What Makes Me Happy

This is going to sound silly but the zipper on my new coat makes me happy.

I bought a new winter coat this year and I liked it except that I had a lot of trouble with the zipper. I knew there must be a trick to it but I couldn't figure it out. It got so bad that I started leaving it unzipped.

I was almost ready to return it to the vendor as defective when I got the trick! I had been focusing on lining up the 2 separate parts that slide as the trick when the trick was making sure the lower sliding part was all the way to the bottom. Simple. You probably knew that.

Now it works everytime and I'm happy everytime I do it. Everytime I zip my coat I want to tell someone how happy I am about it. But of course I don't. People would look at me funny.

What's the point of telling you this?

I'm reading a book by Donald Miller called "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" in which he talks about lowering expectations. He says Americans are typically unhappy because they expect things to make them happy. If you don't expect things to fulfill you, paradoxically you CAN get some pleasure out of them.

So, I expected that my coat was a wash but I now have a great coat that gives me pleasure everytime I zip it.

Snow also makes me happy. We had a ferocious squall the other day and it gave me pleasure to be out in it. Like I said before about winter, I don't like snow because I ski, I ski because I like snow.

Ok, enough of that.

I went out x-c skiing today and even though I thought it was too wet I just had to get outside on the snow or I would go nuts.

As it turned out, it was a fantastic ski day! The snow was soft and wet but there were good tracks set by other skiers and also snowshoers were out which makes for nice trails too. So I could actually steer some turns.

It was pretty warm, maybe mid thirties so I stripped off my middle layer almost right away.

I wound up skiing for about 2 hours which was overdoing it but I was thrilled to get such a good workout. I was able to get a nice stride going much of the time.

Once again, I didn't expect much but I got more than I expected! And I got some pleasure out of that.

Here are a couple of pics from the day. This was at Five Rivers Environmental Center in Delmar, NY.

Peaceful solitude among the trees!

Water barred the way here.

There were a lot of branches and trees down from the storm.


The Promise of Snow ...

... and the disappointment of rain!

This has been a sore point for me since I first started x-c skiing in my 20s in southern New Hampshire.

The first year I started x-c skiing I worked on a dairy farm. In the winter, especially if it snowed that day, I would knock off in the early afternoon, 2 or 2:30PM. Then I was free to go skiing. There was a nice place with tracked and groomed trails only 3 miles away.

But I was right on the NH/Mass. border and the snowline ran across the southern border of Vermont and then when it crossed into NH would jump north, just missing us.

So frequently it would start snowing in the AM and then by the time I was free in the afternoon change to rain because we were below this "snow line". Frustrating!

We are running into the same thing here in the upstate NY/western MA area. First snow then changing to rain. Messing things up.

Yes, I know: "Get a life", there are lots worse things to worry about.

Finally! Our turn!

Yes, we finally got some snow here in upstate NY! About a foot where I live. Wet, heavy white stuff! Then ... r..r..r..RAIN! There I said it.

Oh, well. Not so good down here but I think it was all snow up in the mountains where it counts!

I did get a good workout shoveling. I'm very careful these days to lift with the legs to spare my back. I have some disc degeneration in the extreme lower portion of my back but it's been OK. Does not affect skiing or cycling at all. In fact, cycling has helped it immensely.

So after shoveling for a couple of hours ... bend the knees, extend the knees, fling snow ... my quads were really feeling it. Not as much as a day of skiing, though.

I also have to watch out for my right shoulder which probably has a rotator cuff injury. I have never got it checked out but so far it's manageable. I am careful when I fling the snow off the shovel that I don't extend that arm to it's furthest extent. Also when cycling I have learned to NOT pull from the shoulders when climbing. It only takes one hard pull to set that shoulder back.

We are supposed to get more snow and more rain here in the Albany area but they are predicting all snow up at Whiteface which is where we are planning on going this Tuesday. By Monday the snow should stop and Tuesday will be sunny if the weather cooperates with the forecast! Perfect.
Here is a shot of our driveway before I started shoveling (the second time).

