Saturday, December 29, 2012

Snow, snow, snow

Hello all WITC friends and fans,

It's snowing. And I've moved (not cities or ski hills, just blog spots). You can find the blog now on Plattekill's homepage and here.

Keep up with us and see you out there soon!

Friday, March 23, 2012

End of the Season at Plattekill...

Heaven, that's what it looked like there at Plattekill on Saturday. Above the clouds. And it was heavenly too, but also bittersweet because Saturday was the penultimate day of skiing for the season. The hill was melting fast and for the mogul competition skiers had to ride over on an ATV fitted with ski racks. 

I have to say I'm still sad. Yeah, I've been playing tennis and cycling this week (and the end of the season is very good for my novel-in-progress), but that doesn't quite cut it. So, I leave you with these last parting shots. And some results of the bump competition too. I judged with Harvey Road of the NY Ski blog. I was on jumps. He was on style; Eli from the ski patrol manned the stopwatch. Top prize went to Ted Battesh from Sarasota Springs who got a season pass for 2012/13, and then second prize to Caleb Jensen and third to the awesome Joe Supp (brother of Elaine who is ranked in the top 3 nationally in boardercross and of Steve Supp, aka Vintage Skier Man, and his long skis). 

And for all who hoped Steve might compete – and come on a Saturday rather than his usual Sunday – a dapper gentleman in a pink button-down and long straight skis took to the bumps between competitors. He rocked quite a line, not a zipper, but the man had style. That shirt alone was a bold statement. 

I will miss you all till next year. Maybe we could even get a dumping of snow still. I've not put away my skis or poles yet. (Though we have planted broccoli, peas, spinach and chard... ). Oh and if anyone can tell me who that is rocking the bumps below send me a message, okay? Or just send me a message so we can shed tears about the end of the season....

Photo by Dick Sanford at the Catskill Mountain News
Photo by Dick Sanford.

Photo by Dick Sanford

Till Next Year... 

Friday, March 16, 2012

St Platty's Day

The Bar at Plattekill
There are plenty of things I love about Plattekill – steep vertical, chilled vibe, no lift lines... and the bar. They have 12 beers on tap – including local brews from Ommegang and The Davidson Bros' Dacker Ale, Ithaca Nut Brown Ale, but one fact sticks out to me on the beer front: They sell more Stella than anywhere else in the Catskills. Which makes me feel like I'm back in London again.

This weekend there will also, of course, be Guinness and Jameson's and Murphy's. And what Nate Batthany (who is in charge of the awesome bar as well as the food in the bar – that steak quesadilla, say) calls an "Irish Car Bomb." Now while I was left stuttering over this politically tricky, say, notion, he explained that this was a combo of Bailey's and Jameson's and said, "You don't know what it is because you're not a college student." Too right. But anyone who drinks Bailey's has bigger problems. That stuff is just gross. So is Irish Whiskey. I'm a malt lady myself. Scotch malt.

Yes, Rudd checking your email helps you ski bumps. Or are you putting on Ryan Adams?
The other thing on tap (ha-ha) this weekend is the Bumps competition on Blockbuster. With its 1000 feet straight vert (the only of its kind in the Cats)  the soundtrack for the competition should be The Chemical Brother's Block Rockin' Beats, which might just date me as much as the, ahem, "Car Bomb." There will be spring conditions so everyone can bomb the bumps (perhaps not with a "Car Bomb" though. And yours truly will be judging. I am open to all influence peddling. Remember I like Scotch (as in from Scotland and not Ireland) whisky.

Nailing the kicker at the top Block (and also proving why action sports photography is a proven skill. He did catch air.
So bring your sunscreen, maybe even rock your retro gear. With temps in the 70s next week this could be our last weekend.... And bear in mind this bon-mot from Nate about the bar: "Whenever anyone asks what our hours are, I say, 'we close when you go home. It's till the last man standing.'" Which is some professional drinking, I say.
She caught air too... I just didn't. At least not on film.

