Wednesday, December 29, 2004

further snafus, whining, etc.

It seems one can't get a key made for my van without having said van present (or having another copy of your key). Rather than pay God knows how much to get it towed to the dealer, get a bunch of computer tests done to find out what key pattern to use (seriously!), and get the key made, I just took a bus back to the airport today and then took a shuttle home to Winter Park. Dad overnighted me my keys. After I get back from Utah next week, I'll get a ride down to Denver with someone and get my van back finally. Hopefully by then my new monoski will have cleared customs too; as of today, it was still detained.

Oh yeah, and Delta hasn't delivered my bag yet either... bastards!

At my grandfather's request, I finally got around to doing something I'd been meaning to do for a while and added some disabled skiing links to the side of this page. (Debugging courtesy of Finn.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Sorry I haven't updated in a while... I didn't feel as though there was much to add when I was home in Maine for the holidays, although it was great to see the family, as well as Elise from Dartmouth.

I got up nice and early to start the car this morning in Maine. But by the time my dad and I got to the airport, I forgot that it was MY set of keys we had driven there with. By the time I got to Atlanta, I had a voicemail message from Dad telling me he had the keys... needless to say, headaches ensued. I'm currently in Denver, locked out of my car and without my luggage (which Delta managed to lose). I spent hours on outdoor payphones (with no jacket, hat or gloves) trying to get a new key, but to no avail, so I have to wait until tomorrow. Not only that, it seems as though either (1) my new monoski hasn't arrived in Denver yet even though it should have been here Friday, or (2) the people who should have received it don't even even realize they have it.

On the bright side, I'm staying at the Doubletree Hotel in Denver, which is really nice and faux-Art Deco-ish and somehow also really cheap. And while enjoying my two complimentary White Russians at the hotel bar, I met two adorable Swedes (Linnea and Charlotte) who work for Volvo. They had just arrived in the U.S. for the first time and will be spending the next three months driving around the country promoting cars at American ski resorts. Talk about a dream job... and dream salespeople! Linnea even brought up The Big Lebowski when she saw me drinking White Russians, and then we had a nice conversation about how secular Europe is and how religious we are. I hope I run into them at breakfast tomorrow. I also hope I get a new car key and that my monoski shows up.

From a linguistic perspective, this is a sad story.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Hiro, one of the Winter Park coaches, couldn't say enough good things about my skiing today. It was a pretty straightforward GS course, and I was skiing well, but so were most people. On the one hand it was nice to hear so much encouragement from him, but on the other hand I knew that if I was laying down the same runs in front of the U.S. team coaches, they'd have plenty of criticism for me. It was definitely one of those days where I had to, as they say, "be my own best coach."

Tomorrow I'm flying home to Maine for Christmas with the family. On one hand I'm really looking forward to it, but on the other hand training is going well enough that it's going to be a little frustrating to take a week off, especially knowing that my new monoski will get to Denver on Thursday or Friday and will just be sitting there waiting for me until I get back to Colorado next Wednesday. At that point I will have a lot of work to do, getting used to the new equipment.

In non-skiing news, the venerable (and slightly pretentious) music website Pitchfork has just released its annual year-end lists of the 50 best reissues and the 50 best singles of the year. Tomorrow is the unveiling of the 50 best albums.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Returned from Vail this afternoon, where Nick, Ralph, Sandy, Jonezy and I competed in an able-bodied slalom race yesterday. I like racing in these things because it gives us the full race experience, but the results don't matter at all. It's good mental preparation for races that do matter. I was pretty happy with the way I skied yesterday and know what I would've done differently.

Last night, representatives from Nick's sponsor took Nick, Ralph and me out for sushi. They were really outrageous people (a young, rich, recently engaged couple) who loved to party, and they bought us lots of food and drinks. By the end of the meal, they had the owner bringing us special concoctions on the house. After dinner, we ended up at a completely-packed Vail nightclub, where a lot more drinks were handed to us. It was a fun evening.

This morning wasn't so much fun, and not only because of the hangover. We started warming up and inspecting the course for today's race, another slalom. But when I got to the bottom after my second run, Jonezy told me the race was cancelled because a racer had just died in a collision with a snowmobile on a run next to the race course. Everyone was pretty shaken up, especially her teammates from Steamboat. (Summit Daily News article.) The girl really wasn't at fault — it could have been any of us. So Nick and I did the only thing we could think of: we went off for a few hours and skied around the mountain, fast.

Friday, December 17, 2004


We trained slalom yesterday and had today off. Highlights included hitting area thrift stores in search of a used bike for my teammate Ant (no luck) and watching Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket on DVD. (It didn't measure up to his subsequent films, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. I can't wait for his new one to come out.) So yeah, not much news to report, except that I'm going to Vail for the next two days to compete in some able-bodied races, and that I'm going home to Maine next Wednesday for Christmas. Oh, and that I have a new roommate; Josh moved in last night.

