Sunday, February 25, 2007

Handlebars as an ice ax

Had a sublime ride today with Jake and Buck. All other folks were probably skiing so we three scored the primo conditions by ourselves. The first hour or so, the ride was incredible: I was understanding the slickrock references folks were talkin' 'bout on the front end of this ice storm. Yes, 11 days after the Valentines Day ice storm, with a warm period in between, and the crust was still hard and ridable with great purchase. Sticky love was flowin'.

We dropped this no-name twisty gully (known as the gully that knocked Buck out once), and it was off the charts. I couldn't stop laughing and grinning the whole way down.
banked turns that you could really rail.
Apparently this trail isn't that fun when it's dry; it's real rutty and rocky, but the snow had it completely filled in and we rode on top of it, as fast as we wanted.

We tried a descent called Asscrack Trail. A steep, hard to follow, off-camber drop off Piney Mountain. The crust was slick, too hard to walk, but easy enough to ride, until the trail started slanting sideways.
Then it got interesting
Many tire slip falls had us in "slide for life" situations, sliding on down until we hit, or could grab a tree. If we still had our bike with us, we could jab the handlebars into the snow and do a self-arrest. Then we'd have to kick steps to get back up to the trail.
Sketch City.
Jake took a fall, did not have the bike with him. He slid quickly downhill, far below his bike until he met a tree. That sketched him out pretty good. He'll be taking a big bruise to Peru next week. Lucky he's not taking a cast.

The snow had picked up by then and was giving us a few inches of freshies, and no more great purchase. Jake took the quickest way home, and Buck and I continued on searching for some more fun. It was still fun at that point. The many off-camber sections of Community Service started squeezing some of the fun out for me, but the rest of the trail was sweet. Deeper snow after that, and it turned the usually mild Log Sled climb into a hike in several sections.
Yes, walking up Log Sled,
starting to get a little workout in now.
trying not to sweat

I got back just in time to get the Subaru up Jake's long steep driveway before that became sketchy too. Thanks to Mrs. Gettier for the fine turkey chili to top off the day!

keyword: michaux

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I know some peeps will be quite surprised to find a pic of a mogul field here. I've never been a fan of moguls, mainly cuz I've always sucked at skiing them. I couldn't ski them in my alpine years or snowboard years, and now I'm trying to ski them in my telemark years. I'd rather ski anything instead of a mogul run; corduroy, ice, a cat track, a golf course, hell I'd even rather skin uphill than ski down moguls.

I've always known though that skiing moguls is the key to being a good skier. If you can ski moguls, you can ski anywhere. And by anywhere, I mean the steep and tight trees of White Grass and any other Eastern woods shots. I want to learn how to ski them. I figure, I learned how to telemark ski at age 40, so maybe I can learn to ski moguls at 45 right? I mean, the knees oughta be in fine shape from the years mashing around on a single-speed eh?

Yesterday was warm and sunny, and I had an hour or two free, so I book it to Whitetail with a plan to head straight for the mogul run and try to learn something. I like soft mushy corny snow. It's almost like powder, only it's not. But it isn't ice, and that's what I like about it. You can lean hard into your turns, and the variable depth and consistency tend to keep you off balance so you have to work to keep from flipping over the bars. If I'm gonna learn moguls, soft snow sure beats icy snow.

Pull outta the alley here at home at 1:17, and am ready to hop on the chairlift just after 2:00. I go to adjust my poles back to resort length, and what's this? The flicklock cam is gone from one of them! Hmmm, maybe that's what I heard rattling around in the back of the Suby. Ran back to the car in my loosely-buckled T2s, luckily I'm only parked 4 cars from the front. I find the missing part and use the only tool I happen to have in the car, a multi-tool from my road bike kit. Run back up to the area, this time noticeably slower up the stairs.

Onto the chair and head straight for the mogul run with a confident attitude. I know you have to be aggressive in skiing moguls. And it's that aggressive stance, quick thinking, and quick feet that you need to ski the trees, steeps, and any other challenging terrain.

Now, here's where my story breaks down. My mogul runs were spectacularly unspectacular. No different than any other mogul run I've had in my ski life. I was simply trying to link 5 decent turns together in the fall line. I think I got to 5 once, and I think I even hit 7 once. Two runs and a ball of sweat later, I bail and head for some confidence-building groomers on Far Side. Maybe I progressed a hair. This is going to be a really long road.

