28 February 2011

Jacket Of Love

So just stop
worrying about it
'cause all that
don't mean a thing.
It's the same old situation.
It's same old you and me.
                     Jacket of Love
                     Looking for Henrietta
                     Lyle and Sparkleface Band

Sometimes, when you're out in the woods skiing or riding your bike and you find yourself knocked on your keister totally unexpectedly, you reflect for a moment, after your situational-inventory's been taken, on how close you really do come from time to time to actual disaster.  And, if you're like me, in those moments, you're grateful.  Really stinkin' grateful, that this time you're okay.  Because you've been injured before.  And you know how much it sucks.

I clipped the tip of a blown-down spruce with my arm while skiing on Sunday.  It was hidden at the bottom a thick little clump of trees on a steep in-bounds hillside, poking out of them at an odd angle nearly perpendicular to the fall line.  Didn't see it as I was coming out of the the bottom of one turn looking down the slope for the next.  No warning.  Just never saw it.  It's always those wrecks that hurt the most.  

Life's like that, too.  Doncha think?  It's so rarely the challenges we've planned for that get us. It's almost never the crisis we've foreseen that causes us to panic.

Fortunately, this time I was okay.  A little worse for wear: bruised.  But not broken.  Basically okay.  Skied out and went back up for one more before going home, in fact.

My fancy, new, not-even-a-season-old Marker Gore-Tex jacket, on the other hand, did not survive the encounter.  It's dead.  As in: it's in the garbage can out by the street at this very moment waiting for destiny to arrive, tomorrow's early morning pick-up and a one-way ticket to the dump.

And ya know, I'm not really all that upset about it.  Primarily 'cause I survived the incident with little more than a deep, painful bruise on my arm... it could have been a lot worse.

But also because, although I've been skiing in it almost exclusively this season, I never really felt "moved in" to my fancy, new Marker Gore-Tex jacket.  First of all, because it always felt a bit too fancy.  I'm a huge fan of Gore-Tex as a material.  It does what it says it will do.  And I use it.  A lot.  Swear by it's ability to keep a body warm and dry.  But this jacket, despite the Gore-Tex, was nevertheless so feature-rich, so filled with do-dads and hidden pockets, goggle-wipers, and zippers that I felt, I dunno, a little bit Poser in it I guess.  I wanted it for the Gore-Tex (and the color), not because it would accommodate my cellphone, my iPod, and my flask (I don't actually carry a flask) in specifically, individually designed and engineered pocketry.  Plus, it was bulky.  Not snowboarder, slopestyle bulky.  But way bigger and heavier-on than the stuff I've grown accustomed to skiing in.  So there's that, too.  All of which conspires to make it so my heart isn't breaking today, even though my fancy, new Marker Gore-Tex jacket's done gone and died.

And, I've still got Old Yeller, too, my trusty, well-worn, tried-and-true, three-pocket, no-frills, not-Gore-Tex, mended-and-mended-again, multi-purpose, dingy, yellow Marmot jacket which I've been wearing for, I don't know, at least 10 years... maybe more. Yeller'd been retired to bike-commuting duty-only of late, what with my fancy new jacket and all.  But I'm calling her up for one more shot at the big leagues, one more season on the mountain.  She's a great jacket anyway.  Not fancy.  But never fails. Keeps me warm (as long as I'm layered right).  Mostly dry (can get a bit sweaty at times). And even has one simple chest pocket that will accommodate my iPod, if I require it (I usually do).  It'll be nice to take her back up the mountain next time I go.  Like old times... the same old situation, the same old you and me.

13 February 2011

[There will probably be NO] Snowday This Friday!

It's been some time since my daughter and I were able to get out for a ride together.  And it was all too easy to forget it was February today, too... 67 degrees and sunny skies will do that.  Made recalling the negative-20s of a week or two ago seem like something I'd read in a book.

After two long laps around Buffalo Park (all smiles!), we took the Bug (with the top-down, of course) over to DQ on Milton to celebrate with strawberry sundaes and mocha-moo-lattes.  We played a round of our favorite sitting-at-DQ game: count the Subarus, then cruised leisurely through campus, downtown, and back up Cedar Hill past the Buffalo.  Now we're home again, hanging-out family-style, with the back door wide open letting all the fresh air in...

What a lovely lazy Sunday.

Nevertheless, all the weather forecast models are in agreement (so's my guru, Stu), predicting a return to winter later this week.  And frankly, that's good news to me.  Early spring weather's great-and-all... a nice respite from winter, indeed.  But I'd still like to get a few more days on the mountain... get that pass paid for, ya know.

So, with that in mind, throwing all caution and superstition to the wind, I'm gonna just come right out and say it: The stars are aligning...

It's gonna be a Snowday this Friday!

Don't take it to the bank just yet... we're still a few days away from certainty.

But in the event I'm right, don't forget I said it.

06 February 2011

Mountain Gazette #176

As I mentioned a few weeks back, Mountain Gazette actually did accept one of the photos I submitted to the magazine's annual Mountain Dog Photo Contest.   It's in the latest issue, #176, on page 25.  Mountain Gazette is not a huge publication, but I think it's great fun to read.  And, as a writer, they've been a real pleasure to work for in the past.  It's distributed all over the western U.S., and usually you can find it locally at places like Biff's Bagels, Late For The Train, and Aspen Sports.   It's free.

For the record, I've never had a photo published anywhere before.  And, I'm super stoked because this one is one of my all-time favorites.  For whatever it's worth, it wasn't a shot that I planned or posed or anything.  Just a lucky shot of our kid and the old-dog, Shadow, hanging out out together beneath the cottonwood tree.

