Saturday, November 24, 2012

Getting Into the Flow State

Flow State is Warren Miller's latest ski flick.  His 63rd, to be exact.  As part of Bretton Woods' Homecoming Weekend, we joined a lodge full of enthusiasts for a viewing last night.  What is it about a Warren Miller show that keep even people like me, who don't watch many movies, coming back for more year after year?

The winning formula seems pretty simple: bring some world-class skiers and riders to the most exotic snow destinations on the planet, and let them show off their super-human alpine moves.  Throw in some epic powder, and a few grand-scale crashes just to show how fallible even the most experienced skiers and riders are.  Much of the footage, of course, is taken from helicopters, where the cameraman can take us along on this grand adventure with a close-up of the skier launching him or herself off the lip of a monumental couloir, then zoom out to see how very steep and high this terrain is.  I can feel the nervous anticipation before she takes off, and then the exhilaration of arcing those perfect turns all the way to the bottom.

The skiers and riders are Olympians and pioneers of the sport, the superstars of the snow world, but their stories make me feel, at least for a little while, like that dream skier life isn't so far from reality.  Each interview with an athlete tells us his or her story, and themes of  love of the mountains, love of snow, and love of being outside emerge again and again.  The camaraderie of the sport, the passion we all share, makes me feel as though those monumental runs down epic slopes aren't that far out of reach - I can certainly identify with that rush of adrenaline, that feeling of being "in the zone" when all the conditions are just perfect, when the sun is shining and the snow is soft and abundant, and all the pistons are firing at once to make for that idyllic run: heart pounding, breathing hard and legs burning, but thrilled at the rush of floating down the mountain.   The sentiment "everything else falls away when I'm skiing" is echoed time and again.

This year's film also showcased some young rippers, two 11-year old boys who convinced their parents to let them skip school on a powder day. Although my snow bunnies aren't quite old enough to stay out for a movie premier, I can appreciate the joy these boys felt at doing what they loved, and I was inspired by their passion. They weren't complaining that "there's nothing to do" and they weren't sitting in front of some kind of electronic screen.  Knowing from personal experience that sense of freedom skiing gives me, and seeing kids taking on that passion and making it their own, makes me so excited for the snow days ahead in my little rippers' futures.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

First Turns of the Season

What a wonderful surprise last week when my Facebook feed delivered the news that Bretton Woods would be opening nearly a week earlier than planned - giving us the chance to get on to the snow before the craziness of the holiday week began.  Knowing this would change our weekend plans, I decided that although we were pretty good about keeping all the ski stuff in one place over the summer, I had better make a list and take inventory to make sure all the gear was ready to go on Friday morning.

As I might have guessed, the little skiers had grown quite a bit in the last six months, and everything from snow pants and jackets to mittens to snow boots had suddenly shrunk.  Sleeves were too short and pants looked like capris.  However, I had done some research on sizing and had ordered new snowsuits for the kids, and they were very excited to find some snow to test out their new outfits.  Timmy, who's three, generally falls true to size in a 3T in most brands, but 5-year old Bridget is petite for her age, so I often have to buy a size down for her in pants.  Timmy got a one-piece snowsuit, but for Bridget we went with 4T snow pants and an xxs girls' jacket.

Just in case you're still making that gear list, here's a start:

  • skis
  • boots
  • poles (for adults)
  • helmets
  • mittens
  • ski socks
  • polypro long underwear
  • goggles
  • fleece tops and bottoms
  • ski jacket
  • ski pants
  • snow boots
  • hats
  • neck gaiters
On a relatively warm November weekend when there isn't natural snow on the ground, the snow boots aren't crucial for getting to the lodge, but now is the time to make sure those snow boots will fit when that first snow day hits us by surprise.  

After a stop at the season pass office for new pictures for Bridget and Timmy, we stopped at the Bretton Woods rental shop to check out boot and ski sizing for them.  (For an in-depth look at boot sizing, look here.)  Both kids had gone up TWO sizes, so I was glad we checked the fit.  Erin, the rental shop manager, suggested we stay on their current-length skis for the first few days, until the kids get their ski legs back and those "pizza" and "french fry" stances come back to them once more.

Thanks to some great new snow gun addtions on Range View, this trail from the top of the Zephyr Quad was the first to open this year.  Unlike recent season-openers, where often the Learning Center was the only terrain open, I was again pleasantly surprised to be able to make the first turns of the year on a longer run.  That personal revelation was tempered a bit, however, when I realized that this would also be the first run available to my eager little learning skiers.  I was pretty confident that Bridget would make it down just fine, after a strong finish last season, but Timmy had just started getting a little adventurous on the Learning Center last year, and  I knew both Range View's pitch and length would be a challenge for him.

My husband and I didn't want to project any of that hesitation on to our kids, so we headed up the Zephyr, knowing that this one run might take some time and that we might have to carry Timmy a bit more than we'd normally like to.  I was again reminded of that constant struggle between wanting to allow them to test their limits and trying not to put them into situations that are hard enough that they become frustrated and stop having fun.  

On the ride up, we talked about making a "pizza" or wedge to slow down, and making lots of arcing "snakeys" down the mountain.  But those first turns can be a little rusty, even for an adult.  Bridget started to whine and get frustrated, and I had to verbalize for her what I already knew: your mind has been thinking about getting back on skis for weeks, but your legs may have forgotten what to do.  We had to stop and slow down, and think about making those big arcs.  By the time we were about half way down the run, she had that grin back on her face and I knew she had her groove back.

Timmy, on the other hand, needed a lot more encouragement - it was a really long run for him.  Matt and I took turns skiing down with him in between our legs, and I think he did appreciate that sliding on snow feeling once again.  Near the bottom, Matt got him to ski towards him, asking Timmy to play "dinosaur," with his arms out in front to keep his weight forward and thinking about moving down the mountain.  I'm eager to see how he progresses this year when we can get on to the Learning Center where he's more comfortable, and get him in to some lessons, too.

Afterwards, the kids enjoyed a little time at the Kinderwoods Playground while Dad and I took turns taking a run of our own.  The sun was shining as I forced some muscle memory out of my quads and took some tentative turns on the forgiving snow.

Of course, we couldn't resist, as Timmy says, "a little lunch at Fabyans" on our first day back for the season.

We are so excited for the coming ski season, and I hope you'll join us on our adventures.  What big plans do you have for making this winter fun?