Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Archive for the ‘Skiing’ Category

Cross country skiing yesterday

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 26, 2008

The sky burst into a brilliant layering of orange, green and purple, I was sweating profusely despite the fact the temperature was dropping pretty quickly. A slight breeze fluttered some leaves that had failed to fall with autumn. My skis gently glided along the ridge, I was looking out over a vast valley and the setting sun as making the mountains to my east look completely pink, they were amazing and I felt lucky to have gotten to this thin trail with a cliff on one side and a sharp drop on the other. I pushed up the hill and gilded with each ski until the snow cover was barely enough to ski, small forzen and rotten leaves poked through the ice encrusted surface and threaten to slow down my ascent. I wanted to ski to the top of the pass in order to catch the suns last rays- which I knew would be beautiful and clear judging from the bright blue sky and pink mountains to the east.

I stopped at the crest of a treeless hill and looked out upon the valley I was looking at before, this time my view was not obstructed by trees and I could see Mount Greylock the highest point in Massachusetts, just under 3500 feet marred with radio towers at the top, but still a breathtaking sight. I braced myself for a steep hill and knew I would probably fall, and when I didn’t I let out a whoop that echoed off the forest.

Instead of going to my car, I decided to ski up Petersburg Pass on the New York-Mass border. I skid up a trail that had not been skis on, I skid over crusty snowshoe tracks and broke the frozen snow that got deeper and more fluffy as I gained elevation. I liked looking back and seeing my two narrow tracks in the deepening snow. I also liked that all was silent, no one was around and that I would get to ski under the moonlight.

I skid until a sign said 1 mile to the Taconic Crest Trail, a trail I have hiked and biked many times, being that it is rather close to my house and affords amazing views at every ridge. I do have a place in my heart for ridge trails, I guess that is one of my things that I dislike about east coast hiking in that most trails are not on ridges and rather you must hike straight up and straight down just for the view.

I started hiking up sideways with my skis attached until I came to the top. I davened mincha as the sun disappeared amidst a flurry of colors and rays. It was great, I then took off my skis and just sat on a rock and waited for the moon as I contemplated life and the woods.

Posted in Hiking, Skiing | Leave a Comment »

XC skiing in the lower Adirondacks

Posted by Frum Hiker on January 28, 2008

There is only about an inch or two of snow on the ground outside my house and the Hudson River is just starting to form ice, but from some extensive research done last night I had come to realization that the central part of this state is still getting hammered with lake effect snow squalls, and much of the state lies under a thick coating of snow. Luckily the lakes are also frozen to a fine thickness to support my poor self, and hundreds of snowmobiles.

I decided to cross country ski, even though it was a mild 30 degrees out today. I could have ridden my bike or done some hiking, but instead I drove about 80 miles northwest to a small town called Speculator, about 50 miles north of Amsterdam, in the lower Adirondack mountains. I have been to Speculator many times, usually going or coming from somewhere, but rarely stopping to do anything there. Lakes in the summer and lots of snowmobile trails in the winter is what they have to offer.

On the way up to Speculator, I passed by the Great Sacandaga Lake and noticed that it was frozen well enough to support several ice fishing huts, so I got on my skis and went for a bit. It was bright sunshine with no wind making for a bright and vast expanse of snow. The mountains to the north were lovely, as was the bright sky. Unfortunately the snow was rather wet, from being pounced on by the sun, and there was some sort of snowmobile meet, and they were making loads of noise. I spoke with these two ice fishermen about their catches and ice thickness. 8 inches was what it was, and they had caught Walleye for the day. Skiing Great Sacandaga Lake

After barely sliding back to my car, due to the stickiness of the snow, I began to drive north along the Sacandaga River to Speculator, I passed by the Lapland Lake XC ski center, but decided against paying to enjoy the woods, if I can do it free I will. The pine trees with the fresh snow along Route 30 were amazing as were the icicles hanging off the mall cliffs on the sides.