Journey into Winter ... Part 3, People who love winter

Mrs. MTBMan1 took a snowshoe hike while we were at Smuggler's. Afterward she remarked about the people she met and how she was amazed at how many people love winter too. They come from all over the country to seek out and enjoy Smuggler's Notch. It's kind of neat to be at a place where there are folks who love winter. Back home in Albany, the majority of the people just complain about the weather this time of year. Maybe they should move to a place where there is less snow, like Washington, D.C. ha, ha.

While my wife was enjoying the woods on snowshoes, I finished up the day back out on the slopes. No significant mishaps today. The conditions were much more consistent. Smuggs grooms most of the trails at night and we didn't have any significant snowfall after the hills were groomed. It was not windy and the sun even broke through here and there. The top of Sterling mountain looked like a completely different place from the day before when I could barely see out of my goggles because of them icing up.

We did a couple of runs down Madonna mountain on Lower Chilcoot. Madonna1 lift to the top of the mountain was closed until about 11:15 because of icing. This caused a significant backup on the other lifts.

We took Goat Path from Madonna 2 over to Upper F.I.S., a black diamond. This was a challenge for me as the last hill on it was steep and ungroomed. I did a wide traverse across the slope and ran into a big patch of ice which I wound up sliding down on my butt. After that wasn't too bad.

Lower F.I.S. was fast and fun, wide and groomed. A good place to practice my poling technique.

For the run after that we took Link and picked up F.I.S lower down avoiding the icy spot that gave me trouble before.

After lunch we rode the lift up to Sterling. At the top of Sterling we went into the woods sans skis and walked a little bit on a section of the Vermont "Long Trail". It was so peaceful and beautiful in there. You couldn't hear anything but your own breathing. I would love to x-c ski that sometime!

On Sterling, we skied Rum Runner and the slightly more challenging Black Snake, both Intermediate trails. I opted out after that, feeling very tired. I wanted to keep skiing but I know my limits (sometimes!) It was my first time ever skiing 2 days in a row.

All in all, a very satisfying time and the best ski trip so far this season.

Man, I love winter!

next: Whiteface!

Journey into Winter ... Part 2, Pole plant/Face Plant

It's always gratifying for me to learn something new.

I was hoping to take at least one ski lesson this season as I hadn't had one since my 2 novice lessons 4 years ago.

I didn't get a lesson yet but my friend taught me two valuable things that should hold me for this year.

The first was a tip for carrying our ski poles.

I've always found it a challenge carrying the poles. They just don't want to be carried. Especially if you're trying to carry two pairs! This is a big deal because we also carry boots, a big bag and a backpack with us to the lodge from the car.

He showed me how to loop the straps over the front of the skis and carry the skis horizontal to the ground over the shoulder with the poles hanging down. Simple. No extra equipment required.

The other thing he taught me was about pole planting when making a turn.

Smuggler's had got a few inches of powder the night we arrived after the slopes were groomed. I've never really skied powder before so I was in for a bit of a challenge.

Also, it was a bit windy at the top so the surface was very inconsistent. You would initiate a turn on an icy bit of corduroy that had been exposed by the wind and then plow into 6 or more inches of powder that had been piled up by the same wind! I went down immediately.

The pow itself wasn't too bad once I got the feel for it and kept my weight back a bit so the tips would be up. I'm a very "weight-forward" skier so this was a little adjustment for me.

Brian showed me how to use my poles when initiating a turn. I had never really paid any attention to pole use before except to drag them behind me in an attempt to slow down. :-(

Bend the knees, plant the pole, turn. I still have to think about it but once I got into a rhythm, it worked very well.

I'm absolutely ecstatic about having something new to work on for the rest of the season even if I don't get a formal "lesson".

