Storms Dakota

They’re standing right behind us, aren’t they?

Normally this is the time of year when the family packs up the camping gear and heads for the lovely Colorado mountains for some exploration and readjustment.  But this year, there’s still so much snow up there, we opted for the backup plan: head north east to some smaller, less snowy mountains.  Namely, the Black Hills of South Dakota.  Plus, it’s only six hours away and we’d never been there. Continue reading

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Terror on Tyndall

This is NOT a good situation. I VERY MUCH DO NOT WANT TO BE HERE RIGHT NOW!  But I’m three turns and one hundred vertical feet into this descent and there are at least that many more to go to safety. Gaaaah! There’s not much else to do here but move on.

Me, contemplating a third turn, but really not too sure about it.

This uncomfortable moment of introspection came at the crux of a ski descent of Tyndall Glacier, one of the last remaining glaciers (or permanent snowfields, if you want to get technical) in Colorado. In it’s hey day, Tyndall Glacier carved out a pretty substantial gorge stretching a couple miles east from the Continental Divide in what is now Rocky Mountain National Park. Now that it’s nearly gone, the north side of the gorge is mades up the aptly-named and often-climbed Flattop Mountain while the cliffs and buttresses on the south make the uber-picturesque Hallet Peak what it is. At the mouth of the gorge lies the end of the paved road at Bear Lake which is probably the most popular mountain spot in the entire state. It’s occupied in equal numbers by sneaker-and-jeans clad tourons and the better-equipped climbers and ski mountaineers.

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2018-19 ski spectacular

We ended the season one member down, but the rest of us made up for it.

It’s early May.  In most seasons, I would have hung up the skis a month ago and skiing would be a distant memory.  This year?  Nope, there’s still plenty of snow out there and several resorts are still open.  I never thought I’d say I was tired of skiing, but it’s finally happened!  Bring on summer and all that stuff.

This is our fourth real ski season and the second one where the kids are skiing well.  At the end of last season, Joe tentatively skied his first black diamond run and now he goes as hard as me or harder.  Ellie started the season on the easy blue runs and finished on the blacks (and not the easy ones either!).  If we keep up this progress, I’ll be in serious trouble next winter.

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Newts on Buttes!

Joe joined the Boy Scouts this year. I was a Scout back in New Hampshire in the 1980s (Troop 202, Gorham, NH!) just like my father before me in the 1950s (Troop 404, Wadsworth, OH!) and Joe is very much into the idea of continuing lineages. So, based on the completely unbiased opinion of a good friend of mine, we joined Troop 78, the most awesome of the several local troops available.

Yucca and buttes

Troop 78 is much bigger than my tiny hometown troop, is well organized with a strong cadre of older boys and adult leaders, and is quite active with one or more scheduled outings each month and a near-mandatory week at scout camp in the summer. For those unfamiliar with the structure, Scout troops are organized around the Patrol method in which one or two older boys lead a group of five or six younger scouts as subsets of the larger troop. Troop 78 has four permanent patrols of 6-8 scouts each (Beaver, Dragon, Moose, Eagle).  Furthermore, the troop has a really good induction process for new scouts with a couple of assistant scoutmasters who specialize in getting new boys (most of whom are about 11 years old) up to speed. All together, these new scouts form the (temporary) Newt Patrol. Continue reading

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Seven Territories

So proud.

When I signed up to be a dad eleven years ago, I had many hopes and dreams for my then-hypothetical kids.  But I never really thought about how much fun it would be, eventually, to ski with them.  For the first couple of years, skiing with kids was fun only in the sense of seeing the world through their young eyes; the actual skiing was pretty minimal and furtive while they were having lunch in the lodge or whatever.  We spent a couple seasons this way in “investment” skiing while both kids got bigger and tougher and climbed the skills ladder.

But now!  It’s not only fun to see the world through their young eyes, it’s also genuinely fun for me as well!  Sometime in the middle of last season, Joe devised the idea of trying to ski all seven of Winter Park’s “territories” in a single day.  At first, I thought the recent rebranding of the different territories was kind of a marketing gimmick, but if so, it’s an effective one.  Back in the day, there were Winter Park (big, full of tourist-laden groomers) and Mary Jane (wilder, tougher, and more local and laid-back).  In the meantime, they’ve opened up a few new areas and thus the territories gimmick. Continue reading

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“Telemark” is Norwegian for “I Can’t Afford Real Skis”

Surfing the powder on the inaugural run.

Free your heel and your mind will follow,” is what the telemarkers say.  Actually, they have many pithy sayings including “Randonee is French for ‘I can’t tele.‘”.

The backcountry skiing bug has bitten me a lot more gradually than most of my obsessions tend to.  Ten years ago, I happened across a pair of burly cross-country skis and started tooling around the local trails in them.  I found a cheap pair of skins and suddenly I could ski up stuff I lacked the skill (or equipment, yeah, we’ll go with that) to get back down.  Maybe stiffer boots is the answer.  Plastic telemark boots came along with the rest of the tele rig and hit all the right buttons for me: light, old-school-cool, and able to, in principle, do some pretty gnarly things on and off piste. Continue reading

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It’s Okay to Change Your Mind

My priorities have changed since I started down this career path.

My career path always seemed pretty obvious. My parents were science majors at an elite liberal arts college on the east coast. My dad got his doctorate in chemistry from an Ivy. Science was everywhere in my house: my folks got me up to see the last moon landing when I was two months old.  I was inundated by Legos. When I was twelve, my grandfather and I got out his telescope and saw the rings of Saturn (so tiny, so perfect!). Consequently, I’ve been crazy about space and rockets for as long as I could remember. Twelfth grade physics class showed me that the universe had operating rules and my fascination only increased. There was never any doubt that I’d end up with a PhD in some sort of hard science, then go off and professor at someplace prestigious, followed by a stretch goal of becoming an astronaut and/or winning a Nobel Prize. It was just a matter of buckling down and working my way up through the ancient system of apprentice/master that is academia.  Honestly, I never really questioned it.  Perhaps I should have more.

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