Saturday, December 31, 2011
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
AT the top of Plattekill is something every skier should like to see. A giant hole 60 feet deep. Now partially filled with water. “Welcome to the Grand Canyon,” Laszlo says and waves his arms behind him. He’s dwarfed by said Canyon and the Komatsu excavator behind him. (This was back in November when Macker and 3 others were busy welding pipes to the Canyon.)
This Canyon is Platty’s new snowmaking pond. They’d wanted a bigger one for years and then came Irene and want became need. The original pond at the top of the hill suffered from erosion as did some of the trails. Repairing one meant repairing the others. The rock hauled out of the pond was used to stabilize trails and build a new, bigger parking lot by the lodge. (No more walking up the road on busy days). And, to get the construction crews to the top, one of the hardest hit trails – Powder Puff – was widened and some of the hairpin turns made a tad less steep. A bonus for beginner skiers.
Perhaps the sweetest benefit? The rock is also going to help with other Irene recovery efforts. It’s being used by local road crews and even on the Gilboa Dam.
The project is so big it will take two years to complete. Blasting the rock took 100,000 pounds of explosives, and the wires are still hanging out of the rock walls. But while we’re waiting for the final pond, it will still be in service this year. Given the weather so far, that’s the best news of all. As is the fact that Platty has just bought another 45 new snowguns.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
A friend, Cindy Dunne of design company Blue Farm Graphic Design in East Meredith, recently posted to her Facebook page (photos included here) her success in creating 2 Holz Hausens for her winter firewood storage. The Holz Hausen is one of the most unique forms of storing firewood, and a tried and true method at that. They look like a beehive made out of wood and are very pleasant to gaze upon. Almost like a prehistoric form, or modern art in the manner of Andrew Goldsworthy.
No matter what form you choose to stack your cordwood, situate it with a southern exposure where there are no trees to block the sun and in a place that is easy to transfer it indoors.
Historically, the dimensions of a Hotz Hausen are a 10-foot-diameter circle with a center pole 10 feet high. You may want a shorter one if this is your first try with say… a 7-foot-diameter base, stacked to a more reachable height of 7 feet. Place a splash of paint or other dryness indicator at the 5 ft. 8 in. level. 80 percent of the 7-foot pole's height.
1. On level ground, lay out pieces of split firewood, end to end, to form the base circle (you can use other things like bricks or other lumber). Some folks like to build on top of a tarp. Beginners may want to put a measuring pole in the center of the circle to use to measure against as the pile shrinks or seasons.
2. Place wood in a spoke-like manner (perpendicular) with outer edge resting on the base circle. Keep pieces with good bark on them for your top (#6)
3. As the height increases, place some pieces as shims across outside edges of these spokes to keep wood tilted toward the center
4. The interior space is filled with the wood standing on end (upright). This acts as a chimney as it pulls air in and up through the pile, aiding the drying process.
5. Continue this stacking process until you have reached a height of about 5 feet. For the top 2 feet of stacking, don't use any shims. This will allow the wood to begin to slope down toward the outside.
6. Place the top layer with the bark side up. Like a tile or thatched roof, this prevents rain and snow from entering the mass of the Holz Hausen.
As the wood dries, it shrinks and the stack settles, losing 20 percent of its height. More and more of the pole is exposed above the top of the Holz Hausen. When you can see that patch of paint at 80 percent of the pole's height, the wood is ready to burn.
Be patient if you try this – do a little research online to see other styles. Some create an actual roof like profile for a real “wood house”. Building a beautiful wood storage system is kind of like giving a gift to yourself - twice over!
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Okay so we’re looking on the bright side here at WITC. There isn’t much snow on the ground, but that makes it easy to pick (and cut) your own Christmas tree. We went up on our land with a saw—not even a chainsaw and hiked half a mile in and half a mile out with two trees, including one that was more Charlie Brown’s Christmas than perfect. Now you could do that too, or go to places like Robson’s tree farm in Bovina, or out on your own piece of land and pick one, but there are some tips I’d follow:
1. Check out the size of your space. Or read this from last week’s NY Times. The truth is sobering, and the article's name says it all: The Holiday Gaffes That Keep On Giving.
2. Bow saw. Christmas is a time when no one wants to visit ER. Unless you know how to use a chainsaw stick to a bow saw. Slower = safer. No need to act all macho in the woods.
