Monday, April 27, 2020

Geezer Skier Hall of Fame

     I suffer from interrupted sleep which is both disturbing but sometimes useful.  Ideas will pop into my head during my wakeful periods. One morning I got the inspiration that  we should have a Geezer Skier Hall of Fame.   There ought to be some kind of national recognition for the geezers who have contributed to the sport of skiing over their retirement years.    Perhaps the age for eligibility for this Hall could start at 65 or when we decide to take Social
Security.   Beyond longevity,  criteria for induction into this hall should have some achievements.   What should they be?
      To get some ideas for criteria I did some research on a number of Hall of
Fames.  I looked at the following sports.
      There were multiple aspects of eligibility and criteria for the inductees.   The selection processes were quite variable as well.     Eligibility almost always had an age factor,  a minimum amount of participation, and some levels of achievement supported by stats.   How the criteria factors were judged certainly did vary.   As many of you may know the Baseball Hall of Fame selections are dominated by the Baseball Writers Association of America.   Their votes over the years must reach a certain level of endorsement to accomplish induction.   It is interesting that Golf lays out very specific qualification details, even naming the number and type of events that must be won to get into consideration.     I like the  International Tennis Hall of Fame criteria for eligibility.  They provide for automatic eligibility for the stars who have won multiple majors and they provide opportunity for the lower echelon who have been the road warriors contributing to the sport over a long time.  In closing on this research I have a few words about the Skiing Hall of Fame.  Actually it is a Hall of Fame for snowsports; not just skiiing.    Anyone can submit a nomination form with appropriate supporting materials.  Of course selection will be dependent on the highest levels of achievement on both a  national and international level. 
      In conclusion I should not fail to point out that all the halls require exemplary character beyond athleticism  they excelled in.   For your own edification I suggest you do your own research.
     Now back to the matter of a Geezer Skiers Hall of Fame.  Maybe we should partner with 70+  Ski Club and piggy back on their network.   Meanwhile I challenge you readers to come up with suggestions of criteria and process.  Beyond a minimum age for induction here are a few ideas for criteria.
1.  Having skied at least 10 years after retirement.
2.  Having skied a number of days that exceeds your age for 5 years in a row.
3.  Having placed in the top ten nationally in the NASTAR competition.
4.  Having won at least one Master's race in retirement.
5.  Having served on the Ski Patrol for 5 years past age 70.
    This has been fun to write during my lock down.  Lookin forward to comments on criteria and the selection process.  Stay well everyone.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Rhythms and Routines

   I think it is the very nature of humans to enjoy life with rhythms and routines.  After all we have the circadian rhythm built in to regulate our wake and sleeping hours.   Disruption of our routines can be unsettling.  Here I am today continuing to adjust to the end of ski season transition from one routine to another.  And on top of that with the pandemic I am isolating myself from my usual off season volunteering activities.
      During the ski season I enjoy six days a week on  ski slope.  I awake with thoughts of  preparations for the day.  Breakfast is  followed by loading my warmed ski boots into my bag along with my coffee break fritter.   Also, I make sure I am using the last bit of heat yesterday's hand warmers taken from the sealed plastic bag in the freezer.  Yes, I grew up being frugal  from  living with my depression era parents on a farm.  The daily routing requires checking the weather conditions and selecting the appropriate number of layers.   The ten minute ride to the slope is sweetened with either Sirius musical oldies or Morning Edition on NPR.  Arrival is planned to be by 9:00 AM or earlier to be sure to be one of the first on the lift a half hour later. Locker room banter with fellow geezer skiers is a bonus.
     The morning skiing is appropriately interrupted with a coffee break.  Breaks can last from 15 to 45 minutes depending on where the geezer stories lead.   By noon or so, many of us are ready to head home for our lunch and  afternoon naps.  On the really good days we continue into the afternoon.
   After arriving home in the early afternoon, I have a number or tasks to fill my day.   One task upon arriving home is to record my ski data for the day.   Time of departure and return, weather conditions, ski conditions and number of runs get written on my calendar.   This year I have been using an iPhone App Ski Tracks to record more information which includes speed,  feet vertical and other aspects of the day.   In the afternoon , reading the paper, crossword puzzle solving  and napping are satisfying.   Our evenings are filled with some favorite TV programs, conversation and reading.  From all this you are probably bored by my illustrations so here are some other thoughts. 
       After the abrupt end of the ski season and the conditions of the pandemic, I have struggled to find rhythm and routine.   I think this is especially true now that we have to practice social distancing to prevent contracting a lethal infection.  As we well know the geezers are a vulnerable group.   My current routine aims at avoiding potentially infectious agents.    Fortunately, I am finding an alternative routine to fill my day with at least some meaningful activity both physical and mental.  An hour on a recumbent stationary bike is helpful to get the blood flowing and on good day a 10 to 20 mile ride on an E-bike gets me into the fresh air.   Crossword puzzles stimulate my brain and there is an ample supply of books to read.   Needless to say, a lot of chores around the house are getting done.   Somewhere I read that it takes 21 days to form a new habit or shed an old one.  I think that concept applies to getting used to a new routine.   However, now 38 days into the transition I feel like I just beginning to get the hang of it.
      On the slopes one of the greatest joys is getting into a rhythm of well executed turns while dancing down the mountain.  Perhaps that is a model for the new days we are experiencing.   We need to find a sweet spot of activities and connections that feeds our soul and enhances the appreciation of the passing days, weeks, months and years. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Reliving the Past Ski Season

