Thursday, November 30, 2006

Will we ever learn?

I am one of those people that cant learn enough about where they live, and when I say that I mean specifically WHERE I live. I am constantly confronted by things around here because I am outside everyday and cant ignore some of the physical history of those who went before me. So I dig and I learn and I grimace...... These pictures are both from the neigborhood that I live in now, literally. The state park actually is starting to look like the "before" picture but the rest of the forest never recovered to that point and has actually changed to mainly birch and low brush. On my mountian bike ride I routinely run into super huge old stumps that could be actual old growth cut.

We like to think that we are different than the society of industrialism but we aren't. I look at pictures of this area where I now live (Carlton County, the heart of once was one of the biggest Pineries in the world) and I see Narnia. I see endless forests of huge White Pines and minimal underbrush, I see shots of a world so beautiful that it might have been computer generated, but alas it was not and by the early 1900's it was literally gone, cut down to a tree. They thought it would give forever and yet even when they realized it would not, they just kept cutting until it was gone and even now the Forest industry laments the fact that they are losing jobs and that they are slowing down, 100 years later. Yet I need to use lumber to build my sauna, how do we lament and learn and change?

So what did we learn? I argue nothing. I am seeing development, the second plague on nature in my world, recutting and re-deforestation (is that a word?) and now not even leaving stumps but leaving pavement. Again, instead of a standing tall and looking ahead we are just keeping our heads down and plowing forward until we run into the next person and exclaim surprise that we have run out of space.......

When I look deeper I see the American Indian and I cant fathom the sorrow they have felt and must still feel, because when I lose even one mile of singletrack to a new ugly housing development I can barely stand it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Brian Olsen Olympic skier

I was looking through some old pictures the other day doing some cleaning and ran into the photo of Brian waxing his skis in the Rossignol Nordic Racing Team room in the old Rossignol building in Burlington, VT. It made me smile. One of the last few years I lived in VT I had to rent an apartment and did not know anybody that had a spare room at the time so I threw myself to the wind and grabbed an old house with three rooms, one person was there already, a cool girl, me and then we had to advertise for another roomate. About two days later we had Brian show up. Totally random. He said he was a skier, he also said he was from Duluth, MN. No shit huh, so I did the quick interview and realized that he was the real deal.

Man was he young (19)! We had a killer winter and it was fun to watch Brian get faster and gain confidence. The best part though was that while he was training and racing I was working at Rossignol with Jim Fredericks and also going to Film school so my schedule allowed me to ski pretty hard that winter and a good winter it was. Some nights we would both come home carrying ski bags and wet, wearing the days skiing on our backs and we would both discuss the days skiing, his shooting guns and gliding on the white velvet carpet that is world class grooming, and me shredding pow at Stowe or ski touring in the White Mountains. I think he was always curious and once the race season was over I was flattered when he asked if I would take him on a tour and teach him some backcountry skills. We ended up doing the Bolton to Trapps tour on really light gear, waxless race skis basically. Brian took a beating but by the end of the tour he had already figured it out and it was fun to watch his athleticism. He ended up getting hooked, I mean really hooked. He took ownership of the skis I lent him and used them all over the country and as I met Margaret and moved on with life, Brian kept his nose to the grind stone training like a banshee all the time, eating right and living the dream. Little did I know but he also kept skiing on those skis, eventually he made the Torino Team. After the games I spoke with him at the Summer OR show and he told me that he had actually brought those old skis to the Olympics and would warm up on them off trail, running through the woods, making tele turns while all the other athletes got all pumped and pysched out dealing with each other on the warm up trail. This image is funny as those skis were easy 25 year old Rossi tempo's that I found at thrift store for 5 bucks. Must have looked awesome in that world where everything is so polished and promoted for the world. Nice Work Brian. Brian is currently racing the World Cup in Europe. You can check him out at

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lake Superior Outdoor Film Festival going on this Weekend in Duluth

Hey Check out the film fest at the DECC this weekend. It is being put on by Fluid Groove Productions which is Cliff Langley and buds. Last year this event brought in a couple hundred people for the one night showing, cash bar and band. I have to applaud Cliff for really getting out and stumping and getting people excited, plus producing a fim for that showing itself. Cliff is also going to show my film Switch To Receive and another 4 minute clip that I did on nordic skiing in Duluth last winter, basically a fun clip on crust cruising and tele turning on skate skis (going as light as it gets!) in the some really open and mature White Pine Forests here near my house.
In addition there will be films on bike touring to the Arctic Circle, whitewater paddling here in the midwest (shot on blog is from one movie, shot just down the street from here, Kite skiing and boarding, skiing itself and much much more. So check it out!
Doors open at 6.30pm movies start at 7 I think. Details at.....

