Wednesday, August 12, 2015

High Tide - Chapter One

Charlie Sullinger shuffled his feet over the course gravel road leading to South Cradle Light. As he whistled to his dog, Sandy, who’d sauntered a few hundred feet ahead, he saw the faint beam of light cut through the early morning fog and a sense of accomplishment warmed over him as he knew he’d neared the hallway point of his daily morning walk. Though not a steep trek, the road from the southern edge of Cradle Cove – to the lighthouse – had a steady uphill grade that seemed to wear on his 77-year-old knees a little more each day. And yet the Korean War veteran was far-too stubborn to allow a little arthritis from keeping him from a daily routine he saw as nothing short of a blessing. 

Sandy, his nine-year-old Golden Retriever, was a loyal friend, but instead of dashing back to Charlie’s side when summoned, he’d waited at the crest of the hill, panting slightly. “What’s the matter, buddy? All tuckered out, are you?” Charlie smiled, petting Sandy’s head as he’d pulled even with him on the hill. Charlie reached into his pocket and took out a small milk bone. Sandy sat at attention and stared up at him adoringly.

Nearing the edge of the bluff and the base of the lighthouse, Charlie felt the chill of the early morning southerly that was blowing onshore and tugging slightly on the bill of his Red Sox baseball cap. As he surveyed the water between the mainland and the distant islands of Talisman Bay, Charlie was surprised at the heavy seas, crisp morning air, and the increasing force of the offshore wind that had swept away the morning fog like a car defroster cleared a windshield. “Feels like some weather moving up the coast, Sandy,” he said as peered over the edge of the bluff and watched the waves crash into the craggy granite ledges that lined the outer harbor of Cradle Cove like a serrated knife. 

South Cradle Lighthouse was a lonely structure. The white-painted stone tower rose 60 feet above the wind-swept grass and stood alone. The wooden keeper’s house had been destroyed some five decades earlier in – what was then considered – the storm of the century. And with the advent of the automated lamp, there was little need to replace the structure that had housed hearty and weather-worn families for over a hundred years.

Having walked a few hundred feet northward along the Bluff, Charlie reached Hatchet Point and the southern entrance to Cradle Cove. A rickety wooden fence lined the bluff as the edge of land curled inward. The fence was futile as a barrier, but served as reminder of the two hundred foot cliff that dropped off, just a few feet past. Charlie stood motionless with Sandy by his side. The view of the semi-circle shaped cove never got old for him. With Half Moon Island sandwiched between the north and south channels and adding an extra defense against the often violent seas of Talisman Bay, a nearly identical point of land bordered the north channel. Like Hatchet Point, Raven's Head had a lighthouse, but the privately owned and maintained property included neatly manicured lawns, sculpted hedges, and a stone-walled light keeper’s house that had endured the same storms as its’ former cousin to the south, yet looked no worse for wear. Charlie had only been on the property a handful of times in the last few decades, but he didn’t care for it much. He appreciated its’ role as a navigational beacon and warning about the ledges below, but to him, it was not at all emblematic of the Maine lighthouses the coast had become so famous for.

At low tide, the north and south channels leading in from Talisman Bay converged and narrowed to one 50-foot wide dredged thoroughfare that wound its’ way a quarter of mile through vast white sandbars to the inner harbor that opened up like a flower and was dotted with moorings for boats of nearly all sizes. At any time, the inner section of Cradle Cove may was likely the most protected and sheltered refuge on the Maine coast – an oasis, that at high tide, played tricks on those not savvy enough to mind the green and red navigation buoys.

At dead low tide, Cradle Cove resembled a cracked sand dollar and its' pale yellow sand was the inspiration for Sandy's name. And yet as clever as the name would appear, about half of the town's dozen or so commercial properties incorporated the sand dollar theme in one way or another.

Charlie turned back towards the lighthouse and was about to whistle when Sandy - who was inches from the edge of the cliff - began to bark towards something on the shore below. Fearing a rash action by his dog, who was never one to bark, Charlie began to tug on the retractable leash he had fastened only minutes before. While Sandy typically got free reign to run around without her leash, there were two instances when Charlie made a point to have it fastened - as they walked near the cliffs and in town. 

Charlie felt a slight strain as he stooped over to crawl through the rickety old garden wood fence. Holding the leash with one hand and holding on to the log above his head for support, he grimaced in pain. "Damn it, Sandy," he said. "What in God's name has caught your attention?"

Having traveled about three hundred yards downhill and along the rim of the crater-like harbor's rock walls, the cliff walls had tapered from over a hundred feet to barely more than Charlie was tall, but a fall would still have dire consequences to his frail body, and so he carefully inched his way to the edge, slowly dropped to his knees, and peered intently at the ribbon of jagged rocks that separated the cliffs from the massive sand bars. And despite the vastness of the shoreline below, it was mere seconds before Charlie felt a pit in his stomach like he hadn’t felt since he walked among the lost souls on the Korean peninsula.

He’d hoped his eyes were playing tricks on him. Half a century had passed since Charlie Sullinger had seen a dead body and he found himself caught somewhere between disbelief and shock.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Last Weekend - Sugarloaf!

The last weekend of lift-served skiing in the east used to bring me to central Vermont in the latter days of May, but in recent years, the resort I grew up skiing has stepped up to the plate and offered the latest and best skiing in the east.

Sugarloaf may not get as much snow as some Vermont resorts, but with a high altitude and a colder winter, the snow last longer. So come this weekend, myself and a bunch of friends will pack out skis, food, and netbooks, and head for Maine’s western mountains for a rite of spring and what is hopefully a glorious conclusion to an epic season!

Goal complete - 100 Days On Snow for 2008/2009

Nearly six months after I logged my first day of the season back on October 31st, I reached a lofty goal I set for myself before the season began – 100 days on snow for the 2008/2009 season. To many skiers and riders this is something that is unfathomable; while to others it’s an annual occurrence, but realistically, when you work full time and live 40 miles from the closest ski area, skiing 100 days is quite an accomplishment.

And unless I somehow become rich or work in the ski industry, I never want to try that again. Too much driving and not enough sleep, even when you’re at a resort for multiple days!c45f3a2487259ccd2c9cc9637f6e99354d3c2d08b6c64bc743

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's time to put up or shut up!

So the other morning while Julie and I were getting ready to hit the slopes, we saw an infomercial for an exercise program. Normally I wouldn’t have thought twice about such a program, but this time I ended up calling. It seemed like something that the two of us could do together and for success, we know that this is how we want to go about it. So when I called, I was bombarded with offer after offer for extra this and extra that. The lady offered me a 30-day trial on what she considers the best diet pills and yes, I took her up on the offer. This time, I’m committed.

Great coverage in Tahoe!

A friend of mine has recently made the choice to move from Golden, Colorado to Lake Tahoe. An avid skier and chef, he is torn between whether to live on the north or south shore. As a yearly visitor to South Lake Tahoe, I may be a bit biased, but when you’re on top of one of the surrounding mountains and have a full view of the Blue World, it likely does matter where in Tahoe you live as long as you get the Blue Advantage for you and your family!

Spring skiing in Maine

The third weekend of April has passed and throughout most of New England most ski areas have already either closed previously or at least after today. In Maine we happen to be a little fortunate with the colder nights and thick base.

On Friday I took a day trip to Sugarloaf and enjoyed some of the best conditions of the season with wall-to-wall snow cover and good friends to share it with. Not to mention the vast rays of sunshine that just so happen to have burned my face a little. Thankfully, both Sugarloaf and Sunday River will remain open for the next couple of weeks!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Time to get fit for next season!

How many skiers talk about what they are going to do to get in shape in the off-season? Probably most and I’m no different. While I don’t see myself prescribing to a diet pill or anything like that, I look forward to getting in some more cardio and hiking in the mountains once the mud season comes to a close. Of course in Maine, that could mean I’d have to wait till the beginning of the next ski season before the mud’s gone!

The Ups and Downs of Spring Skiing!

As the spring rains fall across the northeast, ski area after ski area is closing down for the season and while the larger resorts remain open, most have scaled back their operations. Even places with tons of snow left in certain pods have limited their open terrain. It is the sad reality of spring in the mountains.

