October 29th, 2013
The first half of the first semester of law school has gone pretty well. I’m a smart guy and in many ways going back to school has made me feel a bit stupid. I really do not like feeling stupid and as the semester progressed, the feelings of intellectual inadequacy have melted away. Three to five hours of reading per day is the norm. Jumping into twenty to thirty five hours a week has the same feeling at stepping on the upturned tines of an iron rake and stopping the handle with your face.
In skiing parlance, the best analogy might be taking some time away from skiing or not doing much over the summer to prepare for the upcoming season. During the first few workouts, when we train like we did when we were twenty years younger (for those twenty somethings, save this and re-read it on your fiftieth birthday, it’ll make sense.) our bodies revolt against the increase in workload and protest by sore muscles, stiff joints and a general feeling of “Why am I doing this?” After a few weeks we aren’t stiff and sore and the joy of movement and feeling strong make us want more.
Drinking to excess is a valid if misguided escape strategy for graduate school. You don’t feel any better but you just don’t care. This isn’t to say I’m on the moral high road and haven’t been a bit heavy-handed mixing an occasional post study cocktail, but as with skiing, school requires some distraction to stay mentally fresh.
My early season distraction is coaching a group of U-10 boys soccer players, the Fury, with the Lightening Soccer Club. It has been a blast and gets me out of school mode (running from the law) for about ten hours each week. This season we’ve stressed the basics and fundamentals of playing well. Just as with skiing, the fundamentals set the foundation and when the basics are automatic and subconscious we are able to parcel out some mental capacity for making good decisions. The boys have improved dramatically and hanging out with ten year olds also helps me think like a kid and enjoy the moment.
What does this have to do with trail grooming? Getting the ski trails into skiable and easily groomed condition is the replacement drug for coaching soccer. Working with the Fury taught me and demonstrated there is an extra ten hours a week available and it should be spent doing something creative. Law school isn’t big on creativity.
Our house is heated almost 100% by a wood stove and there is enough deadfall and blown over trees on the property to supply a good jag of the wood we need each winter. Occasionally, there is a need to drop a few trees and modifying the trail layout is a good way to use the wood. Most of the modifications just smooth the radius of curves or give a better angle to pass between obstacles.
This will be the fourth season grooming trails and reducing the mental load of having to run the equipment on a precise track to reduce the effort of grooming will be nice. Right now I’m THE grooming equipment operator for the trails and while exclusivity has its rewards, it would also be nice to just have a ski once in a while.
During trail walks to remove branches, or even entire trees which have fallen across the trails, it is not uncommon to find old bottles, cans, car parts, discarded farming implements along with a few rocks and bit of erosion. Every once in a while there is some bit of trail junk that inspires.
I began finding gray lumps of paper scattered throughout the woods. At first I thought they might be discarded hornet’s nests. Once I found the courage to investigate I discovered they lumps were tissue paper lanterns. The bamboo ring supports a wire with some fuel soaked cotton to heat the air inside and fly them off. Over the course of the past few months I’ve stumbled across twenty or so melted balloons and bamboo frames.
I’ve always had a fascination with hot air flying and wanting to build a small hot-air balloon. When I found an almost intact lantern/balloon my yahooing could have been heard for miles. Now I have a pattern and something else to place onto the pile if stuff to do someday.
In the meantime, trails are being buffed up for the onset of snow. We had a few flakes last week so it is on the way. The weeds and grasses are being cut back; branches and sticks removed; widowmakers taken care of; rocks and other base grabbing stuff is being plucked; and erosion areas are being filled. I might even pull out the sled and start rebuilding the roller. Nah, I’ve never been this prepared prior to the first snowfall but I am looking forward to the distraction of grooming trails and skiing.1 comment
August 27th, 2013
…turn and face the strain.
Bowie’s refrain just hung in the air on the drive home from South Royalton. Looking out across the Vermont valleys and hillsides the deep green of summer was fading into the colors of autumn. The change was inevitable. Six weeks from now most of the leaves will have given way to sticks, and soon, the sticks to snow. Our lives are not static but always in a state of inevitable change. We get older, smarter, weaker and stronger. We change careers, hobbies, interests and a single decision drastically alters our lives.
Last winter was the first I had spent with little money making opportunities. My thumb was so firmly planted in my ass had I been killed and lost my arms, the identification could have been made by the fingerprints firmly embossed into my colon. Grooming the ski trails was actually a salvation and gave a bit of purpose to being home. The sitting around needed to change and the idea of going back to school came up at dinner one night.
