Monday, December 26, 2022

You've got answers? We've got questions.

 Apparently Jonathan Ellsworth of Blister Gear Review and Cody Townsend of Cody Townsend have a podcast.  I feel like these podcast things are popular.  Anyway, they asked for ski town relationship questions, and Amy and I had some, but really I'd rather ax some other types of questions instead:

1) When I was 20, I could tele 7 days a week.  It's only been 21 years, why can't I still tele 7 days a week?

I blame the push-broom on The Place That Shall Not Be Named.  But hey, limber pine!

2) How do I build a time machine?  I need to go back and salvage those two pairs of red purple aubergine Salomon S914s from the skis that weren't worthy of the bindings before selling the skis.

3) Why doesn't Mayor Lauren (or any of her predecessors) allow it to snow more in BoyCee? 75 inches in town and 450 at the hill doesn't seem like too much to ask. Baker gets like almost 1800 inches or whatever.  I may have hit the wrong unit-toggle on their snow report.

4) Why does everything hurt? We're both only in our earliest 40s.

5) How do I get people to pay me to ski while I provide nothing at all of value to them? I feel like there should be positions at ski areas for that.

"And that's when I realised that if you can ski Yawgoons, you can ski anywhere."

6) I want access to a binding bench and an open-stone bow grinder, but I don't want to change jobs.  Help!

7) Why is Vail?

8) I want my Forester to act like my ol' GL wagon most of the time except when it needs to be fancy like warm seats and lots of cupholders and modern airgoonoomics and that 6 speed (well, 4 and 2 halves).  Can you go tell Subaru to do that for me? Thanks.  Remind them that ABS is great when you are actually braking, but not when you're just turning corners with vim and vigor and it's snowing and the person in front of you is, um, scared, and I'll just goose er a little and HOLY SHIT WHY IS MY CAR TRYNA SHAKE ITSELF TO DEATH I SAID OFF NOT SLIGHTLY LESS ON

9) All the mainstream skis I like are expensive and instead I want custom that's more o no I broke

10) Salomon made the 747 back in like '87 and nothing since has really improved on it in any meaningful, life changing way.  Maybe since you guys know people, you could have them make a run in that sexy mid 90s 997 Equipe red for me.  I'm an N-9.5, but I like the symmetry of a 10, so tell them to make it 5-15 (I think the OG was 6-14, which is totally fine, but, like, FIFTEEN) so I's right in the middle, please and thanks.  Also, make sure the toe is 1-2mm higher than the heel.  Enough of this needing to modify bindings to do em right.

This one.  Right here.  Like, all the time.  Yes, I can have an emotional connection with a binding I've only skied once, on my oldest brother's 204 Pre SmpnROther on Kemper's** in 1996.

11) Or they could do it in that rad 90s Tyrolia FreeFlex 14 purple.  You know the one.  It had the gull wing brakes.  Yeah.  Totally.

12) Y'know what, I also want a ornj 'n green pair.

13) One of my favourite Christmas records from growing up isn't on Spotify.  How can you help?

14) Dave Matthews wrote some decent songs 25+ years ago.  What happened?

15) What's better? 20" blower on boiler plate or 6" of day-old consolidated?

16) Yer both wrong.  It's July at Chinook with some tourists wondering just what in the heck yer doin.

This isn't July.  But you get it.

17) How do I get to Quebec when I don't have a passport or know how to travel or can't cos money?

18) Howcome ain't Idaho don't gots Orca?

19) Mont Sutton.


20) Why all them internet recipe sites got life stories 'fore you find the ingredients.

21) I don't believe in Alaska?

22) I bet you don't know how to say sauna in Svenska.*

22) Why skeening so spensive!

23) Do you like apples?

I like apples.  How you like them apples?  This one's a Sugar Bee.  I miss The State of Apples.

24) Is Vermont just New Hampshire without Chris Sununununununununu?

25) How do I go back to Winter Solstice in 1999 cos it was rad there was a biiiiiiiig moon also cold and my wipers didn't work cos inversion cold and why was I alone and was that actually a chupacabra I thought they only liked the desert not 60 inches a year Enumclaw OH NO RUUUUUN NO WAIT YER IN THE TERCEL GIVER PEEL OUT DOUGHNUTS YEAH

26) Pa says Garmish-Partenkirchen is real but I've never seen The Zugspitze also real?

27) Good thing that one guy from Rossi NW gave me this apron LATKES ARE AWSUM HOLY SHIT I EXCITED GIMME GIMME GIMME

28) What's the better ski town rig, Toyotacoma or Outback?

