Thursday, March 24, 2011

Toast the Cardinal...

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

Retro Weekend – Life in the Fast Lane

This weekend rock your 80s gear at Platty, and if you need inspiration -- there's Vintage Skier Man aka Steven Supp who skis the long planks with style. Or, the sartorial choices on show last Saturday from Bri George, Jacob Libertore, Tristan Mulder and Garrett Hinkley ... Check them out above or in the awesome video Bri shot. Truly the 80s are still alive at Plattekill.

And, for those brave enough to don the vintage duds prizes are promised. Peg yourself somewhere between Suzy Chaffee, Sheena Easton and Sheila E and you won't go wrong... Well, not too wrong, that is. Just remember the shades to protect you from all the neon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Boardercross Beauty

Elaine Supp’s making it to the USASA National’s in boardercross is somewhere between fluke and fairytale with a dash of fate added in. For those of you paying attention to Winter in the Catskills her father is Vintage Skier Man (his superhero title) and she a snowboarder.

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

Vintage Skier Man

Marcel Proust has nothing on Steven Supp. The smell of madeleine’s might have transported the author back to his grandma’s kitchen and sparked off nostalgia as well as several grand tomes, but that can’t compete with the pull of straight skis on Steven.

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

To Ski Is To Love

A man walked into Guest Services at a ski hill and asked for a wedding
ring, his wife’s wedding ring…. (This could be the opening line of a joke—but no this actually happened this past Sunday at Plattekill). Heather Davie, who was manning the desk, asked when he’d lost the ring, assuming it was the day before, maybe the week before. But no.

Ten years ago.

“On what trail?” she asked. He wasn’t sure. He wasn’t even skiing. It could have even been the parking lot – and the he in question, David Koehler of Taconic, was mountain biking with his wife. (Now ex wife – they divorced about five years ago as if the loss of the ring presaged a bad omen). They called the next day, the next week, the next month and the next year. No ring. But everytime he’s come skiing and riding at Plattekill he’s asked. Still no ring.

Everyone including owner Laszlo Vajtay said that no wedding rings had ever been turned in. But his wife Danielle (with her wedding ring firmly affixed to her finger) checked the safe. She thought there might be something in it. At the back hidden in a little drawer was an envelope with “wedding ring” written on it. David saw the envelope and started shaking. He said, “I’ll know if it’s it by the inscription.” He took it out, shaking even more as he held it in his palm.

And the inscription? “To ski is to love.” His said: “To love is to ski.” Truer words never spoken (or maybe never inscribed into a slim gold band). He handed it to Heather, and after studying the inscription she asked if he’d noticed the date on the ring? Feb 27, 1999. He found the ring twelve years to the day since David had originally put the ring on his wife’s finger. Of all the days, after all the years of searching for it, he found it on their anniversary. Aptly they were married at a ski resort.

Now he’s called his ex-wife to return the ring, and all we can say is the moral of the story is: They clearly weren’t skiing enough….