Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Northeast Ski Blogger's Summit - Attitash and Wildcat

Days 2 and 3 of the "NSBS" were an interesting mix. Yesterday, we skied the groomers and low level trees of Attitash. I had to leave at 1:00 to teach my Community College skiing class at West Mountain (that's right, I drove 4 hours to Glens Falls to teach a 2 hour class, then drove 4 hours back), so I wasn't able to ski most of the afternoon. I don't feel like I missed much, though.

You know how you can get a pretty good sense of how a mountain is after just a few runs? Well, after skating over from the slopeside hotel (posh), we jumped on the high speed quad at Bear Peak and looked down at the pristine grooming, rolling trails, and plunging fall lines. It was going to be a groomer day.

Now, I know I made my feelings about groomers pretty clear. But I had the right tool for the job (my nice 165cm slalom skis), and I was happy to carve some trenches with the rest of the guys. We got into the trees a little, but the day was mostly about good times with good people. After a run through the park, a glance at the ridiculously nice slopeside houses, and a few more leg burning, fall line bombers, I was perfectly content to leave early.

Today, however, was different. We were at Wildcat, and we were everywhere. After a tasty breakfast buffet at the Pinkham Notch Visitor's Center, we made our way to the mountain.  We had some quality tour guides and some awesome terrain.  They even took a video of our exploits:

You can't help but be pumped on this mountain. Steep, winding trails, bumps, trees, steeps, and the greatest view from any ski area in the east (even from the parking lot):

Obviously, as very influential bloggers, it was our duty to capture the incredible vistas:

It's hard to avoid the presence of Mount Washington when you're here in New Hampshire. It is visible from just about everywhere, but at Wildcat, it's right in your face on every run:

It was even there when I was trying to eat lunch:

Eventually, we just had to give in. Harv and I set off to hike up to HoJo's and ski the Sherburne Trail back down. The skin was fun, especially when the Ravine came into view:

On the way down, we were looking the other way. Now Wildcat was in our face:

Good stuff.

I was super excited after skiing today. Wildcat has so much cool stuff to offer, I was looking at lines all day. And obviously, Mount Washington is Mount Washington. I think one of the advantages of this whole area is the variety of places that you can visit. You can ski groomers and get pampered on Tuesday, you can rip steeps and ski trees on Wednesday morning, and you can have a miniature backcountry adventure on Wednesday afternoon. Since variety is the spice of life, New Hampshire has been a pretty tasty buffet.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Northeast Ski Blogger's Summit, Year II - Cannon Mountain, NH

So, remember last year, when I was invited to the Northeast Ski Blogger's Summit? Well, it happened again. I must be the best blogger ever.

Anyway, today I want to talk about history. Like, when we drove up to Cannon today, we could feel the old school style of the place:

Even in the cool base lodge (with brand new bar area), the style was old school cool:

Unfortunately, the trails weren't in the greatest condition. I'm talking groomed. I'm talking packed powder. I'm talking boring. I mean, I'm up for ripping the Front Five as much as the next guy, but I've skied enough groomers this year. Like, way too many groomers.  So much so, that last weekend at Gore, I hucked myself off every stupid little bump I could find, just because I was so psyched to be skiing some natural snow. We were trying to find something good, and it didn't happen until we started looking towards the old timey trails like Hardscrabble:

It was tough . . . Real tough.  But we made our way down the icy bumpfest and liked how much the trail was able to challenge us.  In fact, I wasn't too satisfied with how I skied it, and vowed to return later.  First, though, we had to try the pinnacle of old school, the Mittersill area:  

Classic tight lines, trees, steeps, pow, and fun.  This is what skiing was all about back in the day. I've written before about how I want skiing to return to it's freestyle roots. But maybe what I really want is a return to an even earlier time.  A time of insane races down Tuckerman Ravine. A time where ski instructors were respected. A time of awesome stretch pants:

That last pic is from the New England Ski Museum at the base of the Cannon Tram (they've got a nice shot of a 60's girl skiing in a bikini, too).