Best SKI BOOK #7: The Best Ski Touring In America

So some books are worth collecting because they are old, or unique or by famous authors. This book I feel is worth owning not because it is old, it was published in 1987, or because Steve Barnett is famous (perhaps in our world and to a few purists like us he is) but because I feel it is unique. Steve Barnett is one of the few founding fathers of our sport that I have not had the pleasure to meet. I can say however that through his books I have discovered one thing. He is by far one of the most passionate skiers I have ever come by. His first book "Cross Country Downhill" (a book I will review here at some point) was perhaps the foundation of the how to tele books during the resurrection of the sport in the early 1970's. That book oozes ski passion, down to funky inventive devices for skiing better in harder terrain. Anytime you see a guy making new gear to accommodate a need he is seeing you know that he is affected. In "The Best Ski Touring" book he takes it step further. This book is extensive in its scope. He starts with a solid chapter on what defines a "classic ski tour" and it is not what you might think. It starts with a these headers.

1.) Maximum scenic value.
2.) Maximum skiing value: "The route should have a mix of different types of skiing: downhill through open country, downhill with tight maneuvering, cross country on rolling country, and cross country on a scenic trail."
3.) Safety.
4.) Access.

I love the fact that Safety and access are the last on the list. In other words, I am going, it might not be safe or easy to get to but damn the torpedoes I am going! This is also a unique book in the fact that it starts with tours in the Midwest as it opening chapter. That is really crazy. Steve Barnett lives in the Northwest, has access to the most unbelievable skiing in the world and yet he took the time to ski and document some of the more fun and classic ski tours in the upper-Midwest. As a Nordic and backcountry skier who grew up here in the Midwest I was laughing like crazy when I read where he had gone. I had always loved those tours and felt that I have had as much fun on those routes as anywhere but would never admit because I would just get a blank stare from any mountain dweller. This is case in point for my comment that Steve Barnett is indeed a very passionate skier, he can ski ANYWHERE and understand that the value is in the skiing, no matter where it is. Certainly there are different experiences and I would not recommend skiing here all the time but kudos to Steve for coming and looking. His routes go to the east, to Quebec, VT, New York and to West Virginia (no doubt influenced by Chip at Whitegrass!) and then on to a host of grand tours out west.
The other reason that this book is so unique to me is that there is this cryptic autograph from Steve on page 217 about the Three Sisters wilderness. It says "GET A JOB" and is signed over a picture he took of a person skinning up the mountain. I assume the autograph is his but maybe not, and who is the guy? I love looking at it and trying to imagine what relationship is involved there and who and why it was signed. I found the book on State Street in Madison, WI.
Anyway a fun read.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Best SKI BOOK #6: Skiers Paradise, the 100 best ski runs in North America

I bet that Morton Lund and Bob Laurie had a great time writing this book. It was published in 1967 and highlights the 100 best ski runs in North America (at that time!...let it be said things may have changed since then). I love this book because it is an oversized volume with some classic old school ski photos. On top of that it lends at least 36 of the top 100 ski runs to eastern ski resorts, and maybe 15 of those to VT. Being a hard core eastern skier this makes my heart feel good. There are some great shots of "Upper Nose Dive" at Stowe (that being the giant ski jump looking thing right behind the stone hut) groomed and in use. These days Upper Nose Dive is hikers only and only if you want a good couple of powder turns. There are also plenty of shots of resorts that are no longer with us and it gives a good idea of what those resorts were like before they went bankrupt.
I found this book at an antique dealer when I was doing a solo canoe trip down the Wisconsin River last year. I was paddling town to town and camping on the river at night. Good trip, one evening after a beer at the pub I stopped in at this dealers place, saw the book then suffered keeping it dry for a couple more days on the river. Made for fun reading though.....