The Tunis clan takes in the glory of the day and 1000 feet of vert.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Elaine Supp, Plattekill Rider, Rocks the Boardercross

Elaine Supp is like a Plattekill fairytale. Her dad (my ski hero) could be called the mascot on the mountain with his long skis and excellent style, and Elaine on her snowboard is bringing fame to our little hill.

She is ranked third in the nation in boardercross (it’s like motocross on snow with jumps berms and 3 other racers on the course with you going gangbusters). And this is a sport she only started competing in last year. As you might recall, she got her start when she saw a boarder cross race on TV and thought, “Hey I could do that.”

For most people that kind of idle idea dies away – or should. Not for Elaine. She entered a race the next weekend. And won. Now talking about it on the lift recently she says she stayed up late reading and re-reading the rules, and they said there was an inspection at nine AM. “So, I thought that just meant they wanted to make sure I had the right bib and helmet and board since you need specific ones,” she laughs. “No it meant we got to ride the course. I had no clue.”

She went from no clue to medal stand. She kept racing and winning, wining and racing and went to the Nationals and placed third. Now having won pretty much every race she’s entered this season she’s about to go back to the Nationals in Colorado in early April. And she even has sponsors. There’s SPY, Swany, Sno Life, Berma, sending her gear, but skiers at Plattekill have  (and still are) to make sure she can make it to Colorado and represent the little mountain that could… 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Powder and Ski Patrol at Plattekill This Weekend

Let's hear it for the O'Donnell lady patrollers...
Okay this isn't really a post. It's not long. I'd wanted to write about the O'Donnell women. Three generations of them serve on the ski patrol. There's Rickie and her daughter-in-law Christy in this picture here (thank you Becky Porter for it). Rickie's granddaughter Bailey O'Donnell also serves in a red jacket. This is cool for three reasons: one ski patrol across the country are aging and need young' uns (or younger ones) to sign up and the O'Donnell family is keeping the ranks staffed. Then, Plattekill does its part to recruit and train and educate new patrollers thanks to Bim Ashford. Most importantly this gives me another excuse to talk up the ski patrol raffle and BBQ this Saturday.

Those fine men and women in red have your back. (And mine...). At Platty they're all volunteers, so let's show them our love. Particularly when we're skiing lots of lovely powder.

Okay that's a segue to show some powder shots that Becky Porter took on Sunday. I must apologize for forgetting my camera today. But, I had more serious thoughts on my mind: FRESH TRACKS. Sorry (sort of) if you missed them.

Thank you Becky Porter for remembering your camera.... 

Yes that's powder. I know you might have forgotten what it looks like.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Powder, Powder, Powder... Plattekill's got it.

Who needs words when you've got this? But I have a few: I LOVE LAKE EFFECT. At least 6 inches fell today. And, everything was open.

no lift lines but awesome conditions.

who wouldn't smile?

See, John Tunis knows quality. 

Love the patroller opening Plunge (though poached before-- and while we're on Ski Patrol please buy a raffle ticket to support them.... 

Lovin' it.

And yes that's me.... 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Plattekill Ski Patrol Needs Your Love (And Money...)

Zane Ashford, 15 rocking the slopes and a ski patroller....
 Okay this is a two-part post. But it has one big message: Support your ski patrol. Platty’s is all-volunteer. They not only work for free, they pay for all their own supplies too. That includes: bandages, splints, sleds, oxygen…. So next time you see them pull someone down the hill on a sled and think but for the grace of god… make sure you also give to them. (Okay, even if you don’t think that might one day be you on the sled). And, one easy way to do it is coming up this and next weekend. This weekend the ski patrol will be selling raffle tickets to raise money and next weekend will be the raffle as well as the annual ski patrol BBQ dinner with live music and the raffle drawing. The prizes are good: everything from a dual suspension mountain bike (retail value $1600) to two pair of Rossi skis – one men’s, one women’s with bindings, an Xbox with Kinect and more). The raffle is a bargain to boot. One ticket for a dollar and a book 6 for $5.