Mine never got stuck.  How bout yours? (Photo: Ben Hsu)

29) Is skiing really worth never seeing your out-of-state family over the Holidays?

30) How do you stay humble when you actually are the best skier on the mountain?

31) My trainee is faster on the race course than me and all, but I'm still better, right? Right?!

31) Why do nieces and nephews grow up so fast?

32) Why isn't good opportunity and good skiing in the same place?

33) I don't believe in Alterra.

Bring back the Riblets and that sweet flattop and those coveralls and enough of this bougie corporate bul HEY LOOKIT EAST PEAK IS FILLED IN 
(Photo vis Flickr, courtesy of the Forest Service NW division.)

34) Wait.  Hannah's got an Audi?

35) How is it 9.00 already?

36) Why did it rain all over our snow?

37) When do I get to skate on the roads?


39) Man, I really liked that Karhu Jak.


*Joke's on you, it's bastu!
**I swear I've never poached, Uwe.  NEVER.

Yes, that's a 90s Radio Shack ad we're referencing. And, if we're being honest, the best ski bum rig has got to be that funky mid-to-late 80s 4wd Tercel wagon.  Just drop that tyre pressure and you might even make it up Austin in 4 Low.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Middle of the day; already gettin dark outside

By Eino Holm

One year, we opened on the 4th of November.  Something like 18" new on basically dirt, weeds, dead beargrass stalks, and some leftover teaser-crust.  I was ecstatic.  Also, not alone.  A solid handful of us, whoever we were, were there.  Green Valley skied the best.  Maybe it was the only thing that really skied.  If I remember correctly, and I usually sometimes am sort of able to, we had to download on 11 (Chinook).  I think 10 and 3 were skiable.  I may be conflating two memories here, but I think I skied the morning and then headed to work.  In my ever idealised memory, it was in the Safeway, but it could have been later, when I was at Performance Bikes, pretending to know what I was doing.  At any rate, I skied horribly.  It was opening day, there were eighteen inches of unsettled Cascady manna on just enough crust to cover some of the dirt.  The bottom of 10 is a wet mess when not covered in snow, and otherwise it is a wet mess that is covered in snow, not always fully.  Several small springs keep the hillside muddy and alive with black flies in the summer.  Mel's Left (how a cat driver trail name got on the official map, I don't know) has this rad soft right-hander with a big enough rollover that I can still see Mike Kupsis gettin rad on some big Dynastar Bigs back in '000.  Mute grab, check.  Tele, natch.  Anyway, I didn't get rad, and when I tried to turn toward 11 to download, well, my teles and I had an argument.

See, the XXXs wanted to stop moving.  Like, now.  In fact, they wanted so badly to stop that both tips dug into the mud that was quickly spreading in the eighteen melting inches of early November gift.  I, you know, wanted to slide on over to the top of 11, step on them Targa heels, jump off the skis, and jump on the chair.  The skis won the argument at a trot.  Not a chance.  My logic must have been flawed.  I was muddy, pancaked in one puddle or other, cursing, sore already and the work day hadn't even started.  It was a stark enough moment that my memory of the day stops there, face down in the mud and maybe a little embarrassed.

Cooking up the White Ribbon of Death.  Bogus Basin, November '021.

Every year, ski areas around the world compete to open first. Some cheat, and locate themselves on the side of an Alp with access to glacial pitches in, like, Austria or wherever, and therefore are either never closed or are open in September. Here in the States and Canada, it's usually man-made, a contest between places as big and as corporately backed as Keystone, as famous as Lake Louise, or as small as Wild Mountain, Minnesota. Every so often, when the planets align and it's too warm in Summit or Rutland or Clear Creek counties, but the jet revs up and the weather pilot gooses the throttle a little, Crystal, Baker, Timberline, and a handful of other Northwest Nuggets vie to capture the flag. I definitely don't remember if 4 Nov was the continent's, the country's, or even the West's opening day, but it was Washington's, and all ours. I don't even really remember the rest of the year, but that day, that glorious, thigh-burning, poorly-skied day, that will be there along with all those closing days shoveling snow or scrubbing the tune shop floor in a white button-down and FarFar's tie cos, well, why the heck not?

