Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Early Season Skin

After getting home from a whirlwind tour of Boulder last weekend, it was up and at 'em early Monday morning with spin class at Westminster to sweat it out!

My fellow Skidmore Alpine Ski Team alum in Utah, Andrew called me 1/2 way through spin, "wanna ski this morning? Do you have touring gear?"
... and off we went, up Big Cottonwood Canyon to Brighton, who received a blanketing of almost 50 inches over the weekend.

Gorgeous day, great to get out there with friends and enjoy it!! Although, I got caught on a stump about 2 turns into the run that flung me down.. yikes! There's mountain sharks in the early season that come up and bite if you're not careful!

When I got home I found an extra special package containing those bad boys!! ^ My new Dalbello Sherpa 5/5's! They will be everything I need for standing on the side of race courses coaching my athletes, to high tailing it up pistes to complete my touring setup.

Such a great day and start to my winter in Utah, FINALLY!

Life's Choices

A bittersweet goodbye...

About 7 years ago, on a high school field trip to Gettysburg, a classmate of mine, who practiced Wiccan, gave me a tarot card reading. I shuffled the deck, chose my cards and she began the reading. She explained that the cards I’d chosen were telling her that I was going to have a big decision to make between two things later in life. She couldn’t tell what the choices would be, just that I was going to have to choose, and that it was big. I had hope that the reading would help me figure out my future, but felt frustrated with its vagueness. I thought it might have been a cop-out on my friend’s part, because we all are faced with choices all the time. How could this be the only thing the cards were saying?
Throughout my life I’ve remembered that reading, and whenever I had a big decision to make, I wondered if it was “the one.” Well I believe the big choice has finally come and it’s taken me all summer, perhaps even longer, to make it.
I’ve been coaching ski racing full time for about 3 years. Starting out in the east, I always knew I’d go west eventually. I finally made the move last season to Vail after spending the summer at Mt. Hood scouting for a job out west. It seemed like the dream job at the biggest ski club in the country with the best resources, best staff, best athletes, best everything. I was certainly daunted at first, not knowing where I would stand among all the bests, but eventually found my footing and excelled. 
One of our last races of the season was the Snowbird “Last Chance Races.” It was my first time skiing Snowbird and I was incredibly impressed with the terrain. I met some of the Snowbird staff through working the race and they told me they had a coaching job opening for next season. Initially I brushed it off, thinking, “yeah, that’s cool, but I’m definitely staying at Vail…”
The offer was again floated to me at our last races at Beaver Creek and again the next time I saw Snowbird staff at Mt. Bachelor for our June Camp. After Bachelor, I moved back up to Mt. Hood for my second season working the Reliable Racing Supply store in Government Camp.
Several factors influenced the change of heart I experienced this summer. Perhaps it was the constant influence of friends from Salt Lake City at Hood persuading me to come to Snowbird. Perhaps it was the abrupt staffing upheaval at Vail for next season. Perhaps it was my separation from Vail that allowed me to truly reflect on what I want. All I knew was that I did want to check out Snowbird and SLC, but something was still holding me back to Vail.
I initially felt I would stay at Vail, and then definitely thought I’d move to Snowbird, and back again. Constantly going back and forth in my mind from Snowbird to Vail was driving me crazy. The combination of cheaper housing, better terrain and a more laid back ski club environment at Snowbird that values fostering a love of skiing and lifelong skiers, not just trying to create carbon copy Lindsey Vonn’s, ultimately helped make my final decision. Through some serious introspection and a life coaching session or two from my Aunt I was able to make a final decision in which I felt 100% confident.
The biggest thing left for me to do was break it to my roommates at Vail and of course my boss, and then I’d be free. I envisioned the most positive outcome of the phone call I was about to have with my boss at Vail, then dialed the number.
Luckily the conversation went as smoothly as I'd hoped. The most difficult conversation I had to have was telling my roommates I wasn’t coming back. Although I slept on a bunk bed and shared a room last season, it was one of my best winters to date, all due to how awesome, fun and supportive my roommates were.
 Vail roomies
After getting passed those difficult conversations, it was time to start my new life and organize my future in Utah. Another fateful turn of events was in store for me there...
I was all set to move in with a friend I’d met at Hood right at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, only a few short miles from Snowbird. Yet I’d heard it might be more fun to live closer into the city where there are more young people and things going on. 
Then I got a phone call from Keely Kelleher, a friend I’d also met at Hood and all around awesome woman. She told me her roommate bailed on her and wanted me to take her place. Her apartment is located right in the heart of the 9th & 9th neighborhood and Sugarhouse, where a lot of students and young people live. I was nervous about having a longer commute to work and all the stories I’d heard about the canyon access road closures, but after working it out, I felt the benefits of living in the city, with a great roommate that I can learn a lot from, outweighed living closer with less going on up there. We’ll see how it goes this winter commuting back and forth about 35 minutes each way and perhaps I’ll be singing a different tune. As for now, I couldn’t be happier with the tough decisions I’ve made that have shaped my life into the skier I’ve always dreamt I’d become. 
Me & my SLC crew!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Epic Adventures