05 February 2011

Life Cycles

Got out for a ride today. Which normally wouldn't be all that remarkable.  Except that it's February.  And I rode on some of my local trails here in Flagstaff, the ones at the base of Mount Elden.  And they were dry.  Dusty even, in spots.

Didn't ride long.  Just a short jaunt into the woods to recon the local sitch.  For whatever it's worth to ya: on the southern aspects just north of town, down low, there's a little mud here and there.  Some packed down snow and ice, too.  But in between, it's mostly summer-dry buff colored earth.  No kidding.

Strange enough to cause some concern.  For sure.

Anyway, I got home from my short ride and unpacked my bag, only to discover that I'd taken the DVD copy of Life Cycles, which I borrowed from the shop last weekend, with me on my ride.  I've been meaning to take it back.  But all week, I forgot to ride by the shop on my way home.  So the DVD's been just hanging around in my pack, useless to anyone, for a while now.  Sorry about that.

I bring this up for two reasons.  One: it is not my habit to ride with DVDs.  They're pretty much worthless on bike rides.  And two: because, if one were to ride with a DVD, there's probably no better DVD in the world to ride a bike with than Life Cycles.

There are an abundance of mountain bike movies on the market.  Just like ski movies, they appeal to many of us, especially towards the end of the off-season, as we're getting geared-up and excited about our upcoming opportunities to partake.  And, in general, most of these movies, regardless of their subject matter, are pretty much the same.  Fun to watch.  But formulaic.  Predictable.   Shot for shot, bit by bit, they all cover the same ground in more-or-less the same way, time-after-time, year after year.

All except for Life Cycles.  Without getting too effusive in my praise, I'll just say this about the movie and then let the trailer below speak for itself: Life Cycles is, without a doubt, hands-down, the most original, captivating, cinematically sophisticated, downright-awesome bike-movie I've ever seen.  It's gorgeous.  And fun.

I wanted it to be longer.

There's almost no reason to own DVDs anymore.  These days, between Netflix, Vudu, MegaVideo, and Surf The Channel, they're all waiting for you online.  Somewhere.  But Life Cycles is different. In my estimation, for so many reasons, it's a DVD that's well worth owning.  I'm ordering a copy.  Blu-ray, even.

Just as soon as I get down to the shop to take back the one I've borrowed.  Meantime, I just might watch it again.  Tonight.

01 February 2011

What to do with a(n almost) snowless January

What do you get your blog on your second anniversary ?

For whatever it's worth, I officially started blogging here in January 2009.  But for the first month or so of its existence, this-here blog kinda languished... mostly due to a lack of proper visioning.  At the beginning, I had no idea what I wanted to get out of this experience. All blogs need to find their space and their voice, I guess.  Of course, some never do.  I think that's why many blogs get started but quickly fail and are forgotten.  No vision.  But for some blogs, those lucky little sea-turtle-blogs that make it across the beach and into the sea, eventually there's a moment where a blog seems to come into its own.  For me and my blog, it wasn't until the post I made on February 1, 2009, that we really got off the ground, I think.  It was just a video I'd made.  But it was the first post that seemed, to me anyway, to have real meaning.  Relevance.  That was two years ago today.

January 2011 was kinda bleak.  For skiing, anyway.

Our ski season started off well enough, back in December.  But shortly after our first major storm cycle came and went, things sorta turned all spring-like.  And those spring-like conditions have persisted for the past four weeks or so.  Setting us up for a fourth-place finish for all-time almost snowless Januarys.

For those of us who find travel a challenge... because work, and family, and funding all seem to conspire to make it impossible... that means a whole lot of Snowbowl-piste.  Which, in-and-of itself isn't bad.  Just limiting.  Repetitive.  Crowded.  Watching the trees get bonier week after week.  Watching the southern exposures pretty much get cooked down to icy slab and rock.

Nevertheless, all month there's been really good coverage on the runs.  Not the most exciting skiing ever, fo sho.  But way better than not skiing at all.  And, BONUS: turns out snowless Januarys make for super-great conditions for learners!  Nothing but groomed cord as far as the eye can see.

I took two classes of fifth-graders, fifty kids in all, up the hill this past Tuesday, a week ago now, for what was for most of them their first time on skis.  It was a picture-perfect day.  And Snowbowl had the situation dialed.   We all had a blast.  By the end of the day, we had (one broken arm and) more than a few fearless first-time skiers.

Ice skating was probably better back in December, but I didn't get out until mid-January for my first (and thus far only) skate of the season out at Lake Mary.  By then the meager January snowfall had pretty much ruined what's usually pretty spectacularly smooth ice.  The morning we were out, however, having gone through a few weeks of daily melt and nightly re-freeze, it was more akin to skating on the surface of a giant golfball.  Not the best ice ever, not by a long shot.  But still, a lot of fun.  Nice patches here and there... And, heck, way better than not skating...

Ken on Lost Watch
And as it happens, I seem to have, purely by accident, picked a quite-good year to get on a new bike.  Can't say enough about how rad the new bike is, nor about how much fun it's been getting to know Sedona's trails again, in a whole new way, from a whole new perspective.  I've been down to Sedona several times in the month or so since I got my bike assembled.  Each ride has been spectacular, as in awesome and inspiring.  Though the last one, the one where I had to walk out a mile to the road pushing my new bike in front of me while carrying a taco'd front wheel on my backpack (wrong spoke wrench; seriously whopped wheel) left a little to be desired.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. -- Ed Abbey