Friday, March 30, 2012

Clearing the Way

A little snow falling here this morning on the last day of March.

A lot of the work we will be doing this spring will involve clearing overgrown areas of the woods around the Log House.  Both Mindy and I are determined to make the nearby areas of the Lodge accessible for easy walking with many interesting and relaxing points of interest that guests can take advantage of.  One of the main areas in need of clearing and trimming is the field directly in front of the Log House.  We've already started to clear that and I'll post some pics of that and what we're doing with it here shortly. 

Another area I'm working on is located a little ways down Blue Jay Way along the ridge that overlooks the tailings, Hooper Mine and the view to the east.  We want to set up picnic tables, benches and a campfire area here as a picnicking area.  In winter it will be a ski trail that can be used to get a great view of the area.

 Before clearing

 After Clearing

 The Clearing Tool

In addition to a small chain saw, I use the above clearing saw to cut smaller undergrowth and small trees.  It's a very effective tool for doing this kind of work.

Here's the saw in action (Video)

 My friend Andy Virgil has been helping me on weekends throughout the season with electrical work.  Here he's trouble shooting some funky wiring along the outside of the building so that we can get the overhead spotlights working again.

And today we had a group of business owners from around the southern Adirondacks stop by on a familiarization tour to get to know North Creek, North River and Garnet Hill Lodge.  They were very nice and enthusiastic about what we're doing here and we look forward to working with them in the future. (That's me in the back with the hat on, and Mindy right in front of me).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Warm weather fever

Well the winter season is officially over.  Yes it was a tough year for us to be getting started with the meager snowfall that we had, but all in all, we're quite pleased with how things went this winter and Mindy and I would like to thank all our guests for making it special for us.
And now, it's on to rafting season and spring.  I'm thrilled to be able to get out and work on projects to improve the Lodge and grounds.  I've always enjoyed starting new projects in spring.  To start off with Windy Baker made us some new doors for the entrance to the Log House.  I'm quite proud of how they turned out.  Next, I'm painting all the trim around the building to brighten the look and make it more appealing.  The color is Classic Burgundy.  
While doing that, I'm also starting to cut the overgrowth and undergrowth around the building and grounds.  All of these projects will take some time but I'm pleased to get them underway.


So we have lots of things planned and I'll keep posting photos and videos as the various projects move along.

And then there's my dog Cooper.  He had an operation on his left hind knee a week ago Wednesday.  He's doing fine.  He just wants to run around too much.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Guest Relations -- From your Ski Director

Winding my way through a moody dripping forest of pines and hardwood, 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 during my early morning grooming. 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 Monthony -- 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 now 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 positively 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 next winter -- have a great summer.

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

Here are some random memories from this season:

Full rack, full lot, incoming snowfall.

Start of a High School Regional Invitational race. The future starts here.

Framed by the rack.

Garnet Hill has a sweet stash of local backcountry to access.

Ski-through patrol with the NY D.E.C. Forest Rangers.

Skiing the historic Raymond Brook Ski Trail. This route dates back to the early 30s, as does this structure. The "drive up slide down" nature and on-hill rescue apparatus were all forerunners of of modern ski culture that we enjoy today.

Insert your own caption here!

Early winter morning view. Can you feel the crisp air?

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 Adirondack bridge at the pond outflow. Kevin Lange never BC skied before, but is now hooked.

Full moon and fire!

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

Happy Ski Day to me! My friend Zlata made this chocolate log as thanks for all the fun ski lessons we had together. I will go through this like a chainsaw!

What your ski base sees. Smooth corduroy all around.
Night eyes, snow flying about.

Clinking of glasses, satisfaction of a full day of skiing and full bellies stuffed fireside. Digest now -- night-ski at 8:00pm!

What do I do on my day off? Head to the High Peaks!

Skiing through the massive slide debris chute left by Hurricane Irene on Wolf Jaw in the ADK High Peaks with trail caretaker Richard Preis. Alas, winter is waning as we ski off into the sunset.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Continuing 40 years of lodge traditions

This weekend we're still doing some digging out from the recent snow fall.  It's been a very busy few weeks and we really appreciate all the skiers we've had as well as the guests who have stayed with us.  Jim and Marion Elder and their family spent five days with us this week, celebrating 40 years of skiing and staying at the lodge.  They first came to the lodge in 1971 and really enjoyed owners Paul and Nancy Cormack.  They still maintain a friendship and visit with George Heim regularly. Of course they remember Chef Bulmer from the 1990's and Mary Jane as well - they brought a photo of themselves with Chef Andrew from 1994!  We celebrated Jim's 80th birthday with him on Wednesday night.  It was a real pleasure to meet them, talk with them and hear about their experiences here over the years.  They were true Adirondack Adventurers through their years of visiting the area - fishing, hiking & camping and then treating themselves to a bed, shower, meal & friendship here at the lodge.  We look forward to seeing them again next year!
 Jim and Marion Elder with Chef Andrew by the fireplace

In other news, Mindy and I have been doing our best to get the word out that Garnet Hill Lodge is open for business and under new management.  On Wednesday night we hosted the local Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce February mixer.  It was well attended by about 30 local business people and all had a nice time.

