Saturday, February 21, 2009

Weston & Okemo

Tuesday February 10, 2009

Lewis has a private lesson this morning with more lessons later so Donny & I decide to play tourist. We get our mega coffee from Dunkin' Donuts at the Shell gas stop and take Vermont 100 to the tiny village of Weston about 10 miles down the road.

We stop at the Weston Village Store in the middle of this tiny town. It is exactly what you would imagine from a country store that has seemingly endless rooms up and down steps and stairs. We are the only folks visiting and we take our time looking at everything. We select a case of Vermont maple syrup in really cool bottles corked with a wax seal to bring home for family and friends. The shop clerk is a typical Vermont gent, short on conversation but long on manners.

Now we drive a few yards down the road and turn into the parking lot of the Vermont Country Store. It is located in the back of this famous country store such that from the road it looks like there is no parking. This is the same store that sends those small black and white catalogs full of items all over the country. It is a big operation. Lots of people are shopping here. We browse and sample cheeses and jams. It too rambles endlessly.

We go next door to the Bryant House for lunch. The food is down home and great. I have an Apple Pie apertif. It is hot cider with butterscotch schnapps and whipped cream. We both have clam chowder. Donny get home made peppermint ice cream for dessert and I gingerbread with more whipped cream.

We head back to our favorite skiing mountain and stop in the Base Lodge store so that I can get some Okemo clothing. My badge of slope conquering.

We see the Snow Stars coming in for the day from their various lessons and try to spot Lewis but all the instructors are dressed alike and we are not sure. It is fun to see the kids doing their death wedge down the slopes.

We go home and begin packing for our trip back to the humid sub-tropics tomorrow. We want to leave when the kids go to work and so need to have everything packed and out the door by 8AM.

Tonight is Wallyball at the gym and we are going to watch. Feeney plans to get in some swimming time to keep up her skills for this summer. We try to get a quick bite to eat at DJ's before the game but the waitress tells us there are no seats at the bar and that we cannot order off of the bar menu in the dining room. There are plenty of empty adjacent seats near the bar but we do not argue with her. We go to Wicked Good and get a slice of pizza. This is a quick stop and we have time to spare. We stop in at Killarney's to say hi to whoever is there which is most of the ski patrol gang. We have a quick drink, say our farewells to everyone and then it is Wallyball time.

Wallyball is a blast to watch and surely play. Lewis' team is clearly superior but it is all in fun and they switch the teams around after a while. The challenge is the Base Lodge Snow Stars instructors take on Jackson Gore Snow Stars instructors. Each week pretty much there is a different challenge. Last week was broom ball on the ice.

After the game ends, we head back to DJ's for more food. Now the kitchen is closed, we move on to the Loft, same story. We try the Burger Joint and again kitchen closed. We give up and go home and forage and do final packing.

Au Revoir Ludlow and Okemo!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Okemo Summit

Monday February 9, 2009

I awake before the guys and decide to wander around town taking pictures as it is a bright sunny day. When I get back they are up and Donny announces that he is going to stay in and work on Bayside orders.

Lewis and I gather our gear and head for the mountain base. Today we can park in the upper lot. We start with the Snow Stars office to get verification for my lift ticket. I meet Liz who gives Lewis a fan letter from a young student that also contains a nice tip from the student's dad.

We put on our ski boots and leave our Uggs in Lewis' locker. We get my ticket and head to the bunny slope. It is a quieter day on the mountain, Donny would have had more fun today.

Lewis tells me to bring along my poles. At the top of the slope he shows me how to hold the poles and then tells me not to use them for stopping. I have a great vision of this now. I tell him that I will use them for stopping and maybe I am not ready for poles just yet. He takes my poles and tells me to follow his tracks in wedge turns.

I am certain I will careen into something but manage to do a few turns before I use the wrong leg and fall. My knee takes a twisting and is very thankful for breakaway skis. A few more falls like that impress upon me that it is easier to do the turns right than feel the pain of twisted knee.

While practicing on the bunny slope I notice a woman at the top just standing, and standing, and standing. I know how she feels, gathering courage can take time.

After a few more runs on the bunny slope, we decide it will be a good time to pay a visit to the summit and our patrol friends. We take a short lift that has a completely different procedure but again not complicated.

As we exit, Lewis tells me to ski down a slope to the left. I tell him I thought we were going visiting. He says that we are but we need to ski to the next lift. And so we do. It is here that I take the most knee wrenching fall and determine not to do that any more.

The next lift is long and the view stunning. We can see Mt Washington behind us in the distance. When Lewis suggested that Donny & I come to Vermont and experience the mountain I guess I expected just plain snow slopes having only seen skiing competitions on television. But Okemo sports clear well groomed runs with stretches of woods separating them. It really is quite tranquil and picturesque.

