Sunday, February 24, 2013

New England Skiing...5 observations from a West Coast native

Over the past three years, I've begun to explore New England skiing - which as one friend put it - "is not West Coast skiing"- a statement that implies West Coast skiing is far superior.  I've currently skied nine of the seemingly unlimited ski resorts of New England and have found it enjoyable and challenging.  If you are planning on visiting New England to ski, here are five observations from a West Coast native...

Sugarloaf Mountain, Maine

1.  It's Icy - and that's normal.  I've realized that although you might enjoy the groomed corduroy for the first three runs, it won't be long before there is a consistent scraping sound beneath your skis or board.  In Oregon, an icy patch was unusual and was usually on the summit on a harsh day.  In New England, this is the norm.  As a result, New England skiers are skilled and used to the tough terrain. You rarely hear complaining.  It's what skiing is supposed to be.

2.  It's a ski mountain... snowboarding optional.  When I had a seasonal ski pass in California, I was one of the only skiiers on a hill dotted with boarders sitting in the trail, whizzing by me, and crowding the space off the chair.  The opposite is true in New England.  Skiing is the sport of the land, and although there are many talented snowboarders, they appear to be less than 10% of the population at these resorts.  I'm not sure the reason - maybe it's the poor boarding terrain or just the strong ski traditions of the Northeast, but either way, snowboarding is for the "alternative" nephew of the family.  Have fun buckling up at the top dude...we'll be half way down.

Wildcat Mountain Quad Chair
3.  There are A LOT of options and everyone has their favorite.  I grew up in Portland, Oregon.  If we wanted to drive up to Mt. Hood to ski for the day, we had three options: "Ski-bowl", "Meadows", or "Timberline".  The choice was usually easy since each had their advantages based on the weather, snow conditions, and budget.  Living in Southern Maine, I have at least 30 options within a three hour drive.  Over the past three years, I have never gone to one resort more than once.  This is because each friend has a favorite and are usually very attached to "their" mountain.  I haven't found "my mountain" yet, but here are a few I have tried...

- Sunday River (Maine)
- Sugarloaf (Maine)
- Saddleback (Maine)
- Wildcat (New Hampshire)
- Sunapee Valley (New Hampshire)
- Cranmore (New Hampshire)
- Waterville Valley (New Hampshire)
- Stowe (Vermont)
- Killington (Vermont)

Poor weather at Killington, VT
The larger resorts like Stowe and Sugarloaf cost around $80-$85 for the day and offer more trails, a terrain park, and in some cases, a gondola.   Smaller hills like Cranmore and Wildcat cost $60-$70 for a day and although offer fewer trail options, they often have fewer crowds at a lower cost.

4.  It's called "Wind Hold".  Maybe it's just my bad luck, but three of the 13 times I've gone up skiing, I've been put on "wind hold", which means I'm stuck riding the kiddy lift or even worse ... the T-bar... until the wind lets up.  Wasted money and time.  Check the weather before you head out and if it looks windy, don't make the drive. There's nothing worse then spending three hours in the car to spend 5 hours in the lodge waiting for the wind to die down.

Ski buddy Jenny enjoys her winter ski outing
5.  New England folks love New England skiing.  While spending the afternoon as a "single" on the chairlift during my recent afternoon at Wildcat Mountain, I had the pleasure of meeting many New England skiiers.  I found them all happy, friendly, and excited to talk about their New England skiing adventures.  The conditions at the time included blowing wind, icy trails, and negative temperatures - but to them, it was a normal skiing day. These folks were all happy to enjoy the "great day for skiing".  I realized that my soft West Coast conditions had spoiled me.  These New Englanders were what the sport should be ... taking nature for what it is and enjoying it.  Like a Girl Scout standing next to a Navy Seal - the West Coast ski scene now seems more about show and less about tactical skill. Ski The East!

My powder-friendly skis see more ice than pow

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Blizzard Nemo - How I survived the storm

Car buried in snow from Nemo.

How I survived the Blizzard Nemo:

My yard and my landlord's notorious signs.
1.  Warm Home - I will pay for that later (literally)
2.  Lots of food - Plenty of food in my house due to the party I had to cancel.  We ate and drank well!
3.  Company - Cats, Dog, and Matt
4.  Something to do...
 - Tried a new recipe
 - Taught Matt a new card game
 - Played Cribbage
 - Facebook and internet distractions
5.  Patience - With yourself and your storm companions.  Careful of cabin fever.

Buried by a snow bank

Matt walks Nadia through the snow.

Kennebunkport.  Allison's Restuaran

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What I did with my 20s...

In Ireland on the family's homeland
As I spend my last night as a "20-something", I reflect on the last ten years and the adventures I experienced in my twenties.  It is difficult to summarize ten years -especially for someone with a memory as bad as mine - but I'll take a stab at it.  One thing is for's been an AMAZING adventure and I can't wait for the next ten!