On Friday we traveled up to Plattsburgh for an annual North Country Chamber of Commerce breakfast and we got to hear Senator Betty Little and Assemblywomen Theresa Sayward and Janet Duprey speak and answer questions.  Betty Little is a big advocate for Garnet Hill Lodge as well as for all North Country businesses and we appreciate her efforts to make it easier to do business in New York State.  She noted that her daughter and family really enjoyed the ski conditions and trails, visiting us last Saturday.
Mindy with State Senator Betty Little at the 
Chamber Breakfast in Plattsburg, NY

On Sunday March 11th, from noon to 4pm at the Lodge, we are going to be hosting a Skier Appreciation Social where our skiers and season pass holders can get together and celebrate a successful season of cross country skiing at the lodge.  Mindy and I will be there along with our Ski staff.  So we hope to see many of you here for a good time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Eggs, Bread and Milk, Part 2

Eggs Bread and Milk indeed! Burning the midnight oil while skiing around with friends in town like Bob and Damien comes at a price, and that is my sleep deprivation. Oh well, it is a fair price to pay, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

Yesterday's storm developed nicely all day, with snow falling heavily later in the day. It was absolutely lovely, and we knew it was going to be a potent storm. From home Bob had watched the storm develop, too, and knew to time their arrival to maximize their playtime. Dropping off some BC skis for a mount and a wax, I set them up for a little skate session before the storm arrived. While they were out I mounted new bindings on and waxed up his trusty old backcountry dogs, which were to be passed on to Damien, with all sense of tradition. While they were skiing I went plowing, knowing our worlds would again converge after their session and after dark. I had a plan.

Departing at 8:00pm, we ascended up past William Blake Pond and into the Botheration Pond NY State Ski Trail in driving snow with a lift in our hearts and headlamps ablaze. It was stunningly beautiful with snow piling in, hanging in the trees, blowing all around. The snow was light and fast, and we just cruised through the trees making easy turns wherever we wanted. Dropping off the ski trail, we crossed the length of Botheration Pond with our lights off, listening to our echoes careen off the hills surrounding us. The downhills on the loop are very well laid out with perfectly radius'd corners wide enough to criss-cross each others lines. And we did, hooting and hollering through each downhill twisty section, pumping the ground's rolling undulations and accelerating the whole way to Old Farm Road. If you nail the corners fast enough on the last descent to Botheration Bridge, you can actually ski right up onto it with enough momentum, I discovered with a loud "wahoo!!!". We stopped there with lights out and listened to the silence of absolute tranquility -- that place is one of the deepest darkest most deliciously silent special stargazing places around here.

Climbing up on the way back from Old Farm Road, I convinced them to do one more climb, which they begrudgingly did, lift in the hearts tipping under heavy legs and 8 or so miles already traveled (not including their earlier skate session, or their pre-dawn marathon drive, for that matter). That allowed us to get the cream of the crop of local downhills -- The Hooper Mine Trail! It is always worth it, no matter how hard you are hurting, to finish with the Hooper Mine Trail descent after looping Botheration clockwise, and there is nothing like descending it in fresh deep powder. In the dark, with headlamps. Laughing all the way... Turns were so easy, everywhere, slashing back and forth, snow so soft and flowy. The descent was just phenomenal. They nailed it, and we descended back to the shop arriving just after 11:00pm.

We got in very late, chatted, and turned in well past midnight. My 6:00am alarm seemed to chime on as soon as my head hit the pillow, and it was right back into weather forecasts, snow reports and plowing. Another day, another play, another way.

Sleep is hard to come by at times like these, with snow like this. If my writing seems fragmented and random, I attribute it to slumber deprivation and falling in and out of sleep while writing this. Today Chef Andy I did a ski-through from Barton Mines Road through the Vly to William Blake Pond then down to Old Farm Clearing. As I am writing this I've just come in at 10:00pm from a powder trek with some lodge guests, climbing past William Blake Pond just to descend the Hooper Mine Trail again to make turns. Earlier Chef Andy and I ran into D.E.C. Ranger Art just before we clipped into our skis, and he is plotting another ski through on another trail for tomorrow. Another day, another play, another way off the mountain. On skis. While cranking lovely turns in the fresh powder! I wonder if Bob and Damien will be up for that? And the night ski I have planned for later Friday?

Do whatever it takes to get up here to play in all of this fresh snow. It is absolutely glorious out there! We've got awesome conditions, wall to wall powder and packed powder skiing on 43KM of perfectly groomed trails with trackset, and a ton of great vibe. Come on up and make your own tracks. And bring your headlamps...

Bob in Repose. As is, he had to re-pose for this 20 times to get the light right!

This picture pretty much tells it all...

Heavy snow in the trees, dropping in on Andy's Run.

With all of this powder, you really need a big shovel!

Chef Andy in the tall trees of the Vly.