After much deliberation and research I decided to apply to Vermont Law School (VLS) and earn a master’s degree in environmental law. For better or worse they let me in and the last obstacle was financial aid which was also granted and as of today, Monday August 26, 2013 I began my career as a full time student.
Let’s get it straight right now; I am NOT becoming a lawyer.
You read it correctly, Citizen Groomer, age 47, is headed back to school. Last week, the first day of law school orientation was a bit overwhelming. The “How to survive…” seminar focused on time management (a skill I can’t claim any expertise with) and budgeting our day. Plan on three hours out of class for every hour in class. Simple math. Twelve credit hours per week means an additional twenty-six trying to stay current and figure out what is being taught. School will be a full time job.
The original idea of this blog was to describe what the joys and pains of grooming a home trail network might be. The school bit is a full time job (although I’m paying to do it instead of getting paid) with more consistency than any job I’ve had during the past twenty years. For the past few seasons I’d take some time off work to get the trails in good order. Not sure how this is going to work this autumn.
Admittedly, this change is a bit scary. I’m not too worried about the new adventure and hopefully school will give me something new to write about and continue the exploration of what it entails to keep a home trail network going even during a time of change.2 comments
July 15th, 2013
As posted previously, just as athletes use the summer to build fitness for the upcoming season, so too do the trail groomers/maintainers. Just as athletes have unexpected setbacks due to injury or sickness, so too do the trail groomers/maintainers.
This summer, Vermont has had its share of heavy rains. On July 10, 2013, the National Weather Service put out a warning for heavy rainfall and flash flooding. Living near the top of a hill, the idea of being effected by flooding is pretty much dismissed. Right about 3:30 PM, three inches of rain fell in just ten minutes. The creeks and low spots blew out and water covered most of the ground.
Normally, the water level sits four feet below the road surface and has never filled the culvert even during spring snowmelts. During and after the afternoon rain, debris carried by this thick blanket of water plugged the three foot diameter culvert running beneath the road, water backed up and and began pouring and scouring the hardpack. Eventually, water found its way along the culvert and swept the road away leaving a twelve foot wide gash in the road. The flash flooding had found us with the subtleties of a rake handle catching the unexpected gardener who happened to have stepped on the tines.
The creek, normally crossable with a large step, became a twenty foot wide raging torrent with enough power to remove large trees from the banking and reset the channel. The display of force was awesome. Being stuck on the side away from the house getting home might be an ordeal. Wanting to avoid winning a Darwin Award, the decision to try and cross at the road was abandoned and thoughts turned to heading downstream to where the creek enters the swamp. With luck the angry water will have mellowed and finding a safe way across would be easy. I could also try to find the phone pole bridge surly washed away and rendered little more than bio-degradable litter scattered about the forest. Jill, my wife, came along and we headed out on the stream crossing adventure with moral support and help each other through the mud and intimidating flow.
Approaching the bridge we fully expected it to be gone and to our amazement it hadn’t moved at all and was a dry way to cross the stream. The deck was covered with mud and sticks and otherwise unharmed. The walk from the cars to the house took almost 30 minutes and was fairly exciting.
After assessing the house had pulled through just fine, I grabbed a camera and the dog for a tour of the ski trails. The trails can be very wet and if the road had flooded over the walk was hoping for the best and expecting the worst. Over the past three summers the family and a few neighbors have spent a fair bit of time keeping the small culverts free from debris. We’ve spread grass seed leftover from landscaping jobs and work pretty hard to build erosion resistant trail-side ditching based upon the riparian corridor reconstruction work I have done. To my astonishment and delight, the trails held up extremely well with a few trees being uprooted and only minor erosion taking place. Most of the erosion can be fixed in a few hours with an iron rake and some seed. There are a few more trees to remove and many of them were in the way and their demise is a bit of a blessing.
In short, we got out lucky. Because we live at the end of a dead-end section of road and were essentially stranded by the gash where the culvert had been, the DPW had the road patched up by nightfall. By Saturday morning the water level was back to the mid-summer trickle and the only evidence of the flooding is mud flats and bent over vegetation. The workload became a bit larger than expected but we should be able to get things in good nik by the first snowfall.
June 12th, 2013
After a long season of racing, athletes take a month or so off to relax and recharge the enthusiasm for racing in addition to getting some rest. Maintaining ski trails is not too much different. Take a break and make a plan for the upcoming summer to be sure the trails are ready to go at the first skiable snow.
