Birthday Backpacking

This year for his birthday, Jeffrey decided he wanted to go backpacking with me and some of his friends. Given that his birthday is in late April, that’s a little risky in Colorado. But we were lucky, and we had an absolutely glorious weekend!

Seeing as it was our first trip of the year, Jeff picked a super easy one. We went up to Golden Gate State Park and hiked a whole mile and a half into our campsite. On Friday evening, Jeff and I were the only two up there. He’d originally planned for seven people, so we had a veritable feast of burrito delicious-ness!

It was also something of a comedy of errors kind of a trip – I forgot a hat, and a fork, and a plate, and my headlamp had mostly dead batteries, and Jeff’s water filter broke. But we both had enough layers and we remembered the important stuff, like tents and sleeping bags (I even strapped my half-size pillow to my backpack and packed that in). Luckily for me, Jeff brought his Frisbee to use as a plate and had extra batteries. And even better, when his friends came up the next morning, Matt had his water filter with him.

Also, as previously stated, the trip was a whole mile and a half. We could have bailed fairly easily had things really gotten sticky.

Matt and Jeff both brought fly rods with them, once the six of us were gathered, we spent most of Saturday afternoon fishing in the little pond below our campsite. Most of us even caught fish! I did not, but I did get somewhat better at roll-casting. Matt and his fiancé Lauren are both excellent fisher-people, and Jeff scored the biggest fish of the trip on Sunday morning, at 11 inches long.

I’ve heard a lot of people who were super passionate about fishing extoll the virtues, but I mostly remember fishing from my childhood as being fairly boring. I think I’ve gotten better at sitting still, and I think fly fishing is a very different sport. But I think I can see how people find it so meditative. I really enjoyed letting the time slip gently past as we hung around on the bank and flicked the line back and forth.

I think part of this feeling also came from the fact that there was absolutely no cell service. I even climbed on top of a fairly big rock on a hill, and still nothing. It does feel a little strange to be so removed from my usual constantly-connected life, but I also really, really enjoy it. I left my phone in my backpack, didn’t wear a watch, and kept track of time by how hungry I got.

On Saturday night, Matt made everyone a completely amazing quinoa dish with black beans and chicken and lime and tomatoes and corn and basically, it was really, really tasty. I would like to point out that we feasted like kings for this backpacking trip; it was three of our groups’ first time, and Jeff and Matt were determined to make sure everyone enjoyed themselves. Under no circumstance is this kind of food normal for backpacking! But when it’s only a mile and a half, it’s easy to justify carrying a little extra weight.

One other thing about backpacking that I kind of weirdly love is that everything takes a lot longer to do than it normally would. On Saturday afternoon, we set up a tarp in some trees in case it rained (it didn’t!) and it took an hour of fiddling with ropes and knots and searching for sticks the right height and holding the tarp that was trying to flap wildly in the wind. In the end, we had a fabulous rain shelter that Jeff and Matt were very proud of. Cooking is the same way – with no flat surface, only a tiny little stove, and limited utensils, cooking gets very interesting very quickly.

This sounds like it could turn into a super obnoxious process, but I like the awareness it brings. That meal that took an hour to cook and required building a windbreak out of rocks and is half burnt and half cold? It tastes amazing. Backpacker people call this seasoning with miles. (I will also point out that nothing that Jeff or Matt cooked was half burnt or half cold…but it’s really easy to do with backpacking stoves!)

Sunday consisted of breakfast, a little more fishing, a little more fishing after that, and a very quick hike out. When I got home, I felt strong and capable and absolutely drenched in serenity.

That feeling didn’t last very long against the raging river that is being a teacher in May…but I did learn something about transitions and being intentional about switching between different paces of life that worked out a lot better this weekend!

I’m very, very lucky for many reasons: my brother is awesome and likes to hang out with me, I have the gear and the stamina to go backpacking, and I have such beautiful mountains in my backyard.

Your homework: What’s one thing you think you don’t like that you haven’t tried in a while? I was pleasantly surprised by fishing, that’s for sure!

