The Burn

This is the burn.

Four years ago, I hiked this trail with a friend on my first visit to Boulder, long before I thought I’d ever live here.  On June 26, 2012, a lightning strike set this section of forest ablaze.

Yesterday, in 97º heat, that same friend and I hiked the Shadow Canyon trail again. It was the first time either of us been on it since the fire.

This summer, apparently, is uncommonly wet. It’s turned the fire-scars bright green with new life.

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Such Great Heights

Saturday morning I took to the trails again, this time up Mt Abraham. It was a really lovely hike on a pleasant, lonely trail…. but I don’t want to talk about how nice it was. How it was centering and invigorating. No.

I want to talk about fear.

The summit of Mt Abe is a balding dome. It’s a bit of a steep scramble, and fairly exposed. It’s not a big deal. It’s really not. But during the final push, using my hiking boots to smear up the rocks, I turned around to take in the view. And immediately regretted it. My stomach tried to hide behind my large intestines and my knees said Nope, nope, nope.

Heights didn’t use to frighten me so much. I never liked sitting on the edges of cliffs or climbing in the rafters of my parents’ garage, but this uneasiness seemed entirely reasonable. The Grand Canyon is, after all, a very tall cliff, and my dad would not have appreciated my falling on his favorite car.

I was also afraid of a lot of things when I was a little one. The dark. The alligator under my bed. Spiders. Clowns. Again, all reasonable things. Most importantly, these are fears I’ve gotten over. I stopped believing in the alligator under my bed. I watched spiders spin their webs until my breathing regulated. I sat in dark rooms until my eyes adjusted, and I could see for myself that no monsters waited for me.

Not so with my fear of heights. In fact, I think it’s getting worse.

I used to be a religious rock climber, hitting the wall several times a week! I scrambled up trees when I was bored! Yet, I feel light headed on an exposed slab of otherwise completely stable rock. (To be honest, even chairlifts have started to freak me out. If I ever ride with the safety bar down, you’ll notice I will keep one arm over the chair to keep myself in place.)

I’m not sure how to work on this, either. Picking up rock climbing again would surely help, but indoor gyms don’t trigger the same panic reaction that outdoor heights illicit.

As with any fear, beating this one will take time and practice. Have you dealt with something like this before? How did you keep it from getting in the way of enjoying the view, so to speak? Let me know in the comments. Maybe it’ll give me an idea as to how to face this fear of mine!

Ladies getting some much needed air time

If you haven’t been keeping an eye on the latest trailer releases, you’re in for some excitement. This ski movie season is going to be stellar – just check out the likes of Into the Mind and Valhalla. If your pulse doesn’t pick up, you might already be dead.

But there’s a new ski film trend that has me on the edge of my seat, leaning forward with a big stupid grin on my face. All-female films. Usually I’m not into girls-club, but I cannot wait to see these films.

According to the latest SIA stats, 40% of skiers and 33% of snowboarders are women. Think about it. What was the last ski film you saw? (Maybe you were just watching The Art of Flight for the umpteenth time like me.) What percentage of the riders were kick-ass women were in it? Not 40%. Not even 33%. And don’t you dare say that women don’t go big enough or ride heart-stoppingly gnarly lines. Just check out these teasers/trailers.

The first one I heard about was Pretty Faces, Lynsey Dyer’s compilation of female skiers tearing up some of the most technical terrain in the world and going bigger, harder, faster. My favorite quote from her on making the film?

Skiing has been everything I know. I’ve learned from skiing (about) discipline, how to get through suffering, committing myself, and listening to my intuition. I think a lot of girls think they can’t do what the guys are doing. Skiing’s taught me that I can.

Dyer, you’re speaking my language. The only bad thing is that Pretty Faces doesn’t come out until Fall 2014.

Bummer.

Fortunately, two more films are on their way, highlighting the strength of female riders. Sandra Lahnsteiner’s Shades of Winter premiers this September in Montreal. (Might be worth a road trip to see, but definitely worth tracking down afterwards.)

I’m looking forward to this one… I saw Lahnsteiner’s last film, Shukran Morocco. It’s fairly short, but tapped right in to my wildest dream… to throw my gear on my back and head into Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. The snow never looks very good, but riding in Africa requires an adventurous spirit and a deep appreciation for the culture and geography you’re skiing passed. I love it.

SHADES OF WINTER trailer from Sandra Lahnsteiner on Vimeo.

Shades of Winter promises deeper snow, gnarlier lines, and a larger cast of powerful women. So. Stoked.

