Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Poke in the Weeds

Sticking to my schedule of exercising once every two weeks, I went out on the new snow to see if conditions had gotten sportier up on the back mountain.

Extensive logging over several recent years has destroyed the mature hardwood glades. At first the skidder roads and patch cuts offered open terrain when the snow was deep enough to cover the slash and boulders. New growth sprang up quickly, so that golden age of open skiing ended after a couple of seasons.

While it isn't quite sapling and bramble hell entirely, the nearest clearings offer more challenge than reward with the type and depth of snow we have now. Really cold temperatures brought a dry snow that doesn't compact. A couple of moist phases created easily breakable crust layers that inhibit turning. There is no base of dense snow, so surface obstacles are concealed but not blunted.

Because the snow does not pack down to provide a solid kicking surface, I had to climb at a very low angle. It took me half an hour to trudge up to the hemlock glades next to the oldest logged area. The turning wasn't great on the way down, but the afternoon was sunny. It's always nice to get out.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Verbal Skiing

The needs of the shop in Wolfe City are so complex that I don't get to ski.

The owners of the shop, whose back yards abut the trails, haughtily suggest I get up earlier. I've done that a few times, but many factors can combine to reduce my ski time to a 20-minute insult. Likewise have I tried night skiing over the years, but the weather can easily turn that into an invitation to a broken femur. The warm winters that have cursed us of late create a treacherous, icy surface when the temperature drops below freezing again at sundown.

The trails get groomed once a day. Then the groomer often hops out for first tracks on the fresh corduroy. The leisure class shreds it up all day. If the shop grunts get thrown a bone we go forth with a feeling of pressure and guilt, a sense of haste,as if we were undeserving. That's on the days we get a green light at all. Lately the shop has been manned by one or two of us, even if three or four people are there, because of the deteriorated faculties of one or two who might be tormenting themselves and us by continuing to try to put in a day or half-day of work.

Because I studied ski technique and collected descriptions of it from many teachers, I can remember and explain what it feels like. I can stand and engage the muscles I remember using. For a moment I can take the trip mentally.

No one in Wolfe City needs me to be any more than a washed-up has been. Even in Jackson, the aristocracy would have preferred that the shop staff be deferential and attentive servants, not fellow skiers. As long as we could, the shop staff instead took full advantage of the convenient trails. We all took serious pleasure in blowing past our "betters" at every opportunity.

The shop in Jackson was simpler to run. We looked out for each other. Whatever else happened that day, whoever wanted to ski would get to. No one would be relegated to a dash in the dusk on rapidly freezing remnants if it could be avoided.

Mind you, I can't think of anything that would make me miss Jackson or ever want to return there. The treachery, the ill winds, the whining patricians may not have outnumbered the really cool people, but their stench and influence permeated the place. They created a climate of distrust that sours my stomach when I think of it even now.

It's a curious contrast, this nauseating distaste and the memories of good lessons from great people. I would feel awkward around anyone I knew from those years, because I can't be sure what deals any of them have made to function in the world of snobbery and double dealing that is the management's standard operating procedure. Even so, I highly value insights from people like Peter the Great, and even tips I picked up from the Human Hand Grenade. HHG was a volatile little bastard, but he cared about technique.

I pass the time until bike commuting season returns, eating lightly and talking about skiing when the job requires it. Other than that I try not to think about it at all. Otherwise I would want what I can't have, and that's just stupid.