Hej då,

Jamie

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Taking Care of

(Photo notes: This was from high school state championships when my parents hosted the Steamboat Springs High School team for a tuning party in our garage. I would absolutely not recommend tuning barefoot; metal filings in your foot aren’t fun!)

Ski racers spend hours and hours and hours and hours taking care of their skis. This is called tuning. We sharpen the edges, but that’s the easy part. The part that takes forever is waxing and brushing. I spent a significant portion of my racing career picking wax, melting it onto my skis, letting it cool, scraping it back off, and brushing my skis until they gleamed.

A lot of people are fairly confused by this whole process. Sharpening the edges is fairly intuitive; the snow is hard and a sharp edge holds better. But waxing and scraping and brushing? The trick is not to compare ski wax to car wax, which protects the paint and should be left on. Ski wax is more like conditioner for your hair. Without wax, ski bases get dry and the material of the base can start to fray and add friction. However, if you never rinsed your hair after you conditioned it, it would get sticky and gloopy and awful. The same is true for skis.

Ski wax is also special because there are different waxes formulated for different temperatures of snow. Cold wax is typically harder because cold snow crystals can strip a soft wax of a ski in a single run. Warm wax is softer and helps repel the water in the snow so the skis aren’t fighting adhesion. Some waxes had fluorocarbons in them, which made the ski really fast but also dried out the base like crazy.

Waxing is the easiest part of the whole process; it involves using an iron to melt the wax onto the ski base and get it all smooth. Then you have to leave the ski to cool. The longer you leave a ski, the more the wax soaks in and the better it is. Once the wax is cool, you can start to scrape it off. Scraping removes the visible wax. The better job you do scraping, the easier brushing is.

Brushing is the long process. When I traveled, I had three brushes; a brass brush, a horsehair brush, and a soft nylon brush. The brass pulled the most wax out of the ski, the horsehair pulled out a little more, and the nylon brush polished it. When I was in high school, I had a callous on my palm from how I held the brush. Done properly, brushing can take up to an hour for both skis.

I certainly had my moments of getting annoyed with brushing, especially on nights mid-series. It was hard to race all day, get off the hill and stretch, get dinner, do homework, and still be motivated to brush. Plus there’s all the other gear to take care off; wet mittens and bandanas to lay out to dry, boot liners to pull out of the shells…the list goes on. There were definitely days all these things didn’t happen.

But in general, I loved brushing and taking care of all my gear. It made me feel like the real deal. It made me feel capable. It made me feel like I was doing the right thing. And dry boots and mittens are a beautiful thing!

I don’t ski race anymore, but I still have plenty of gear to take care of. There are hiking boots to be rinsed off, a lot of the same gear for free skiing, bike chains to lube, and swimsuits to hang up to dry. I love taking care of my stuff. It serves me longer that way, but it also just feels good to do it.

This doesn’t stop with sports stuff though. I love washing dishes and wiping down counters and I’ve even gotten to the point where I appreciate sweeping the kitchen floor. I love the warm water and the smell of the soap, and I love seeing the kitchen all clean. But this is another form of taking care of my stuff. Is it easier to wash dishes right after I’ve used them and before everything has dried on to them? Absolutely. But that doesn’t change the fact that I truly enjoy cleaning my kitchen.

Again, I will put in the caveat that this is mostly true. My dirty dinner dishes are currently sitting in the sink waiting for me.

Laundry falls into this category too, as does putting things away. It’s really satisfying to have a place for everything and to have a neat space. The other thing that falls into this category, for me, is getting ready for the next day. This semester, one of my goals has been to have more relaxed mornings. To this end, I’ve been packing my lunch the night before, which generally involves spooning left-overs into a smaller container. I’ve also started packing my gym bag the night before. (I would like to point out that my gym bag is a fabric bag printed with the spines of the seven Harry Potter books. Mom got it for me for Christmas and I LOVE IT.) This is doubly-great; not only do I not have to scramble to do it in the morning, but I don’t forget socks anymore! (There was also one memorable time I forgot a shirt. I went swimming that day.)

