Friday, February 25, 2011


Around this time of year, every year, people stop thinking about skiing. I’m not talking about myself, of course, but the thousands of that people get done with Presidents’ Week and put the ski gear away. I want to say one thing to these people: Keep on doing what you’re doing.

I mean, selfishly, I love the fact that March is a month of warm temperatures, long days, and uncrowded slopes, but you might feel differently. As the red part of thermometer starts rising, it is completely natural to think of mountain biking, golf and baseball. Pursue these activities with the same vigor that you had when you started skiing this year (sometime around Christmas). Even Warren Miller says that around this time of year, he yearns for the warmth of spring and summer:

I have to admit, that about the middle of February, I would like to be able to get my golf score under 137 for 18 holes during four or five days at some Arizona course.

And if Warren Miller is doing it, it can’t be bad! You saw “his” ski movie this past fall with all those other people in that theater downtown. Those guys were obviously a bunch of core skiers. I bet they didn’t let that free weekday lift ticket to Windham go to waste!!

Okay, maybe I’m being a little harsh. After all, my new, enlightened theory of skiing is about letting people enjoy the mountain in any way they want; whether that means epic pow in tree stashes (which I will enjoy this weekend), or ski boots in the bar (which I will enjoy making fun of this weekend). It’s not like I’m the final arbiter of what’s cool on the slopes (the skiing version of this guy). I should really try to relax and just accept everyone for who they are. Maybe my jobs (skiing jobs, not real job) are stressing me out. I’ve been teaching skiing every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday for 5 weeks straight now. It’s definitely time for a break. I really enjoyed reading this article, about a guy who thought he landed his dream job when he got a position with a guiding company that took clients climbing up Mount Rainier:

Really, I got paid to carry a big pack and walk slowly in dangerous places while tied to clients who were seemingly trying to kill themselves (and, by extension, me). When I did finally have a day off, climbing was the last thing I wanted to do. Eventually, and entirely by accident, I landed a “real” job. I hear a lot of people blaming their office jobs for their failure to get out and get after it. However, I find that my desk job hasn’t killed my climbing; it’s actually given me the freedom (and rest) to do more.

I get more climbing, biking, and skiing done now than I ever used to. The reason is simple: I don’t have a job that requires me to carry heavy packs, roll up rafts, or generally stress out about my clients’ safety. So, when I want to get after it on my own terms, I’m actually rested and ready to go.

I’m not at the point where skiing is the last thing I want to do (in fact, I have a couple of really sweet trips coming up), but lately, I’ve definitely been enjoying the time in the office for providing a little bit of a respite.

Ace and I were talking about this kind of thing the other day, actually. Our last summer of mountain biking and road biking was awesome. And what made it even better is that we did it on our own terms. On Saturdays, we’d get up when we wanted, have a relaxing breakfast, meet some friends, ride around for a few hours, and go out for a nice lunch/dinner and a few beers. There was no pressure to be at the mountain at 8:30, no lineups to go to, no having to park in a parking lot 2 miles from the trail, etc. It was just us and some friends riding around and having fun.

I’m hoping to recapture some of that in March. All of the work is (almost) done and now it’s time to play. The only weekend that I’ll be working at the mountain in March is the 12-13 (when I’ll be teaching the “Glades and Glory” 2-day tree skiing camp). The rest of the time, maybe I should start taking Warren Miller’s advice seriously:

One of the weird things I believe in is to enjoy the snow to the fullest because the following week when you are sitting in front of a computer at Old Amalgamated Stock Brokers, you will regret that you slept in and missed that epic day of powder snow.

Remember, the best day of skiing that you have ever had and try and put a price tag on it. Is it worth a million dollars or 10 billion dollars? It is not for sale for any price. The only way that you can own one of these special days is to be the first one in the chair lift line on a powder snow morning after having had a good night's sleep.

Memories are priceless. So keep on doing spectacular things so that you can keep depositing new things in your memory bank every day.

Thanks, Warren. Maybe I’ll see you in the bar someday (I’ll be the one without ski boots on – some things I just can’t accept).

Friday, February 18, 2011

More Photography Stuff

A couple of quick notes:

As I learn more about photography, I'm thinking that's it's not always the camera that makes the shot.  Case in point: I took my camera out last Monday for a walk around the nature preserve by my house (along the old Erie Canal) to work on my photographer's eye and try to get a few good shots.  I ended up deleting most of them.  This was probably my best attempt:

Not so good.  It was the middle of the day, so the light wasn't really stellar, and to tell you the truth, the scenery was a little boring (would have been a good place for some xc skiing, though). Contrast that with this picture (another find from my old closet) I took when I was in New Zealand for a semester in college:

That picture was taken with an old, cheap, 35mm camera, developed as a 3x5 and then scanned in to my computer at one of the lowest settings.  And it has a date burned into upper right corner!  And it still looks a million times more artistic, creative, and lively than that drab picture from the Nature Preserve.  I guess there's only one solution: go back to New Zealand.

All hope is not lost, though.  If it takes me a while to get the hang of photography, I can always fall back on video.  I thought the video feature of my new camera was kind of a nice bonus, but not really of much use for serious film.  I was seriously mistaken.  Here's a video shot entirely with my camera (the Pentax k-x):

Scion Snow Tour 2011 Roundtop Rail Jam from Manhouse Media on Vimeo.


Weather might be a little sketchy this weekend (thaw/freeze/thaw/freeze/wind), but I'll be skiing both days.  Maybe I'll see you at the mountain.


