Un détournement de Chamonix.

Chamonix

Chamonix, and a view of Mont Blanc

On my return from Chamonix, the most common question asked of me was how I was treated by the French.  I said very well, but my friends weren’t buying it.  Weren’t they rude and dismissive? Or, do I speak French, and so had an easier time.  Or, if one just makes an attempt to speak French, is that enough?  Until one travels to a foreign country (foreign to the traveler, not so foreign to the people living there), it is difficult to understand the experience.   In the case of Chamonix, it is an international resort, welcoming adventuresome people from all over the world throughout the year. French is the native language, but English, German, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Turkish, and Polish, were among the languages I heard while there. There is no doubt about it’s French nature, though. This is evident in the super marché, or super market.  Generally, ski towns have very nice super markets, and here is no exception.  But the meats and cheeses were the best, the wines excellent for about $7-10, the alpine butter delicious, and the choices of fresh vegetables, superb.  It was a very busy place, and typically, around 4 to 5 PM, the locals were crowding the store to buy food for dinner.  It is not customary there, to stock up for a week or more.  How would the food be fresh?  There were boulangeries (bakeries) on every street, and the image of a person carrying a baguette or two sticking out of the bag or backpack is real.  The bread is devine, crusty, yeasty and just the right texture.  Pâtisseries, the pastry shops selling incredible raspberry tarts, eclairs, and other sweets are also common, their wares displayed in windows to lure in the customers.
I don’t speak French, at least not well enough to engage in a conversation, and I may never, but I took the time to learn a little, and have picked up some over the years. While this is an international town, not everyone speaks English, so it helps to know a bit of the native tongue.  Whenever I am in France, I am reminded of the brilliant essay by David Sedaris, “Me talk pretty one day” , in which he describes his attempts to get conversant in French. It is so funny and true, and dangerous to read in company. You’ll embarrass yourself.

I was in Chamonix for a ski trip with friends from Pennsylvania and the UK.  We are an interesting mixed group, thrown together by chance and acquaintanceship, and of varying abilities on the slopes.  Yet we invariably have a great time, and plenty of adventure to boast about.

Teresa and AJ, among the UK set, enjoying the alpine sun.

Teresa and AJ, among the UK set, enjoying the alpine sun.

We arrived in Geneva on Sunday, March 2, and took a van to Chamonix.  We were dropped off at our elegant Chalet close to the center of town.  One advantage of going with a sizable group, there were eleven in ours, is that we can rent a whole chalet together, and get the benefits of a kitchen, nice rooms, and comfortable living areas.

Our chalet, Chalet Arkle, on Rue Joseph Vallot in Chamonix.

Our chalet, Chalet Arkle, on Rue Joseph Vallot in Chamonix.

Our chalet was, according to the “bible” left for our perusal by the owners, originally a home built for a physician in Chamonix, over 100 years ago.  It was solidly built, and the current owners upgraded everything to modern standards, with bathrooms in all the bedrooms, a huge, modern kitchen with an industrial stove, and even an outdoor hot tub, which we certainly did make use of.  A few peculiarities of local life:  recycling is done, but one must carry the trash and recyclables to receptacles in town, where there are big bins for trash, glass, plastic and paper.  Bags are not free in grocery stores.  They do sell reusable shopping bags, though.  Vegetables and fruits are weighed by the customer on a scale near the produce section, which spits out a label with the weight and cost.  Without this, one is sent back by the check-out person to fulfill one’s responsibility.

Famous early members of Le Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix

Famous early members of Le Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix

Chamonix is famous for extreme sports, winter sports, and mountain climbing.  The mural above shows early, formative members of the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix, an association for the guides in this region.  The woman depicted at the top, Marie Paradis, at the time a worker in a hotel, was the first woman to climb to the summit of Mont Blanc, in 1808.  Chamonix was the home of the first Winter Olympics, in 1924.  Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe, can be seen clearly from the town, and is a primary attraction here.  The Vallée Blanche is the ski route off of Mont Blanc, accessible from L’Aiguille du Midi, the highest reaching cable car in the valley.  It is unmarked, unpatrolled and quite a challenging run.  I did this run in 2003, with a group from Philadelphia, led by a guide named Christian.

