Mount Mansfield—High Atop Stowe

I just returned from a trip up to Mount Mansfield at Stowe with my daughter Allison. Last year she hiked the Long Trail. Solo. In 20 days. An incredible feat regardless how you look at it. We returned this year to make a father-daughter hike up to Vermont’s highest peak, together.

The story of our hike up Mount Mansfield however, is not the purpose of this post. Rather, it is just some ramblings about skiing the east that crept into my head as Allie and I made our climb up and down the rocky crags of northern Vermont. 

Hidden Landscape

Seeing the Stowe area mountains in summer made me realize something. While skiing and riding, we get a pretty jaded view of New England’s mountainous landscape. Everything is draped in a blanket of snow. There are few if any harsh lines in the landscape. Our world of white appears sculpted of smooth lines and gentle curves.

But climbing the rock face up the side of Mount Mansfield I see the ski slopes, up close and personal. And without that deceptive cloak of white that hides the harshness underneath. These New England hills are hard granite rife with fissures and crevices. Harsh angles cut of hard stone protrude. As we climb, trees become twisted dwarves of those below us. Limbs stunted on the windward side, longer on the lee. Heather, lichen, and alpine blueberry cling to the face of the rock. They struggle to avoid the fierce, desiccating wind that buffets Allison and I and shapes the life around us.

Such a harsh world of existence beneath the wooly white we find such glee in gliding over. I don’t often think about, when riding the chair back to the top of the ski slope, that hidden world underneath the snow. I’m thinking about the next run down the mountain.

The view from “The Chin,” the real summit point high atop Mount Mansfield, is of course remarkable. Scanning the 360º vista I see the slopes of Stowe and Smugglers far below and away. A shrill bird-like screech pierces the air and I catch a glimpse of a peregrine falcon plummeting down a cliff face. I know that next time I am riding the chair back to the top, I will remember these images. I will remember there is a secret landscape under my skis, beneath the blanket of snow, waiting for the warmth of spring to jump to life.

East, not West

Our New England hills are ancient in relation to the mountains out west. Once tall and majestic, eastern mountains were bull-dozed. Ground down and smoothed out by the unrelenting creep of mile-thick glacial ice thousands of years ago. They have since been sculpted by centuries of rain runoff and snow melt. Then cracked and split by never-ending cycles of freeze and thaw. Our New England hills are not majestic because of their staggering height. They are majestic for their stubborn tenacity and ability to maintain prominence regardless the forces at work tearing them apart.

New England mountains don’t reach to the lofty heights of western mountains. And they don’t have the benefit of a water-laden ocean on their windward side. Us eastern skiers and riders therefore don’t get seemingly endless epic powder days. We get a heavier, more moisture-laden snow that turns into hard-packed snow and ice. And that gives us some pretty challenging conditions to set an edge into. Hence the saying, “If you can ski the east, you can ski anywhere.”

Time Marches On

The clouds have now poured into the valleys on the eastern side of Mount Mansfield, and we can no longer see the trails carved out on Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch ski areas. To the west all is clear, but far to the north and west we see darker clouds that suggest some weather heading our way. Neither Allie nor I want to be on the exposed heights amidst a thunderstorm.

We take a final pause to bask in the beauty of the mountains one final time as the clouds race towards us. A 50-mile an hour gust pushes me off balance. A low hanging cloud swirls in tattered fragments around Allison who for a brief moment appears as a waif arising from the barren grey rock. Such a stark landscape. Such a beautiful a landscape.

Allison turns her head and our eyes meet. We share a look that says we both know we are in a very special place, sharing a moment in time that will forever stay etched in memory. We turn our gazes to the rock beneath our feet and begin the quiet trek down off the heights.

Playing in the snow at Okemo

 

 

 

AlanD & Allison

New Skis Visit Avie’s

It’s tourist season here in the Westerly area. So it makes sense that Meier Skis came to visit while on vacation.

Meier skis play on a theme of the wild west during the gold rush days. Titles like Quickdraw, High Noon, Double Barrel, and Calamity Jane grace the Meier ski line. While the names may be whimsical, the skis are not.