Speculator was really crowded and after finding my parking spot, I picked up this ski trail behind firehouse on Route 30. This was my first groomed trail experience and although the grooming was not very good, I had a great time. The trail followed a river for a bit and in the distance were some pretty tall snow capped hills. Then the trees closed up around me and I was in a silent forest of pine and birch. It was so silent and beautiful, it made me miss the outdoors and wonder why I haven’t been in the woods as much as possible in the past few months.

On the way back I caught a beautiful sunset.

Posted in Adirondacks, Road Trips, Rural America, Skiing | 2 Comments »

Chair lift conversations

Posted by Frum Hiker on December 19, 2007

I almost always ski alone, and most of the time its on weekdays so I don’t have to share the lift with anyone else. I tend to get lost in my own thoughts trying to fend off the blowing snow, while wiggling my toes to prevent first stage frostbite. Normally I sit back and stare at the view below me and chuckle to myself when someone falls face first and slides down the hill amidst a powdery blast. Sometimes someone else will join me, but rarely, and usually they say two words and that’s it. Rarely does conversation take place, you would think it should, but unless you are located more then 5 hours from New York City, the folks on he lifts have that New Yorker mentality and just want to be left alone, looking at you with wary eyes when you happen to say the precursor to any conversation “hey how’s it going” or “great day huh.”

Today was different, I skid at Hunter Mountain, and I was alone like always, but for some reason it was pretty crowded, not obscenely crowded like the weekends, when the parking lot is filled with upper middle class city folks driving around their leather seated luxury SUV’s and talking with their friends on two way radios while riding the lifts. No, it was mildly more crowded then a regular Tuesday. I ski Hunter on Tuesdays because its half price for all of us folks that live in surrounding counties.

So instead of being a part of conversations I was usually the 4th guy on the lift with 3 folks who knew each other, I could see the look on their faces as I boarded their chair, forcing one of the folks to rub their ski pant clad thighs with a stranger. Close quarters for such short time, yet it feels like eternity, especially when the conversation goes to places you would rather not hear about.

Me on the far right, older guy with high end skis and Whistler hat in the middle and a woman in her 30’s. The woman strikes it up with the old dude about the weather and all that jazz, then delves into a history of her knee injury from Utah. Then she goes on and on about how ugly and stupid her knee brace looks. Then she stats on about how it matches her ski outfits, but for tennis she cant find anything to match. Is this what people think about when they have their knee reconstructed, “will the brace that lets me exercise match my clothing?” I wanted to throw her off the lift.

I was alone on the lift with a man who had this nasty white film on the sides of his mouth. He felt the need to talk for the whole ride, all I wanted to do was sleep. I couldn’t understand most of his English, he was German from New York and had taken a $59 bus to Hunter for the day. He preached about helmets and his son wanting everyone to wear one. I remember when no one wore helmets, and they were only for racers, I thought to myself.

So one of the rarest things to see at a ski mountain are black people, the sport is very cost prohibitive and quite frankly, black folks tend to live in urban areas devoid of skiing areas. In recent years, there has been a small increase in the participation of African Americans in skiing. If you go to places like Hunter, you will have the amazing opportunity to see minorities skiing, this is not the case in Vermont of New Hampshire, in fact I think that skiing is a racist sport, and people only ski to get away from certain ethnic and racial groups.

Anyway I got on a chair and this black dude sitting next to me was wearing this checkered jump suit. The other two dudes were white and all of them were using snowboards. So basically the whole ride up was two white guys trying to sound black and saying this sentence more then ten times “yo what the f— man?” or “check out that f—-ing sh—.” Punctuated by racial epithets and sayings like “aight”, “word” and “wud ya say homes.” It was very educational, I enjoyed seeing wiggers skiing, and I always get a kick out of wiggers.

A number of times today I was on the chair with foreigners, mostly Russians and then some English folk. The English folks were a little boy and girl, though when they started singing show tunes, I am assuming they forgot I was sitting there, they revealed that they were post pubescent.