An epic realization has struck me: the two most awe inspiring, badass things I’ve ever done in the mountains occurred in 2012, within 3 months of each other, in what most would call “the off season."
My first dream trip occurred on the famous Vallee Blanche ski tour in Chamonix - Mt. Blanc in May. Chamonixskiguide’s definition: The greatest descent in the Alps: the Valley Blanche is not a piste, but a high mountain route with unprepared snow on the glaciers, the itinerary is 22 kilometers (13 mi) long and the vertical descent is higher than 2800 meters (1.7 mi/9,186 ft).

I used crampons on my ski boots and ski crampons under my skis, roped to my partner, nearing the closest I’ve ever come to death but for one false move during that tour. I felt humbled sitting atop that glacier, soaking in the scene around me and what was promised for my descent. Knowing that many ski and mountain enthusiasts can only dream of checking off Mt. Blanc and The Vallee Blanche, many of which will never get there. Luckily my best friend lives in Les Contamines – Montjoie and I was able to enjoy an epic trip on a seriously low budget. It pays to have friends in high places!! Quite literally… 
Atop the Aguille du Midi

Crampons, check. Skis, check. Rope, check. Away we go down the knife's edge ridge to start our ski.

Soaking in the view with hot chocolate and jambon beurre - tres bon!
My second most amazing mountain adventure happened in July on Mt. Hood. Two friends and I hiked up above crater rock, up the hog’s back (~10,600 ft) on all fours because it was so treacherous and windy, post holing through the snow each step up the ridge. We clicked in from the massive crevasse above the hogback's neck, traversed across and skied an amazingly steep corn snow pitch (over 1,000 vertical feet of steep!), then traversed to Illumination rock and skied another glorious wide open corn snow field back in bounds to Palmer. We gained roughly 2,500+ vert and skied down over 2 miles back to the parking lot. Best Sunday-Funday ever! July 22, 2012

Palmer Glacier, climbing/ski route. July 22, 2012. 
Looking back at Crater Rock from Hogsback ridge. 

Hiking Hogsback, almost to where we finally put skis on! 