Back in September, I purchased a used, left handed compound bow manufactured sometime in the early 2000s. I had forgotten how much enjoyment there is in shooting a bow and arrow. Just as ski poles have evolved from wood to aluminum tubes to carbon fiber so have arrows. Just like ski poles, carbon arrows are so much tougher than aluminum which is a good thing since my archery skills were pretty rusty.
The ski trails near the house were fantastic archery lanes and I set up a 110 meter archery range along a section of ski trail we refer to as “The Drag Strip.” The trail is wide with very few overhead branches to catch snow or arrows as they travel from the bow and hopefully find the grain bag target.
I was always curious about life in New England a few hundred years back. Six winters ago my curiosity focused on how much work it might take to heat the house exclusively with wood. How much effort does it take using modern internal combustion engines to cut and move wood while heating an insulated 1,550 square foot house? To explore the heating question was pretty simple. Just use the woodstove. Too much effort or complaints and with the flip of a switch the furnace can be brought back to life. At first the experiment lasted until Christmas and the last two winters we haven’t run the heater except when we have been away for more than a week.
In late April while walking the trails after a spring thunderstorm I spooked a flock of turkeys. Just about every other time I went for a ski this past winter there would be evidence of a relatively large turkey population roaming the properties where the trails are located. The idea of hunting turkeys with a bow and arrow has always held intrigue with me. Just as with the heater, I wondered how much effort went into catching one’s food?
Before May I knew very little about hunting turkeys besides hearing it is very difficult. How hard can it be when almost every time I’m in the woods I run across the things? Should be like picking apples. After buying a license and doing some research, opening day was just over the horizon.
I used to own a clothing company and have several sewing machines and patterns for pants and jackets. In just a few hours of sewing and making modifications to the gear I was all decked out in camo. My daughter Olivia helped me thin a piece of slate roofing and by combining some extra carbon fiber biathlon rifle parts with a broken arrow shaft I had a slate call. An old palette yielded wood for a box call and my son Nathan went wild with spray cans and a length of burlap to make up a basic blind to be hung between a couple of trees. May 1, opening day and I was awake at 3:30 AM to head off down the ski trails for my first try at turkey hunting. Admittedly, I felt a bit ridiculous making such efforts to conceal myself from a bird and try to seduce it close enough to take a shot. Good thing just about everything in Vermont was asleep as I made my way along the ski trails in the dark. Having spent many hours on the trails my familiarity with every tree shape helped as I moved through the woods, without a light for fear of getting busted by roosted birds, in the darkness of the pre-dawn.
Spring Toms and Jakes (immature males) are basically horny and anything resembling a willing female is investigated even if the “willing female” is a dude dressed in camo hiding behind a fallen hemlock rubbing a stick across an old piece of roofing. I had two opportunities to break a shot.
I was courting two woodstove sized Toms just out of range. They were in full strut with iridescent feathers and bright blue heads while gobbling up a racket. The focus on those birds was intense and I was excited to have actually called in a bird. My singular focus masked a third set of birds sneaking up from behind and a loud gobble scared the hell out of me. I turned around to see four turkeys just ten yards away. Two hens and two Jakes. My startled leap spooked them pretty good (I don’t know who was more surprised me or them) and they strutted off. I pulled to full draw and my brain went to mush. I couldn’t recall how to tell a hen from a Jake as they walked away. Wanting to play by the rules (only males are legal in the spring) I let down and watched them all disappear into the ferns.
The next opportunity came one morning while sitting beneath an oak tree large enough around three people holding hands would be unable to hug it. The oak sat at the top of a field located on top of a ridge. Morning thunderstorms and rain moved up the valley and I figured it best to head home. Cutting across a section of woods to gain access to the ski trails I decided to sound off a few clucks to bid the quiet turkeys good-bye. Something gobbled nearby and twenty yards away across a stream and behind a rock wall I watched the fan of a large Tom rise above the piled stone.
