Mid-Winter

mid_winterFinally, it happened. The mercury rose to nearly 20F – a welcomed respite from the single digit above and below temperatures for which this January will be remembered.

For a while, it seemed that one could not put on enough clothing to be comfortable; now, one can choose whether one or two pairs of longjohns will suffice, rather than donning everything in the underwear drawer, and hoping for the best.

It’s not dark until well after 5PM. Dawn comes sooner; the sunlight finally casts noticeable warmth along with low-angled light.

February poses a full month of Winter, keeping the worry that ski season is almost over at bay. There is still plenty of skiing to be done, and though Spring may try to rush, it seems that Winter has no thoughts of going anywhere soon.

Optimism for more moderate temperatures, more snow, and more light is a welcomed companion to the stern resolve that has been necessary to maintain a bright attitude while transiting the darkest, coldest days of the year.

This Wanderlist was handcrafted at 1620 feet.

White Smoke

white_smokeThis is what that sumptuous “corduroy” surface many of us enjoy the first few runs of a ski day looks like before it settles to the snowpack, and is carefully plowed and tilled by the groomers in their tractors.

Recent temperatures have sunk to -14F with enough wind for the weather station at Ski Patrol base on the top of Elk Mountain to register wind chill values colder than -30F. When Nick and his crew stop in to base to check temperatures and humidity before continuing outside to keep the the snow guns running efficiently, their Carhartts are sometimes frozen solid, depending upon how close to the guns they’ve had to work. Yet, one never sees Nick without a big smile; “Did you ski the Tunkhannock this morning? I set the guns so they dusted it just right last night.” Those of us who are hardy enough to brave the cold, often head to the Tunkhannock trail first thing in the morning to enjoy Nick and the crew’s handicraft.

Despite the almost unbearable conditions, the snowmaking crew take great pride in their work, and, in coordination with the grooming tractor drivers, consistently deliver some of the best man-made conditions on the east coast, or anywhere else for that matter.

Though these cold snaps can be strenuous to endure, they do provide just the right conditions for making very high quality snow, or what skiers call “White Smoke”.

Though the recent storm left more snow in Philly than here, Elk continues to have outstanding conditions. Mother nature may help contribute to the Winter Wonderland this weekend with a couple of more inches. The Ski King often notes that even just an inch or two of natural snow tilled in with the existing man-made snow “met-a-morph-a-sizes” the surface into something truly delightful.

Let’s all fill our bellies, bundle up, get outside and enjoy the beautiful winter conditions this weekend!
This Wanderlist was handcrafted at 1620 feet.

Windshield

windshield“Everything slows down during winter” someone said recently. You can’t just walk over to the auto and go; often you have to shovel to the driveway, and once there, the auto windows need to be scraped and defrosted.

Prudence dictates that “Bridge freezes before road surface” signs, safely ignorable during the summer, be recognized and heeded.

In Summer you can just walk into the backyard in boxer shorts and bare feet to put the dog in her pen; these days, it’s best to don big boots and down coat to insulate against the cold, rather than suffering goose bumps and shivering that could turn into a cold or flu.

On a hot August day, it’s difficult to think what could possibly motivate one to endure the inconveniences presented by Winter. The heating fuel truck comes often, windows must be kept closed against cold winds; bellies require larger volumes of food to feel satisfied.

Not only stomachs, but stoves need to be kept stoked, wood needs to be moved continuously from the shed to the home. All these extra activities must be accomplished during the shortest days of the year, often in cold and darkness.

The first cold snaps of the season seem to pierce clothing and flesh easily, chilling marrow. There is a big difference between a cool 60 degree day in September, and a cold zero degree day in January. But, after enduring single degree or below zero temperatures, 20 degrees can feel downright balmy.

As Winter wears on, extra layers of clothing start to feel more familiar than bare skin. Starting the day in darkness and then greeting the pinks and gold of a Winter sunrise can take one’s breath away as much as inhaling frigid air. Going to bed early in the evening, burrowed under a pile of comforters feels more luxurious and comforting than sleeping naked under a ceiling fan on a sultry evening.

As one acclimates to the dead of Winter, at once performing more chores, but performing them more slowly, it’s a great time to revel in the stillness imposed by this time of year. Enjoy the moments that individual snowflakes exhibit symmetrical perfection on your coat sleeve before abandoning their form and melting.

And before scraping the frost from a windshield, take a moment to enjoy the random patterns provoked by moisture and cold, it just might remind you of delicate fern fronds, unraveling soon after dawn, under a warm Summer morning.
This Wanderlist was handcrafted above 2670 feet.

Courtesy Patrol Ron

cp_ronRon is one of the many, many folks who help us enjoy ourselves when visiting The Big and Friendly.

Though most of us only see the courtesy patrol while waiting to get on the lift, their day starts much earlier. Sidewalks need to be cleared of snow, lift lines need to be set-up, guests need to be greeted.

Through the night, Nick and his crew tend to the snowguns, Walt and his crew groom everything out to the tasty corduroy textured snow covering the slopes we enjoy first thing in the morning. Dave and the compressor engineers make sure there’s plenty of air and water pressure to power the snowguns.

Howie, Bob, Jack and the rest of the ski patrollers ski all the terrain before the mountain opens, making sure the slopes are clear of any obstacles, fencing and padding are in place, and the mountain is ready to receive guests.

Jess and the office crew take care of getting us our tickets, and the folks in the cafeteria prepare snacks and meals to keep “coal in the furnace” – especially welcome on cold days. Forgot your goggles or need to brush up on your technique? The ski school, and ski shop and rental/repair staffs will help you replace items you may have forgotten, give you tips on how to turn better, tune up the rig you already have, or help you try out a new one.

The lift operators not only help us on the lifts, but also clear the chairs of any snow that may have accumulated overnight, and keep the loading and top ramps clear to make getting on and off the lift easier and safe.

Often when skiing, we lose site of just how many people coordinate so we can enjoy our time on the mountain. Think of how many situations during your day are made easier, more pleasant, or even possible by the work and effort of others. When you get down to it, we really do rely on each other for just about everything.

On or off The Hill, it’s always good to wear a smile, and remember “please and thank you” – you’ll probably get an even bigger smile in return!

This Wanderlist was handcrafted above 2670 feet.

Carl Breese

carl_breeseTonight, Carl Breese and Friends will heat up Chet’s Place just like old times! If you’ve ever enjoyed music by “Lost Weekend” or “Mace in Dickson”, you’ve heard the power of Carl’s flawless lead guitar.

Some, who’ve played along with Carl for decades, have said that they’ve never heard him miss a note. A musical perfectionist, many don’t realize that Carl was a distinguished athlete having set the basketball scoring record at Mountain View High School which stood for many years.

He was also fluent in French. On a French Class Trip to Quebec we sat in the third story open window of our hotel in the Old City, he on guitar, Eddie beatin’ out base on the guitar case, me on harmonica; we drew a crowd, and kept them for quite a while. A warm, unforgettable evening of young girls in sun dresses, our first sips of wine, and American acoustic rock music floating across the cobblestone streets.

We are lucky that Carl chose to raise a family rather than “riding a bus, gig to gig to gig” for the rest of his life. After rocking us locally for decades, Carl and family chose to settle out west – he’s greatly missed on The Hill – we are so happy he’s back for a visit, and can’t wait to hear his wailing blue Fender!!!