November skiing is special, a kind of niche that many folks fight for and many other folks just do not understand.  Some times it's a 30 minute line at the bottom of BMX at A Basin.  For me, the best is '007, the year I got fired by a guy in Sumner who was too bloody stupid to never hire me in the first place and I spent all of November on unemployment waiting for a guaranteed ski tuning job that would start, as luck would have it, on opening day.  Crystal opened 1 December that year, got washed out by an historical rain cycle, and somehow managed (sorry, not somehow managed, it's Washington, home of the top 3 verified yearly snow totals IN THE WORLD*) to reopen the next weekend.  Driving up on Sunday, 2 Dec, was a wonderful gorp of axle-deep slop on the highway.  I got stuck by the late and lamented Crystal Inn cos the driver of the minivan next to me had parked too closely and I was worried if I goosed 'er the Legacy would slide sideways and smashify the damn thing.  Anyway, the dude from Robert's Rescue some random guy (don't sue 'im!) happened by with a tow strap that I just now remembered I also had in the trunk at the time, under the mat, and we shoveled all the snow we could between me and the Caravan.  He yanked me out with what I think I remember was a Grand Cherokee, in the process only sort of scraping the whole side of the offending minivan from tail pipe to headlight with my 30th-Anniversary-Gold, 5 speed Legacy L 2.2 wagon with the all-wheel drive that I then the very next day bought new snow tyres for cos, wouldn't you know it, studs are studly.

Nope.  Not even once.  Solitude, UT, 10 November '022.  I think the correct Norske phrase is uff da. Pic courtesy of some poor sap Jake Nixon (@thejakenixon on the tweeter, while it lasts) via Unofficial

Now, where was I? Right, November of 2007.  Paul Jr of Bonney Lake Bicycles of Sumner, WA (speaking of uff da; that shop name...) was advertising for help in August on his reader board, and I was advertising for getting the heck out of Performance Bikes.  It was a match made in at least the upper level of Purgatory until, in late October, he came to his senses and realised carrying an extra full-timer over the winter would be expensive and fired me.  He claimed I was a "bad salesman", which, well, maybe yer wrong cos I sold a damn Special Ed Endurbro in an October rainstorm, and specced and sold a drop-bar fat bike before The Radavist really hit its stride, but also, d'uh, I'm a mechanic, a cynic, and a sometimes-angry Sámi who has no idear why the heck these people keep coming in and asking questions the answers of which are super easy to find out by paying attention and not being a moronic suburban brain dead mediocre white as-----

I got lost again.  Apologies.  

At any rate, Jr laid me off, and that was that.  Blissful unemployment.  Brad answered my queries quickly, that he could totally use me part time starting opening day if I was just a wee bit flexible with my schedule, and being a single, unemployed, re-upping ski bum, I obviously was.  I was most excited about the down time, something I have not gotten since.  I imagined writing epic poetry (I'd prolly {haHA} even call it poesy cos that's what other people did who were like, hip and shit) in cafés with pretty baristas who'd flirt just enough to wake me up.  I'd go for long rides out at Sawyer on the XLT or the Monocog, and wander up to Corral Pass to stare into the abyss.  The road was still open then. I settled for the Starbucks in Sumner, road rides on the TCR cos I sold all of my dirt-worthy bikes, and the hope that I could one day again afford the alpine boot I returned, a Salomon Impact 10, the stiffest, most legit alpine boot I'd yet tried on in my blissful ignorance, to cover costs since I had (checks non-existant-at-the-time internet banking) $0 in savings at that exact moment.  With unemployment, returned boots, and three bikes sold, I was sittin' pretty.  Enough to not get a paycheck for 6 weeks and yet never feel the pinch I so often have felt.

Sexy or just weird Frenchist æsthetic? You decide.  Also, the buckle retension springs broke and would poke my hands.  Blood, man.  It's a trip.

Phew.  Then, it was quiet.  The last few days of October disappeared.  I assume I got up and did things, but I don't recall.  I do recall talking to Doc Clark about a skin condition (that I still have, so he was wrong) which he thought was MRSA.  I hate antibiotics.  So much farting and uncomfortable pooping.  Couldn't even enjoy Mama Stortini's on Chris' birthday.  I think one of the days in early November I went up to Greenwater and hung out with Liza, which is something we did then.  We haven't spoken in over a decade, and now that I'm way out into my 40s, I'm genuinely sad about that, and I know I'm at fault.  Anyway, she had just got a new-to-her black Impreza 5 speed.  It was a fun little car to drive, more responsive than my grocery-getter Legacy.  Or was that '008?  Again, memory.  Sheesh.  Somewhere about Chris' birthday, it started snowing in the hills, and by Veteran's Day, Naches Peak was skiable.  I ticked off little lines that in Summer (the Other Ski Season) aren't lines cos the snow is so deep and everything is just ramps.  One line I had to rappel in on an Abies lasiocarpa bough.  It was glorious.  Liza called my new-to-me flip phone and told me to do it.

