Happy Feet!

Happy feet are a good thing.

Educated feet are invaluable.

Anyone who reads these tropes of mine regularly know that I am a huge supporter of educated feet.  All “Good skiing”, no matter how YOU define the terms, gegins at the feet.

I almost stayed home. It was blizzard conditions up top, 4 degrees, snowing hard, and blowing hard. I conjured the voice of Me Dear Ma and dressed accordingly. Bibs are something you wear when you mother gets cold 😉

I actually made first chair and first tracks on my favorite warm up run and, on six inches of yummy coldsmoke. That was unusual enough.

Things only got better.

After 3 runs the chair lift had to be shut down for repairs. I went to ski elsewhere. After lunch, I just happened to be first chair AGAIN when they fired the that lift back up. There was six MORE inches of powder and the wind had filled in all the tracks from the morning.

First Chair… First Tracks…TWICE…on the same Pow day!

As the legendary coach Cal Cantrell said, “It’s the feet, stupid!” Yesterday, my feet proved the value of a good education. None of my other sensory tools were available.

It was snowing at a rate of two inches per hour. The Southwest was wind at 20 mph and gusting as high as 35 mph. The top half of the run took me straight into it’s teeth.

There was no sign of the separation of Earth and Sky, nothing to mark the way ahead but the ghostly gray suggestion of pines along the fringes…only the most vague sensation of gravity provided any evidence of the effort.

There was no sense of forward motion.

The snow was so soft and quiet that only at the end of my turns, where the pressure builds, did I really feel a connection to the planet.

A feeling of weightlessness dominated my senses. It was almost as if I had ceased to be and I had became part of the storm. It was like living inside a frosted light bulb. It was college-in-the 70s all over again..deja vu…surreal. (who needs a pot shop when you own skis?)

The weather had deprived me of sight.

The wind howling in my ears robbed me of my hearing.

It was like skiing in a sensory deprivation tank. The only part of me that provided any clue as to my whereabouts, was my feet. They spoke. I listened. Call it “skiing sole-fully.

I became deeply aware of every inch of skin inside my boot. If I felt the pressure on the inside of my left foot, I surely MUST be turning right? Well, maybe but, once I decided not to care, I stepped through the Looking Glass into a world I had never experienced before.

My eyes tried to probe for obstacles ahead, trying to focus on a scene that my camera refused. The auto-focus only whirred in confusion. “Help us Landru!” (gratuitous Star Trek reference)

There was nothing out there to focus on. No objects. No light. No dark. No shadows. Just white. Opaque. Impenetrable.

I wonder if GoPro or, NASA  might mount a radar to a helmet? Infrared would be of no use. Nothing ahead but raw, white cold.

The snowing finally slowed and the sky lifted just enough to see ahead 40 or 50 yards.  The rest of the day was a joy of Freshness.

Twelve inches of uncut powder, in places punctuated by shots to the face, as I blasted through hip deep wind drifts and knee deep board slashes.

Deep Harbor Chop crud had always been a nemesis. I didn’t ski it well. I avoided it. The problem is that crud is everywhere. NOT skiing it closed off a lot of the mountain.

This year I made a goal to change that. I find the nastiest snow I can and force myself to stay in it. Learn it. Embrace it.

Discovered new ways of using this ancient body. It works.

As it turns out, that junk snow is actually a heck of a lot more fun. There are slashes and cuts and piles to provide a launching pad. I move from feature to feature as if running down a dry creek bed hopping from rock to rock.

Rediscovering the power of play. Every turn is different. Every turn has new and different vertical dimensions. New shapes. Leave the drudging, dreary sameness of corduroy turns behind and go play. Go BACK young Senior Skiers! Go BACK!

If I get to a section where the snow looks like something new or difficult, I slow down so my feet can learn to feel it. A new bit of code for my skiing app:)

And so, here they are. Happy Feet.

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Tired and cold feet to be sure but, feet whose “eyes”  and education made the day.

Six hours of the rich taste of fresh snow and cold air does something to the aroma of wood smoke and the flavor of a glass of Pendelton (neat) that I am sure the distillers never counted on….But then…they weren’t me…Not on a day like today 🙂

Like the golfer who makes that one hero-shot keeps going back to the grass in the hopes of making two such shots the next round. (My personal golfing goal is to play 18 holes without cursing)

Every once in awhile, Mother Nature decides to reward us and despite the prospects of another day on New England Blue…we go…and go again because…..you will just never know…unless you go. And, listen to your feet. Just because the are smelly doesn’t mean they aren’t smart 🙂

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Face Shots

https://youtu.be/bWtQn4RxkKE

 

Unintended Consequences

Sometimes it is necessary to say the things that no one really wants to talk about. Much of the snow sport industry media is a never ending flow about all the happy things, and that is fine. There are a lot of happy things about the experience…..but…

People protesting Big Oil to save the environment leave behind mountains of trash, burning tires, and a dead body. We want to save our winters but we make that proclamation in a helicopter high over the virgin snows of untouched wilderness in Chile..after a 10,000 mile trip in a jet that burned several tons of fuel.