While you’re supporting the ski patrol today, think too about the ski patroller of the future. (Remember I told you this is a two-fer). Zane Ashford, 15, she bubbly with blond hair and blue eyes – and good natured to boot. Also, a fully qualified member of the national ski patrol. We met when I rode the lift with her dad Bim, head of the Platty ski patrol. And like any doting dad he told me about young Zane becoming a patroller at 14. She started studying for it when she was 13… While she can’t actually work at Platty (too young), her story is inspiring.

She grew up seeing her dad patrolling and has always wanted to be one herself. In fact it was partly her dad and partly getting pneumonia and being hospitalized for it when she was young. Ever since, she has wanted to become a doctor and help others. Being a patroller is part of this plan. When I asked her what the hardest part of it was, she didn’t say, skiing down steeps with a sled, or helping someone with a concussion puking up their guts, no, she said confidence. Surrounded by all the adults wanting to become patrollers, she didn’t think she knew what to do, but then found she did and that “98% of the time I was right, but I was shy.”

When I ask when she wants to study in college, she sweetly laughs that she doesn’t know. Not yet. Ah, youth. This is the moment where I’d say it’s wasted on them, but looking at Zane, she seems to be doing all the right things. 

Proud pops... Now support the ski patrol

Sunday, February 19, 2012

See the light. Avoid the liftlines. Come to Plattekill

Okay, yes I know these pics have nothing to do with my story. But today I rode the lift with two different Platty converts – one with a house “five minutes from Hunter,” and he was choosing Plattekill because of it’s old-school / homey / family feel now that he’s skiing with the kids and grandkids, and also the snow and terrain is great. “It’s a great little mountain,” he said, “but it’s unfair to call it little. There’s nothing small about it.”

He’d skied Plattekill as a kid but then turned to other mountains. And you know the moral of the story….

The other person had tried Belleayre on Saturday and then came here. Now all sorts of rumors have flown about lifts not running at the Bell, and I don’t quite know what happened, but this man, he was like, “Where have I been?” He was kicking himself for only just discovering it and going on about how great the terrain and vibe is. Then we proceeded to talk about altitude sickness and skiing out West and the measly 4” I had at Squaw.

But I can’t show you pictures of these people…. There’s one problem with blogging about skiing. I like to ski too much and hate stopping to take pictures. Anyway, this isn’t my usual long post about something, about a character, or personality but just these two folks who I happened to ride the lift with. Not that there were lines, but I always figure if you’re skiing alone, why waste a chair? You never know who you might meet. Next, I rode up with Dieter on the ski patrol and somehow we got onto German nudists. But there you go.

Oh and the conditions were great. There’ve been three days in a row where Platty’s gotten more snow than I saw in my entire two weeks in Tahoe. There’s another moral in that story too.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Snow Hope Plattekill's Got Powder For The Weekend

It's even cold enough to make snow at night....

I was in Squaw for nearly two weeks and all I got was 4 inches. The night I leave they get more than a foot. Now I’m home and Platty collected 4 inches last night – in fact in the entire 12 days I was gone their snow-totals were higher than Tahoe? Moral of this story?

Ski Plattekill. Well, yes....

I had a blast out West skiing (though I also became friends with granite and p-tex). But, this Sunday Platty is going to get more white and fluffies, and with the lake effect machine, it will be more than we expect as magically happened overnight last night. But since I didn’t have first tracks and am stuck in bed and coughing like a Victorian consumptive (which goes well with watching costume dramas on Netflix), I leave you with this picture from Tahoe…

At Squaw... notice the bare rocks. I got p-tex...

Friday, February 3, 2012

Stand Like a Gorilla: Plattekill Ski School's Technical Director Ken Kimball

See Pixie-ish smile hiding a wry sense of humor.

Ken Kimball is Plattekill’s ski school’s technical director. He has Peter Pan pixie-ish looks, a good way with a joke and a way down the hill that ranges from balletic (he was a pro freestyle skier back in the Suzy Chaffee days—rocking the moguls and the spins) to the outrigger and then drill after drill after drill. He also teases me about my skiing (in a nice way) – one that I appreciate. One that makes me want to get better.