There was a side-benefit to this that I didn’t anticipate. I stop working on school stuff at 8 pm in order to start doing dishes, packing lunch, packing my gym bag, and picking up anything that wandered out. (Seeing that I spend about four conscious hours in my house, I don’t know how this happens. But it does. Every single day. I blame mail.) This means that I’m not thinking about school and being stressed for the hour before I go to bed. And it means that I’m not sitting and staring at a screen, which I appreciate. I like the gentle movement of walking around my house and the calm that I get from putting my life physically in order.

I tried this out one other place in my life; I start my teaching day by getting my classroom totally ready for the day. The first thing I do is put my lunch in the fridge and turn on the heater in the office. Then I take care of writing the objective, agenda, and warm up on the whiteboard. After the whiteboard, I take a moment to sort papers and make tea. Only at this point do I take out my laptop. I love it because I start with something that’s guaranteed to be productive before I deal with not getting sucked into any of the distractions that come with the internet.

Just like brushing my skis, taking care of my things and my spaces make me feel good about being in them and with them. It makes me feel capable and productive and like I’m doing a good job with this whole adulting thing. Sometimes, at least!

Your homework: What do you enjoy taking care of? Why?

Hej dá,

Jamie

Backcountry Skiing is the Best Skiing!

Well, I can say spring break was a complete success! I got 100% caught up on my grading, which feels amazing. Jonathan and I bought a washer and a dryer, which felt incredibly adult. We painted the hall three different colors (and didn’t like any of them) and I accidentally scrubbed the varnish off the wooden cabinets in the upstairs bathroom. Whoops…but they needed refinishing anyhow. As much fun as all that was (and I’m really not even being sarcastic about that!), it was definitely not even close to the best part.

On Thursday morning, Jonathan and I packed up the car and drove to Jackson, Wyoming. It’s only a four-hour drive! We hiked a bit in Grand Teton National Park, admiring the incredible mountains in the sunshine. We could also see the famous tram at Jackson Hole, and Jonathan pointed out the couloir that so many people try and fail to ski. It’s a twenty-foot drop into a chute, and it’s completely visible from the aforementioned tram! Then we stopped in town and rented me backcountry gear.

For those of you unfamiliar, like I was about a week ago, backcountry gear uses skis that are most similar to alpine skis but are designed to be lighter. It’s the boots and the bindings that are really different. The bindings lock your toe in place like an alpine binding but allow your heel to lift so you can walk more easily. The boots have divots for the pin lock on the toe and don’t have the lip that alpine boots do. The boots also have walk mode, which allows the cuff of the boot to rotate to make walking easier. You just have to remember to lock it back to ski mode before you try to ski!

The last piece of backcountry gear is the skins. They stick to the bottom of the ski with an intense glue, and the side facing the snow is sort of fuzzy. All the hairs go one direction so you can pet it one direction and it feels smooth, but the other direction feels rough. It’s a bit like shark skin if you’ve ever had the privilege of feeling that. Skins allow you to stick to the snow as you’re walking uphill.

Actually, that wasn’t the last piece of gear we borrowed. Even though the avalanche danger was super low due to the warm winter, I absolutely carried a beacon, probe, and shovel. It was worth the twenty bucks to rent it, carry it, and not need it.

Jonathan rented us a tiny house to stay in while we were there! It was called Fireside Resort, and it was amazing!

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On Friday, it was time for the grand adventure. We drove partway up Teton Pass and skied from Phillips Ridge Trailhead. I definitely had some moments of flailing as I tried to figure out how to use my new gear…

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And I had some moments where I felt like I was getting better at what I was doing!

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Unfortunately, this picture is taken at the moment when we took the left fork before the left fork happened. We followed some snowmobile tracks up this hill and then realized there were no more tracks!

As we curved around the side of the ridge, we found the trail near the bottom of the valley below us. We decided not to lose all our hard-won elevation by skiing back down, so we traversed across the hill through some lovely open spots and past big pines.

Well, the open spots were lovely until they made our skins all warm and wet and the colder drier snow next to the trees started sticking to the skins. This is called glomping, my friends, and it is terrible. Absolutely terrible. It can be six inches of snow along the entire ski, and it’s heavy and sticky and awful!