And while this may seem a little depressing – and it is – there’s still a lot of good skiing to be had across the country and right here in New England. With 91 days down, I’m still within reach of my goal of 100 days for the season. I look forward to soft corn snow and bright sunshine as I embark on the last few weeks of lift-served skiing. And yet after the lifts shut down there’s still time to head to the eastern backcountry skiing mecca on Mount Washington.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Retro Weekends Are The Best!

While Julie and I enjoyed snapping photos of strangely dressed folks while we were out west, it’s always fun to have a retro weekend and this past weekend at Sunday River didn’t disappoint. With an 80s theme and lots of local characters promising to come out with their retro best, there was plenty of dayglo to go around, a lot of long-straight skis, and I think I even spotted a guy skiing in a tuxedo shirt.

Shane McConkey - RIP

Shane McConkey lived life to extremes. He and J.T. Holmes were long time skiing and BASE jumping partners, who both made their home in Squaw Valley, California, a breeding ground for so-called extreme skiers and action sports athletes. McConkey was more than a local legend, he was one of the biggest icons skiing has ever known. Holmes - several years his junior - was sometimes seen as his protégé, but to McConkey, the two were trusted equals. Both men had been ski-BASE jumping for years and even after hundreds of jumps, they were known for their attention to safety, at least as much as anyone can in one of the most dangerous sports known to man.

Less than a week ago, the two athletes were in the Dolomite Alps of Italy, filming sequences for an upcoming  Matchstick Productions film. It was their second day attempting a ski-wingsuit-BASE jump from the plateau-like summit of Sass Pordoi. They had tested the altitude by dropping rocks and waiting for their impact, and had ascertained that the valley floor was at least 1400 feet below and just as important, the cliff wall was near vertical. While no other athletes had ever attempted the type of jumps McConkey and Holmes were performing, the two had numerous successful attempts under their belt and this should have been about as routine as such a feat could be.

Holmes went first. He skied a few hundred feet, hit the kicker they had built next to the cliff, safely ejected his skis, opened his wingsuit, and then after a short flight, popped his parachute. When Holmes looked back to see McConkey's jump, he wasn't there. Unable to jettison one of his skis, McConkey was unable to open his wingsuit or parachute and impacted on the valley floor, killing him instantly. Shane McConkey was 39-years-old and is survived by his wife, Sherri and daughter, Ayla.
News of McConkey's death travelled quickly. Online sites like Facebook and Twitter were flooded with reports, rumors, and some very strong opinions.      

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to post anything on Shane McConkey’s recent passing. To be frank, there have been many people who were critical of him continuing to push the limits with a wife and 3-year-old daughter and I dare say that my feelings bordered on the same, but then it struck me that I don’t have the slightest clue what it was like to be in his shoes and I don’t know what his family thought about him attempting to defy fate on a daily basis. So to question whether he should or shouldn't have been participating such dangerous pursuits is not for me to do.

What I do know is that Shane McConkey was and is a legend in the sport of skiing. Forget, if you will, all the stuff about BASE jumping, wingsuit flying, and all the other action sports McConkey had become associated with; at his core, McConkey was a skier. Most people in the skiing world would agree that he was one of the most talented all-around skiers to ever strap a pair of skis on. Whether it was his exploits as a pro mogul skier, a racer when he was younger, or one of the pioneers on the international competitive freeskiing tour, McConkey represented much of what embodies places like Squaw Valley, Jackson Hole, Verbier, and Chamonix. His passing is surely a tragedy that could have been avoided, but that would have required he stop doing what he truly loved. And as members of the skiing community or general public, who are we to judge how made his living? his life is surely worth celebrating! RIP!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Choose you ski resort wisely!

Over the weekend while at Sunday River I spent a lot of time with friends and talked about some of the similarities and differences between eastern and western skiing. Given that we all tend to go on trips out west each year – to different places, we all have different things about our trips that we like and different reasons for wanting to go to one state versus another. Julie and I like the vibe and feel of Lake Tahoe for its’ skiing culture and laid back atmosphere. That isn’t to say that other western states don’t have terrain and skiing that is as good, but every region has something unique and different to offer. While Julie and I like the laid back home town feel of South Lake Tahoe, other people might like the option of boutique hotels you can find at place like Northstar on the north slope of the basin. And yet regardless of what you are looking for, I’ve come to realize that you just really can’t go wrong with any type of ski trip!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

You never know what you find when you go through old things and then tonight while I was back at my childhood home - where I happen to still keep my ski tuning equipment - I was looking at a picture on the basement wall that I'd cut out of a magazine from the mid-90s. I knew the last name had sounded familiar and thus I scanned it into the computer. The shot is of 1992 World Mogul Champion, Dave Hilb. His relationship to director Mickey Hilb, of Deep Winter fame; I don't know, but I bet I'll find out soon enough. Cool shot, nonetheless!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Get ready for some awesome spring skiing festivals!

With spring skiing pretty much in full swing, thousands of skiers and riders will flock to resorts with ample amounts of spring festivals and activities. Sure, most American resorts have some fabulous line-ups for spring, but two of the most popular spring skiing destinations are north of the border in Canada. With Whistler/Blackcomb and Mont Tremblant both hosting their annual Telus Spring Festivals, there are awesome ski and stay deals to be had. But before you book your trip, make sure you get the best deal possible and maximize your conversion rate optimization.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring skiing is finally here!

As Julie, Carolyn, and I loaded the chairlift Friday night, thoughts of spring skiing and soft corn snow were swiftly swept away by temps in the teens and the sound of skis and snowboards scratching the hard-packed ice on the slopes below. Mid-March? Yikes, a few days earlier Julie and I had been gliding over the pristine conditions in Lake Tahoe and now we were bundled up like it was mid-January.

After several fast runs down the lit trails of Sunday River’s North Peak, we retreated to the Foggy Goggle for some warm après and friends.

While I was far from discontent, I wondered if spring was coming or if I needed a good stone grind to get me through the weekend, but as the Saturday afternoon sun crept up and shone brightly on the thousands of visitors to Sunday River, the glare got stronger and the snow softened. Smiles widened and grills in the parking lot sparked up.

By the time we packed up the car this afternoon, the snow had turned to mashed potatoes and both Julie and I were comparing the redness of our faces. In a short 48 hours, spring had arrived. It’s the best time of the year!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Late season ski equipment deals!

While late season skiing can be a bit depressing, given the fact that I can’t help but think of the fact that it means that summer is on the way and soon the chairlifts will stop spinning, it also means that there are great deals in ski shops all around the country for skiers and snowboarders alike. Regardless of how good a season has been for retailers, the end of the season always means surplus and surplus means bargains for the likes of you and me!

Late season Sierra storms blanket the slopes!

It’s been nine days since Julie and I arrive in South Lake Tahoe and sadly, we’ll be leaving in two days. Having begun this year’s trip over a week later than usual, we arrived to the unusual sight of brown lawns and a mild breeze. Sure, this is the beginning of spring around Lake Tahoe, but aside from the snow-covered trees and slopes beginning part way up the mountains, the lack thereof at lake level, was just weird.

Then less than 24-hours after our arrival, the latest storm models began to take shape and in a season that was being described as nothing short of a drought, the locals were beginning to salivate at the thought of a true Sierra Storm cycle. If you’ve never experienced a Sierra snowstorm, they can be best described like heavyweight prize fighters that may be a little slow out of the gate, but when they unleash their fury, they don’t hold back punches – for days.

Less than four days after the storm cycle began, we had seen about four and a half feet of snow at lake level and about eight feet above 8500 feet. Needless to say, Julie and I were pleased about the storm, but also pleased for all the resorts and communities in the Sierras that saw a huge influx of skiers and riders over the past week with the weather.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Booking places to stay while on a ski trip can be tough!

I often think that one of the hardest parts of planning a ski trip is choosing where to stay. I mean we may know where we want to ski and we’ve heard of all the best places to sleep and eat, but when it comes down to booking a hotel or condo, not only are there a ton of choices, but since we’re nornmally so far a way, finding extended stay hotels that suit all the needs of our trip can be really hit or miss. Luckily, Julie and I have been on the good side of such luck with our annual Lake Tahoe trips and this year has been no exception!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

NASTAR Open Fails To Gain Regional Support!

For years eastern recreational racers have complained that the NASTAR National Championships have been held out west and thus making it very difficult to participate. By most accounts, the 4-day trip to Steamboat Springs costs about $1500 and that’s if you’re on a budget. This simply out of reach for most and just impractical for others.

