
As the skiers push the limits of reality,
Making winter where really there is none.

So we raise a glass
And then stand for one shot ski after another.
We toast a bottle of champagne
And pass around the first bottle of whiskey
- and then a misjudged second.
Making winter where really there is none.

Then the skiers, o the skiers,
Soaring over beaten down fresh inches
Hooting and hollering down ice death cookie powder bumps
Trapped between what's open and what we dream we are skiing.
Making winter where really there is none.

We shop, and we shop, and we shop a bit more
For Snowflake necklaces and new tech bindings
The inns have their fires burning with hot cider at the bar
We're all rocking snow boots & sweet winter hats
Making winter where really there is none.

One day it could be powder,
And our souls and worries are at ease
And the next it's pouring rain.
And those days we wonder if it will ever snow again.
But we go skiing anyway & post a pic of the fun
Making winter where really there is none.

So we raise a glass
And then stand for one shot ski after another.
We toast a bottle of champagne
And pass around the first bottle of whiskey
- and then a misjudged second.
Making winter where really there is none.

When the next morning comes,
The mountain is just grass with patches of snow
The reality of life (& our hangover) settles in
It's off to work with an empty bank account
Making winter where really there is none.

It is hard and exhausting work,
This playing in what we have for snow.
But I wouldn't trade these weeks in ski town
for all the powder on the planet
There is magic in our community working together,
Making Winter, where really there is none.

So I raise my glass to you,
My friends & family of K-Town
To your efforts, to your smiles and to your souls,
Because without us, it would just be a mountain
There is magic in our community working together,
Making winter, where really there is none.

So we raise a glass
And then stand for one shot ski after another.
We toast a bottle of champagne
And pass around the first bottle of whiskey
- and then a misjudged second.
Making winter where really there is none.

Now could winter really start?
This fall season is making me crazy!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My ski world is changing ....

I have always been a loner when I ski.
If I don't like your trail selection,
I will usually just ski away.
My ski time is my time.
For me.

The snow is mine,
the turns are mine,
the trail is mine,
the mountains are mine.


I sound like a two year old.
and probably behave like one, too.
(yeah, I snaked that first chair).

But something strange is happening.
I have made a friend.
or two.
and then two more.
and they ski.
and they are ...

That's right.
Girls who ski.
Girls who LIKE to ski.
Girls who actually WANT to ski.
Girls who LOVE to ski!!

For so long, I thought I was alone.
Most of the girls I grew up racing with
won't ski unless their kids need to.
They didn't want to be cold,
or challenged
or go on adventures.
I had to beg them to go
I promise this will be fun.

They were not skiers.

I needed girlfriends who laughed and giggled
who wanted to play in the snow
just like we played with barbies and my little ponies.

I needed girlfriends to hug at the bottom of an amazing run
who wanted to wear a perms-grin all day
just like when you discovered that THAT boy really liked you.

Girls who were stoked to ski dust on crust
or hike through thigh deep powder.
Girls who meet for first gondi just because
or argue about the merits of a particular binding in the lift line.
Girls who will come over and watch ski movies
or who want to go shopping ... for the perfect ski boots.

Girls who know their DIN setting
or understand the nuances of each type of Gore-Tex.
Girls who work their butts off in the ski industry
or plan their work schedules around their skinning schedules.
Girls who get stoked when they end up wearing ski pants all day at work
or buy that necklace because it's gonna look great with long johns.

These are the girls I thought did not exist.
I thought I was alone.
I don't know if I am finding them
or they are finding me.
But I don't care.
I have girlfriends to ski with.

I have Ski Sisters.

Look for us on the hill -
we'll be the ones laughing.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Earn Your Turns: Gulf of Slides Spring Edition

The snow is melting
The access trail is gone
But there is snow to be skied up top
It sings to me a sexy sweet song

Like a siren, we hear the snow calling
But it seems so freaking far away
My skins are practically useless
Well hopefully (maybe?) for at least part of the day

So we weigh our packs down,
With more and more and more gear
Ice axe, crampons, beacon, shovel...
Good god, it's carrying all this damn weight that I fear

For the first part is mud,
Where my pole sinks in with a crrepy gross squish
I can't be that heavy -
It's the skis & boots on my back - Yeah right, I wish.

But we keep dragging ourselves upward,
Hearing our poles clickety clack as we go
Because somewhere up there In the mountains
there must be some sexy soft spring snow.

The scorching sun comes out
And it is beating me to death
I am a freakin' winter girl -
And this warm weather is hazardous for my health!