Meier Skis are hand crafted in Denver, Colorado. But these are not your ordinary factory skis. Meier skis are all about sustainability. The skis are wood core from locally, sustainably harvested Colorado trees. The glues that hold the wood laminates together are distilled from pine and vegetable oils—no petrochemicals involved. Even the ink used in the top sheet graphics is non-toxic.

So if you want a pair of skis that keep your carbon footprint as teensy as possible, a set of Meier skis just might be something you want to consider. But how do they ski you ask?

Like I said, they just stopped by on their vacation here in the east. Ted convinced several pair to hang around at Avie’s Ski/Sports until the snow flies. In the meantime, you may want to stop by the shop and meet some of these interesting, good looking skis. While I don’t know and can’t say how they ski—because I haven’t yet had the opportunity to jump on and try them out—have to admit I like what I see. And more importantly, I like what I feel. The three pair I will introduce all have a certain solid but playful feel to them. Being solid wood core, I expected a lot  less rigidity than the skis express.

So I am quite intrigued by these western visitors. And I look forward to an opportunity to take them out for a few laps on the slopes. But let me introduce them to you.

Quickdraw is a men’s frontside carver. Made for the groomers, but with the lightweight wood core I am guessing these sticks would be a fun run in the woods. At 88 mm in the waist, they would float powder fairly well is my guess, making them an all mountain kind of ski.

Calamity Jane is a ski for the ladies. This ski has a wide shovel and a narrow waist—78 mm. That combination makes it look like it will be powder-capable, but the tip design says carve-worthy. This ski has woods, powder, groomers written all over it. The super lightness, because of the wood core, leads me to believe you can ski this hard all day and your legs will never say “enough already!”

The Bangtail has captured by attention quite strongly. This narrow-waisted set of sticks—73 mm—has a look about it that says “fast!” This past season I spent a lot of slope time on a narrow-waisted set of race-style skis, and I can’t remember when I had more fun on a ski. Sure, “fat” skis on a powder day. But you can’t beat “skinny” on the groomers.

The Meier trio of skis visiting Avie’s Ski/Sport are all designed with a bit of rocker in the tip (Calamity Jane has a bit of tail rocker as well) but with traditional camber underfoot. Camber underfoot means a lot of “pop” in the ski. That means to me, lots of fun and liveliness. Camber helps quick, lively transitions side-to-side in the turns. I think these will all be fun skis.

And I think you will find them intriguing. I know I do. The graphics are bright and cheery. The skis themselves are light but not at all wimpy. Let’s just say they present themselves well. And the folks at Meier Skis also present well. Sustainable and eco-friendly. That’s a great business model.

If you are in the area, stop by and meet the new skis in town. You may find out that you want to be the one to introduce them to east coast skiing.

Healthy Lifestyle? Try Stand Up Paddle

Today, stand up paddle is an accepted way of keeping a sane and healthy lifestyle. But my first impression of the sport was anything but.

It was maybe 12 or 15 years ago. I was out one summer morning fishing from a boat near the Napatree Bell. Way off in the distance, towards Watch Hill, I saw something small, something thin, something vertical, on the water. But I couldn’t place it. I wrote it off as a fisherman standing up in a flats-style boat sitting very, very low in the water.

As I continued fishing, the small figure came closer and slowly enlarged. To the point that I could make out that it was a person. They were standing up on the water doing something with their arms. Kind of like a hula dance. A few swishes of the arms on the right, then a few on the left, and then back to the right.

Given the title of this piece, you have by now, I am sure, figured out it was a person on a stand up paddle board. And indeed it was. It was my first recollection of seeing someone on a paddle board. Especially out in the open ocean environment. I don’t know where the young man on the board began his paddle. My last sighting was of him by the outer Stonington breakwater paddling towards Stonington Point. I thought he was nuts. Paddling an oversized surf board through chop and boat wakes didn’t seem like a sane or healthy lifestyle. I totally expected to see him get tossed into the water at any moment. But he didn’t.

Along any body of water you can now find a multitude of paddle boarders. I dare you to go out along the Mystic River any day of summer and NOT see at least a handful. Face it, stand up paddling has taken the aquatic world by storm.

