In the shadow of Cananada
March 2001

I went up to the Northeast Kingdom in extreme northern Vermont this weekend. I was taking the make-up day for my telemark workshop. I'd have the second day to myself for practice and carnage-wreaking.

For the second weekend in a row I drove 8+ hours in horrendous weather. I'm getting pretty good at following winding mountain roads in blinding snow storms. :\

I slept in my car again, but it was significantly colder this time. In NH it had been around zero each night. Here it was -15. My feet got a little chilly the second night b/c I undid the draft collar in the night and burrowed my head down into the bag. Felt better on my face, but let too much heat out. Doh!

Saturday was very frustrating. I had somehow gotten in the habit of lowering my butt to bend my knee (instead of flexing my ankle). No problem. I flex my ankle just fine on my snowboard. Except that I couldn't do it consistently to save my life. I was a malcontent on skis. Add to that my quads were still burning from the long runs of the week, and I was not in a good place to build new skills.

We started on some severe (for no-experienced me) terrain for a "warmup". I was one of a couple people who were self-selecting for the slow/easy group. The other was almost lame from a groin-pull the day before. A couple in the group were many-year veterans of telemarking. One of them, tho, wanted into the easy group. In fact he fell repeatedly on the way down. I felt the tiniest wedge of smug about my ability to get down in one piece and in control.

At lunch I talked to the long-time, but ill-coordinated guy. He had this critical accident last fall. Almost died. He's still in physical rehab. His wife had wanted to cancel the workshop almost 6 months ago, but he insisted, from his walker that he would make it. No one thought he would ski again. Yeah. Oh and he was a really good rock climber too. Yeah. And the lame guy could tele like a demon. Yeah. I was anchor man for sure. That'd be great.

I did have a few new experiences on skis. I hit a couple trees. I wiped out on a steep blue and slid for a long time headfirst down the slope. That was fun. I kept up the tradition of going on one ski at least once every outing. None of this is remotely as painful as learning to snowboard, however it seems a tad easier to break the sound barrier on skis. I fear mowing down a little kid or guy carrying his sleeping (!) baby on his back and steering his tethered small child.

We were 10 miles or so from Canada. From the top of Jay Peak you could look south and see the tree and snow covered mountains (lots of 4K peaks) of Vermont. But look north and there were mountains rising out of snow. No trees. It looked like Scotland covered in snow. Someone on our side knew what they were doing when they drew the border. :)

I found a bar and grill about 12 miles from the mountain and hung out there Sat night. They had a big screen TV and served food. And the place was heated! Nice. There was a sign on the door of The Longhorn Trout that said you must be 21 to be inside after 9pm (except for employees). I thought it odd, but the town was probably about 150 people tops, so who knows what passes for humor?

I was sitting and reading while the TV was blaring and the jukebox was playing and some women were screaming intermittently over by the trivia machine. Two little girls (7 and 4, approx) were sitting on the sofa playing and running around. The older one came over to me a couple times and asked what I was doing.

"I'm reading."
"Why?"
"Reading is fun."
"Oh. I have quarters." she said proudly, but solemnly.
"Cool."
"We're employees." she announced in a world-weary voice.
"Your job is to keep the quarters, I'll bet." I say.
"Yeah." she sighed and wandered off.

The TV was on the FX channel which alternated between amateur boxing mutants and "When Animals Attack". Lots of grisly footage as befits cable tv. In dreams that night I kept finding myself in the videos. More than vaguely disturbing.

I was only too happy to get up and kill my quads to get out of that dream labyrinth. It hurt. A lot. But I was able to get lots done in my 3.5 hours on the slopes. I had to hang it up before I hurt someone. I had a reduced fee lift ticket, so I didn't feel all that bad. I was able to link tele turns all the way down the long green. My parallel got much better too. Oddly, I was much better at initiating the tele turn from my (parallel) weak side. Go figure.

I met a couple interesting folks on the lift. One was a middle-aged helmeted Floridian on a snowboard. "Ah think ahm gettin the hang of this thang" he said without a trace of sarcasm.

Just ahead of me to get on the lift a woman fell off immediately after boarding. The lift was stopped as she gathered herself to get up. I said she should ride with me instead of waiting. She accepted and we talked about how I normally snowboard. Her son is into this TeleBoard. I got quite excited. I told her how I'd been reading all about them and wanted to try one. Her son is going to hook me up with the guy who gives the demo/clinic. Very cool.

One the way home I caught a couple Canadian radio stations. One was playing Michael Jackson's "Beat It". This was followed by The Cars' "You Might Think". I managed to change the channel before I passed out and found another Canadian station playing Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean". This was followed by The Cars' "You Might Think".

There is no hope.