    I am somewhat obsessed with keeping records of my ski adventures over each season.  In this pandemic time I have had plenty of time to review the past season.  It relieves the boredom and brings back both good and bad memories of the 87 days on the slopes this year.
   Each season I maintain a daily diary entering the following data.
1.  Snow conditions.
2.  Low and high temperatures for the day.
3.  Weather conditions. 
4.  Time of departure from home and return to home.
5.  Number of runs.
6.  Any unusual events for the day.
This year I also have been using the app Ski Tracks.  With the app I have a record of number of runs,  number of vertical feet skied,  speeds on each run,  and a map showing that will show my runs from beginning to end  as well as the miles travelled.   It even keeps track of the length of my coffee breaks.   I can virtually go back and have a guide to my memory of any ski day.
    Over the last few days I have created a spreadsheet compiling my data in a format giving me an complete overview of the season.  Here is a summary.

87 Total Days
31 Days of sun with 10 being Blue Bird Days.
6 Rain Days
The remaining days had varying levels of cloud cover and snow.
Runs -  Total of 940 - Average of 10.8 per day, ranging from 1 to 22.
Vertical - Total of 660,843 feet 
 Average of 7596 feet per day, ranging from 541 to 15,774 feet.
High temperature of the days ranged from 9 to 63 °F  -Average 33.8 °F
Low temperature of the days ranged from 7 tp 51 °F  -  Average 27.9 °F

     I also have my own interpretive record of the slope conditions.  Most days had some level of grooming.  The dominant surface condition was groomed but firm surface.  We had too many days of one form or another of ugly.   Ugly included frozen and rough to sticky goo to mashed potatoes.   Regrettably there were 17 days that I would class as ugly conditions.    In retrospect, in spite of the massive effort by the area to make snow, we had to deal with a warmer than normal season.   Note that we never had temperatures below zero and only four days with lows in single digits. Amazingly 55 of the 87 day had a high temperature at or above freezing!
     If you have read this far, you are probably feeling like this is too much information.  That what happens when your blogger has too much time on his hands.   Tomorrow is my 85th birthday so indulge me with this rant.
     Finally I must say the numbers are only a part of the seasons story.  The daily gathering of the Tough Old Geezer Skiers at Greek Peak was a great social event for all of us.  Countless stories were told and numerous complaints were voiced.  The camaraderie of our group is priceless and can't be quantified.
      I am looking forward to next season both for the both the ski adventures and the socialization the goes with it.  May we all survive this Covid-19 pandemic and live to enjoy freedom from this curse.
     Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Levels-Breaking Through