As we approach the top Lewis tells me to get ready to stand up when my skis touch the mat. I am slow to do this and almost get that ride down the mountain then and there.

We shuffle ski to the patrol shack, drop our skis and go inside. Feeney is on a wreck, JJ is doing a mock wreck drill and Jim is off somewhere. We chat with the guys eating their lunch and then decide to leave since we know Feeney will be a while getting back.

Outside we consider our options. The runs look really steep although Sunburst is a green. I do not think I can do it. I not too seriously suggest that we could drink hot chocolate in the Summit Lodge until Feeney gets back. Neither of us wants to really do that. I tell Lewis sliding down on my butt would be my first choice but that cannot happen on a public mountain with lots of activity so I decide that I can ski down. Lewis asks if I am sure. I nod yes. I am so far out of my comfort zone I cannot even see it. I think I spy it over on Jackson Gore. Doesn't it know that I'm here on Okemo needing help. Guess I will have to forge ahead without it, after all my turns have improved.

We approach the drop and Lewis offers salvation. He will ski backwards like we have done on the bunny slope and I will hold his ski pole. We will wedge turn together. We commence and are making good progress on the nice pristine corduroy when a ski patrol guy asks if we are okay. I guess not many truly novice skiers land at the top of the mountain. We assure him that we are very fine and not fatigued at all as he seems to think. He says he can get a snowmobile but we are really fine. A snowmobile ride for fun is one thing, but because someone thinks you are fatigued? No thank you. He says he will check back shortly to see if we need help.

We continue. We reach a milder incline and Lewis tells me to follow his tracks on my own. I do and soon we reach the Mountain Road. This is also a nice gentle incline but there is a fair amount of traffic both experienced and learner. The road is also narrower. We need to keep to one side and watch out for skiers and snowboarders. We reach an intersection with Lower Arrow. It is a blue square but will be shorter and get us out of traffic.

We pair ski this to Homeward Bound, the last slope. Lewis tells me to go. He has such confidence in my skiing and lo and behold here's my comfort zone not on Jackson Gore at all but hanging out at the bottom of the mountain. Jerk wad. I take off and actually ski around a few stopped skiers and reach the bottom uneventfully. We have missed Feeney on her way back up by about a minute. I tell Lewis I could use some water and send him to meet Feeney and do some skiing while I head for the Base Lodge.

When he gets back he asks me if I skied any while he was gone. I really might have but I did not feel like getting the boots back together or dealing with falling down and trying to get up.

It's been a good day. I'm done. We head home to get ready for 25 cent wing night at Killarney's. Also I need to make banana pudding. The new house rule is that anyone who stays more than three days is required to make something to eat. I am assigned banana pudding, a great choice. I make a double batch after sending Lewis to the store for more bananas.

Later after excellent hot wings and brew at Killarney's the gang gathers at the house for pudding. It is delicious!! Jim tells me he is sorry we missed everyone today and to come back tomorrow for a ride down the mountain. I do believe him but Lewis has lessons tomorrow and I am not quite ready for soloing just yet.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Sunday February 8, 2009

We get up early and dress for the mountain. Katelyn's friend Claire who flew in from Charlottesville for the weekend to go snowboarding is riding with us to the base. Feeney is coming along for our first stop, breakfast at Cafe DeLight and then headed back home to catch up on her day off sleeping.

Blueberry pancakes, with pure maple syrup naturally, scrambled eggs and coffee fill us up. We say good bye to Lauren and stuff ourselves into one car. We only have a short drive up to the base and we, along with all our equipment, fit well enough. We just miss being able to park in the lot adjacent to the base and so have to park in a lower lot and ride the bus. Before we board the bus, Lewis suggests that we put on our ski boots so we won't have to rent a locker for our gear. Walking in ski boots is quite the experience, but one quickly adapts. There are racks on the side of the bus for skis and snowboards but the driver tells us to bring ours on board since they are small. The trip is only a few minutes at most.

We unload and hoist our gear for a short walk to the lift ticket office. First we help Claire find Katelyn who is at work but gets a break since they are not busy grooming the courses at the moment. Lewis got comp tickets for working over Christmas and uses them for our day on the slopes or more correctly bunny hill.

We tag ourselves with our tickets and it is time for our lesson to begin. Lewis shows us how to get into the skis and walk with them on. He puts our (gasp) poles aside saying those will come in later. Okay so the walking stuff is not too bad, but when he tries to get us to snowplow, or pizza wedge as it is now called, we both fail miserably. My wedge is the stingiest slice of pizza ever and Lewis says that really doesn't matter it's the ski edges I need to engage. Edges engage. I send this message to my legs and feet but not much happens, I continue to slide forward. We at this point are at the base of the bunny slope so sliding is pretty minimal but still I cannot stop the motion. Donny does a bit better but we are going to need practice to master this technique.