Entrance to the Vallée Blanche

Entrance to the Vallée Blanche

The trek down to the start of the ski run, Vallée Blanche

The trek down to the start of the ski run, Vallée Blanche

Our guide, Christian.

Our guide, Christian.

Some of our group did this same run this year.  I decided not to go, having done it once and survived.  The skiing, though, in this region is not easy.  While there are slopes meant for beginners and intermediates, they are pretty tough due to their steepness and iciness.  Up high at the top of the multiple ski areas which surround the valley, the snow is good and the views amazing.  But the runs at that height are steep, ungroomed, and mainly moguls.  My friends Teresa and Kristine and I took on the second most challenging descent, off the top of Grand Montets, the Point de Vue run along the Argentière glacier.

Frank and Kristine at the top of Grands Montets

Frank and Kristine at the top of Grands Montets

Point de Vue run off Grands Montets

Point de Vue run off Grands Montets

The Argentière glacier along the Point de Vue run.

The Argentière glacier along the Point de Vue run.

Frank, Teresa and Kristine after successfully descending off the top of Les Grands Montets summit.

Frank, Teresa and Kristine after successfully descending off the top of Les Grands Montets summit.

During this trip we also spent a day on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, the Monte Bianco side, in Courmayeur.  To get there, we took a bus from Chamonix through the famous Mont Blanc tunnel.  This eleven kilometer long tunnel runs under Mont Blanc, and was the site of a fire in 1999, due to a truck catching fire which was carrying flour and margarine.  Thirty-nine people died, and the tunnel was closed for three years after that for repairs and improvements.  Our bus left from the Chamonix train station and took us directly to the ski resort on the other side of the mountain, with no problems to report.

Our group, waiting for the bus to Courmayeur.

Our group, waiting for the bus to Courmayeur.

Skiing in Italy seemed a bit more fun and lighthearted than skiing on the French side.

Enjoying a break in Courmayeur.

Teresa, Christine, Simon, AJ, Drew, Eric, Jen, Paul, Kristine and Frank enjoying a break in Courmayeur.  Thanks, Will, for taking the photo.

The challenges were there, too, as we learned ascending to the top of the Youla gondola.

Looking down from the top of the Youla gondola station, see if you can spot the helicopter.

Looking down from the top of the Youla gondola station, see if you can spot the helicopter.

Simon, Will, AJ, Kristine and Paul at the top of the Youla gondola.

Simon, Will, AJ, Kristine and Paul at the top of the Youla gondola.

Drew, Jen and Eric, part of our Pennsylvania contingent, with Monte Bianco looming over us.

Drew, Jen and Eric, part of our Pennsylvania contingent, with Monte Bianco looming over us.

Traveling to really get away, to have an adventure, take some risks, and be out of range of work allows one’s batteries to recharge.  We had great food, some cooked by our chalet’s caretaker named Abdel.  He is Algerian by birth, with a Moroccan passport, and he loves to cook.  He prepared several dinners for us, including a Moroccan style dinner, and a fondue dinner.  Always he would include fresh salads and lots of vegetables, unlike what a restaurant meal might provide.  We played a truly bawdy card game called “Cards against Humanity”, which we learned from our UK representatives, was heavily weighted toward Americanisms.  Nevertheless, it had us rolling with laughter.  We drank plenty of beer and wine, and completely enjoyed ourselves.

I arrived home late Sunday night and had to be at work the following morning at 6:30.  It was a jarring reminder that I don’t live the holiday, jet-set life full time, only on special occasions.  I also have a half-marathon coming up, and the week of skiing is hardly preparation for a run.  I did run a couple of times in Chamonix, with Will, the eighteen year old who needs to stay in shape for lacrosse.  Good that I was able to keep up with him, although he did carry a backpack on our runs.  By the way, the French people I met were very friendly and forgiving of my grade-school French.  It was a great get-away, and I am looking forward to the next big adventure.

