Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Eggs Bread and Milk, Part 1

I am from Pennsylvania, and down yonder, winter storms like the one coming here today are "sold" with a bit of dread in news reporting. Quite possibly that keeps you riveted to the news and standing in line at the grocer's getting eggs, bread and milk. Or, if you are like my friends Bob and Damien, you are jumping in your car at 4:30AM to get to the 'Dacks where the mood is much more ecstatic. North Country positively embraces this kind of weather, and Bob and Damien know that major potent powder storms are special events to be played within.

They've arrived just before today's storm with a trunkload of skating skis, BC gear, headlamps and the exuberance of a bunch of kids out of school on a snow day. They're out skating now, the leading edge of the storm has arrived, and I'm going to drag them through the backcountry tonight during the height of the storm!

We are looking to receive 8-16" of new snow over the next 36 hours, and there is such a buzz in all of North Country. This weekend looks to be an awesome opportunity for an epic adventure of your own. Get your trunk packed full of gear, eat lots of eggs, bread and milk and come up and make your own tracks!

I will update you on Bob and Damien's excellent adventure tomorrow, after morning reporting, plowing, shoveling, grooming, lessons, etc. Stay tuned!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

'Thousand Words

Sometimes I am a complex Ski Director of many words.

Sometimes a simple picture says a whole lot more...

What does this picture say to you?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Presidents' Week Cross Country Skiing

Over the weekend Jay and Adam took some nice video of the ski conditions here.

On Wednesday, our new friends Dave Nuding and his buddy Patton serenaded everyone in the dining room with some great playing and singing.

On Saturday, Mindy and I took a ski down to the lake that was a lot of fun. Here are some pics:

Thirteenth Lake

Interesting Tree

Trail signs

Encounter others on the Trail while it snows

 Ready to go

Going to the Lake

Out on the Lake

One Snow white Thirteenth Lake

Back at the Ski Shop

Out on the snowy trail

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

President's Week at GHL after Champagne and Chocolate Valentine's Day

And so we're gearing up for President's week now. We have a variety of events planned for the week. Our trails continue to hold up for skiing and we're optimistic that we'll get some additional snow coming in by the weekend.

Things get kicked off on Friday the 17th with the Adirondack Blue Grass band playing for us from 7 to 9pm.

On Monday the 20th: OTTG Penny Readers 2:00pm to 4:00pm (Family Room) Several actors from our local Our Town Theater Group will read a selection of interesting tales (appropriate for ages 13+).

Wine Tasting – Suhru Wines – 4 – 6 p.m. -- $10 per person. Wine Makers Russell & Susan Hearn will be here to talk about their North Fork Long Island Vineyard, we’ll serve some light hors d’oeuvres and taste the wines. Richard Annis of Martin Scott Wines will also offer a taste of several by-the-bottle offerings from our wine list. Reservations Requested.

Tuesday, February 21st: Milda Burns – 4 – 5 p.m. She'll talk and entertain us with her colorful recollections about the history of the area, going back at least a few years but we can't say exactly how many.

Wednesday, February 22nd: OTTG Penny Readers return 2-4pm

Thursday, February 23rd: Milda Burns – 4 – 5 p.m.

Friday, February 24th: 9:30am Naturalist Judith Harper will lead a trek to William Blake Pond; OTTG Penny Readers 2-4pm; and 6pm to 9pm Singer and Guitarist Jen Gadway will perform at the Lodge.

Saturday, February 25th: Wine TastingSuhru Wines – 4-5 p.m.

Valentine's Day

And we had a wonderful evening at the Lodge on Valentine's day. More than 80 great people celebrated with us for dinner and a number stayed for the night. Here are a few pics taken by Mary Irene Lee with her group of friends from Minerva, NY.