A few common threads loop through my mind dreaming of these mountain ascents.  The first and most evident being certain death or dismemberment if anything had gone wrong. So, apparently my definition of epic, amazing, hardcore mountain adventures involves an incredibly high risk of death. I believe most people’s definition would, by default, include a serious risk of death or injury when considering high mountain activities. Its a common thread that binds why many ski and mountain enthusiasts do what they do. Its all for the adrenaline rush… the natural unabated high.
Although its involved, I don’t necessarily enjoy being fearful of death when I'm skiing. But many of the activities I do enjoy, and will continue to pursue, include death as a consequence if anything went wrong. Perhaps it is not the intimate knowledge that I could die out there, but with that knowledge, that I’ve never felt more alive.
Holding exclusive domain over the mountain heights, if only for an hour or an afternoon, also makes me feel incredibly alive and at peace. Most people don’t get to experience mountains the way I do or the way I strive to one day. That the masses do not share this experience with me lets it become something special for me, and a select group of people on the same vibration. 
Ski touring, to me, goes beyond a feeling of peace, greater than the physical accomplishment of hiking your ass off to get to an exclusive place. Maybe it’s the promise of getting to go ski something beautiful and untouched… All I know is that I’ve never been happier or more filled with joy than at those moments*. I do not want to be anywhere else at that moment. I feel pure satisfaction in both what I’ve just done and what I am about to do – ski some of the purest snow conditions, untracked, for miles and miles.
To me, this lifestyle in no way conjures the word “bum,” and I want to prove that the lifestyle I've chosen is just real and validated as any other job. I work hard, outside, everyday and must, in order to make ends meet. I feel fortunate to have found what I truly love early on and the courage to go after my passion whole-heartedly. Isn't the "American Dream" to go out and find what you love and figure out how to make money doing it? In this period of my life, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing and nothing else I feel I should be doing except more skiing, bigger skiing, and better skiing, for a lifetime. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Life's Good at Mt. Hood

I’ve finally settled in after a wild welcome back week in Govy. I’ve felt like the days were getting away from me almost immediately upon my arrival just running around with friends, staying up late, not getting enough sleep and getting to the mountain late. I didn’t have much control or independence, which made me feel icky. Now that I’ve gotten my routine down on the hill and at the shop, the ickyness has receded.

Trillium Lake - one of most picturesque spots I've ever been

A typical day in the life of Lyndsay Strange at Mt. Hood goes as follows:
6:30 alarm goes off
~6:55 roll out of bed
7:15 head up the hill
7:30 load the lift
7:30-11:45ish promote Bomber Skis and get athletes to test skis while I ski around with them, schmooze with the groups around the mountain, do some training myself (getting pumped for the Mt. Hood Summer Fun Nationals masters race in a week!!),
11:45 make my way down the glacier, down time/lunch before I open the shop
1:00 open Reliable Racing
6:00 close Reliable Racing
6-? tune skis, dinner, relax, post up at Charlie’s Bar, adventures in the Hoodland, etc.
Setting up skis for test flights!

Photo: Anabelle McLean -> follow her on instagram @anabellemclean @abdoesdesign

The shop is closed on Sundays, which is the day I try to do more traditional summer activities like hiking, swimming, and visiting Portland/Hood River instead of ski. 
This Sunday I’m heading to the Oregon Country Fair. It is the weirdest, best festival I have ever been to. It’s a fairyland in the middle of the woods with naked people running around, the crunchiest hippies, amazing unique crafts, vendors and food, theater, poetry and music spread throughout the grounds. This will be the second summer I’ve been to the fair and I look forward to seeing March Fourth Marching Band play. They are the most unique and fun band I’ve ever seen – pure entertainment. M4 is like a circus of stimulation with band members on stilts marching through the crowd getting people pumped up, everyone dressed in these ornate circusy burlesque costumes that play the funkiest music I’ve ever heard. 
Oregon Country Fair 2011

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

S'later Bachelor, Hello Hood!

2 weeks of ski camp is over, now on to my next destination, Government Camp. This is my second summer running the Reliable Racing shop in Govy. It’s a welcome change of pace from coaching for Ski Club as I am totally on my own program; just me in the shop with my own apartment in town. I ski in the mornings representing Bomber Ski Company, bringing skis on the hill for athletes to demo and hopefully buy, if not spark their interest.
Rep’ing for Bomber has been exciting since it’s a new company that many people have never even seen before or vaguely heard of. It’s a grassroots movement to get people on these custom handmade world cup quality race, mogul and freeride skis. Having the skis on my feet sparks interest in the lift line, on the chairlift and around the mountain.

"What are those skis?"people ask, and the conversation begins. 
The average ski that a racer buys in a ski shop is a factory made, cookie cutter, “McDonalds” ski from any of the brands like Rossi, Fischer, Atomic, Head, etc. What sets Bomber apart from the average ski is that each pair is handmade by a craftsman that made the exclusive Rossignol World Cup skis for decades. The average ski racer now has access to exclusive quality skis once only reserved for the world’s best. We believe that is something that can make a difference in an athlete’s performance or enhance the experience of the all mountain skier.
Ok, sales pitch over.

