Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Archive for the ‘Skiing’ Category

Blizzard!!!

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 18, 2007

I had the oppurtunity to cross country ski on Wednesday as well as downhill ski on Friday as well as ski tomorrow. Thank you Hshem for providing every eastern ski resort with at least 2 feet of powder. Jay Peak got 60 inches and had to close as well as Mad River Glenn getting 48 inches. Insane really.

I also got to drive like a madman because running into and over snowbanks in my Subaru rocked. I love the snow, fishtailing in second gear and pulling the E-brake, throwing it into firs and then snow spitting out of the rear tires as I shoot down the slushy roadway, fearful of only the occasional person walking in the street.

Unortunately its a holiday weekend and that means hefty prices for skiing and lots of rowdy rich kids from NJ and CT yapping on their cellphones to see where their parents are.

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Frum Jew spotted at Bristol Mountain

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 13, 2007

I had the opportunity to ski at Bristol Mountain this past Sunday. Bristol is located in the Finger Lakes region of New York in a place surrounded by low hills that can hardly be called mountains; Bristol itself is only 2200 feet above sea level with a 1200 foot vertical drop which is 400 feet less then Hunter by comparison.

I love Bristol for a few reasons and even though I live less then 2 hours from most of the major resorts in Vermont I look forward to skiing at Bristol. #1 the prices are incredible even compared to other mountains of the same size, an all day pass from 9am-10pm will set you back a mere $50 while the pass I opt for is the night pass from 4pm-10pm for a mere $35 a real bargain, considering major resorts charge more then $70 to ski for a day, while waiting on lift lines for half of it. #2 the terrain at Bristol is amazing for its size. They have the steeps, the bumps and most importantly a kick ass terrain park and half pipe. The most important thing for me in a ski resort is their terrain park features. I like moderate sized jumps with 5-15 feet gaps and any size preferably smaller half pipe. Bristol’s terrain park has a bunch of table top gapped jumps in a row with choices of size followed by a rather deep long half pipe. They also have a mini-park and pipe. Further more the people who run Bristol are all locals and therefore there is less bureaucracy than on other hills, for instance if some one builds a jump on the side of a trail, no one will call the ski patrol, and the sides of trails are littered with jumps.

Last night me and my friend Daniel lucked out we noticed at the ticket window that tonight for some reason there was a 5pm-10pm ticket special of $20, I was overjoyed and we hopped in the car for a hour of donuts in the snow covered lots. We were buying out tickets and we noticed a guy walking with tzitzs hanging out of his ski pants, a rare sight especially in this part of the state. Rochester s only 35 minutes away, but a frum Jew outside of the small community is a true rarity unlike a sighting at Hunter or Mount Snow which are situated near the epicenters of orthodox Jewry. I went up to him and it turns out he is the Chabad Rabbi at University of Rochester; I was impressed to say the least.

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Winter wandering in the Adirondacks

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 8, 2007

The snows never came to Albany but luckily I could check the snow depths in NY state on this website and noticed that the closest regions of the state with enough snow for some cross country skiing were around Indian Lake. For some reason I had the whole day off and decided I would try and find some lakes to ski on in the North Country. I loaded up my car with my ice skates, snowshoes, cross country skis, some brownies, and a ton of extreme winter gear and took off, destination unknown.

Traveling with some mussar shmuz at first and then on went the Dead and then Bluegrass as I got deep into the North country. The wind was howling at a good 35 mph and was shaking the hell out of my car as I drove up 28 north towards Blue Mountain Lake in the middle of the Adirondacks. Snow was blowing across the road causing momentary whiteouts every couple minutes followed by a slush trap and some shaky skidding tires. Jerry sang about the Cumberland Blues and on I went, shifting up and down around the sharp curves as I sped past the snowy wonderland of birch and conifers. The snow depth drastically changed as I drove west. Closer to the lake effect bands that were produced by Lake Ontario I thought.