One notable event occurred early in a run on Madonna Mountain. There was a short but steep section on lower Chilcoot with a hard right turn at the bottom.
I was going a little to fast for my comfort and when I turned at the bottom it was into a pile of crud.

My skis stopped but I didn't. "Click - click" as I neatly popped out of both bindings one after the other.

Face forward I went ... 2 bounces to the head and a pretty green light.

Back up the hill my 2 skis were perfectly placed side by side at just the right stance as if to say "Why are you down there? We're waiting for you."

It was very funny in retrospect. Too bad I don't get these things on video.
(to be continued)

Journey into Winter ... Part 1, land of perpetual snow

On Thursday, Mrs. MTBMan1 and I drove 4 hours north to Smuggler's Notch Resort in Vermont.

We had been invited by friends to stay for a couple of days with them during their winter vacation.

The ride up to Burlington was shocking. Oh, there were stunning views to the west of the Adirondacks across Lake Champlain but where was the snow? This was northern Vermont for heaven sake! If anything, there was less snow on the ground than we had in Albany. Of course, this was the Champlain valley so perhaps it was particularly sheltered from the weather in a similar way that our own Hudson River protects Albany from the harsher winter storms.

We were grateful for the easy driving but we came for the snow!

We turned east after Burlington and in a few miles a different panorama presented itself.

We saw low hills, gradually rising into higher ones with gray clouds clinging to their sides. And snow, glorious snow, like sugary icing coating the trees. Along the ground as we progressed eastward, snow began to appear, deeper and deeper, inch by inch. It was as if we were journeying back into winter from a place that was already toying with spring. Within a few miles of the resort it was snowing. And it continued to snow almost continuously during our stay. Finally, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the land of perpetual snow!
(more to come) ...


I must say I have been sorely disappointed over the recent events of winter. Southern climes receiving snowfalls of historic proportions that they did not want and are ill prepared to deal with, while those of us in the north who would rejoice over such bounty (not all of us, I acknowledge) receiving not so much as an inch of the white stuff.


If we had dumps like they had in DC and Baltimore, I could ski the power line cuts around here. I had an idea that my wife and I could take turns driving to the top of one of these hills and one of us skiing down while the other takes the car back to the bottom to do it again. But we just don't have enough snow to do it. It's really maddening.

Thank God for snow making machines and cold enough temps for them to work or there would be no skiing and boarding in the northeast this winter. Even northern vermont has only been getting a dusting here and there.

In 2 days, Mrs. MTBMan1 and I head out for 2 days at Smuggler's Notch, VT. We are looking forward to getting away even though the conditions may not be what they could be. Temps are looking good ... high 20's, maybe 30. It will be nice to ski all day and not have had to drive there in the morning or drive 1 or 2 hours to get home afterwards.

Then there's still a good chunk of ski season left and we have tickets to Whiteface and we hope to do Butternut and maybe Jiminy again or Catamount.

Pray for snow!

Jiminy Peak

Today's ski adventure was Jiminy Peak in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.
'Twas a mild day, about 26° at the slope. Snow conditions were good. Although the grooming didn't hold up very long, we got first tracks on a couple of runs.

All was well, until the third or fourth run down West Way when I suggested we try "John Hancock" which is an easy Green that had never been open when we had been there before.

We got first tracks on this one and the grooming was, therefore, in excellent shape. As often happens when nobody else is using a trail, you eventually find out why!

When we got to the bottom, there was no lift running from there so it was a long trek uphill to the main lift. Not a pleasant walk in ski boots carrying skis and poles. Ah well, such is life!

After lunch, we did 3 easy runs until the crud got bad and we got tired. No sense in pushing it and getting hurt. Maturity is knowing when to quit, right? Live to ski again another day!

Next week, I am planning on going out by myself and taking a lesson. I'm in my fourth year of skiing now and haven't taken a lesson since my first. Time to learn something new and unlearn some bad habits I've probably developed.

Onward and upward! And then downward. ;-)