Posts Tagged ‘Cross-Country Skiing’

Monday, April 4, 2011

Madshus Epochs: Good Skis for Spring

Yesterday, the temperature climbed into the forties in Saranac Lake, and the sun shone all day. I saw people walking around in T-shirts. It was perfect weather for testing a new pair of skis.

Sue Bibeau, the designer for the Adirondack Explorer, and I did a round trip to Klondike Notch in the High Peaks Wilderness, a little-used trail that starts at the end of South Meadow Road and ends near Johns Brook Lodge.

I was trying out my Madshus Epochs, a waxless ski designed for backcountry touring. The Epochs have metal edges and are wide enough to provide stability for quick turns on downhills, though they’re not as beefy as most telemark skis.

The Epochs weigh 5 pounds 9 ounces. In comparison, Black Diamond Havocs (which I also own) weigh 8 pounds 6 ounces. Their lightness makes the Epochs a good all-round ski, ideal for tours that involve flats and rolling terrain as well as substantial downhill runs. A lightweight telemark boot is a good match.

Coincidentally, Sue was using essentially the same ski: Tenth Mountain Divisions made by Karhu, which is no longer in the ski business. The Tenth Mountains were in Karhu’s popular “XC Downhill” line of skis. The line’s four models, from narrowest to widest, were the Pinnacles, GTs (for “general touring”), Tenth Mountains, and Guides.

Last year, Madshus took over the XC Downhhill line. It dropped the Pinnacle but still manufactures the other three under different names (the GT is now the Eon, and the Guide is now the Annum).

Sue has owned her Tenth Mountain Divisions for a few years and loves them. She has taken them up Mount Marcy, Algonquin Peak, and Wright Peak, among other places. She says the skis are not ideal for the steepest terrain in the High Peaks, but they do work. If you plan to ski a lot of steep terrain, the wider Annums are a better choice.

I wouldn’t mind trying the Epochs on Marcy if conditions were right (light powder), but I’d be more comfortable on the difficult pitches on heavier skis, my Havocs or Karhu Jaks. Given that much of the 7.5-mile trail up Marcy is fairly mellow, I can see the appeal of going light. In fact, many people do ski Marcy with light skis and leather boots.

Because they’re waxless, the Epochs are a good choice for spring skiing (as are the Eons and Annums). Hard waxes do not work when the temperatures rise above freezing, so those with waxable skis must resort to klister or kicker skins to grip the snow while climbing or kicking and gliding.

I used klister only once, years ago. It was such a gloppy mess that I haven’t used it since. It’s like melted bubble gum, sticking to everything it touches, including fingers and clothing. I later bought a pair of kicker skins, but I don’t use them much. Kicker skins attach to the ski’s kick zone. The nylon nap grips the snow, sort of like wax. The problem I have found is that the metal piece at the front of the skins often digs into the snow, inhibiting glide.

With waxless skis, you don’t have to fuss with klister or kicker skins. But waxless skis have their limitations. If climbing a lot of steep terrain, you should bring a pair of full-length skins–just as you would with waxable skis. Or be prepared to herringbone or side-step.

On our ascent of Klondike Notch, Sue and I gained more than a thousand feet of elevation. Since most of the trail is mellow, the scales on our skis usually provided sufficient grip. In a number of places, we did resort to herringboning or side-stepping, but these pitches were short. Skins would have been overkill and would have slowed our progress on the flats and small dips we encountered en route to the notch.

All in all, we had the right equipment for the job.

Click here to see a video of Ron Konowitz demonstrating the Karhu Guides (now Annums) on the Marcy Dam trail.

Photo by Phil Brown: Sue Bibeau carries her skis over South Meadow Brook.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stony Pond Ski Traverse and Falls Brook Yurts

Some of the best ski tours in the Adirondacks are traverses: Avalanche Pass to Tahawus, Siamese Ponds and the East Branch of the Sacandaga, and Hoffman Notch to name a few popular point-to-point routes. On Saturday, I had the opportunity to ski one of my favorite lesser known tours with a group of friends, from Route 28N in Minerva to Irishtown, passing Stony Pond and Big and Little Sherman Ponds along the 6-mile traverse. As a bonus, near the end of the traverse, our group made a detour to visit the Falls Brook Yurts, owned by Jim Hanley and Michele Quirk. The ski-through has become something of an annual tradition, organized by Jim and Michelle to mark the (almost) end of winter.

