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  1. I returned yesterday morning from a camping trip to the Sierras. Aug 3: Arrived in Reno and went downtown for the evening. If you haven't been to Reno before, it's an old school Americana casino town. But many of the locals are outdoor-oriented. It's less than an hour from Lake Tahoe and major ski areas. Aug 4: Woke up in Reno to oppressive smoke. Street signs a block away were hazy. Visibility was under 1 mile. We spent the afternoon in Truckee and drove to South Lake Tahoe. Aug 5: we woke up to cool, clean air and greatly improved visibility in South Lake Tahoe. We went shopping for our camping supplied and drove to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite. As the afternoon wore on, we found plenty more smoke in the mountains which made for an apocalyptic scene. FYI, gas in the rural areas was $5.00 per gallon. For real. Aug 6: Waking up in morning it was clear we were not prepared for how cold it got that night. It went down at least to 45 if not colder. We drove as deep in Yosemite as we could get, but didn't get anywhere near the valley as most of the park was closed. Instead we turned around and went to Mammoth for the day. We were forced to park at the ski area and take a shuttle to the Devil's Postpile National Monument. This was the one day I regret. The parking and shuttling took way too long, and the Postpile didn't justify the effort. After the Postpile, we went shopping in Mammoth for some warmer clothes for the camping night to come. That evening an elk casually grazed directly behind our tent in Tuolumne Meadows. Aug 7: Woke in the Tuolumne a bit warmer due to more appropriate sleeping arrangements. We drove to Bishop to do a little more shopping, then up to the Bristle Cones Pines in the White Mountains. We took our rented Toyota 4Runner off road up to 12,000 feet. That night we drove through Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills. If you've never been, the Alabama Hills are a unique topography that was used to film hundreds of Westerns. We camped next to a mountain brook in Whitney Portal at the base camp to Mount Whitney. Aug 8: Day trip to Death Valley. The temperature was 122 degrees. At the camp site that evening a black bear walked right through out site between us and the car. My wife freaked out and ran to the car, only to find another black bear behind the car. She was not happy. We found bear paw prints on the car window making it clear they were very curious. Aug 8: We had breakfast at the store at Whitney Portal. For $12 you got 3 eggs, 4 pieces of bacon, the largest pancake I have ever see, and unlimited maple syrup for Vermont. The pancake over spilled the plate by a couple inches on both sides. Best breakfast ever. Visited the Manzanar concentration camp outside of Lone Pine. Then drove around the Sierras to Kings Canyon. Aug 10: We explored Kings Canyon and Sequoia. The place was overrun with European tourists. I mean completely overrun. Aug 11: We toured some "underground" garden in Fresno and then flew home. We got upgrade to first class so I did some "getting drunk on a plane". The wife got very angry with me. Things about the trip that stuck with me: Over the course of the trip my wife accumulated an entire duffle bag filled with souvenirs. We were unusual as tourists because we were American. Everywhere we went the tourists were mostly European. Overwhelmingly so. I love off-roading and camping. It was a great time. But make sure to sleep above 6,000 feet in California in the summer I have mixed feelings on the Toyota 4Runner that we rented. It is ancient technology all around. It doesn't have good acceleration or enough power to pass going uphill. The engine is loud and ride is unrefined. Fuel economy is as bad as my full size truck but for a much smaller vehicle. It is not an enjoyable highway driver. But take it off the pavement and it thrived. I really enjoyed it as a dirt road vehicle.
