The Streak

I tend to lose track in the winter, but I realized just now that I have skied 27 straight months. Basically, it's an alpine/backcountry thing where I consider it a day of skiing if I take a run down. It started innocently enough in November 2007, probably on some white strip of death at Eldora. I certainly had no intention of skiing that many months straight when I went out in November 2007.

Winter of 2008 was highly charged winter, chalk full of emotion and the importance of skiing as something that could actually make people feel happier. I fell back in love with skiing this winter and went a lot.

May was a hell month for me, and skiing was basically the only thing I could do to feel better. And then, that summer, I was basically in escape mode, and would spend all day hiking in the mountains and skiing down peaks. Got in ridiculously good shape. For some reason I decided to keep it going in August and September. By that point in time I figured I'd shoot for 12 straight months, and voila, it happened.

Of course winter came up, which ensured I'd get through April. But then I got accepted into the NOLS instructor course, and needed to get fit, so again – May, June and July were spent hiking the hills in search of turns.

This fall things got rough. I went out in August, up to a glacier in RMNP, and that was a subtle act of rebellion that they couldn't take everything from me. I needed that ski. September was dicier. I left town, and ended up skiing on the last day of the month in Great Basin National Park, on a patch of snow no bigger than people's living rooms. I hiked it 10 times, as I wanted to get in 100 turns. That was definitely the worst snow.

I figured the streak was over in October. I was in California until Halloween day, and as luck would have it a ski area on the top of Donner Pass, Boreal, happened to open that day. Of course I dropped $25 and made turns on the flattest, shortest run known to man, but whatever, the streak lived.

November was spent in Alta, where I'd hike the mountain on a daily basis, followed by 14 straight days of Bikram's Yoga intro class. By this point in time though, I was over the hump. December and January have been filled with almost daily forays into the backcountry. The streak lives, and I see no reason to let it die. It's been an interesting 27 month period, for more reasons than just skiing, but there has been beauty in it too. So here is to keeping the streak alive, starting tomorrow, February 1st!

Denver, Young Guns

It's a Sunday morning in this funky little mountain town. I'm sitting in Whistler's Cafe, downing a glass of orange juice, waiting for my favorite, the W.C. Burger – a hunk of goodness – ground beef, bacon, jalapenos, cream cheese all on a bagel. It's a late morning, but Stella is loaded up into the car and were going to poke around for some afternoon turns.

It's nice to be happy again. It's been awhile, that's for sure.

Got a new blog for folks to check out. A girl I used to coach on my ski team, Mariah, forwent a college career at RPI in Troy, New York to join the ski team up at Montana State University. Can't say I don't take a little pride in influencing that decision. Anyway, she's racing for the team, and it's tough, cause MSU is a big school who recruits and she has less experience. So she's getting a good little life lesson in perseverance and having to work hard to earn what you want. Anyway, give it a gander. Personally, I find the perspectives of people who are still figuring it all out much more interesting anyhow. Makes you realize that while we pretend, with experience, to know what the hell it is we're doing, we really don't. 

A gentleman just walked up to me here in the cafe. He told me I was his daughters favorite teacher at Nederland High, and how it means a lot to a parent when a teacher draws in the attention of a student and makes them care. That's another world for me now, and I leave it behind with no regrets, but I won't lie, him saying that heals a lot of wounds.

To all – have a wonderful day wherever you are.

Houdini

I think I'll do a little product review for an item that I have to say might have been my single best purchase of 2009.

The Patagonia Houdini jacket is a layer that I use and abuse every day. In the summer, I'll use it on hikes – during the early morning starts before a big ski, on the top of a pass or if a light rain storm moves in (it's not rain proof, but it keeps the light Rocky Mountain showers out). It's the catch all coat. It's light enough to toss on for kicking steps up a couloir, and it's just heavy enough to keep the chill out for a snack of Brie and salmon on the top of Arapahoe Pass. It's compact enough that I can easily shove it in the side pocket of any pair of pants, and then can pull it out for emergency situations. It's also great for buggy situations. You can hike in it fairly well up to about 80° and not overheat, and nary a blasted mosquito can bite through it.

Even more surprising has been the Houdini's versatility in the winter. My common skinning layer system for the upper body now consists of:

25° and up – Lightweight capilene, silk weight-tee (worn over of course for the Kurt Cobain Seattle effect), Houdini

20° to 25° – Midweight capilene, silk weight-tee, Houdini

10° to 20° – light weight capilene, silk weight-tee, fleece hoody, Houdini. 

You get the point. I always have the Patagonia down sweater available, and on really cold days will bust this out in the parking lot (Moffat, the least hospitable trailhead in the world), on the top of a peak, or even, on really cold days, will skin for awhile in it till I warm up sufficiently. But truth be told, the sweater lives in my pack 50% of the time (at least), while I'm wearing the Houdini 90% of the time. The only exception might be on a ski where I'm dressing to impress…in which case I'll of course bust out a Grizzly branded flannel shirt, which you purchase at any army store for sub $20. But that's a whole other review!

The Houdini is great for walking the dog, or basically anytime you plan to exert a little energy. I've even been known to wear it under a layer, as a stop-gap wind block. For example, in the above situation where one might be dressing to impress, I recommend putting the Houdini under a flannel shirt. That way, you'll look good and keep the wind out while you are traversing the Continental Divide in January in a 80 mph gale. Make sure to remove your knit cap to let your hair flow in the wind in such conditions, ala Brad Pitt in Legends of the Fall.