Now, I can tell you good coaching is everything. I’m one of those late-in-life skiers, a never-ever who’s now as close to ski-bum as you can get without working at the hill. And, as you all might recall I’m at Squaw skiing at the moment, where I yesterday freeskied with one of the coaches in the Masters Program (one who’d coached the Julia Mancusso), and he was amazed that I’d only been skiing for 5 years (five years this week in fact. He kept repeating this…). I think he was most impressed though with my coaching. So Ken, take a bow (you too Sarah Rogers at Belleayre…).
The outrigger...
A good coach is a rare thing, a fine thing and one who can help you finesse your skiing. Which in my case here in Tahoe has been getting me down and around steep rocks without killing myself. Or being too scared to come down.

Ken is the kind of coach who will notice if you’re hyper-extending your back. (Not easy to pick out. Not in baggy ski pants). Or that my femurs long. Details that are lost on most. And certainly were on me. He has a kind of skill that makes you (or me) practice over and over and over again side-slipping into a turn so I both stand up over my skis and release my edges, getting my stance better, taller over my skis (He’ll be happy to know I’ve been standing at the top of the stairs trying, though didn’t hurtle down them).

Ken grew up skiing. But his family only got to a hill maybe five days a year so instead he’d build jumps with his friends in the backyard and skied snowdrifts by the side of the road. He had the bug so badly he dropped out of his college 1.0 (forestry) to ski at Whiteface, begging for lift tickets from people leaving, not uncommon back in the day. (Warren Miller once lived out of his car to ski). When he got his degree at college 2.0 (studying phys ed) he also started teaching skiing, and quickly certified through all three PSIA levels and went to live and teach at the isolated Sunday River in Maine. He was pro, skiing freestyle and sponsored by Olin and Scott and coaching freestyle skiing with legend Greg Stump.

Ken discovered Plattekill decades later. He came up for a PSIA update course. It was one of those mythic weekends that makes the mountain seem like a fairytale: rain predicted, but on the first day Platty got eight inches of powder and on day two another four. He was hooked and came to help teach when he was off from his own day job of teaching PE. Now he’s at the hill every weekend. And, instead of having a team of instructors under him who just teach for the pass, the ethos is student focused. This means not just teaching the teachers drills, but about teaching itself – different ways of learning at different ages and how people learn. (Which is where standing like a gorilla comes into play. Kids can understand that better than describing what your knees should be doing, say). But, Ken has that skill the best coaches share. Vision. He can see what you’re doing. And what you should be doing. And he will work with you to find the way for you to master it.
Ballet on planks on Platty's Northface.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

100% Chance of Snow

Celebrate all ye Winter in the Catskillians! Snow is coming, I promise. And how can I guarantee such things (particularly given this winter)? I am going West to ski. I have a bad history with this. Soon as I get on a plane the Catskills gets several snowstorms each totaling around a foot. And out West? Drought. Which is already the case at Squaw where I'm going. No snow in sight for the next two weeks. So, get out and ski some powder runs for me. I won't be.... (Not to say I'm complaining or anything).

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Lesson in Grooming, Mixed Precip and Snow Conditions from Plattekill's Macker

The Macker – his name well earned, starts a fire with a blowtorch.

Macker is a tough guy. Smokes, drinks, skis. All hard. Man is also a perfectionist. Witness the Stockli skis he rides. (He's also open for teasing and makes fresh donuts at the mountain on weekends). He can tell you lore about the hill, but beyond that he could be seen as the master of grooming. He once described being on the groomer at the end of the day – alone – as his kind of meditation. (It's done with a smoke and the nice scent of diesel fumes).

So what does he have to say about this sort of weather? Which others might call Liquid Sunshine, and Jay Peak has called, ahem, “transluscent snow.”

Right now we're having a very strange winter. But to explain what happens when it rains and freezes goes like this:

"Natural snow falls from the sky as a crystallized flake. If you were to look closely at one they are pretty much flat. As natural snow accumulates and sits, it becomes dense. When natural snow gets warm or packed down it turns to ice rapidly. Granted it’s fun to ski in but it takes a lot to hold up to heavy ski traffic.