And for good reason. Stand up paddling is a great work out. And a great stress reliever.

Building Tone & Releasing Tension

The simple act of getting up on a board and balancing puts to use all the leg muscles. The balancing act keeps the leg muscles constantly firing, and yes, they can and do get tired. And of course once the paddle is dipped into the water, the upper body gets worked. And once you get steaming along, the trip becomes aerobic. Paddling is a full body sport, and you know it when you step back onto dry land.

Paddle boards also provide a platform to chill. Passive yoga on a paddle board would be a great way to “destress.” But all forms of yoga are becoming popular on a paddle board. In fact, classes to help you ease into finding mental and physical balance through SUP yoga are pretty easy to find. From relaxing to extreme workouts, SUP yoga offers the gamut. 

Sane and Healthy

The bottom line is that paddle boarding may be the medicine you need to keep a sane and healthy lifestyle. Being on the water, whether salt or fresh, is a soothing balm regardless anything else. Take it to a sweaty extreme, or free your mind of clutter and stress. Or find some balance in between. It’s all possible from a paddle board.

It’s summer. Now is the time to check out paddle boarding and the possibilities it brings. A light wetsuit can extend your season into the fall, one of the best times of year along the coast. The crowds are gone. The water is warm. The sky crisp and blue. A healthy lifestyle really doesn’t get much better than that.

 

AlanD

HOLIDAY CLOSING

Just letting you know that Avie’s Ski / Sports will have a holiday closing Wednesday, July 4th, in honor of Independence Day.

The weather looks delightful, so take advantage! Be sure to have fun on, in, or under the water. Stop in to fill any last minute needs. Sunglasses, boogie-boards, sandals, or a new stand up paddle board. Keep the fun going.

Ted and all the Avie’s staff wish you a safe and fun Fourth of July.

 

SUP Fun Away the Holiday

New stand up paddle boards have invaded Avie’s Ski / Sports, and are ready for you so your SUP fun can begin. With a holiday week approaching quickly—and the weather predictions are, finally, for some real sizzling July temperatures—plan some time on and in the water. Of course, you need some “water toys” to make things the ultimate best.

BIC boards are a “go to” for SUP fun, and there is a good selection at the shop. Beginner and intermediate paddlers will find the BIC Performer a great fit. These boards are very affordable, and very stable. Great to learn on and great to improve on. Also great to share by inviting the family pet onboard for a paddle.

Avie’s Ski / Sports now is offering a more diverse line up of boards to better fit personal whims and desires. Focus SUPs are now in-stock. Focus Prime boards offers great versatility for both paddling and surfing. And at a great price.

The Smoothie series of SUPs are stable, traditional boards, but with a “wood-tone” look that gives them great eye-appeal. The Smoothie will be a great family board, and would be an excellent partner for on-the-water-yoga.

Tundra by Focus breaks away from the norm and gives the paddler a more sleek and trim deck underfoot. This board tracks and glides better, therefore is a master at offering longer distance paddling adventures. Use the tie-downs to lash on a few things and paddle over to Sandy Point.

Finally, for those paddlers who are a bit more accomplished, hop on the Focus Bluefin and brace yourself. This aquatic race horse is built for speed from bow to stern. Pair this with the Kialoa Methane II carbon fiber paddle, and you just might raise a rooster-tail in your wake.

Summer is officially here. And it feels like it. Get wet. Have some SUP fun!

Don’t Sleep Through Savings!

Don’t get caught with your eyes shut, napping through an incredible opportunity to save some money on guaranteed summer fun. Open your eyes to savings!

When you buy your stand-up-paddle boards, kayaks, and other “watercraft” from Avie’s you save because there is NO Sales Tax on these items in Rhode Island. Talk about a quick and easy way to save yourself at least 6% compared to buying in a nearby, not-to-be-named state.