I have new neighbors. The day I was moving into my condo here in Fraser, a real estate agent I know was showing some other condos to a couple from California. They were really nice and helped me move all my bags and boxes from my van into my place. We got to talking, and apparently they had just sold their house in California, bought a motor home, packed up their three kids, and driven around the country for a year or so. They had relatives in the Denver area and liked Winter Park, so they were looking at properties. They ended up buying a place in my building.

Now, I've run into Sam (as the dad is named) several times since then, and I've always had a generally favorable impression of him — until today. As Josh and I were headed out to get some breakfast, we ran into Sam and his two daughters. Sam was smoking a cigarette as they played in the snow. I introduced him to Josh, and we exchanged a few lines of small talk. It turns out Sam and his wife are home-schooling their kids. Sam ended one of his sentences with, "...but only God knows for sure." Now, you can call me judgemental, but I'm a little wary now. I just have to wonder about the effects of secondhand smoke and fundamentalist Christianity on small children.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

obligatory late-night post

It's been a long day and I feel like going to bed now, but I would feel like a delinquent if I did that before posting something, since it's been a few days and I promised Abby I would write something today.

Nearly everyone did a little worse than usual on all their max tests at the Olympic Training Center — but what do you expect when testing is scheduled for the day after a 9-day on-snow camp with no rest days? Considering the circumstances, my tests went well. Today on the Wingate Test, my peak and average power were down a little but my rate of fatigue improved a bit from September. While I was doing my Wingate in the OTC's Sports Science building, a group of school kids on a field trip stopped in the hall outside and watched us through the windows. We made some jokes about feeling like zoo animals, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy getting to show off a little bit.

This afternoon I gave George a ride home to Winter Park and he told me how he broke the stationary bike during his Wingate Test. He was pretty proud of that.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

from the OTC

We just arrived at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. We come here four times a year for a few days of physical testing. We do something called the Wingate Test, which measures how much power we can produce on a stationary bike or a handcycle. They also test us on a number of other things, like how much weight we can bench-press and how far we can throw a ten-pound ball.

Yesterday the snow was still very soft, but the weather was a little better than it had been on Thursday, and the organizers were able to hold the giant slalom (GS) race as scheduled. I came in fourth. I wasn't too happy with the way I skied, but it's the first race of the season and training is going well, so I'm not worried. I was really happy for Tyler, who won. In doing so, he beat his mentor Chris for only maybe the second time. I would like to follow his lead one of these days...

By the way, my new monoski hasn't arrived yet, but I have been assured it should be here around Christmas. It will be a nice present.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

"the frolic architecture of the snow"

When I opened the curtains at 6:30 this morning, the wind was blowing hard and the snow was drifting outside in the parking lot. Up at the mountain, only one lift opened on schedule. Thirteen inches of new snow had fallen overnight, and the wind was gusting to 65 mph at the top of the mountain. Snow drifts on the race hill were two feet deep. The start of the slalom was delayed indefinitely, and we stayed inside playing Dare. Not Truth or Dare, just Dare. For example, Nick had to go into the restaurant, approach a stranger, and ask if he could try a bite of his meal. It was a good way to pass the time.

At around 10:30, the chairlift opened and the race was rescheduled to start at 12:15. We all bundled up and pushed out into the storm, which hadn't really subsided at all. At the top of the mountain, visibility was only a few meters in places. We inspected the course at around 11:30, pausing every few minutes to let a snowcat go by and pack down the race hill. (The softer the snow on the course, the worse the conditions will be after a few racers ski. It gets really rutted up, really fast, and it doesn't make for a very fair or safe race.) I rode back up to the top after inspection, and a few of us huddled near the entrance to a mountaintop lodge to get out of the wind for a few minutes. We didn't have to wait long — a coach came out and told us that the race jury had just decided to cancel the race. At that point, I was disappointed, because I really felt ready to go. It seemed like a waste that we had even gone outside in the first place if we weren't going to race.

We'll try to run the GS tomorrow as scheduled, and race slalom on Saturday. I think it's still snowing outside now though.

Writing about this and remembering what it looked like up there today, I was reminded of one of my favorite Transcendentalist poems: Emerson's "The Snow-Storm."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

'twas the night before slalom...

I've come under fire from certain quarters lately for the preponderance of ski-related material on this page. So in order to appease those readers who are here in search of less athletic fare, here are your daily non-ski-related tidbits:

Today we had a pretty easy day, skiing at Breckenridge with some of the people in the learn-to-race program. In the afternoon we went to the local elementary school and talked to kids about our team. Nick and I were assigned to a kindergarten class. They had lots of questions for us, mostly about what it's like to live in a wheelchair. Nick's favorite question was from a little boy who asked, "What is disabled?"