Jack and Judy Vanderwalker

Frank and Carol Herbst and mother Florence

Mary Irene and Robbie

Yours Truly Serenading at the piano

Carol and Florence

 Carl and Shirley Olden

Cliff Welz and Pat Conner

Don and Mindy

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Guest Relations -- From your Ski Director

Winding my way through a moody dripping forest of pines and hardwood in, I'm softly upon the throttle of my trusty orange old-school Skidoo Alpine workhorse snowmobile, watching the Tailings slowly move out of my peripheral vision, taking note of this tree to be cut, that sign to be repainted (OK, so, when we we're getting ready in early December we had part-timer Shannen out repainting signs. During Christmas week Beth Maher showed me a funny photo of a Bobcat Trail sign that Shannen must have been rushing to complete as it now says "Boboat Trail"...), other items and issues to address. Visions of skiers keep coming at me through the mist, memories of the lung scorching training loops I did with my co-worker Adam and friend Reuben are still fresh, the diffuse light sifting through the trees unveiling familiar views and references that I used to gauge time with. I can hear the echoes of your voices laughing, the staccato beat of pole tips striking snow, the legato swoosh of fish-scaled skis rhythmically gliding pleasantly forward in a well laid track. Alas I am not out grooming and greeting passing skiers this time; rather I am pulling down all of our ropes, ribbons and trail markers -- cleaning up and leaving behind no traces of our presence here over the last few months as the woods become relatively still and silent, save for the trickle of melting snow and the whoosh of wind in the treetops. Kind of saying good bye to this season while preparing for the next.

Though this winter's light snowfall and temperatures had been nearly record-setting (and not in a positive way for our Nordic tendencies) this season has been very rich in experiences, and we've tried our hardest to please each an every one of you. One of the greatest joys of the atmosphere at Garnet Hill is the magic that surrounds everyone here being so happily on vacation, whether for a day trip or for an extended visit. The magic of freedom and recreation being the only things on your agenda, the magic of happiness and relaxation and simply sliding around on snow. In the woods. It is a wonderful thing to be so singular of purpose, so open to a world of experience here. Our season pass holders and local folks, regional ski racers and day trippers are all familiar faces, so too are the ones who stay a little longer and those who have been coming repeatedly for years. If you are new to visiting Garnet Hill, your face will soon be familiar, and it is that personal relationship that I relish; chatting with you on the trails and perhaps sharing a technique tip or two, greeting you at Roger's Road bus pick-up with my hot tea in hand and passing out granola bars, or greeting you and your group in the lodge dining room sharing laughs and passing out information or directions while reliving your adventure, plotting your next adventure and generally fueling your stoke about living in the moment. I have taken pictures for you, may have conducted a ski lesson for you, perhaps have even skied at night with you. I've may have seen you out skiing early while I was grooming at first light, or welcomed you in after a fulfilling day out on the trails. I may have waxed your trusty old skis, or mounted brand new ones for you to become one with. Shaking hands, sharing experiences and smiling greetings each time are daily gestures. It is the intimacy of slowing down from busy lives to the tactile elements that uniquely take hold of you here that is the real beauty and deep value of your experience -- that suspension of time held, leaning on your poles and scanning the mountainous horizon upon a frozen 13th Lake on a calm silent blue-sky day, sensations like the cold on your cheeks on a crisp morning, listening to the groaning and crackling of the lake late at night on a moonlit ski adventure, smelling the pines and freshly fallen snow, standing in front of the lodge taking in the view, reveling in the collective uptake of energy that Nordic skiing provides, of taking in whole breaths and holding in the sweet Adirondack goodness just a little longer. It is that experience that we love to be part of, love helping create for you. It enriches us to hear of your adventures, to ski with you a little, to provide you with a lot .

For me personally there is an emotional component to writing this as I have really enjoyed every bit of this season. I have intimately weathered it's trials and tribulations, endlessly squinted at radar searching for snow, waxed skis methodically and waxed poetically about my adventures after a late night in the backcountry. Earlier in the year, sleep deprivation was driven by the crush to get ready for the season -- clearing and re-marking snowshoe trails, endless brush cutting to widen ski trails, splitting wood and just running around like crazy to ensure a smoothly running ski shop while fueled with the anticipation of the coming season and the energy of the transition that we were experiencing with Don at the helm. Later, as the season was in full swing, skiers were all around and the lodge was full, sleeplessness was driven by adventures, joyous eating and clinking of glasses with guests, endlessly playing (I mean working) and striving to make your stay as fun-filled as possible (and making sure, no matter what, that I was up at 6:00am updating the snow report). Putting this all away is as inevitable as the change of seasons. Shaking hands with you as you departed was special, and knowing that we all had great experiences is especially gratifying.