"Now I’ll give you the description of Man-Made snow. When snow comes out of a snowgun, the first thing that happens is a small amount of water is mixed with compressed air to start a process called nucleation, this freezes lots of little pellets and these pellets are forced into a larger water stream of spray which in turn act like a pearl in an oyster. They bounce around and get bigger and help freeze the rest of the water stream. End result SNOW. But manmade snow is technically a frozen pellet of ice (a bit like “graupel,” jk). You need to think about which one water will go through, a stacked-up pile of pellets, or a dense pile of mush. This is why, when it rains on manmade snow and then freezes you are left with frozen granular once the groomers grind it up.

"One of the biggest complaints that you hear when a winter is like this is, Oh the slopes are icy. This is a statement that gets blown out of proportion . Usually it’s hardpack they’re having a problem with, not ice. (Now this last statement was meant directly for me) Always remember, just because you can come down a Black Diamond doesn’t mean you’re an Expert Skier. An Expert Skier never complains about conditions…”

All of this means that because there's a lot of manmade snow, the conditions will actually be better. So all of you who are hoping (or even pondering) coming out to ski tomorrow, come. Because once that   frozen granular has been groomed and skied on, it becomes loose granular. Think sugar.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Poaching New Lines At Plattekill – Like Bats Out Of Hell

This weekend promises powder and plenty of it, but last weekend was epic and surprising – to find that much snow and that many stashes to share. There were lines carved and taken and hikes made. It felt like being at Alta. My shoulder hurt from carrying my skis. But, better than my telling you about it – this is from an email sent to me by a dedicated long-time Platty skier. And, the names have been cut to protect the innocent:

"We skied the powdery ridge like bats out of hell all the way down because we are young and we don't stop, only I had to pretend.  We should have skied like angels.  But, no, we skied like bats out of hell.   We used to ski that way all the time through the woods at scary speeds."  

"We love the time of year when the Double is closed.  Once it is opened, we are chased further and further away to find the quiet.  In the old days, before the time of blogs and secrets de-secretized, we would be there only because we were and we would be alone with one another.  We had followed each other and asked about things face to face.  Now, people who wouldn't  know are in the know and they show up literally out of nowhere.  People come to find "the stash".  It's like reading a fly-fishing magazine that talks about undiscovered rivers filled with the best things and they tell you where the secret river is...."

All I can say is bring the snow and take me to the river.... Also most importantly thanks to the skier who wrote such a lovely email...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ice Carving and Snowmobile Drag Racing in Walton...

Time-based art and temporal sculpture are buzz words in the Big-A art world. They also rock the world of the SUNY Delhi ice carvers. Obviously ice sculpture is temperature-dependent, so the piece could last minutes or months. Now in Walton, you can see the Delhi culinary students pull out the stops. And the chainsaws, chisels and blowtorches. A class at the college’s culinary school focuses on ice carving and does, yes, far more than those ice swans popular at weddings in the 80s. On campus, the class, “Culinary Sculpting,” wields 300-pound ice blocks made in the school’s Ice Sculpting Lab.

To see the team at work (and they are, by the way, national collegiate champions competing annually Minnesota) head out to the Walton Fairground. This Saturday January 21st, there will be ice carving and snowmobile drag racing (we’re even supposed to be getting some snow). The event is an official practice session for the National Ice Carving Competition and an ACF (American Culinary Federation) sanctioned competition, which means there will be good carvers, and the winner matters.

Friday, January 13, 2012

You Can Ski The Wasatch But You Choose Plattekilll...

 You can ski anywhere in the world but where do you go to teach your son? Well, if your Salt Lake City residents Dave and Jessi Raber (or else you happen to be reading this blog) you would say: Plattekill. And, by anywhere in the world I mean the best skiing in the U.S. which would be Utah. There Jessi didn’t just happen to ride both one plank or two – tele and snowboarding – she also worked for Sno Engineering Group, which designs ski areas. And her particular client? Snowbird. She had to ski for work. And, still she comes to Plattekill with her adorable two-year-old Silas who’s learning to talk and ski at the same time.