Overall an interesting day, filled with icy moguls and big air, oh and lots of sunshine and powder on the sides of the steep trails.

Posted in Catskills, Skiing | 1 Comment »

First big snow of the season

Posted by Frum Hiker on December 14, 2007

I wouldn’t call it a big storm, but we received at least 8 inches of white stuff today, and I watched the whole thing dump during work. It seemed like the second I left work, it stopped, that sucked. I love walking in the snow, especially when its coming down strong, blowing all over the place making these way cool snow drifts. I always debate whether to break the virgin white snow, or let it be.
It may have stopped but that didnt stop me from getting a great workout and having loads of fun after I got of work at 8pm tonight. First I shoveled my driveway, the snow is of moderate weight so I broke a good sweat and made my arms ache. I hate going for weeks on end without raising my heart rate or breaking a sweat. I really needed this, I saved the other half of driveway for tomorrow.

Then I whipped out my cross country skis and donned some windproof fleece and went out side in the beautiful clear 20 degree night, in fact there was no wind, I started sweating like mad, about 10 minutes into my skiing. I skid around the local college campus and like always I had people screaming at me, they sound like people under water because I can never understand a word they say. I just continue along peacefully enjoying my self. I love the solitude that snow offers, it soaks up sound and reflects light, making night hiking and skiing a pleasure. I especially like to ski frozen lakes, only sharing them with the occasional night ice fisherman. During the day there are always too many sledders and trucks with folks tailgating and ice fishing- not my sort of thing- I come outside for silence, for time away from cell phones, Ipods, computers and people in general. Cross country skiing and snowshoeing can get you lost in your thoughts, and helps you meditate on the now, no running, just peaceful thoughts.

I purposefully headed to the woodsier part of the campus and marveled at the snow bent pine trees, their green needles and cones sticking out from under the snow that was bending their branches over, I really like the trees and wish I had my camera, they were beautiful, I am sure the snow will either fall off from wind or be pushed off by students messing around. It is gone a distant memory now, maybe I will walk there tomorrow night in honor of shabbos.

Posted in Life, Skiing | Leave a Comment »

First day skiing: Mount Snow

Posted by Frum Hiker on December 5, 2007

I had off for most of today so I decided to head across to Vermont. I hopped in my car and drove est to Mount Snow, Right when I hit the state line it started snowing and I could see new virgin swaths of snow everywhere being shifted and blown around. I love winter I proclaimed over the Moe that was blaring from my car stereo. The pine trees were filled with lumps of powder that dropped to the ground every time a gust of wind came around.

The road was covered with snow by the time I drove a bit east of Bennington and the mountains in the distance had the look of ice at the tops where the wind plasters the snow to the trees. I settled in behind the progression of cars that were likely other folks off of work or who called in sick to take advantage of the 12 inches of snow that fell on Monday throughout most of Vermont, with the highest totals going to Jay Peak in the north as always.

I have not skid at Mount Snow since I was a kid and I must say I was very disappointed. It was not crowded, and the ticket price was about average for a weekday ticket $63. The thing that really pissed me off were the lifts. They are very slow, but the main quad is also missing the footrests that happen upon you when taking the bar down. By the end of the day my knees were cramping from all the dangling with no footrests. The lift on the back of the mountain was painful to sit on. After all it was 10 degrees with howling wind whipping snow between my face mask and goggles.

As for the terrain, it is wide and not very steep. Even the steep stuff, aint too steep. Mostly it was the lack of quick and efficient lifts that bothered me. I can only imagine how it is during the weekend, when its a mob of shouting NY metro area people. I guess I’ll stick to Stratton, and Jay as my Vermont faves.

Posted in Skiing | Leave a Comment »

Winter has arrived

Posted by Frum Hiker on December 2, 2007

Last night I was casually looking at the weather online and noted the winter weather advisory in bright red. I immediately checked my cities weather, since I was in NYC at the time and saw to my glee that the entire area of upstate NY and VT was going to be engulfed in the season first winter storm. I suddenly packed my things and literally busted out of NYC to come back home a day early.