Nearly twenty of us met Saturday morning at the Irishtown trailhead. Jim shuttled food, gear and refreshments by snowmobile the two thirds of a mile up the trail to the yurts while the rest of us grouped up for the shuttle to the Stony Pond trailhead several miles north of Minerva on Route 28N.

At the Stony Pond trailhead, any thoughts of spring skiing vanished. Snow earlier in the week and cold temperatures gave us beautiful packed powder conditions over a firm 2- to 3-foot base. The traverse begins with a rolling 2-mile climb to the lean-to at Stony Pond, passing numerous wetlands and beaver flows along the way. Stony Pond itself is a large, attractive body of water and makes a good destination for a short out-and-back ski tour. Our group continued across the frozen pond, then made a short uphill climb through the woods before descending to Little and Big Sherman Ponds. That short descent is the most challenging skiing on the tour, but is easily negotiated with a strong snowplow. Not far beyond the Sherman Ponds the route begins a series of long, gradual descents, dropping nearly a thousand vertical feet in two and a half miles to the Irishtown trailhead.

Before reaching the trailhead, we turned onto the short side-trail to the Falls Brook Yurts. Jim and Michele have owned and operated the yurts for 12 years, renting them to families, groups and individuals for weekends or several day stays. The yurts are well-equipped with propane lighting, heat and cook stoves. Guests carry in their own food and personal gear. If you’d like to stay in the yurts, plan ahead: both yurts are booked well in advance most weekends year-round.

Hauling propane, cleaning between guests, and general maintenance of the yurts and the 20 acres they are sited on is a lot of work, especially in winter, but today’s ski tour and visit to the yurts was meant to be pure fun, socializing and celebration. Thanks to Jim’s snowmobile shuttle in the morning, we had plenty of hot and cold food and – most importantly – celebratory beverages waiting for us at the yurts. The spring sun and daylight savings time allowed plenty of time for those of us who weren’t staying overnight at the yurts to linger and socialize for a few hours before heading down the trail for the short ski back to the Irishtown trailhead. Winter is bound to end soon, but there wasn’t a single person on Saturday’s trip who wouldn’t mind if it stuck around for just a few more weeks.

The Adirondack Mountain Club’s Central Region trail guide is the definitive guide to the Stony Pond trail and other trails in the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest.

Photos: Irishtown trailhead; Stony Pond leanto; on the trail; arriving at the yurts.

Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Current Conditions in the Adirondack Park (Feb. 24)

This announcement is for general use – local conditions may vary and are subject to sometimes drastic changes.

Listen for the weekly Adirondack Outdoor Recreation Report Friday mornings on WNBZ (AM 920 & 1240, FM 105 & 102.1) and the stations of North Country Public Radio.

The Adirondack Almanack publishes occasional Forest Ranger incident reports which form a stern reminder that wilderness conditions can change suddenly and accidents happen. Be aware of the latest weather conditions and carry adequate gear and supplies.

SPECIAL NOTICES FOR THIS WEEKEND
» Continue Reading.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Phil Brown: On Secret Ski Trails

Last month I “discovered” some wonderful backcountry ski trails in the Bog River region south of Tupper Lake. I liked them so much I wrote a story about them for the March/April issue of the Adirondack Explorer.

I feel guilty about that.

You see, the trails lack the imprimatur of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. They’re marked by homemade disks and signs. As a journalist, I had to ask the question: is this legal? » Continue Reading.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

An Adirondack Adaptive Cross-Country Ski Camp

Adirondack Adaptive Adventures has announced it will offer an Adaptive XC Ski Camp on the weekend of February 25-27, 2011 in Lake Placid. The 3-day event will bring together new and experienced adaptive athletes from around the Northeast who are interested in cross-country skiing.

In addition to the training camp, the Empire State Games has created an adaptive XC ski division and camp participants are invited to compete in a sanctioned race on Sunday, February 27. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Adirondack Family Activities on the Jackrabbit Trail

We plan just a jaunt to stretch our legs on the Lake Clear section of the Jackrabbit Trail. We are only going a small part of the nine-mile trail that starts near the Lake Clear junction and ends at the Paul Smith College Visitor’s Interpretive Center (VIC).

We struggle over the steep snow banks that line Route 30, throwing our snowshoes and skis ahead of us. With the recent dumping of snow we have to knock our feet into the snow to make steps up the embankment. We sit on the edge of the snow bank and quickly strap on our skis.

When we reach the Jackrabbit trailhead sign my son notes that we are standing about four feet above the ground. Cars rush past but the tree cover soon muffles the sound. Even on skis we sink into the fresh snow. There are more popular sections to the 33-mile trail but this one fits our needs.

