Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Blogging is hard.  When you’re ripping sweet, sweet pow (especially when it’s freezing cold), the last thing you want to do is take out a camera and start shooting video.  When you’re skiing with other people, I always feel a little dickish when I say: “Hey guys, I’m going to snag first tracks.  Then I’ll post up next to those trees down there, you guys sit here and stare at my tracks until I get my camera all set up and wave you down.” Then, when you get home, instead of reaching for a beer and plopping yourself down on the couch, you have to download the pics to the computer, maybe edit a video, write up the Trip Report, or participate in some good natured internet forum jibber jabber.

Then there’s the financial burden.  You’re paying for gas to get to the mountain, lift tickets for the day, ski school for the kids (if I had kids), lunch, beer, and ski equipment.  On top of that, there’s the cost of the blogging equipment: point and shoot (P&S) camera, flip cam, helmet cam, phone, laptop, internet access, phone service, and most importantly, time.

I was thinking about this stuff when I was tooling around for a new camera.  I love the photos that come out of trip reports that are shot with really nice cameras (skiing or mountain biking).  I was thinking of getting an entry-level DSLR and trying to get into photography a little more (thinking of a Nikon D3100).  
But then I realized the extra costs that would be associated with such a purpose.  First off, I’d need a way to carry the thing.  I can’t just stuff a DSLR in my pocket like I could a P&S.  So I’d need some sort of carrying case thingy.  Then, I’d probably need some extra lenses (I don’t know if this is true or not, I’m still trying to learn about SLR photography).  And, to be perfectly honest, I might need a new computer (mine is 7 years old).  I keep getting the low memory warnings popping up, so I delete an old movie edit, and a few weeks later they pop up again (I might be able to get around this by buying an external hard drive).  I’m still tossing the idea around in my mind, so if anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

What really inspired this new interest (besides cool trip reports), was the recent article on slate.com about Slow Photography.  Like the Slow Food movement, Slow Photography is more about enjoying the present moment, and not just “documentation” (this is where we were, this is what we saw):

That's why, eventually, anyone who considers her- or himself "into" photography becomes interested in beauty (and using a camera to create it). The difference between documentation and the beauty impulse is that the latter has the power to produce not just a memory, but an emotional response in any viewer. That's very different from the impulse to record. For group pictures are never beautiful, nor are photos in front of the Eiffel Tower. (It is big, and the subject is too small.)

You do need to slow down at least a little to create beautiful photos. And yet fast photography is not the enemy of good results, by the logic of volume: If you take a thousand photographs, one or two will turn out great. Professional photographers rely on this logic, and it is also the raging theory on African safaris. At any given moment in the Serengeti, thousands of shutters are clicking, and among the gigabytes of crap are a few photos that will turn out great.

No, the real victim of fast photography is not the quality of the photos themselves. The victim is us. We lose something else: the experiential side, the joy of photography as an activity. And trying to fight this loss, to treat photography as an experience, not a means to an end, is the very definition of slow photography.

And the pictures aren’t bad either.

Of course, it’s not just Photography that is going slow.  Skiing is jumping on the bandwagon as well:

"This is a new approach to skiing in Italy," said Walter Galli, a spokesman for the resort. "It's about getting away from the competitiveness of the main slopes, leaving the stress of the office behind and taking a moment to yourself."

The Breuil-Cervinia resort in the Valle d'Aosta region of northwest Italy has prepared the trail for skiers of all levels, complete with picturesque viewing points and wooden benches for those who want to catch their breath.

Organisers have named it after Italy's slow food movement - a campaign to get people to improve their quality of life and take pleasure in a more relaxed way of living.

You know, especially during this time of year (when the mountain is crowded, I’m working my ass off, freeskiing opportunities are few and far between), I could probably use this type of relaxation.  In my continuing quest to live more in the moment, I could really stand to stop and look around for a while.  What else you got?

At Alta Badia in the Italian province of Bolzano-Bozen, a group of Michelin-starred chefs have organised the "ski with taste" initiative.

"We've created a gastronomic route where hungry skiers can stop and indulge in delicious meals made from local produce," said Arturo Spicocchi, who came up with the idea along with fellow chefs Norbert Niederkofler and Fabio Cucchelli.