Vermont Redux

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Looking up Route 100a towards the Calvin Coolidge Homestead, in Plymouth Notch, VT

Heading east on NY route 7, towards the Vermont border, the sky had the appearance of an expressionist painting in shades of gray, with streaks moving in different directions, slightly distracting me from driving.  The trip so far, up the New Jersey Turnpike, up the Garden State Parkway, then on to the New York State Thruway to Albany had been wet and dreary, but uneventful.  I was heading up, for the second time in a month, to spend a few days with friends in the Green Mountains.  Passing through Troy, I got a sense the weather might be changing.

One day earlier I had a new set of tires put on my 2008 Saab.  I only have 34,000 miles on it, but I had noticed lately my anti-lock brakes activating even on light rainy days.  I’m a careful driver, so it concerned me that even though it appeared sufficient tread was still on the Pirellis which were original with the car, they seemed to have lost the ability to grip the road.  Heading into the mountains and snow, I didn’t want to deal with unreliable tires.  I chose Michelin MXV4’s, which my local Tires Plus had to order in for me.  They are a four season touring tire, meant to handle well in rain and light snow.  I considered real snow tires, but felt that I would need them for one trip, then not for another year, and I would still want to replace the ones I had.

Crossing from New York 7 into Vermont, the route changes to Vermont 9.  Having driven four hours, I needed to take a break, get a fill up, a snack, use the rest room, and stretch the legs.  I usually stop at a Shell Station in Bennington, at the junction of Vermont 9 and 7.  Yes, I would be heading up route 7.  You would think Vermont and New York could work out these numbers so that 7 in NY was the same number in VT, but no, they are two recalcitrant states.  I got out of my car, and started to pump the gas.  In New Jersey, all the gas stations are full service.  Only when I leave the state and need a fill up do I actually have to, or get to, pump my own gas.  Who doesn’t love the smell of petrol on the hands?  Stopping in at the convenience store attached, there was talk among the locals of how bad the driving conditions were in the mountains, the very area I was heading.  In Bennington, the streets were dry and it was around thirty eight degrees.  When Vermonters mention how bad the roads are, though, one ought to listen.  Full of confidence, and desperately wanting to get to see my friends this night, I headed back onto the road and up Vermont 7.  I popped open a short can of Pringles to keep me entertained as I headed north.  Driving up to Manchester, I finally started to see some snow on the side of the road.  It had been pretty much absent up to that point.  But still, the road was clear.  The real test would come when I reached the turnoff at Manchester, where,  instead of heading into town to wisely wait until morning, I bravely ventured east into the Green Mountains.

The guy at the gas station in Bennington got it right.  Very quickly, as I headed up the mountain road, ascending as I went, the snow was already coming down.  It gets tricky driving in these conditions.  There is a long climb out of the Manchester region as the road heads east, and several large trucks were pulled to the side, their drivers putting chains on the tires.  The road had not been plowed, and snow was accumulating at a rapid rate.  My jaw muscles were tightening as I continued to climb, staying within the car tracks of whomever had passed before me, my  wipers trying to keep up with the accumulation of snow on the windshield.  I had the defroster blowing to keep the windshield warm so that the wiper blades could still work.  Up to this point, I had made very good time, staying ahead of the speed limit and avoiding the speed traps.  But now, I was slowing way down, and the last forty three miles of the trip were going to take considerably longer than an hour, judging by my current speed of around twenty miles per hour.  While the road mostly went up, there were the occasional downhill segments as well, which felt very treacherous, especially if they rounded a curve.  I tried to keep myself focused, and avoid imagining the car sliding off the road.  I thought, at least there were snow banks on both sides of the road which could keep me from winding up plummeting down an embankment into a freezing stream.