The conditions are perfect. We follow the corridor of telephone poles. Snowmobile and ski tracks are on either side of us. We skirt around the poles trying to avoid the heavy ice that hangs from the lines above.

The Jackrabbit Trail was modeled after the European tradition of cross-country ski journeying. In certain European countries towns are linked with trails allowing skiers to travel smoothly between villages, eating and sleeping along the way.

I’m sure there are people that have completed the whole Jack Rabbit trail in day. We will not be one of them. For families the Jack Rabbit Trail is a perfect opportunity to get out on skis and enjoy the Adirondack backcountry.

Named in memory of Herman (Jackrabbit) Johannsen, the Jackrabbit Trail is constructed and maintained by the Adirondack Ski Touring Council. The 33-mile, multi-sectioned cross-country ski trail connects the towns of Paul Smiths, Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Keene. The Lake Clear section is accessed about a half mile north on Route 30 from the Route 30/186 junction. There is a small sign across from the old Lake Clear Elementary School.

For more information on the Jackrabbit Trail please contact the Adirondack Ski Touring Council at 518-523-1365.

Photo ©Diane Chase, Adirondack Family Activities ™. Diane is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Lake Placid Skating, Skiing Events

More skiing and skating will return to Lake Placid next weekend.The 29th Annual Lake Placid Loppet, a series of Cross Country Ski races, will be held on February 5th. Hosted by High Peaks Cyclery, this event draws hundreds of skaters from across the US and Canada and consists of a 50 kilometer Loppet (30.1 miles) and a 25-kilometer Kort-Loppet (about 15 miles). More information can be found online.

Also coming to Lake Placid on the same weekend, the Eastern Synchronized Championships will be in town February 3nd through 5th. More than 2,300 skaters from 150 teams from throughout the eastern United States will be competing. The top four finishers in the senior, junior, novice, intermediate, juvenile, collegiate, adult and masters divisions will move on to the 2011 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, March 2-5, in Ontario, Calif. The event is organized by the Olympic Regional Development Authority and the Skating Club of Lake Placid. For more information, visit http://www.lakeplacidskating.com/newsite.

Christie Sausa writes about national and international winter sports and blogs at Lake Placid Skater.

 


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Skating, Skiing in Lake Placid

Skating and skiing are the hot events this week in Lake Placid. Last weekend, speed skaters flocked to the Olympic Speed Skating Oval to participate in the second of the Lake Placid Speed Skating Club Racing series, the Charles Jewtraw All Around.

Named for the first Winter Olympic Games gold medalist Charles Jewtraw, the oval hosted approximately 45 competitors from the US and Canada, competing in four different events throughout the weekend. For complete results, visit www.lakeplacidoval.com.

The Lake Placid Ice Skating Institute (ISI) Championships is taking place this weekend at the Olympic Center. Hosted by Ice Skating Institute, which is “an international industry trade association encompassing all aspects of the ice skating industry”. ISI also promotes the sport of figure skating for recreation and hosts several competitions annually. The event is fun to watch, especially because of certain events such as synchronized skating (several skaters skating in a group together) and artistic, which emphasizes artistry. For more about ISI, visit their website www.skateisi.com. For more information about the Lake Placid ISI Championships, visit www.riverdaleice.com.

Skiing will be taking over Whiteface Mountain January 13th-15th for the St Lawrence University Winter Carnival, in which skiers from the Northeast and Canada compete in cross country skiing. For more information, visit www.whitefacelakeplacid.com.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chain Saws in the Adirondack Wilderness

When we needed to do an early-season ski tour for the Adirondack Explorer, we opted for the Hays Brook Truck Trail north of Paul Smiths, which needs only about six inches of snow to be skiable.

On December 7, four of us from the office spent a good part of the day gliding through fresh, fluffy powder on our way to the Sheep Meadow at the end of the truck trail and to Grass Pond via a side trail.

With snow adorning the tall pines, the forest was serene and beautiful, and we had a wonderful time. I’ll post a link to the story when it’s available online.

Apart from two fairly steep hills, the truck trail traverses gentle terrain suitable for novice skiers. It’s a fun outing anytime in winter.

The biggest difficulty we faced was getting past two nasty pieces of blowdown about three miles from the trailhead. In one case, we thrashed through the woods to get around a large tree fallen across the trail.

