Fashion Show Success!

Last night was the Neptune Mountaineering Fashion Show that Elaine organized so it was a late night getting the place pulled-down. Managed to get up to Eldora – we're still waiting for real snow – for ten runs of practice in the afternoon while Elaine stayed home and finished her 50,000 word Nanowrimo Novel. Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month where participants write 50,000 words in a month. Elaine has completed it six years in a row which is incredibly impressive. She's glad to have it done though, as it was a tough go as she was also coordinating a rather elaborate fashion show. We're both looking forward to simpler times of simply working the ski sales area and skiing lots and lots! Still, last night was a great time and a good experience overall. Here are some photos of the event:

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The runway all set-up before the event.

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The event was a fundraiser for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. A pastry store next to our shop made this for the event. I like how it's a Burton rider who triggered the slide!

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Here's our co-worker Danielle who helped coordinate the event with Elaine.

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A couple evening attendees posing in front of the Neptune ski rack. Hopefully it will snow so we can sell of those bad boys!

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Shop owner Gary Neptune looking dapper on the runway. Gary walked the runway last, pulling a BCA Float airbag. I have to find a photo of that!

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We made an exception to our "no-dogs-in-store" policy for these two characters!

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This is our general manager James Fulton who looks ready to shoot down the Red Baron.

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Elaine's sister Alyss showed up, so we set her up with a retro ski costume and put her work. Thanks Alyss!

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None other than the event director Elaine herself, looking very 70's-like with the side pony tail. Elaine learned that directing an event is a lot of work – she actually didn't get to see any of it because she was scrambling around getting the models ready. She did an incredible job and I'm beyond proud to call her my wife.

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Stephen is a co-worker and friend of ours, who is evidently considering a career change to ski patrol. Not bad for a kid from Kansas.

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Your's truly. I was the M.C. for the evening and had to look the part. Funny thing is that vest – a Decent – was something I actually owned and skied in pride with back in Vermont. Hat backwards with goggles was standard wear back then too!

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The event was a fundraiser for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Through a silent auction and drawing we raised $2,000 for the group.

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CAMP gear makes some amazing Italian lightweight Alpine Touring gear that Elaine and I are salivating over for the race circuit this season. Here are a couple of their representatives who attended the show.

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Still working on wrangling up photos from the actual show, but here's one, of Neptune staffer Ellie walking the runway.

The last generation of skiers?

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Back up at the mountain, making subtle but definite progress. Relearning the art of trusting the ski, really leaning into the turn, finding the perfect carve. We did drills, we skied, we watched the storm clouds hover below us, teasingly. Still dry, too warm. It has to be asked, what with the extreme dryness, rain in Jackson, failing resorts back east…are we the last of the skiers? Is our sport and its participants simply going extinct, victims of a warming planet and a society that doesn’t seem to give a damn? If so, then let us go out with a rage, and not a whimper, and in 200 years our great-great grandchildren can hear stories of how used to hang on the edge of the steepest slopes, flying like birds, when snow covered the land.

On a side note, how is it Sherpa Cinemas consistently makes ski films that makes the others seem silly? One year till this hits the theaters.

Thursday night: Elaine’s brainchild

Elaine and I were recently put in charge of events at Neptune Mountaineering. The emphasis has been on backcountry skiing (and some climbing) and building a ski culture in Boulder, Colorado. It's been a good run so far, with Chris Davenport, Christy Mahon, Simon Yates and Art Burroughs giving riveting, sold out shows the likes of which have never been seen in the shop before. Tomorrow night it's on to Elaine's brain child, the Neptune Mountaineering Fashion Show. Simply put, this event is going to be awesome with tons of fun, give aways, retro-ski movies, music and a super colorful fashion show. It's definitely NOT what you'd think from Neptune Mountaineering. Basically, it's Milan, Italy meeting Independence Pass. We all know how fabulously creative Elaine is – Thursday night you'll get to see first hand her 22-year old genius. Yours truly is the MC – come on down to Neptune at 7 pm – it will be a blast.