As many of you know I depart for the summer months, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank my ski shop staff for their tremendous efforts all season -- they are awesome. I need to thank lead groomer Dale Monthany -- with his tremendous efforts managing little snow this season's pleasurable ski conditions were made possible (and since the Old Faithful Trail memorializes his father, can I call Dale lil' Old Faithful? Just don't tell him...). I must thank the Lodge staff for their expertise in serving up you guys a great experience and for working in tandem with our ski operation to provide you with a phenomenal package. And for putting up with me. I would really like to thank Don a Mindy for giving me this chance to do what I love and trusting me in their first season of ownership. And finally, I would like to thank all of you for coming and skiing and playing and staying and enjoying a phenomenal Adirondack experience here at Garnet Hill -- it is a truly special place, it's wonder created by it's wilderness setting, our efforts, and your enjoyable energy.

As we transition into spring there is so much more adventure and experience to provide you with this year. Spring, summer and fall each provide their own unique environments and opportunities to enjoy the mountains and the charm of Garnet Hill Lodge. Don and Mindy have some really great plans going forward, and you will be pleased with the changes in store. Adventure is just a short drive away, and your memories and experiences are timeless. I personally look forward to seeing you all again soon -- have a great summer.

(PS: if you would like to keep in touch with me this summer, please feel free to email me here:

Start of the School Race

Framed by the rack

Early winter morning view

Linking tele turns in the PSIA Backcountry Clinic

Not the loaf you want to see ! Damien going nowhere fast...

Night skiing out on the Botheration Pond loop brings you to this massive Adirondack bridge.

Full moon and fire!

Happy Birthday to YOU! We'll happily make you a cake, whatever you passion may be.

Happy Skiday to me! Lovely season passholder Zlata's homeade chocolate log!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Today is our two month anniversary of running the Lodge.  It's a big day for us.  We've done a lot in those 2 months, and we've learned how much more there is to be done.
Here are just some of the things we've done.  Guests may be aware of some but most things are behind the scenes.  They're not in any special order, just the order that they occur to me.

Hired and trained a staff of 30.
Cleaned the premises from top to bottom.
Got the Ski Shop up and running.
Got the grooming equipment and vehicles fixed and ready.
Got all the necessary insurance in place.
Redesigned table settings with new plates, tablecloths, silverware and glasses.
Cleaned out cluttered rooms and closets
Created menus and wine lists
Established staff procedures and standards for service and room cleaning.
Established an accounting system
Obtained a temporary liquor license
Established a long list of suppliers for food, fuel, soda, beer, wine, utilities, repair services.
Established a payroll system
Fixed numerous problems with plumbing, electrical, heating, security and kitchen systems.
Established a credit card processing system
Established a computer network
Fixed broken appliances
Winterized pipes and plumbing
Set up and executed advertising and marketing plans.
Established a music system.
Decorated for Christmas.
Redesigned the dining room layout and flow.
Redecorated porches and dining room

So we're proud of what we've accomplished and our guests have been very happy and complimentary of what we've done, but we know there's still a long way to go.  And I know there are things I've left off the list and there are lots of things we don't know we need to do yet. But in another few months I'll write down another list of things we've accomplished and then a few months after that another list.  And so on...

Hold Outs

Contrary to what many people may think (those seeing grass in their front yards), there is still snow around to ski on, and a good bit of it just so happens to be right here at Garnet Hill. Not bragging, mind you -- this season is definitely not one to brag about. Just fortunate for our location, elevation, and grooming. We are amongst a few North American Nordic ski center hold-outs with still ski-able conditions. And it has been really pleasant with nice snow, even nicer guests and experiences, and the refreshing charm of being in the heart of the Adirondack mountains.
This season has been fun, but it has also been one with frustration on many fronts; grooming carefully to make nice conditions but trying so hard to not lose any precious base, watching weather forecasts and seeing potential snowfall events repeatedly downgrade, watching the warm sunlight which brings warmth and lightness of heart also eat in to our precious ski base. All of these things are so incredibly impacting in the delicate balance of creating and maintaining the ski conditions you expect from us, and weathering the lack of, well, weather.

