Sunday, November 17, 2013

Backcountry Touring Ski Comparison Chart 2013-2014

If you ski stuff like this, you may need a new pair every year.
If you did any backcountry skiing in December or January of last year, chances are that you took more core shots than face shots and ruined an edge or two.  It might be time to buy a future pair of rock skis.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Richmond, VA: Buttermilk and The Unpainted Two-By-Four

Remember to yield to this dude if you see him on the trails.

I rounded what I guessed would be the last in a series of switchbacks on my way down a steep embankment to the James River near Richmond, Virginia.  I was already well behind my seat to compensate for the steep downward angle and travelling beyond a comfortable speed.  Ahead of me appeared a wooden ramp structure with one more ninety degree turn.  A single two-by-four was all that stood between my inertia filled body and a ten foot dive onto rocks and pavement below.  As my tires skidded onto the dirt covered wood it was all I could do to keep them from locking.  As I looked ahead at the fast approaching two-by-four, I couldn't help but notice that it was conspicuously fresh looking and unpainted.

I clearly wasn't the first person to test that ramp.

Friday, August 30, 2013

2012 Scott Spark 29 Elite Review

The Scott Spark 29 Elite

As a general rule, it isn't a good idea to chase freeride bikers on a 100mm cross country bike.

It was early on an August Friday morning and I had Burke Mountain to myself.  I had climbed up the CCC Road to the entrance of Lower J-Bar without seeing another soul when I rolled up on four guys getting ready to drop in on the morning's first run.  I was looking decidedly cross country while they looked like they had just stepped out of a game of Halo.  The 100mm of travel on my 2012 Scott Spark 29 Elite was contrasted with the full 5+ inches of coiled suspension that adorned each of their rigs.  We exchanged pleasantries as they adjusted their full face helmets and armor, and with a wave they dove down the trail catching air on the first drops.  I rolled up to the edge of the CCC in my lycra shorts and flimsy powerdry t-shirt, as they hooted and hollered somewhere down the trail below.  I gave them a good ten second head start before launching onto the hard packed dirt below.  Cross country bike or not, I was determined to catch them.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sacandaga Area Trails: The Pine Orchard Odyssey

Brian points home  "Why can't we go that way?"
At some point in your mountain biking career you're going to learn a lesson about snowmobile trails.  Hopefully that lesson won't be in a classroom full of muddy, poison ivy infested swamp ruts with mosquitoes and deer flies.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Weekend on the Sacandaga: Double Rainbows

Hypoxia awaits.
Out of the people that ever were, almost all of them are dead. There are way more dead people, and you're all gonna die and then you're gonna be dead for way longer than you're alive. Like that's mostly what you're ever gonna be. You're just dead people that didn't die yet.  [Louis C.K.: Hilarious, 2011]

Although a bit overly morbid, Louis C.K., has a point.  We're all doing to be dead one day- and for a long time.  So what makes it have any meaning?  [In my best double-rainbow voice] What does it mean?

Don't worry, I'm not about to tell you a parable about footsteps in the sand, or break out baby photos or start crying uncontrollably while you awkwardly check Facebook on your smartphone.

Instead, let me tell just you about a weekend I had earlier this summer.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ellicottville: A Little Magic In Western New York

Make sure to get wide right of that tree.
It was 1999 and the beginning of the playoffs for Lord Stanley's Cup.  I was a marginal Bruins fan, and they were facing my girlfriend's Buffalo Sabres in the early rounds.  We were headed to meet her family for the first time, and I commented on how I could tease her father about the series if Boston played well.

With the most serious of looks on her face, my future wife looked at me and said, "That wouldn't be funny.  Don't do that.  Really.  Don't."

Friday, March 8, 2013

Kingdom Trails Winterbike 2013

Desperate for something to do during our January thaw, I fell head over heels for winter mountain biking. Snowshoe trails had been frozen solid as a rock and bordered two inches of the oldest, hardest snowpack this side of Greenland. Studded tires were a revelation. I was becoming an expert at making lemonade out of yet another miserable ski season. Ascutney, Kingdom Trails, Boston Lot - New England's best trails were mine for the riding.