Everyone knows that the first snow event of the season has the worst accidents and freaks the hell out of everyone so that they crowd Wal Marts and grocery stores in search of de-icing products, shovels and new windshield wipers. I already started scheming about where I would ski on my next off day which was Tuesday. Hunter has real close Tuesday where tickets are half off for the surrounding counties, but then again the most terrain open near me Killington has the most trails.

This afternoon was my first driving with covered roads, I am already in “grab the e-brake” give me a 360 mode and I had some fun skidding on the empty sunday roads today. Unfortunately I need my new glasses and until then I cant see for shit.

I am going to wax my two pairs of skis tonight and whip out all of my winter clothing for preparation. I am already missing my bike and debating getting a trainer to keep me in shape.

Posted in Skiing | 3 Comments »

What have I been up to the last few weeks

Posted by Frum Hiker on October 29, 2007

I have been out and about taking advantage of the pre-ski season warmth that is gracing the land. Tonight is going to be a frost and with that most of the leaves will continue to fall and hopefully some low pressure systems will grace the area and bring some damned snow already. I wanted to be able to ski some over the Thanksgiving holiday, and most New York State mountain biking trails are closed for hunting season. I remember last year that towards the end of shotgun season they open up, but for now I am limited to some trails in the Adirondacks and stuff down near Poughkeepsie.

Since the last time I wrote, I have done a sunset, night hike up overlook mountain and it was beautiful with an almost full moon illuminating the colorful forests. Gold is dominating in the Catskills. I have been riding my road bike pretty steadily in the past week due to my non-diverse mountain biking options. I did get to ride the Skidmore trails in Saratoga a few times and I ride the Vassar Farms trail in Poughkeepsie as well.

Last week I rode over 100 miles on my road bike. I am addicted to this time of year, 55 degrees, shorts and a long sleeve tee- light breezes and fresh smells of composting leaves and bright sunshine reflecting of the orange and red hues being forced out of the trees. Oh how I love those sugar maples. I road around Scohairie County this week, and wandered up to Thompsons Lake State Park and discovered that the lake offers a great fishing and kayaking spot less then 20 minutes from my house- I was overjoyed at the discovery.

I kayaked today down in Harriman State Park and it was lovely, my hands got cold- because I didn’t think I would need my gloves, but the pre-peak foliage was well worth the minor pain. I had some chilling times sitting on my boat in the middle of Silvermine lake, I had to get around the bend away from the city folk who always like to make noise when faced with the silence of the woods. I also bushwhacked to the top of this craggy knob off of Route 106 to view one of the most gorgeous sunsets ever. This burst of orange pink and red coupled with lumpy cumulous clouds really made my day.

I have been checking out some quick hikes in my area, since the days are getting real short and although I am bound to do some solo pre-winter High Peaks backpacks- I need some good day hikes. I have been looking at the Lake George area and although I have ridden the Tongue Mountain Range near Bolton on my mountain bike, hiking can take me deeper and it is easy. Hadley Mountain looks like a great jaunt and I would like to get up Slide Mountain within the next few weeks.

Posted in Adirondacks, Catskills, Hiking, Mountain Biking, Road Biking, Skiing | Leave a Comment »

I skid Friday on 10 inches of fresh powder- in April!!!

Posted by Frum Hiker on April 8, 2007

I had the oppurtuny to ski in such unlikely conditions this past friday that I just have to tell you all. All the snow is gone around my area and it has been a good solid 50 degrees every day. Thursday and Friday were cold and snow flurries found their way into the atmosphere. I had the birght idea of going skiing on Friday. I figured from there I would continue on to Providence-RI for shabbos.

I figured I would ski until boredom hit and then leave. Well I got to Stratton Mountain in VT and I was shocked at the conditions- first of all it was cold- in the teens. It was bright sunny and there was fresh snow all over the place. You could tell it was fresh by the amount on the trees especially above 2500 feet.