I pulled into the parking lot by Lake Durant, a favorite of mine due to the lack of cottages surrounding the lake and more importantly the lack of any boat launch caused this lake to always be free of boats in the summer and ice fishermen in the winter, and occasional snowmobile track could be made out in the snowdrifts. I donned my winter gear, thank God for windproof fleece and put on my skis and started sliding along some buried deep road. I skid for half hour or so and then hopped onto the lake and skid across the wind blown crusty surface. With the islands of pine in the middle of the lake and the looming presence of Blue Mountain in front of me with its bare slides I was in heaven. No cars could be heard over the howling wind and every time I looked back my tracks were gone under a rush of blowing and drifting snow. The wind was very cold and I was going right into it and luckily I had goggles, I was sweating from all the work and felt good to be getting a workout as well as being in the wilderness during such conditions.

After about an hour and a half, I got back in my car and drove north east towards Newcomb. I switched to an Essex county road and it wasn’t nearly as well kept as the other roads. The road was covered in this brown muddy slush causing my car to skid around the bends. The scenery was superb, and though I couldn’t see the high peaks region directly to th north of me I could see the lower mountains to the south, covered in snow with the occasional frozen waterfall.

I drove till Elk Lake Rd, I had seen this road on my trail map and had never been on it, it is dirt and goes due north to a trailhead that goes into the high peaks region. I drove on it and it was a muddy snowy road. The snow depth increased as I felt my four wheel drive struggling at some points, so I threw it up a gear to keep my revs low, to prevent skidding. I ended up at Elk Lake and the snow was about 15 inches deep. I decided I would try these new snowshoes my cousin had just given me. I walked out onto the lake and could see some higher mountains breaking through the clouds. The snow on this lake was powdery and was not blowing like on Lake Durant. I fooled around for a while and decided to keep driving, I wasn’t satisfied with snowshoeing- it just wasn’t any fun, maybe the snow had to be deeper?

I ended up on some county road after going under I-87 and the road all of the sudden became a snowmobile trail, I just kept on it for about 10 miles until it turned into a rough dirt road. I drove like a maniac on all these little dirt roads in the Mineville area. They were covered in a thin layer of rock hard grippy snow, and combined with the dirt it made them real fun. I was coming around turns, half skidding, and then throwing it down a gear to see my ties spitting mud and slush from the rear. I felt like a rally car racer. I was truly having a blast and drove on these roads for a long time.

After getting some gas in Ticonderoga, I ended up taking Route 9N south all the way to Lake George. Route 9N is amazing for those of you who have a manual car with good suspension. There are many places to pass, no cops and great banked turns. It is a great road to bomb. So in Lake George I walked out onto the ice and contemplated taking my car out. There were tire tracks, but usually there are some pickups with guys ice fishing off the tailgates, being that there were none, I just doned my ice skates for the first time in ten years and skated around a bit. I sucked real bad, and my feet started hurting, but it was very fun, and brought back fond memories.

I filled up my car in the cheapest gas station I know of in the north, Route 9, Cumberland Farms by the south Glenns Falls exit is always cheapest, sure enough it was $2.26, way cheaper then the $2.51 in North Creek and a bit better then the $2.39 in Ticonderoga.

Posted in Adirondacks, Road Trips, Rural America, Skiing | 1 Comment »

Why should skiing just be for rich white folk?

Posted by Frum Hiker on February 1, 2007

Skiing is becoming gentrified. I have been skiing for a long time and there has never been many minorities who ski. So why do I say it is becoming gentrified? Well at a whopping $72 for a Sunday lift ticket at pretty much every decent mountain in Vermont it has became a sport of the rich, suburban-hummer driving type people. It has also become nearly impossible to ski as much with the skyrocketing prices. If skiing was always a white persons sport how can it become gentrified? Though it is a white persons sport, there is a mix of folks. The folks who wear their blaze orange hunting gear, those guys that bust out their carhart or camouflage suits and the folks who sleep in the cars instead of hotels and cook heir oatmeal on a portable stove while the Volvos and Lexus’s pull up. The hardcore lower income folks who make it happen by forgoing over priced beer in Après Ski establishments that litter the access roads to ski mountains. Folks like me, who happen to sleep in my car and cook oatmeal in the parking lot in front of scared soccer moms who shield their kids away from the weird guy, cooking on his tailgate.