Tomorrow is our first race of the season, a slalom in Breckenridge. Yesterday in team time trials at Vail, I was consistently second among monoskiers. In first place was the man everyone wants to beat, Chris Devlin-Young, age: almost 43. (Huh, while searching for that last link I stumbled across my own bio on the U.S. Ski Team website. Not bad.) I'm optimistic heading into tomorrow, although right now it's snowing hard outside my hotel room window. That means the course tomorrow will probably be really soft with lots of ruts. We're supposed to get even more snow tomorrow and the next day, when we race giant slalom.

By the way, you can check out the full results of these races here, once they get around to posting them.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Bush = Mussolini?

My friend Andy recently forwarded me a copy of this sermon by a Unitarian Universalist minister in Austin. It's a little confrontational — I think intentionally so — to call the United States a fascist nation, but it allows the guy to make some salient observations about the way we're headed.

We skied at Breckenridge again yesterday and Vail today. Everyone's pretty tired now, and we aren't getting a day off from skiing until after Friday's race, but we did get this afternoon off from dryland training at the gym. So here I am watching a bad movie on TV and eating a Subway sandwich... ahhh.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

room for improvement

Our coaches were pretty unhappy with us today. We were training GS at Breckenridge, and most of us were not skiing up to our potential, or up to the way we skied in Austria in October. After training, we got a bit of a lecture and we spent some time going back to basics — free skiing and drills. Then this evening, after we got back from the gym, we watched video of our skiing and discussed it with the coaches. I was definitely going back to some bad habits, and seeing it on video was a big help, since I thought I had been skiing OK. I have a pretty clear idea of what I'll need to work on tomorrow, when we ski slalom.

Yesterday was pretty much the best day in U.S. downhill history, with Bode Miller 1st and Daron Rahlves second in Beaver Creek, CO, and Lindsey Kildow getting her first World Cup win in Lake Louise, Canada. Go Americans...

Thursday, December 02, 2004

from Frisco

One of my pet peeves is when people call San Francisco "Frisco." Frisco is the name of the town in Colorado where I'm posting from. I rolled into town today after watching the Birds of Prey World Cup super G race in Beaver Creek. (Bode Miller of the U.S. took second... the downhill is tomorrow.) We'll be here until Dec. 11, training at nearby ski ares like Keystone, Copper Mtn., and Vail, and then racing at Breckenridge Dec. 9 & 10.

I'm getting ready for a major equipment change soon. I'll soon be retiring my old Yetti monoski and switching to an Austrian model that should help me reach a new level with my skiing... I hope. I'll explain more about this later... it's bedtime.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

"the icebox of the rockies"

That's the nickname of the town of Fraser, Colo. (this link is very interesting if you like data as much as I do), where I currently reside, and it deserves the moniker. Today was the first real cold day of the winter: 16 below zero when I went by the bank's time & temperature sign this morning around 8:00. (I hear that at 5:00 a.m. it said minus 30.) It was nice and sunny today though, with no wind, so it was bearable — as long as you didn't ski too fast. After each run, it's definitely essential to rub your nose a few times to ward off frostbite.

Yesterday I ran into Christin Lathrop, Dartmouth class of '03, at the library. She was with another Dartmouth racer and Christin's twin sisters Abbi and Jenny, who ski for Colby College. All were in town for the women's Nor-Am races that are being held at Winter Park today through Friday. The field consists of basically the best high school and college racers in the U.S. and Canada. I saw some Italians and Slovenians walking around as well.

On Thursday some of us will be driving to Beaver Creek to watch Daron and Bode try to continue their amazing racing season in the super G on the renowned Birds of Prey course. Then we head to Frisco, a town in Summit County, where all of us U.S. Disabled Ski Teamers will be staying for almost two weeks to train for our opening races in Breckenridge Dec. 9 & 10.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

another powder day

It has hardly stopped snowing in the past three days. It has only added up to maybe a foot down here, but up on the mountain it was enough to open a bunch of trails. GS training today was cancelled, and we went powder skiing instead. Fun fun fun... I just can't wait until the pair of powder skis I ordered gets here.

This is one of the saddest things I've ever seen.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Homecoming (drag) queens

Reading this New York Times article made me realize that I've never been to a school that had a Homecoming king and queen. At Gould, where I went to high school, we had no Homecoming at all (no football team), and I certainly didn't miss it. At Dartmouth, Homecoming is sort of a big deal, what with the freshman bonfire and all, but as far as I know, no king and queen. Are there any Dartmouth people reading this who know if we ever had something like that?