The flash of lightening followed closely by thunder proved the storm was close. The Tom moved from behind the rock to a gap in the wall but branches obscured a good shot and despite my better judgment I moved into the field trying to end-run the quarry. My mouth became so dry the diaphragm mouth call just stuck to my tongue rendering it little more than a choking hazard. Popping into the field a streak of electricity arched to the ridge and concurrently the crack of thunder crashed my ears. I pressed on towards the Tom. Another flash and crack followed by a gobble just over the slight hump of the field. What to do? The odds of getting struck down from above were the same for me and my chances of filling my tag so I let down again and hustled back home. Looking back, I was pretty sure the Tom held out a wing to flip me his middle feather as I skulked back into the woods. For centuries, pharmacists, chemists and experimenters have, with no success, tried to put the kind of rush and excitement I had just experienced into a pill or powder.
Good thing for grocery stores as the great hunting experiment yielded no food. What getting up at 3:30 and hanging out in the woods for 28 of 31 mornings did give me was a fantastic appreciation for the early morning and the wildlife in our area. In addition to finding turkeys I saw a Black Bear meander past me at thirty yards, many deer, a buzzard of some sort picking meat off a carcass, and seeing a barred owl sitting in a tree.
The ski trails provided me quiet and freedom from getting whacked in the face while walking in the dark. I was privileged to see the trails transform from the first green sprouts of early spring to the full-blown cover of ferns and seedlings trying to find a place to grow. Wandering about in the woods also disclosed a few beautiful areas it be fun to send a trail through with minimal cutting. The early morning meanders and constant peering through the trees has generated a list of things to be accomplished, a.k.a. work, before the snow begins to fly.
April 25th, 2013
It’s April 25th and the last bit of snow has melted off the trails. Skiing has been finished for almost three weeks and looking back the season was pretty good.
Grooming began on December 27, a bit later than we had hoped for but the at home ski season had started. The biggest snowfall, a whopping eight inches, was in March and fell after the equipment had been put away. Of course it was taken out of hibernation and some of the best grooming of the season was during this six day re-immersion into winter.
Snowfall total for the season was just shy of forty inches. Even with all of the snowfall, not much accumulated and the good race skis remained in the bag for the second straight season. They still have the storage wax applied after the 10-11 season.
At best. portions of the trails had a base of eight to twelve inches of compacted snow. On average the trails held around six inches. Compared to last season, this year had very little mid-winter rain to transform the snow into ice. The impediments to deep snowpack this season were the long stretches of sunny weather and lack of refreshing snows. Most of the base sublimated away exposing the rocks, sticks and uneven surface pushed up by the hoarfrosts of early December.
The sled consumed $75.00 worth of gasoline and ate one $85.00 belt. Time spent on the sled grooming was about fifteen hours. All in all pretty inexpensive in cash and time. Add in the convenience and decadence of ski trails twenty feet from the door and the value is huge. This season I managed an almost 3:1, ski:groom ratio which is most likely contributed to the infrequent snows. Most grooming passes were made with the bedspring and just broke the glazing of the trail surface. The Tidd was used three times mostly to wear off some of the surface rust.
I did manage to break the shear pin on the Tidd’s hitch. The teeth hit a root and stopped the groomer while the sled and I kept going. Never having broken the pin (just an 8D box nail) there was not a replacement anywhere on the sled. There was a length of webbing under the seat so I lashed the equipment back together and finished laying down some really nice skate lanes.
This summer I have access to an excavator and plan on fixing up some of the trails. Moving rocks with levers and pulleys is actually really fun but diesel powered hydraulics are much faster and safer too. There are a few widow-makers to clear up and maybe a few more trails to cut in. I’m also on the lookout for a better pulling machine but first have to find some cash.
Thanks to you fellow CGers who sent in photos of your rigs. Here are two and the photo captions will describe what we have out there.
Thanks for sending the photos and anyone else out there who wants to share the fun, send me some pics. to post over the no-snow season of Citizen Groomery.2 comments
March 4th, 2013
Since the last post over a month ago a lot has happened in the CG world. We’ve had a massive melt out which brought the base to essentially none. Sure, there were spots of snow but nothing skiable. We had a cold snap with temps in the –20F range making the patches of snow very icy allowing the cold to blister the exposed soil with hoar frost boils. We finally received 6” of groomable snow.
While compacting the snow with the roller and attempting to pack the trails wide anticipating more snow during the next eight weeks of winter, the PVC roller frame contacted a tree and broke. The ends were lashed together and the pass was completed with little more incident. Heading to the DMV to renew my CDL the opportunity to stop at the steel supply presented itself. The day of the trip temps were right on the edge of snowing and the precip left the salted roads wet. Not wanting to liberally coat the virgin steel with a powder-coat of road salt I passed on the acquisition of the materials and just repaired the PVC frame.