3. If you can’t find a small enough tree (It can be tricky out there, and in the wild, they're bigger than they appear. No ceilings for one. Or walls.), then cut it further up and it might even regrow. Think of it as two-for-one.
4. When you’re picking your tree, remember that pack-it-in, pack-it-out rule. Aka, the tree has to get to the street to your car. Remember that if it’s heavy. And you have young children with you who might be getting cold. Or restless. For that matter bring some cocoa along too. In case you get cold.
5. Get it in water as soon as possible and keep watering it often. This keeps the needles on the boughs.
6. Pride yourself on your savings. Just remember the tree you’ve cut in the woods costs a fraction of that $300 tree in the City. And this being the spirit of the season, maybe donate the savings to a good cause. Like flood victims.
7. Remember to feel good about yourself for another reason: Picking your own Christmas tree is an awesome moment of family togetherness, witness this week’s pictures. Thank you to Nick and Shyama, David and Norm and Miriam.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
This weekend Platty is getting into the Christmas season. Giving. Giving and skiing (or if you must, snowboarding). As the mountain gears up for winter, they are trying to get new skiers in gear—a big part of the mountain’s advances this winter. And as such, for the giving and gearing (up that is, I don’t think there is any free gear being given away…) they are doing free lesson for beginners, and as always those under seven get to ski free. Lesson are at 10 and 1, so come early….
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
That’s what I’ve been thinking about winter – the snow gods are having some big bad practical joke. It’s December 7th and the only snow of any consequence came
for Halloween which now seems more trick than treat. Though Plattekill opened for a day (check out the picture by Bri George) and I went snowshoeing…
But now that winter is kicking in today, tonight, with some 7-10 for the Western Catskills. So, WITC is officially in action. This season we will be talking about how to make your own ice skating pond, ice fishing – and following my quest for cocoa. The search is a bit like Lord Of The Rings but less dangerous and unfortunately come with no Viggo Mortensen (though none too shabby Alan Cumming does ski Platty). My search is also more tasty than LOTR. Last year it took me to Alta where I had great cocoa and saw a sundog (a feat of nature worthy of Lord of the Rings).
This year Platty, which is redesigning its menus focusing on local homemade food in the cafeteria and bistro/bar upstairs is also adding a cappuccino machine, has promised me fancy cocoa. Nagging sometimes pays off. Belgian chocolate, here I come.
I recently asked Macker what he was doing to get ready for opening day. His answer? "Drinking a lot of beer." And not the craft ale you find in the bar. He's a Bud and Marlborough man through and through. I've also seen his long lists of things to do, pipes to lay and pumps to move, but there will be more on this in my next post as Platty builds the Grand Canyon of the Catskills.
With snow expected tonight I assume everyone will be out this weekend. Except, um, me. I will be celebrating my mom’s b-day. Mom WITC does not live near a ski hill – perhaps why I was a late-adopter. Also this year for WITC I will learn to snowmobile, but that is in part for the pursuit of fiction. There are a number of snowmobiles in the start of the novel I’m working on. Better I learn to snowmobile than how to kill someone which is also at the start of the book. Welcome to WITC 2011-2012.
Me snowshoeing on Halloween Weekend. Note the bright colors. I am not small game...
Friday, April 22, 2011
Midwinter conditions and snow at Jay today. Very windy, all high-speed lifts were closed including the tram. We all stepped out of the condo and yarned back on the bridal as the sub freezing temps hit us like a ton of bricks. We layered up and prepared ourselves for a mid-winter day. We skied down to the base lodge alongside the magic carpet.
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Bagpipes, skiing like its 1982 and a cardinal. Last weekend at Platty was madcap, crazy – the end of days (or at least this year’s season) seemed nigh. A piper played on the deck and then skied down Powderpuff. Bag pipes being traditionally played at funerals maybe due to that dirge-like sound they produce. (The video below is thanks to Steve Gaon and John Tunis, who is heading off to Block…)
Then there were those rocking the retro gear – another end-of-season sign. From left to right it's Andrea Wortmann, Nicholas Panas, Elizabeth Kurpis and Lauren and Andy Welch all sporting the style. (Best of all is Andrea's Portillo hat. That’s thinking ahead or at least South of the Equator). With another red cap comes the cardinal. Literally a Cardenal. A group of skiers – all guys many of whom look and ski alike – nips off to an undisclosed spot in the woods (I promised not to give away the location) where they’ve stowed a bottle of brandy for the season. There they have a tipple of Cardenal Mendoza – named for a 15th century Spanish cardinal who they toast in the trees. Clearly the prayers paid off. It snowed this week and will be cold enough to seem like deep mid-winter….