I did manage to stay on the road, past the entrance to the Bromley Ski Resort, up and down a few more hills to Londonderry.  Here, the relative ease of traveling Route 11 was left behind, and I needed to turn north up Route 100.  The first challenge is in the first quarter mile, as the road twists its way up a short but steep hill.  With the Saab still staying on track, I continued this adventure at a very modest pace, still needing to drive in the tracks in the road which were now filling with new snow.  Before, on Route 11, while I shuddered as each logging truck and four wheel drive SUV passed in the opposite direction, at least someone would have noticed me go off the road.  Here, on Route 100, I seemed to be alone.  This was more frightening, not having any witness available should I slide.  In the dark, snow coming down, I managed to continue on the windy course of Route 100, holding a steady 15-20 miles per hour.  I knew that up ahead, there was a sharp right turn to stay on 100 north.  I’ve driven this route many times before, but I didn’t remember exactly where this turn comes.  One thing about snow, though, it does reflect light, and make even a dark night seem a little brighter.  I passed through the little village of Westin, with its classic New England B&B, the Westin Inn.  It beckoned me to just pull in and take a room for the night.  Yet, I continued driving, knowing there would be good food and beer and good friends when I reached my destination.  Driving on,  I noticed some familiar landmarks, a barn, a curve in the road, and noticed a signpost up ahead.  The signs were completely caked with snow so that they were unreadable, but I recognized the turn to stay on 100.  I slowed to quite a crawl to negotiate the turn, and kept on.  This, I knew, was the most challenging part of the route.  The road climbs and descends at pitches up to 19% grade, and I knew my front wheel drive sedan was not designed for this.  If I did slide into a ditch, I knew the response from whomever would rescue me would be one of derision, that I was foolhardy to think I could handle this road in these conditions without a serious four wheel drive ve-hic-le.  I finally crested the last hill leading down to the town of Ludlow.  As I again slowed so not to skid off the road during my descent, for the first time in many miles I started to get a cue of drivers behind me.  I hoped they wouldn’t drive too close, since I knew I would be going very slowly on these last few miles into Ludlow.  As I neared the town, the road showed signs of recent plowing.  My jaw muscles, now tetanic from being contracted so long, were starting to relax.  I made it onto the main street in Ludlow intact, thankful I had not lost control on that snowy ride through the mountains.

In Ludlow, I had a few items to pick up.  First and most important was a stop at the Brewfest Beverage Company, conveniently located at the junction of Routes 100 and 103 in Ludlow.  The parking area was thick with snow, but I didn’t care.  I pulled in and walked in.  It felt very good to stretch my legs after the drive.  I picked up a sixpack of Long Trail Double IPA, a four of Long Trail Triple Bag Ale, a sixpack of The Shed Mountain Ale, and a Silverado Cabernet.  Back in the car, I had a bit of trouble getting through the thick snow which had piled up in the parking lot, but managed to blast my way through and get back on the road.  Another block and I stopped at Shaw’s market to pick up some food for my hotel room.  There was a fair amount of traffic along this road, and the plows had come through, making it easily passable.  A couple of miles down the road and I again headed north on Route 100, for the last few miles to my destination, the Salt Ash Inn in Plymouth Notch, at the junction of 100 and 100a.

The Salt Ash Inn

The Salt Ash Inn, a unique, rustic experience in Vermont

As I pulled up to the inn, I realized I had made it intact, and was thankful I had made the decision to get the new tires.  I don’t think the old tires were up to the task, and there were definitely points along the way I would have lost control had the old tires still been on the car.  I stepped out of my car, and went in.  This inn, the Salt Ash, is unlike any other I’ve stayed in before.  While it has a very nice Vermont country feel to it, and it is certainly charming visually, it is very rustic in that one is mostly on one’s own in this place.  There’s a sign in the hall to ring the innkeeper on an old fashioned handset phone, all in black.  Al, the innkeeper, showed up a few minutes later to give me my key, a regular dead-bolt key on a key ring, and clue me in on my room’s features.  It was the Union room, a small, one-bedroom room with a bit of a slant to the wood floor.  The bed was very comfortable, but it was squeezed into the small end of the trapezoid shape of the room.  It had a thermostat to control the radiator, a sink which had very slow flow, and a toilet and small shower.  Perfect for me, traveling on my own.  It would work for a couple, too, but no room for an extra bed.  The one homage to modernity in the inn was free WiFi, which was quite welcome.

living room with wood stove

Unlit wood stove in the living room of the inn.