Sauna campaign number Three

Since the weather has been so damn good (bad if you are a skier) we decided to take on the framing of the sauna, something that was sort of up in the air due to the fact that it is November in MN. Framing anything is pretty simple, only once again we had to frame, around and on a large fin of living stone. With that said the initial part went easy but then we spent a day tweaking anchors into the stone and creating tight enough sills to seal out the weather but also flat and square enough to frame. Of course, the Gus kicked it in the ass and we had some killer results....

Turkey Day bike ride

So as is the tradition here in Thomson, MN we had the annual Turkey swat bike ride. It is usually a mis-matched group and this year was no exception. We had The Gus, The Marg, Dagger Dave and me. The weather was outstanding. Sunny and 50 degrees and the trails were nice and dry. Best crash went to Gus who is still learning the ins and outs (literally) of his new clipless pedals, although Margaret was a close second. Best off the couch went to Dave who has ridded maybe twice all year but still kept the pace, plus rode all the Gnar.
Upon returning we sat down to a 21lb organically raised Turkey that was raised by the Fischer-Merritt farm a stones throw down the road, actually all the food came from there as we have a winter share with them and get a truck load of veggies every month from them!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wendy gets a new boat EH!

This is Wendy Killoran picking up her new GTS a few weeks ago. Wendy circumnavigated Prince Edward Island, 600km (375 miles) in just 15 days. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it. On top of that she also started a 2,700 mile four month assault on a circumnavigation of Newfoundland as well. She used a GTS in both those expeditions but we decided that a newer even more bombproof model might be just the thing for a high mileage person like Wendy. This boat is layed up in both the expedition lay-up (extra beefy with more kev layers, more glass and more tough weave) and it is also layed up with all bulkheads glassed in plus a glass outside seam as well. Despite the beefy layup the boat weighs in at a mere 51 lbs. So if Wendy needed a tool to go out and do more long fast tours she has it now! If you want to know more look her up at Canoecopia this year where she will be a key note speaker...

Sauna campaign number two

So after a few people have requested to see some photos of the second round of Sauna work, I have decided to put them up. A slow process for sure. Adding the rock wall to the project has really made things difficult but fun in the same breath. The morning that my dad showed up I was lamenting not getting in a strength workout after my morning run. That soon changed once I had the big sledge in my hand and was wailing away at the rock!!!! By the time we poured the cement and had vicory beers both my father and I were pretty damn tired!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Yellowstone is looking good

My buddy sent me this picture from West Yellowstone the other day. This week is the famous Thanksgiving training camp at the Rendesvouz trail system. It is basically the long slow meeting of the best nordic skiers in the USA getting together, cranking out a crap load of KM's and basically having a great time together. I went to this event for 10 years running when I worked in the Ski industry and can say, good for all that they have awesome snow and awesome people and I hope that they have a killer week!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

CORE: What are you going to look like at 50?

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.
Oh by the way this guy is like 60 and harder than you, paddling is a killer life long deal so try it..........

My father showed up in the gloom of a typical November morning during stick season here in Northern Minnesota. We live close enough to Lake Superior that we get the fog that is created when either the lake is warmer in temp and the air is cooler or visa versa. So sometimes it is gloomy enough that you feel like your swimming through the air. In any case we saw a decent window to pour the upper sill footings for the Sauna. Yikes did we push hard on that baby, more sledghammering, lifting and fighting with that rock than I care to admit. But in the end we endured enough to create a perfect set of footings to tie the roof into and to also tie the walls into. Pictures to follow but right now it is enough to say that we won and now we are set up for an early winter framing that might take place as early as the Thanksgiving weekend.