NASTAR officials heard the feedback loud and clear and finally came out with the NASTAR Eastern Open, which was held at Sunday River, Maine a few weeks back. While the entry fees and other costs were less than the national event, NASTAR didn’t make the announcement of the event until the new year and publicity could have been a lot better. The end result was a poor number for registration and admittedly, I was one of the ones who didn’t race. Why? I simply hadn’t budgeted for a high entry fee and didn’t think it would have been fair to spring such a cost on my wife when we are newly married, have just bought a house, and have trips already booked. Nonetheless, I think that I should have made the effort and wish I had because a lot of time and energy went into making this happen. I don’t expect the event to return to Sunday River, but wherever it is next season, I will make it a point to participate.

Monday, February 9, 2009

100 days wouldn't be possible without skiing under the lights!

When you work a full-time job and at the same time go for a goal like skiing 100 days in a season, you have to sacrifice quite a few nights in order to rack up the skier days. Yep, that means working a full day, jumping in the car, and then making turns under the lights when the sun isn’t shinning and temps drop faster than you can imagine. Having the right gear and lots of energy is the best way to adapt to the long days and even those mid-week night when we ski under the light bulbs.

You gotta love the soft snow, but it belongs in the spring!

Sunday was set to be one of those perfect ski days with temps on the warm side and snow on the soft side. Don’t get me wrong, I love the cold and flying down meticulously groomed trails, but when the temps warm up and the snow softens, possibilities open. Not only does more terrain become accessible, but soft snow means bumps and bumps all day long. I’m a mogul skier at heart and skiing in corn snow is when the sport changes from an anaerobic exercise to a heart-pounding aerobic sport. Several hours of bashing soft bumps is a lot more fun than a gym and easier to manage then diet pills.

Let it snow!

I admittedly don’t put much into books like the Farmer’s Almanac when it comes to the weather. While they can claim to be right 80% of the time in their forecasting, it is sometimes nice to have winter storms happen without notice and to have those perfect days when they’re lease expected. Here in the east we’ve had an average winter when it comes to snowfall. Now that I think about it, winter has been dry to average in most parts of the country and that can be a little depressing. Nevertheless, it was nice to click on the webcams at Heavenly Mountain resort the past few days and see Wildlife trees covered in fresh coats of the white stuff each day!

Vonn grabs second gold, becomes best American female ever!

Tamera McKinney has long been the most decorated woman ever to race for the United States. Sure, Picabo Street made a run for the same claim back in the mid-late 1990s, but with an overall World Cup title, 18 career wins, and a gold in the 1989 World Championships combined, McKinney was in a class all by herself.

Last week, fellow American Lindsay Vonn tied McKinney’s mark when she notched her 18th career WC win. A few days later she won the super giant slalom at the World Championships, and then today she finally eclipsed the legendary McKinney with a gold in the Woman’s downhill.

With a slid lead in the overall season standings and the simple fact she’s still quite young, Lindsay Vonn has already become the most decorated U.S. female skier ever. Time will tell what other accolades she adds to that list.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The cold gives way to a foot of snow in the Maine mountains!s

Sometimes the best ski days are the ones that are totally unexpected. While most of us in the northeast had suffered the affects of terribly cold weather this week and into the weekend, the forecast held out hope for some snow to end MLK weekend. Sure, the models only showed a few inches in the mountains, but a few inches is better than none and all skiers know that if it’s going to snow, the temps can hover around zero, it’s just not possible for snow to fall with temps so low.

As the weekend got closer and people got more and more giddy, the snowfall estimates began to grow until we woke up Sunday morning to a fresh blanket of the white stuff and light fluffy snow continuing to fall. The initial estimates of 4-6 inches at Sunday River had given way to a good foot and with the previous days of cold temps, the crowds had stayed away. It was one of those days that we like to call epic and while they don’t come along all that often, we appreciate these days more when they are unexpected.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Crazy weather hampers holiday week!

Yesterday brought a close to what was a crazy month of weather throughout the northeast. With vacation week in full swing at Sunday River, the resort has battled the wind all month long and has had most lifts closed on many days, including each day this past week. And while this has made some people unhappy with the mountain, it’s pretty unfair to blame them for closing lifts with dangerous wind conditions. Along with the safety of the guests and preventing damage to the lifts themselves, the wind out of the northwest can wreak havoc and like everybody else, Sunday River carries a heavy amount of insurance during the season. So just think about the premiums you pay each year for auto insurance for one car and then think about 500,000 visitors, 17 lifts, hundreds of employees, and all the buildings and structures. That’s a lot of money and not worth pushing it on dangerous days!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Families hit the slopes!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of one of the big weeks for ski areas around the country. Traditionally, Christmas vacation and February vacation weeks are the money makers for resorts and this year is no exception. Even with the fledgling economy, people are still spending on weeks in the mountains. And yet there was and is much concern over the total number of skier and rider visits for the year, one large component of the financial figures – filling the bed frames - is factored largely by these two weeks.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The snow is falling just about everywhere!

I suppose if you live anywhere where the temperatures typically get below freezing during the winter months, chances are you have had at least one snowstorm already this year. While the west coast, Rockies, and eastern seaboard have been hammered by storm after storm, even places like Las Vegas and New Orleans have received snowfall this winter and we’re still in the early stages.

This past week alone, some of my favorite mountains in the Sierra’s like Squaw Valley and Heavenly Mountain Resort have received totals of around 4 feet of snow. And while the amounts haven’t been as high, and normally aren’t, here in the east, Sunday River and Sugarloaf have each reached the 3 foot mark for December. What this means to skiers and riders is an abundance of early season terrain that normally doesn’t open until January or February.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fire breaks out at Sunday River condo complex.

A fire broke out in one of the South Ridge Townhouses early Thursday that sent members of the Sunday River ski community into a frenzy. With many condo owners living a ways away, new of what had actually happened and the extent of the damage was fairly sparse. Thankfully, no one was injured and the extent of the damage was limited, but it surely one of those times when you really hope the owners had a good home owner insurance policy. Places like that are hard to replace and the cost can often times not be recovered.

There's a beautiful site above the slopes of Sunday River!

Sunday River has announced that Saturday, December 20th will be the grand opening of the new Chondola and there is quite a bit of buzz surrounding the event. It will also signal the beginning of night skiing at Sunday River – a first. And while the 20th is slated as the grand opening, there is much speculation that the lift could actually begin operations as early as this weekend. With all the chairs and gondola cars strung on the haul rope and the load testing completed today, it’s very possible that the regions newest super-lift will mark the beginning of a new era in New England skiing and riding.

All those ski lifts parts come together to make one big happy lift!

Seeing a ski lift in all its’ millions of pieces before the final touches are done is simply amazing. A few weeks ago I looked in parking lot 5 at Sunday River and there were piles and piles of gondola and chairlift components all neatly wrapped in shrink wrap and ready to be assembled. To most it’s probably nothing more than an eyesore, but to see how all the equipment comes together from chairlift grips to gondola door hardware, is simply amazing.

Why do ski boots have to hurt?

While I already have 11 days skiing under my belt, it seems that some of the same challenges I faced last year are once again rearing their ugly head. Yep, boot pain is once again a prominent part of my ski life. It doesn’t keep me from having fun or enjoying full days on the slopes, but why is it my ski boots are all nice and cozy like a pair of Beautifeel shoes. I suppose it’s partly the price you pay for buying stiff boots, but much of it has to actually do with my feet and aside from having them reshaped, it will just have to be something I deal with cause we all know that you can’t just have your feet reshaped. That’s just silly.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What type of ski lift will you ride this year?

With all the new types of ski lifts debuting in the world this year, it should come as no surprise that many are truly over-the-top. Perhaps the biggest installation is Whistler/Blackcomb’s Peak-to-Peak Gondola. While it isn’t a vertical lift that people will take to get up the mountain, it will transport skiers and riders from mid-mountain on Whistler to mid-mountain on Blackcomb. The cabins hold 28 passengers each and a couple even have clear floors so the people inside can have a first hand view of the valley, 1300 feet below. Me? I liked the old Sugarloaf gondola with its’ foggy windows and wood flooring.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Heavenly Opens with one trail and four high-speed lifts...