"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I have lived in over 10 towns in 10 years.
Travels, education, and work has taken me around the country and into different walks of life.  I lived in a house, apartment, trailer, tent, and dorm.  I was a resident of California, Oregon, Maine, New Hampshire, and very temporarily in New Brunswick.  I resided in cities, mountain towns, beach towns, suburbs, farming/rural towns, and more.  I lived with pets, boyfriends, friends, and by myself.  This change of scenery has made me open-minded to different types of people and ways of life.

I used savings, vacations and weekends to explore unique, beautiful, and exotic lands.  These adventures included a road trip around Newfoundland with my best girl friends.  I explored my family's roots by driving through Ireland with my parents and sister.  Travel took me to hiking, kayaking, and rafting in New Zealand with my best friend.

Exploring Arches on a Xcountry drive
My adventures included hiking in snow to the summit of mountains in New Hampshire with my boyfriend and camping many nights under the stars with friends.  It took me to national parks including: Grand Canyon, Zion, Bandlands, Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Arches, Acadia, Joshua Tree, Rocky Mountain and more.

I traveled to islands Prince Edward Island and Grand Manan with my sister, New York City/Boston with my parents, and even went horseback riding in Baja California with my college roommates.  Cross-country moves have taken me on a cross country drive three times and there is still so much I want to explore in this continent and beyond.  I love this country, and I find enjoyment in travel.  I've used this desire to see all I can to overcome my fears of the unknown.  It has made me a stronger and more well rounded person.

Work and Play

"Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will be delightful, old age will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success. "
- Louisa May Alcott 

Me and my students
 I started employment of twenties by making sandwiches, coffee, and friends as a front of house supervisor at a San Diego sandwich shop while attending University of San Diego.

I then committed much of my twenties to marine science as a student and researcher.  I fought seasickness, crabby fishermen, and freezing spray as a marine fisheries observer in New England.  I buzzed around Mission Bay, San Diego collecting specimens and data.  I won an award from the university for my "Outstanding Undergraduate Research" on heavy metal toxins in Mission Bay.

White water rafting with Leanne in New Zealand
I spent the second half of my twenties teaching thousands of students from Los Angeles to Maine science as a classroom teacher and environmental educator. One day I got a  job as a backpacking guide without ever having been backpacking.  I took the risk, asked those around me for help, and learned to lead.  I guided hundreds of New England teens through the White Mountain wilderness on foot and by canoe.

I spent much of my play time exploring the outdoors, developing my writing skills, and practicing my musical talents.

I have hiked over mountains, canoed across lakes, kayaked around islands, and rock climbed up cliffs.

The cast of my play
 I wrote a play, poems, diaries, newspaper articles, and blogs.  I taught myself to play the ukulele and performed as a violinist in coffee shops and a symphony.

I most recently added to my love of play and teamwork by joining organized coed sports teams. It was scary at first, but I've developed a love for indoor soccer and indoor volleyball.

In my spare time, I learned how to rock climb, cross country ski, scuba dive, kayak, play the ukulele, and backpack.  I performed scientific research, ran a marathon, published articles, wrote a play and directed it, got a bachelors and masters degree, and managed to get out of all of it without debt.  I'm proud of my accomplishments.  I believe my ability to focus on a goal, push myself to surpass it, and the support of those around me has allowed me to succeed.


“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”
 William Shakespeare

My amazing family
I would not be where I am today without the wonderful people who supported me along the way.  I'm who I am today because of the wonderful support of my parents. 

My parents showed me by example that it's important to follow your passions, treat everyone with respect, and be internationally minded.  They also showed me that teaching others and sharing a love of learning is the most important thing you can do with your life.  

My sister showed me unconditional love, and although she is my younger sibling, I look up to her because of her courage, her ability to communicate with feeling, and her multiple intelligences.  She is my role model.

I am blessed by aunts, uncles, cousins, and a grandma that has supported me and cheered me on through the adventures of my twenties and I know they will continue to support me through the rest of my life.  

In my twenties, I found "the one"
The most challenging lesson I've had in the past ten years has been on the subject of love and partnership.  I learned and grew during an eight year relationship that understandably ended when we realized we were together for the wrong reasons.  I am so grateful that I had that relationship and I think it has made me a stronger, more open-minded, well-rounded person.  

Coming out of that relationship, I now have the knowledge to recognize and foster a committed, healthy, romantic relationship.  I'm so grateful to have found a person that shares the same core beliefs, interests, and life goals.  I can't wait to share my next decade with him and go on many adventures together.  My experiences have given me the confidence to know we are going to have wonderful life together.

I have been blessed with the most amazing friends.  The love I've received from those around me constantly astounds me and I only hope that I can send that much love back into the world. A heartfelt and special thank you goes to the following dearest of friends who I met in my 20s.  These people have shown me what kindness, love, and friendship truly is...

College Roommates 
- My three USD roommates who stood by me for my early twenties as we struggled to find our identity in those college years.

- My amazing gals in Portland, Maine who took me in and showed me how to be a single gal in my twenties.

- The kindred spirits that I worked alongside that summer at the Whale Camp.  It is amazing how fast a group of people can bond for life.  

