Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Get Out and Backcountry Ski! (Festival) at Bolton Valley Nordic Center

Sunday afforded us blue skies, sunshine, and beautiful snow, a welcome change from what has become the norm. It was the perfect day for the Catamount Trail Association's 4th Annual Get Out and Backcountry Ski Festival, a day of backcountry skis, gear, and folks sharing their enthusiasm for the sport they love: skiing, in the backcountry, by their own muscle power.That's something we can certainly relate to! The day was so great, I don't think anyone even noticed the near-zero temperatures. And the skiing was some of the best of my life.

T and I were at the Backcountry Festival with Onion River Sports with a full set of backcountry skis from Fischer, Madshus, Rossignol, Voile, and others plus Scarpa T4 and Garmont Excursion boots for participants to try. If you're in the market for a new backcountry setup, the best thing you can do is try the skis for yourself. I tried no fewer than 5 different skis - many of them on multiple outings - before buying my first pair of backcountry skis, my Karhu 10th Mountains. Plenty of folks came and tried out the gear and everyone had a smile on their face. And after the festival participants were all set up, us shop folks got to go and ski the touring center trails for ourselves - a real treat. I had no idea the Bolton Nordic Center was so awesome! 

On our first outing, both on our Rossi BC 125's, T and I split up. I stuck to the groomed s-curves of World Cup, an intermediate trail in the groomed network. This trail was a lot like your favorite groomer, except through the woods and no lifts. The snow was soft, coverage was great, and there was plenty of room to practice your telemark turn. T, on the other hand, followed a patroller up Bryant to Cliff Hanger and then came down through the woods. We were only out for 40 minutes, but we were hooked! And we couldn't wait for the chance to get out for more.

Finally, at about 4pm, we were able to sneak away for another little tour. This time we skied together - me on my Rossi's again and T trying this year's new Vector BC from Voile, a hot little number that you should definitely check out. We skied up Bryant Trail to Bryant Camp, a really cool little cabin for the backcountry enthusiast who wants to spend a couple of days in the woods around Bolton, Cotton Brook, Sterling Valley, Little River State Park, and the famous trip over to Trapp's Touring Center. That adventure is for another day....On this particular day, we met a lovely man on his way up to the Cabin where he was meeting a friend; they were going to ski Gardner's Lane back down. He described this trail as overall mellow with some fun descents and fluffy snow. And this trail delivered all these things, with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. It was, hands down, the best ski I have ever had. The turns came easily and the snow was soft and edgable; the terrain reminded me of a mellower version of Tear Drop, for those familiar with the famed CCC trail off of Mt. Mansfield. There were features and turns and drops to navigate; much like mountain biking, you had to find your line and commit to it. Super fun! And totally rewarding. We were hooting and hollering the whole way down, and I can't wait to get back out and ski some more of the Bolton backcountry - and for only $17 for a day (or $13 after 1pm), this is a steal! And it's exactly how skiing should be: relying on muscle power to climb up into the mountains for some thrilling descents down uneven and exhilirating terrain. What a gem! And, remember, if you're accessing the backcountry from Bolton's Nordic Center, a pass is required; for that matter, it's required at any and all touring centers (Trapps, for example). Even if you won't be spending the day on touring center trails, this is an important way to support our local mountain, our highest-elevation touring center, and an all-around really great experience.Even better, a season pass is a deal and grants you continual access to this great place!

As for the festival, this is another great gem, put on by a gem of an organization, the Catamount Trail Association (CTA). Jim Fredericks, CTA Executive Director, did an exceptional job putting together the whole event. The day ended with a multi-media presentation by David Goodman, author of the book Best Backcountry Skiing in the Northeast: 50 Classic Ski Tours in New England and New York (If you don't already own this book, you should! Go - now - to your local independent book store or gear shop and pick up a copy.)

Definitely check out the 5th annual Get Out and Backcountry Ski Festival to try the latest in skis, boots, and gear, plus meet good people, get plenty of information, and attend skills clinics (work on your telemark turn, anyone?). And while you're at it, join the CTA and gain access to the hundreds of miles of groomed and backcountry skiing made available to us lucky Vermonters through the hard work of the CTA, and buy a pass to Bolton's Touring Center. We hope to see you there! And we'll definitely see you in the backcountry.

Happy trails!

Back at it again.