3) Finally, there’s Hecuba. I haven’t been able to find all that much chatter about this film, other than that it should drop either this fall or the following spring. My fingers are crossed for sooner rather than later, because I just took a few minutes to browse Aprés Visuals‘ site. They have an incredible eye for sick, slick cinematography. The teaser is below.

I can hardly wait to own each of these films, invite some friends over, and cheer on some of the best riders in the business.

What do you think of these three films? Are you as excited about them as I am…. or are you drooling over another film? There’s plenty of good ones on the way this year. Just check out the list of trailers at Freeskier. You can’t watch just one.

Those Green Mountains

Spring skiing at Stowe, VT
Oh, you’re taking a photo? Here. Let me ruin it.

Can you believe this photo was taken on Saturday?

24 years of skiing and this sport still surprises me. Mid-winter coverage all the way into April. Corn snow as light as powder. With every turn, the falling ssshhhhhhh sound of sand downhill. Only… it’s still snow.

Clouds hung on to the summit for dear life – like winter holding out against spring. The sun broke through in the lower elevations, however, baking the corn into wet, soft mush.

We spent the day in the trees. In April.

The next morning, I sat on a porch in a t-shirt sipping coffee watching the grass turn slowly greener.

Don’t give up yet. There’s still snow in those green mountains.

April is the cruellest month

Look at this beautiful view!

March tree skiing with Craig

Two weekends ago, Craig (the snowboarder) met me at the mountain for a few Easter runs. We found still other friends and rode the gondola swapping stories and comments on the overcast sky.

The woods that day were certainly a happy surprise – untracked, empty, heavy with the best snowpack Vermont’s seen all season. After the first run, we were so hot and sweating that we both shed layers and got back out at it, our snowpant vents zipped open.

March is a funny month. Just as people gear up for spring, cabin fever driving them mad, winter delivers. Mid-week snow storms that make me dizzy with envy as I watch from work. Long days on the slopes with smaller crowds. Or even short romps – a few hours, a few runs to justify sitting in the parking lot with a beer and a portable grill.

Now, April. April plays tricks with hearts. Snowing one day, hot sun the next, rain yet another. Sometimes, two or three seasons in a single day. I think I agree with T.S. Eliot:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

But last weekend, riding to Massachusetts for my nephew’s baptism, I saw the earth and just the earth. If nothing else, April in Vermont rubs the world down to its body. It reveals the contours – the rolling hills, the glacial-worn cliffs, the geography – that all other seasons hide. And that’s a beautiful view, too.

“Let the mountain come to you.”

I am sore, aching, and exhausted from two days on the mountain.

Friday’s storm dropped 11 inches on Stowe, filling in the rutted glades. It’s not enough (is it ever enough?), but the mountain feels whole again – complete under a fresh coat of white. Saturday was spent flowing through trees, and pounding through row after row of soft moguls. Sunday was for cruising with my coworkers, leaning into the turns, and taking the scenic way down. These were my best two days of riding so far… and not just because of the freshies.

Skis, snowboard against the sky

I haven’t ridden my best this year. I spend a lot of time frustrated, struggling with lines and recovering from poor decisions. Earlier this year, I even grazed a tree hard enough to knock the wind out of me. I want to blame my boots, the longer length of my new skis… anything to explain why I’m struggling. Rookie mistakes.

Saturday, I ended up upside down in a tree well. As I squirmed, one of the guys called out “Relax, don’t struggle.” Which… I didn’t do. I was too embarrassed and angry with myself for bailing out. Instead, I grunted and fumed. Between the two of us, I was right side up in no time, but rattled… The feeling was not improved by the next obstacle – a thin, steep chute narrower than my skis are long. Cover was thin… and the wall of solid ice on one side of the run-out was hardly reassuring.

The only way down was to take on turn and go for it, skis pointed straight. Which… I didn’t do. I was too scared to take the line, and ended up sliding part of the way and fumbling the rest, redeeming myself with a single solid drop into a pillow of soft powder.

Looking up from the bottom of the chute, I watched the next rider come down, moving with the fall line much more gracefully. Standing there, I thought about a story that Bob Berwyn shared with me about the woman who taught him to telemark. Something the woman said stuck out to me when I first read it, and just then it came back to me like a tap on the shoulder.

“Let the mountain come to you. And trust your skis.”

After the group shared high fives in celebration of our survival, we turned to the fall line. I exhaled, the worst over, and found myself finally relaxing into my turns. Too tired to battle my skis, I let them follow the fall line through the white.

Today, I ducked in to the woods to lap up what was left of the soft, riding easily. All the while, I reminded myself, “Relax, don’t struggle. Let the mountain come to you.”