With my parents retiring, selling their house, and moving to North Carolina, it was up to me to clean out my old closet. Between college books, baseball cards, and various useless souvenirs (New York Mets Magazine from that game I went to in 1990 – Howard Johnson on the cover!), I found a cache of photographs from college. There were some pretty sweet shots in there. But first, the background: 

While I loved skiing in high school, 4 years on the ski team, preceded by 5 years in the ski club, had made skiing stale and a little boring. I felt like I had reached the highest levels I could. I had put in over 60 days for each of the previous 5 years, and I spent a lot of time in the freezing cold, shivering in my speed suit, waiting for a race to start. I didn’t want to be on the college ski team, and I didn’t really know how much I wanted to ski at all.

But summer came, and the itch started to develop again. My one request for a college roommate was someone that skied. And that’s how I met Todd (Toddykins, in college).  

He was responsible for two things: One, reinvigorating my love for skiing with an unquenchable desire to get out there; and Two, getting me into tele skiing. The first day that Sunday River opened in 1998, we were there. The first day that Sugarloaf opened, we were there. When it snowed 24”, we strapped on our skis and jumped off the cliffs behind the dorms.

When we got bored around campus, we built a semi-successful, but eventually stupid quarterpipe.

For spring break, we didn’t go to Cancun, we went to Fernie, BC.

And we extended the season even further by skiing Tuckerman Ravine in Late April and Early May.

Todd works for a major bank and is now in Singapore (I think), and Andy (the other guy in the photos) is a doctor in Tuscon, AZ. I don’t know if they can’t ski as much as they want or if they just don’t want to ski that much anymore (although, for what it’s worth, Todd says that his 10 days of heli skiing a year are worth an entire season of East Coast skiing). But I do know that for a few years in college, I was more psyched on skiing that I had ever been before.

Sometimes it takes a little push to get you going again. I’m glad that happened in my late teens/early 20’s. I might not have always made the most economically sound decisions in my life (obviously, I’d be in a much better financial place if I were a banker or doctor), but I still get over 60 days on snow per year. And I know that most of those days will be filled with the same smiles that I had when I was at school in front of our hastily made, shoddily constructed quarterpipe.

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Camera

Well, I did it.  I bought a new camera.  Even though my furnace needs fixing and my car has weird warning lights popping up, I felt I needed to plop down a few hundred for a nice DSLR.  I went with the Pentax k-x over the Nikon for two main reasons: Price (about $150 cheaper) and faster continuous shooting capability.  When I go to buy new lenses, this decision might come back to haunt me (quick internet searching reveals that Nikon lenses are more readily available), but right now, I have to say I'm completely stoked on my new purchase.  After a little internet research, I figured out the 3 main points of SLR photography (and photography in general): Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO.  How these three go together separate well exposed pics from poorly exposed pics.

I took the camera to the community college class I teach at West Mountain on Thursday night for some trial and error (mostly error). As The Saratoga Skier and Hiker has found, nighttime skiing photography is a difficult endeavor.  Here was my first attempt:

I was trying to capture a decent sunset through my front window as I was driving.  Unfortunately, the auto focus focused on my filthy windshield instead of what was beyond the windshield.  No way to focus while I was driving, so I waited until I got to the mountain to shoot more. I stepped out of the car and shot this:

Better, but a little grainy.  I wanted to open up the aperture to get as much light in as possible, but doing that increased the ISO to a level that I wasn't happy with.  I moved the ISO down to 1600 and took another.

Okay, now we're getting somewhere.  The only problem with this photo is the blur in the center right.  The skiers coming towards me are fine, but the skier moving perpendicular to me is blurry.  Another example:

Clearly I need more shutter speed to capture action.  Or do I?  I've seen some pictures that create a cool effect by panning with the moving object, creating a blurred background, but a focused subject.  I thought I'd give it a try:

Not bad for my first attempt!  I definitely have to remember this technique for mountain biking shots.  I put my camera away for the time being and taught my lesson.  After a warmup break, we came out and took one more run.  I decided to practice some action shots:
For these shots, I cranked the aperture as wide as possible, jacked up the shutter speed, and kept the ISO at 1600.  I tried to pan with the skiers as they were moving, and I used the burst mode on the camera to shoot at 4.6 frames per second.  I have to say I'm pretty pleased with the results.  If this camera can get this kind of resolution at night, it's going to look pretty freakin' good during the day.  Can't wait to try it out.

I'll be teaching the "Master of the Mountain" 2-day class at Gore this weekend, so if anyone wants to dominate the mountain Matt-style, c'mon up and ski with me.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Brief Update

I've been skiing like a madman lately, 6 times in the last 8 days, including a double dip yesterday of Gore Trees during the day and West Mountain Groomers at night.  So I haven't go the chance to update my blog as much as I'd like.  Rest assured, though, I'm still thinking of my loyal readers.  I've written a couple of posts that are awaiting pictures (just need to find the time to scan them in).  And it looks like I'm getting a pretty decent tax return, so I might have some new blogging toys soon (Mmmmm . . . DSLR . . . .).

Also, I forgot to mention one thing in my last post about things necessary for great blog posts.  In order to have great pictures and video, you need to have some damn good skiers on the other side of the camera.  So all those guys on Famous Internet Skiers, or TGR, or wherever it is on the internet that you see people slaying powder and hucking cliffs, deserve mucho credit for being way above average in the skiing department.

Not as good as me, of course, but everyone needs something to aspire to . . .