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Ski Bumming 2012: The Winter Scenes

On Snow, Skiing Techniques, Mountain Photography, and Mountain Top Temples

overcast 24 °F

Winter.

I have been reunited with winter, and I must say I am enjoying myself. Winter has a beauty all its own.
I was raised in the wintry wilds of northern Michigan. Where I grew up, a long winter was a fact of life, and not something to be taken lightly. In my mind, it isn’t winter if it isn’t snowing. Snow is a remarkable substance that has increased man’s vocabulary by thousands of words. Everyone I meet seems to have their own vernacular for describing it. “It is: sticky, silky, powdery, creamy, chunky, chalky, grainy, and fluffy, to name a few. The Eskimos have over 2500 words to describe it. I like to simplify, and I like to think of it as, “beautiful.”
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At times, an odd transformation happens to a skier when they have seen and partaken in twelve inches of fresh powder on skiable mountain slopes. They immediately transform into a snow snob. From that point on, nothing else is good enough. I was with such a gentleman just the other week. We were skiing a few runs together, and he had nothing good to say about the snow though he used a dozen words to describe its poor condition. I thought it was just fine, and maybe a little more work than perfect, but certainly nothing to complain about.

Skiers are connoisseurs of snow. After all, it is our medium to create, to carve, shape, and slice into physical artistic beauty. We love to create perfect lines of arcs down mountain slopes. The symmetry is beautiful. I like to add my own artistic design to my lines. Usually about half way down the slope I like to put a man shaped divot into the snow. These impressions can take on a variety of shapes, often with legs and arms akimbo and the head shape of a bearded man planted firmly in the snow.
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One can tell where I’ve skied by following the arc from the top of the mountain. First, you’ll see a nice symmetrical arc winding its way down the mountain. The arcs will become a bit less symmetrical, a bit more chaotic, as if someone had gained a lot of speed and seemed to have a bee stuck in his coat. Perhaps you will see the two lines of ski tracks suddenly disappear into one. Then, a small pine tree will be completely devoid of any snow whatsoever, even though every other tree around it is covered in snow. Soon after this tree, you will see another man shaped divot pounded into the snow. This is followed by a floating blue cloud of muttered obscenities hanging near the scene. To ski through one of these clouds is an eerie experience, whispered voices proclaiming annoyance of “bad form” and “stupid pine tree.“ More nice parallel arcs follow the cloud. I’ve got my own style, you might say.

I am reminded of Homer Simpson who was skiing and takes twelve pine trees to the groin, yelling the whole way down. Then at the bottom, giggles, and jumps back onto the chair lift while calling the liftie a “sucker“.

Among “Average Joe” skiers, I’m a good skier. I can handle double black diamonds, though it may not be pretty. Sometimes it is, but not as often as I’d like. Among elite skiers, I am piss poor. I can admire the form of a skier who really knows how to ski. Like most things I know how to do, I taught myself. I’ve never had any lessons, and it shows at times. I have gotten a few tips along the way, and those have been very helpful, but my bad habits often impede my improvement.
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I don’t mind challenging myself. I love steep, skinny lines through glades in powder. I’m happy inventing my own lines on the sides of runs, through trees, and anywhere that catches my eye. I use the chairlift as a reconnaissance, and try to decide what line I want to run on my way up. More often then not, I’ll change my mind and take a different route.

I grew tired of not being able to take my camera up on the hill. As you know, I love taking photos, and it was killing me not to have my camera with me up in the mountains. To remedy this, I bought a small point and shoot that slips easily into the pocket of my jacket. It has worked well, and I’ve enjoyed bringing some of the wonderful mountain views home with me to share with you.

The following are views from this week.

GREEN LICHEN
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FROSTED SILVER PINES
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LONGBOARDING IN WINTER
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There isn’t as much snow down in the valley, and I took advantage of a dry afternoon to go longboarding on the Trail of the Coeur D’Alene. Three minutes after I took this picture, it started snowing. I guess if you want it to snow, one should go longboarding.

SNOW COVERED PINES OF WARDNER PEAK
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MY COMMUTE
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It's two blocks.

NO. 2 CHAIRLIFT IN CLEARING SKIES
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PINES AND SHADOWS
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The chairlift offers a unique perspective of the world, humming away high above the tops of some of the pines.

HOAR FROST CHAINS
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I found these delicate chains of hoar frost well off of the beaten path. They were so very fragile and quite beautiful. It is a masterpiece of natural sculpture.

PINE BOW HIGHLIGHTED IN HOAR FROST
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This photo reminds of me Chinese Art for some reason.