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
At the end of January she was watching the Winter X Games and in particular the boardercross and thought, hey, I could do that. Now I should add that she is a particularly excellent boarder, not one of those who goes down the hill face first perpendicular with the slope scraping off all the snow. She’s well prepared for all the jumps and obstacles the nascent sport requires thanks to Platty’s terrain.
Boardercross (and skiercross, there is a 2-planked version) is a relatively new sport. It made it to the Winter Olympics last year in part because the IOC wanted to up the youth quotient. In each heat there are 4 riders on a course at a time. They have to tackle jumps and berms and obstacles – and finish first – a bit like motocross on a snow (or ice).
As Elaine explains it, she texted her sister saying, “I’m going to try this.” Her sister understandably thought she was joking. After all, the sport is intense, competitive and dangerous – few women decide to start in their early 20s. But Elaine was undaunted. She went to the USASA website and found an event in Windham the next weekend. “I wanted to see if I could do it,” she says with a laugh.
Shockingly she won, beat all her competitors and did it again last weekend, taking gold in her category, which to make it more competitive had her racing girls in a younger age group. Now, with those two victories she’s ranked number one in the Catskills making her eligible for the Nationals in Copper Mountain Colorado this April. With the same verve and determination that got her to her first race, she’s determined to go – and because it’s such a new sport she could actually break out to the level of pro riders.
Bob Basil head of the Catskill Mountain Series of the USASA put Elaine’s win in context. “Most girls her age are pros already,” he said “but with the sport’s size and her dedication she could go forward. It’s amazing to see someone in her age group up for riding and racing girls younger than her. She’s clearly a strong athlete.” He also said that the sport itself favors athletes in their late 20s. “You’re facing downhill going fast and making on the spot decision about obstacles. That takes intellectual maturity, but few women in her age group would decide to just go out there and try this – and win. Particularly after combining her group with another age group to make it more competitive.”
For her part Elaine is still adjusting to her wins. “Everything is new, just the layout of each course, and all the kids at these events show up with a coach.” Not Elaine though. No, she dragged her boyfriend along, and he brought a backpack full of snacks. Now she’s approaching local businesses and her employer to help her make it to the Nationals. Others who want to help can make donations on Paypal and on Facebook.
Saturday, March 5, 2011
He’s the skier I’m tempted to call Retro Man or Vintage Skier – the one in the Carhartts, safety glasses and 200 cm long skis with a pink florescent price tag proudly emblazoned on the front. $2.99 it says as if he were some Minnie Pearl on planks. (He’s also got Rossi 198s and Fischer 193s). To see him skiing these is a thing of beauty. And wonder. He could almost be Platty’s icon or mascot. On his long skis he embodies the spirit of the place: a bit contrary, definitely un-commercial and a darned good skier.
These days though sticking with straight skis takes equal parts dedication and nostalgia – plus a dash of frugality. Steven learned to ski when he was 10 with his brother, and “That was skiing to me. Still is, always will be.”
The two of them went a few times, and as Steven explains, “A few years go by and you get to be 16 and get a job and a car and get married and then skiing goes out the window for 20 years, only straight skis were burned in my mind about skiing in 1967. I never got away from it and that’s where I still am.”
Today he even consults manuals about straight skiing like the classic Skiing With Control. “Which is kind of funny,” he says, “as I spend most of my time on my face in the snow.” (I have to add here that is not true, but typical understatement from the superhero of straight skis, Vintage Skier)
The day I caught up with him he was out with his daughter Elaine – she on a snowboard. They both joked about that was how she got to be on something shaped… while various Platty regulars promise they will get him on shaped skis. Though somehow I doubt he'll ever try rocker.
“I was almost thinking of going to the shaped skis,” he says at the top of Free Fall. “But, I came in on the straight skis and I’m going out on the straight skis.” But for anyone who wishes to join him copies of Skiing with Control are easy to find on Amazon.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Saturday, February 26, 2011
Next Saturday March 5 Plattekill’s Ski Patrol are having a benefit dinner. These are the men (and women) in red who work tirelessly on the mountain. They train for hours and are there when you need them. So give them a hand back.