A friend moved a 24’ X 36’ barn using a crane to reposition the building about ninety feet from his neighbors property to his own. Very cool seeing an entire building, including the contents, plucked off the foundation and moved. In about 5 minutes the barn was sitting on a new set of piers. This move uncovered a few old fashioned bedframes which were donated to the CG arsenal of implements.
When I first began grooming the trails I was under the impression sophisticated and specialized equipment was required. The idea of pulling a bedframe seemed stupid and desperate. Turns out I was wrong. In the right conditions the bedframe is awesome. It doesn’t have the ability to cut the snow very deep to rejuvenate a hard frozen surface. What it excels at is buffing out a frozen granular trail scuffing up the surface and leaving a layer of loose ice ball bearings and fast skiing. The corduroy is great in wetter conditions for getting air under the skis but the corduroy is stationary and compresses rather than mobile nature of the ice bearings.
The bedframe also does a fantastic job of removing the wide wale left behind by the corrugated roller which essentially sets a seven foot wide row of tracks. After the rolled surface sets up the springs distribute the raised and freeze dried/slightly transformed snow.
The downside of the home-grown implements is the lack of weight to pack the snow. Any more than 4”-6” (depends upon the water content) and the roller can only compress the snow so much. Lack of compression allows poles and skis to poke through. What heavy equipment does is set the snow faster. What will set the snow eventually is time. Grooming and skiing at home is fun but getting up at 2 A.M. to groom the trails allowing enough time for the snow to set for an 8 A.M. ski is borderline maniacal. The lightweight equipment does offset the shortcomings of the sled allowing me the decadence of having ski trails twenty feet from the door and the ability to ski almost at will. Everything is a compromise.
I’ve been curious what other CGers out there are using to keep the trails in good shape. If you have any photos, send one or two along to me and I’ll post them in future entries.2 comments
January 16th, 2013
Until this week’s warm spell the skiing has been spectacular. The grooming has been non-existent due to the low volume on the trails. No matter, with temps remaining in the single digits or just below zero at night with highs in the 20s the skiing surface remained packed powder and never glazed over enough to require a scuffing. In the past teo weeks the groomer has been used for forty-five minutes and the amount of skiing dome by me has been about twenty hours. This is a fantastic effort to reward ratio.
The community has been skiing quite a bit too and the new trails are well received. As a 6th grade school project, my daughter is taking a GPS trace and creating trail maps to leave at intersections. The class is using computers and this project encompasses the use of peripheral data acquisition devices (GPS), available data bases (Google Earth) and basic data manipulation. The signs will also be bi-lingual for the occasional Spanish speaking visitor. The project is really an exercise in thinking and planning.
With no trails to groom and too much time on my hands I needed something to do with the limited snow available in the yard. Grooming is a great way to play with snow and create something for people to enjoy. I love playing in the snow and with snow. I just love snow and should have chosen a different career path so I could be paid to do something with snow.
Several years ago the family went to Quebec to race a biathlon at the ValCartier venue just north of the city. While I raced at this fantastic venue, the family went to a snow tubing park and heard about the Hotel de Glace (http://www.hoteldeglace-canada.com), about twenty minutes away from the venue. The idea of going to some stupid tourist trap bummed me out. Was my pre-judgment wrong. The Ice Hotel was huge, filled with rooms and artwork, had a bar and slide inside and worth the trip to see it. The place was spectacular and amazing and somewhat inspiring.
The Hotel de Glace helped add to my desire to play in the snow. I had built quinzees and other snow caves and these were fun but lacked imagination and WOW factor. The purchase of an igloo form (http://www.grandshelters.com/index.html) made for some great outings and we built igloos for the elementary school.
The idea of building some sort of ice fishing shelter with rooms and only a door to remove come springtime or building a few shelters along the trails or maybe a snowmobile trailside snack bar made entirely out of snow. I have always wanted to throw a skiing party during a full moon and having a snow shelter along the way might be a fun place to stop, have a drink and a bon fire.
To accomplish this idea, a lot of snow needed to be moved quickly and the form needed to allow for a variety of floor plans. A catenary shape was built using the available materials, hinged so it would collapse away from the snow, moved , re-erected and continue the build. I built it and the snow=less winter last year kept any trials from happening.
With the recent snow the kids helped me add a few hinges, screw an old pair of skis to the base to move it and I borrowed a snow blower to begin the field trials.