After dumping my bags in the room and skis in the front room of the inn, I joined my friends who had been here for several days already.  They were staying in the inn’s annex, which is a converted out building, with a large one bedroom apartment on the first floor, and two smaller rooms on the second.  We used the kitchen and living area for meals and hanging out.  The group consists of friends from both sides of the Atlantic, the U.S. East Coast contingent and the Londoners.  We planned to ski at Pico the next day, which was a Thursday.  That’s significant because Pico is closed Tuesday and Wednesday, and with the new snow that fell, we were looking forward to a day of fresh powder, or at least what passes for it in Vermont.

The gang in the annex, planning our day at Pico.

The gang in the annex, planning our day at Pico.

This was my first time at Pico, the smaller sibling of Killington.  While smaller, it has some very nice runs, and, as we would find out, there is the possibility of finding some unskied areas to make fresh tracks.  We happened to meet up with a local skier, a friend of one in our group, who took us on a tour of the ski area we would never have known about if not for him.  We traversed through the trees several runs over, making our own trail, until we came to an unused run served by an ancient lift which was not in service.  There we had the pleasure of an untouched slope all to ourselves, with about 12 inches of new snow on it.  Skiing it wasn’t easy.  It made me look pretty awkward, but the others in the group handled it very nicely.  This tour of the mountain brought us to several more unused, or little used, slopes, so we had quite a good day of it.

Fresh snow on a hidden run at Pico.

Fresh snow on a hidden run at Pico.

That evening, one of the women in our group, Christine, made a concoction of eggplants, zucchini, potatoes and onions to go with some spicy sausages we cooked in the oven.  I found out that the English, ever teaching us the right way to speak, say aubergine and courgette respectively for eggplant and zucchini.  Regardless, it was delicious and went well washed down with the local Vermont beers.  We also had some blueberry pie and the famous Ben and Jerry’s Vanilla ice cream, without which a trip to Vermont would be incomplete.

The following day we had plans to go cross country skiing.  Being a runner, I was looking forward to this, as I had no hope of getting any running in, given the road conditions.  In German, cross country skiing is Langlaufen, or “long running”.  I’m sure there’s supposed to be a “ski” in there too, but it’s understood.  We drove about 30 miles south to Grafton Village, home of the Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center.  There they have cross country ski trails and ski rentals.  Our group, being very much an alpine skiing group, was bold to try this form of the sport.  I had done two days of cross country about three years ago, and that was the extent of my  experience.  Of the others in the group, one, Simon, had the most experience, having gone several times, up to a week at a time.  The rest were all newbies.  Since I brought my own skis with me, I didn’t have to rent equipment, but the others did.  The rentals are much cheaper than downhill equipment, and the pass for the trails is likewise a lot more reasonable, about $14 for a half day.

cross country skis

My practically unused cross country skis.

The area has a flat trail which runs around a large pond, and trails leading uphill into the woods.  At the top-most trail there is a cabin.  Reaching it is proof you were able to make it up the most difficult climbs.  What I discovered, but actually already knew, is that descending is a lot more difficult than climbing.  Climbing takes some strength and conditioning.  Descending takes knowing how to slow your descent using ridiculously skinny, edgeless skis on a narrow trail which has hair-pin turns.  After a run around the pond to get used to the skis, the intrepid Simon and I headed up the trail in the woods to the cabin, naturally.  Getting there was addictive.  As we went along the trails, one got the wonder of cross country skiing, shushing along the quiet flat parts, enjoying the solitude in the woods, and using the herringbone technique to climb to the next level.  We ultimately reached our goal, the cabin.  It was small and unassuming, but probably welcome under colder conditions.  As it was when we were there, the temperature was close to 40 degrees, so we hardly needed warming.

Frank at the hut.

Frank at the hut.

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Simon at the hut.

Inside the hut.

Inside the hut.