Through it all, there have been many more great moments. Seeing people enjoying themselves on the trails is great. Skiing and talking with you all, taking photos and shooting video is fun and pleasantly social. Hearing all of their stories on the Roger's Road shuttle is enjoyable. Teaching lessons and witnessing skiers improve moment by moment is incredible, especially since they'll remember the instructional points in every ski thereafter. Watching the future develop in front of our eyes with the regional school racing teams in training and at the race we had is inspiring and fulfilling in so many ways, and a reward to us knowing that they'll grow into better students, citizens and individuals though their intense efforts and team structure.

All of this is possible because you are able to get out on snow, get to ski, get out into the Adirondack wilderness here and get to create your own adventures and make your own tracks. We are lucky to have you visit and lucky to have nice conditions for your enjoyment. We'll hold out for more snow, and it looks like some is indeed coming our way for this weekend. More great skiing and more great adventures to behold. Believe it -- we have snow, we have good skiing, and you'll have a great time. We'll see you out on the trails!

Moose Run Groom

Softening Afternoon Snow -- Bobcat Trail

Taking a break during Skate lessons with expert instructor Adam (in black)

Last ride of the day -- Roger's Road Bus

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ski Race

Yes, at Garnet Hill Lodge
we have snow on the ground

  and buses in the parking lot

 and kids in the Ski Shop

 and kids outside the Ski Shop

who like to cross country ski and compete in races.

Cross Country Ski Race Held at Garnet Hill Lodge - 2/2/12

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Good Bye Friend, Hello Friend

As you may or may not have witnessed on skis, we have been blessed the last couple of weekends with great skiing. Really, I mean really nice mid-winter conditions, grooming and snow surfaces, thanks due to the little snow cycle we were in and our veteran groomer Dale Monthony. Watching the weather, however, we knew some rain was coming and we had done all that we could to prepare and insulate our precious ski-base, including closing the trail system for Wednesday. Sure enough, some precipitation had come in the overnight, raindrops dripped off the roof, rain soaked into our fresh packed powder snow, rain dampened my normally impenetrable spirit (just a little). No such thing as wet powder -- it was wet, plain and simple. Working in the quiet shop, I was encouraged when the local Senior Snowshoe group of about 25 came in for their planned hike. They were unaffected by the weather, and I liked that -- they are a vivacious bunch of kids at heart. They organized and filtered out in groups onto our snowshoe trail system and it became quiet again. Too quiet -- I was glum, in the dumps, I was saying goodbye to the wonderful winter powdery conditions we so thoroughly enjoyed just 24 hours previous, like saying goodbye to a close friend.

Sitting at the computer doing my work, I was intermittently aware of the tap tap tap outside, the relentless quiet drip of water off the roof, steady as a metronome. Though the rain had stopped, it was still warm and snow was melting on the roof panels. My mind and eye were drawn away from the tasks at hand, looking outside throughout the day, doing ski shop-guy kinds of things but wanting to be doing ski-guy kinds of things, lamenting the transformation of all of that nice soft fluffy powder. While working through the tasks of answering emails, ordering products, getting race details set, sanding parking lots and other such things, my mind kept wandering, drifting way off over the ridge just outside the shop walls. Toward the end of the day it was bleak as I lost all concentration. The draw was inescapable -- it was time to go.

At times when my restlessness gets the best of me, I often make haste and head for the hills. As I caved into my desire to ski, I figured the best soft snow would be on the backcountry Botheration Pond loop via William Blake Pond -- it had just been transformed to mashed potato snow, perfectly ripe for my Madshus Epoch backcountry fat skis. Now, being the responsible ski-shop guy that I am, I do my best to preach preparedness and safety to all skiers. Being the restless ski-guy that I am, I just grabbed my trusty backcountry skis and split. No water, no backpack, no headlamp; just jeans and a light in my heart -- just the kind of stuff that makes my friendly Forest Ranger Steve shake his head... I wasn't even sure what time it was, other than that it was time to go.