Being back at Hood has been amazing. It holds an incredibly special place in my heart. The place never really changes and mostly the same people come back year after year. As it’s my second consecutive year here in several years, all the familiar faces are back as if we never left. My Govy crew is back in action and lets just say I didn’t do much skiing the first weekend I arrived…

It’s been super variable here throughout the entire month of June with rain, high winds, some snow and generally crappy conditions. Many teams and camps have been forced to cancel training or only get a few runs in due to poor visibility. That is definitely where Mt. Bachelor came out on top. Since we were skiing within the tree-line (instead of above the trees at Hood), the visibility was not really a problem. Lucky for me, my first day skiing on the Timberline glacier, July 1 was warm and sunny! The snow is summer glacier snow – firm in the mornings and softens up to a slushy mess by about 10 am or sooner if its hot and didn’t freeze the night before. Countless salt bags are needed to suck out the moisture and firm up the snow for race training and throughout the parks. Freeriders like the snow softer, but if they didn’t salt the parks at all, they’d be swimming during the prime time of their training sessions, between 10:30 and 2pm.

The Timberline lift line in summer is one of the most unique sights to be seen. As I explain to many people who ask about Mt. Hood in summer, ask yourself, who skis in the summer? Who would think to go skiing in July? Only the hardcore. Only the ones who will do anything to get better at their sport. Elite ski racers and elite park riders trying to maximize their time on snow. The Timberline lift line includes those park riders at the cusp of the sport’s style, clad in tall T’s, tall jerseys, baggy pants and ski boots with the tongues on the outside. It also includes racers in only speed suits and padded training shorts and tops. Two extreme ends of the sport’s spectrum. Its difficult to describe and should really only be experienced in real life, but when I say Govy/Mt. Hood is the weirdest place on earth, those who’ve been there will agree.
Diversity in the Magic Mile lift line

The skiing that’s open to the public is definitely not as widespread as what’s accessible to the private camps. There is a public lane for free skiing that extends for about 1,500 vertical feet. All the freeriders lap the public park even if they have access to their own camp’s parks like Windell’s and High Cascade. So it is worth it for the novelty of skiing in the summer to get a ticket and ride Timberline without being a part of a private camp. I would recommend doing a bit of both as an adult in order to fully experience it all. For kids, without a doubt, sign up for camp! Windell’s isn’t lying when they claim it’s the “funnest place on earth”...

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bachelor In The Books

June pow day #2 at Mt. Bachelor
Mt. Bachelor June Camp – in the books! 12 days of skiing and everyone had a blast! In the beginning, our sarcastic motto was, “day 1 in 10 years” because Bachelor hasn’t opened for summer training camps in 10 years. Lets just say things got off to a slow start…
The motel where we stayed also hadn’t been open to full capacity in 6 years. It took a couple days to grease the wheels and get everything and everyone rolling at the same pace, including myself.
This camp was the beginning of my new job description working with the younger kids, 12-13 year olds (J4’s, or now as they call them in USSA, U14s). I spent last season working with the 13-14 year old (J3/U16) boys and had a blast. Initially when I went searching for a new coaching job in the west, I wanted to work with the J4s. When I landed the job with Ski Club Vail, they put me with the J3 boys. I was super nervous at first and went through a phase of doubting my ability to coach this group to the best of my ability. After the first month or so though, I got into it and felt more comfortable helping these kids on the brink of stepping up their game in the coming years to ski faster.  It turned out to be one of the funnest seasons of my coaching career, working with great kids who are so dedicated to the sport, and a crew of coaches, the “Z Team”, whom I learned so much from and had an absolute blast working so hard together every single day.
Z Team hard at work