    When you can't sleep what do you do?   I have had interrupted sleep for over 20 years so I have learned to adapt by think about things I might write about when I have my awake intervals.   Last night I began to think about levels as they relate to achievement in all kinds of activities.    Most of us are familiar with going through various levels of achievement when learning something new as well a struggling with breaking through to higher levels after we have practiced our skills for a long time.  In my shelter in place isolation after the abrupt closure of the ski area there is  time to reflect on a lot of things.
     Here are some of my thoughts on breaking through to a higher level in some of the activities I have participated in.    ( I just now finished practicing playing my clarinet.  The instrument has languished in my closet for too many years.  I never did become an accomplished player but did enjoy my days playing in my high school band even making to first clarinet.  I guess the competition wasn't that great in my small school!   To say the least I am really rusty.   Fortunately my wife is tolerant of my squeaks and squawks as I hone my skills.  The maximum level I hope to break through to is smooth enough to amuse myself.)
    At the finish of the ski season on this past Monday I had a great day skiing at a high intermediate level.  At least I thought that was the case.  My buddies will have to verify that.  I have always aspired to ski at a higher level, but have now reached an age where the body does not have the reaction time to tackle the moguls.  I was lured into some easy tree skiing this season but quickly recognized I was pushing the boundary for my own safety. 
     When I retired at age 60 I pursued a life long desire to learn to play the piano.   Our ten year old daughter at the time was taking lessons so I engaged her piano teacher to give me instruction.  We had weekly lessons with exercises to be practiced during the week.   Of course we both started at a very elementary level.   While her progress was amazingly swift, I would take a month to accomplish what she did in a week!   I took lessons for over 6 years but never was able to break through to a very competent level.   No matter how much I practiced I kept hitting a wall.   (The desire to make music on the piano has not left me now some 24 years later).  Even though I know I am not likely to move beyond an elementary level I  recently sat down to work on some simple tunes.     
      This brings me to thinking about tennis.  I has been a life long sport for me and I both enjoy playing and watching the matches.   The pros often talk about breaking through to a new level.   Even the number 1 players will keep striving to up their level of play both in the short term in a match as well in the long term of their career.  Often as the pro rises through the ranks they will speak of moving to a higher level.   Breaking through doesn't always happy and staying the high level inevitably fails.   Thus I conclude that working hard to improve is a laudable trait, but at some point one has to face reality!   Do your best,  make sacrifices that are healthy and then for your mental health accept your fate.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Geezer Skiers 10th Anniversary Lunch - 2020

      Our self identified Tough Old Geezer Skiers celebrated our 10th anniversary with a lunch this past Wednesday at the Trax Restaurant of Greek Peak Ski Resort.  Traditionally we have had a near end of season gathering to reflect on the season, enjoy food and drink, swap stories and speculate on what going to happen next season.   At our tenth we had a dozen in attendance.  A few regulars were missing.  At least on due to the corona virus issues.  Yes, we are the vulnerable group in this world pandemic.
    To spice things up,  I administered the following quiz.   There were ten ballots that I was able to collect.
(Circle True or False, or fill in the blank)

1.     I have fallen at least once this ski season.                                        True    False
2.     I started skiing at what age _____________.
3.     What Geezer Skier do you think has been skiing for the most years? ____________
4.    At least one of my grandchildren is a skier.                              True     False
5.    _____________ probably has the most days of skiing this year.
6.    I have had a joint replacement.                                                      True      False
7.    My biggest ski fantasy is __________________.
8.      I have had no surgeries.                                                              True       False
9.    What Greek Peak Staff person would you elect MVP this year?
      10.   How many former geezer skiers can you name?  

We shared our responses while waiting for our food and enjoyed hearing the different responses to the open ended questions as well as the numerical tabulations for the true-false questions. 
Question 1.   70% percent had fallen at least once this season.
Question 2.  The age of starting skiing ranged f rom 4 to 72.  However the most dominant age for starting was late 20's to early 30's.

Question 3.  I know that Allen B. probably took the cake since he started shortly after WWII and is now 92 but hung it up this year.  Numerous others were mentioned where many of them have been skiing over 50 years and still going.

Question 4.  50% have at least one grandchild on the slopes.

Question 5.  Among our group I have had the most ski days this year.   As of yesterday 85.   Among our group over 40 days of skiing  is common.

Question 6.   Only 2 of the 10 have had a joint replacement.  Nice statistic.  However I know of at least one not in attendance that has had a hip replacement.  And note that all with these replacements are regular skiers.

Question 7.  This was dream time.  Some were looking to ski to 90+.   Those that had not skied some of the big mountains would like to ski Vail, Stowe etc.   We have one young geezer who really loves tree skiing.   Many yearn for endless days of powder skiing.   My fantasy is to be able to  go helicopter skiing in untracked powder of British Columbia.

Question 8.   90% of us have had at least one surgery.   I don't know who the lone soul that hasn't had a surgery.  But God bless him for being so fortunate.

Question 9.  Over many years we have made a plaque award to Greek Peak staff whom we most appreciate.  No physical award this year but several people were identified as providing  outstanding service from cleaning to lift loading to management.  We like to encourage excellence at our home ski area.

Question 10.   This was memory time for all those that have passed on to the moguls in the sky or have simply aged out of the sport they loved.   We miss those friends with whom wet spent many companionable days on the slopes along with coffee breaks and lunches.  If we were to compile a list of these bygone skiers it would likely add up to 30 to 40 individuals.   This is a reminder we need to recruit the next generation of Tough Old Geezer Skiers.