Fast forward to the first week of March. With daily temps in the 40s all week, my miracle tires were proving to be nothing more than overweight potato mashers. My icy hard single track freeway had turned to instant mashed potatoes. Was the winter bike season dead already?

Although some energy had drained out of our interest in winter biking since learning that the Catamount Trail Association wouldn't appreciate all the free publicity our end-to-end fat bike ride would give the Trail, we still love the idea of biking in any season. It's just going to take some energy from within the cycling community to convince CTA landowners that winter biking is good for the Trail and good for Vermont.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Big Jay Powder Day

Brad, 6:54 am: Take your skins up to Jay. Better get up there and ski for me.

Me, 7:28 am: Can't do it. Overslept. No ski buddy.

Brad, 8:03 am: "No friends on a powder day" means you're still suposed to ski. You know they got 2 feet?

Brad, 11:54 am: So, how is it?

Me, 8:54 pm: Got the only tracks on Big Jay all day. Almost impaled myself on a spruce, ended up in a pit, and avalanched myself off a jump.

Brad, 8:55 pm: Dude. When i told you to take your skins i didn't mean to get yourself killed solo in the bc. 

Me, 8:55 pm: Sorry. You can't reason with 3 feet of powder. If today were the last day I ever skied, at least it would have been the best.

Me, 8:56 pm: Hey, don't tell my wife I hitchhiked. She'd kill me quicker than a spruce pit.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Winter Biking and Powder Skiing in the Kingdom

Fish Fry-days, every Friday during Lent
Friday morning was unusually calm given New England was expecting a major noreaster and upwards of 30 inches of snow through the weekend. As usual, I was up at the crack of dawn to check the forecast and flakes hadn't even started falling here in Rio Blanco. There were two clear choices. A four hour slog south in the skimobile to bomb all 425 feet of vertical and unlimited refills on powder at Mount Southington, Connecticut. Or, wait it out here in Vermont and hope for the best. With major road closures expected in southern New England, and only the most modest/baldest of light truck tires mounted on my HONDA, Connecticut was out. And I like waiting as much as I like a kick in the balls. Somewhere there had to be a better third option. 

The northern tip of so-called 'Winter Storm Nemo' had just entered Vermont, and the snowier southern end was starting to form up off-shore in Southern New Enlgand, leaving massive stretch of clear air along the I-91 corridor all the way to the Northeast Kingdom. This left a narrow window of opportunity to get north in time to catch both the leading and trailing edges of Nemo. Quick action required, the wheels began to turn a I visualized the gearshed that is the back of my Pilot. Skis - check. Boots - check. Helmet(s) - check. Mountain bike? Check.

This Valentine's Day, get that special someone
 something special. Get them carbide studs.
I'd been out all week in Lebanon NH's Boston Lot riding some of the hardest hardpack I've ever seen in New England. Winter fat bike use had left the Lot with 20 miles of icy rock hard snail trail, and studded tires had opened my eyes to the wonders (and horrors) of February mountain biking. The Kingdom Trails Facebook page had been pushing their new winter biking trails pretty hard all week as well. If I could get there by 9, there was a chance to get a good 2 hours of single track in, grab some lunch in town, and snap on the powder skis for an afternoon of freshies at Burke Mountain. 

For some reason, everything we've done in 2013 had gone perfectly, exactly according to plan, or even better than expected. My doubleheader in East Burke was no exception.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Vermont's Catamount Trail on a Fat Bike

I'm not much for point-to-point anything in the outdoors. These kinds of trips require a dedication to planning and logistics that, thanks to my undiagnosed hyper-thyroid and ADHD, I just don't have the time or patience for. This attitude excludes me from a number of fine outdoor sports that others seem to thoroughly enjoy. Sea kayaking (barf), canoeing (great when done from a dock with a beer in hand), pub crawling (inherent danger of never knowing where you might end up, or with whom), and most of all long distance hiking.