Monday, February 19, 2007

missed this boat, big time

OK, so you folks have been reading about me telling you all how great it is here in PA, and how I've been scoring on all these epic rides, snow rides, and ski sessions. Well, it's become pretty clear that I definitely missed the conditions of the year for both skis and bikes. Who the hell woulda thought that the same weather event would cause both to go off the charts?? I guess that thick, solid, sleet crust that everyone south and east of Chambersburg got was great for biking on trails, because it was so solid, that you didn't bust through. And apparently the snow north and west of Chambersburg was a lot better than my 2 days at Whitetail would lead me to believe.

These various quotes from friends have brightened my inbox in the past several days. I was coordinating with some of these guys about a xc ski, but I never could pull the trigger on a decision, and just took the easy default, Whitetail.

It started off from Tomi (doesn't it always), who was the first on it Friday at Blue Knob,
"handful of runs with first/second/third tracks to start, then picked apart the edges.....
......some noiiiice knee deep stashes to make the day....."

from a western PA mountain bike friend about x-c skiing Laurel Mountain
"Larry, By far the best conditions of the year. There was 8 inches of new powder on a 2 foot base."

now for the biking crew,
from buddy Andy Neal about riding in his neighborhood
"...I just finished another insane ride here at the lake, so enjoyable, other worldly. I rode the lake for over a mile.. mid 20's psi and it was like slickrock.
......I've stayed local and having a blast, 4 rides in 3 days. I feel like a kid and bruised all over. "

from Scudamore, I guess even Wakefield has gone all time.
"Unbelievable!! The hookie ride this morning was surreal. It was like riding slickrock. I have never ridden the trail system at Wakefield so fast. The Jeep Road was like a superhighway. As was the non race course stream valley section. We also rode behind the ReCenter in the fields it was like I was a little kid again."

this from the understated, soft-spoken Joe Whitehair about riding the Watershed,
"Conditions have been crazy fun but will be gone by Tuesday."

oh yea, and how about White Grass?? Outta the freakin ballpark! How 'bout these few choice and painful words from Chipper.
"every-few years epic conditions!"

"Every few years epic conditions..." Can you believe that? And what the hell was I doing but sitting on a chairlift with my thumb ....... Nuff said. Time to lick my wounds and figure out how to not miss the next "50-year storm" (name that cheezy movie). Yea, yea, I know I just wrote about how cool it was to ski the past couple days with friends, and it was. I just didn't know I was missing epic everywhere else. I sure hope this warm week isn't the end of winter.

And just for kicks, check out what else was happening from this storm. I hope my nephews scored this one.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

downhill slide

Why does downhill skiing hurt so much more than uphill skiing? I can ski all day when I have to make my own way to the top, but only a few hours of lift-served skiing burns the hell out of the legs. The local x-c skiing hasn't been that great since our ice storm. I went back out to Sideling Hill for some more exploring and definitely found some trails which will be much better after this snow softens up or gets more fresh. Found a nice gradual descent into the Roaring Run drainage. A steep, smooth fall line doubletrack bisects this drainage giving skiable lines on both sides and both aspects. It's damn steep too, and would definitely require me to bring the heavy gear and helmet. A bit on the narrow side as well. That particular spot would be worth bringing the skins to, but the rolling trail in and out might be a pain with the skins.

I missed 2 good chances to x-c ski out in western PA and instead hit Whitetail the past 2 days . Whitetail is about as good as it gets right now, and it's the first time I've ever seen their half-pipe open (not that that matters to me). Yesterday I shared a couple chair rides and runs with a pair of telemarkers and their snowboarder friend. Turns out we know each other from the Wild 100 and other mtn bike scenes. Chad and TJ are damn fine tele skiers too. Today started off in a little snow squall which would've really made for a great day, but it didn't last long. Met up with Quigley, Buchness, Tom & Julie, and Dianna and skied a few hours with them. Good stuff, no rest, a few mogul runs. I think I want to spend some more time in those moguls before they melt away in March. Think I'll take my shorter, softer, and lighter Atomics on them and see if I can't learn something.

What to do tomorrow? Maybe Oliver and I can find some more snow somewhere.

Friday, February 16, 2007


This is such a solid unbreakable crust that Oliver's scooter doesn't even sink through.

