Monday, Dec 12 2011

A Few Kicks, and A Little Glide

by Jan D. Axtell

To say it has been a warm start to winter is an understatement. According to the talking heads on our local news channels it was the second warmest November to date, on record (150 years). Anyone who likes to strap on slippery boards and propel themselves across snow is chomping at the bit. Even the oldest of salts, who remember the warmest November on record (1945), are becoming a little eager. It has become almost painful answering the phone in the Outdoor Center because, ultimately, you end up having to tell a perfectly excited person that we are unfortunately not open…..yet. Talk about being a wet blanket.

Alas, patience is a virtue best cultivated by recognizing, enduring, and conquering haste. If there is one thing we have had a lot of around the Outdoor Center it’s the opportunity to cultivate patience this season.

We are, of course, making every effort – given the hand Mother Nature has dealt us – to get open. Over the course of the last few years we have been refining the placement of snow fencing in the field behind the Outdoor Center. If you have skied at Trapp’s you know how the wind blows up and over the field. That wind also scours snow off the ground and redistributes it elsewhere, and because of its south facing aspect it can be difficult to obtain and maintain a good skiable base, especially in the early season and once again come spring time. The snow fence strategy originated with Johannes, and over time has been refined into a very cost efficient way of capturing the wind-blown snow. It is a strategy born from a close relationship with, and understanding of, the Vermont landscape and the warp and waft of Mother Nature’s strange proclivities. 43 years in the Nordic skiing industry helps a bit with insight as well.

This week we have been getting snow in very minimal amount (1”-2” at a time). It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you see snow flakes forecasted on the weather reports and only get a dusting. At least the snow is sticking to the ground and, as with most every storm here in Stowe, the accompanying wind has blown across the field depositing it in appreciable amounts in the lee side of the snow fence. In fact, the snow fence was so effective in capturing the wind-blown snow that there was about a 90 meter x 1.5 meter rill of snow at the starting at the timing shack and heading west.
Dave Hosmer’s men’s training group skied in a nice track going up and down the rill last night. Up and down we went first diagonal skiing, then double poling, then kick double poling, and finally skiing without poles. I got lapped by men in their 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. In addition to patience this 41 year old must also work on humility and endurance.

I have broken down and said nuts to patience, so what. I will resume the noble cultivation of virtue at a later date. Instead, I have embraced the kind of haste reserved for Labrador retrievers, small children in candy stores, and nordic skiers everywhere when there is not enough snow to open trails. As luck would have it I just happen to know about a 90 meter rill of snow deep enough for a few kicks and a little glide.

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