Gus and I just returned from a nice couple hours of MTB riding in the state park. Deer season is in full swing and it is awesome out- running bullets in the deep woods, we just hook on those fake horns and start kicking ass! Just kidding, we just wear orange and ride really loud..... actually still kidding, in realiy the state park becomes a haven for big bucks and addicted singletrack riders this time of year since it is officially closed to hunting of all kinds. This is a big deal for people like me. In fact I need to really say it like I mean it. A state park (or national as well if you are that lucky) is one of the biggest perks of picking a place to live if you ask me. It is really state sponsored recreation and I had never really given thought to the social benefit that it really gives to us. I literally use it everyday. Whether it is riding, both road and mountaiin, trail running, swimming, skiing, skating, rollerskiing, fishing, whitewater paddling, hiking or just plain hanging out at the volleyball courts or picnic areas. I also love the fact that at the mulitple trailheads there are bathrooms and water fountains. You can go on the mac daddy rides without woryying about getting water or of dealing with the inevitable grumpy you get hit with at about 2, 3 hours of riding! No doubt going in the woods is no problem but hey when you got a 1930's CCC stone loo to use why the heck not?

Late season riding is fun in the fact that it is a totally different surface and now we have a bit of snow on the frozen singletrack, so it is fast and firm yet slippery at the same time, power carves are a gas because the rear tire just swings around slick. After years of working in the outdoor industry I have a good collection of comfy winter riding wear as well so it is not a problem staying warm. Sometimes my feet get cold and splurging on some good warm clipless shoes is going to have to happen soon because the riding is to good to miss right now, at least until the snow comes.
Anyway, keep checking the blog, I will have more book reports, more pictures of the sauna construction and daily reports on local skiing once it happens.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

BEST SKI BOOK #5: The High Country Illuminator

Ok so far we have looked at history books, how to books and books that are all of those and more. The book High Country Illumitnator by Daniel Ford is a book of fiction. It was written in 1971 and is basically a stream of thought book that is more Hunter S. Thompson than anything else! I am not by any means saying that this is a GOOD book, I am saying however that it is an interesting book. It is about a ski bum called the "High Country Illuminator" that arrives in "avalon"(Ski area in CO) and tries to get a job, get laid, party, ski and eventually becomes a protester against " The corporations that run the resorts, that exploit these light hearted kids who could care less as long as the skiing holds out. The High Country Illuminator made the scene and was responsible for the the Winter of the Great Ski Bum Rebellion."
There is really no reason to read this book other than the fact that it is a funny, funny book that happens to be about skiing in the early 1970's. Not sure why most of my books gravitate towards that time period, but I think it is because I can relate to my parents skiing then and also because it was a peak of the sport as far as popularity. Actually as far as these books are concerned I am a fair weather book collector at best and dont pretend to have a library worth reading, I do come to find some fun ones from time to time and if they are priced right I pick them up and like to pass them around. So if you enjor reading random stuff on skiing stay tuned.

ELI by Jay Beyer

This was to good a photo to pass up. Jay, you need to send this to Patagonia for sure........ Check out Jays other great photos on his web site
A former D-town boy gone west.

Monday, November 13, 2006

BEST SKI BOOKS #4 Nine Thousand Years of Skis: Norwegian Wood to French Plastic

So first off, thanks to the people who made comments on the last couple of books. Being the un-tech savvy guy that I am, I am not sure how to reply to the comments straight off the blog site so if you want me to reply leave your email address. In any case I did want to reply to Poppy and say I had the same thought about those three guys skiing together at this point. Higgins, Alan and Ned. I was fortunate to have met all three of those guys at one point, but really spent a bunch of time with Higgins and I think of him often, so it is a warm feeling to think of them cruising along in heaven on a fast pair of trad skis, the kick wax just right......
So anyway book number four. So where the heck do I get terms like the Hvam Saf-ski binding? Or The Marcus Ericksen Laminated ski? OR better yet the Berger "Satan" edge? I get them from this really esoteric, geeky book called Nine Thousand Years of Skis. By Ted Bays. It is an older book, written in 1980 but is really the a book that lays down the technical foundation of skis, their history in ancient times and also their history in fabrication from wood to modern techniques. Interestingly it is published by the National Ski Hall of Fame Press in Ispeming, MI. A cool place to visit if you ever happen to find yourself in the UP.
If you are really, really interested in why your swanky new pair of K2's has such a sweet flex this is the place to start. It goes through it all from materials to constructions to ski style and why those flex patterns emerged, to bindings to ethnic reasons for certain bindings or where historical skis were found. It is endless, but keep in mind it is very, very dry if you are not truly interested in the tech of skis and skiing. It is very different than say The Cook Book and ski book in that realm in the fact that the cook book and ski book is good at explaining why a ski works and then stops there, this book goes into tangents, co-efficients and densities. Read this book and I guarantee that you will no more that most ski designers that I have worked with over the years! You can still buy it from the National Ski Hall of Fame.
Of special note is chapter 7 "Making your Own Wooden Skis" It makes it look easy!