Sledding on this high speed crust was interesting. Do you how fast plastic sleds go when they don't break through? Sketchy sketch...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

new trails

So I missed the Sunday Michaux ride from Jake's today, and missed a good chance to go x-c skiing too. Instead, I joined 7 other guys from State College and Huntingdon, and walked around the woods of Raystown Lake staring at a GPS receiver, trying to walk a line which had been loaded into it. This line is to be part of 30 miles of new singletrack mountain bike trails being planned for Raystown Lake by IMBA and the Corps of Engineers. The trail's designer, Clark, had digitized this line in his GIS software, and downloaded it onto several GPS receivers that we would use to follow it on the ground, measuring with a clinometer, and flagging the corridor along the way. Sometime in the future, the IMBA crew will come in with their magic trail building machines, and transform our flags into sweet singletrack, or bloggable flow trails as some would call them.

It was a cool learning experience, and another nice hybrid of my avocation and vocation. Not quite as much fun as riding or skiing, but nonetheless....

After the work, Darius and I took a short ride on some of the trails they built last summer, and messed around a bit on this section.

Now I'm off to Virginia for a couple days to work the predicted big snow event of 2007. Hope we get some of that around here so I can take a day off and get some local x-c skiing in when I get back.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

9 degrees F

I have to say, that I think I just had my second best mountain bike ride ever tonight. Still my favorite ride by far was an unexpected treat about 10 years ago with Misters Quigley & Junkins down the Duncan Hollow Trail. A few inches of snow turned that otherwise ordinary 4-mile descent into a sublime experience. We probably only touched our brakes about 10 times in those 4 miles. Using snow-pillowed rocks as moguls to check our speed when necessary; and rest assured, we were quite safe.

And tonight, in Michaux, was a reaalll close 2nd. Darius and I got out to Michaux around 8:00 tonight, and rode Ditch Trail, LollyPop, and Heislers Campsites in 2"-3" of fresh, dry snow. The snow arrived overnight, and the temps all day never got above 22 degrees, so the snow was perfect dry powder, no crust at all, Just incredible.

I'm not a good enough writer to describe how fun it is to ride in perfect snow. Those who know, know.

I've been riding with Darius since Oct., and neither of us has flatted in all that time (other than a roll off). Tonight, we both flatted, no doubt from thorns somewhere on a trail. Changing a flat when it's 9 degrees adds a certain amount of calmness. Seriously. And surprising.

my 3rd best mountain bike ride might just be last week's snowy night ride w/ Darius, Heisler, and friends. What is it about snow rides.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

the Massanutten range

Scott Scudamore forwarded this cool image taken from the Space Shuttle. It shows the entire Fort Valley and Massanutten range clearer than any similar image I've ever seen. Buzzard Rocks is there at the top, Little Crease, Signal Knob, and Short Mountain are easily recognizable. You can even see the slopes of Massanutten Ski Area at the southern end, in "The Kettle". Shenandoah Nat'l Park on the right, and the I-81 valley on the left.

I can't figure out why there's what looks like snow in the open valleys, but not on the mountainsides?? Maybe just the reflectivity of bare ground with the sensor being used??

Saturday, February 03, 2007

PA x-c skiin'

Went out for a couple of local x-c skis in the past few days, in this marginal snow season. The first spot, Sideling Hill, is only an hour from town (as in, in my ski boots within the hour). Was barely enough snow, and I only had an hour to ski before I had to get back and pick Oliver up from school, but this place begs for further exploration. Lot's of smooth double-track trails that were skiable with a tiny amount of snow. Some good downhills too. Might even be more fun when icy. Might even need a helmet then. It looks like a perfect place to night ski. And night skiing might also be the best time to avoid the snowmobilers who claim this spot as their home. And they're certainly right, as sled-heads outnumber nordic skiers about 1000:1 in this part of Pennsylvania.

Checking the bases after the ski. No problems at all. What were all those scraping sounds???

I had the next day off after working snow-duty the previous night. Had thoughts of going to sleep for a couple hours after taking O to school, and then figured, why waste daylight with sleep? I could finish building some trail with Darius, or ride, or hit Whitetail where a couple of my nephews were boarding all day, or go x-c skiing. When I really broke it down, x-c skiing was the logical choice, since it's the one activity I have the least opportunity to do. So, I called Darius and talked him into heading out to this place with me. I've looked at Laurel Ridge's web cam every winter day for the past several years, but have never been there. Their camera is a great indicator of the snow conditions all over the Allegheny spine.

Laurel Ridge was about a 2-hour drive from town, on the always intense Pennsylvania Turnpike. The snow there was great, and was getting fresher and deeper by the minute. We toured for a couple hours, then I had to beat it on back home. Some nice trails there, and some fun downhills. Not bad for 2 hours away, and was another world from town.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Groundhog Day

I hate that movie. And I hope the critter is wrong again too.