I slowly feel myself wilting,
From my 800 pound pack and the heat,
And my legs are all cut up and scratched
From my knees to my feet

Thank goodness that's when we see it
About 3 to four hours from now
The first patches of snow just there, up ahead
It's white and dirty and just - oh wow!

But we didn't bring skins
Gosh darn it and damn
So now we're post-holeing through a wintery hell
And pretty close to tears I am

Now it's snow rashes & sun burns
I've added to all the leg scratches
As i post hole crotch deep
Through yet another one of these damn rotting snow patches

Gingerly we step,
For what seems like yet another hour
Why the hell are we doing this?
Have we lost all our brain power?

Then we come around the bend
And we see it, it's there
And suddenly my life
doesn't seem to have a worry or a care

Cause every step has been worth it,
Every mud suck, every scratch, every bruise
The ravine looks gorgeous and stable...ahhhhhh
It's Soft Spring Corn we're gonna cruise!!

Because the mountain is there
Covered in all it's white glory
And I'm sure you already know
the moral of this struggling story

But we haven't topped out yet,
There is still the final ascent to go
So it's axes and crampons
For the final ladder in the snow.

The ladder is so huge,
And the pitch so very steep
That some steps I have trouble
And self-doubt into my mind begins to creep

But we push onward and upward
And relish the beautiful view
Because we are skiers, this is snow
And there is just one thing we can do.

No matter the trials, the burdens,
Throughout the days, the months & years
The hike is always worth it,
So stop those crybaby tears

There is nothing so special
As a turn that's been earned
Which is what we'll remind ourselves
As we hike out for the long, long return.

And so we'll hike this route again
And search for more crazy places
Whether for tight sexy couloirs
Or wide open spaces

Because we are skiers
And we follow the snow
So it is off to the mountains
With my skis I shall go.

May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You,
Merisa & Vespi

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hike-O Pico: Let the April Adventures Begin!!

Ahhh, the joy of pulling into a completely empty parking lot of a ski resort on a 45 degree bluebird day in April. The lifts are not turning, the base lodge stands empty save for a few members of the cleaning crew putting the finishing touches on the season.
But we are here.
With our skins and our backpacks and our dogs.

And our 85 SPF.

The sky is a glorious deep blue, but the trees are still covered in ice from the Sunday's nasty storm. But with the sun beating down on them, they glitter and seem to be covered with cherry blossom buds. Like some kinda of Japanese Garden got teleported to Pico for the day and we had the privilege of skinning through this fantasy.

It was perfect. Drops of rain like water would fall as the wind gently blew through the treetops. Perfect - except for when the wind would blow and knock the bigger chunks of ice off of the trees. Ouch. Falling ice chinks can really hurt :( and also make for a very odd texture on which to skin up. Coopie didn't mind so much - for him it was like if the ice machine from the fridge had gone haywire and just coved the ground with crunchy edible awesomeness. Even Vespi seemed unpeturbed by the flying snacks randomly attacking us. Whatever, we just moved into the sunshine and skinned there instead.

Hmmm, and when I say "we," I mean my old friend, Allison, from my RamsHead ski school days, who is now a writer with Ski the East and boot-fitter/ski fashionista at the SkiRack in Burlington, VT. A kick ass ski industry girl who was born & raised in Killington. She hadn't skied Pico since she was like 4 or something, so what better time to recheck out one of the oldest and best ski resorts in Vermont than with a little private mountain earned turn action :)
ski bums get to be soooo spoiled...

Something that Coopie Poopie Head is just starting to learn. At Hike-O Pico, Coop gets to run free, to sniff everywhere, and enjoy playing with his humans in the snow. At 2 years old, he is just starting to learn to pace himself...even if it takes him an hour to realize that we are going to be out for quite a bit longer than he originally anticipated. Vespi, however, sees the skins and the backpack, takes one look up the mountain and knows. She falls right in behind me, placing herself right along the skin track while Coopie runs this way and that...
with the joy and freedom of one who just LOVES skiing!!

But Vespi loves it, too, even if half her face looks like it is falling off. She laughs at me as I slip on an ice chunky section and scrape my left fore-arm. Trying to snuggle me, she gets knocked down the mountain by a slightly over-zealous Coopie Poopie Head and ends up turtled on her back. Needless to say, she made sure to give Coop a large space cushion for the rest of the skin.