  2. Took a ride up to Bretton Woods on Sunday with @MadRussian and a quiver of skis. Conditions were pretty frozen in the morning, but some decently soft corn in the afternoon. He brought 4 pairs of skis for us to put through the paces on the hill. We started with the two narrower offerings he brought where the snow was pretty stiff in the morning. We skied the MR87 and the MR95 for a few hours in the morning. The MR95 was probably my favorite ski of the day. Super stiff, held an edge on anything, super responsive. The Porsche of the MR collection (They like to go FAST). Interested to try it out again on a day with some softer snow. It is very interesting, because the profile doesn't have any camber, it is rocker - flat - rocker (I believe)... But it carves like any cambered ski I have ever been on. One of those skis that you push, and then say 'I can push it some more'... and you do... and that feeling doesn't go away. There is no metal in the ski, but lots of carbon fiber strips laid out at 45 degrees across the skis in both directions, giving incredible torsional rigidity while still being super light. The MR87 was the second ski I tried. Not quite as stiff as the 95, took me a few runs to get my confidence on it. Still railed pretty well, but did get it to skid on ice a few times, but I think anything short of a pair of hockey skates would have slid out on that surface. Not quite as edge happy as the 95. As the snow began to soften, I went back to the car and swapped out the two narrower skis for the wider ones. The MR110 was the first of the wider skis I got to try out. The first thing I noticed was the distinctive sound they made... Unlike any other ski I have ever skied not a bad sound, but you notice it from the first time you pick up some speed. MR110 was probably the softest of the four skis. Very playful, fun ski that I would like to try in some soft snow next year. The crazy thing about this ski is that I found myself aiming for anything that I could get some air off of. I normally do everything I can to keep both feet firmly planted on the snow. The MR102 was the last one of the day. This ski is Mishka's go to pow day ski. I chased him around while we were skiing some pow at Pico back in February. This ski is pretty amazing. Mishka built it with some serious rise in the tip to help float over anything you might run into in the woods... This is one of the most easy turning skis I've ever been on. I found myself seeking out anything that resembled a bump line to try to find how quickly I could turn them. There weren't a ton of bumps around, but everything I found, they could easily handle. I can't wait to see what these feel like in the trees in some fresh snow. With the huge early rise, there were a couple times that I was wishing for a little more running length, thanks to me being 6'4" and 240lbs... I'm sure if you aren't as big as I am, it wouldn't be an issue at all. The best part of all of these skis is that they are all constructed pretty much bomb proof. The way he builds skis gives a super durable, long lasting piece of equipment that you can throw at anything, and it will come back for more. The MR87 and the MR110 had graphics top sheets, whereas the MR95 and MR102 have a wood look that would be my preference when it comes time to design my own MR skis... The brand they most remind me of in comparison to other skis I've tried is ON3P. Very similar construction philosophy and sturdiness... But for me, the MR skis were much better as actual skis. I demoed the ON3P Wrenegade and the Magnus last year, and they just didn't suit my skiing at all. They are the only skis I've ever ridden that felt too stiff... The MRs actually had some flex when I wanted them to flex. I'm already thinking about what I would want in a pair of MR skis... I think next season I'll be working to spend some time on fresh snow on the MR lineup to figure out what I want. In short, if you have a chance to ski with Mishka and try out his skis, DO IT. DO NOT HESITATE. -w
  3. Went to Gunstock yesterday on a voucher with a friend. It was pretty rough. If I had paid $88 to ski that yesterday, I would have been pretty upset. On Thursday, they were reporting 47 trails opened, 40 of which were groomed. By the time the storm cleared out, they were down to 25 trails. (Snow report has them back up to 40 today, but I honestly find that hard to believe based on what I skied yesterday.) The top of the mountain felt like (slightly) pulverized granite to slabbed granite. There was nothing resembling snow on the top half of the mountain. This was the firmest surface I remember skiing since the time I accidentally went down a race groomed Obsession at Sunday River about 6 years ago, the day before the NorAm race that had been water injected. Lower down, some of the trails were groomed out pretty decently (best trails of the day we found were Sidearm and Tiger, Upper Smith/Smith was pretty decent as well). The best looking trail of the day was probably Cannonball, which had a race going on, so was not publicly accessible. The flash freeze hit them HARD. There were places where it looked like the water froze so fast it went from rushing down the hill to frozen in place with some serious air bubbles beneath the surface. Streams of water in the parking lot leading to storm drains had frozen in place and were pretty deep. There was no evidence of snow making effort post thaw (which probably makes sense for them given this coming weekend's forecast). The only possible exception was the very top of the Penny Pitou lift (beginner chair), the surface for the