My two-inch view

Sunset over Lake ChamplainIt’s so important for me to feel connected to the world. To the earth and air and sun and stars and water. I spend so much time tapped in to other things – the internet, books, music, the presence of others – sometimes it’s nice to just feel the sun.

I desperately want a porch. Somewhere I can hang my hammock. Somewhere I can just sit and breathe.

Right now, what I have is this two-inch view if I stand with my back to the mailbox. Good enough.

 

Too soon.

It’s always to soon to leave the mountains and the cold behind – the white coating that erases the pressures and stress of life in the valleys.

Last week was the last ski race of the season, and with an old knee injury aggravated, I’m afraid it might just be the end of my winter. But it’s too soon. (It’s always too soon.)

I can feel my knee healing by increments as some combination of ice, ibuprofen, elevation, and gentle exercise combine. Minutes on my bicycle add up to a stronger joint, but the going is slow and I am impatient. I’m worried it won’t be strong enough in time  the long hike up to Tuckerman Ravine, my favorite part of spring.

The knee problem has happened before. The last time, my knee gave out on Tuckerman Ravine, which gave me my first ever, albeit mild, concussion. I won’t be making that mistake again, but I want to be on that mountain. There is no better way to say hello to spring than standing on the ridge of Mt Washington, looking down on the green world emerging.

I couldn't see anything. It was awesome.
I couldn’t see anything. It was awesome.

It’s cold again. I even biked through a Friday snow squall with flakes as large as quarters blurring my vision. But soon it will be warm. It won’t be long before I’m running outside, floating in Lake Champlain, and (if I conquer my fear) mountain biking.

I know plenty of people who say their favorite time to ski is in the spring, when powder days are interspersed with warm sunshine and soft snow. Smiles on faces and barbecues in parking lots. But I hate it. I hate watching the snow melt away. I hate emerging from hibernation, shedding layers in the heat until it’s me that’s melting.

For everything there is a season. But winter will always be mine.

Will you be missing winter, too? Or is there something special about spring that you can’t wait for?

Processing moments

slackcountrying in Vermont's green mountains

So much has happened in the past two weeks. My mind-space is taken up by processing it, leaving little room for stringing meaningful syllables together.

Changes at my current job which sent me for an emotional roller coaster of disappointment, adrenalin, creativity, and hope.

Accepted a new job, which I’ll start in a week. (I’ll probably tell you about it come summer, because it fits quite well into my warm-weather slackcountry training plans. Suffice to say, I am: excited, elated, elevated.)

rough draft one
20 pages of moments

Started in on the second draft of #muse. (You know, that novella I mentioned before I realized that I’d rather talk about skiing?) Draft one is an enormous outline of scenes. Draft two is daunting, as it’ll have to be more of a… y’know… draft and less a collage of moments.

Not to mention weekends in the mountains, balancing delight with frustration. There’s nothing I love more than skiing, but at the same time I know there’s so much I can do better. I’m hyper-aware of my mistakes – especially my unending struggle with falling too far back on my skis. It’s becoming more and more apparent that I need a new pair of boots. And AT bindings, AT boots, and a bright headlamp.

I leave you with the promise of more posts to come and this moment from yesterday’s adventure.

slackcountrying in Vermont's green mountains
Not all who wander are lost. But some are. We weren’t. I swear.

Mountain Purist

The hardest part about writing this blog is remembering to take photos.

Sometimes when I remember, my phone’s already dead from searching for reception. Sometimes I remember, but it’s too cold to pull my hands out of my mittens. Most of the time, though, I don’t think of it. I’m too busy skiing.

But, then again, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to my days on the slopes. I don’t listen to music. Until this year, my phone was turned off in the parking lot and only carried along in case of emergencies.

While I prefer my mountain days to be vacations from the rest of the world, there’s something to be said for snapping a few shots along the way… and capturing the beautiful days, perfect lines, and brilliant people with whom I share the mountain.

sunny day at Stowe
Crazy, cold, beautiful sky.

Don’t like the weather? Wait five minutes.

It’s an old Vermont adage, and let-me-tell-you-what it’s a true one. Especially now, in these days of global weirding, riding the weather is like getting on a roller coaster blindfolded: hold on. It’s going to be a wild ride.

56ºF one day, 32º and snowing the next with blowing winds whipping Lake Champlain to an ocean-like frenzy.

Snow in the pines
More of this, please.

While the second January Thaw has come and gone (hopefully for good), we’re still waiting for the snow to replenish itself. We skiers and riders are hungry, salivating for turns. Me, the slackcountryista, especially. I’ll ski anything, but what I really want is trees.

As we wait, I count my blessings – snowmaking, snowmakers, groomers, ski movies, snow flurries that lay a dusting of snow on welcome mats, and reinforcements that Vermont’s riders are of the most dedicated in the country.