Several ton of hydrocarbon and flurocarbon wax gets flushed off the mountains into our streams. One large Ivy League school, renowned for it’s activism against white privilege has a ski & snowboard club with thousands of members, mostly white.

protester

As Vail & Aspen gobble up ever more public lands for their enterprises, they become ever larger targets for political and environmental activism. Those attacks could take many forms from road-blocking to anti-trust suits. Most of the ski-able terrain is on public land in what amounts to a government granted monopoly.

The more I think about it, perhaps breaking up that monopoly may not be a bad thing. Competition for on-resort services like Food & Beverage, lessons and daycare will likely, in time, lower prices, improve the quality of those services and availability of those services, and wages as well. Lord knows the let-them-eat-cake philosophy behind these behemoths doesn’t sit well with America’s grass roots, bedrock egalitarianism….Just Sayin’

“Yellow Jackets” or Brown Shirts?

An acquaintance of mine was “pulled-over” by the increasingly infamous Yellow Jackets last month. She was told that “Acrobatics are allowed only in the terrain park…” Her offense? Drills. She was doing White Pass turns, Charlestons and Dolphin Turns and switch pivot-slips.

yellow jackets

She wanted to get the drills down pat so she figured, “What the heck” and headed to the terrain park to practice. There she was stopped again and told that if she wasn’t going to be skiing over the various features she would have to go. Those 58 year old women are a dangerous and unruly bunch…

I guess if you want to ski on one foot at a Vail resort you have to pay the ski school a few hundred bucks for the privilege.

Coming Attractions…

You Will Need that Arm & Leg for Skiing

As the costs of a western ski vacation promise to keep rising at the mega resorts, there are still a lot of venues out west that are silly-cheap. Perhaps the broad media visibility of the diamond-dusted resorts has everyone thinking that everything out here costs an arm and a leg and they just don’t bother coming out.

community

This summer we’ll take a look at a number of Rocky Mountain ski areas that have all that famous cold-smoke pow without the frills. Let’s call it the Alt-Ski Tour de Haute-Hillbilly.

My skis don’t care if I can buy a 2 carat diamond or a $100 12 oz sirloin or a fur coat in the lodge. When I am asleep, my mind is untroubled by the price of the bed. If it matters to my friends how much I spend skiing…I find new friends.

redneckski

How does all this sound? $6.50 for a full breakfast? $26 lift tickets? $50 per night for your cabin? For less than a half the single day ticket price at Vail or Aspen you can pay for lodging, meals, and lifts for a day…and your legs will still be burning and your smile will be just as big and when you get home you will have saved enough money to buy your “off-to-college teenager a decent used car.

 

Intelliskin

If you have heard of “kinesio-taping” you know it is the strategic placement of various kinds of tape that support weak or injured areas. Well, here are some garments that use various stretch panels to accomplish the same thing. The fun part is you can take it off and use it again the next day 🙂 We’ll have a full on-snow test and product review for you.

intelliskinintelli2

PSIA Endorses Direct-to-Carving?

BERP to ERP to EP?

PSIA recently took “Balance” out the old BERP model. Is “Rotary” out now as well? According to the maker, this gizmo can’t model wedge or wide angle steering movements. Effectively we have a high level PSIA personage starting beginners with what the maker implies is “Direct-to-Carving”? Seems to me that takes the elements of rotary and friction out of the beginner’s kit of turn shaping, speed control tools. IMO the carving fad is getting entirely out of control. Welcome to the EP model?

Carving is a low friction, speed enhancing technique…in a world chock full of beginners and Intermediates trying desperately to slow down?

I can see how more advanced skiers and riders would like this. It’s hard to tell exactly how useful this will be for teaching beginners. Since PSIA has developed a manual for this company and JB himself says this is a good thing…how about posting a video of teaching a beginner?

PSIA has quietly poo-pooed Direct to Parallel for many years and wedge and stemmed skiing are still part of the daily fair at ski schools all over the world. To more or less casually announce Direct to Carving is astonishing to say the least.