We crested the ridge and took the skins off our skis for a while to let them dry out and to eat a snack. We hadn’t made it very far, but we’d been working pretty hard!

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We decided at this point that it would be worth it to drop back down to the trail, despite the fact that we knew we’d have to climb the ridge again. So we put our skins in our backpacks and skied down! It was only ten turns or so, and the snow was baked and crusty, and I laughed the whole way down in delight!

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This is me at the bottom. I’m clearly not excited at all.

We made much better progress once we were back on the trail, and we did eventually make it to our destination of Ski Lake. There were some snowmobilers buzzing around the basin, so we skied back a little way to a knoll overlooking the whole Teton valley.

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Then Jonathan gave me this. And I said yes. Approximately fifty-three times.

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I could write a lot of words here, and they would all feel trite. I am deliriously, outrageously happy. I’m just going to leave it at that.

We skied back out; it is a glorious feeling to have earned your turns! We dropped off the trail back down to the highway and skied through the trees. The snow was still crusty and baked and it was still amazing.

And what better way to celebrate than with chicken tacos and a warm fire?

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There are a million questions I don’t have an answer to right now about such things like, you know, weddings. And that’s ok for right now. I have a school year to finish out and a job to find and a move to make. And I’m still kind of in awe and disbelief that something so magical could happen in real life, to be totally honest.

Your homework (yes, you get homework, my students in class today did too, even after they pulled the “but you’re engaged and really happy and won’t really make us do homework, right?” card): What’s something you’ve always longed to do but haven’t been brave enough to do? I’ve watched people ski off Berthoud Pass here in Colorado my whole life, and I’d never been backcountry before.

Also, this seems like a good time to tell you to go find someone awesome and tell them you love them. Share the happiness!

Hej då,

Jamie

Spring Break!

Weeeeeeeee did it!

I can say with certainty that my students and I were very, very ready to not be in school for a little bit. I know I was flagging! My piles of grading stared at me, I stared at them, and not a lot got graded. Take that idea and apply it to the rest of everything school-related, and that’s about how it was going. To quote the lovely Anne Shirley of Green Gables (and yes, I’m rereading them all again this spring!):

Studies palled just a wee bit then; [the students] looked wistfully out of the windows and discovered that Latin verbs and French exercises had somehow lost the tang and zest they had possessed in the crisp winter months. Even Anne and Gilbert lagged and grew indifferent. Teacher and taught were alike glad when the term was ended and the glad vacation days stretched rosily before them.

And now I’m on spring break! It’s not quite the end of the term yet, so I gave every student a very serious injunction to SLEEP over break, and to do something fun. We won’t have another day when we get back – we go straight through all the way to graduation. I wanted my students to come back refreshed and ready for the last six weeks of content.

And as for me? I’ll be refreshed too. I’m spending my break in Utah with Jonathan, going back and forth between playing, catching up on aforementioned stacks of grading, and acting like an adult.

I’ll start with the adult bit; Jonathan and I have a HOUSE. In the four days I’ve been here we’ve made two trips to Lowe’s and one to Home Depot and we’ll go back again tomorrow I’m sure. We’ve been spackling walls and painting and scrubbing and replacing handles and putting up blinds. I really like painting! And I’m good at scrubbing, which is incredibly satisfying. Of course, we’ve done a tiny fraction of the things that could be done or the things I want to do, but I really am finding myself to be very excited to work on all these projects.

I’ve also been playing a lot too. I’ve been skiing at Snowbasin, the site of the Olympic downhills in 2002. Both times it was snowing, which made it feel a little more like winter. The slush at the bottom, however, paired with all the green grass, made it feel a whole lot more like spring. Either way, it was lots of fun to explore a new hill, whether I was skiing by feel through fog or sailing through heavy crusty powder behind a gate or tooling around on the groomers.