With thirteen mostly-blissful days on skis already this season, I shouldn’t complain… But please, Ullr. Bring us snow!

My To Ski List grows longer every day…

Now that I’m out on my own in the mogul field of adulthood (exciting, repetitious, hard on the knees), I’m not able to travel very far in search of new mountains and aventures. Don’t get me wrong – I’m having a blast exploring my Vermont backyard and being a real local for the first time in my life… But I can’t help but dream of mountain ranges a little off the beaten path.

For years, my dream To Ski List included just three locations:

  • The Atlas Mountains
  • Antarctica
  • The Chugach Mountains

But this past week, due entirely to the Banff Mountain Film Festival and Backcountry Magazine, I added two more destinations.

Think I’m crazy? Don’t pass judgement until you watch the videos.

What mountain range are you dreaming about? Can I come, too?

Because I Said So: A Jay Peak Ski Area Review

Retro Jay Peak ski pins
I’m really embarrassed by the Mickey Mouse pin. The button’s legit, though. It’s vintage.

This is the first of what will be a series of ski area reviews. Since I live and ride in Vermont, I’ll start close to home.

I really don’t understand why so few of my fellow Burlington residents head north to Jay Peak. Apparently “it’s too far away.”

Too far away? Seriously? An hour and a half is never too far for good schuss. Besides: 50% of Jay’s skiers and riders come from Canada. It takes two hours to drive from Montreal to Jay – so stop your complaining, eat your Big Mac, and get off the couch, America.

I will happily swear up and down this state that Jay Peak is the closest an east coaster will get to western skiing without buying a plane ticket. The vertical’s impressive (over 2,000 vertical feet), as is the natural playground that is the snowfield summit. But what will really give you western déjà vu is in the trees. Jay’s glades are wide open and ever green with plenty of room to roam. Hit it on a powder day and you’re cruising through face shots so easy you (might) feel guilty.

Jay’s terrain is challenging with steep pitches and a little high altitude rock-hopping coming off the tram. Timbuktu is one of the most satisfying marked glades in the east, with plenty of features to find if you’re looking to get air. (I distinctly remember my eldest brother teaching me huck there. And by teaching, I mean he pointed at a rock and said “ski off that as fast as you can.” Surprisingly, I survived.)

If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to experience the Jay Cloud first hand. There’s a peculiar microclimate that exists solely around the summit of the mountain. It could be sunny and warm everywhere else in a four hour radius, but dumping on Jay. Granted, this phenomenon isn’t unique to Jay. Mountains like to hold to passing precipitation. But it’s really fun to talk about.

On the downside, Jay Peak is cold. Like, really cold. As in – no matter what you’re wearing it’s not enough cold. But, to quote their wonderfully witty marketing campaign, nobody grew up soft on rugged terrain. Builds character.

Raise 'em Jay
Oh, you’re cold? That’s too bad.

Pretty perfect sounding, eh?

The funny thing about Jay is that as much as I love it, it’s really… just another mountain. The trails are great, the glades are great, the unmarked glades are great. (While I’ve been skiing this mountain my entire life, I don’t claim local knowledge. I’ve never had the “backstage tour” as it where, so I can’t speak to what I haven’t found entirely by accident.) But there’s something almost… boring about all this perfection.

Two years ago, I hit Jay during the late-season blizzard of my dreams. My ski buddy and I hit powder run after powder run, braving the cold and wind for some of the best turns we got all season. And yet… I was a little relieved to get back into the claustrophobically tight trees of Mt. Mansfield. The glades are so roomy compared to the Peak’s southern neighbors that you’re rarely stuck without anywhere to go but down a tiny, squirrelly chute. You don’t have to drop the feature in Kitz Woods. There are plenty of ways around.

I can count the times on one hand that I stood uphill from a Jay feature and gone “oh shit.” Where’s the challenge in that? It’s not really skiing if I haven’t said Oh Shit five times in as many runs.

To sum up: Jay Peak is a must-hit that is a little like that one guy (or girl) you dated who was so unbearably awesome you couldn’t believe they knew your name, let alone kissed you on a regular basis. You ended up breaking up with him (or her) for that other guy (or girl) with the weird twitch and questionable hygiene habits because, man, they really made you feel special, you know?

What do you think? Was this review helpful, or am I really lying through my teeth? Keep me honest and let me know in the comments.

“Focus on the seasonality of things.”

“Focus on the seasonality of things” is a line from my #muse, and I’ve decided to take my character’s advice.

I waited five minutes for fresh whipped cream. Best decision ever.
Espresso con panna from BTV’s Muddy Waters

I am thankful for:

  • how a layer of snow makes the world seem new
  • cold, bright days
  • the smell of tea tree oil
  • espresso con panna with fresh whipped cream
  • text messages from friends with new diamond rings
  • and, of course, days spent in the mountains