- The amazing staff at the Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve who adopted me as their Americorps volunteer and gave me love and a sense of place.

Whale Camp Friends
- The LACOSS crew who showed me how to take advantage of a weekend with adventures rock climbing in J-tree, skiing on the mountain, or partying in LA.

- The parents of my ex boyfriend who adopted me as their daughter and continue to show me kindness and friendship.  I am forever indebted to you.

- The amazing men and women I met in graduate school and survived the adventure together.  It's so wonderful to have you to discuss the stresses of grad school and later the stress and excitement of being a new teacher.  We share a bond forever.

- My caring student-teacher mentor who took me into her home when I had nowhere to go.  She made me a daughter and gave me unconditional support and love.  I am blessed by her kindness.

Amazing middle school coworkers
- The strong and talented coworkers at the middle school.  As a new teacher, they welcomed me, mentored me, and made me feel like I could do anything.  I know my confidence and risk-taking in teaching is all thanks to them.  I am grateful everyday for these people.  

Advice to a 19 year old...

As I finish my twenties, here's my last piece of advice for those who are crossing the threshold into theirs.  

1.  Take healthy risks - in careers, adventures, travel, and skills.  It's scary, but the more and more you try it, the stronger and more interesting you'll become.
Love your 20s!
2. Learn to advocate for yourself.  Don't wait for someone to offer you that promotion, spot on the team, job, or opportunity. Ask for it and share why you are the one for the position.
3. Make wonderful friends and develop strong relationships.  Be caring, respectful, and be on time to your commitments with them.
4. Be open minded.  Don't look down on others because of their choices.  We are all trying are hardest with what we got.
5.  Respect your body.  Respect your feelings.  Leave behind those who don't.  
6. Make goals and hold yourself to them.
7.  Plan ahead and be prepared.  The plans might change but those who are prepared always seem to have an easier time.
8. Document your experiences.  You'll want to look back at those photos and diary entries.
9.  Love. It's the meaning of life.
10.  Laugh.  You'll live longer.

See you in my thirties...

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Skiing the Sherbie

Combine a love of hiking and skiing into a perfect afternoon in the Whites.
Hiking up the Tuckerman's Ravine Trail to Hermit Lake Shelter
        Last weekend I had my first non-park alpine skiing adventure.  This was a great activity for me because it combined winter hiking (which I love), skiing (which I love), and not spending any money on a lift ticket (which I love!)
        Matt and I drove up to AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center/Joe Dodge Lodge in the White Mountains, NH. We arrived around noon and planned to hike to Hermit Lake Shelter then ski the 2 mile John Sherburne Ski Trail (nicknamed the "Sherbie") back to the Lodge parking lot.
While loading up our pack in the parking lot, we ran into friend Tyler who had just finished the run.      He warned that the Sherbie was icy and rated it a "black diamond" that day.  Ready for another run, he decided to gear up and go for a second trek.
        The hike up the wide Tuckerman's Ravine trail in packed snow was highly enjoyable, and although I was nervous for my first "backcountry" skiing, I really enjoyed the winding Sherbie ski trail.  I'd love to try it again on a powder day!

Below is more information you need to recreate this adventure...

Drive:  2.5 hour drive from Kennebunk, ME to Pinkham Notch Visitor Center/Joe Dodge Lodge on Rt. 16, NH.

Trail Up: Hike up Tuckerman's Ravine Trail.
Winter View from Hermit Lake Shelter
Distance: 2.4 miles from Pinkham Notch Visitor Center to Hermit Lake Shelter.
Time: 1.5-2.5 hours depending on pace
Challenge Level: Moderate

Trail Down: Ski/Board down the John Sherburne Trail (Sherbie) accessed from Hermit Lake Shelter.
Distance: approx. 2 miles to south end of parking lot at Joe Dodge Lodge
Time: 10 - 40 minutes depending on pace
Challenge Level:  Moderate to Difficult (Black Diamond on a icy day)

For this adventure, you need both winter hiking gear and ski/snowboard gear:

Attach Skis to side of pack.  Put boots in pack.
- Winter hiking pants w long underwear
- Poly long sleeve top
- Fleece or 2nd non cotton layer
- Shell or Parka
- Warm Hat/Headband
- Gloves or Mittens
- Warm Socks
- Winter Hiking Boots/Snow Boots
- Traction (I wear MicroSpikes) or Skis with Skins*
- Ski Poles
- Sunglasses or Goggles

In Pack:
- Ski Boots
- Small First Aid Kit
- Extra Dry layer
- Ski Helmut (optional)
- Skis latched to outside of pack or Split Board*
- Camera (optional)
- Water and Snack
- Headlamp (just in case)

Tyler uses a split board and skis to ascend.

* Tyler chose to use a split board.  This is a snowboard that is split and allows the user to ski up the trail instead of hiking.  Skins (adhesive carpet like strands) are place on the bottom of skis to allow the user to ski uphill and not slide.  Once at the hut, Tyler re-configured his skis into a snowboard and flew down the Sherbie.