And on Saturday, Jonathan surprised me by taking me to Salt Lake for dinner and a show. He took me to see Audra McDonald, backed by the Utah Symphony, sing her way through the history of American musical theater. It was so much fun! Audra played the wardrobe in the live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast, as well as having played in multiple shows on Broadway. It was really different than anything we normally do, but it was great fun.

So now it’s Monday, and I am finally tackling the grading from…pretty much the entire month of March. Sorry to all my lovely wonderful students – I know feedback is better immediately! I’m excited to say that I’m finally out from underneath several major projects. My licensure application for my Utah teaching license is in the mail and my job applications are nearly finished (for the moment, of course). I successfully TD’d all of my three races, and once this stack of grading is taken care of I’ll be on the path to just finish teaching the year strong. I have to say, it’s a really exciting prospect.

In a little bit. There’s still a lot of spring break left to enjoy!

Your homework: How do you refresh?

Hej då,

Jamie

One Scary Thing a Day

We’ve all heard that quote – do one thing every day that scares you. Variations are about learning one new thing every day or trying something new every day. It sounds wonderful, but I’ve never done it. Not even close.

Humans like routines. In a complex world, we need routines in order to simplify our lives enough to function. Have you driven anywhere new recently? It takes WAY more brainpower and energy when you don’t know where you’re going! Routines allow us to cut out extraneous information without losing important stuff, and to conserve energy for decisions that matter.

I love routines. Really, really love them. It’s one of the reasons I can be such a hobbit, and why I like school so much (still). But they can be dangerous too. We’ve also all heard stories about people getting stuck in ruts, doing the same thing over and over again without realizing it’s not something that’s good for them and/or something that makes them happy.

Last Friday, one of my students told me she was doing one thing she normally wouldn’t do every day. She had introduced herself to the guest director at the honor choir, and she’d sung a solo at a dessert concert. She was planning to donate ten inches of her hair to Locks of Love and to ask her neighbors about their conservative approach to their religion so she could learn more about the people living around her.

I was surprised by how excited she was about this idea. Her voice was exhilarated when she was talking about the things she’d done, and she was lit up with curiosity when she talked about the things she had planned. It was very clear she was enjoying the challenge.

One thing I asked her was how she found the opportunities to do these challenges. I’ve taught this student for three years, and “overcommitted” doesn’t even begin to cover it! She told me it took about a week to get good at noticing opportunities, but now she saw them in everything she did, and other students chimed in. She could say hi to a new person in the halls or at the NHS meeting. She could help someone in the grocery store. She could attempt a new kind of puzzle. She could do everything with her left hand for an hour. Her ideas were endless!

Not all of her challenges had come off gracefully, either. But she was still eager to try new things, despite the anxiety I sometimes see from her in my classroom when she’s confronted with academic mistakes.

More than anything, it made me wonder about my life. When was the last time I’d done something new or challenging? When was the last time I’d failed at something gracefully?

I had a couple of instances I could think of: skiing in a new place with new people,  swimming again for the first time in several years, admitting I needed help with something. But each time was uncomfortable and had some outside catalyst. What would it look like to turn this into an intrinsic drive?

Your homework should be fairly obvious at this point; commit to doing at least one scary thing this week. If you want to be like my student and do one every day, go for it!

Hej då,

Jamie

We Humans are Capable of Greatness

Hi!

Surprise! I am not Jamie. My name is Jonathan. Jamie and I have been hanging out a lot lately and she asked if I would be willing to write a guest post on her blog tonight. After a small amount of thought, I accepted. After all, I too enjoy writing, though I’m not quite as brave about it as she is. Jamie is generally the only reader of my random musings and it’s exciting and somewhat eerie to write for a wider audience.

A quick aside about me: I like adventure. I like to think. I like to build things. I like to read and play outside and sometimes I ski off cliffs at high speed. As The Doctor might say, “I am, and always will be, the optimist. The hoper of far-flung hopes, and the dreamer of improbable dreams.” I pay the bills with engineering, but that’s more of a side note.

I have a story to tell, so read on if I have made you curious.

Before I tell my story, watch this video. It’s only three minutes long, and it’s worth it.