The photos tell the story pretty well.
The warm weather hammered the snow and the forecast is for a few inches to fall. Hopefully enough to groom and ski and support my snow building habit. The grooming is fun too.1 comment
December 29th, 2012
My sliver of hope paid off this past few days as it snowed about 6″-8″ and didn’t warm up or rain afterwards. This was the upside. The less upside was the panic of procrastination (masked publicly as superstition) of building a roller frame.
There isn’t a pile of steel available for welding up a roller frame and the idea of racing the 50 miles north to the steel supply was bordering on ridiculous. Plus, the $75 in gas to make the trip is better off spent on fueling the sled. Fortunately, the cheap Yankee in me has kept a pile of 3″ PVC pipe stashed behind the barn “just in case…” Scaring up a single 90 and two 45s and thawing the glue inside the house and the roller frame began taking shape. Eventually a steel frame needs to be welded and the PVC was going to get me through the moment and most likely result in another tree contact disaster but the forecast called for 10″-14″ and not packing in 6″ lifts makes for soft and hollow trails. A piece of 3/4″ poly-pro webbing and steel ring for a hitch and load limiter and the 12/13 grooming season was underway.
So far the frame has worked despite being bounced off a few trees. The webbing did its job as a load limiter and failed several times. Each failure rendered the “hitch” a bit shorter and tying knots was a chore. Before heading out to groom the spare webbing was taken out of my pocket and left on the kitchen table figuring the frame would succumb to rapid deceleration against a tree and suffer catastrophic failure. I didn’t truly expect the webbing to fail first and do its job.
I finished the roller passes of all 10k well after the sun went down. The rolling didn’t take too long I just began as the disc of the sun was perched at the horizon planning to roll half the trails. Everything was working and the Cheshire Cat grin clouded my thinking and the entire system was rolled.
The bridge was actually rolled; the new sections of trail cut two summers ago (some post has photos of us pulling rocks) were rolled with the intent of being able to ski them and not make a run dodging sticks and other low snow trail crap fearing puncture wounds and just too high stump impacts as I made last season.
The roller wasn’t very free of frost and ice adhered grass and dirt from sitting for a year so a lot of snow grabbed on and the rolled trails were packed and very lumpy. The next morning the drag was pulled to level the humps and move the snow around a bit more to help make it solid and flat. It worked well to level everything and managed to snag every stick and lump of hoar frosted soil. There is barely enough snow to groom and ski.
An hour after beginning, the first groom of the season was complete and time to set first tracks. The plan was for me to have the virgin go at the trails but I was beaten to the ski by my kids. They were excited to ski and dug out their skis, boots, poles and whatever else they could find and went skiing without me. I was both bummed and thrilled with an overriding sense of pride with my children’s independence.
We managed to ski almost all of the trails and ran into a few neighbors who after hearing the sled, grabbed their skis and went out to get the season started.
Actually grooming the trails points out all of the saplings and areas where summer maintenance could have been better. This past summer I was excessively apathetic and didn’t get out enough to put the trails in good shape for skiing. The next few ski events will be carrying a set of loppers to trim back branches and remove what should have been cut during the off season.
I’ve also come to realize trails should be cut much wider than originally believed. If during the build a tree location gives pause about the stay/go aspect just cut it. Mow a bit wider too. Walking and operating a rig almost fifteen feet long requiring wider radius turns are different and in time I will be able to walk and see the trails as I do from the sled. For now I’ll tag the larger trees and stuff for removal next summer. For now I’ll just groom and enjoy myself.6 comments
December 25th, 2012
December 21. Traditionally the day with the shortest possible amount of daylight. Once again, this year didn’t disappoint and the day was short just as predicted.
The winter has been dark, from a psychological perspective, and its time for things to become brighter. Snow, or the lack of it has again been the story for the start of Vermont’s cross country ski season.
In the last post, superstition was the main theme. The fear of being prepared too early kept Snow Miser from dumping a lot of snow. Apparently, his brother, Heat Miser, was pissed and didn’t give old Snowey a chance to do his stuff.
By mistake the chosen word was superstition and it should have been apathy. Last winter stole the fun right out of grooming. We had plenty of snow but it was usually followed by warm temps and rain. This season it was difficult to get excited with great fears of another disappointing ski season lurking around.
