Cold

Quick dawn patrols are the name of the game the next two days. Kind of dreading it, kind of excited to see what it feels like.

Tonight
Snow likely in the evening…then a chance of snow after midnight. New snow accumulation of 1 to 2 inches. Lows 11 below to 21 below zero. Chance of snow 70 percent. Wind chill readings 20 below to 30 below zero after midnight.
    
Tuesday
Cloudy with a 40 percent chance of snow. Highs 1 below to 9 below zero. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. Wind chill readings 30 below to 40 below zero.
   
Tuesday Night
Mostly cloudy. Chance of snow in the evening. Lows 16 below to 26 below zero. Chance of snow 30 percent. Wind chill readings 30 below to 40 below zero.

Wednesday
Mostly sunny. Highs zero to 8 above. Wind chill readings 20 below to 30 below zero in the morning.

Skiing to the Mines

Sitting here in the brand-new Nederland Community Library. A beautiful place, and the large window facing south, above the creek overlooks a scene of bleak grey and white winter. A storm has moved in, blanketing the land with snow and cold. They are saying lows of -30 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday night, which will make for some chilly early morning dawn patrol sessions. But that's winter for you here in Colorado – sunny one day and arctic the next.

Been doing some interesting skis of late. I'm hoping to hit fifty days for the season tonight on a ski with Elaine, on track for a solid one hundred before winter is said and done. Elaine and I had a nice adventure up the east side of a mountain I have skied…oh, 500 or so times in the past ten years. But never on the east side. Lots of breaking trail through aspen groves, and then we stumbled upon an ancient mining cabin, complete with rails heading out of the dilapidated structure, off the tailing and into the abyss. We continued on, and found more and more artifacts from the olden days. The miners – the men and women – who roamed these hills at the turn of the century a hundred and ten years ago were tough old buggers. I imagine them cruising around on skis, much like we were, hunkering down for a cold winter's night. I can relate to them much better than I can to ancient Rome, the Egyptians, etc. It's a geographical relationship, borne from spending countless days wandering the hills of this place I have called home for the past decade and a half. We made our way to the top of the mountain, and then back down the way we came, across grassy slopes, wind crust and coyote tracks. It was an odd ski, but as Elaine said afterwards, maybe one of the best of the season.

The next day, it was hanging with the in-laws. Well, one in-law to be specific, as there is a significant clan of the in-laws who that would not happen with. Elaine, myself and her sister decided to head up a peak, as the winds were calm and the temperatures warm. We were missing a beacon too, so decided to make the uber-safe James Peak the call. Twas a long day, up the glacier, across the open plateau and then up the final pitch to the summit, but the views from the top made it all worthwhile. To the north, the Indian Peaks (Skywalker is looking prime), Rocky Mountain National Park, Steamboat and Wyoming. Gazing west, we saw Winter Park Resort, the divide, the Gore Range and even Mount of the Holy Cross. South, Greys and Torrey's – the grand dames of the Colorado Continental Divide – dominated the horizon, and to the east it was the flat-lands – Denver, Boulder and even massive Pikes Peak way off in the horizon. The way back down was possibly the worst snow I have ever skied – wind blown crust and ice – but it didn't matter. Good company, getting above 13,000 feet and my first raccoon eyes light sun burn of the season. As a good friend of mine once said: "Any day above timberline is a good day." I'm not sure some of the folks who lost their life up on Everest might share the same sentiment, but it is, by and large, a true statement.

Meanwhile, as the sky grows darker, the cold digs in deep. A few days of work, and then it's off to the Eiseman Hut in the Gore Mountains high above Vail to ski, hopefully, a heaping of new snow.