Friday, November 10, 2006

BEST SKI BOOKS #3 The Call of the Mountains

This is a core backcountry book from 1953. It is written by Colin Wyatt and published by Beechurt Press in New York. I really love this book because everytime I pick up a recent book or issue of Powder Magazine I see all these "Firsts". Well the reality is that people of our ilk have been exploring good ski places since the sport of skiing began.
The chapters of this book blow me away, remember these guys had to be skiing pre-1953 and just after a major world war.

1.) The snows of Africa
2.) Crossing the High Atlas.
3.) Across Lapland to the North Cape.
4.) Albania
5.) Canadian Rockies
6.) Skiing the Volcanoes of Maor-land.
7.) The New Zealand Alps.
8.) The Alps.
9.) Australia

Certainly my buddies at Backcountry have heard of skiing or skied at most of these places. Albania is new to me, I am not really even sure where the country of Moari Land is but it looks to be part of Tasmania or perhaps the North Island of New Zealand. In any case the book has these striking black and white plates that show not only mountains I have never seen before but also mountains that will never look the same again. Mountains before global warming, before snowless warm spells and before disapearing glaciers. The chapter on skiing the High Atlas is also really striking. I have heard often that the skiing there is killer from Mike Hattrup as he guided there a few times. I had also heard that skiing in Iran was kick ass, well in either case skiing in the land of Isalm has to be fraught with some danger due to our recent exploits in Iraq so I dont see myself going there anytime soon so a bit of armchair skiing is ok with me and this book gives it to me. Check out the plate,that is the High Atlas hmmmmmmmmmm. Sorry my scan jobs are so bad, I have a cheesy scanner and this book is a huge oversized thing.
In keeping with the theme of the sport of backcountry though, I have to once again parrallel (no pun intended) this book with the last two. As this is all knee jerk on my part, I realize that this book should have gone first as it is earlier. It is a period when the sport of skiing was just that. Skiing. The gear is free healed, but nobody knows that yet. The idea of releasable bindings is in everbodys minds but the Hvam Saf-ski binding was just being invented in 1952 so the idea of fixing the heel was just staring to happen. So this book gives us a clear snap shot of backcountry skiing before the split comes, when the sport was singular and not fractured and factioned.
I found this book again in MN. I was in a used book store in Stillwater, MN when I saw four really eclectic older books on skiing. I looked at the front plate and realized that all of them were from the same person, a doctor in St. Paul. He had a killer library at one time and I like to imagine that he was from the same family of skiers that I am, only an early version and I hope that he had a great time on the snow and in the mountains before his books ended up in a used book store. In any case he would be happy to know that they are being coveted by another lover of the high alpine.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

BEST SKI BOOKS #2: The Cross Country Ski, Cook, Look and Pleasure Book; and welcome to the Alice in snowpeople land.