Maybe the extra three minutes of daylight perked me up today and a feeling of hope germinated and began to grow. Stepping outside to the woodpile with hopes of reigniting the last few glowing embers in the woodstove back into a roaring fire to heat the house, my deck was covered in a light but measurable amount of snow. There was no precipitation forecast and the snow found a way to squeak in anyway. I was excited.
Wanting to get a bit of exercise in the waning hour of daylight, Nathan and I decided to walk the trails and check for any downed limbs, brush, and remember where the fallen trees are. We had a blast walking on hoar frosted and heaved trails. There is a decent amount of water in the ground and the cold temps were drawing the water molecules into towers pushing up soil, leaves and forest floor detritus.
It has been at least a month or two since I’ve been around the length of the trails and I was amazed to see how good they look. The neighbors have cut the tall grasses, ferns and ragweed from the trails. I usually refer to the trails as community ski trails to avoid the conceit of saying they are mine. They are not but since most of the maintenance is undertaken by myself there is a sense of ownership. Having the neighbors head out and clear the trails was awesome and the term community is now more than a bit of cloaked misdirection to hide behind.
The season’s firewood cutting finished off the remaining two-stroke fuel so I headed to the local store with a big gas can. A gallon of mix will keep the saw running long after the trails are cleared and the extra fuel is for the sled. Yes, I am hopeful enough to buy fuel in anticipation of getting the snowmachine going. My enthusiasm was overblown enough to drop an email to a guy on Craigslist selling a BistenBully PB150 with an 8 foot width and plow. Why I believed I had a spare 30 grand for a toy is beyond me but it was nice to be excited about the prospect of grooming this season.
Have a joyous holiday season and let’s keep hoping for snow.
November 10th, 2012
Last night we received enough snow to make a snowball if you scraped off the hood of the truck or porch railings. Not time to break out the grooming equipment just yet. This veneer of of snow did provide a wake-up call and a segue to a bit of collegiate memories.
I had a professor who would assign a paper on a Monday and have it do Friday. This schedule gave his students five days to conduct the research and write the paper. His logic presume we’d wait until the last minute to start even if we had weeks of lead time. He could have assigned it to me on Thursday afternoon with no effect on my planning. Decades later and the pattern of last minute heroics remains the SOP.
Leap forward to this week and winter shooting a warning across the bow of my grooming operation. Groomable snow might be a few weeks away and there is still a lot of work to do. The trails provide a place to ski in the winter and access to firewood in the summer. My procrastination at collecting the bucked up trees bit pretty hard. My last post showed a dry season and firm trails. With a few good sized storms and steady rain have rehydrated the trails making truck passage a mud bogging adventure. Now I need it to stay cold with no snow so the ground freezes so the family won’t.
Last season I destroyed my wooden roller frame and had every intention of welding up a much stronger and hopefully crash resistant steel chassis. I haven’t even made the trip to the steel supply for materials. Granted, the drive is long and gas is expensive but these are only excuses to cover my procrastination.
My ego can’t admit/accept pure sloth so I’ll play the superstition card. Last season I was all set to groom by the beginning of November and we had a horrible winter for skiing. With a bout of omnipotence followed by humility, my preparation was responsible for the horrid ski season here in the Upper Valley. This year I’m going to wait until the middle of a blizzard to buy steel and begin the welding projects. Yes, the “s” is correct. I need to rebuild my drag too. Just a bit of insurance for the tempt fate strategy for enticing the gods of winter to bury us this season.
The sled needs servicing, trees downed by storms need clearing, wood chips need to fill in the few holes and cover rocks and hollows, the fields need a bit of mowing, and the far out reaches of the trails have yet to be inspected. I’m certain the list is longer. Public admission to my procrastination makes me look irresponsible and not just lazy, or better yet, superstitious.
Since posting last ski season the email notice someone has commented on the blog has stopped working. I really appreciate the comments and feedback so I apologize to Tim for not getting back sooner. I’ll take the risk of running up the hit counter and cover my narcissism with the guise of maintaining relationships with the readers.
In Vermont people are pretty much at the top of the food chain and I never thought the noise of machinery as a survival mechanism. Seeing a bear in Vermont is pretty rare. I’ve seen plenty of evidence bears live near and use the trails for traversing the woods but I have yet to see one on the system near the house.
I’m making this post early Saturday morning and the day is setting up quite well for getting a bit of trail work/equipment maintenance/building today. Can’t do it. There are still a few weeks before the snow arrives for the winter and I don’t want to risk chasing it away by being prepared.