January 25th, 2012
The January thaw arrived just in time to thaw….what? A bee keeper friend explained the January thaw is crucial for the survival of bees. The warming temps are an opportunity for the bees to clean out the hive which helps prevent disease in the colony. Bees are a vital part of food production and I like to eat so if a few days of mid 40F temps help ensure a good supply of fruits and vegetables the following summer, sacrificing a bit of snow is a worthwhile tradeoff.
This winter Vermont’s Upper Valley has not received very much snowfall so the bees chores should be vastly simplified. The trails around my house have a gross snowfall of 16″ since Thanksgiving with 3″ of ice encrusted white gunk still here.
With new trails cut, the desire to head out and ski is very high. I’m curious if the trails actually ski as well as planned. Before the rains of the January thaw, we had 3 to 4″ of snow cover which is just enough to ski on and hurt ones self.
Rocks, stumps, roots, sticks, and clods of frozen dirt along with very uneven ground are covered with a thin veneer of very powdery snow. My wife Jill and I decided to temp fate and go for a ski around the trails. In short, the skiing sucked worse than Tom Brady’s self deprecating analysis of his performance in the AFC title game. We were able to ski around the trails with several crashes onto the aforementioned debris and frozen earth. One crash produced an impressive hematoma on Jill’s rear end. Beg as I might, requests for photo documentation for the loyal CG readers was denied so you will have to take my word for it.
The raspberry covers and area the size of a tea saucer and from the correct vantage point, the bruise appears to be a mottled pair of cycling shorts (it covers one butt cheek and half a thigh). Fortunately, this is the extent of the injury.
On the plus side, we skied across the bridge! The 17 feet of hard earned trail brought a huge smile to my face while gliding and not fighting my way across the creek. In the open field sections of the trails the skiing was quite good and enjoyable.
Examining the weather forecast and seeing the lack of snow on the ground I am getting a bit discouraged about the prospects of grooming and fearlessly skiing the trails. I am aware there are still 2 months of snow producing weather ahead and we might receive more snow than we care for but right now my mood is pretty bleak.
Hoping to break up the hopelessness I contacted Harry Roberts, the east coast distributor for Yellowstone Track systems grooming equipment and also the North American importer of Alpina Sherpa (no relation to the boot company) snowmobiles. http://www.trailgroom.com/ . Harry has a warehouse in White River Junction and we met up one afternoon so I could ogle the sleds and YTS gear. He offered me the chance to take a grooming pass on a trail with 4″ of snow. Cold weather and my lack of preparedness (no gloves, wearing sneakers) and having to pick the kids up from school forced me to take a raincheck.
The Sherpa is an impressive machine fitting in between a full on snowcat (Pisten Bulley, Thiokol, Prinoth) and a utility snowmobile. Powered by a Ford automobile engine driving twin tracks provides great floatation and traction. With a Sherpa it would be possible to pull wider equipment and groom up my trails making one pass rather than three. The market for these machines are touring centers and industries ranging from mineral exploration to energy production and transmission. I figured while I was dreaming of having snow I might as well fantasize about having a tow vehicle I can also use to pull cars out of ditches. Cutting grooming time and not smelling two stroke exhaust would also be a plus.
The YTS grooming equipment is pretty cool too. After having built up a quiver of implements I’m not in the market for anything new right now but while I’m fantasy shopping let’s add an 82″ Ginzu with dual tracksetters to the order.