I had been itching to get into the backcountry for some time now. I've often said that one of the greatest things about our little slice of Adirondack heaven here is our proximity to the wilderness area. Though we do have an exceptional groomed Nordic ski trail system, beyond our facility is yet more opportunity for you for boundless adventure on skis and snowshoes, right from our door! It is a special place to me, and climbing up past William Blake Pond, soft camber skis gripping the wet snow and springing me forward, the feel underfoot was wholly different from my skating skis on our groomed trails. It was soft, it was heavy, it sloshed off the tops of my skis and enveloped the wide baskets of my poles as they sunk through, the canopy of trees overhead welcoming, opening a line of sight as I crested the beaver pond just above William Blake. Skiing back here is uniquely different: singletrack width, dips and rises, obstacles to navigate, different technique and different skis. At it's element, it is sliding around on skis. In the moment, it is the deep flex of the skis through dips and off-cambers, crossing a frozen pond, bounding uphill, slicing through trees downhill milking speed and momentum from the undulations of the ground. Boundless tract, pushing the confines of your abilities and imagination, stretching the apexes of turns and slinking though rock outcrops and decision-making, the smell of pine and snow and moss on trees.

At the intersection for Halfway Brook Trail, I've got to either go for it or turn around. Turn right and I am committed to a nearly 5 mile trail that would bring me out to Old Farm Road intersection ( and still over 2 ski miles away from the shop from there). Turn around and I'll be disappointed that I gave up. The trail to here has had pretty good coverage at this point, except where the pines were thick. Going forward would be more of the same, with less and less light. I take that into consideration and press onward, slinking into a sequence of really fun mellow downhills with nice turns and gentle climbs. I have skied this trail so many times in the dark last season, it's familiar flow and feel like a good friend rediscovered. Though thin of cover and with a little more challenging obstacles, I do my best to remain in control on the technical downhills with good line choice and reactions. One mistake and I'll really know I am out here by myself. A few more technical sections later and I begin to second guess my decision. Atop a scratchy descent with rock features to navigate, I finally decide to pull the plug and turn back. It is getting too late, and the consequences are too high (like missing a fabulous dinner in the Lodge from Chef Andy!). And, after all, I have to maintain control and be safe and responsible (and get back for grooming in the AM).

During my return I stop on the ice on the beaver pond. Clearly the weather is changing. The wind had been picking up the whole time and is now howling, moody low clouds are rushing by. There is an intensity, an urgency to it all. Where I had ascended just an hour ago in just my shirt, I don my jacket and sleet pellets bounce off of the stiff weatherproof fabric. The snow had been minutely changing in feel as well, tightening ever so minutely with the incoming descent in temperature. Standing there watching the trees wave overhead, listening to the wind weave its way through the pines, the world around a constant morphing change in its stillness. I shiver -- time to depart, climb up past the Hooper Mine for a look at the mountains beyond, then complete the loop back to the shop. Winter has so many faces here, so many places to become sweetly lost within, so much to absorb and experience and just be.

Winter temperatures have returned overnight after yesterday's brief warmup, and we're back to work this morning. Dale has been out grooming again since first light, and says the snow is tilling up nicely. Today (Thursday 2/2) we're hosting an invitational High School ski race featuring the regions finest athletes -- lots of action and lots of spectator access. We'll also begin running Roger's Road bus pick-ups this weekend, so you'll get to ski all of our lower terrain with a guiltless ride back, conditions permitting. Please call the shop for details. Through the weekend we are expecting nice temperatures, a little new snow Friday and Sunday, and lots of sun scattered about for your adventure. With winter conditions, expect great skiing and snowshoe trekking conditions and lots of room to spread out upon our extensive ski and snowshoe trail systems. When you're done, sink back into the ski shop fireside couch with a bowl of hot chili or soup, or complete your Adirondack adventure with a fireside dinner in the Lodge. A few cozy rooms are still available should you want to stick around a while (if so, pack your headlamp for night skiing).

Now, since I've got you primed for backcountry trekking with my little after work adventure, we do have a fine selection of Madshus and Fischer backcountry skis and packages available with pleasant discounts that will get you out there. And back. And we've got the terrain to use them in. You see, the adventure never ends when you are up here. Yes it is sliding around on snow on skis, but it is something much more than that. It is the light in your heart it produces -- that feeling that you belong here, the lift in energy and elation upon snow as your skis glide forward. Make your own tracks, create your own adventure!

By the way, Dale did see his shadow this morning, so I have assured him of many more weeks of grooming...

The Tailings -- which way do you want to go?

Forest Reveal at the Beaver Pond

Moody skies on the way back, winter pushing back in.

South rim of the Hooper Mine.