The narrator of this video is a man named Carl Sagan, who was reading a passage from his book Pale Blue Dot. This book, and the video, have meant a lot to me throughout my adult life. In it, Carl walks through the history of human spaceflight and speculates on what the future could be, where we could go as a species, and what it might look like. It’s the ultimate thought experiment.

I love this video. Partially I love it because of the soothing piano background music, but mostly because of the theme. We humans are capable of greatness. The future can be amazing. Look back at where we have come from, and think about where we could go. From Democritus and Aristotle to the masters of the Renaissance to Newton, Leibnitz, Einstein, Born, Bernoulli, Kepler, Hubble, Chandrasekar, Thorne, and so many others, we have had amazing ideas that have changed the way we approach everything. Through science and thought and a massive amount of failure we have rewritten what we know about the universe a thousand times over, and we will probably do so a thousand times more.

And I think all of us have that desire, deep inside, to look over the horizon at what might be there. The desire to learn, the desire to discover. It’s part of what makes us human.

I have always been fascinated by space. I don’t think it’s the mechanics of the vacuum, or the long distances, or the math. It’s the sense of adventure that comes from looking over the precipice into the unknown. Everywhere you look is new. It’s exciting.

The era in which Carl Sagan published “Pale Blue Dot” and filmed “Cosmos” was a fascinating time of discovery. Voyagers 1 & 2 had been launched on their reconnaissance of the solar system, tasked with visiting and imaging moons and planets we had never seen before. I can’t imagine the excitement of being in the control room the first time a black and white image of Europa was printed off, freshly transmitted from deep space. I can only imagine how the scientists must have felt pouring over the images, knowing they were looking at something no human had ever seen before, trying to discover the meaning behind the cracked surface of the distant moon.

Saturn has a moon named Titan, on which the surface temperature is at the triple point of methane. What is the triple point you ask? Earth is at the triple point for water. All three phases (liquid, solid, and gas) can be found on the surface. It rains liquid water from gaseous clouds which sublime from solid ice. The same thing happens on Titan, but on Titan, it literally rains hydrocarbons from clouds of hydrocarbons into seas of hydrocarbons. NASA even has an idea for an experimental boat probe which would ply the waters (hydrocarbons?) of this alien world. Could there be life there? Who knows; the average surface temperature is a chilly -179C.

One of the most exciting recent additions to astronomy has been the search for exoplanets, or planets circling around other stars. There have long been suspicions that other stars harbored planets of their own. After all, why not? If our average G class star had a ring of rocky and not so rocky Klingons why shouldn’t other stars as well? But even when I was born, we didn’t have actual proof of exoplanets. Recent missions like the Kepler space telescope have shown that not only are there other planets, there are massive amounts of them. We even have a picture of one! (Though admittedly the image is terribly poor resolution…) Look for this to improve in future missions, such as the James Webb or some intriguing concepts of telescopes with solar shades. Is there life there? We don’t have the data to tell yet.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am fascinated by the search for life on other planets. Boffins call it xenobiology. It really comes down to the age-old human question why are we here? If I’m here, on this planet, is there someone else on another planet? When I look into the night sky is someone else looking back? The seeming lack of evidence for this is known as the “Fermi Paradox,” after Enrico Fermi famously asked, “Where is everybody?” While the question may not have a ton of practical significance, I can’t think of a more fascinating problem.

I think the other thing I really like about this passage is that we humans are capable of greatness. It takes work. It takes effort. Greatness doesn’t just come to those who are sitting around. Newton didn’t write his Principia Mathematica while staring at the clouds. Hubble didn’t make the graph that changed everything we thought we knew about the universe on a hunch. (Though arguably Neils Bohr might have.) And while I am not nearly smart enough to belong in such a group of people, I can work hard to make my contribution as well.

Pale Blue Dot was named because of a thought experiment of Sagan’s. As Voyager 1 traveled ever deeper into space, the controllers turned the spacecraft around on Feb 1, 1990, for a set of pictures, a family portrait of our solar system. In this portrait can be seen Mercury, and Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. And very small, very distant, the Earth hangs in a beam of light, a pale blue dot against the darkness. As he says in the book, it is the repository of all our potential, the only home we’ve ever known. It’s an amazing feeling, to look at that image and know that everyone you know, everyone who has ever lived has spent their lives on that little dot.

