Ever Wanted to be a Steam Train Engineer?
Loon Mountain Resort announced a summer Guest Engineer Program that teaches train lovers how to operate a working steam engine. Loon Mountain’s J.E. Henry Railroad, with its German-built 0-4-0T engine, harkens back to the narrow gauge logging trains that ran through New Hampshire’s White Mountains more than a century ago. The engine, which Loon Mountain acquired in the 1970s, runs daily during the winter between two of the resort’s base areas. During a typical season, the train will shuttle skiers and snowboarders a total of 300 miles along its 600-foot length of track.
This summer, the Guest Engineer Program will be offered one day each month on July 12, August 2, September 6, and October 4. Each session will run for six hours and include a primer on the basics of steam operation, safety, a brief history of Loon’s locomotive, a close-up look at the engine, start-up/close down procedures, and the opportunity for each participant to operate the engine.
Space is limited and the program cost is $100 per person, including lunch. Participants must be at least 18 years old and dress in long pants, long-sleeved shirt, boots, and work gloves. Reservations are required (603) 745-8111 or 800-229-LOON (5666). For more information click Loon Guest Engineer Program.
Avalanches are a serious concern in the backcountry. Recently, 34 year old Utah DOT avalanche forecaster Craig Patterson died in an avalanche at Big Cottonwood Canyon in Utah while testing the snowpack when he was caught in the avalanche. The AP reported that when Patterson's body was recovered it was seen that he had deployed an air bag, which apparently did not save him.
And showing that avalanches can happen anytime, snowshoer Joy Yu, 55 was buried in an avalanche near Snoqualmie Pass, WA as she was reportedly walking her dog when she was struck by the slide and died. Nationwide there have been 16 other avalanche fatalities this season and in April, 5 guides were buried in an avalanche on Loveland Pass, CO at a fundraiser event for the mountain rescue.
USFS Ordered to Revisit Snowmobile Access on Lands
According to a story in The Snow Industry Letter, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush ruled that the Forest Service must go back to work on its 2005 Travel Management Rule and draw up regulations designating areas of use and non-use by all off-road vehicles, including snowmobiles, on national forest lands. The Idaho-based Winter Wildlands Alliance had argued the agency's decision to allow individual forests to exempt snowmobiles from the rules was illegal and would lead to conflicts between snowmobiles and backcountry skiers. The judge agreed with the skier's group, ordering the Forest Service to write a new rule consistent with his decision within 180 days.
"Mad Men" Dons Cross Country Skis
Did you catch the blatant cross country skiing on the streets of New York City on the first episode of the sixth season of Mad Men on AMC? There was a small gathering on New Year’s Eve at advertising exec Don Draper’s apartment and it was snowing outside. A guest, who is a neighbor and a doctor, received a medical emergency call so he and Draper go to the apartment basement to find a pair of wood cross country skis with 3-pin bindings and a pair of ski boots. Mad Men takes place in the late sixties, so wood cross country skis were the newest thing at that time. Draper and the doctor are amidst a discussion comparing a surgeon and an ad-man, which end’s with “People will do anything to alleviate their anxiety.” The doctor then steps outside and puts on the cross country skis in the street and heads off to his emergency in the snow storm. The SPOILER ALERT has Draper with the doctor’s wife in the following scene.
Telemark Lodge Closed
According to a story in the Superior Telegram, the Telemark Lodge in Cable, WI, which is the centerpiece of the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race has closed. The fate of Telemark Lodge now depends on whether a new ownership group is willing to buy the 41-year-old facility. The American Birkebeiner is the preeminent cross country ski race in the United States.
Telemark closed two weeks ago, ostensibly for spring cleaning. Phone and electrical service have been cut. The Telemark Lodge mortgage-holder says the 1,100-acre resort is closed, but is not in foreclosure yet. Talks in the next one to two weeks should determine its future.
Recently he Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible” program visited the 150-room lodge and cited potential but it looks like significant work is needed to bring it back to eminence. The mortgage holder says a buyer would have some upfront expenses the problems are not insurmountable.
Privately Paid Plowing Needed to Open Yellowstone National Park
The LA Times reported that the recent government-ordered “sequester” or mandatory cut of funds threatened snowplowing in Yellowstone National Park. The Chambers of Commerce in Cody and Jackson Hole in WY raised $170,000 from private donations to pay for the state to plow the east and south entrances to the park. Park administrators decided that it was preferable to have a delayed spring opening to the park and rely on natural melting to clear the roads rather than closing any services in the summer.