Finally Lewis decides that we are okay enough to go up the bunny slope. This means getting on the magic carpet and off again. For those of you not in the know, it is like those moving walkways in big airports, but it goes uphill and you have to shuffle your skis on while it is moving, of course. The idea is to shuffle onto the moving part while leaning forward so you won't fall over. There is an operator to help you but kids are hopping on like nothing and you do feel pretty silly needing a hand. So going solo I get onto the carpet okay enough and immediately begin to worry about getting off. Lewis has told us to slide off at the end onto the slight decline of ice and then shuffle forward so the line does not get bogged down. I am in the lead and manage the off process without mishap.

Magic carpet update, Donny just reminded me about one of the more exciting parts of mastering the magic carpet, the unexpected stop. You are patting yourself on the back for not falling as your get on and it is actually a nice slow ride up a small slope. Then with no warning the carpet stops. Welcome to the magic carpet says Lewis from behind me. He is playing Donald Ball, he has forgotten to warn us about unscheduled stops. So now it is no longer a completely pleasant interlude. One must constantly be at the ready for a stop. Oh well, good core training.

Now we are at the top of the bunny slope. It is a Sunday and parents with kids are everywhere, as well as beginner skiers and snowboarders. But everyone is watchful of everyone. Lewis takes us one at a time. While he executes the pizza wedge backwards letting us hold onto his ski pole he is holding parallel to the ground at waist level, he has us wedge ski forward partway down the slope. Then he leaves whichever of us he is working with stationed in a holding wedge while he retrieves the uphill parent. In this manner he gets us down the slope with us doing a small bit of skiing. Donny falls once and cannot get up without Lewis' help. It looks easy enough until I take a fall and cannot get up either. Later at home I find I can hop up easy enough so I am not sure what part of the procedure is just not working on skis. We take the carpet ride up again and this time things are a bit smoother all around but at the bottom Donny has had enough partly because he is overdressed and not comfortable at all.

I wait while Lewis skis with him to the base lodge just a few yards away. When he gets back, Lewis says that was Donny's best skiing so far. While waiting for Lewis to get back I remember that wedge stopping was never any good for me with ice skates either and tell him this. We decide to see what my hockey stop looks like. It's better but needs work. I always did a circle stop when skating, sometimes a hockey stop. We go to the top of the bunny slope and I practice down hill wedge turns. When I remember to press with the correct leg it works well.

Lewis decides it is time for the chair lift. We shuffle ski to the lift and he tells me what to do. It really is simple but all so new! We take a short lift to a slope top pretty much just above and to the side of the bunny slope. We do the wedge ski thing with Lewis backwards guiding me and then he wants me to do some turns. I am constantly forgetting to use the correct leg and everything gets our of line and I fall usually losing a ski. Lewis tell me that I am leaning uphill too much in addition to using the wrong leg and that is causing me to fall. I am slowly getting the idea but when everything is in motion there is no time to think which is probably good but it is still comforting to hear him calling out instructions.

It is a short run to the bottom even with falls. We go into the lodge which is directly ahead and find Donny. Feeney has checked in and wants to know if it is too late to join us. She is finishing up some baking. We decide to meet her at the house. Lewis says a day with us is far easier than a day with kids. I think both are probably a lot of work. We send him out to take a run on his own and we gather our stuff to go look for his arrival. Before long we spy him gliding down the slope effortlessly.

It's been a good introductory lesson. Donny is glad to have survived the mountain. I am thinking about tomorrow.

Back on Pleasant Street, we tidy up and decide to go tour the Long Trail Brewing Company a few miles down the road. It is a small operation that will be 20 years old this May. The tour is self guided and nothing is running when we are there but it is still very interesting.

We can eat there but decide to go to Cappuccino's in town for dinner. It is a small Colington Cafe type place and the food is really good. Back home we run into JJ and fellow ski patrol buddy, Jim. Feeney learns that she was supposed to work today and is completely chagrined as she has never been scheduled for Sundays. She'll go in tomorrow even though it is now supposed to be her day off. No worries. Next week they are all due in an hour early and who knows what else as it is President's Day week and schools are out so the slopes will be busy.

Jim tells Lewis to bring me to the top of the mountain tomorrow and someone will give me a snowmobile or toboggan ride to the bottom, or I can ride the lift down. Failing any of that I can ski down the country road easy enough. Sounds like fun!