I'm very excited to be guest blogging again for S and T and getting the chance to share my outdoor experiences with you guys.

I recently started a new career that has me working strange hours with days off at random intervals. There was a wonderful period when I would get the opportunity to join these guys on the majority of their outdoor adventures. Unfortunately, it’s been a while since I’ve gotten out at all, plus the lack of snow in the northeast hasn’t helped.

One of the nice things about working midnights for the last couple months is watching the snow come down, providing me with a handful of beautiful sunrises over freshly fallen powder. I've been too beat post shift to find the motivation to get out without good snow beckoning to me, and it's finally arrived.

Last Friday morning, after a pretty significant nighttime snowfall, I found myself dropping my fiancée off at work. On my way back out of town, I happened to look up and see gleaming trails intertwined among the trees on some of the hillsides above me. I recalled that I had my Karhu 10th Mountains in the back of my Subaru and was suddenly struck with the desire to get out on the newly fallen snow. Despite having been up all night, I wheeled up an access road to the base of the mountain, strapped in and started climbing.

I had a great time up there, even though the conditions could always be better. I was just so glad to be out, enjoying myself once again in the cold.

I’d hardly been on skis all season so just getting out on the snow, especially after a long overnight shift, was a great way to start (or end) my day. I’m glad I took advantage of the opportunity to get in some turns and am pretty motivated to get out as much as I can the rest of the season. Moving off of midnights in a couple weeks should help…

So, I shared my experience on these trails with my hosts on this blog and, of course, we had to make a special trip back out there together this Monday. Again, I was just getting off shift and might have preferred to go to bed, but my excitement from getting out before, plus having my best friends with me, made it easy for me to forgo my bed.

This time, we all brought heavy gear instead of touring. I was on an AT setup, with S & T dropping a knee (telemark) as usual. We slapped our skins on and began the trek up with my friends' Chocolate Lab, Odin, urging us on. The trails had been tracked out a bit, but it was another beautiful day to be on a mountainside, so we didn't mind.

As we reached the top, we were teased by some skin tracks that seemed to continue up even further, but decided to head back down. We peeled our skins and armored up for the descent with outer layers and helmets. I clicked in the heels of my Fritsche Freeride AT bindings and waited impatiently for T to tighten up his tele bindings.

We'd noticed a pretty nice chute off to one side of the trail we were climbing and decided to take it on the way down. It was relatively open but steep, and was well covered by snow. We could see only a handful of tracks making their way down the mountain, so there was plenty of fresh snow to be had.

I won't do a play by play of our descent, but we all agreed that it was some of the best downhill we've done all season and would have lapped it a couple times if we'd had time.

Unfortunately, later that same day, as well as the next, we received 50 degree temps and rain. I'm hoping not to lose my motivation with the influx of crappy weather. There are whispers of colder temps and more snow later this week. Should be enough to keep the fire burning about getting out.

Thanks again to my hosts for letting me share. Looking forward to the next time and the next line...

Our good friend Mike lives in Montpelier with his lady love Sofia and shares and enjoys the finer things in life like skiing, mountain biking, good food, and good friends.  Here he shares one of his many adventures with us.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Through Snow, Sleet or Rain?....Sure!

When we set out Tuesday morning, the new fallen snow to say the least was: amazing. However
half way into our ski tour out our backyard, which was an indeterminable distance, it was well: a bit soggy.

If there's one thing I've learned and profited from a little, it's this: It pays to carry F4 in your XC or BC pack when on any ski-tour-slash-BC-ski-adventure. F4 comes in many different applications but any and all will do.  They make wet, soft snow stop from sticking on the bottom of your ski and give you back that glide.

F4, if you've never heard of it, is universal glide wax.  Most days you never need F4.  Unless that is you're a glide junky who just can't seem to get enough glide out of his waxless skis the way he used to get it from those trusty wax-able skis. Now a little F4 never hurts, even before your ski tour; but on a day like this Tuesday, this is where F4 truly shines. You just never know when an hour into your day off, when that tele turn can do no wrong, and when 30 seconds in your friend says  "Hey is it raining?" - all of a sudden that snow that could "do no wrong" turns on you.  When you have a 20lb cinder block attached to the bottom of your wax less BC ski and your kick and glide has about as much oomph as a late night rerun of Chips.....  This is when someone in your ski party has to eventually say "Uh I think it's time to drop the skis and give em a little F4?..."   That of course is only if someone happens to have some.....awkward pause..   This is where I let everyone squirm a little and manage to procure that beautiful bottle of blue gold; F4.