I’m not a teacher so I won’t give you homework. Instead, I’ll give you a suggestion. Go outside tonight. Find somewhere dark and quiet and look up at the sky. Imagine the immensity of infinity, the distance between you and the next star. It makes me feel small. But it also leaves me awestruck, that we get to be a part of such an amazing machine.

So go get lost in the stars for a bit. You’ll be happy you did.

TDing: Chocolate and Opportunities

Last year, I told you a story about becoming a Technical Delegate, one of the lead officials on the hill at a ski race. The super short summary is this: the TD is the representative of the governing body and generally they make sure all the rules are followed. There are many other officials on the hill; I gave you a much better explanation last year in the other post.

This year I was back at Eldora, but rather than a TD shadow I was a fully-fledged TD! Eldora was my very first race, and I got to draw upon every single piece of advice I was ever given.

Last year, Jeff Westcott told me you need three things to run a race: snow, gates/protection, and timing. Everything else is ancillary. My dad has always told me that being a TD means anticipating problems before they happen and looking for opportunities to teach new people things about running a race. Weeks before the race, I was talking with Matt, the Chief of Race, to figure out B-net, gates, snow, timing, volunteers, schedules, medical plans, and everything else you need to run a race. Matt is awesome to work with and had lots of good plans in place.

The thing about a race is that you’re always forgetting something. That might be to notch the 2×2 poles that hold the finish timing. That might be to pack an extra 9-volt battery for the timing at the top. That might be to remind your referee to use bib numbers on the disqualification list instead of start numbers. But whatever it is, there’s always something.

My backup plan: a 12 oz bag of Hershey’s kisses in the pocket of my jacket. And boy, did I ever need them!

Eldora is notorious for being a wind tunnel. And on Saturday, it was windy. Windy enough that the mountain had to close the lift that went to our race course at 9:15, which of course was after all the kids and coaches had left their gear at the start. Windy enough that they didn’t reopen the lift until 2 pm. All of Matt’s carefully laid plans got shredded.

So what’s a TD to do? We waited until 10 for an update from the mountain on the status of the lift, and while we waited we planned.

Eldora has two hills that are homologated (certified) to race on. La Belle was the run we wanted to use and couldn’t get to. Chute is a cute little run (it has a whole 74 meters of vertical drop, as opposed to La Belle which has 120 meters of vertical drop) that is serviced by a poma. A poma that, magically, was still running. And Chute had B-net on it. And timing. And we had several extra sets of gates sitting at the bottom, just begging to go in the snow.

As we planned, coaches and parents would come up to us and ask us what the plan was. Every time I said we were waiting until ten to make a call, chocolate. Every time a worried kid asked about their skis at the top of the course on La Belle, chocolate. And when we announced our plans and coaches questioned the shortness of the hill, more chocolate got passed out. Course crew got chocolate for hauling gates and fence and setting up an entire race area in a half hour. Coaches got chocolate for hiking the hill so the kids could use the lift. Lift operators got chocolate for dealing with 160 kids when they expected twenty. Ski patrol got chocolate for taking snowmobiles up to the race start with sleds and hauling down all the skis and backpacks. My timers got chocolate for running a race with timing equipment that hadn’t been checked and gave us a couple of fits.

At the end of the day, we had gates, and snow, and timing, and the kids had a fair, fun race. And I was out of chocolate!

I learned a lot about how to change plans on the go and how Matt inspired his team to pull off an entire event ON A DIFFERENT HILL that we originally planned. And after all of that, Sunday’s races ran beautifully.

Next weekend I’ll be Vail with the Vail Devo Team, running a kombi. It’s a style of racing I never raced and have never officiated so there will be more opportunities to learn. And trust me, there will be a lot more chocolate.

Your homework: What do you do when your plan is suddenly completely wrecked?

Hej då,

Jamie