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).