I got four days on snow in November, a number I now recognise as unimaginative, but which may have been due to constraints I am not now remembering.  The last of which was a day of really, really, really nice myth-snow out in the Triangle Bowl with Brian Patrick.  I'd got to Chinook Pass later than I should have, which was early by the standards of my current situation.  People were parked every which way, Suburbans and whatever stacked on top of Legacies and beater Broncos from Lakewood.  I was pissed.  Full-on rage.  I mean, who the heck were these people?  Chinook is MY personal ski area!  I threw skin to ski, boot to floppy G3 binding, kit to snow, and ran.  By the time I reached the saddle between Naches and Triangle Peaks, I almost threw up.  I'd made the two-ish miles in 15 or so minutes.  I know what sorta mile that makes.  Sue me.  I was fitter then.  After retching, I laughed a little, watched the trees a minute, and started looking for tracks to follow.  On the move, I ate my apple.  I love apples.  I summited the Triangle easily, and stood there taking in the view.  Brian came up from below, and we exchanged shit-talking pleasantries about the conditions, the absurd crowd down at the pass, where we'd been all summer, y'know, life.  We made two runs in what is still the best November snow I've skied.  I think he stayed, beast that he is.  I headed back for the truck, and dinner at my parents.  It felt, for that moment, like I'd arrived.  (Today, I'm always surprised how quickly that sort of feeling can dissipate.)

November turns are better far than November sitting-on-the-couch.  Hiding from the Eye of Sauron, Thanksgiving, '022, Bogus Basin.  Mambo Left and Right.

For all the good skiing that November held, and this November recently passed, most early season turns are like last Sunday at the local Slop House.  I damn near cry for the feeling of being back on snow, and the turns are meh.   My feet hurt, my lungs hurt, and I wish there was a cello following me playing that one Bach suite.  They are irreplaceable, full stop.  And at the same time, forgettable, full stop.  So many Amerikanski folks associate skiing with the calendar pages between Thanksgiving and President's Day.  I just don't get it.  For me, fall skiing is borderline religious, but rarely is it good.  That month, November of '007, is the only one that stands out.  There are blips and blorps, yes, like Veteran's day of '005, skiing chalk (?!?!?!?!) on the Front Side on the ol' 1080 Gun, or Sweet Revenge and Bear Hollow with 3800 of my closest Utah buds in Northern Utah's worst winter on record, but otherwise, it's the snow and the wind and the first taste that I actually crave.  Chinook Pass (always, forever) in the first snow.  Chris' Civic, enough snow that it's white, and cold, and the divide between now and never, between here and gone.


One memory, just cold, an inch or two on 542 above the E Lodge.  All Saints' Day, 2000.  Eli's Godmother's birthday, if I am not mistaken. John and Lizz just got married, and I am just lost.  The inertia of 14 years of school is waning, my compass utterly unmagnetic.  I can't really tell where to go from here.  A couple months later, I just give up.  22 years later, I'm still a junior in college, like my nieces, though they'll stroll on past me this coming January.  There are a lot of people at Heather Meadows, some successful, most just wandering around like the four of us.  I think Lizz' friend Andrea is with us.  Does she still have Grandma Linnea's swivel rocker?  Maybe.  I think Kelly, friend of a friend, still has the dresser.  Or they had them, and who knows?  I am ashamed, from time to time, of how many cars I let fall off the tracks back then.  I held shit together for a while, barely, and then just, well, didn't.

Even so, this afternoon, 1 November 2000, all is well.  Everything is in front of me.  Table, Pan Dome, Herman, all above me.  God, too, if that's how this works.  Cold, low-angle sun, damp, Whatcom County, almost Canada; Border Peaks and Sefrit, Goat and Tomyhoi, Larrabee and Yellow Aster to the North, and to the East.  The cardinal directions that as a child I was certain held meaning beyond simply pointing the way.


Title from Zoë Muth's Taken All You Wanted. "Every day, about this time, this time of year, we lose a little bit o' light."  My parents' house is behind a 1000' peak, and this time of year, the sun goes down about 3 in the day.  I can't shake the feeling.

* I hear tell of much higher snowfalls, but without verification.  The point isn't that these three totals are absurd, or verified, just that I like the Cascades like some folks like cheese or The Beatles or Shania Twain.