Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Th-th-th-That's All, Folks!

You don't need a weatherman to know that the ski season here in the East is history. Record temperatures, record early closings - the warmest spring-skiing anyone can remember. A proper end to the winter that wasn't - or was it?

Yeah, without snowmaking, it's likely we would have had fewer than a handful of days on snow in the Catskills. So we can be thankful to all the good folks who work so hard to make what Mother Nature was too lazy to produce. And work hard they do, through the cold and late into the night and early in the morning - you think the USPS has it tough! Nothing stays these folks from their appointed rounds - nothing! And once those hump-backed whales of snow get pumped out, we can thank the intrepid groomers for combing it out and making it nice and manageable.

Let's not forget the Ski Patrol - an all-volunteer force at Plattekill - for keeping us all safe and picking up the pieces when necessary.

I think we all learned a little humility this ski season - I know I did - and to be grateful for what we have. Having grown up skiing in Colorado, one thing I've learned since I began skiing in the Catskills is that you have to ski the snow you've got and the terrain where you are. This is where we live; these are our mountains - and they're beautiful.

Today, it's in the 70's and the snow is either going fast or already gone - but we had a lot of fun this year. Every day on snow has a moment that's framed in our memory, and we'll savor these until the snow starts falling (!!!!) next year. Let's all do the snow dance all summer long!

Stay tuned to CF for news about plans next season for Telemark equipment rentals and lessons at Plattekill! Please share your suggestions and ideas about how to make Plattekill the center for freeheel skiing in the Catskills!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Heavy Duty

I had been waiting anxiously all week for today's trip to Plattekill, keeping my eye on weather reports and watching the mountain webcam. Eight inches of new snow - but what would it be like? With the temps and the mixed precip we've been having, it was bound to be heavy. And, as the saying goes, the proof was in the pudding - which is pretty close to describing the snow today. Though I think it was closer to the consistency of porcelain clay - heavy, smooth, fine grained;  more clumpy than lumpy, not soggy like mashed potatoes. "Grippy" was a word you heard a lot at the bottom. 

It was weird snow, and it was challenging. And the 100 early-birds that got there for the $15 lift tickets chopped it up pretty quickly. First it got more difficult, then, gradually, easier, as the human-groomers skied it out.

It took a few runs to get my legs under me, but a late-morning run down Freefall with Wayne Ford, fellow instructor and free-heeler, was the highlight of the day.  
We accepted the fact that turning would be difficult. We had a plan: we would start with two or three turns at a time, then stopping. After doing that twice, we found we were already down the headwall. Then four turns at a time, thinking about what worked: double poling? Yeah, that could help a bit. Keeping both feet flat at the pivot between lead changes? Worked great! Using the lead ski as a kind of plough to cut through the choppy stuff? Cool. It was one of my most memorable runs this season.

A beautiful day in the mountains, trees glazed with rime. It's taken us until the beginning of March for it to actually look like winter up there. Probably won't last long, but hey, what does? Gotta get your turns in while you can.