Saturday, March 31, 2007

token post

It's been a while since words filled this space. I've actually been biking more than blogging lately, how 'bout that? I see my last post was about skiing. Skiing seems so far away already, and it's just been a couple weeks.

Have done a bunch of short road rides, and one medium one, and have had a few good mountain bike rides. Last weekend was the first local crew ride since before the snows took over, and it was a big, fun group. The ride was a bit chaotic, but it was cool seein' everyone out again.

One day last week, Darius' friend from State College drove down for an afternoon ride. His friend is working with Chris Scott to put on the Stoopid 50 in June. We rode southern Michaux from Mont Alto for almost 4 hours, and finished up on what is by far, my favorite trail in Michaux. It's named "Heaven or Hell", and to me, is pure heaven. It's the closest trail I've ridden so far that is anything close to Buzzard Rocks type terrain (from the GWNF). It's a long descent, very low speed, sketchy rock sections, serious drop-off penalties on many sections, ledges to bridge and lots of cool balance moves. Darius started building this trail a couple years ago and has taken folks on it, but none, no one, ever wanted to ride it again. We spent a few work sessions on it over the winter and have it in fine shape right now. Can't wait to start showing some of my GW pals this trail. They'll be very happy. Will get some pics of it posted soon. It was nearly dark when we rode it the other day, and we had no time to stop for photo ops.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

no turns

I skied Whitetail a couple times in the past few days, and I didn't make a single telemark turn. I skied a wedge down every run. And it was good! How can that be? I skied behind Oliver, holding onto a kid's ski leash.

This is Oliver's 3rd winter wearing skis. He's not actually skied much, but wearing skis around the backyard, the living room, hiking trails and such all helps. Plus, he's had several real ski lessons at Whitetail this season. And to help instill a love of snow play, I've taken him sledding every single day we could sled since he was born.

But he doesn't actually love skiing. He made these comments in the past week:
"I wish winter only lasted for one day"
"I'm bored with skiing, can't we just go home now"
"I wish Whitetail would just close"

I have this dream of O and me taking road trips every winter weekend to somewhere fun to ski, West Va, New York, Vermont. I think it'll be a few more years....

The other night, on the way home from Whitetail, I asked him what was his favorite part. He said, "riding the chair lift". After a few more minutes he said, " know what my favorite part was? Going fast."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Chasin' part II

I keep thinking my ski season is finished, and keep gettin' surprised. Yesterday was a sweet Alberta Clipper type storm. None of that Gulf moisture, or rain/sleet crap to worry about. Just light, dry, cold, blower snow. Perfect also in that in snowed in PA and not much in VA, so I didn't have to pull snow duty and be tied to the computer, or stay up all night.

Kim worked only a 1/2 day, so as soon as she got home, I was out the door with 3 sets of skis, and 3 pair of boots in the car. Not sure where I'd end up, so I took the lightweight gear, the medium, and the resort setup. One thing I've been trying to do this winter is check out many fairly close places to xc/backcountry ski, and try to figure them out, so when it snows next year, I'll know right where to go and when. I've checked out Sideling Hill, Laurel Ridge, Laurel Mountain, Blue Knob, and Cowans Gap.

First stop was Sideling Hill for a short x-c loop to check out some more terrain there. The snow was deep and good, but the old ice base was gone, and I often broke through to bare ground. I did an hour and a half loop there, and would soon wish I'd gotten out of there sooner.

Drove out to Blue Knob from there to either ski the State Park, or the lift resort. Since I was pretty worn out from Sideling, I went for the lifts (and the $22 ticket - Nice!).

Now I wished I'd gotten to Blue Knob sooner. Nice, cold deep powder everywhere, hardly anyone here. I've only skied Blue Knob twice, once was my 2nd day on skis way back in 1980, and the other was an unremarkable day on a snowboard sometime mid-90s. Now, I'm learning, this place is cool! Low budget all the way. No grooming, natural snow only on the good terrain, lots of trees and out of bounds. Hell, they even call it "out of bounds", rather than "closed". Is this a little like a PA version of Mad River Glen? It's a very interesting ski mountain. Lots of traverses, and tree runs in unexpected places. I arrived there with about an hour and a half of daylight and explored what I could before the lights came on. I saw tracks heading away from the Bowl and followed them. The tracks soon became boot prints from snowboarders. I could tell that this place is not kind to snowboarders, lots of traversing is necessary to get to the interesting terrain. These boot prints were going pretty far, and I figured that anything that snowboarders would hike this far for, ought to be good. It led to a nice, fast, long, narrow powder run down what was probably a fireroad, which dumped out slightly below and near the lift.

I spent the rest of evening skiing the poofy bumps, with patches of ice lurking. I skied Stembogan and some others, and actually skied bumps more aggressively than I ever have before. Even making some jump turns and really committing hard to the landings on ice. I was skiing them really fast though, cuz they weren't huge bumps (like the ones under the lifts), more like obstacles in a powder field. I still think I need to learn how to ski moguls at a much slower speed, and really bite a hard edge with each turn to check my speed. At least this is the way I watch the good bump skiers at Whitetail do it.

I skied for a few hours, then I thought I'd take one more run. Well, I ended up taking about 8 last runs, because it was so fun, I couldn't see any reason to go home, other than my legs burning on each run. Maybe something about the upside-down resort, where you park at the top instead of the bottom? And at Blue Knob, you can ski either the bottom half, or the top half of the mountain, and last night there was fun powder to be had from either. I reeallly want to get back to that place again! And I mean soon.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Chasin' down winter

I'm not ready to give up the snow just yet. And with things coming up the next 2 weekends that don't involve skiing or biking, I knew I had to get on it today, as it was probably my last chance of the winter for x-c skiing. I opted for another place I'd always wanted to try, Laurel Mountain, a PA State Park, and now abandoned ski area. It's adjacent to miles and miles of ridgetop backcountry ski and mountain bike trails, in Speedgoat country. I'd done the 33-mile mountain bike race, the Laurel Classic about 15 years ago here, and knew of the potential. Especially the winter potential after the ski area shut down. This was also a much shorter drive than White Grass, and after leaving Chambersburg before 0530, I was at the trailhead about 2 hours later, and the first car in the lot.

This was a solo trip, since one of my potential ski partners is skiing the Sawtooths and Tetons right now, another is nursing a new (hopefully temporary) knee injury, and many others have already gotten their road game on. No matter, there are no friends on powder days anyway right? And that's just what this was. It started snowing at Fort Loudoun just 20 minutes away, and was a decent squall going over Sideling Hill. The snow quit for a couple counties, and picked up again when I hit the Allegheny tunnel area. Kept snowing all the way in, and squalled on and off with sunbursts all day.

breaking trail to the goods

my favorite kind of Closed sign

The goods; a bit icy under the fresh, and a lot had been windblown off, but certainly still worth skiing. The singletrack trails were also fun to ski on the skinnier sticks, and look like they'd be cool on bikes too.