Stay Ready

I placed 3rd in my age group in a NASTAR race on Saturday. First time in a couple of years. I was stuck in the bronze medal category for some time —  not anymore. I’m back in the silver category.

Thanks to my brightly-colored jacket, the photographer had no trouble finding me. He was ready.

When skiing, it’s important to stay on your skis and lean forward. Just as it is in marketing: stay ready for anything you come across down the slope.

Off Piste

The kids enjoy skiing among the trees now, which is technically “out of bounds” (or “off piste,” as they say in Europe). I’ve begun to enjoy it, too — especially since somebody has to follow them to make sure they find their way back.

If you don’t know what it’s like to ski or snowboard, get out there and learn! January is Learn A Snow Sport month — just your luck. Glen Plake was on the Today Show yesterday, as he’s the national spokesperson. As the “godfather of extreme skiing,” he’s got a good brand — and the Mohawk. I just can’t seem to picture him ever wearing a helmet.

Not a good idea.

Sugarloaf’s Open!

Last week’s snowstorm…

…brought opening day on 29 November 2009…

I’ve been a “Sugarloafer” since 2002, and I hope I get to ski it this season. Contemplating a visit in late March.

There’s also a band in Hungary that goes by the name of “Sugarloaf.” They did a nice cover of “99 Luftballoons,” one of the more memorable songs from the early 80’s…

Six Pack Skiing

Me, a ski bum? Maybe a part-time ski bum.

We drove up to Stratton, Vermont, on Sunday night — into a snow storm.  The closer we got, the heavier the snow. On Route 7, I could barely see the road. Thanks to winter tires on the minivan, we made it OK, but it was sketchy, two-handed driving.

I had heard good things about Stratton. Heard it was expensive, too. We skied with friends who had a condo for the week. One convenience was getting all six of us on a chair lift together — on a six-person high-speed detachable.

Lots of fresh powder on Monday, with high winds and blowing snow all day. Tuesday was gorgeous and sunny — and the gondola was running. Loved it!

Family Skiing

I’ve enjoyed skiing since I was 4 years old.  Except for last winter, I don’t think I’ve ever had less than 6 or 7 ski days in any given season.  This winter, I’m on pace to possibly surpass 10 days. We made sure our children learned to ski properly at Sugarloaf in Maine, where we spent one traditional ski week ever winter since 2002 (all in January, except last year; always very cold).

Now that I’m back on skis, I’ve come to realize lift ticket prices are very, very high. Having a ski week package with discounted lift tickets is a good thing. Skiing at smaller mountains like Plattekill, you take advantage of lower prices and accept lesser snowmaking coverage as a trade-off. Skier visits are down in Colorado this season, and some owe it to higher ticket prices. Generally, most ski industry leaders were optimistic this season (weather permitting).

So this weekend, we skied one day at Hunter for a change. A lift ticket costs $63 for an adult and $43 for a kid (junior, age 7-12).  We went up with several families and one of us got smart and wondered whether we qualify for a group rate. We did! Saved $54 when we paid our share for a family of four.

When planning a family ski trip, get other families to join in so you reach the group level (15+ people).

Never Too Cold

It was very cold in Hunter yesterday, but skiing is, after all, a winter sport. The place was mostly empty, save for the hardy ones.

Saw quite a few college students, which, along with the frigid conditions, reminded me of an adventurous ski vacation from my college days. In fact, one of my ski buddies from those days (and a close friend since 1970), was with us in Hunter. He attended NJIT in Newark, while I went to Fordham in The Bronx. Our winter and spring breaks always coincided, so we spent some time skiing in those days.

During the winter of 1981, I was driving a ’77 Honda Civic that wasn’t especially happy in very cold temperatures. I think the overnight low that week was 23 below zero (F). That poor little red car did not want to start in the morning, so we became expert in rolling starts (use 3rd gear). We charged the battery by running it for an hour, covered the engine block with an old blanket, or simply surrendered and opted not to ski that day.

These days, we keep our cars up-to-date and tuned for winter — and we all have AAA memberships.

Since then, I’ve spent ski weeks up at Sugarloaf in Maine — for six years in a row, all in January. Skiing in -25 deg. F with crazy wind is harsh. HARSH. After those experiences, I no longer get cold on the slopes.