A great selection of Stand Up Paddle boards just came in the other day, and more arrive on a regular basis. There are also surf boards, skim boards, and kayaks. Wetsuits to ward off the chill and sunglasses to keep the “squints” at bay. A new pair of sandals will help get you to the water and back again without having to do the “chicken trot” as your feet meet—as they absolutely will—every sharp rock that could possibly be on the path. Yeah, admit that happens.

Pop in and check out the summer scene at Avie’s Ski/Sport. You will find a wide array of merchandise ready to help you make the best of summer while it’s here. And you will find savings. 

Get wet. Have fun.

Time to Stow It

While Killington is still open with a couple of trails off the Superstar lift, most of us are now getting our summer time play gear ready for action. I’ve tuned up my road cycle and mountain bike, and am chasing the spiders out of the kayaks.

But I haven’t forgotten my winter toys, and neither should you. Now is the time to “summerize” your ski and ride gear. Don’t wait until November when the edges are caked with rust, the bindings infested with spiders, and the bases looking like they were whitewashed. Bleah!

The easiest way to keep your gear in tip-top shape is to bring your skis or your board to Avie’s and ask to have them “summerized.” That means a full tune up—we repair and grind the base, sharpen the edges, and then lay a thick coat of wax over the base and rub wax all along the edges. This will keep the base fresh and not allow it to oxidize, or the edges to rust.

Yes, your ski or board base can “rust,” though it is referred to as “oxidized.” Ozone and other atmospheric chemicals attack the dry base, bleaching it out and making it have a chalky, powdery feel. And that’s not good. The base no longer holds wax very well, and more friction is created meaning you go ssssllllooooooooooowwweeerrrr on the slopes. And really, who wants to do that?

If you want to keep your boots in good shape, clean the liner. Pull it out of the boot, remove the footbed / insole and clean it with cold water that has a little bit of anti-bacterial soap dissolved in it. Swish it around real good then rinse extra good with cold water. Put them somewhere where they can completely dry. Outside is great if its a nice day. Once completely dry add a dash of foot powder, if you want, then put them back into the boots and loosely buckle them up so the shell keeps its shape.

And don’t forget jackets and pants. Launder them as per instruction on the tag that you never bother to look at, sewn into a seam somewhere on the inside. Most outerwear that is waterproof or water repellent needs to be cleaned and dried in order to refresh and maintain its water repelling properties. Read the tag. Follow the instructions. Its easy.

Now you will be all set for next season. Once the temperature tumbles bring your “summarized” gear to Avie’s and we will scrape off the summer wax, hand brush the base to a nice shine, and send you on your way for some fun in the white stuff.

Have questions? Want to learn how to wax and sharpen? Send an email to tuningshop@aviesskisport.com as we are always ready and willing to assist.

Spring Skiing? Delightful!

Despite the fact Avie’s bus trips are done for the season, the urge to let gravity yank me downhill is still impressively strong. And my leg muscles are finally tuned to the point where at days end there is only a blissful ache instead of throbbing pain.

So, I pointed north and had the great pleasure of being at Okemo yesterday. The resort is still 100% open, and there is plenty of snow, though they are done with snowmaking for the season.

I was clicked into a pair of Blizzard Quattro RS skis, which thrive on firm-and-fast. So I started my day over on the South Face to hit it before the snow began to soften. I put down first tracks on every open, non-mogul trail. I had first and second tracks on Blind Faith. If you get the feeling there were few people there, you got it right.

I stayed until about 10AM when the lower parts of the trails began to soften, and a steady stream of skiers and riders began to show up to take advantage of that softening. I worked my way over to the Main Face of the resort and hit all the classics—World Cup, Chief, Defiance, Nor’easter and Jolly Green Giant. These trails were still firm-and-fast, though the ice chip/”Death Cookie” mix—which graced most slopes on the South Face—had been skied over and chopped up to make the glide a bit less tooth rattling. I liked Chief and Nor’easter so much I did them each a few times top-to-bottom. I caught a big air (for me) on World Cup, and landed it! Usually airtime for me results in spectacular yard sale events, but not this time.

I went next over to Solitude, and the surfaces there were very smoothed out. What is typically called “dust-on-crust” though the “dust” was a pretty good coating. I took a run on all the trails in Solitude, then headed back for a few final runs down Chief to make some big carves in the softening snow.