first 50ish vertical feet was nice, and then it went to sheer white ice. It was NOT a good day to be learning yesterday, but there were a ton of people on the magic carpet and the Pitou lift... Easily the longest lift lines on the hill. Anything without snowmaking is down to practically bare ground at this point. The Blundersmoke park looked like it had just been built out in preparation for the weekend, but now it is closed. There is a bare strip running totally across the trail about ten feet long towards the bottom (guessing there was a river running there post deluge), all of the takeoffs are practically gone, and the rails are all sadly flopped over at 30-45 degree angles. Underneath the walkway that connects the two halves of the main lodge, the ground around the ticket windows was covered by anywhere from one to three inches of solid ice. There was a poor guy who spent the entirety of his work day hammering on it with a shovel to break up the ice. He had gotten about 20% of it done by the time we left around 2PM. Also saw an excavator being used to break up ice behind the main lodge (parking lot side). I hope they get some snow or find some serious snow making money in the budget, because they need it. The snow report says that the snowmaking team 'has a plan' but nothing more specific than that. -w
  4. Skied Loon today from about 9:30AM - 2:30PM. Wasn't too busy, and warmed up nicely (got to the mid twenties or so (F) ). Stuck to the trails (no woods for me today), getting used to my new boot liners and orthotics. (Speaking of which, I can't recommend the folks at Richelson's enough) Snow was groomed packed power / hardpack basically everywhere. Everything was skiing very nice today, and no lift lines to speak of. Only exception was the gondola, which had a 2/3 minute wait in the singles line, but it always does. They are blasting out a ton of snow over in the West Basin area (Rumrunner, Blue Ox, Rampasture, Coolidge Street, Lower Speakeasy). On South Peak, Ripsaw isn't open yet, but it's close. There were groomers pushing out the snowmaking piles, so I wouldn't be surprised to see that open in the next day or two. Cover everywhere that I could see is nice and deep. If this storm delivers, I would expect 100% of the mountain to be in play on Friday (as long as it isn't too windy to turn the lifts.) I will put some pictures up in a bit, but wanted to post something before I forgot. Also, in important news: The tap list at the Bunyan Room is pretty solid. Had a couple mid-day beers over there. Worth a visit if you need a break: https://untappd.com/v/paul-bunyan-room/104859 Trace log: http://snow.traceup.com/stats?id=2850&vId=2715440 -w
  5. Skied this morning at Wachusett, basically 8:30 - 11:00. Crowds were basically non-existent (I think I waited behind groups getting on chairs about 4 times in total, no more than one group at a time). One route down off each of the quads: Monadnock - Indian Summer Polar - Conifer Minuteman - Challenger The theme of the day was: Cover was not actually that bad, snow was decent. Some icy spots, but overall, quite fun. Temps were climbing in the morning, and after about 9:30, most of the hill had softened nicely. I quit at 11:00 when my skis started to get sticky on the slushy snow on Challenger. A bit frustrating, as I had just waxed them... Think it might be time for a stone grind for better structure. Here's a trail by trail rundown with photos: Started my day over on Indian Summer to get the legs moving... Trail was not quite full width, still need to make more snow over there: Snow was good, very carvable, fun groomed snow. From there, moved on over to Conifer. Conifer skied very well, with some icy exceptions. Namely, the pitch before the first road crossing was pretty firm early on. Interestingly, the pitch just after the road was GREAT. Nice and soft, deeply covered, easy to throw a turn everywhere and get nice edge hold. I found the right side of the trail to be better pretty much the whole way down. Some snow has been made on 10th Mountain Trail, but it needs quite a bit more before it can be opened. Way more has been produced on the top third above the road vs. the bottom two thirds, which is quite patchy: I took a quick walk to the observation / fire tower at the summit and had some nice views all around: From there it was over to see what Challenger had to offer. Challenger was in great shape and consistent good snow from top to bottom. They've even built a sizable terrain park in the flats above the NASTAR start house: Below the start house, the trail got a bit narrow, but still skied quite well: Ralphs looked to be about 90% there, I don't think it will take much snow making before that (re)opens: Here's a shot to see how much snow has been made where it crosses over the road higher up... this seems to be the choke point right now: Finally, Ollie's looked in pretty good shape. I did not bother to ride the carpet to check out the snow: It could definitely use more snow to go full width, but what they had was more than sufficient for the volume it was seeing today. I think the biggest negative about skiing Wachusett right now is that the Polar base area is disconnected from the Minuteman base area, you have to take your skis off to walk between the two. Monadnock is connected to Polar which helps the experience a fair amount. Hopefully snow-making friendly temperatures will return soon and they can get everything patched together. It was a good few hours on skis this morning and I was glad to be able to get out.

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