As predicted, the descent back to the center was treacherous, mainly for me.  Simon, with his advanced cross country skills had no trouble negotiating the tricky downhill segments.  I, on the other hand, had all sorts of trouble, basically controlling the descent about three quarters of the way down each switch back turn, then wiping out.  The conditions were not ideal for a newcomer to the sport.  The warm day left the snow soft and wet, not dry and crisp which would have been manageable.  At one point I had to take off a ski to get back up, and quickly discovered the idiocy of that move.  The ski slipped out of my hand, and with no ski brake as on an alpine ski, it easily skittered off into the woods.  Fortunately, it hit a tree and stopped.  I went tromping after it in deep snow, almost up to my hip, but managed to get the ski back and crawl back up onto the trail.  I walked about fifty feet downhill, to a flatter segment, and put the skis back on.  Amazingly, Simon had patiently waited for me, and we went together the last kilometer or so down to the ski center. As we descended further, a tall, somewhat natural looking woman, dressed in sweat pants and a long sleeve cotton T-shirt, who had been skiing circles around us, passed in the opposite direction and said, “congratulations, you conquered Bear Hill,” and flew by for another loop.   The others in our group had long since finished their experiment with cross country, and were ready to depart.

The gang at the Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center.

The gang at the Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center.

We were eager to try some of the famous Grafton Village cheese, made locally.  We stopped in at the cheese shop, sampled about everything we could sample, and contributed a bit to the local economy.  We then headed off to Manchester Center, to allow for a little shopping at the outlet stores.  I went to my favorite bookstore in the world, Northshire Bookstore, an independent and thriving bookstore which is a treat to visit.  I bought Paleofantasy, by Marlene Zuk, a detailed and well researched work debunking the myths around the new fads of “paleo” living.  I also picked up an Alan Furst novel about spies in the pre-world war two era, Spies of the Balkans.  It promises to be an exciting read.

That evening, we had dinner in the Echo Lake Inn, for their Friday night, three course, $23 special.  We had a wonderful dinner, a great value for the price, since the quality was very good, along with some very nice wines from California.  The next morning, we had breakfast together, and then I took off.  I left the key of my room on the table with the phone, figuring Al would find it.  The ride home would be a lot less dramatic than the ride up.  The sun was out, the road was clear, and the traffic, light.  I always enjoy my time up here in Vermont.  Vermonters are a tough lot.  They survive severe weather, and in the case of the recent hurricane, Irene, some pretty damaging flooding from which they are still recovering two years later.  Most of the local people we spoke with here had stories to tell of homes and business flooded, or even completely washed away, along with roads and bridges.  But, they have managed to rebuild and enjoy their mountain home, clearly very dear to the people of this state.

Next up, back to real running, with the Caesar Rodney half marathon.

A Winter Trip to Vermont

Sunrise in the Green Mountains

Sunrise in the Green Mountains

Our family took a nice break from work and headed north to Vermont. There are plenty of big, industrial northern cities, in the US, Europe, Russia, and Asia where they deal with cold and snow very well. Take Minneapolis, for example. Subzero temperatures, cold fronts, snow drifts, and frozen lakes and rivers just means you use an electric warmer for your car’s engine block, you have a snow blower, the streets are regularly cleared, and the tough UPS guys still wear shorts, although they wear snow boots. Russians almost don’t know what warm weather is like. Swedes and Norwegians, and particularly Finns act completely nonplussed going about their lives in the cold north. But in Vermont, snow, ice and a long, protracted winter are somehow different, in my mind, probably because I go there to enjoy myself, not to work.

There are more dairy cows per people in Vermont than any other state. So, naturally, milk, cream, butter, cheese and of course, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream taste wonderful. We once visited a dairy farm in northern Vermont in February. The farmer’s son showed us around, taking great pride in pointing out how happy the cows were in the long dairy barn, how clean the milking equipment was, and how equally clean the cows were. And he was quite right. His cows’ milk was used to make Cabot cheese, produced in Cabot, VT, as you might have guessed.  One of the pleasures of visiting Vermont is enjoying the local products such as artisinal cheeses which are hard to get outside the state.  Each year we go to Vermont, we are sure to bring home a gallon of Vermont maple syrup.  Kept in our basement, it lasts for a year, and is very tasty.  It is fun, knowing it came from the trees in the woods where we were staying.

Interior of condo in Okemo.

Warm and comfortable condo high up Okemo Mountain.

We stayed in a lovely four bedroom condo high up Okemo Mountain, along the Sachem Trail. Two of our three grown children, a friend of ours, Lynn, from Philadelphia, and my college friend Keith and his wife Lisa stayed with my wife and me. We made some truly great meals, had some very nice Vermont beers, some excellent wines we brought with us, and thoroughly enjoyed the condo, especially the fireplace.