I hopped on the gondola and went into action. There was fresh groomed and luckily ungroomed snow everywhere with no ice to be seen or crunched over. I had forgotten my goggles and hoped it wouldn’t snow.

Of course about two hours into my half day the clouds broke loose tons of snow and I had to ski like a squinting Asian- it worked though and I skid amazingly. I carved up the sides in jerky quick carves and rocked the cruisers carving all the way across in huge arcs whipping up clouds of snow spray.

I was overwhelemd at the amazing conditions and the lack of crowds- I was very greatful- but unfortunately with shabbos approaching I had to get going at about 12pm. Amazing considering I had put my skis away for the season two weeks ago.

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Jeiwsh Geography played on the chairlift

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 28, 2007

I went to work yesterday thinking of another boring day spent at my computer for 9 ½ hours. At 11:00am all the work was finished. Being it was Tuesday I immediately went home threw my ski equipment in the car and headed down to Hunter Mountain for “real close day” all the surrounding counties receive $25 tickets. When I got there a heavy shroud of fog covered the hill, but the snow covered trees signaled that it had snowed recently. It was quite warm probably in the thirties meaning no layers, just pants, jacket and some fleece gloves.

The conditions were amazing, not only had they received snow the day before, but just before I arrived it was snowing all morning. A thin layer of powder covered everything and due to the weekday non-existent crowds, it had not been skid up into ice at all. I was also skiing real well considering the last two times I have skid, there was a lot of heavy powder.

Besides the conditions being amazing, the jumps were amazing too, thy were scattered about, under the lifts near the poles, by the snow guns and on the sides of cliffs. Natural quarter pipes filled my vision, and best of all I didn’t need goggles at all.

I happen to think making conversation on the lifts makes the trip up faster, so I tend to strike up conversations with whomever I ride up with. I was riding up with this father and his son, the father was trying to use his blackberry on the lift, I knew they had to be New Yorkers based on that alone. The man and his son were wearing these black mid length coats, they were the yeshivish style winter coats, and although they had top notch gear it was a dead give away and decided to go in for the kill- mid conversation. So you guys are frum Jews I asked? Wow, yes how can you tell, they looked at me stunned? Took a guess, but your style of dress and you wielding the blackberry, and they fact you said you skid on Sundays regularly were dead give a ways. Also happens to be I do a lot of judging- in my field of work as well as my writings. So I had to play some Jewish Geography, because it’s the way or the world. So the guys a contractor and turns out he knows my dad, small world eh.

Posted in Frummies, Skiing | 1 Comment »

I skid Stratton today

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 19, 2007

The beeping alarm clock on my cell phone jolted me awake, I fumbled for the snooze, suddenly it rang again, that wasn’t ten minutes, screw this, I shut it off. I knew I wanted to get up, but I was wrapped up in my sleeping bag, cozy and frigid and couldn’t seem to get up. The next time I gazed at my watch it was 6:40am, ok time to get up. Washed negel vasser by my bed, icy cold, jeez. Threw on my fleece spandex pants and some nasty dirty shirt I use for skiing. Went downstairs gathered all my gear, ski pants, parka, windproof fleece, boots, extra socks, CD case, and some snacks. The back of my car was a mess as it is, energy bars strewn about, a shove, some snowshoes, cross country skis and my normal skis. Stacks of soiled clothing from the last bike ride presumably.

I davened and prayed for a good day on the slopes. A gentle dusting of snow covered my car and was instantly blown off when I hit 5 mph. Suddenly I was flying down route 7 towards Vermont through scattered snow showers and a heavy fog, on both sides of the road the snow was stacked high pushed there by parge snowplows working round the clock during the blizzard.