My Houdini is black, which I find gives the nice Anakin Skywalker tortured soul look when combined with my black Guide pants. The only problem is in the Wind Rivers, dark colors tend to attract mosquitoes, so in all honesty I'll probably switch it up this summer and go Mango. Not that I need too – after a summer of skiing peaks, two NOLS courses, lots of fall hiking and skiing this winter, the Houdini is in fine shape. A few tiny holes courtesy of an overly rambunctious campfire somewhere in the Winds, but that's user error and merely cosmetic.

So yes, I whole heartedly recommend to Patagonia Houdini Jacket.

IMG_2305 The Houdini on top of Mount Helen in the Wind Rivers.

Powder Serpendipity on a Wednesday

Back to the more mundane. A simple Wednesday afternoon ski at my favorite local haunt. Haunt is an accurate term for this area, as it used to be a significant mining town in the area – say 130 years ago – before falling prices for the ore, fire and ridiculously harsh winters brought the town back to mother nature. A true ghost town. There is even a graveyard for the morbid or simply curious.

Funky conditions out there. Funky like James Brown – not bad, just different. Three to four inches of fresh, on top of a grippy surface layer, on top of the more solid layer from the three weeks of warmth we've had. Required a little bit more the point 'em and shoot technique, as too much pressure would send you arcing across the hill ala Bode Miller in a slalom race. Necessary if your going to busting the gates at Adelboden, but not so much for a little afternoon powder ski on a mellow 20° powder slope. Took a couple laps, and that was plenty, as the world seemed to be a slow motion ethereal wooded landscape. Which, indeed, it was. OK, enough waxing poetically – here's some damned photos of the day. 

P1014729 Point-and-shoot. After the January famine, the snow is starting to fill back in.

P1014733 Close up of the best ski dog this side of Timbuktu – Stella!

P1014739 The snow has returned…

P1014743
…and with it, picturesque ski lines through the woods. Note Stella cutting fresh tracks on lookers left of mine. All freshies, all the time for the dog.

P1014745 Snow twas a bit funky out here in the open seas, but that didn't deter me for a second, cause it was still really good.

P1014748 Just think, in a few months these will all be dead as vicious pine beetles ravage the insides of these trees. OK, that was morbid.

P1014749 Solaris breaks through the high mountain landscape for a minute.

P1014756 Yes, a lot of us who live up here in Nederland, Colorado are on the slight hippy side of things. A proud, sticker-flaunting member!

P1014757 I'm a fan of keeping karma and the mountain gods on my side. 😉

Greatness

I went on a walk today around Mud Lake. So I was thinking about greatness. Meaning true greatness, not just success or keeping up with the Jones' and so forth.

True greatness requires a few elements to make it happen:

1. Passion: You will not be great at anything without it. You have to believe that what you are trying to do is the most important thing out there, or if not the actual thing, there at least has to be some raging fire inside you that is inspiring you to do your thing. Love is always a good – it fueled William Wallace, Ghengis Khan and countless other inspirational souls. So to start, you need the fire.

2. Madness in vision: Crazyness is all relative, and one could argue that going to the same 9-5 job everyday and not extending the self is crazier than crazy.  But I think really, to be great, you have to be a little bit out there. You have to basically believe things can happen that the average person might not. Take Reinhold Messner for example. An attempt up Everest's north face is indeed chutzpah. Yet to do it up the couloir, alone, in a minimalist style, is something else. On the surface, it's pure madness. Yet it's also brilliant, and it's why he is considered the greatest climber who has ever lived. Perhaps it's not madness. Perhaps it's creativity to the umpteenth degree.

3. A certain arrogance: In the attempting of something great, you are bound to be criticized. Your are pushing the standards of society, of expectations, and as such, you will find opposition from the huddled masses who live in fear. They will say – that's impossible, be practical or even call it flat out wrong. This is to be expected. The key is to ignore the riff-raff, pay it no heed, and plug on. Attempting to placate the noise is a distraction from greatness.

4. Good karma/luck: To dive into something that is "impossible" or "not practical" requires a high level of drive and passion. Yet oddly enough, it also requires a certain letting go. I think it requires a spirituality, and I'm probably not talking about your standard church religion, although if that floats your boat, so be it. Many have been fueled by this – who am I to judge? Still, I think, if you are attempting something bold and risky, you need to have good old karma and luck on your side. Say your prayers, but more importantly, live with integrity. Help others, help the planet. Wear the good luck charms, do whatever you need to do. But do it with the knowledge that there are bigger forces out there, and you want to go forth with cockiness, yet humility.

Maybe that's the key. Be confident or even cocky to the human naysayers. They matter little. But to the goal or the object at hand…be confident, yet also hold onto the good luck charm. 

I would say planning, and intelligence, and strength and resources are also useful in becoming great. And I've probably missed a few things too. But those are secondary – the most important things are the ones I listed above.

My mind is spinning with the possibility of a great project in the mountains. An attempt of something big. Something that I think would define me. For too long I've been waiting to define myself. The time, right now, is almost perfect. I'm not cocky enough to state it, because there are some preparations that need to be made. But I think…this might be the thing to do.

Be great in all things. In your pursuit of happiness, in your pursuit of fulfillment, in your pursuit of love. Nothing is impossible.

The heart on fire is the greatest weapon known to mankind.