What happened to the days when you could ski for $35 and everyone was on rented or older skis? Just the other day I was skiing at Stratton in Vermont and some guy commented on how old my skis were. They really aren’t that old I told him, I have only had them for about 5 years or so. Well in the rich mans sport of skiing that is old. Its kind of like forced built in obsolescence. Instead of it breaking or dying like say a car or a digital camera, the ski industry forces new products on its wealthy patrons because they know they can. Skiing has become a fashion show and is losing its spot as an outdoor sport. The mountains are littered with conveniences, like wireless internet and cell phone service. Many folks ski because they want to get away from it all, I don’t want to hear a guy trading stocks over the phone on the lift. Come on cant we have a little peace for once?

In Stratton one of the lifts has a corporate sponsor, a new concept. American express has sponsored the lifts. Will all the trail names have corporate sponsors in a few years? Oh I thin k I will take KFC way to the Microsoft terrain park. Nothing wrong with it, besides the fact it is bringing billboards and other city like annoyances to the ski hill. All the kids have walky-talkies to communicate with their worried parents, I guess it’s the cell phone age upon us. Parents have gotten so used to cell phones, (leashes in my mind) that they cannot bare the thought of having their kids out of their sight. So instead of the peaceful snow falling onto your pants and the beautiful views from the lifts, the silence and serenity is broken by crackling voices over two way radios and people on cell phones checking up on their work. I guess if you want to be able to afford skiing you have to bring your work with you?

Now everyone has an I-pod, and everyone wears one on the mountain. Caused me to slam into some poor snowboarding kid who couldn’t hear me shouting at him. Maybe they will have to make laws on ski mountains. Well thinking of laws, how about this one for a bureaucratic punch? The terrain parks at Stratton which are amazing by the way, all have monitors who check to see you have a pass given to you by the safety training course. Yes all who ride half pipes must now take a class. Horribly inconvenient and time wasting, but the mountain probably saves on insurance costs-while it raises your ticket and concession prices.
Forget about skiing in jeans, the fashion police are bound to say something though the occasional hunting outfit guy will pass you. A quick scan around the parking lot reveals the income levels of most the mountain allow them to buy $50,000 SUV’s. The random local plated pickups and raised up jeeps are scattered about as well as normal every day cars like Camery’s and Accords. Most of the folks who ski happen to come from Connecticut and New Jersey- the two highest income states.

So what if rich people ski? Well its not the rich people that piss me off it’s the fact that their ability to keep paying is cutting all the lower income people out of a great sport. Maybe they are doing it on purpose so it can gain the country club feel? No blacks, no Hispanics, what heave eh?

At least we still have Jay Peak, Mad River and New Hampshire, Maine to ski without the distractions of digital devices and corporate named chair lifts.

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My fascination with solitude and my love of the outdoors

Posted by Frum Hiker on December 26, 2006

An essay about Solitude: The love of woods and rural America

The addiction started early on even though I didn’t know it at the time. I never realized how much those little drives with my father on Sunday afternoons would shape the way I lived in the future. When the obsession officially started I cannot really recall. It may have been my first backpacking trip with my friend Jason Helmbold. It was my first summer living on my own and Jason whom I had met through biking, asked me if I wanted to go on a 3 day backpacking trip in the Adirondacks. I happily agreed, though I had no gear besides boots, he provided me with all the necessary goods, sleeping bag, pack and a list of stuff I needed. Granted I did not have a tent or any of the high class goodies I now own, I still went out and bought meager rations of the foodstuffs, water pills, and collapsible bladders that I would need for the trip.

This trip was way before I had even realized I was in love with the woods and specifically the solitude that these woods provided, this trip was a year prior to the first time I would see mountains that topped the tree line, and canyons that were painted red and orange, this was the first time I would hike since I was a kid.

Looking back now, it was not the memories of trip that made a lasting memory, yet it was the concept that under my own power I could live on my own for days if not weeks in a place that contained little or no sign of man- this was G-d’s land- could G-d really be denied when everything was natural, and void of man. No I did not think this way at the time, but over time this idea has revoltionized my outdoors philosophy. It has thrust me from weekend warrior to someone compared to a crack addict- I have been bitten by the bug and the poison is coinstantly spreading.