Vanden Plas a fairly heavy progressive metal came blaring from my 8 speakers as I cursed under my breath every two minutes when my windshield became too salty to see. The guitar riffs shook the car, I was tired but pumped, it would probably be the only day I could ski this week unless I could finagle something through work for a day off. Holiday weeks suck anyway, a bunch of snobby kids with their equally snobby parents that come up from any scattering of towns that touch the Long Island Sound. They pile out of their Volvo SUV’s and walky-talky in hand they communicate with their over protective suburban parents who buy their kids cell phones when they hit age 5. You can spot these families from a mile away, even if the families are terrible skiers, they always have matching uber-expensive uniforms from top name brands and sleek looking helmets and equipment. After the day, they retire to their slope side lodges to catch a movie on their high definition televisions and then eat at some local fancy après ski establishment.

Wow these new tires are amazing I thought as I quickly shifted the car into third gear to pass someone going horribly slow on route 7 north in Vermont. The road was covered with a thin brown slush, in Vermont its illegal to use salt, they use sand instead, creating a brown mess everywhere, at least its environmentally friendly and doesn’t ruin your cars chassis. My car preformed flawlessly in this slush, passing the car and resuming a cruising speed of 70 mph on a slushy double lane byway.

Music choice is crucial for pumping oneself up for the coming task, in this case skiing. I have pre-skatepark music, after date music, all sorts. I chose Reel Big Fish, one of my faves, a punk/ska band that is just a whole lotta fun. I was bobbing my head as I pulled in to the quickly filling up parking lot. I threw everything on and just got right on line for a chairlift. I decided to just go mid-way up and then take a couple quick runs. It was snowing when I got to Stratton Mountain and it flurried soft fluffy snow all day long. The conditions were great, powder abounds and no ice to be seen. I knew it wouldn’t last, judging from the crowds waiting on the lift lines, it would be skid up by mid morning.

Solo skiing is quite lonely yet exhilarating at the same time. You have to keep yourself company all day, unless you get friendly lift companions which I did. I happen to be very social and look for every chance to strike up conversation. On one lift I met some other Jews who were talking about going to temple for the first time in 2 years. I also heard some very crude funny jokes which I cannot repeat here.

I skid for about 6 hours until I called it quits. I rarely stop unless I have to pee or am cold. I never take lunch or food breaks when I ski. I am also not into the whole “sit in the lodge and have a couple beers” while I chill. I skid until my stomach growled and my quads were burning. The snow became cruddy and piles of thick powder appeared, catching my edges and sometimes forcing me down. It was a carving day, I didn’t ride any terrain parks and rarely hit any jumps, and today was a smooth powdery carvers dream.

There is nothing quite like taking your boots off and putting your shoes back on, its one of life’s great little pleasures. I got in my car put on some Beastie Boys and munched on barbeque potato chips and Carmel popcorn.

In Manchester I decided to take some back roads. I was sick of fancy luxury vehicles with their suburban blackberry wielding drivers. I needed some good old fashioned rural America. I hopped on route 313 which goes through some nice wooded hills and past some good old architecture. I came to an old gas station and stoped to wander around the area and take some pictures Took some random dirt roads and eventually made my way back to familiar roads. One of my favorite things to do is drive randomly down dirt roads and see where I end up, without looking at the map I just follow my instincts or the sun.

I ended up in Shushan NY of all places. I had talked about this place with a Rabbi I know. He said that there is a Jewish couple there with the names of Mordichai and Esther, weird and its not a joke. They want to keep the post office there, and they offer to send purim cards to people with the Shushan post stamp.

I wandered all over Washington County and eventually made my way over to Greenwich a very picturesque town on the banks of the Batenkill river, which through many drops in elevation makes its way over many waterfalls to its eventual destination of the Hudson River. The sun was getting low, but light was good enough to snap some street scenes of the village and its great condition architecture.

I ended up going towards home past Saratoga Lake, it was covered in snowmobile tracks and many ice fishing huts stood in the middle. I wondered if people were in them now, fishing under the setting sun and ebbing cold. The sun was casting its brilliant colors off all the snowdrifts on the lake, its pinks and reds were cast forth in a cacophony of light all over the sky and the snow. It was amazing, thank God.

Posted in Rural America, Skiing | Leave a Comment »