Blowdown is something skiers and hikers put up with in the Adirondacks. It’s not a huge deal. Still, when I skied to the Sheep Meadow again with my daughter the day after Christmas, I was glad to discover that someone had cut through the blowdown with a chain saw. Hat’s off to whoever did it.

As we continued down the trail, it occurred to me that the doer of this good deed would have broken the law if the blowdown had been in a Wilderness Area instead of a Wild Forest Area. (The Hays Brook Truck Trail lies within the Debar Mountain Wild Forest.) Generally, the state Department of Environmental Conservation forbids the use of chain saws in Wilderness Areas except from April 1 to May 24. DEC can grant permission to use them from September 15 to April 1 as well, but this is not usually granted for routine blowdown such as we encountered on the Hays Brook Truck Trail.

I understand the rationale. A Wilderness Area is supposed to approximate nature in its primeval state. No motor vehicles, no snowmobiles, no bicycles, no motorized equipment.

As much as I support this management objective, I couldn’t help wondering what harm would have resulted if someone had cut through this blowdown even if it had been in a Wilderness Area. If the job were undertaken on a weekday, it’s possible that no one would have been around to hear the chain saw other than the person running the saw. In any case, the short interruption of natural serenity would serve the greater good. Although a few people who happened to be nearby might be bothered briefly by the noise, skiers would benefit all winter from the clearing of the trail.

I am not suggesting that forest rangers and others be allowed to use chain saws in Wilderness Areas anytime and anywhere. I do wonder if the regulations should be loosened somewhat to permit more clearing of trails before and during the ski season. I don’t have a specific proposal. I’m not even sure the regulations should be loosened. I’m just throwing out the idea for discussion.

Photo of the Sheep Meadow by Phil Brown.

Phil Brown is editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Free Cross-Country Skiing at New Land Trust

You can ski for free on hundreds of trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve, but if you’re looking for a few more creature comforts—such as groomed trails and a clubhouse with a wood stove—check out the New Land Trust trails outside the hamlet of Saranac. They’re free, too.

The New Land Trust got its start in 1977 when some Plattsburgh State College students and friends purchased an old farm. Today the land trust is a non-profit organization that maintains twenty-eight trails (totaling about ten kilometers) on 287 acres.

While skiing at the New Land Trust over the weekend with my daughter Martha, we ran into Steve Jenks, a member of the trust board who lives nearby and maintains the trails. He led us down some of his favorite routes. We saw only a few other parties.

“People, why aren’t you here?” Jenks lamented. “The skiing here is fantastic, and it’s only a half-hour from Plattsburgh.”

He told us that the trust has improved its fiscal fitness in recent years but still needs money for a new roof for the clubhouse. The trust relies on donations from the public and on membership fees ($75 a year) to cover its taxes and other expenses. (Although the trails and lodge are open to the public for free, there is a donation box at the trail register.)

Most of the trails are mellow and don’t require a great deal of snow to be skiable. On Sunday, Martha and I skied the Saranac, a very attractive trail that led us past snow-covered balsams. Saranac is one of two main routes. We then took Night Rider to Solstice (the other main route), where we encountered Steve, who led us back to the clubhouse via a number of shorter trails.

The trails are all signed. Other amenities include two lean-tos, a bunkhouse, and a nifty outhouse. You can find a trail map and driving directions on the trust’s website. Trails maps also are available the register.

Photo by Phil Brown: New Land Trust lodge.

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Phil Brown: The Future of the Whitney Wilderness

On Saturday I went skiing on the Burn Road in the William C. Whitney Wilderness. It’s one of those ski routes that don’t require a lot of snow, ideal for early-season outings.

My ski trip was uneventful. I enjoyed a few glimpses of Little Tupper Lake through the trees, saw lots of snow fleas and several deer beds, and discovered an unusual outhouse decorated with paintings of evergreens. When the warming snow started clumping on my skis, I decided to turn around after three and a half miles.

The state bought Little Tupper Lake and surrounding lands—nearly fifteen thousand acres in all—from the Whitney family in 1997. After the purchase, there was a public debate over whether the tract should be classified as Wilderness or Wild Forest.

One of the arguments against designating the tract Wilderness—the strictest of the Forest Preserve land classifications—is that it just didn’t look like wilderness. The woods had been heavily logged and were crisscrossed with logging roads, of which the Burn Road is only one. And then there were the buildings on the shore of Little Tupper.

The anti-Wilderness folks had a point. Skiing the Burn Road is the not a breathtaking experience. The above photo of snowy evergreens shows one of the more attractive scenes from my trip. Most of the forest is skinny hardwoods. A wide road cut through a logged-over forest is a far cry from my idea of pristine wilderness.

