Monday, June 30, 2008

Spirit Mountain Master Plan 2008

Last Wed. I had the opportunity to check out the new Spirit Mountain Master Plan. Spirit Mountain is our local ski area. It entails an Alpine slope with several lifts, a Chalet and some housing. It also has perhaps the sweetest nordic trails in the area as well. Unfortunately the area is run by a tangle of city and federal bureaucracy. I worked there for a season, heading up the nordic center. Never in a lifetime of working in the ski industry had I worked at a place that had more potential for greatness but was more ignored by its management and its leadership. Truly a tragedy, especially since city run organizations should be run for the public and despite the community organization, direct requests and outright anger nothing positive has ever been done for Spirit Mountain Nordic. Well of course I was interested when I went to the unveiling of the master plan last week. I have to say I saw some positive things. I also saw some silly things that are going to cost a lot of money. Buy mainly I saw the same blank stares that I always get when I asked questions about nordic skiing and singletrack riding....
I wish I could truly put into words the atmosphere there, it is a ski area but one that is in Duluth, MN. So it has this sense of skiing heritage but this total ignorance of what is going on in the ski industry as a whole. It still feels like skiing at the country club, like skiing is and especially Alpine skiing is a privileged sport, yet even the people who run the place have no idea what "nordic" skiing is....."Oh you mean regular skiiing"? This same attitude appeared while I was asking about new mountain bike trails. The two people in charge of that kiosk at the event nodded their heads and pointed to the alpine ski tralis said, "yeah there will be mountain bike trails, you can even take the lift to them!"
Anyway, you read the plan you make the call.
OH PS. The ski header I posted is actually the image used for the nordic ski page!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Carlton County Historical Society

The new Carlton County Historical Society blog is up. Annie Dugan of the Free Range Film Festival is the director of the society and she has done a great job of modernizing and organizing the society as a whole. The blog is currently featuring letters from a Norwegian immigrant as he writes home to Norway describing his life in Cloquet, MN in the late 1800's early 1900's.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Alan Sparhawk sighting

Last week I was working away at my desk when the phone rang. It was Al Sparhawk. I could barely hear his voice because as usual there was heavy road noise in the background, he was once again on tour. I did not have to ask about where, he told me. Vermont, and he needed to find a good place to eat and since I had lived there for so long could I give him some beta? I sent him to the Alchemist in Waterbury, VT. He called back and said he loved it. Must be a welcome relief to get some good advice on food while on the road, as I am sure there is plenty of bad food to be had. On another note the new LOW Documentary You May need a Murderer is on Pitchfork right now and is extremely good. The photography is beautiful as is the editing and the flow of the overall film. I thought it did a pretty good job capturing both Al and Mim. Maybe the only thing it really missed was Al's humor, after all Al is certainly not all doom and gloom and his happy funny side is awesome. Who knows, maybe that is what we captured in Cross Country with the Snakes. Oh. As "food eater" has pointed out as well I grabbed this post from Switchblade Comb. Knowing the local Deelooth population has many a great photographer around it might be that Food eater took this shot, not sure who food eater is though so I cant grace the credit...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bike Film Festival dates for Minneapolis

Micky Dodds at the The Ski Hut passed on the dates for the Bike Film Festival in Minneapolis, July 9th through the 12th. I attended this event two years ago and still have to say it was my favorite film festival yet. For those of you who saw the short film "The Ski Boys" by Benny Zenga will be happy to know that he has an 80 minute film in the festival about a four month 12,000 kilometer bike ride across Africa, he and his brother did. Should be killer.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Another big weekend in the "Valley of the Dragons Teeth"

I like to call the area that we live in the "valley of the Dragons teeth" because it is so different than any other area I have seen in Minnesota. Due to the amount of rivers and streams here and also due to the fact that there is almost a 1,000 feet of drop to the Lake Superior Basin, you have these crazy steep and sharp hills. They are layered in small narrow valleys, for miles. What this gives us, unlike many places in Minnesota is a unique mix of possible adventure sports. We have solid whitewater paddling onThe St. Louis River. We also have some killer mountain biking all over the place but especially at Mont Du Lac ski area. So it is only natural that on a late spring weekend you could run into the following events. First there is Paddle Mania going on both at the St. Louis River Outpost and then also a party at Mont Du Lac on Saturday night. Then on top of that, COGGS the cyclists of Gitchee Gumee, are putting on the "Dirtspanker" MTB race, also at Mont Du Lac on Sunday. So if you have a free weekend and you want some adventure, come to the valley of the dragons teeth!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cry me a River.........