It was a blast. There is plenty of snow left to have plenty of fun on. Yes, there are a growing number of hazard markers gracing the trails, and bald patches are sure to be turning up as the warming days march onward. But for now you can get the best of everything. Firm-and-fast to start the day with some high speed runs, mellowing in mid-morning as the snow softens, and then outright spring skiing and riding in “Hero Snow” late morning through mid-afternoon.

Conditions are still phenomenal up north, so there is no reason to toss your gear in a corner for the spiders to play on until next fall. Get yourself up north again while the getting is good. And it is good.

I’m still smiling, the morning after my day of play at Okemo. Since smiling and being happy are good things, I’m planning on doing it again. And again. Hope to see you out there.

 

 

AlanD

Save the Best for Last

Fifty-three lucky people filled the bus for the last 2018 Avie’s Ski & Ride Trip. And they were very, very lucky people indeed.

As is typical for the last trip, Okemo was the destination. The weather was typical January, though it was mid-March. The mood on the bus was typical; happy people getting ready for a day of playing in the snow. And what a day of play it was!

The definition of “Bluebird Day” in the dictionary has a picture of the skies at Okemo on the day of the trip. Brilliant sunshine from a brilliantly blue sky. All day long.

The snow? Incredible! Firm and fast across the mountain early in the day, allowing for some quick runs down the mountain. South Face softened up a bit late morning, allowing for some exquisite carving fun. Woods, bumps, corduroy. It was all there laid out in abundance for all. And amazingly, the crowds were not so horrible in the morning, and by early afternoon skiers and riders went from trail’s end right onto a waiting chair.

It was a perfect ending. If we needed something to complain about, it might have been that there was a touch too much breeze at the summit. But that really didn’t wipe the huge smiles off the faces of folks as they climbed aboard the bus for the ride home.

Ted gave away a wealth of socks and scarves, koozies and cookies, hats and hoo-dads. There was even a movie that wasn’t Ice Age or Elf!! Can you believe that!?

If you didn’t make the last Avie’s trip, you can still get in on some action in the snow up north. There is plenty there, and things look to stay colder than “normal” for the next week or so, meaning the snow will linger. It’s worth the trip. I had so much fun Sunday, that I went back up on Tuesday. It was just as good, but a bit less fun without the great bunch of people I skied with throughout the day.

Get out there a few more times while the snow lingers. But if you are really dead set on calling it quits for the season, be sure to bring in your skis or board and have it “summerized.” This will ensure that come next year, when the Avie’s bus is pulling out of the parking lot with you on board, your gear will be ready to play hard.

 

 

AlanD

Another Lousy Powder Day

I popped into Okemo Thursday morning, only to be greeted with yet another top coat of 5-8 inches of fresh snow. Looked like another lousy day in paradise was about to play out.

This powder, due to the windy conditions while it was snowing, was a bit “denser” than the really fluffy stuff. It was more tiring to ski in, and a wrong move would get me tossed to the surface for a very inelegant face plant. After three of those I decided to stick to the groomers. I had enough snow in my jacket for the day.

Needless to say conditions are pretty incredible throughout the Green Mountains. More than enough snow is on the trails and in the woods. The carving is into beautiful packed powder, and the lumps and bumps are generally pretty forgiving.

We appear to be sliding into a bit of a cold spell, so expect the snow to hang around a bit. There is even talk of another nor’easter dropping by middle of next week. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, go skiing and riding. Get out there and enjoy some of the most incredible conditions we have seen in a couple of years. This truly is Madness in March.

Ted informed me there are only a few seats left on the bus for this Sunday’s trip—the last shop-sponsored trip of the season. “Single digits” was the descriptor he used. So if you want to get in on this fantastic trip—Ted and all Avie’s employees are going—you better do it soon. Like today. This morning. Shop opens at 10:00AM.

I hope to see you Sunday morning. If not, perhaps we will cross paths out on the slopes. I’ll be the skier in the orange pants, which you will clearly notice as I do another face plant. Enjoy.

 

 

AlanD