SILVER MOUNTAIN WONDERLAND
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My Playground.

MY MOUNTAIN TOP TEMPLE
These pictures were taken in a small copse of pines on top of Wardner Peak. I love the fact that to get here one has to hike over 300 yards up a steep winding path that is whipped by a fresh west wind and stinging snow. In a moment of inspiration, I hiked through knee-deep snow to sit quietly and admire these pines that sat silently in the deep snow. It was dark in the pines, and I contemplated this magnificent mountain temple of pine trees. I grabbed a handful of snow, and ate some of it. I realized I hadn’t eaten snow in a long time, and I smiled in spite of myself.
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After awhile, I grew chilled from sitting in the snow, and hiked back up to where I had left my skis. I snapped in, and launched myself down an untracked line of eight inches of powder. Half way down I started laughing. Winter is wonderful.

Posted by Rhombus 17:02 Archived in USA Tagged mountains trees snow winter skiing photography idaho Comments (0)

The First Week of Ski Bumming 2012

Back on Skis, A Month of Ski Bumming, Mountain Grandeur

semi-overcast 32 °F

February 5th 2012- Excerpt From My Journal
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“First takes on the mountain.. My commute is two blocks.. I can walk everywhere from my house. On the mountain, I step into my skis, and snap in. I hear the sizzle of my edges catching on the corrugation of groom... My body acts on its own, and I'm planting the pole, arcing easily into the next turn. I haven't lost much in 2 years... A beautiful azure sky, that only the west produces, there's the crisp white of snow, and here I am... I love it when a plan comes together…”

This plan HAS come together nicely. Over the course of the next month, I’m going to expound on the finer points of being a ski bum. Every day has its own rhythm to it, and as I look out over the northern Idaho mountain ranges stretching to the horizon, I think to myself what a beautiful place I have landed.
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I have rented out the basement of a furnished house here in Kellogg, ID. My landlady is very sweet, and loves to ski as much as I do. It’s a block away from the grocery store, and two blocks away from the gondola, which takes me up to the mountain. “Location, location, location…”

Some of you might remember my last skiing adventures from two years ago, when I was living in a small cabin on side of the gulch in Wardner. So far, the biggest difference between 2 years ago, and today, is that there is much more snow this year. I’m told last year was an epic year for snowfall, but my life’s journey had me chasing other adventures.
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After working on the ship for the last year and a half, I need a break from eighty hour weeks, and being handcuffed to the clock. Last fall, I began formulating another plan to come to Idaho, to veg out, to ski, to relax for awhile in a place I could temporarily call my own. I'm enjoying cooking my own meals, reading books, and spinning the globe on my coffee table. I'm waiting for the day when I become inspired, and ready to plan and execute my next adventure. It hasn’t happened yet, but it will, and when it does, it will be a very good day indeed.
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Feb 9th
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Today was probably the most beautiful day I have ever skied. The mountain was shrouded in hanging clouds. While riding the chairlift through this thick cloud, I looked out and saw a lone pine tree standing tall, it’s branches covered in a fine coating of snow. Beyond it, was nothing. There were no landforms visible beyond it, and this simplicity of landscape was beautiful. A quiet beauty.
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Suddenly, a break in the cloud appeared and I could see the top of the mountain, a halo of blue sky above it, and muted sunshine breaking through to highlight the upper trees. The tall pine trees coated in thin snow, stood silent, and comfortable. Lin Yutang compares old pine trees on a mountainside to that of old men. “Like old men, the pines understand everything, but it doesn’t talk and therein lies mystery and grandeur.“

To me they are silent, beautiful, gnarled, and strong. Happy enough to sit through the years, keeping a quiet repose, and good company to those who venture out to enjoy them.
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The mountains of northern Idaho are old mountains; they seem to have been pounded down into the earth by some giant hammer. When I reached the top of the mountain, I stopped to look at the distant purple mountains. They were surrounded by horizontal streams of light to dark gray clouds. The spectrum of color was amazing with purple, gray, dark gray, white, pale blue and green in long bands from earth to sky.
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In this magical mountain landscape, I put my skis to use. In the night, two inches of soft powder had fallen, giving the mountain fresh snow to soften the tracks of the past week. I explored the mountain, and found the conditions fantastic. Some of the runs felt like I was gliding on silk, and I laughed aloud when my heart burst in happiness at the simple pleasures of using gravity to ride down this wonderful mountain on two shaped boards.

The Ski Bumming 2012 Project is off to a good start.

"Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” ~ William Blake

Posted by Rhombus 14:36 Archived in USA Tagged mountains trees snow skiing photography idaho Comments (1)

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