Another day on skis

I could stay inside on a Saturday concocting a blog post that would remain almost entirely unread.

Or I could go skiing instead:

It's late January and though winter is far from over -- another artic blast is forecast for the coming week -- but the sun is higher in the sky and the days are growing noticeably longer.

Oddly, though I was never much into time trialling on a bike, but I find that I enjoy pushing myself around the 7.5 km race loop at Trapps, it's a good way to get a good hard short workout in: Just start a timer and go, try not to blow up on the uphills and not crash on the downhills.

This GPS track is the race loop plus a lot of leisurely sliding around the lower slopes of the touring center instead of grinding up to the cabin and then experiencing the cold descent back down.


World without secrets: Backcountry skiing

Mt. Mansfield through the trees on Saturday.

So, Vermont's declining arbiter of taste and fashion, The Burlington Free Press, ran an article "Backcountry Skiing is Booming in Vermont", describing how this activity is a hot trend and how new (and expensive) gear has made skiing off-piste more accessible and easier for the masses.

I can appreciate this trend because I find the idea of paying lots of money for lift-serviced skiing to be ridiculous. It presently costs $84/day at Stowe to stand in line or to dangle on a chairlift in a cold wind, while sharing the mountain with hordes of people from parts of the country where life is faster and more aggressive than Vermont.

But it is also discouraging, to read about the $500 bindings, $600+ boots, $800 (and up) skis, plus skins, poles, weather resistant clothing etc. that make up a modern Alpine Touring setup.

Until more pressing needs are taken care of I will continue to plod along on my backcountry touring gear -- touring skis with metal edges and fishscale bases mounted with old-style 3 pin bindings.

Using this old and battered gear, I ventured off-piste in the backcountry trails in Stowe on Saturday. It was a great day despite the cold.

As warm as it got. The thermometer at Trapps Cabin at about 1:30 pm, 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

On-piste: Brilliant blue skies and sun despite the cold. With the right clothing it was a great day to be out.

Off piste, breaking trail up Skytop. Climbing and traversing the ridgeline was fine but getting down via Steeple (a play, I assume, on 'steep') was a challenge as it was steep and totally skied out, a rough, challenging and awkward descent.

I signed up for a Garmin Connect account that lets me post GPS tracks (more online oversharing) so here is the tracklog from the trip:

My GPS unit is a Garmin Etrex, it is almost the most bare bones GPS available, and the time function doesn't to synch to the Garmin Connect site, but the other data is accurate. And since this trip was on marked, named trails I'm not spilling any secrets by posting this data here.



Ice sculpture outside The Alchemist in Waterbury, 1/21/2011. This object won't be going anywhere in a hurry because the coldest weather in several years is settling into central Vermont, with forecast nighttime lows well below zero for the next few days.


Big snow on a relatively little mountain: Noonmark

On the list of the 100 highest mountains in the Adirondacks... Noonmark in Keene Valley sits in the exalted spot of #86, being about 3500 feet high.

Being number #86 does not mean, however that climbing Noonmark is an easy hike that can be casually knocked off in an afternoon, especially in winter conditions.

Red disks supposedly mark the trail -- if one can find them. Our small group spent at least an hour foundering around this trail junction, vainly trying to discern which way to go.

By mere chance, and higher up on the shoulder of the mountain, we finally found the trail, well marked and broken by an earlier hiking party.

By the time we found the trail and headed in the direction which we needed to go it was early afternoon and snow was falling steadily. We thought we were approaching the summit only to emerge out on a rocky ridgeline with some breaks in the trees.

In an opening we could make out the summit dimly looming over us in the snow, still a ways a way and with quite a bit of altitude gain remaining. So this became a hike where the journey was more important than the destination, as we decided to turn back.

Making the quick trip over to Keene Valley -- including the Rooster Comb trailhead, where I launched my first ever (and almost fatal) solo winter Adirondack hike -- made me think about the places I have been and the experiences I have had (bear encounters, hikes in the rain, mountains at sunset, etc.).

For better or worse in this solipsistic, narcissistic age previous Adirondack themed posts can be read here.


1st resolution of the new year: No more posts on Burlington Telecom

Tim Nulty sez (BFP article here): "It's (the bankrupt, repo'd, special-prosecutor-appointed state of Burlington Telecom) not my fault... Not even a little bit."

As 2011 begins the Burlington Telecom death spiral continues. The magnitude of the problem now is such that the various actors in this tragi-comedy can no longer hide behind glib platitudes about "cash-flow-positivity" being imminent or fatuous claims about how a municipal telecom utility would actually contribute revenue to the city's coffers.

Instead, fingers are being pointed and recriminations fly. But, I really think that I have said all I have to say on this squalid situation -- there's "nothing more to to write", to quote the original, unredacted, unexpurgated version of Huck Finn.

As a parting shot, however, I would say that the various actors in this story are incompetent, reckless hacks who are not qualified to sell cellphone accessories at a mall kiosk. . . let alone trying to build a viable telecom utility.

From the time of its original inception, Burlington Telecom has turned out to be a heady, frothy bad-tasting cocktail consisting of dangerously naive and wishful thinking, arrogance and egotism, reckless disregard for unpleasant fiscal realities, bad governance, and voter apathy.

All that's left now is to clean up the mess and one hell of a pounding hangover.

Citizens of Minnesota, beware!

Finally, a recent Vermont Tiger post sums up this mess nicely, and my previous posts on this topic can be read here (thousands of words!). Enough is enough.


2011 -- already looking backward

I tried to change up the look of this blog in 2010 -- and as usual, largely failed. Perhaps some more experimentation with the layout is in order in the coming year. I thought of using a collage made up images as a background but the concept proved to be too busy and distracting to be practical -- so this concept was never implemented.

In past years I have analyzed what content and posts drew the most attention in the past year, however, as nothing really stood out in 2010 -- this exercise hardly seems worth it.

I have observed two trends in the analytics reports of this site during the past year:
  1. Increased traffic from mobile devices. This is not surprising as I have met several people who use smartphones as their primary Internet access device.
  2. Traffic from image searches: This is somewhat gratifying because in some ways this blog is really a swollen, bloated, overgrown flickr stream. I still have a flickr account, but I hardly use it anymore, I prefer the freedom that comes with posting photos on the blogger platform.
I'm perpetually threatening to close down this mostly unread site but it will probably keep going in some form or fashion in the coming year: kind of like bedbugs, kudzu, or tabloid stories about Lindsay Lohan -- it won't just go away.