Point-to-point sporting enthusiasts have put a lot of work into the trails they've created, and there's no shortage of epic treks to be had here in New England. Vermont's has it's own version of the Appalachian Trail in the 272 mile Long Trail. For epic paddles you can float the Roger's Rangers route up the Richelieu from Lake Champlain to the St. Laurence River. Epic road riding? There's the Harpoon Point-to-Point, or, for the truly insane, the 1200 km Boston-Montreal-Boston Randonee. And with plenty of great through-routes in the Whites, it's not exactly slim pickings for skiers either.

Mountain bikers, on the other hand, have a long day at Kingdom Trails and... the Catamount Trail?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Evening With Google Earth

Magalloway's hot sister. Look at those glades.  Hubba hubba.
The dry weather has us backcountry-repressed here at NEBC.  So we've been trying to scratch our itch by playing around with Google Earth to plan some future trips.  Come see what we've found.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Monarch Crest Trail, Salida, Colorado

It was obvious I didn't learn much in my 8th grade Spanish class after I spent four days in Salida, CO wondering why anyone would name a city "Salad." I guess "Gran Montana," "Rio Blanco" or "Ciudad de Sucio Hippy" seem more appropriate.

I've often tried to find the words to accurately describe the four July days I spent slogging through the Colorado backcountry, riding some of the best single track the Rockies have to offer, including racing Xterra Beaver Creek, DNF'ing the Breckenridge 100, riding remote backcountry segments of the Colorado Trail, and tackling a 40 mile descent of Salida's infamous Monarch Crest Trail.

I think the problem was I was traveling solo and by the time I got home I was so sick of my own thoughts that I couldn't be bothered to try to put pen to paper and share them with anyone else. But enough time has gone by that I can go back to that amazing cold dark place and tell you why I'm dying to go return to CO and do it all again.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Trip Report- Magalloway Mountain, Part II: “The Perfect Day”

It was nine degrees Fahrenheit as we loaded our boots and packs into the cars in the early morning light.  Nine degrees. 

Justin yelled out the “going skiing” checklist that had been written by his mother and taped to his fridge for time immemorial: “Skis, boots, poles, mittens, hat, coat, scarf,….” “LUNCH!” a few of us yelled out to complete the list.  Justin was joking, but Evan exclaimed “Oh sh**!”, and ran back into the house, emerging with his boots.  First disaster averted.

(Read Part I of the Magalloway Adventure Here)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Trip Report- Magalloway Mountain, Part I: "The Dream"

The dull brownish grey of the deer blended seamlessly with the salty sand covered snow bank in the fading light of dusk.  As our truck rounded the corner, the two deer ambled across the center line and into our lane.  Gered slammed on the brakes and slowed just  in time to allow them to leap harmlessly into the woods.  But as we crossed their path I spied a third set of eyes peering over the snow bank with a look that said only, “Hey! Wait for me guys!” Justin was not far behind us with a truck bed full of snowmobile and hurrying to catch up.  I knew what was going to happen next.

To be a lawyer is to be constantly reminded of the axiom, “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.”  Despite our shortcomings, misfortunes and disappointments we continue to dream and sometimes even dare to dream big.  Let me tell you about one of the big ones.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Vote Now: Best Powder - January 2013

Can you spot Noreaster BC in this untouched sheet of cold New England powder? 

Proving once again that all the freshies are in the backcountry. Help us spread the word. 

Vote NoreasterBC for Best Powder - January 2013, New England Backcountry Magazine

View the goods and cast your vote.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Trip Report: Ascutney 12.30.12

Kick turn and a bute!

Senior citizens, while slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose. In the grand scheme of generational greatness, obviously the bar was set pretty high during WW II. Slightly further down that list are pioneers, Vikings, and coming in a close 4th, the extremely badass leather ski boot generation.

These nuts have been strapping on their woodies to careen awkwardly down the neighborhood ski slope longer than most of us have been on shape skis. So pay attention next time you see a streak of blue hair whizz by and cut you off in line for the rope tow. Old people can shred too.