Vermont Tourism in 2011
A study revealed that there were 14 million trips to Vermont for leisure, business, or personal travel and $1.7 billion spent on tourism in 2011. The state collected $275 million in taxes and fees associated with tourism and related employment in the hospitality and recreation businesses was nearly 38,000.
UVM Nordic Ski Team Aids Adirondack Rescue
In an article in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise it was reported that members of the University of Vermont women’s Nordic ski team joined with a local outfitter and forest rangers to conduct a backcountry rescue of a woman with a serious leg injury on Dix Mountain on March 30th in the Adirondack Mountains west of Route 73 in NY.
The woman was snowshoeing and had injured her ankle. Seven forest rangers responded with a state police helicopter and they parlayed with the UVM ski team, who were on an end-of-the-year outing with the owner of the Mountaineer gear shop in Keene Valley, NY.
The woman’s leg was splinted and stabilized and a makeshift sled was created from ski poles, ski skins, a harness, and rope. The group worked together to get the woman to a landing zone clearing in the area and she was hoisted out of the wilderness on the helicopter. The UVM women’s team had recently taken 3rd place in the NCAA Championships held at Rikert Nordic Center in Middlebury College…but this might have been an unexpected highlight of the season.
My Mountainsmith lumbar pack had a zipper tear so I contacted the company to ask if I could send it back to be repaired. It was suggested that I send a snapshot of the problem and after seeing the problem, the company customer service promptly said that they’d send me a new pack at no charge. Within a week I received a new Mountainsmith lumbar pack accompanied by a letter from the warranty department apologizing for any inconvenience and including a coupon code for 25% discount off of my next Mountainsmith order that is available online at www.Mountainsmith.com. No extra charge for any warranty plan and no strings attached…count me impressed!
National Park Week
The National Parks Week is April 22-26. The entrance fees at all national parks will be waived on these days. There are 398 national parks (133 of them have an entrance fee), so get on out there!
Women Win Team Sprint World Championship
Congratulations to Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins, who won the Women’s Team Sprint World Championship last week in Val di Fiemme, Italy. The racers completed three laps each of a 1.2 km course.
Here’s Kikkan’s own words about the accomplishment at Kikkan-Randall/World-Championship
Winter's Comeback Testimonials at Lapand Lake
The winter has made yet another comeback in the East as evidenced by 3 patrons' testimonials at Lapland Lake XC Ski & Vacation Center in Northville, NY on Feb 19: "Gorgeous, best conditions in my 35 years of xc skiing;" "A phenomenal day!" and "It's time to take a vacation day and enjoy the great conditions!"
KARHU Announces Return to North America
Karhu, a sports brand from Finland founded in 1916, announced that the company is reintroducing Karhu to the North American winter sports market with its Nordic ski and boot collection available for the 2013-14 winter season. The brand had been unavailable in North America for a few years and the distributer will now begin importing the line of skate and classic skis and boots, which are designed, developed and tested in Lahti, Finland. Karhu exhibited at the recent retailer shows and demos and here in the words of xc ski testers (such as smooth, stable, responsive, and easy to ski) are multiple reviews http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T73Xbj8TMnw on Karhu skis at the demo recently held in Colorado at Devil's Thumb Ranch.
Cross Country Downhill Fun to Music
We received this video to music this morning http://vimeo.com/57040530 celebrating the snow and some great runs at White Grass in WV. That's Chip Chase and friends ripping it up on xc skis in the trees and yes, doing telly-copters (360 in the air and then landing it). Who says cross country skiing is boring or too much work? Spend 4 minutes with the video to learn the answer to the question, "Why do we love cross country skiing?"
Events Peer into the Soul of Cross Country Skiing
There were two events in late January where participants experienced what one might consider the soul of cross country skiing. The "NENSA Women’s Day" was the 12th year that the New England Nordic Ski Association has celebrated women xc skiing and this year it was held at Bretton Woods Nordic Center in NH. The "Get Out and Backcountry Festival" was organized by the Catamount Trail Association at Bolton Valley Nordic Center in VT.
The Women’s Day had about 200 female participants with 20 instructors leading group clinics for skiers from first timers to seasoned racers. There was also an equipment demo, waxing advice, a luncheon with a speaker in the Grand Ballroom at the Omni Mt. Washington Hotel, and a raffle with many prizes. Proceeds from the NENSA Women’s Day went to a local women’s support organization. Info and pics at NENSA Women's Day.