So, we're cruising along, throwing around reminisces from our ski school days and laughing at Coop, when my old and moldy skin slips out from underneath me again. It's all frozen balls and my skins are not coopperating. Neither are Alison's brand new ones. But the snow seems to be soft for the duration of this pitch and we are nothing if not stubborn women. So we hiked up the remainder of the pitch - nothing is as fun as taking off your skis facing up a steep hill. It's silly and something that can only be done with skins. But even at 3:30pm, the upper mountain still had not quite unfrozen so we skinned over to the Hershey Highway for the view and a safety meeting instead :)

But the view is not why we came.
It is not why we hiked up this damn infernal mountain.
It is not why I was sweating so much that the dogs though I was a lick stick.

We through on our puffies with glee, because we knew what was coming.
We had seen it on the way up.

I don't like to eat cream cheese, but sure as hell love to ski it.
Especially since the top of Pico hadn't been skied since Saturday afternoon.
Groomed for Sunday and then just sitting there, being sexy,
Waiting for us to smear some sexy turns into her sunbaked goodness.

Yeah, Coop was ready!

And even though Vespi had trouble deciding whether to take skier's left or right...

...she certainly had no problem finding her corn snow grin as soon as she got started Her puppy grin matched perfectly with my little girl giggles :)

If you have never skied untracked cream cheese,
or had an entire mountain to yourself...

Find your best ski buddy and a nice spring day,
A backpack and some skins
...and be prepared for one of the best times you will ever have skiing!!

May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You,
Merisa and Vespi

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Backcountry Birthday Tour for Backside Black Pow

I got home from work at 1pm to the boyfriend organizing his pack in the ski room:
Ready for a backside tour for my birthday?

It feels like forever since the woods in Vermont have just been so sexy you can ski anywhere and really not have to worry about it. It is like a dream come true, the depth of base that we pray to Ullr for every winter. It's the kind of snow that has me dancing around like a damned sugar plum fairy in a tutu at the beginning of the season. The kind that seems like it is going to stay easily into June...

But today is not June.
It is March.
it is our Birthday Week,
the week where we get to celebrate another year on the slopes and
traditionally the week of the most kick ass ski conditions of the year.
Last year, we skied 80 degree temps in the bowl at Tuckerman Ravine with a great group of ski buddies.
This year, just the two of us dropped off the backside of Killington to ski some black pow.
Now this was my kind of date :)

So the beginning is always a little sketchy.
We like to vary our entrance - how you gonna get some fresh glitter snow all to yourself if somebody else has already been there. And I am happy to report that both our jackets came through unscathed - although the top of my helmet looks like it might have been through a pretty severe battle with a forest.
Gotta love dagger branches - watch out for puncture wounds!

Or more importantly, watch out for your pole plants!
The sketchy early season base covered with Vulcan's pounding of snow has made for some dangerous planting conditions.
I am still laughing about the BF falling on our skin out because of an extra deep pole plant.
Just happy it wasn't me this time :)

Just a few more turns and we were at our marking point:
the emergency toboggan stashed in the woods by the Killington Search & Rescue team.
If we thought the skiing was sweet before,
the chutes were even better than we anticipated.
All fresh and sexy and white and fluffy and...
Whoop! Whoop!

There are steep and narrow ones, there are wide and playful ones.
This is the backside.
You can get here - maybe - but it's a 90 minute skin back up to the K or a good long skin out to where you are still a five mile walk back to the main road.
It is not for the unprepared or the random.
We study the topography, we were shown secret places by locals when we first moved here. We tell our family where we are going and are prepared to spend the night in the woods. We have shelter, we can make fire and we still might not be prepared for self-rescue. We have Wildness First Responder training from SOLO, and the BF was a ski patroller at Killington. We can pull traction and have an evac plan. This might be skiing, but this is serious business at its core.

And so we ski.
And skin back up.
And we ski again.
And skin back up.
We can't get enough.
The snow is so beautiful and the woods so quiet.
It is just the two of us, no one for what seems like miles.
Our own private oasis.

But we know the backside isn't just ours.
It is ours to share.
We are conscious not to take all the snow, just enough for what we need.
Plus, we still have the skin out and it is starting to get dark :)

It feels like miles and at the top of the first pitch, my left skin falls victim to the cold and decides it no longer will stick to my ski. We are now 70 minutes out with lots of climbing to do. I get out my cork, the BF is working on heating the skin up in his belly and I am rubbing my base in vain. This system is stupid. We take medical tape and wrap the skin to my skin just behind the toe piece. It works great - until about 20 minutes later when my never tuned edges cut through the tape. But I am resourceful and my skins are wicked tight. I adjust the angle of my left stride - and except for one flat section where i just pull the skin off to play scooter, it works!!
Granted, an exercise in patience but...