"There are 10 mountain huts, each run by a different chef. We create our own signature dishes from local ingredients such as honey, apples and speck (a mountain ham)," he said.

Now THAT sounds like an experience worth blogging about!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Get It.

After two days of staring longingly out the window, I’m finally taking tomorrow off . . . To install a dishwasher.  That’s right, no skiing until this weekend.  I looked at the calendar and, although I am not big on counting days, I already have 22 days on snow (all alpine - ugh - except for that first day @ Whiteface).  That’s not half bad, all things considered.

I guess I’m just biding my time, waiting for opportunity, and getting ready to blast off.  I still feel like the season has barely started.  Despite some epic posts, there are still some reports of low base levels and sketchy conditions (even in the places that got hammered the last few days).  And Meathead films just barely kicked off their filming for this year’s video.

Starting in February, I’ll be skiing 4 to 5 times a week, so I’m not really fretting my lack of ski days right now.  Plus I’ve been busy at work.  I’ve got a big presentation that I’m giving a week from Monday, and finding enough time for everything is getting more difficult.  Maybe I need a lesson on work/life balance.  Here’s a section of an article I read the other day:
While contemplating work issues, Robinson realized that millions of Americans lack basic "life skills," which are quite different from those you employ on the job. They have forgotten how to have fun and enjoy life in their non-work hours. They are beaten down by their jobs and unfulfilled by their lives. Part of the problem lies in a fantastic proliferation in recent years of home-entertainment options and digital devices that keep us at a distance from physical reality. We are ever more immersed in alternative realities that can be enthralling and relaxing after a hard day of work, but keep us from spending our time in recreation, hobbies, or community activities that would actually make us happy. Those pursuits are essential if we want to satisfy our core needs -- autonomy, competence and relatedness -- according to Robinson.
Another obstacle to our happiness is that we often pursue our few leisure activities with a "performance mind." We play tennis to win, yoga only to get fit, or travel to put notches on our "great experiences" belt. It's all about accomplishment and competition, when it should mostly be about the intrinsic value of what we pursue, as Robinson convincingly explains in his book. "Art for art's sake," not "art for ego's sake," will make us deeply happy. Play is the thing, to misquote Shakespeare.

A couple of things about this: First, I am going to use this as further evidence of my glowing boxes hypothesis (more glowing boxes=less happiness).  Second, perhaps my resolutions were a bit skewed. One of my resolutions was to make one post a month that makes people want to be where I am.  But is that goal really about my happiness?  Or is more of an ego boost?  A “look at me”-type boasting?  Come to think of it, maybe all ski blogging is an exercise in masturbatory self-congratulation.  Are we really making ourselves happier, or just trying to make ourselves seem cooler?

I’ve thought about this, and I’m pretty sure I’d be making videos, taking pictures, and writing this blog even if nobody was reading it (and, judging by the traffic statistics, that’s pretty close to the truth).  I write things like this because I’m going to want to look back at this someday to see what I was thinking at this point in my life.  I take pictures because I want to see what it looked like when I was living.  I shoot and edit video because I enjoy it.

So is it bad that I strive to make one blog post a month that makes people say “wow”?  Absolutely Not!  Anything that inspires me to get outside and go skiing, is something that I want to embrace.  And to that end, here’s a recent article on backcountry beacon.com

Fast-forward four years to the ’08-’09 snow season, my last in Utah. In that time I had morphed from a wide-eyed powder neophyte to a bona fide snow snob. I would wake up in the morning and call the Solitude snow report: “We’ve received seven inches overnight and nine inches in a 24 hour period …
Seven inches? I’ll just go to work.
Seriously? Go to work? What was I thinking?
Let’s stop here for a minute. I have to preface all this. I now live in Vermont, where a seven-inch powder day doesn’t get scoffed at. Last season—which I’m told was meager at best—we got two, maybe three days of only seven inches. No matter. Every time I went out with Vermonters, they were grinning ear-to-ear whether we were slaloming through hardwoods or carving on the groomers.
This winter has started off much more promising. The snow is slowly accumulating and we’re one big dump away from full coverage. (Bring it on Nor-Easter!) If there’s one thing I’ve noticed, it’s that skiers and snowboarders in Vermont don’t mess around with numbers: “If it’s good, get it.”