On Friday, November 28th, Heavenly Mountain Resort opened for the 2008/09 season with skiing on Orion’s. Yep, a 3000’ vertical gondola, a high-speed six-pack, and two high-speed quads for skiing on one, one-mile long trail. I know that it may sound a little hypocritical for me to be passing judgment on this move by Heavenly when I was skiing on one trail just a month ago, but one trail at Sunday River, which was serviced by one triple chair is a lot different than the massive amount of resources needed to have Heavenly open right now. Personally, I see Heavenly as a destination resort and not a locals hill and thus the early season skiing doesn’t attract new skiers. And still I applaud their efforts. Perhaps they got some good press in the Bay area and ticket sales will be all the better for it…

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Honeymoons are pretty much the best...

Alas, Julie and I arrived here at Disney World on Sunday and I waited until today to get online. Not bad for me. We’ve had a blast thus far and still have a couple of days to play! Then it’s back to work and of course back to playing in the snow at Sunday River!

For all of you that have been to Disney, you know that one of the many things that Disney does really, really well, is prepare fabulous food options. Perhaps not so much in the parks as you are trying to move quickly from place too place, but the dinners at the resort restaurant have some of the best food you’ll find, especially ay Epcot. And yet here we are on our honeymoon and what is again my favorite thing to eat? Yep, ice cream. I joked that I would stop at every place that has it, but I haven’t done so because there are so many. Nevertheless, I’ll surely need some kind of fat burner when we get back or at least a visit to the gym everyday for the next year. Yikes!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Chondola Construction moves ahead!

With a month left in the construction process of Sunday River’s Chondola, things are really starting to come together nicely. I’d say that last week’s rain probably posed a big problem for the whole schedule, but even through the weather, work went on. Looking up the line of the lift, there is a huge spool in the middle of the ski trail that is actually thousands of feet of steel rope that will be spliced together and will make up the haul rope (cable) that the chairs and gondola cabins hang from. The process of stringing the haul rope and splicing it can take weeks and is pretty complicated, but it’s also a really cool part of the process. Another cool part of the recent construction is in the picture above. Notice that they are pouring concrete around the whole structure and the walkways. If you look closely at some of the areas that haven’t had the final layer poured, you can see orange tubing, which is actually heat coiling. This keeps the surface from allowing ice to build up.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bretton Woods readies the mountain for the new season!

As of Wednesday afternoon, Bretton Woods, part of Mountain Washington Resort, has fired up its snowmaking guns and is busy laying down a good base for the approaching ski season. There is already over a foot of snow at the Top o'Quad Restaurant, according to Chris Ellms, Director of Ski Operations for the Resort.

"We plan to get folks out on the snow just as soon as we can. From here on in, we'll be making snow at every opportunity and plan to open as soon as possible," says Ellms. "If the cold weather cooperates, and especially if Mother Nature blesses us with a couple of inches of new snow, we will be able to open as early as November 8th -- possibly even sooner!"

The first weekend of skiing is in the books!

What a difference a couple of days make. I was fortunate to ski Friday through Sunday this past weekend and in typical New England early season fashion, we had three distinct types of conditions. Early season skiing and riding is challenging and conditions are variable by the hour. This is one of the reasons that regardless of the open terrain, skiing and riding is always listing as “for advanced only.” This of course doesn’t stop every Tom, Dick, and Harry form thinking that they fall into that category and clogging up the trails that we refer to as the “White Ribbon of Death.”

Nonetheless, the weekend was fabulous. We skied spring like conditions on Friday, boilerplate hardpack on Saturday, and sticky and wet manmade on Sunday – top-to-bottom. Sunday was by far the best day and by mid-morning there were some nice zipper lines formed down the center of T2.

Day3 is now in the books and we’ll take a few days off to actually work…

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mount Snow readies the terrain park with a fresh coat... And then it rained!

With temperatures dipping into the lower 20s, snowmakers reported for duty at Mount Snow Saturday night, firing up the fan gun snowmaking machines on Launch Pad, a learning hill near the base area. By daybreak on Sunday, about three inches of snow had piled up and the terrain park crew moved in, setting up a small park with half a dozen features. The park opened to the public at 10 a.m. EST.

With temperatures in the 20s again last night the fan guns continued to run. The Launch Pad terrain park will be open to the public today as long as the snow holds. Visitors can secure a free lift ticket from employees stationed at the park. Visit the snow report at for details and updated information.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Skiing and food - They go together!

Many would think that with a season full of skiing, skiers and riders would actually get in great shape and perhaps lose some weight, but interestingly enough, the opposite usually happens. I was discussing this with my nutritionist the other day and explaining the lifestyle of après ski, food, and booze. Yes, the exercise alone is great, but we but a ton of crap into our bodies while were off the slopes. Kind of makes you wonder if people try weight loss supplements in the off season.

The inside of a Chondola terminal!

Unless you a ski lift stops just before you get on or off, it’s rare that you get a look inside some of the inner workings of today’s high-speed lifts with all their gears, pulleys, wheels, sheaves, and conveyors. Granted, most of you don’t really care what’s inside as long as it works and it’s fast, but the terminals for high speed lifts are very fascinating. And yet as much as that may be the case, I can see why their aren’t really all that esthetically pleasing, which is why the bottom and top terminals are all covered, but this is a rare chance to see what the inside of one of Sunday River’s high-speed lists looks like. This picture is of the base return station for the new Chondola. While you can see a lot of wheels that are connected to conveyers and ultimately to the bull wheel, you won’t see any big engine. Not to worry, though. On this particular lift, the drive is in the top terminal. I hope we can get a good look in there soon as well, but things re coming along nicely as the season fast approaches.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fall means ski sales galore!

One of the tell-tail signs that winter is coming are the massive amounts of ski shop tent sales. This weekend alone there were three in southern Maine and one at Sunday River. The sales are a great way to get good deals on new equipment and find some awesome bargains on last year’s models and clothes. Whether you’re looking for new ski pants, a new pair of skis, or even MBT shoes, fall is the time to look out in your local paper or watch for television commercials as this is the time of year for the best deals to get you ready to make the most of the winter sports season!

Can't it be winter already???

Here in the east were still waiting for the first snow. Sure, it’s only mid-October, but with the days growing shorter and overnight temps dropping, many of us are getting antsy for a little white stuff. Folks at Sunday River celebrated the end of summer and the nearing of winter with the annual Fall Festival. Thousands showed up and packed the lower lots for craft fairs, chairlift rides, and the annual wife carrying championships. Me, I wasn’t there. Jules and I had just closed on our house and the order of the weekend was to paint and paint we did. It was sad to miss the first gathering of our friends at the mountain, but it is a time to prioritize and with the wedding nearing, we want to get things ready for a seamless transition. I can’t help to think how cool it will be to see snow collect on the ground around our new home.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

We'll miss Fall Festival 2008, but have other cool things to do!

Fall Festival at Sunday River is this weekend and sadly, Julie and I will miss it. Of course we do have a really good reason and that is that we are closing on our new house tomorrow in the morning and we'll be hard at work Saturday and Sunday, painting. Thankfully, the place need almost no work, but it does need some paint, according to Julie and since I don't have a choice, but to agree, well... Anyway, have fun at the North American Wife Carrying Championships!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Blue World get its' first coating of the white stuff!

While overnight temperatures dip below 40 degrees here on the coast of Maine, the mountains have been seeing their first temps below freezing. And while some of the much higher elevations have seen a trace of snow, there hasn’t been enough to stick through the daylight hours here in the east. And yet out west this isn’t the case. I obviously wrote about the snowmaking battle that has already begun between Loveland and Arapahoe Basin ski areas, but many other ski resorts in the west have seen measurable snow. So of course I would be remiss if I didn’t honor the namesake of this website and report on the first snowfall of the season in Lake Tahoe. While the upper elevations saw a few inches, almost the whole of Heavenly Mountain Resort got at least its’ first coating of the white stuff. A true sign that ski season is very near indeed!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Once again, it's Loveland vs Arapahoe!

While the crisp fall air was a good reminder of the season to come this morning, there is an annual event out west that officially marks the countdown to ski season. The competition to open for skiing and riding first in the United States has waged between Loveland and Arapahoe Basin, both in Colorado, for decades. Starting as early as September, these two ski ares on the continental divide start pumping out as much snow as they can and aren’t afraid to be proud that they are in competition. Due to the high elevation and less humidity, both areas have colder temps earlier than most and take advantage. They know that they might not have the most skier visits when the season is in full swing, but every year they put their stamp on the ski season!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The heart of ski lift installation!