Gas at $4.00 a gallon? Soccer Moms and huge SUV's? Motorhomes and gas guzzlers? As a boat rep I have them all beat. I drive 50 plus thousand miles a year, pulling a huge trailer loaded with kayaks and canoes, passing everything but the desiel pump. Desiel has been on average in my territory, between $4.65 and $4.85 depending on where you are. Anytime you are off the main routes, $4.85 is the norm. I have said it many times but now I am seeing it in action. As an industry, paddlesports specifically, we are about as "Green" as the oil industry. Our way of doing business is outmoded and we need to set up a new paradigm, so that we can not only survive financially but also keep pace with the changing environmental movement. Afterall our big selling point is pushing quiet, motor free recreation! This weekend Dave larson and I were both heading to see a dealer in Door County, WI. A long freaking way from Duluth, MN. Ironically, Dave and I are neighbors, literally next door to each other. We both would have driven 16 hours round trip, both solo in our F250's, both pulling 25 foot trailers, loaded to the gills, to the same place and back to the same place again. To his credit Dave who works for Confluence, asked me if we should car pool. We did and I think that the retailer had the same sales, same service and same success he would have had otherwise. I know I felt better about the whole thing. What else can be done in the future, because in heart I feel that this way of doing business, solo reps drivnig huge rigs of demos to sales events, has to change.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Bigfork Weekend

Ahh, the posts are piling up here at home. Despite the raining cold weather I have been cranking with work and also getting outside more than I would have imagined due to the weather. Anyway, a week or so ago the Marg, aka the "wife" aka the "woodtick dodging squirrel" and I headed up to the family cabin near Bigfork, MN. The cabin has been in the family since the late 1920's and holds nearly all of the history of my family on my fathers side. It is like a mini museum. In one room you can find medals my grandfather earned in WW2 and in another the ash trays from his grandfather's pipe smoking days. It is a located in a fairly remote part of Minnesota, in the Chippewa National Forest. The cabin is fortunately near a small intersection where the Scenic Pines Store and Lodge is located so we can head out and resupply without having to drive the 50 or so miles to the nearest store. Infinite adventures can occur at or near the cabin but this time we decided to paddle a section of the Bigfork River. It is a super scenic river with intermitent class one, class two rapids that make it a fun day of flatwater fishing for Muskies and exciting and straightforward whitewater canoeing. Once we were done paddling the 20 or so miles on the river we grabbed our bikes and rode back to our truck for the shuttle, another 20 plus miles. The day was so nice it made your eyes hurt. After the paddle we headed back towards our abode, but stopped by the Scenic State Park, I have never been in the park before so we took our Mountain Bikes and hit the trails. I have to say it was certainly the most scenic state park I have entered in Minnesota, if you have not been here you should pack up and check it out. After our extremely active day we hit the Antler Lodge for a well deserved ice cold beverage.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bridge out in Winona, MN

So just when you think that man is bigger than nature, something happens to humble us. Not that a Bridge failing is a natural disaster or something, but certainly the fact that the river it is crossing is so big that there are no other options for crossing it is........
So that is what is happening here in Winona,MN. I grew up here, have crossed that bridge a million times for both reasonable things (Like my wedding) and things Nefarious (IE, underage drinking). In reality though the failing of that bridge will hamstring the whole region. For me personally on my frequent trips to visit my place of work, Wenonah Canoe, it means an added hour of driving. For many of the employees it means a trip that used to be literally minutes to work will be 70 miles and over an hour of drive time. I know that Jeremy Smith (Accessories Manager at CD), has already set up his canoe commute to beat the drive. The city itself is trying to set up a River Ferry to get people across. For a small town it is certainly a disaster of real proportions. The two closest bridges to Winona, the hub city of the region are 30 miles south and 40 miles north. Not that politics should play into this sort of thing, but hey, any money in MN for bridge work these days???? Why do we have no ability to keep up our infrastructure??
The best part about this whole thing is that when I picked up the Minneapolis paper (the big city paper around here) I saw that the feature photo (also on this blog) is of my old friend Jim (Mudcat) Grant. The veteran and definitive folk singer in town, a classic counter culture, scream at the man dude (that is why I love him) and to see that he was the "cyclist" that just rolled across the bridge is priceless!

Monday, June 02, 2008

I am not crazy

I just watched this video post on one of my favorite blogs Switchblade Comb and I was so excited to see another band making a video based on skiing! Makes me smile to see another art band stepping out and presenting thier music through sport and and especially a sport as whacked out and crazy as skiing! Hell yeah. The band is called Health