Exactly.  If there’s one code to live by in the east, that’s pretty much spot on.  Maybe that dishwasher installation can wait . . .

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 Goals

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but I’ve been having a rough time.  The holiday period is always super busy for a ski instructor, and I put in a bunch of days at the mountain.  Plus, I never do my Christmas shopping early, so the run up to Christmas is always packed with trips to crowded malls and stress about what to buy.  Then there are the family obligations, the friend obligations, and the work obligations mixed in.

And it’s not just the “to-do” list that’s got me down, it’s the weather.  On Monday, December 27th, I woke up to 11 inches of snow at my house in suburban Albany, NY.  As I shoveled my car out, I noticed that the snow was light, fluffy, and fantastic.  I knew the drive would be rough, but I took my time, drove slowly, and avoided becoming one of the many cars that had found their way into ditches.  As I drove, I listened to relaxed, adult-alternative oriented music to calm my mood, and keep me from wanting to go too fast. I actually started enjoying the trip.  Sure, it was taking forever (and I was going to miss my 8:30 ski instructing sign in time), but I love new snow, and the feeling of anticipation was building as the dulcet melodies of Jack Johnson soothed my nerves.

Until I started looking at the snow depth.  The road conditions were still bad, but the snowfall amounts were deteriorating as I moved north.  7 inches in Saratoga.  4 Inches in Glens Falls.  2 inches in Warrensburg.  By the time I got to North Creek, there was no snow on the ground at all.  The only weather that greeted me was a blistering wind when I stepped out of the car.  Ugh.

On top of that, I went to 3 lineups and didn’t get one lesson.  So I drove all that way, used all that gas money, avoided all those ditches, and listened to all that Colbie Caillat for nothing!!!!  The skiing wasn’t even that good! The wind and cold associated with the storm made being outside feel miserable (although the snowmakers have done a great job keeping the snowpack skiable on a lot of my favorite trails).  So we got all of the bad parts of a winter storm (wind and cold), but none of the good parts (epic snowfall).  What a waste.

After this past week, I look back on that day and I still think it’s a bit of a waste.  But there was a moment during that day that I was actually very content.  I was relaxed, alert, and giddy with anticipation about skiing fresh snow, teaching great lessons, and celebrating afterwards.  With that idea in mind, I decided that my New Years Resolutions for this year should contain a bunch of chances for these types of moments.  While I might not be able to complete all of my resolutions, I still want to have chances to look around and say “Right here, in this moment, I’m happy.”  A second thing I wanted to do for this year was try to make more progress on the goals that I have.  My list from last year didn’t go very well, and I need to start making things happen.  Here’s an idea from a website:

Do a little every day. Take small steps towards your big goals every day, even if it means spending 60 seconds checking out a relevant website before bed.

Ha! So I can help achieve my resolutions by browsing the internet?   These are going to be easier than I thought:
  1. Film, Edit, and Finish a quality ski movie for the year
  2. Backcountry ski at least 5 times
  3. Bike Commute 50 times this year
  4. Explore at least 5 new-to-me mountain bike areas in the Northeast
  5. Learn more about bicycle repair, acquire some tools and start wrenching my bikes
  6. Make at least one blog post every month that makes people want to be where I am
 That last one is tricky, because I haven’t really focused the blog in that way before.  It’s more of a “thoughts and musings” blog, instead of a “here are my adventures” blog.  But those are the kind of things that I like reading, so I’m going to try to put up some cool content up (even if it’s just a short video of a powder shot or rock drop on a bike).  As for the first few on the list, I tried to attach some numbers to some previous goals that had gone unfulfilled.  I figure if I set a concrete number, it’s easier to track my progress towards the goal.

But maybe I’m thinking too much.  According to this article, the best way to get that happy/content feeling is to just get in a hot tub:
Hot tubs improve nervous system health. One of the reasons hot tubs feel so relaxing is because they actually balance the opposing functions within the nervous system – the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Hot water therapy reduces the effect of the sympathetic nervous system, which is the major cause of harmful stress. The positive effects of hot water therapy on the nervous system have actually been observed long after the individual actually leaves the water, showing that hot tubs help produce long term benefits that include lowered stress, relaxation, and a sense of well being. 
 Nice . . . Now I just need to find one with speakers for my Jack Johnson CDs . . .