Now back in the day I used to have my F4 handy quicker than folks could ask for it and proudly have skis back up and running quicker than you could say mashed potatoes.  But of late I like to make my friends squirm a little.  I do in fact work in a ski shop and on occasion could be made to look bad by being ill prepared in a BC ski situation.  But after three years, I know better and I like the fact that I can make the likes of cinder blocks turn into grease lighting in a matter of 30 seconds or less, and that just feels pretty darn good. 

So next time that ski shop employee suggests a little F4 when buying that brand new BC ski setup, think of it as a worthy and life changing experience.  Try not to think that poor guy is just trying to get another $15.00 out of you. You might, on the other hand, just be that guy on a long BC ski tour that manages to make those cinder blocks turn into skis again, and have his beer tab all settled up even before you get to the bar.

Now go and get it and I mean powder snow; not rain. 

But hey what ever floats your boat.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Backyard Powder Day

What a great day to get out on skis. There still is not really enough for touring around in the woods, but the open fields around my house are great - especially the ones that got mowed late in the season. I had a great time with Odin checking out the local VAST trails and we found some great spots of fresh powder. I love that whoosh whoosh shoosh feeling - gliding through fresh powder. I hope everyone else found some powder, too!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sharing tea and time in the mountains

As the Camel's Hump Challenge approaches, Sarah, Odin and I took the opportunity to climb the Hump and  check in on winter as it seems this year it won't show its true face in the valleys below.  We decided in the parking lot to hike for the summit and leave the skis behind.  Winter hiking was our first passion before we discovered skis and we are always up for a winter hike to a winter summit. This is where we happened to bump into Max as we left the parking lot and he asked if he might tag along and try for the summit, too, as he had just hoped to snowshoe in the lower birch glades being by himself; so of course we obliged.

There are two things Sarah and I love, the mountains and the people we share them with.  People and the mountains are what brought Sarah and I to Vermont after our Long Trail thru-hike in '01.  The Green Mountains, or any mountains for that matter, hold certain things that keep people coming back and draw new people in and, like I said, has brought us here today. 

So off we went as the snow grew deeper and the snow started to fall. Within two hours we reached the clearing before the last 0.2 miles to the summit. This is often where we have our tea and a quick bite before putting on some extra layers to brave the cold wind on top of the Camel. The more you prepare, the longer you can enjoy your short-lived time on top.  Tea is another thing Sarah and I enjoy sharing with good folks in the mountains and it was great to share it with Max.  I think we also managed to drink the last bit of rum we had in our flask before setting out for the top.

The last 0.2 is always my favorite, especially in the winter, and today was no exception. As you climb the snow-filled chute and climb above tree line, you fully expose yourself to the elements as you  reach the summit - 4,088 feet, atop the camel.  Smiles and a bit of yelling are usually the protocol at the top and as the wind blows and your hand starts to go numb from taking some snapshots you all quickly realize man was not ideally designed to withstand these kind of conditions; even though you're layered to the gills. We all set off for the descent; it was time to go home.

With the descent comes welcome warmth and you start to think just how brilliant of an idea hot tea is in the mountains.  After all Sarah and I always make sure to bring tea for this very purpose.  With tea comes  warmth but more often than not we bring it for the company because you just never know who you might bump into when walking into the mountains.  So the next time you venture into the mountains and bring hot tea, share it with someone - it just might make someone's day and yours as well.
 Thanks Max

                                                                          T. and S.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?

I was really moved by this video - it's just great! Enjoy, and here's to your health! Now get outside. And happy trails!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A new year with old friends.

 With a new year here and our unusually warm temps in Vermont it couldn't keep us and our dear friends from being outside.  We found ourselves out the back yard skiing your typical VT field.  With good friends always comes even better turns no matter what the conditions.  So here's to 2012 may it be everything you hope for or even maybe a little bit more.  Life here in Vermont is a lot like the snow conditions in January.  You just never know what your going to get; so you might just want to make the best of it.

Now get out there.


                                                                   Snow Angels
                                                                    Learning how to ski

                                                             Getting up to speed.