The CTA Backcountry Festival was held for the 5th year hosting about 75 participants including instructors (check 6-minute video at Backcountry Festival). The group was split into different levels of instructional classes for beginner to advanced skiers offering telemark lessons and skiing in the trees. There were four retailers offering equipment demos and advice. The group moved indoors for lunchtime seminars about equipment and waxing. After lunch the group divided into tours out on the terrain above the Nordic center and then went back indoors for a slide show, party, and raffle. Info and pics at CTA Facebook.
Nuts & Bolts
I recently stopped by Rikert Nordic Center in the Middlebury, VT area after hearing that a major new snowmaking system was going to be installed. I found Mike Hussey, Rikert’s owner on his knees at the end of a snowmaking pond with wrenches in his hands tightening bolts on a pipeline stretching into the partly frozen pond. The pipe was attached to a submersible pump under the pond ice. The snow guns are in place at Rikert and 5 km of trails in 3 loops are ready to go, but Hussey had been waiting for an electricity hookup at the pond. This will be one of the largest machine-made snow operations in the xc skiing business. The reason that so many xc ski areas do not get into snowmaking is the complexity and labor-intensive nature of the undertaking. As Hussey, who formerly worked for the snowmaking machine company HKD, finished securing the pipeline, he stood up and said, “And that’s the nuts and bolts of it.” Clearly, it was the understatement of the year. Rikert went on get the system operational and to host the NCAA Championships in March.
Later at Whiteface Mountain, near Lake Placid, NY on the same trip, I skied in some excellent machine-made snow and spoke with the general manager about it. The quiet snow fans were mounted up on a swivel boom and they were able to be operated and directed from the pump house. The fans were computerized and each had their own air source to mix with the water that was sent from the pump house located up on the mountain. Amazingly, each of the fans on the lower part of the mountain were able to adjust to temperature and humidity automatically based on a setting made by an individual in the pump house. The snow fan operation is much more energy efficient and substantially less labor-intensive than earlier snowmaking machines. I’m hopeful that xc ski areas will soon be able to parlay such machine-made snow technology to free themselves of the vagaries of the weather.
Methow Valley Sport Trails in WA Great for Kids
The Methow Valley Sport Trails Association has a 200 km trail network around Winthrop, WA and it recently announced one of the most liberal age policies in the country offering a free trail pass to kids 17 and under. Free trail fee policies for children are usually for younger kids, but the MVSTA staff says that they see it as a way to make it easy for families with young or teenaged children to decide to come and xc ski. There is also a terrain park for kids at the Town Trailhead and three 1 km loops that have illustrated story book pages on panels displayed along select trails.
Fat Bikes Welcomed in the Methow Valley
The Methow Valley Sports Trails Association (MVSTA) in Winthrop, WA is opening selected cross country ski trails to fat bikes in 4 different locations among the organization’s 120 miles of groomed trails. Fat bikes
are specially-made with ultra-wide tires that can be run at very low pressure to allow the bicycles to roll over soft, slippery snow-covered trails. Many cross country skiers are also mountain bikers so fat bikes provide an opportunity to combine these interests during the winter months in the eastern Washington mecca for cross country skiing.
This is a pilot program to give people another way to play in Methow Valley’s dry, sunny, cold, snowy climate. In the right conditions, the fat bike tire tracks stay on top of the snow with less impact than a pair of skis.
A trail pass is required for snow bikes on the trails at the Rendezvous, Town Trailhead, and Sun Mountain locations but not for Big Valley area.
Fat bike rentals are available at Methow Cycle & Sport in Winthrop and Demo Days are scheduled for December 16 and January 13. There are trail ethics involved with fat biking with regard to sharing the trails with
other trail users and being a good trail citizen. If a rider has to get off the bike and push or carry it or the bike is leaving a rut on the trail deeper than an inch, then the snow is too soft and he or she must get off the trail.
Sweets and Snowshoes
How sweet it is at Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont with the “Sweets and Snowshoes” trek every Wednesday night from 7-9 PM. Start at the Smuggler’s Notch Nordic Center and take a 30-40 minute snowshoe hike through the woods to a pavilion with a campfire. There’s a Vermont beverage waiting for you upon arrival in a keepsake mug of Lake Champlain Chocolates hot cocoa and/or Green Mountain Coffee Roasters coffee. Then sink your teeth in a selection of three desserts from a local eatery known for homemade specialties. The program is geared to folks who are aged 18 or older and parents can take advantage of the Kids’ Night Out program to watch the kids while Mom and Dad go snowshoeing. Reservations are required 977-264-9744.