      We had our cake at the end of the lunch and we were happy to share a piece with a young lad of 5 or so who happened by our table in company of his mother.  She was pleased to take a picture of the cake to share with her parents or maybe grandparents who  were skiers in the geezer category.  A delight to know that there a youngsters out there who will some day remember in their geezerhood a bunch of old guys having fun on the slopes.
     It looks like we are done for the season.  Much too early to suit me, but we will scatter to our off season activities and look forward to gathering again on the slopes in November!   May global warming begin to be mitigated!   
Great Tasting Marble Cake

A Line Up of the Crew

Cutting the Cake - Doing the Honors

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

I Want a Handicap!

   Over the last year or so I have become connected with a website  They have an interesting weekly news postings focused on issues for the over 50 skiers.   The articles range from weather to equipment to history to accident and safety issues.  In addition they also have recognition of skiers who ski more days than their age.  For the 2018-2019 season I met that standard and was a recipient of their Trail Master Badge.  Like a Boy Scout, I have tried to attach it to my jacket but haven't yet found the right glue.
    As one might expect the criteria to get the badge becomes harder and harder as one gathers the years.  At age 84 this season I am on schedule to make the required number of ski days tomorrow if I can tolerate the ugly conditions at my local ski slope.   However, in the coming years it is going to be a challenge to meet the award criteria.   In the sport of golf handicaps are awarded, so why not give those of us over eighty a handicap of adding some days from previous seasons when we were younger?   I have kept of the days I ski for the last 22 years.  For almost all of those years my ski days far  exceeded  my age.   Some year in the future I plan to use those banked days when I simply don't have the get up and go to ski something like 90 days!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Do We Ever Learn?

   One would think if you have lived into your 80's you would have learned to avoid perilous situations.  However, when it comes to skiing, I still have a lot to learn.   My avid pursuit of skiing sometimes overwhelms my common sense.  I wonder if that is true for other geezer skiers?  Probably many of them have more sense than I do.
    Case in point is my ski adventure today.  I have been wanting to go to a change of venue at Toggenburg Ski Area in lieu of my usual day at Greek Peak.   Over night we had a snowfall of several inches of fairly wet stuff.  In my stupidity I thought that it would be skiable.  Several of my companions decided to bow out of the excursion so the intrepid Tim was the youngster that joined me. 
   After donning boots and gearing up we headed up the slope.  Although the snow was wet the skis were not sticking.  However,  this geezer  immediately became tentative and  I  found I was having a tough time turning even though I really had the right skis for the conditions.   Unfortunately I really didn't have it and had an early but mild crash.   Tim helped me unlatch the boots and I was able to collect myself enough to get down the slope.  A one and done day.
      I hope I have learned enough of a lesson from today to know when fold them and avoid going beyond my capability.    I should be thankful, that I can still participate in the sport at my age.    But I still have some of that  20 year old invincibility that drives me to do foolish things.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Ski Lift Evacuation- The Unexpected Experience

    A few days ago I wrote a piece about taking things for granted after we had a water shut down in our home.  In that blog I mentioned how we take for granted that the ski lift is going to get us to the top again and again without a hitch.  Wow!  Would you believe a few days later I experienced my first lift failure in over 50 years on the slopes.  Today I was stranded with two companions in my chair on the lift for over an hour until we were safely and efficiently evacuated by the Greek Peak staff and Ski Patrol.  When the lift stopped and then began to freewheel backward, I did have a moment of gut wrenching panic.  Thankfully the safety brake kicked in and we were brought to a halt.  Friend Tim and wife Anne were near the top and noted it was apparent quick action by the lift attendant that brought things to a safe halt.
    The photos below give you a sense of what happened as during the evacuation.  Kudos to the staff and Ski Patrol at Greek Peak for rapid response and a calm and effective guidance for all of use as we were lowered to the slope.  For the younger riders it was fortunate there were companions that helped them with the evacuation procedure.  When I landed, I challenged the rescuers find anyone on the lift that was older than my 84 years.  I have yet to hear!
      I could not have had a better set of companions on our chair.  We swapped stories and generally developed a unique collegial relationship.   For three people who had never met before, it was delightful endorsement of the collegiality of skiers as a rule.  There is a unique bonding that takes place when you are mutually facing and crisis or emergency.  Dianne and Graham are pictured below.  Dianne who was the brave first one to be lowered, photographed both Graham and me. 
        We were provided with a shuttle for transport to the lodge. However, Graham has driven to the bottom of the lift, so he kindly transported Dianne and me back to headquarters.   We bid adieu and I enjoyed coffee and warm up with friends Tim and Anne.   Thanks to  texting Tim and I were in communication during our ordeal!
       Not problem for finding inspiration for writing this blog!
Youngster Lowered Ahead of Us