Platty’s patrollers are an all-volunteer department and they pay for all their equipment. Everything from bandages to backboards, sleds, defibrillators and radios. So ante up. Pay out. It’s only $12—for chicken BBQ and Blues Maneuver. Also they’re a 501C3 – which means they’re an official charity, so any donations over and above your ticket price are tax deductible.
Perhaps another reason to turn out on Saturday? The Guinness girls will be serving up some fine Irish stout. There will also be a snowboarding Captain Morgan…
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Rather than reading like a Dunkin Donuts ad from the 90s, the title should have a question mark after it. Like: “Where does he find the time to make the donuts?” The he in question is Macker, who, yes, makes donuts for Plattekill. As if it’s not enough that he keeps everything running smoothly and the mountain groomed (particularly after a thaw like last week) he finds the time to deep fry some dough.
And I should say for those who think that Dunkin Donuts (or Krispy Kreme) are the last word in donut-ness, try Macker’s. They’ve got a slight crisp on the outside and flaky inside. Oh, and a light dusting of powdered sugar or cinnamon. When I asked what the deal was with the donuts – meaning how the hell does he manage to cook them and do everything else (I personally have never made them. Anything that requires a deep fryer scares me) he said, “They’re round and have a hole.” And then laughed as if it was all elementary. In truth he’s been making them for years at Plattekill. It was one of his first jobs at the hill.
However, these days he doesn’t eat them. Macker – ever the perfectionist – doesn’t eat sweets – no cake, no ice cream. Only chocolate. It’s his sole sin (food-wise, that is). And if you want to experience the donuts, he’ll be doing them again next weekend for the cafeteria. They’re 3 for $1.50….
Friday, February 18, 2011
What two words ring better to a skiers ear? Fresh Powder? Possibly... But I'll take free and I've got two ways for you to get it too. 1) "Like" Plattyon FB and if they get 2000 fans by the end of the month, the mountain will do a free day for their fans. (As of posting time they only need 350 more fans...).
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Yes, look at that band of snow due today. We've had 3 inches and are owed up to 7.... All of which equals lovely conditions.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Growing up my brother and I used my father's huge, old-school wooden toboggan. Yes, that's right- one of those six-foot long things with the alternating black and natural wood color boards - complete with the curl on the front.
We never could get it going very fast, unless of course the hill had about a 60-degree slope or we had that nice coating of crusty, icy stuff under the powder. With the conditions being like they are out there today and predicted for tonight, I think tomorrow might just be a perfect day for tobogganing.
Don't have one? Well neither do I anymore. I wish I did because my 6'4" frame would fit much better on that than it does on these plastic sleds of today. I now have to get more creative in ways to go sledding so that my 4 year old doesn't get disappointed in me. Remember the sledding scene in Christmas Vacation? That is what I feel like. I must now become the Clark W. Griswold and find not only the perfect Xmas tree, but also the "food-grade cereal shellac" that will surely make me the King of the Hill in my little guys' eyes.
Sleds come in so many variations today, but what I have discovered is they all work well under the ideal conditions they are made for. If the hill isn't steep enough, the snow not wet enough, or the sledder is not light enough, then it all comes down to one thing - track/route preparation.
Despite the wishes of the 4-year-old, take the time to prepare....make a few trial runs to pack down the track. Start with the lightest weight person and build up to that 6'4" 220-pounder - especially when constructing/packing down the jump at the end!
Taking the time to experiment and prepare is the key, but I also bring a couple different sleds. You have to work up to that Cadillac - start with old reliable first to warm things up....then bring out the big guns for the big fun.
How do you know when your sledding sled run is officially 'groomed' to perfection?
When you can successfully go body-sledding!
Get out there...enjoy the food-grade cereal shellac that Mother Nature has provided for us in the Western Catskills......its great for your heart, and all natural you know.
Aaron & Hudson Bennett
Friday, February 4, 2011
Hanford Mills Museum is in East Meredith so really easy to get to off of I-88 or State Hwy 23 in Davenport - to the south. Or up Elk Creek or Irish Hill from Delhi. It's at the intersection of County Routs 10 and 12. I've posted some photos here from last year. But go out and take your own and have some FUN!!! Plus, how awesome is it to come back on 4th of July weekend and eat ice cream made from the ice you helped harvest??