There’s a part of installing a ski lift that as always been fascinating to me and many others in she ski world. While we love to see the finishing touches put on the base terminal of a shinny new lift and the stringing of brand-spanking-new chairs is a cool site, it’s the flying in of the lift towers that captivates us. Why? Perhaps it’s because the precision of placing these huge towers in a precise line up a mountain is mind-boggling or maybe it’s because installing towers requires the use of one of the largest commercially used helicopters in the work.

Regardless, when you think of the engineering that must be incorporated, there really is nothing like the construction of a ski lift. The pictures here are of the chondola towers being lowered onto their anchors by a massive Sikorsky helicopter and some of the new 8-person cabins that will be interspersed with 6-person chairs.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Everyone has an opinion on opneing day!

You can troll from one message board to another and there is a common theme aside from the annual first track stoke. It’s the annual, “guess the opening day thread,” and no matter whether you’re on EpicSki or AlpineZone it’s unavoidable. Everyone and his or her cousin has an opinion on which area will open first, why that particular area will open first, why Killington no longer opens first, and even a mention about how, from time to time, a resort from North Carolina opens first.

As skiers, we’re obsessive and trivial things like these make us happy. I mean even if I’ve never met some guy who says that my home mountain is going to open on Halloween, he can actually make me feel better. No, not because he has any credibility, but just because we share that little common belief. It’s silly, really, but it’s what keeps us going in those waning months before the bull wheels actually do start to turn and the snow guns stay on whenever possible. So check out your local ski forum and read the opening day thread!

Disney, here we come!

I know a lot of people that have difficulty in the winter choosing between warm weather destinations and ski vacations. I, of course, am not one of those people. Yes, I compromised on the Disney vacation for the week after our wedding next month, but first, it’s early in the season. Second, if I weren’t getting married, I wouldn’t be talking that week off anyway. And third, I’ve got the second week in December off and will ski the whole time. So yes, I look forward to Disney. It will be a lot more fun than doing some Caribbean villa rentals. The beaches are all the same and I just don’t think there is much to do. In Disney… well, it’s Disney!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Skiing with Nintendo Wii!

I know I’m not the only one out there, but I’m curious how many adult would really like to cave in and go buy a Nintendo Wii. Seriously, this things has become pretty big and the fact that they have an interactive game for skiing makes it that much cooler. Yes, I have an old Nintendo that has a skiing game, but it’s obviously very outdate and far beyond the help of just a new video card. Besides, with the Wii skiing game you use your whole body and not just a controller. Yes, I think it would be a poor choice to buy one just for that game, but I’ve heard that there re other cool ones as well. Perhaps after the ski season I’ll think about it.

More to life than ski forums...

In life, we take the good with the bad and sometimes we need to step back and take some deep breaths. This became apparent to me recently when I had decided that I’d had about of a particular individual on a ski forum that I’ve been posting on for some time. Now you’d think that a ski forum would be just that, but skiers and riders are very passionate people and our opinions can sometimes get the best of us. We have our choices for mountains and trails that we like better, or think are better, than others and quite frankly, we’ll tell you. That being said, every now and again things get out of hand and thus was the case with me and this gentleman. So I decided to step back and not take part for a while. My passion is still their and my love for many of the board members remains, but things got a little destructive for me and some others and I think that my decision will be good for me. Besides, everyone wants to be in good spirits when the ski season starts and in case you haven’t noticed, the temps have been dropping and overnight temps in the mountains have even slipped below freezing!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rating ski areas by their chili!

Although I’ve never mentioned it here before, I used to have a test that I put to every ski area I visited. Sure, the mountain’s terrain, size, and snow quality have always been and always will be hugely important to me, but when I was younger, I used to joke about how I rated mountains or resorts for their chili recipes. To most, this would sound strange, but to skiers and riders, chili is a staple food. While many larger resorts use food service chili that’s pretty generic, the best mountains for the best chili are often the mom and pop ski operations. Take for example, the Camden Snow Bowl in Camden, Maine. This 900’ vertical mountain might not offer much to entice skiers or riders aside from the fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean, but inside their rustic a-frame lodge you’ll find real homemade chili that is a little different everyday, but always pleasing. Further up the road, Sugarloaf, used to have a fabulous chili before the days of ASC, but now it’s like the other bog mountains. So next time you decide to take a break from the larger resorts, try the chili at your local mountain; if it’s not some of the best you’ve had, I’ll be very surprised.

Heavenly's Biggest Little Project!

For decades, skiers and snowboarders alike have complained about trail in particular at Heavenly Mountain resort – The Skyline Trail. This very long cross-cut style trail is the only route to get from the top of the Sky Peak in California, to the Nevada side of the resort.

After a slight downhill start with a couple of turns, the trail actually turns uphill slightly, leaving skiers and boarders have to push their way to the border. If you’ve done it, and if you’ve skied Heavenly, you have; you know that while the views from the trail are unreal, the poling aspect is a pain. Granted, there has always been the option to drop into the Ski Ways glade that it accessible from almost any point along Skyline, but this is only an option for experts and brings you back down to the California side. Of course on a powder day, Ski Ways is pure glade heaven!

Now I don’t know why it took so long for the folks that run the mountain to do the math on this one, ‘cause let’s face it; the complaints about Skyline have been flowing for years, but finally Heavenly has regarded the trail. This past summer, crews blasted rock on two sections of the trail and have regarded the trail to have a constant 10 percent grade from California to Nevada. Cheers to Heavenly for listening!

Monday, September 22, 2008

To watch or not to watch - ski films!

Many people consider ski films a rite of fall. While some of us prefer to get on the snow as soon as possible, some people need to get out and see that new flick by Warren Miller Entertainment (Note: Warren Miller is no longer involved) or Teton Gravity Research. I understand the need for a little on screen stoke, but what can be better than actually sliding on the snow?

Part of the problem is that while many ski films come to Portland, they come after the season has started and if I’m in the mountains for the weekend, I’m not coming back to watch a movie. Luckily, Meathead Films shows their flicks at Sunday River and although I haven’t been in the past, I’m hoping to this year after watching their previous titles recently and enjoying the East Coast backcountry vision they pursue.

Regardless of whether you like to wait for the first film or the DVD option is your choice, the temps are falling and the leaves are turning. Summer is officially over so put away your boat and start thinking snow!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's all part of the journey!

In recent years I can't say as though I've done as much day skiing as in the past. With my fiancee's family having a place on the mountain, I've spent most weekends there and haven't had the need to get up early and make the trek to wherever I was to be skiing that day, but while that is something I don't take for granted, it should be known that the ride in the car to the ski mountain can be just as satisfying as skiing itself.

I suppose it's hard to explain if someone isn't a skier or snowboarder, but that trip to the mountains with the hot coffee in one hand, music blaring, and the drivers' side window down, can be part of the overall experience. Personally, I often found these trips as a time for me to be by myself and reflect on things in my life, but also to think about skiing, the people I ski with, and just to take in the beauty that too many people never slow down to appreciate as they cruise from their metropolitan areas to their mountain of choice.

The ski trip includes the journey in the car and it can be solitary or with a group of friends, but it's never an experience to be taken lightly. If you consider it a hassle to drive to a mountain, there's a good chance you shouldn't be there to begin with. And while it's nice to be able to wake up a little later and jump on the lift, I continue to have my days where I go off by myself in the car and head to some ski area I haven't been to in years. It's all part of the adventure and for me, it adds to the reward.

A new way to fight the wildfires - ski resort style!

Just last month, a huge wildfire threatened Sun Valley Resort in Idaho. Site of the first chairlift in North America, Sun Valley isn't only full of history, but in the winter it's full of celebrities who come from all over the world to ski Dollar Mountain and some on the best bowl skiing anywhere.

The bowl and tree skiing got a little more vast with the recent fire, as 48,520 acres around the resort town burned. What I found particularly interesting about this fire wasn't the size or magnitude. Fire like there are fairly common during a dry summer, but it was how the resort itself attempted to protect the lifts and trails as the fire neared. As most of you know, almost all ski resorts in North America have extensive snow making systems. Of course these are operated in the winter to make artificial snow by mixing compressed air and water through miles of piping. As it turns out, someone at Sun Valley was quick on their feet and decided to turn on the resort's snow making system in the hot summer months. What this did was sense millions of gallons of water up the mountain and was sprayed out of tower guns mounted on the sides of trails. Luckily, the fire was stopped before actually reaching the resort, but if it had, the resort's ski lifts may have been saved because of the excess water being pumped out of the snow guns. Amazing!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Keep track of all your assets with GPS tracking!