Dianne and Graham

Me Midair Shortly After Launch

Approaching Landing

Successful Landing

Monday, February 3, 2020

Taking Things for Granted

     We were shocked recently to have a failure of our municipal water system.  All of of a sudden there was no water flow and our neighbors were exchanging panic calls wondering what was going on.  Our outage was about the time we were preparing dinner so anything you handle in food prep would normally require some hand washing.   Oh how much we take for granted the delivery of water, gas and electricity.  It was a reminder how much we are blessed with the reliability of these systems.
     This got me to thinking about the things I take for granted in my skiing life.   For one thing, I expect to safely ski everyday without any minor or major catastrophe.  However, this past Friday I had the unexpected crash on a slope that I have skied a thousand times.   The crash was precipitated by glue like snow under a leaking snow maker!   This year we have had a plethora of snow makers operating on open slopes.    We know that these areas can be treacherous and  we have our antennas tuned to avoiding gotchas!  Perhaps we get too complacent thinking we have all under control.   Too much taking it for granted that we will always succeed.
    You can be sure that skiers take for granted that the lifts will operated safely and reliably.    This means not only delivering us to the top without a hitch, but also loading and unloading us without issues.  However taking this for granted has given some of use a rude awakening this season.    My companions have experienced or observed some disturbing incidents this season.   One was loaded on a chair where the seat was an open hole.   Another's granddaughter was launched on a chair without a companion.   And of course, two of my companions became tangled with a third person and crashed into the bushes.
      We often take for granted we are not too vulnerable in the sport of skiing.   For the geezer crowd we are at an age where we are not so adept at dealing with the unexpected.   We should be thankful that we continue to function and plan for the day when we will have to transition to another activity.   We must face the fact that one day we no longer will be taking it for granted we will be whisking down the slopes like the days of our youth.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

On Being a Disciplined Blogger

    I have been remiss for the last few weeks about writing this blog.  Probably there are at least two reasons that has happened.  One is that the ski season is in full throttle and six days a week on the slopes soaks up my energy and time.  The second reason is that I am not convinced I have a significant number of regular followers who think I have something to say.  However, I was surprised to hear from Pat (one of my ski buddies) that he regularly logs into my blog looking for something new.   Well, Pat, here it is! 
    For the rest of my readership, I also want to muse about being a disciplined writer/blogger.    Since this blogger is aimed at geezer skiers I strive to write something that is relevant to that demographic.  This takes time, thought and getting inspiration for a topic.  This takes  discipline.   One has to work at it to be a good writer, just as one has to work at being a good skier.  Part of discipline is to do something in that venue every day.  Guilty on the writing front lately.  On the skiing front, Pat keeps all our group on target to steadily maintain if not improve our skiing.  He is a man with frequent tips and analyses and shared Facebook posts of skiing videos.  Oh, that I could as disciplined about seeking out tips and advice on writing.
    Seeking improvement in a skill does require daily attention.   And practice makes perfect or if not perfect, better.  Another aspect of practicing your discipline is to explore new opportunities.   We all need refreshed perspectives.   Yesterday many of our group trekked to Elk Mountain (Pennsylvania) for another skiing experience.  A delightful day for all at a resort catering to our generation with outstanding grooming and facilities.   What a welcome change of pace.
     As an end note I would say to become a better disciplined writer, one has to read a lot to get unique perspectives.  Our current geezer group has Tim leading the pack to get us to read a number of books of varying genre.   That in itself if a discipline.   Finally, I have always been taken with the writings of Garrison Keillor.   I am now reading  his Writer's Almanac daily.   I find inspiration in the poems and the stories of current and deceased authors and poets.  I know that I am not a writer in those leagues, but it is nice to dream.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Random Thoughts on a Rainy Day

My local slopes are losing snow!
A proliferation of signs saying thin and bare spots.
Angst over missing a day of skiing.
Anticipating more snow next week.

Useful activities for the day?
Not 12th night, but outside decorations need to come down.
Recumbent bike exercise substitutes for skiing! Yes it is done!
Write my blog!

Reflections on 2019.
A healthy year!
Losses and gains.   But gains outweigh the losses.
Swift passing of time.  Where did the year go?

Accomplishments of 2019.
Finished my memoirs entitled From Farm to Academia.
Hiked in15 New York State Parks. 
By Spring 2019 I finished 90 ski days.

Looking forward for 2020.
Visit more parks, ride more miles on our new e-bikes
Celebrate more with family and friends and welcome another grandchild.
Ski more days than my age by the end of ski season.