Shop day, accident

A good day today. Elaine and I needed some quality time together, but as I had to work, it looked like it might be tough. So she came into the shop, and as there was work to do, she volunteered to do some of it. First, just waxing. No problem, she's an ex-ski racer, she knows the gig. Passed test A, then onto scraping and buffing. Cool. Then she went over our backlog of rental gear, waxed it and got it ready to roll. Went to lunch, came back, and she announced she wanted to learn to pine tar. Cool – there were two skis that needed pine tarring in the cue. She put on a shop tech's apron, showed her how to do it, and then she went to it and did an exceptional job. I managed to bust out a bunch of harder mounts thanks to her help, and eliminate all our rental backlog. We got done a little early, so I taught her how to base weld on some test skis…not a beginning shop tech skill. Girl's coordinated…managed the torch and the base material just fine. Even gave her a basic stone grinding lesson. No problem after a couple passes. Girl's got natural skill…clearly the daughter of a mechanic. There is nothing like working with your sweetie – makes me think that future idea we have to start a business together might just work. What can I say…we like each other's presence. All that hard work deserves a reward, so we got some italian sausage, onion, cheddar, jalapenos, cilantro and green salsa, cooked it up and feasted. Caboose was a balmy 43ยฐ when we got home, 65ยฐ now and a fire roaring. Tomorrow, up to Loveland to ski all the new powder. Very cool.

Yesterday was an interesting day. Went up to the old ghost mine town with my co-worker Ryan for a dawn patrol session. Six inches up top and dumping. I broke trail straight into a white-out at timberline. Couldn't see ten feet. We skied in close tandem on the way down – Stella in tow – and then broke out into some clearer goodness. I asked Ryan if he wanted to do the honors and get first tracks for the morning, and of course he did. Kid's got good form and it was fun to see him tearing it up. I followed, came over a little knoll, and was bummed to hear his yelling and grabbing for his knee. He heard a pop and went down. Crappy. We were still three miles from the car, and it was cold, windy and snowy. Went into NOLS instructor mode, and decided, well, a hurt knee isn't going to kill him, but hypothermia might. A little encouragement, grabbing his pack, and he slogged along on one leg. We made it back to the car and were only thirty minutes late for work. Still, skiing is Ryan's passion, and I hope he isn't out for long. Part of the ballgame as a skier of course, but you never like to see it happen.

Driving home tonight…saw an awesome shooting star. Heading west, to new horizons. Life is good, but made a wish anyhow.

Everest

Very windy ski up at the ghost town with Elaine today. It was a warm wind, so it wasn't too bad. Neither of us are really completely healthy, and we were feeling it, but it was nice to get the body moving again. Mind is in the mountains, so came home and painted the biggest one of all, Everest.

Everest

Marriage

Marriage is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. And this is weird, but I also feel like it's the most pure. When I was bike racing and ski racing, it was all about me. Selfish endeavors. When I taught, it was considered all about the kids, but the truth of the matter is teachers and coaches are in the spotlight a bit. And I think, while they'd never admit it, sometimes they like that spotlight. I did. And now here I am. A ski tech. No glory, no articles in the paper. Low pay. And it's not glamorous. My paycheck goes to insurance and food on the table. But it's like, all that attention. It doesn't matter. It's about this love, our team. It is, in the end, much more fulfilling.

Something a friend said to me tonight:

"You have learned a lot. Life teaches us a lot of lessons. And you have reached a point in life, where there is someone more important than yourself. It changes your whole perspecitive on life. You will never feel the same way again. You will always think of that other person first."

Yeti Handknit Hats

Taking advantage of the sick days to get a little business idea off the ground. Yeti Handknit Hats. I've been knitting ski caps with big pom-poms for a few years, and have gotten a lot of positive feedback on them. I used to make them for kids on the ski team and NOLS students and instructors. Now, we're going big-time! Well, not really, but Elaine did draw up a sketch for a sticker logo and I'm cranking out some lids since there is nothing else to do. I'll have a batch for sale at Neptune later this month.

Yeti Hats: Handknit 8,700 feet above sea level in Nederland, Colorado between backcountry ski adventures!

Yeti