But let’s face it: there is very little pristine wilderness in this part of world. The Forest Preserve is full of evidence of human history: abandoned woods roads, rusting logging machines, foundations of farmhouses, old orchards, even gravesites. If we were to require that Wilderness be free of all signs of the human past, we might end up with no Wilderness at all.

The aim of Wilderness regulations is not always to preserve wilderness; perhaps more often than not, it is to restore wilderness. In time, the trees will grow big, moss will cover the crumbling foundations, and nature will reclaim the old roads.

Skiing back to my car, I was cheered by the thought that in fifty or a hundred years, this wide road may be a narrow corridor passing through a forest of stately yellow birch and red spruce. Skiers of the future will thank us for restoring this place to its natural condition.

Photo of the Burn Road by Phil Brown

Phil Brown is the editor of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Adirondack Stats: Winter Sports

Year of the first known winter ascent of Mount Marcy: 1893

Number of recorded “Winter” 46ers as of May 2010: 467

Year volunteers cut the first trails on Gore Mountain: 1931

Approximate number of ski facilities, downhill and cross-country in the Adirondacks today: 30

Year in which Jim Goodwin and Bob Notman made the first ascent of the Chapel Pond Slab: 1936

Approximate number of ice climbing routes today: 100 on 13 major cliffs

Year in which Polaris Industries’ introduced the “Pol-Cat,” the first modern snowmobile: 1954

Approximate number of miles of groomed snowmobile trails on state land today: 800

Year of the first winter sports festival in Lake Placid: 1914

Amount of state taxpayers money ORDA received in 2010: $5.6 million

Amount ORDA contributes to the local economy: about $300 million

Estimated number of people employed by the winter economy in the Old Forge area: 500 to 1,000

Sources, Press Republican, Climate Change in the Adirondacks, ORDA, Lee Manchester, “Santa’s Historians” [pdf], John Warren “Adirondack Snowmobile History“.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lapland Lake Ski Center’s Olavi and Ann Hirvonen

Last week I had the opportunity to interview Olavi Hirvonen and his wife Ann, who own and operate the Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center in Benson, near Northville. Olavi competed in the 1960 Squaw Valley Winter Olympic Games as a member of the U.S. Nordic Ski Team., and in 1978 he founded Lapland Lake, which he and Ann have built into one of the East’s foremost cross country ski centers.

Jeff: What events led to you being selected for the U.S. Olympic Nordic Ski Team in 1960?

Olavi: Well, it’s a long story… I was born in Montreal and was brought to Finland when I was eight months old. I was raised there by my grandmother and learned to ski as a youngster. I came to this country in 1949 after serving in the Finnish Army. After being here a couple years and married for a few months, I received greetings from the U.S. Army with special orders to go to Alaska as an instructor in the Arctic Indoctrination School. In the wintertime I taught skiing, snowshoeing, and Arctic survival, and in the summer it was mountain climbing, rock climbing, glacier travel.

Jeff: Alaska must have been an incredible place in the 1950s.

Olavi: I liked Alaska, yes. Good fishing and good hunting, and lots of lingonberries in the woods! [lingonberries are a Scandinavian food staple].

Jeff: Your service in the Army led to you being selected for the U.S. Olympic Ski Team?

Olavi: After the Army I had a ski lodge in Vermont that I was leasing. I had an invitation to go to the U.S. Olympic training camp in Colorado, but we were adding on to the ski lodge in ’59 and early ’60, and I couldn’t take the time to go because of all the work that I needed to do at home. So I trained by myself, until a week before the tryouts, and then I went out to meet up with the team in Winter Park, Colorado, which is at 10,000 feet. I had headaches night and day and didn’t do very well at all. On the fifth day, at a race in Aspen before the tryouts, I came in 26th and I thought I’ll never make it. The day after that we drove up to Steamboat Springs, and I went out to check the course for the first race of the tryouts. All of a sudden I felt like somebody turned the power switch on, like my old self. I came in second in the tryouts.

Olavi: Well, there’s more to the story. Because I hadn’t been trained by the Olympic coaches I was something of a black sheep. I didn’t get to race my best distance, the 30K, which was the first race. I found out the night before the race, and I was very disappointed. Instead I raced in the 15K and the 50K.

Jeff: Which event did you do better in?