This is by far my most favorite ski book. In fact it might be the coolest book that I have ever seen in general. It is by Hal Painter. I have looked up Hal on Google a few times but have not been able to find anything else out about him at all. I can say this, the guy is a great visionary when it comes to writing a book on the culture of skiing, both on how to learn it, how to enjoy it and how to explain the people and the mind sets in it. He does it through Haiku poems, graphic design, straight forward information and some crazy humor as well.
Consider some of the chapter headings.
1.) Ski like the Cucumber-and leave the driving to the Jock in The Box.
2.) In the Beginning the gods wore skis.
3.)Keeping in shape like boiled asparagus.
4.)Snow freaks and the magic Himalayans with the gift of organic internal combustion.
It just goes on and on. Hal points out some pretty interesting things way ahead of his time. Things like going away from motors and gas guzzling machines. Things like fitness and health, love of nature and just plain having free wheeling fun and adventure. This is certainly a book derived from California, and Berkeley specifically in the early 1970's. It is fun to look at the books Hot Dog skier and Alice and Snowpeople land side by side because you can see where the two schools of skiing are starting to split. The Nordic crowd is starting to flee to the backcountry and the alpine crowd is going to the areas and to more big air, hard partying and the general public is joining them. So maybe that is how I see this book and also why I like it so much. It is truly a book that defines and captures the fringe that Nordic skiing is and always will be no matter how heavy the gear.
This is a book that makes me better understand my friends like John Dostal, John Higgins, Dicky Hall, Alan Moats, Poppy Gall, Todd Eastman, Kim Miller and their past friends like Ned Gillette and Alan Bard. In fact a very young Ned Gillette is in it! It is a glimpse of the sport at perhaps its purest and in its infancy. Incredibly there are copies kicking around in places as mainstream as Amazon so it must have been in pretty solid circulation in the 1970's. I was lucky to find my copy at a used book store in Duluth, MN but ironically it came from the out of circulation bin from the Berkeley Enviornmental studies library! The last person to check it out was in 1976.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

BEST SKI BOOKS #1 Bob "Boogie" Mann

These photos are priceless. They are in the book Hot Dog Skiing by Bob himself. The book is totally worth reading as it gives a great snap shot of the freestyle revolution in the early 1970's. In fact it is even written in the vernacular of the day. Here is a tasty one describing the first mogul event he ever participated in
"The air was filled with Marijuana. It looked like a heavy scene. Everybody looked stoned out, going berserk. People were doing things that they never did before and never would do again. The crowd- five thousand people, was lined up four deep down the run, people hanging from the chair lifts, people in the trees."
Bob is the inventor of the "slow dog noodle" a revered and often tried freestyle move that we will never remember. In any case, this is a must have book for the hard core ski library and I would recommend buying it if you see it. Oh yeah, I am not sure but I think Bob stores his wax in his front pocket, or maybe.....dude!!!!!

RETRO PHOTO #1: The feet of Jumping Joe Taatjes after an 8 hour 100 degree Mountain Bike ride in Duluth.

Monday, November 06, 2006

This could be the saddest and stupidest thing I have ever seen.

Keep in mind before you read this that it takes all of 15 minutes to get from lift top to the runs that these slackers are skiing. Any person that pays to do this should be laughed off the mountain then run over with a Piston Bully 160 in renovator mode. Oh yeah and then shot.....
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Over 100 acres of inbounds backcountry terrain has been added to the Porcupine Mountains - accessed by Snowcat!
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Sondre Norheims final resting place is in North Dakota

Most people who are really into Telemark and backcountry skiing know who Sondre Norheim is. He is the guy that was born in Morgedal, Norway in the Telemark valley and he is the guy that developed the famed telemark turn (yes it is a turn, NOT a sport). Sondre is deified in our sport as the start, the mind, the prophet and the just basically the MAN. Very few people however know where Sondre ended up. We all know the basic history as to the developement of the turn, the ski, the binding and the eventual turn technique which really was more about landing then turning, it took others to start linking them and take them down steeper slopes. In any case once the turn is established we forget about the man. Well, it turns out that Sondre came to America and even more specifically to the MN territory along with the other myriad of Scandanavian immigrants in the mid 1800's. He homesteaded a farm in what later turned out to be Minot, ND and actually passed away before his family could actually obtain ownership of the land. Sondre kept skiing to the end however and inspired a whole generation of Nordic skiers that eventually defined skiing as we know it here in the USA.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Alan Moats, killing it on Starr in VT

Who else would have the perfect angulation going on about 6 inches of early season snow? Look closely you can see the scrub pushing up through the edges, thats delicate stuff but Alan is just crushing it!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Check out the Duluth Music scene starting with The Snakes and LOW

The Duluth Music scene has really taken off in the last few years. Bands like the Black Eyed Snakes, LOW, Crew Jones, Trampled by Turtles, Boy Girl Boy Girl have been playing venues regularly and are not only a gas to watch but have some world class music as well. Al Sparhawk and Mimi Parker have the label and promote some of the better music around so check it out.