I've been thinking a lot about old people since our last tour to Ascutney, where Brad and I found ourselves strapping up in the West Windsor Town Forest parking lot along with notorious big mountain skier and Alaska aficionado Ben Szekely, and two Elderhostel busses full of crazy grizzled old whitebeards in leather boots and knickers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gear Review: EMS Divergence Pro Jacket

For about a decade, starting in the mid nineties, I lived in a fleece.  It was the most comfortable piece of clothing I owned.  It was big and black and fuzzy.  It fit loosely and made me look about twenty pounds heavier than I was.  (Which at that time was about forty pounds heavier than I am today) As I lounged on the couch in it eating chips and Oreos I was transformed into a giant teddy bear.  A giant, cuddly, adorable, crumb covered teddy bear. You see, the thing that made it so comfortable also made it collect anything and everything within five feet of my face.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Mapless Skier Found, Dead. Locals Fined.

The ski blogosphere exploded this week following news that yet another East Coast big mountain skier had wandered too far from the corduroy and gotten stuck tits-deep in a spruce pit somewhere in resort side-country. In the two week window over Christmas and New Years, Vermont search and rescue crews saved forty five skiers from a hypothermic death by their own design. And, to the dismay of local power hounds and non-skiing taxpayers alike, they were left picking up the bill.

Dick Cheney in blue jeans should pay his own SAR bill some say. Others are proud our SAR guys and gals were there to pull Yankees fans and their fat wallets out, to live and pay to ski another day.

It's a wonder that during this same time period yours truly at Noreaster BC were chided, ridiculed and scolded like schoolchildren for posting detailed maps of our recent trip report from Lincoln Gap (comments about Andy being a Masshole have since been deleted). Critics said we had committed an egregious violation of the sacred blood oath of backcountry secrecy, while our more forward thinking readership complemented us on the service we do, which saves them both time and mental anguish trying to schwak their way to popular top secret BC powder stashes.

I'd like to think that we've done a whole lot more for them though. I'd like to think that those maps, which are absolutely essential to us executing a successful BC tour, might just save your life someday.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Trip Report: The Mohawk Trail Slides

In the early morning hours of August 28, 2011, thousands of cubic yards of earth cut loose from its anchors on the slopes above the Cold River in Savoy, Massachusetts.  The saturated ground, which had already seen four inches of rain in the previous two weeks, gave way as tropical storm Irene dumped another six inches in less than eighteen hours.  The resulting avalanche of dirt, trees and rocks cut three distinct slides down the mountainside, across the road, and into the raging flood waters below.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Santos Trails And the Endless Descent Dream

Turn, pedal, descend, turn, repeat.

Every once in a while you wake up with no clue where you are, what time it is, or how the heck you got there.  Ever since my diaper wearing drill sergeant arrived in August, those moments have been occurring with more frequency than I’d like to admit.  In that split-second, when you’re perched on the precipice between the dream world and reality, both sides seem equally plausible; and equally absurd.  In those moments your brain scrambles to dissect what was the dream and what reality is awaiting you. 

Was the baby crying?  Was I skiing?  Am I in a tent on top of Lafayette?  Am I sleeping in a chair again?

As I sit here writing about my most recent adventure, I feel like I’m sitting on that divide trying to get a grip on reality.  What the heck just happened?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Trip Report: Lincoln Gap 12.28.12

If you're anything like me you'll spend most of your workday this Friday pawing through satellite images, psychoanalyzing canopy density, speculating on tree species and forest age, tracing shadow length and slope grade, and generally looking for the perfect backcountry tour. But before you do, burn this image into your mind. This is what the world's most perfectly spaced hardwood glade looks like. From the ground up.

If, by some stroke of luck, you can actually learn to read the signs and find yourself guessing right and standing some place that looks a little like this, there's a very good chance you will be somewhere in central Vermont, just south of Lincoln Gap Road.