Come to think of it my first backpacking trip was a disaster- it was my first time sleeping out in the woods- I had no tent and no sleeping pad- it was so damned humid, every rustling of a branch had me clutching the nearest rock waiting for the inevitable bear to come pouncing on me at any moment. Sleep never came- the water tasted like shit after popping my iodine pills into my bladder, whatever happen to cool sweet mountain water like all the movies. The bugs were a terrible nuisance. Tuna without mayonnaise was inedible and surviving off barely edible dry cliff bars is not recommended. Jason and I only ended up staying for two days one night, but it was the de-virginizing of my tree hugger sense, and it must not be forgotten in the saga of how I became an outdoors addict.

This thrust me into a world of wanting to be outside in the middle of nowhere with nothing for miles. Whether it is in my car on a double track dirt road in Nevada searching for old mining towns of the gold rush era, or riding my bike through red rock canyons in southwest Utah, or hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) in New Hampshire, I yearn for solitude and survival depending on you alone. Instead of riding my bike at skate parks and in down town rust belt cities, I yearned for the woods. Even things as little as taking the back roads instead of the interstate became regular tradition. I am always going to higher extremes in my ways but the summer of 2001 was definitely the beginning of it all.

I must say the true beginning was much before that really, since my father really instilled in me the love though I did not realize at the time. I remember waking up at 10am on Sunday mornings to smells of fresh H&H bagels with lox and philly cream chease. I remember the light jazz playing on weather station while my father decided what coats or type of clothing we should wear. I remember the tradition my old man saying “so Hesh do you want to take a ride” this always meant we would go somewhere upstate and wander around some woods or lakes. It ranged we usually went to Harriman State Park, or Fahnstock, or FDR, or maybe even cross country skiing in the Palisades. Little trips, day trips that I immensely enjoyed. My father always had something interesting to say about everything especially in the woods. Always saying which trees where which, or which animal prints belonged to which animals. It always seemed like he knew everything. Even when my brother was in high school and he stopped coming along is still loads of fun, I always knew we would go out to eat some Chinese food in Teanack after our little jaunts, or some deli on the lower east side.

Through my love of the woods and the independence and solitude it provides, I slowly became more of a loner. Not an anti-social Timothy Mcvey type, but more of just being content when I am by myself type. Driving down back roads with not a care in the world, with some light fiddle based bluegrass drowning out the hum of the tires on the withered blacktop that encases rural America. Skiing on virgin white snow that covers the lakes of Upstate NY every winter. Walking solo down abandoned right of ways (railroad tracks) that cut a swath across farmland and allow one to view the backs of peoples houses, with their clothes hanging out drying, their rusted old cars awaiting their saviors as they rest atop cinder blocks surrounded by old stoves and rusting bear cans, old men riding their John Deere lawn mowers around their 3 acre backyards, while their children shoot subsonic .22 rifle shots at makeshift target ranges consisting of ball jars and wine bottles.

The ultimate in solitude for most would be perched on a cliff 14,000 feet above sea level overlooking vast mountain ranges with nothing man made for hundreds of miles. For me this would be heavenly even masturbatory, but there is another sort of solitude I seek as well. The solitude of knowing that even though you are in your car in Noonan, North Dakota and you can see a mobile station and small local hardware store in sight, you are still 500 miles from the nearest city with over 50,000 people. My fascination with rural America has also developed from my fathers ways, my father used to love to take the scenic route and loved the small Victorian towns that dotted the Hudson Valley in Putnam and Westchester counties. He loved the ornate design of the Victorian Ante Bellum era- “you know they don’t make things like they used to” a common line amongst our older generations, and he is absolutely right. Even fuel pumps at gas stations used to be ornate, nowadays things have become more about quickness then about feeling. There used to be a gas station attendant who could tell you the where the best steak in town was and where you could camp out for free, by the way in rural America this still exists though it is quickly dying with invention of completely self serve gas stations, I have seen them in portions of Texas. Though my father never traveled far, he has never been past Detroit, he was definitely a wanderer, I tend to stereotype people who most stay around the large cities, but for a large city dweller he was still a lover of small rural towns, the towns that still contained a small square where kids congregate, and the local dairy queen is the most popular attraction on warm summer nights, these sort of towns exist even in states as large as New York.