Starting with a new group of kids and new coaches was slightly intimidating to me. It wasn’t the familiar crew that I had spent the previous season bonding with. What made my experience last year especially great was working with a female peer coaching the same group of kids. Having another girl to work with was incredibly empowering and comforting to relate to on another level. Don’t get me wrong; I can hang with the boys. I’ve spent my entire ski racing and coaching life hanging with the boys. But having another girl who’s also spent her life with the boys made it that much easier.
There will be a more gender diverse group of coaches for the coming winter, but at Bachelor, it was just me. So coming into a new group without my support system from last season took some time to adjust. After a few days of “adjusting”, it turned out to be more fun than I had ever imagined. The 12-13 age group is incredibly special because they are starting to become athletes with muscles, but are still mostly innocent and cute. They only grow into their egos, bodies and bad habits as they age…
Coming off the first ever SSCV Bachelor camp, I am beyond psyched to work with the U14s next season. We worked hard at camp and made big improvements to the kids skiing and my coaching. I feel more comfortable as a coach and more confident with my eye for U14s and beyond. 

Z Team out numbers the A Team by 3! (in trouble for no safety bar or helmets in this shot!)

new U14 "Dream Team"

Saturday, June 23, 2012

June POW

My stint of unemployment following a long, hard ski season at Ski Club Vail, came to an end when I resumed working for the Club at their first annual Mt. Bachelor summer ski camp. Its something special as it's exclusively for SSCV athletes (alpine, freeride, freestyle, nordic, snowboard), whereas many other summer ski camps are a mixed bag of athletes from all over that come to train with a private camp. 

June 23, 2012, Day 8 of Ski Club Vail’s Bachelor Camp was absolutely unreal. We drove up to the mountain through about 4 or more inches of fresh wet snow. 

It was dumping up there. 

Initially we weren’t that psyched about skiing because it looked so crappy outside. Once we got out there to test the waters, it turned out to be incredible! We planned to mostly free-ski and do drills for our first day of GS training after a full week of slalom. With about 5-6 inches of fresh that had fallen since 5 am, drills went out the window and enjoying the white gift was on the ticket for the day. 

Seriously, who skis powder in June? We do! We hit just about every trail and even the bits that seemed un-skiable earlier in the week due to rotten, sun-baked snow coverage. Then we hiked up the dome on the front side of the mountain and made more fresh tracks. 
One of my U14 athletes dropping in!

The kids have been working so hard all week and have been skiing so well that today was a great treat to free ski, hoot and holler, and simply enjoy the mountain for the day.  I am ecstatic to have started the second week of camp with such an incredibly high note. Hopefully the next 5 days will be just as fun!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Painting The Picture

Since graduating from Skidmore College, my life, like most recent graduates, has gone through a period of transition. I always knew I wanted to make my life out of skiing, but my path has been anything but a straight line. Throughout the days, months and years I've spent carving out my niche, I've been fortunate enough to travel, work and meet people along the way that have left me with lasting and positive experiences. Whether I'm setting up gates at the Birds of Prey World Cup races, coaching up and comers at Ski Club Vail or free-skiing with my close friends, my blog will allow readers to come on this ever-evolving, dream-like journey with me!

Closing Day at Vail for the 2011-12 season has come. I can't believe a whole season has gone by - my first winter in Colorado. I've spent my entire life skiing in the Northeast and felt the time had come to make the big move, to explore what lies beyond New England and experience it for myself. 

The summer after my freshman year of college I worked as a counselor for Mt. Hood Summer Ski Camps. This summer affected my life in many ways – primarily in driving my decision to make ‘living the ski life’ a priority. I was surrounded by peers doing just that, and I wanted to carve out a piece of it all my own more than anything. Finally, once I graduated, I was able to make that dream a reality by moving to southern Vermont, coaching ski racing for the Bromley Outing Club. 

Driving the MHSSC bus full of kids to Timberline and back!

After two full seasons at Bromley and Stratton, skiing almost everyday, I knew I had to keep going, move on to something bigger, better, and which defined every Eastern skier’s fantasy; I had to move out West. 


Getting there truly became an adventure in and of itself, as my best friend and I embarked on a 2 month road trip across country. We spent a year planning the trip, creating the most epic itinerary we could imagine, and including stops we’d always wanted to see. We left our jobs in April 2011 and headed west! 