Friday, November 26, 2004


Today was our first real powder day up at Winter Park. About 4 inches of new snow last night on top of maybe 6 more over the past couple days made for a nice fluffy surface for the first few runs — until all the holiday crowds showed up and the lift lines got clogged. I went up on my own at 8:30 and skied for a good two hours, then ditched the crowds and headed home. While I was skiing, they opened like 4 nice steep trails with a pretty good base of natural-only snow. Fun stuff.

Tomorrow night: R.E.M. concert at the Fillmore in Denver.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


I got my hair cut this morning. Kind of a boring thing to blog, I know, but it was kind of a symbolic act. This past spring, summer, and fall I was consciously trying to grow my hair long in front to make myself feel like a little more of an... indie scenester, or something. Of course, around my ski team, the long hair went over like a lead zeppelin. So I succumbed to peer pressure and got it cut really short, but I like it. I definitely feel like more of an athlete now. (I'd post photos, but I have no digicam at the moment...) It's strange to negotiate these dual/multiple roles: student/writer/rock fan in the spring and summer, ski racer in the fall and winter. If I were more of an individualist, perhaps I'd find an image that encompassed it all. But we're all sheep, aren't we?

Oh yeah, slalom training this afternoon was pretty great. I skied maybe 7 or 8 gates of the best slalom I'm capable of the moment, and the rest was okay too.

"What position should I wear?" —R.E.M., "Crush with Eyeliner"

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

a routine morning, and a dramatic one

I probably took 15 consecutive runs on Parkway today between 9 and 12. Parkway is pretty much the easiest run at Winter Park, and one of only 4 trails currently open. (If anyone has too much snow on his or her hands, please send some this way.) We were training slalom on the trail, and it was going pretty well for me, but sometimes it's hard to gauge how well you're skiing when you're training on something that flat.

The lifties must have been pretty tired of scanning our passes by the end of the morning, and Winter Park has a stupid policy that on the lower lifts they have to scan your pass every single run, even if you've obviously been through the line 10 times already.

Speaking of chairlifts, yesterday morning right after the lift opened, this young girl had trouble getting on. By the time they stopped the lift, the girl was hanging about 30 feet in the air, with her dad hanging onto her basically by the collar of her jacket. She kept slipping lower and lower as the jacket pulled up over her head, and for about 10 minutes everyone in the lift line was gawking and speculating about how to get her down. The most common sentiment seemed to be, "She can't weigh more than 70 or 80 pounds. Why can't that guy just pull her back on the chair?" A ski area employee climbed the nearest lift tower and lowered down a rope so they could, I don't know, lasso the girl or something, but by that time her dad was losing his grip, and she fell. Luckily a coach had rushed up the line and laid a big foam pad on the ground under the chair. Although ski patrol took the girl down in a stretcher just to be safe, the word was that she was basically fine. As far as I was concerned, the incident just provided proof that if any resort employees are on top of things, it's the ski coaches.

Monday, November 22, 2004

In which this weblog's title is explained and alternate titles are rejected.

I suppose I should have anticipated this, but my humble blog's first reader has been baffled by its title. It was meant to evoke a well-known statement about the nature of snowflakes, and thus, by extension, the wintry world of ski racing from whence it originates. Of course, now that I've had to explain the title, it's certainly lost some of its panache. Thanks, Jared.

Perhaps it would interest the reader to know that the idea for this blog was conceived while driving across Iowa, a very boring state which also, perversely, supported George W. Bush in the recent election despite having defeated him in 2000. While driving, I jotted down a list of possible titles (don't worry, Mom, my eyes never left the road). The next day, while driving across Nebraska, I pared the list down to the current title. In the end I decided it would be best to go with something vaguely skiing-related.

The list of alternate contenders, annotated:

  • "yellowsnow" (Tasteless.)

  • "middle park" (Too obscure; this is the name of the region in Colorado where Winter Park is located as well as the name of the local high school.)

  • "vox clamantis in colorado" (Too Dartmouth-y.)

  • "blue america" (Too political. Besides, it's probably taken.)

  • "boards of colorado" (Too obscure.)

  • "downhill battle" (A witty pun, but alas, already taken by a website that has nothing to do with skiing.

  • "patriotism means never having to say you're sorry" (Too cynical, preachy, political, and just plain pretentious.)

  • "meg white and the seven dwarves" (Too random, but I'll be damned if that wouldn't make a great name for Meg's backing band, should she ever go solo.)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Well, here I am.

I have finally joined the modern world and established a blog. We'll see how often I get around to updating it. I have lots of cool ideas for this thing. For the meantime, I will just post this link to an NPR story about an incredibly strange phenomenon. (Thanks to Ari and Abby for this.)