I remember my first time in what I would call “real rural America”, I was on my first summer road trip with my friend Yosef Franklin- a little yeshiva kid who is an extremely avid hiker having grown up in an ultra-orthodox family of hiking types. His father a rather skinny chasidish looking man blows away all stereotypes when he opens his mind to you. He has a PhD in wildlife biology from the University of Montana at Missoula (one of my dream places to live). When he was in his young twenties, in the Hippy era he hitchhiked to Montana and bought a plot of land and built a cabin on it with his bear hands. A quite interesting character may I say- he found the Lord in the woods shall we say and is now very frum with a large family of little frummies. I was friends with his son in high school, because he was a great mountain biker, I never knew he was such an avid hiker until I started getting into hiking. It took a little convincing of his mother to let their son travel to the west when he was just 16 years old, I was 19, but after his dad decided that its only right for kids to have adventures like he had his did they give the OK. So we packed up my Volvo wagon at his fathers farm in the Catskills. Yes his father is a commercial farmer and shochet.

One of the greatest feelings in life is packing up a car and setting out on a month long road trip. That sense of setting off on your own and the freedom and independence is phenomenal. There is always the music that accompanies the beginning of the trip- there is always the discarded bottles of mountain dew piling up in the front seat as you push for the west, and try and bypass as much of the Midwest as possible. Those feelings of puling up in truck stops in Iowa with a foreign luxury car packed to the brim with bikes on the roof and enough camping gear to fill a small outdoors store always garners curious looks from the other drivers. The thought of that first night sleeping outside on the side of your car on I-80 in the dry nights of Nebraska and cooking oatmeal on the hood of your car with curious travelers always pausing to gaze upon the oddity of this. And once your there, the west I mean oh that is the greatest feeling of all, you have made it to the vast open plains and just beyond these the Rockies that cut a sluice across the midsection of the country. I always argue with myself of what is really considered the west in my book. Usually the feeling of openness hits around Lincoln, Nebraska. This is at about the point when traveling to Colorado when I exit the interstate and seek a haven on the back roads. This also where the landscape opens up and becomes more extreme. The rolling hills of Iowa and Eastern Nebraska all of the sudden become this massive expanse of flatness. This flatness extends from Texas all the into Canada. It is a hard feeling to describe but being able to drive on a road for 100 miles without one turn is exhilarating, knowing that any rise in the topography of a mere 25 feet will bring someone 360 degree views of miles of flat corn fields and blowing grasslands. Pssing by freight trains that stretch for miles and being able to see the whole length of them. This is what I call big sky country (commonly used when referring to Montana) because everything is visible the lack of trees or any sort of manmade obstructions allow for the sky to be fully opened up. The only obstructions in fact in most of the great plains are what some have referred to as the “skyscrapers of the west”, grain elevators- another fascination of mine- invented in Buffalo by the way.

Posted in Hiking, Mountain Biking, Road Trips, Rural America, Skiing | 1 Comment »

Important websites for frum Jews interested in the outdoors

Posted by heshman on July 21, 2006

www.trails.com – lists many local hiking trails, they charge but some services are free.

www.mtbr.com – the greatest site on earth, classifieds for mountain bike parts, trail reviews- the best feature, with over 250 trail reviews w/directions in NY State alone. Furthermore the trail reviews can be searched by closest town.

www.pinkbike.com – another great site with photos, classifieds, and tons of other cool stuff. Mainly geared toward the downhill, freeride and urban crowd. My crowd.

www.krudco.com – in order to find the list of all of NYS skateparks go to links and click on list. The closest park to the Jewish Catskills is in Port Jervis and it aint too great.

www.jewishoutdoorsclub.com –  frum singles doing what most singles dont.  rock climbing, hiking, biking, even ice climbing and more.

www.frumsatire.wordpress.com – site that makes fun of fruumies in a satirical manner, I know the dude well and he’s quite a joker, also a fellow outdoors frummy dude.

Posted in Hiking, Kayaking, Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing, Skiing | 1 Comment »