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Friday, November 30, 2012

Full Moon On Glory

With a blanket of new snow in the hills, I was stoked to get out for a lap on Mt. Glory after work on Monday.  "After work" ended up being later than planned, so by the time I finished the bike commute home with Rue and threw my stuff together the sunset was burning over the Big Holes.  I drove away from the house knowing that near-dark was about to be full-dark.

Alpenglow on Mt. Taylor gave way to starry skies by the time I parked the truck up at Teton Pass, but a full moon rising gave out plenty of light to launch up the bootpack.  Cruising up the bootpack felt great--after the first tree band it was just about like any other day in the winter.  Fun to mix up the winter exercise routine--can't ride rollers every day.


A light wind and cool temps kept me motivated to transition quickly at the top, and then it was powder turns all the way to the bottom!

In my dreams.  

There were some good powder turns, but there were also extended stretches of snowy bushwhacking peppered with bedrock.  Fortunately my body and my Wagner Custom board held up just fine.  It would be unfortunate to end my season this early.

Better bootpacking than snowboarding, but it's all fun under a full moon.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nordic Thanksgiving

For years I've been hearing about a massive, 5-day nordic ski party that takes place in the woods around West Yellowstone.  It seems most of my friends have been; Erica even joined the fray a bunch of years ago.  But I had yet to toss myself into the mix, perhaps intimidated by tales of 9-year-olds inevitably skiing circles around me.  This was the year to see if I could hang in a crowd of nordorks from all over the country.

And what better time of year to do it?  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, with the focus on surrounding ourselves with friends and family and being consciously grateful for the wonderful lives we have.  Way back in June, Jacki challenged us to commit to reserving a huge cabin together with a big crew of friends for the long weekend, and it all flowed from there.  Erica and I drove up on Wednesday evening (late, as usual,) feeling a bit intrepid about the lack of snow but encouraged when we drove into a nice blizzard around Island Park.

We arrived to a bouncing house full of 11 adults and 5 kids (most of whom were staying there.)  Wow.  It would have been sweet to add the families' dogs to the mix, but with it being a vacation rental...

Despite our late arrival, we were still able to be somewhat helpful with preparing chicken enchiladas, and were definitely helpful with consuming them.  And we even remembered to drop the turkey into some brine before tossing off for the night.

Out on the track with Erica, Mary, and Nils.

Thanksgiving day was fantastic: nice, mellow morning with Erica and the crew.  Some went out to attend skate clinics, while the rest of us drank coffee and succumbed to the childrens' entertainment.  Mary, Nils, and I finally rolled out of the house at noon to get some skating in ourselves.  The valley level had about 1" of snow on the ground, so all of the grooming was up on what the locals referred to as "The Plateau", maybe 1000' higher and 1-2' deeper.  "The Plateau" had a 15km track out to Black Bear Canyon, a ~10km loop-ish Whiskey Trail, and another little spur that was reserved for clinics.  Picture fitting 1000+ skiers on three tracks...

That's right, 1000+ skiers!  Imagine finding so many athletes who are so passionate about a sport with so little sex appeal!  Kind of like endurance mountain biking...

The first 2km were a bit crowded, a bit sporty weaving through the human slalom, but beyond that everything mellowed out.  We three skied the out-and-back to Black Bear Canyon (30km, more or less) which felt like a pretty good accomplishment for the season's first day on skate skis.  Gorgeous, sunny day, friendly people, cold air.  So sweet.

Once back at the truck I jammed down to the house to pick up Erica (who had graciously volunteered to prepare the turkey and get it in the oven) and drove us back up to The Plateau so that we could get our own Thanksgiving skate together.  By the time we started away from the truck most of the other skiers had cleared out--good fun, and pretty darn fast on an empty, firm track!

Then it was back to the house for laughter, turkey, thankfulness, stuffing, kids' performances, beer, more thankfulness, wine, more turkey, stories, sweet potatoes, another helping of thankfulness, salad, and some Schnapps of questionable quality called Ullr.  And then there was pie.

A little bit of ice makes tomorrow feel a little bit better.  Mary has IT band issues; I'm still dealing with the blown ankle.
(Stacy, Darran, and Tavis in the background, putting the house back in order after pizza dinner.)

Friday and Saturday held a whole lot of the same.  Start the day slowly with coffee and breakfast, head out around lunchtime to skate (when most skiers were coming back down to town,) crush myself on the track (~50km on Friday, and another 30km out-and-back on Saturday,) come home for a hot shower and big family dinner, watch kids' performances, stumble to bed.

Erica and I managed to find eachother toward the end of the day on Friday for another brief skate together, and then on Saturday she finally got up the guts to jump into a clinic with Mary, Nils, and Stacy.  Of course she loved it, came home raving about how much more efficient she could be with V-2 and with a bunch of teaching ideas for the future.  The perfect end to a fun vacation.

Snuggling in bed with Erica and Rue on Sunday morning felt pretty good.  After opening the skating season with 110km in three days and driving home Saturday night, my brain was about as sharp as a marble until the coffee kicked in and blueberry pancakes were consumed.  What can I say?  My body is tired and my feet are sore, and I can't wait to do it all again next year.

Thanks for a fabulous weekend everybody!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

3 At The 'Ghee

I was feeling spunky and a little stir-crazy this morning, so I taped up my ankle good and tight and loaded my snowboard gear into the truck for a foray up at Targhee.  Our snowpack is slowly growing and overall warm temps seem to have helped solidify a base.  Photos and stories were of honest-to-gawd powder up there!  I had to see for myself.

There were rumors from Thursday of a line of 100+ people skinning/bootpacking/whatever up the mountain, but despite my relatively late start there were only a handful of others.  Definitely a variety of personalities--lots of flavor.

It was good to see others up there.  Some may complain about the backcountry getting crowded, but I love seeing how earning turns is catching on!
The skinning was firm and fast, with only a light wind blowing across the upper ridge.  My last foray into the backcountry felt clunky and awkward (and sticky) but today started to feel normal again--I was able to hit a smooth stride and felt pretty good on the ups.

The signs at the top crack me up.  Seems like a wide spectrum of possible consequences.

And the riding was indeed honest-to-gawd powder!  Fast and soft, and I (amazingly) didn't hit a single rock.  Not that there weren't any out there, but with some decent route-finding it was no problem.

The snow in Chief Joseph Bowl was pretty sweet--slightly consolidated pow on a solid base.

Good enough, in fact, to crank out three top-to-bottom laps and feel good about it.  I was starting to feel rubbery by the top of the 3rd up, but never questioned whether it was worth it.

I felt as haggard as I looked nearing the top of lap 3.

All told, a fully worthwhile trip into the hills.  I saw a bunch of friends up there and got to share some fine pre-Thanksgiving turns.    Then I got to come home, play ball with the dogs, and snuggle in (with the dogs) for a post-riding nap.  Not bad.

Now we just need it to start snowing on West Yellowstone in time for the big nordic ski festival...