Eating area and kitchen.

Lynn, who cooked the first dinner, a delicious chicken stew, observes breakfast in the making.

Carrying wood in for the fire.

To be fair, my son did offer to carry the wood. On the other hand, my wife does Brazilian Jiujitsu, so this was her opportunity to get a little lifting in.

This year, fortunately, the snow gods smiled on Vermont, and laid down some real snow. It’s just not the same skiing on the man-made snow, although it will do if necessary. Recognizing that it is not, perhaps, as eco-friendly as one would like, to make snow so skiers can ski on it, the resorts do their best to adhere to ecologically sound practices. Without snow to ski on, the skiers would stay away, which would seriously affect the economy of the communities who rely on the ski resorts for their livelihoods.

Getting out to the ski slopes was very convenient.  We walked about one hundred yards, climbed up a little hill, clipped in and skied.  My kids, Craig and Katie, snowboarded.  While conditions were not the greatest, they were far from the worst, and we were able to get in several days of fine shushing and carving.

At the top of Sachem Trail.

Craig and Katie pose at the top of Sachem trail, were we got on the slopes from our condo.

Something that made this trip particularly special was getting to ski with Keith, my friend from college.  Keith introduced me to skiing about forty years ago, when we were at UCSD.  We went on a long bus ride from San Diego, to UCLA to pick up their ski club members, then on to Telluride, Colorado.  It was a memorable trip, not least for being able to learn how to ski.  My one prior experience was a weekend at Heavenly, at Lake Tahoe.  With too few funds to pay for lessons, and not knowing what I was doing, that was a big challenge.  But at Telluride, I was able to pick up some pointers from Keith, and with the fact of being young and able, I managed to learn to ski.  Since then, while never achieving the kind of graceful and skilled skiing of someone who learns as a child, I have become a devoted skier.  Keith and I don’t get to ski together too often, the last time being some time in the 1980’s.

Frank and his friend Keith at Okemo.

Keith and Frank at Okemo, Feb. 2013.

Skiing is an activity that the whole family can enjoy, no matter one’s age.  It is a little tough at first with young children, carrying their skis, supplying them with mittens, scarves and face protectors, and dealing with the frequent wintertime illnesses which always seem to hit the day one leaves for the mountains.  But, once they learn and become more independent, they love it.  Since they are grown, the family ski trip continues to be a way for us to get together and enjoy each others company.  My oldest daughter, away at graduate school, could not join us for this trip, but would have in a flash had her schedule allowed.

At the Waffle Cabin on the slopes at Okemo

Craig, awaiting a bit of sustenance in the form of a Belgian waffle.

Skiing is a way to embrace the cold and snowy days of winter, get outside and revel in it and work up an appetite for good winter food.  The dark comes quickly in the winter in the mountains, and that means gathering around the fire, reading, playing Scrabble, and even playing a little music, with chords and lyrics courtesy of the internet.

Craig and Frank playing guitar

Playing some Velvet Underground, Craig and Frank.  Photo by Katie.

Relating this all to running, I did bring my running shoes, and had planned to get in a run or two in the later afternoon.  What I found, though, was the road to our condo was narrow and icy, so it would have been dangerous to try running along it.  Instead, I just relaxed, knowing I wouldn’t miss a few days running, and just enjoyed being in Vermont.

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RunnersOnTheGo.com

To help enrich the lives of others, we developed RunnersOnTheGo.com to help runners save money on races, running stores, and much more. We also provide the specific local information that makes your travel for business, vacation, or racing as rewarding as possible.

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

getsetandgo

Travel Blog of a Budget Traveler on a look out for Vegetarian Food

Hemingway Run:

Or, as i'm now known, Dad on the run!

Mid-Life, Mid-Level, Masters Running

Exploring ideas about running to contribute to a more enjoyable pursuit for the mid-level masters runner

therunningtherapist

"One foot in front of the other and one thought at a time"

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

retireediary

The Diary of a Retiree

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