It wasn’t too long ago that GPS tracking was something only for the technologically advanced, like the military, but times have indeed changed and thanks to LiveViewGPS, you too, can track any of your family members or perhaps some of your company vans. Their GPS Tracking allows you to monitor with the use of a LiveView device. Simply put the device in your company trucks and watch them as they scatter across town. Want to make sure your teenage driver isn’t on his way to Mexico, you can monitor him too, and all of this can be done from your computer monitor. This is one of the coolest inventions to come onto the market in a long time.

Can't we all just get along???

We must live in one of the most competitive societies in the world. I mean it seems to me that we are always trying to outdo each other in every aspect of life. Sure, competition is great for many things, but often this leads to unnecessary arguments and worse. What I’m trying to say is that we all have opinions and often times, parody is okay.

My reason for writing that has to do with people feelings on ski resorts. Much like professional sports teams, people have home ski areas and they will seemingly do anything in defense of them. I like to browse some message boards and am a member of a few and what annoys me to no end is that people always bring up the topic of which mountain is better, which mountain is bigger, which mountain is better terrain, and on and on… Does it really matter?

Sports like skiing, snowboarding, hiking, and the like, are meant to be enjoyed by all in a natural setting. While I may prefer one place and you may prefer another, it doesn’t mean that either is better. What it means is that we have differing opinions on what we like, we have pride in a particular area, and we may prefer certain aspects of said area. It would seem to me that if people spent more time out there enjoying these things they could spend less time complaining and arguing.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Installing a ski lift = really hard work!

While I’ve talked about detachable lifts and the technological advances we’ve seen over the past few decades, one thing remains the same and that is that it’s really hard to install a lift. From surveying the lift line, clearing trees, blasting rock, digging holes for foundations, and then actually installing the lift, the task can be daunting and costs millions of dollars. Regardless, it’s a pretty cool series of events that have to happen in a particular order for everything to work out properly. Check out this video of the Sunday River Chondola installation as they get the line ready for the massive helicopter to come in for some of the more heavy and dangerous work.

Technological advances in ski lifts equal faster and safer rides!

Ski lift technology has evolved by leaps and bounds over the past few decades. While tradition mono-cable gondolas first utilized the technology to detach from the haul-rope (Overhead cable) back in the 1960s, the lifts were still pretty slow in comparison to today’s standards. It wasn’t till the early 1980s that the first Doppelmayr high-speed detachable quad chairlift was installed at Breckenridge, Colorado.

While the purpose of the traditional gondola was to detach from the haul rope for ease of loading and unloading, today’s detachable lifts are meant to come off the line for the haul rope can retain a high rate of speed while the chairs slow down and make it easy for people to load. When a detachable chair’s grip releases from the haul rope, the chair is carried about the terminal on a conveyer, which travels at a speed of less than a quarter of the lifts speed. After the skiers or rider load the chair, the chair continues to move along the conveyer, but gradually speeds up until it reaches the same speed as the haul rope. It is at that point that the chair reattaches to the haul rope and makes its’ way up the line.

The advent of high-speed lifts was not only about getting people up the mountain faster, but more importantly, it has allowed for less congestion in high volume base areas and has allowed for shorter lift lines. Less time in line and less time on the lift means more time on the trail. People don’t go to ski resorts to wait in line or sit on lifts; they go to slide down the mountain on two planks or one and lift technology has made this a better experience for all.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Seasons Passes Can Save You a Lot of Money!

As we head into the last couple of months before the ski season begins, resort will be sending out numerous notifications about season pass prices. This is indeed their big last push for pass sales, but folks, you’re not being sold a bill of goods by buying a pass. Having had a pass at various resorts for most of my life, I can say that I think passes are the best bargains anywhere. Hell, I can go to Lake Tahoe for a week and save money by purchasing a seasons’ pass except for at one ski resort. Granted, many of their visitors are from away or overseas and don’t have a clue that this is such a great option, but really folks, look into this.

Now I understand that budgets are tight and right now you might be saying that you’ll just buy day tickets, but have you seen the cost of these? Upwards of $80 depending on the resort. With passes going for as little as $350 at a lot of resorts, you don’t have to ski many days to pay for your pass. Another benefit can be discounts at resort stores and services and even a discount on next year’s pass.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Camden Snow Bowl Finally Seeks Upgrades!

During the November elections, residents of Camden, Maine will get the chance to have their say in a proposal that could breathe new life into the town's ski area. Already a rarity in the industry, the Camden Snow Bowl is town owned and operated and thus rarely sees the funding needed for improvements, yet even as my family and I took breaks from the cold this past winter, it was clear that the beautiful yet cramped A-frame lodge needs expansion. Additionally, planners have decided that along with the expansion of the base lodge, the area is long-overdue for an upgrade to the lift system, which may be the oldest in the state. With a classic Hall double chair as the main lift and two vintage 1960's Hall t-bars, the lifts are showing their age and the highest lift is the main t-bar, which is the only way to access 4 of the 10 trails from the summit. And while a new lift is unnecessary, a good used double or triple chairlift to replace the summit t-bar could keep a lot of families happy and possibly increase revenue.
The main problem to all these ideas is that the Snow Bowl as an annual operating budget of around 300k. The improvements all told would come to about 6 million over 2 years. While this is a drop in the bucket to most ski areas, a town owned ski area can't come up with such funds. So the town is turning to the voters to approve tax appropriations for a quarter of the costs, with the other costs coming from fund raising and private donations. This is an exciting time for Camden. With the town showing that they are willing to raise most of the capital and a town itself having deep pride in this skiing gem, I look forward to a positive news article the day after the vote!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Heavenly Mountain Resort honored for being "car-free!"

I feel fortunate to have travelled to some of the best ski resorts in the world. And while I still love being at home in Maine, I treasure the trip I get to take to places like Europe and out west. A few years ago, Julie and I started to ski at Heavenly Mountain Resort on the border of California and Nevada. We were instantly taken by the awe-inspiring views, the friendly people, and the wonderful skiing. Of course, you only need to look at the title of my blog, The Blue World, to understand how much Heavenly and Lake Tahoe mean to me. And despite all that I love about the South Shore, I never would have put Heavenly in the same category as a European resort. It’s not because of the skiing – the skiing is great and the snow is far better, but American resorts are just totally different from anyone on the other side of the pond. Be it the culture, the jagged peaks, or the architecture, there really isn’t any comparison, they are just different experiences and both are great. So it came as a surprise when I read an article recently that was talking about ski resort where you don’t need a car. It’s commonplace in Europe, but here in the US, no way – until now. Heavenly Mountain Resort was named #7 in the world for being car-free. It’s not something I gave any thought to, but now that I look at the map, the villages, and the public transportation system, I can see that at Heavenly, you really don’t need a car. Just think how much money you could save by not having to rent a car on a ski vacation? You can have that experience in South Lake Tahoe!

Looking for skis this year? Do your homework!

It’s that time of year when reviews of everything from skis to resorts are beginning to flood the world of mountain living. As I enjoy the fist issues of ski magazines for the year, I marvel at all the awesome new skis on the market and am pleased to have been able to test some of them. That being said, I’m pretty happy with my B83’s and won’t be forking out a $1000 plus for a pair this year. Of course I said that last year as well, and then snap… I was off to the ski shop. And while I certainly don’t wish that upon anyone else, skis do break, skis get tired or worn out, and technology is always allowing us to do new things and ski better. Naturally there will be thousands of folks looking at new skis this year and therefore I have two pieces of advice for you. First, look through all the ski magazines and see what features you like. Second, get out early in the season and demo the skis you’re interested in. Skis can look great on the outside, but it’s how they perform and feel under foot that will determine what you should buy. It’s getting colder folks!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Where's Bode this summer?