And baby makes three. Plus four planks.
Dave is back East for work for the winter. So, Jessi and Silas followed for the skiing. Out West the couple would pack the young’un up, skin up 11k-foot peaks like Clayton’s Peak or Catherine’s Area at Alta and ski down with the baby on their back.

Now that they’re here, they might well bring the powder with them. They got married at Plattekill (and you can see the pictures in the lodge). Two days before the wedding, no snow. Then, come the appointed weekend in December and a legendary powder day. “We figure the powder gods love us,” Jessi says, which if you look at today’s weather could well be true. Particularly since Utah’s been having the driest winter in decades.  

They wanted Silas to learn at Plattekill. “It just feels like home,” she says. “Here all the kids are included and everyone’s like a family looking out for each other. Silas can run around and I know he’ll be okay. I could never do that anywhere out West.” Even better, Silas is loving skiing. He keeps saying “more, more, more” when he’s out on the slopes. Prediction: he will be ripping down the North Face by the end of the weekend. Okay that’s magical thinking.

Both his parents are also volunteering and working on the mountain this winter: Jessi at the bar and Dave, a master mechanic, helping keep the hill running smoothly. Which in fact sent him home on Monday looking like a chimney sweep, but Platty owner, Laszlo Vajtay says, “They’re the perfect example of what embodies the unique vibe of Plattekill. We’re lucky they love doing what they do at Plattekill.”

Learning on Powder Puff

Ready to take after Dad. In the groomer.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Nearly A Powder Day at Plattekill With Harvey Road

Harvey shooting for the blog.

Where does Harvey Road founder of the awesome NY Ski Blog ski on his birthday? Not his home mountain but Plattekill. And here’s the proof on Powderpuff, where he stopped to do his job, shooting  down the hill. And, as if a birthday present just for him, Laszlo turned on the guns, (got out the "pixie dust," Harvey called it) on the The Face. So while Saturday had soft spring skiing, Sunday, which should have been hard and loud, was instead a powder day if you picked your runs right. What the gods won’t provide Laszlo and co will. And did.

And check out that grin. He's having a good birthday... 

The NY Ski Blog also deserves a big thank you (particularly after the heavy snows come and I hear rumblings that MLK Day is our day for some powder). They came out in November to clear trails, including some secret passageways through the trees. Read more here, and Harvey, come back to tell me where…

Friday, January 6, 2012

Get Your Skates On

Come this Friday and skating returns to Margaretville (not skateboarding either for all who think the weather might stand in the way of actual ice).

The village has a winter tradition of free ice skating in the village park (behind Freshtown and by the pavilion). The rink is ad hoc, made of hay bales and custom liner filled with water turned into, of course, ice. It’s set up by a team of volunteers headed by Mike and Becky Porter. I can’t say enough good things about the two of them; he rode his bike across the country after two year’s of cancer treatment, was science teacher at MCS and is president of the volunteer fire department. (He also cuts a fine figure in the department’s dress uniform). And, where it comes to dress or dressing, Becky can dress a deer on the way to church on Sunday (she has before) and is a skater and skier. As Mike says, he’s just there doing her bidding. He does not actually skate but wants to encourage everyone to get outside. To make sure you can, the Porters have skates on their back porch (at the corner of Orchard and Academy Street in the village) for anyone to borrow.

The rink is open anytime you feel like coming and having a skate. To keep the ice smooth they use something called a “wand,” a four-foot garden hose attachment that sprays a thin stream of water on top. That’s all it takes to get the Zamboni effect. On Wednesday the ice was at least two inches thick, Mike reports. “Not quite good enough yet.” Because of the weather he suggests skating in the evenings and early mornings when it’s cold. And in the early morning you’re likely to catch Becky there too. That’s her favorite time to hit the ice.

Skating when it’s too warm makes it both hard to skate and is hard on the ice, which, given that the rink is run by volunteers, makes them work harder too. Plus, if you come when it’s dark out, there’s a light on a post by the rink that you can turn on yourself, anytime you want. So if you fancy a romantic midnight skating jaunt…

The rink will be up, “Until,” Mike says, “mother nature says ‘no.’” Which here in the Western Catskills means February.