It seems like a lot of resorts these days are focused on wide boulevards, constant grooming, and overindulgent services.  Condos instead of Conquests. Amenities instead of Adventure. Thankfully, Cannon has a little bit of a split personality: Groomers and Snowmaking for the masses, Natural snow and Natural conditions for people like me.  It's not that I want to live in the past (I'm definitely going to hit the hot tub in the hotel later), I just feel like part of the appeal of skiing is in its roots.

Recognize that back in the day, people skied narrow trails on long skis and had a great time doing it. They didn't have the latest rocker technology, the molded boot liners, or even sidecut skis.  They skied Hardscrabble and Mittersill with no grooming, no heelpiece, and no fear. There's something to be said for that kind of attitude - it helped me ski Hardscrabble a second time . . . and conquer it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


So there's this guy in my neighborhood who is out walking his teeny tiny little white dog every morning at around 6:45 when I'm driving to work. Every once in a while he looks up and the deep, deep sadness in his eyes is heartbreaking. This is a guy who envisioned a completely different life for himself. And now he's picking up some tiny little dog's crap before the sun rises every morning.

I realize that life is not a never ending stream of Tanner Hall's twitter feed (sample tweet: "BIG UP YOURSELVES QUEBEC! NEW 'IRIE INDIANS' SHOW ON INSPIRED TV! INSPIIIRED!"), but I'm finding it hard to get motivated lately. Maybe it's my work schedule, maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the lack of snow, but I'm just finding it hard to get pumped about skiing.

I like the idea of going somewhere new, like Steve at The Snow Way. I like the idea of travelling far and wide to find powder pockets like skimore on the Harvey Road Forums. I like the idea of just going out regardless of snow conditions like The Adventure Skier, or the guys at But I really can't get excited about things the way they are.

I've held off on the hand wringing, fear mongering, and doomsday scenarios that other people have thrown out there. But I've been making lemonade for a long time. Hell, I've made lemonade, lemon ice, lemon sorbet, lemon chicken and lemon meringue pie. I'm just getting sick of the #$#@ing lemons. I probably have about 45 days in so far this year and 2 have been genuine powder days. And those are the days I mentioned on this blog.

Maybe I'm just upset because this is maximum teaching climax season for me. I've been teaching 4 days a week for 4 weeks straight now (on top of my regular M-F job), and I reach a point of overload right around President's week every year.  I wrote a post last year around this time when I was feeling a little burnout, and I feel the same way now.

But here's where me and that poor guy with white dog differ. I'm not going to sit around and just take what was given to me. I'm not going to take some little dog's shit.  I'm going to make a freaking effort to save this season. It starts this weekend (according to Lionel Hutz), and continues next week.  Then, an awesome month of Spring Skiing.  And Finally, from March 22nd to April 2nd, Alaska.  Not to mention any leftover stuff when I get back (I'm definitely going to try to do a Tuckerman trip this year and some ADK slides). This isn't the end of the year, my friends, this is the beginning,  Let's do this.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

When Life Gives you Lemons . . .

. . . just go Mountain Biking.

It was 56 degrees when I left work on Wednesday, February 1st. Unbelievable. So we decided to check out the mountain bike trails up at SMBA. The riding was pretty difficult. It was a combination of icy death, nicely compacted sun softened snow, surface layered mud, and some prime dirt and dry rocks (mostly on the south facing slopes).  Here's a couple of surreal pictures taken with my buddy's camera (I was going to bring the DSLR, but the "icy death" kind of discouraged me. It ended up being a poor decision - there were some stellar photo ops):

I'm still skiing (went to West Mountain Tuesday and tonight), but this was just . . . better. It's weird. I had more fun learning some new riding styles (snow riding is a lot different than regular riding), messing around in the snow, and sliding around wildly than I did skiing tonight on a bunch of groomers. We really need to get some snow. I'm still hopeful for a good skiing winter, but if it doesn't happen, I'm glad that I've got a bunch of new skills to try to master on the bike.  Sometimes, you just have to take what Ullr gives you.