While it’s easy to find out what the U.S. Ski Team is up to, the top American male alpine skier might be a little more obscure these days. Sure, Bode Miller and his Team America will be front and center of newspapers once the season starts and he attempts to defend his overall crown, but for now, the outspoken World Cup Overall Champion is laying low. Having lost two of his coaches from last year, we know that Forest Carey will return and Bode has been hard at work in New Hampshire taking care of his organic farm and playing a lot of tennis. So while you may not hear about his exploits on the snowfields of New Zealand, he’ll surely be ready to race once the season starts. I don’t care if he says he’s 50-50 on whether he’ll race, he will. As long as he thinks he can ski well and win races, he’ll race, and for at least the foreseeable future, it will be without the backing of the U.S. Ski Team. offers the right kind of addiction!

Are you excited for ski season? Is your resort planning or installing a new type of lifting that you've never seen before? Chances are that you can find pretty much any ski lift imaginable on While they currently only cover resorts in the United States and Canada, you'll be amazed at the amount of pictures, states, and history packed onto this page. I will warm you, though, it is addictive. Once you click on a picture of an old lift and find out it was moved to another resort, you may find yourself searching on and on and on. There's also a forum where you can mingle with fellow lift geeks and industry reps.

The U.S. Men take their show to New Zealand for on the snow training!

While most of us are only dreaming of being on the slopes right about now, the men’s U.S Ski Team has been hard at work in New Zealand preparing for the upcoming World Cup and Europa Cup seasons. In all, 17 of America’s best have been training slalom and giant slalom on Coronet Peak and are said to be in good form. While speed courses such as super-g and downhill can’t be maintained and even full-length training courses have been hampered by heavy snowfall and poor weather, this extra time on the snow at the end of the summer and dryland training is an aspect of the off season that the Europeans seem to take for granted. It takes a lot of extra commitment and even more money to make this happen, but coming off the best single season for American skiers, the off season tactics seem to be paying dividends and everyone is looking forward to a strong effort with the opening giant slalom in Solden, Austria in October.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Rossignol closes the door on its' most famous line of skis!

Without much fanfare at all, Rossignol has finally phased out its’ most successful line of skis ever. While they are keeping a lot of the Bandit technology and molds for the 2008-2009 season; gone is the name that captured so much of the retail ski market over the past decade. In 2003, I became a fan of the Bandit X, added the B2 (formally Bandit XX) in 2006, and last year I went for what I would consider one of the best all-around skis I’ve ever had under foot, the B83 (formally the Bandit XXX and B3). The Bandit lines were popular for combining skiers’ desire for wide skis for crude and powder with various side cuts. While most companies were building fat skis or shaped skis, Rossi was able to do this together. Instead of naming a new line, the models will all have separate monikers and topskin designs. It’s truly the end of an era is skiing.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Parabola helps cure the summer blues!

While the temperature may still be a little warm to start thinking about snowmaking, or wearing a sweater for that matter, a good way to satisfy your skiing stoke would be watching the new ski flick from T&W Productions out of Yarmouth, Maine, Parabola. T&W specialize in getting lots of footage of eastern skiers and riders at locations all across New England while also dedicating ample portions of their films to adventures at in some of the biggest and best resorts in Utah and Wyoming. From Sunday River, Maine to Snowbird, Utah, there's no shortage of powder days accompanied by one of the best soundtracks you can imagine to get your adrenaline rushing. Check out the trailer to the film and catch some of action and beautiful footage throughout the movie.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A sign that snow isn't too far away!

When I got home today from work, I had a package waiting for me from Skiing Magazine. Having just renewed my subscription for three years at only $10, they also threw in a new embroidered fleece blanket. Okay, so I could pretty much care less about the blanket, but it certainly means that the first issue of the year will arrive any day, which means that other ski mags will arrive any day, which basically means I don't have to rely on the USA Today's sports section for entertaining sports reading.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The last of the film makers...

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a skier or snowboarder that doesn't enjoy a good ski or riding flick. The evolution of this medium has come along ways over the past several decades and while there are only a few household names in the industry, there are pioneers who allowed us to have great ski footage. Dick Barrymore was one of those pioneers. Making ski movies up through 1985, he was the first great American action sports film maker making movies such as The Last of The Ski Bums and Vagabond Skier. Barrymore, a 2000 inductee into the United States Skiing Hall of Fame, died on August 4, 2008 at his home in Ketchum, Idaho. Barrymore's passing leaves a hole in the industry that won't soon be filled and suffice to say, icon was lost.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Do skiers and riders really love trail maps?

What is it about ski trail maps that skiers and snowboarders love so much? While tourists will bring them out for reference time to time, you rarely if ever see a frequent skier with one. It could be because they know the mountain layout or they studied the map before, but I guarantee you won’t see many pulling out a trail map on the lift. It’s odd actually. It’s like they/we would be admitting defeat like I husband who needs to ask for directions in the car. And yet we don’t dislike trail maps we/them/us love them. We collect them, compare them from years gone by, and some folks even frame them. Most of the people that I ski with go away to other parts of the country at least once a year and we all bring back trail maps – multiple trail maps that friends snag up. It’s a very interesting thing.

Friday, August 8, 2008

World Cup Alpine Racers Gearing Up For 08/09 Season!

With the first event of the 2008/2009 World Cup season coming up in Austria in October, racers from around the world are fine-tuning their skis and their skills for the year. After months of dry land training and little rest, most countries have their racers training on glaciers from New Zealand to Austria. While glacier training is great for the technical events such as slalom and giant slalom, the speed events usually get left out of the regimen until the season starts and early season training facilities prepare courses. With little news out of any camps this summer, it's hard to pick clear favorites for the overalls, but one would have to think that if Bode Miller decides to race - and has replaced his coaches - he will be at or near the top of the standings. On the women's side, there is no reason to think that Lindsay Vonn's success from last season won't carry over to this year, but I would think that among the strong contingent of Europeans, American Julia Mancuso is going to want to bounce back form an up and down season last year.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Alex Kaufman takes new job at Mt. Bachelor, Oregon!

After leaving Attitash Mountain in New Hampshire several years back to take a position at Sunday River, Alex Kaufman built a reputation in the ski industry through his positive work at promoting, no only Sunday River, but the sports of skiing and snowboarding in general. Many of us "locals" got to know Alex quite well through the years and his collaboration with us as a group has been nothing short of awesome.
It was announced a couple days back that Alex has taken a new role at Mt. Bachelor in Oregon. Owned by Powdr Corp, Bachelor is a mammoth ski are that exists on a dormant volcano and is home to an average of 350 inches of snow a year. This is a great opportunity for Alex and while there are many of us in the east who will miss him, we wish he and his wife luck on this journey and thank him for his hard work!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer's the season for on-mountain improvements

As August is just around the corner, resorts across the country are putting their capital improvement projects into high gear. I spoken a lot about new lifts and in particular, the Sunday River Chondola, but there is a lot more that goes into preparing for a ski season than just installing a new lift. Everything from new coats of paint to base lodge renovations to trail grading and mowing are all part of summer operations and are some of the little things that add up to make the resorts look great come opening day. If you haven’t done so already, take a trip to your favorite resort and take a walk around. You’ll notice a certain buzz in August that means while winter is months away, the resort operators have it in their sights to make the most out of the short summer season.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wildcat may not be a resort, but it's making quite the play as a four season area!

While most major ski resorts around the country can qualify as four-season resort because of large hotels and at least one 18-hole championship golf course, there’s often little else that they offer to their customers. Some have gone in and out of the mountain biking business, but with fluctuating numbers of riders, the costs to run even one lift can put these resorts in the red. That being said, some resorts will take that hit in order to draw customers, who will want to visit and own property at an resort that offers activities year-round. Wildcat Mountain in New Hampshire may be a little different in that they don’t have a major hotel and they don’t have a golf course, but what they do have is an array of summertime activities that seemingly puts the competition to shame. Last summer, Wildcat, which has been offering summer gondola rides for many years, added a state-of-the-art zip line to their resume of summertime activities. This summer they have fired up another lift to allow disc golfers a 9-hole course that begins up on the mountain and snakes its’ way down. While I know of a few resorts out west that have zip lines and lift rides, I haven’t heard of this in the east and the mountain course for disc golf is the very first I’ve heard of. It’s this type of outside-the-box thinking that often sets Wildcat apart and being less than a mile from trailheads for hiking Mount Washington and only minutes by car to either Gorham or North Conway, New Hampshire, this resort is billing itself as one of the premiere four season resorts in New England, despite being a day area. Oh, and the views of Tuckerman Ravine, Huntington Ravine, Great Gulf, and Gulf of Slides, can't be beat.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ski Resorts Not Exempt From Economic Woes!