Starting in upstate New York, we traversed the states through DC, New Orleans, Austin, Santa Fe, Mammoth, Napa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, LA, Malibu, The Grand Canyon, Vegas, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Moab, and Salt Lake. We parted ways there and she went on while I flew home to grab my car and make the cross country trip all over again, this time taking a straight northern route to Oregon so I could begin my summer job at Mt. Hood. In a new car, with a new companion, another journey began across Chicago, Nebraska, Park City, Boise, and finally Government Camp. 
"The Beast" - our home for 2 months...

Best campsite ever - Malibu
Hiking into the Grand Canyon!
Beautiful Bryce
Rafting down the Colorado in Moab with Splore 
Best campsite ever (x2) - Moab on the river

Taking it in at Canyonlands' Island in the Sky

My goal through that summer job, when I managed the Reliable Racing shop at Mt. Hood, was to network, network, network, and shamelessly promote myself to Western ski clubs coming through town in the hopes of securing a job for the winter. Luckily, Mt. Hood is the epicenter of North American summer ski-racing and I was in the thick of it. 

By the end of that summer, I had job offers and irons in the fire for the following season where I wanted to be. After narrowing the decision down to Colorado, I simply asked the question, “Which Mountain is the best?” When votes came back unanimously for Vail, that’s where I went. 

Coincidentally, Vail and the rest of the Rockies had just come off their best powder season in 30 years. Needless to say I was excited to have a taste of real powder and all the glory that’s associated with Vail. Ski Club Vail was going to employ me as an assistant Assistant Men’s Alpine Coach, working with the 13-14 year olds. 

Waiting for the season to get underway was probably the longest fall of my life, but also one of the best; with days spent hiking with my cousins and their lovable labradoodle, Banjo, in Boulder, and nights spent delivering fresh baked cookies, cupcakes and grilled cheeses for Boulder Baked. I had to stay afloat somehow, even though I was incredibly fortunate enough to have generous cousins take me in for a month. Driving deliveries for Boulder Baked was the easiest temporary job I could find at the time. It proved to be a lot of fun and I quickly learned the city, mostly making deliveries to college students buzzing until the early morning hours. Yet, the most memorable deliveries I made were to a strip club in North Boulder… The same girl ordered pretty much the same thing every time: ½ dozen cookies, a carton of milk, a milkshake and two cupcakes. It was fascinating to see the crazy outfits and stripper shoes she was wearing. I don’t know if she ate that whole order, or if she had a “client” that shared it with her, all I know is she tipped well! 
Top of Sanitas

Finally the day came for me to move up to Vail. I’d found the most wonderful roommates through Craigslist, a deal only sweeted by the bargain; the ducks were lining up for my new life in the mountains. Three months after being hired and impatiently waiting for it all to begin, it did, on November 1st, 2011.   

The month of November at Ski Club Vail is probably the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced. If Mt. Hood is the epicenter for ski racing in the summer, Ski Club Vail’s own Golden Peak training venue takes the cake during pre season. Some of the coolest days I spent working on that hill were in November, busting my bum putting up and maintaining B-net, late night hill injections, lugging gates, and training the kids, all alongside the training courses being lapped by the country’s best including Lindsey Vonn, Ted Ligety, Bode Miller, Nolan Kasper, Andrew Weibrecht, Julia Mancuso, Resi Steigler and Sarah Schleper, to name a few names, as well as every national team from Italy to Austria, Germany, Lichtenstein, France and Slovenia, not to mention the hoards of University teams, clubs, and private groups from across the country. It almost made me sad for my own ski racing background, that I never had experienced this kind of training environment before, and that my humble beginnings looked nothing like those of the kids at Ski Club Vail. Yet I also knew that the way I grew up and learned, the race clubs I joined, the team members I skied alongside, the coaches I had, have all had a profound influence on how I coach.  I not only want to inspire kids to kick ass and win, but to have a passion for the sport even a little bit as much as I do. 

Hill watering and B-Net, what SSCV does best!