As we head up and around, the sun begins to set and our minds wander. Conversation covers topics from a new haircut for me, to new skis, to qishing that Vespi could have joined us on this trip and how we are going to make some adjustments so she can get to Tuckerman's somehow. We reminisce about how old we have gotten since we met, no longer the clean cut kids who could barely fit into their oversized ski instructor jackets but now scruffy looking mountain people.
We have no regrets.
We have truly become ski bums.
The sun has begun to sparkle through the trees and we realize that there is no other place we would rather be, that our problems are small and our lives are wonderful.

There are no shrinks here, just the mountain and the snow. My skis tell me all I need to know about my life, i know I need to use more rotary and direct my ski rather than just let my edges roll and my skis go where they might. If only it was so easy to direct my life as it was to direct my skis....just a few drills on Snowshed and I could have my life together?
How sweet would that be?
Ahhhhh...the dreams of skinners

It's exactly 8 o'clock as we spot our first white blaze and spot the much buried roof of Cooper's Cabin in the distance. We have arrived just in time to throw on our puffy coats and watch the sunset from the roof. It's a perfect night, the stars are out and the sunset is a dream. We can hear the groomers working hard in the distance and we are happy.
Life is Good.
Screw that, Life is Wonderful.
....and all because We are Skiers.

May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You,
Merisa & Aaron

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Vespi: Cancer, Courage, and, of course, Skiing

I'm on my hands and knees, scrubbing yet another blood trail out off the floor while the boyfriend is working on washing the carpet from the intense amount of drool. We recently bought a diffuser to try and mask the extremely offensive smell of rotting flesh that seems to pervade our entire home. The laundry machine is going, yet again, with more sheets and blankets from off of the couch, the floor, the carpet. Outside, the pure white snow is littered with splatters of blood and long trails of a nauseating yellow goo. Her head leans to the left, a result of her recent attack of Vestibular disease and she is constantly crashing into things and losing her balance. We buy paper towels by the cartful, have become frequent purchasers of smell remover...and we have never been prouder.

At first glance all anyone can see is the tumor, steadily growing on the left side of her mouth. It began under her gums, pushing her lip outward until she could no longer keep her saliva in her mouth and her nostril has been compromised. Ever so slowly, the tumor has stretched out her skin so that there is now a developing sore on the left side of her face. The tumors are pulling her eyeball back into the socket, disrupting her vision. A old sore on her back seem incapable of healing - her body seems to preoccupied with fighting the tumors. Her once soft and beautiful fur is beginning to scraggle, moving toward the future when clumps of it will simply find its way to the floor, behind the fridge and wherever else dog hair magically travels to.

Ahhh, living with a dog with cancer. But this is not just any dog. This is Vespi - the female ski bum - and she is not giving up without a fight.

In the beginning, she was carried outside and her human friends had to hold her tail up so she could do her thing. Then she bounced herself off of the snowbanks to make her way down the walkway. She trips, she stumbles, she braces herself. But she has a destination in mind, a goal, and she is not going to let anything keep her down and inside. She would shake her head and knock herself over, eyes large with surprise that she was struggling with even the basics. Her paw would itch at her face, causing blood to come spurting out of her sensitive tumor. She tries to turn on a dime, and ends up with her face in the snowbank, her front left leg tucked underneath her. Sighing, she lifts herself back up and continues in her way.
She can walk by herself.

The stairs present the biggest worry, the biggest threat of danger. She keeps looking at them, having mastered walking and now running in a straight line when we ski. But her depth perception has altered, she puts a foot on the first stair, but can't tell how far she needs to go for the next. She looks up at me, knowing she need to be carried but seeking to avoid the shame that she has endured for the past 10 days. Seeking, hoping, for any alternative but that one - and then, we hear voices. A group of snowshoers, strangers, who we had never seen nor would ever seen again. Motivation. She backed up, got a running start, and with sheer determination, used her memory to launch herself up the stairs.

These are just small annoyances, not something that stops her.

While she was resting beneath the register at the shop,
someone once referred to her as a lazy dog.
At least until someone mentions the magic words:
"Puppy Skiing?"

I have to carry her down the stairs to where the trails begin, but something changes as soon as her feet hit the snow. She is everywhere. While she barely moves indoors, out here she has energy. And enthusiasm. There is a lightness in her step, she seems to float along behind me. She stops to eat some snow, loses her balance and ends up in it. So she chills for a bit and eats the snow lying down. She is not flustered at all. She is happy. This is her white world. Vespi follows my ski tracks through the woods, around trees and over hills. Her path no longer seems crooked, her neck begins to straighten, her body appears to once again be whole.

As I learned from my dad last winter,
skiing can be a magical motivator.

Skiing brings Life.

May You Find the Spirit of the Mountains Within You