I’m often surprised at how many people perceive the ski industry and how it’s affected by the economy. Lot’s of people think that ski resorts and their quests are isolated from the downturn of the economy because of the perception that skiing or snowboarding are wealthy people’s sports. While skiing is expensive and many resorts cater to people that are willing to pay a little extra for their vacations, the spectrum of people that ski is wide and most of these people have jobs, families, and mortgages. Those three things right there are going to come before skiing and that is why some economists are predicting that this winter will not be a good one for resorts across the United States. While last year saw records shattered across the country, it was ahead of the $4 plus a gallon cost for gas, the surge in oil prices, and let’s not forget about the airlines – a lot of resorts count on travelers who comes from away. While there have been several signs of this in the east and they have been reported on locally, I think that a good indicator is with the country’s only publically traded ski resort holding company, Vail Resorts. The owner of Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Heavenly, Vail Resorts shares have tumbled recently, falling for the low $40’s to the mid to low $20 range. The stocks fell further this week as Wall Street analysts downgraded Vail’s status from a stock to buy to one to hold off on. Some people were surprised that Vail Resorts would be so directly impacted. Just look at the list of resorts and you see five extremely large destination resorts that each draw near to or over a million skier visits each year, but many of these people comes from all over the United States and get to the respective resorts by plane. In case you haven’t heard, airline tickets are expected to double in price by early next year. That’s a big punch in the stomach to some of these resorts. While Vail in Colorado and Heavenly, which straddles the border of Nevada and California, may be more insulated because of their massive European share of visitors and the weak dollar, there’s no promise that those numbers will hold. In all, it should be an interesting time for skiers and riders all over the country and a time where resorts will need to make cost cutting changes to help manage their places in the market in the hopes of drawing and retaining skiers and riders.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The end for surface lifts draws closer

With the removing of the Kennebego T-bar (The only lift on the map to the summit) at Saddleback, Maine and the subsequent installation of a fixed grip quad, not only is a piece of history leaving, but a part of the mountain that was once accessible in heavy winds will now sit idle many days next winter. Sure, I know the value of putting in a chairlift for the mountain. It makes the summit much more accessible to the intermediate terrain up top, but in my opinion, the t-bar served many purposes like crowd control and keeping people off some expert terrain that can be as hairy as anywhere in the east. Second to all of that is that Saddleback had always prided itself on the fact that they had t-bars and slower lifts as they have always been a throw back to what skiing was. Now, as they expand and try to cater to higher income guests, they are going away from that philosophy, but also perhaps hurting their amount of skier days. The issue itself is industry-wide. Not many resorts still consider surface lifts as viable as many skiers and riders are afraid to ride them, but in my opinion they are not only fun, but also highly functional lifts that last a long time and can operate when other lifts sit idle. So the next time you look up at a part of any mountain that is closed because of wind while you cruise the beginner and intermediate terrain waiting for lift holds to open up, remember back to when t-bars and Pomas were the order of the day for expert terrain and remember how great it was to still get fresh tracks after a storm or even be able to access the same terrain. We live in different times now.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ski Magazine Countdown Begins!

Nope, I'm not just talking about Ski magazine, but in about a month the first issues of all the major ski magazines will begin to arrive in the mail. Some will start off with the annual buyer's guide while others will start with their resort ratings, but regardless, I just can't wait till that first glossy cover arrives and the taste of ski season will begin to take over. Not that I'm excited or anything...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chondola base structure is taking shape

For those unable to get up to Sunday River to see the construction first hand, I've obviously been doing my own supplement to the Chondalog right here. Now don't get me wrong, I encourage you to visit Sunday River's site as it's full of fabulous information about the lift and the technology, but that being said, writing about it here keeps me excited for the winter and the opening of this monumental lift at the River. From today's update, here is a video of Rohn Stilson talking about the pouring of the base and summit structures and their importance.

Happenings at Sugarloaf???

More rumors are coming out of the western Maine resort of Sugarloaf. During the past couple of months there have been some odd happenings. It started with two truck loads of CWA Omega I cabins being shipped in from Big Sky Montana. While it was said that these may be used in the future, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would want to spend the money on gas to ship all those cabins to a location that is only about 40 miles from the Canadian border. Nonetheless, the cabins were dumped in some bushes and thus lending credence to the notion that Big Sky wanted them out and they had to go somewhere. That being said, some pictures surfaced recently of stakes in several spots around the resort and one in particular that is situated right outside of Bullwinkle’s. On the stake it says, “Top bull wheel,” but heck, that could mean anything, right…

Doppelmayr vs. Poma

Perhaps not as particular as people are about brands of skis, I have found that skiers and riders are very opinionated when it comes to lift brands. While there were dozens of lift manufacturers up till the mid-80's or so, that number has dropped off to a handful. Most of those dozens either folded or merged with today's leaders; Doppelmayr and Poma, and yes, they have other names and if really depends or where you are and what you buy. I'm trying to be simple about it and refer to them by one name. Regardless, these two companies do pretty much every high-speed installation in North America now and also much of the refitting of older lifts. As for my favorite or the two, I am a Doppelmary fan through and through. Yes, I love the concept of the double-loading system that Poma came up with, but I find their lifts to be slower on the line. All that being said, this is specifically related to high-speed lifts and fixed grips is another story altogether.

Friday, July 18, 2008

What could have been for Mineral King Valley, CA

Back in the 1970’s, a man by the name of Walt Disney had a unique vision for a southern California valley that while destined for failure, was ahead of its’ time, like so many of his creations. And yet this was different in that Disney had eyes on a parcel of land called Mineral King Valley for a major southern California ski resort that would attract thousands of skiers from greater Los Angeles and south. While located on Forest Service land, Disney wanted to create a European style resort in that he planned a car-free village with use of the now famous monorails that had been installed in his two original parks as well as Seattle. Despite the environmental efforts, Disney’s and other developers’ bids were ultimately all denied and this steep-walled valley remains untouched.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summit Terminal Work Continues at Sunday River

For those of you following the ongoing saga that is the installation of the Sunday River Chondola, or as I like to call it, The Viking Express, the resort has taken some major steps in preparing for the Doppelmayr parts to arrive next month. Check out the Chondola Page at Sunday River for tons of info and the latest pics, which show a lot of blasting needed for the top terminal. Perhaps I'm even steal a picture from the site and post it on here as long as AK and co dont' sue me!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Helping trace skiings visions

While we can easily take a journey into skiing’s history and see where rope tows used to incline and old Hall or Heron chairlifts used to swing, we don’t often look at what could have been. If we research through sites like NELSAP we find scores of little and medium sized hills that couldn’t make it for one reason or several others, but what about proposed ski areas and resorts. Earlier in this blog I talked about Lake Catamount near Steamboat Springs and to date that it one of the more famous of these failed or stalled proposals. And while lifts were never erected and base lodges never built, the history behind these proposals is really interesting and many have sketches. An easy way to learn some of this for your self is to head of to Colorado Ski History and look in their dedicated section. Maybe there’s some real estate you’d be interested in.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Has the online forum replaced the bar stool?

We've all been in situations where we've been in a bar and some yahoo is rambling on and on about how epic his ski day was. Heck, maybe you're on of the guys or gals that has done this. It's surely all in good fun. If you're full of crap you're full of crap. Skiers can generally tell what someone is talking a big game. Does this get them the label of a gaper? Perhaps, but even the best of skiers can be a gaper depending on which meaning you choose. Regardless, we know that these situation will never go away and we don't want them to. It can be rather amusing, but with the increasing use of internet chat forums, skiers and riders can now talk all the garbage they want and never have to back it up. It's a funny phenomenon that I see often and like those talkers in the bar, it's easy to get a sense of who is really full of it and who truly has soul.

Saddleback goes ahead with summit quad

It seems that while I was trying to write some accurate information about this summers new lift installations, I forgot one that is hugely important to New England and Maine skiing. While the lift installation falls into the same category as Killington in that the new lift is replacing an old, it's a little more of an upgrade for the good folks at Saddleback, Maine. For the first time ever, the summit will be accessible by a chairlift as the Kennebego T-bar is being replaced with a fixed grip quad. While the t-bar was great in allowing access to the mountain's expert terrain on many cold and windy days, the steep liftline also served as a natural deterrent to folks who should avoid the upper mountain terrain. The lift is part of the resort's 10-year master plan.