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Waiting

The wait for snow goes on. This year is dry, even by recent standards, as the below graph illustrates.

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Things are lagging, badly, and there isn't much hope on the horizon.

The thing with being a skier during times like these is it tests your resolve, your creativity, and also your endless ability to believe and be optimistic. Tomorrow we're planning to get a little creative on our day off – morning skill work at the local hill while the snow is well groomed, and an evening skin up at a resort that does allow uphill travel. It's unconventional but desperate times require it. More than anything, I'm looking forward to the cold burn in the lungs after a long skin at 13,000 feet. Elaine and I live for things like that.

You have to stay optimistic. After all, it is only November. Still, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scanning lists like these and thinking if this trend keeps up, a shift to one of these places might a requirement.

It's supposed to snow tonight, 0.7 inches. It's torture, I know, but this is what we were doing exactly one year ago at our backyard ski hill.

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Then again, last year was a dud of a year too after a promising start.
Maybe this year is like Heinz ketchup – good things will come to those
who wait.

The light was divine

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When life tosses you lemons, aren't you supposed to make lemonade? Not that life has been lemons per se – but there have been a few distractions. A move and a neighbor who might indeed be panning out to be a bit of a con artist. It's been a bit frustrating for Elaine and I because this is go-time for winter and these distractions have been hindering us a bit from keeping our eye on the things that actually matter, our bigger goals coming up. That, and well the snow has simply stunk, and it's not that hard to say, naw, let's just stay in today and do nothing.

 

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Elaine and I may have a con artist in our midst, but this fox, who visits everyday, is not it.

Thing is, that's kind of been my battle this whole life…basically refusing to just sit in. I kind of believe the second you choose to do that, you start to let stress and negativity and the less important things win. So today we decided that even though there have been distractions and this has been the driest November ever in Colorado, we were going to find some snow. And not just the white-strip-of-death snow at the resort, but something in the backcountry. Since it was a gaurantee that the snow would stink, we decided to tack on another goal: head to a nearby 14er and ski off the summit.

Oddly, Elaine and I have never been to the easiest and nearest of all the 14ers, Mount Bierstadt. I took an avy course years ago on Guanella Pass but have never stepped foot on the flanks of Bierstadt. We figured if there's snow it'll be at 12,000 to 14,000 feet. Surely we'd find a swath that ran at least 50% of the mountain.

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Heading up the pass, it appeared we had entered into the absolute driest basin of an exceptionally dry Front Range. Barely a drop of snow anywhere on the road heading up to the pass. Some inquisitive Bighorn Sheep, yes, but no snow. We crested the pass and looked over at Bierstadt. While not quite dry as a bone, it was certainly not skiable.

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The skis got left behind as Bierstadt, ahead, was barren of skiable snow.

What do you do? Make lemons out of lemonade. There was perfectly good 14er right in front of us that neither of us had climbed and we had three hours till sunset. Go time. Bierstadt is moderate 14er, but it's still a 14er which means you'll have to work some to reach the top. And indeed, near the top, we were working. I later found out that we were both simultaneously realizing that the Irwin Lake race in two weeks is going to indeed hurt a lot, but it is what it is.

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It was breezy and crisp up top but it felt good to be on top of the Rockies. We certainly had no intentions of climbing a 14er when the day started, but it worked out well. On the way down, as the sun was setting, we saw a couple heading up. Classic scene – boyfriend heading straight up the mountain, girlfriend about 100 yards behind, wearing designer jeans as the sun was setting and the temperature dropping into the 20's. Hopefully they got off ok.

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The light this evening was divine. That's the funny thing about right now…the ground has no snow but the light and crisp air scream early winter. Despite the fact that we didn't get in a single turn, it was a great outing. I think that's a key lesson – keep going for it. Find a peak and on your next day off plan to ski it. Don't worry about getting information beforehand, but do prepare in case there is no snow. The thing about these ski adventures is that it's only partially about the skiing. It's more about the light, the mountains, the company. The skiing will come, but the adventures shouldn't wait.