Trapp Family Lodge Announces Backcountry Access
Trapp Family Lodge has identified 2,500 acres and 40 km of back country terrain for laying tracks on un-groomed snow. The lodge offers a selection of back country equipment along with lessons and guided tours. There is a trail pass $22 for adults, $18 for Seniors and $14 for Juniors. Call in advance for gear rentals. Tuesday 1.5 hour clinics start at 9:30 AM for $30 and Saturdays for 2 hour guided tour for $40. For more info and pics click www.trappfamily.com/activities/backcountry.
Tis the time of year for maple sugaring and many cross country ski resorts that have maple trees get busy tapping trees to collect the sap by hanging metal buckets or running tubing from tree to tree. On cross country skis or snowshoes, they’ll pick up the buckets and deliver them to the sugarhouse to boil off the water and create maple syrup. An example of the sugaring operation at Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, VT has taps on 1,200 maple trees to produce about 300 gallons of syrup each year hosts. They host the Sugar On-Snow Party and the Maple Sugar Snowshoe Tour for people interested in learning about the sugaring process. Check out a cross country ski resort near you to see if they have a sugaring operation.
Carrie Underwood to Play Maria Von Trapp in The Sound of Music on NBC
Carrie Underwood, the winner of five Grammies and multiple other music awards, with sales of 15 million albums and 16 number-one singles, and of course a winner of the American Idol TV show is slated to star as Maria Von Trapp on NBC's live broadcast of the Rodgers & Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music" in the 2013 holiday season. The story of the Von Trapp family's escape from Austria during World War II is famous for songs such as Edelweiss, My Favorite Things, and Do Re Mi. And for cross country ski enthusiasts and fans of Stowe, Vermont, the Trapp Family Lodge is the family legacy and the Sound of Music come to life.
Bring a Friend to Jackson Ski Touring
The Jackson Ski Touring Foundation has recently mailed, emailed, and Facebooked a coupon to about 10,000 people to invite them to "bring a friend" to Jackson XC this winter. This offer is intended to introduce new people to xc skiing. All the new skier has to do is complete the coupon (name and email address), go to Jackson XC in New Hampshire's White Mountains and they will get the Super Saver Ski Package regularly $54 for only $29. The package includes the trail pass, rental equipment, and a lesson. And also new this winter at Jackson XC is the Zoom Zone, a traditional tubing fun park with Zoom Tubes on two special groomed lanes of sliding fun.
Mountain Top Resort Expands Facilities to Host Bigger Events
The Mountain Top Inn & Resort in Chittenden, VT announced that a new facility for special events and weddings is open adjacent to the lodge. "The Barn" as it is called is a post and beam Vermont hardwood construction with vistas of the mountains and panaramas of the lake. It accommodates 150-250 guests in a setting described as rustic elegance with oversized windows and custom chandeliers.
Mountain Top Named Most Pet Friendly Resort in Chittenden, VT was recently named among the most pet-friendly resorts on PawNation.com because it gives your pup a retreat at another level beyond just allowing dogs on the trails. There is a $25 per night fee associated with having your dog accompany you on a cabin vacation, but overnights at Mountain Top provides Fido with a dog bed, a bowl for food and water, and a welcome treat. Your dog is welcome to enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride with you and pet sitters are available if you want to leave your dog in the cabin while you treat yourself to dinner in the restaurant.
In most of these xc ski area dog offerings there is a trail fee for both the skier and the dog. Check the area’s policy because some allow dogs to run loose while others require a leash or harness. There are some resorts that require proof of rabies vaccination.
A full list of 70 xc ski areas that welcome dogs and the amount of dog-designated kilometers within their trail networks are at CCSAA Dog Trails List. Other resorts named as the most pet-friendly included the Lake Placid Lodge in NY, The Little Nell in Aspen, CO, and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Alberta.
Winter Olympics Venue Selected for 2018
The International Olympic Committee selected Pyeongchang, South Korea as the host of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Events will be held in the Alpensia mountains and on the Gangneung coastal area. You may remember that the 2014 Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia near the Black Sea.