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The light tonight up on Bierstadt…we'll never forget it…and I feel so fortunate to share it with my life partner. We spent the evening in a post-mountain climbing bliss, eating a meal of momo, chai and naan and doing a yoga session at home. I guess that's making lemonade out of lemons!

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Elaine Making an Entrance

This is Elaine, the other half contributing to this blog.

This was supposed to be IT! The year! I wanted to go skiing everyday, and I had visions of powder runs dancing in my head. After the two of us, well, I wouldn’t call it competed, per se, but completed both the Power of Four and the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse, we made grand schemes. We wanted to do all of the COSMIC races – a series of ski mountaineering uphill/downhill races all across the state. Our dreams ran huge and wild, unrestrained until winter started beaconing to us with a seductive finger, making me dread the 90° days forecasted regularly. Last year’s season ended earlier than many liked, and Dan and I began to feel the chaff of summer all too soon. By the time August rolled around, we were 100% ready for winter. Well, it’s November, three months later, and winter is still not here.

So, we wait. This is the art of being a skier. Winter is based off of what Mother Nature is feeling, and it seems she is not quite ready to bless us with snow. The art of being a skier comes now: remaining faithful in our snow dances, optimistic discussion of when the snow will come, and never, ever saying that we will just mountain bike this season. That is sacrilege.

This time of waiting is upon us. Wait, we do, however impatiently, for the snow will come. In the meantime, we make do with what we have. Last week was an impromptu trip up to Steamboat to skate ski Rabbit Ears Pass, a day at Loveland demo-ing skis, and today, up to the death strip that Eldora is offering. Getting up there early was the goal, and obviously a good thing. The one run that was open, though it had a bunch of racers, was not populated with many other people till about 10, when the hoards began to overwhelm us both. When you spend most of your skiing time in the backcountry, the resort seems less safe. In the backcountry, obviously bad things can happen – and do happen – but often times, decisions are made that take it to the point of bad. In the resort, it’s quite likely that your season can be swiftly ended by someone else, which doesn’t seem that great to me. So at 10:30, we called it a day.

The biggest thing that I noticed about skiing the resort was how much it made all of my technique flaws stand out in an incredibly glaringly obvious way. One of the reasons that Dan and I splurged on a pass this year was because we had been feeling the lack of the resort. Your skills suffer. Even if you only ski for two hours at the resort, say you get a total of 10 runs in, allowing for slow lifts, that is still 10 runs. As I am not Brian Wickenhauser (shocker!), I would have to practically kill myself to get 10 runs in in the backcountry! I’m feeling pretty good with four laps.

So we did drills, and in one of those goofy, we’re-finally-on-skis kind of way, we had a blast. We laughed at each other, practicing exaggerated javelin turns across the hill, one ski skiing, and whirlybirds. By the end of that hour and a half, we felt much better, and optimistic. Just a little bit of practice goes a long way.

Back up for Thanksgiving tomorrow morning after a quick run, and then it is feasting time!

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Glaringly bright sun this morning up at Eldora!

Moving ship!

Hey all.

I'm moving my blog to another site and will no longer be posting here. Elaine and I have a blog called Mountain Nomads at http://mountainnomads.typepad.com/

From here on out I'll be posting there. It's just a new phase in my life and I don't want to just be relegated to writing about ski stuff so much as the title "White Room" implies. There is more of an explanation here. We've intentionally made the name of the blog non-sport specific, unlike this one or my previous incarnation "offcamber.com." Who knows what our activity of choice will be down the road? Anyway, check out http://mountainnomads.typepad.com, link it up from your site and enjoy!

P.S. – I'll keep this site up for a bit, but will eventually kill it (after copying down all the content of course.