Olavi: Well, the 50K, but I had never skied 50K in my life. I didn’t medal, but I ended up being the second US finisher, after breaking my ski. I had to ski on a single ski for more than a mile. I got a ski from a spectator and finished the race. That happened in the first 10K.

Jeff: That’s an incredible story, how did that happen?

Olavi: I stepped out of the track to make way for a Finnish competitor and that’s when I broke my ski. That was Veikko Hakulinen, and he won the silver medal. We became good friends after the Olympics. In the 40K team relay, he came from 20 seconds behind in the last leg to win the gold medal by just one meter. [Veikko Hakulinen was the only athlete at the Squaw Valley games to win three medals. The third medal was in the 15K].

Jeff: And what led you to eventually found Lapland Lake?

Olavi: We were living in Vermont in the 1960s and 1970s, and I had seen Trapp Family Lodge, the first cross country ski center in the United States. My late son worked there as an instructor in the 1970s, and it had been in my mind since the Olympics to one day start something like that.

In 1977 I had built two houses, one that we were living in and one that I was still finishing, and they were both for sale. I thought one of them might sell, but they both did, and so in the spring of 1978 we were homeless and we headed out. My plan was to head into upstate New York, but farther north than here. Driving north on Route 30, I saw the sign for Benson and I thought “I have to make that left.” It was like a magnet, I had not planned to come here. Eventually we found this place. It had cabins, lots of land and a lake, and it was for sale.

When we finally made the deal to buy the property, the lady who sold the property to us, the former owner, wanted to take us out to dinner. On the way to the restaurant she asked me what sports my late son had been involved in [Olavi lost his son Esa in an accident in 1977]. I said biathlon and cross-country skiing, and she said her nephew was on the U.S. biathlon team. So I asked her what’s his name, and she said John Hall. Well, I could hardly believe it because John Hall had been my son’s good buddy in college. That connection must have been the magnet that pulled me here.

Jeff: What were the early years like? Did you operate Lapland Lake as both a touring center and a vacation resort right from the start?

Olavi: Originally, this place was a farm. The lodge was a barn, for cows. In the 1930s, the owner put up some summer cottages but they weren’t winterized. We closed on the property August 3, 1978 and we had the first ski race December 15. There wasn’t much time to work on the trails that first year. We had to jack up all the cottages and put in foundations. I got a backhoe and I dug all of the water lines underground. We worked round the clock to get the place ready.

Jeff: Last year was a really tough year for snow. How did you do?

Ann: We average 117 days of skiing and over 11 feet of snow per year. Last year was our lowest snow year ever (80 inches), but we had over 100 days of skiing. We worked the snow and we were lucky with what we got.

Jeff: How much snow do you need to open?

Olavi: Well it depends on what type of snow. The best is a wet snow, and then cold after that. We can ski with just 2 inches on the lake trail. But six inches of wet snow lets us open just about everything.

Jeff: What’s involved in the trail grooming?

Olavi: At this time of year before the snow comes there’s clearing limbs and trees that have come down, and clearing drainage pipes. In the summer we mow the trails. It’s continuous maintenance. In the winter we groom every day. I’ve got a new 2010 Prinoth Husky Snowcat groomer, I think it’s our fourth snowcat groomer, plus a couple snowmobiles.

Jeff: Do you do all the grooming yourself?

Olavi: Yes, I still do. I have a young man who just started who I hope I can get to groom with the snowmobile, so at least I’ll have a backup if I get sick or hurt. It depends how good he is.

Jeff: How has the grooming evolved?

Olavi: When we first started I just had a snowmobile and track sled. We used mattress springs to break up the snow if it got hard or there was freezing rain. The trails were narrow, and groomed with tracks for classic skiing. Then people started skating, and I complained that people were destroying my tracks. So I widened the trails, bought our first snowcat, and started grooming for both skating and classic.

Jeff: Has anyone taken you up on your “Groomer’s Challenge?”

Ann [explaining to Olavi, who apparently hasn’t seen this on the website]: That’s online. We checked with the Cross Country Ski Association, and we don’t think there’s anyone who has more hours of grooming experience than Olavi in North America. One gentleman said he had been grooming as many years, but he was from downstate where the seasons are short. So in terms of total number of days grooming, we haven’t heard of anyone who’s got the depth of experience that Olavi has. It’s been on the website for three years now.

Jeff: The grooming and the design of the trail network seem to have given Lapland Lake the reputation of being a skier’s ski center.

Olavi: From the start I had the idea of making the trails all one-way loops, other than some connecting trails. We have a limited amount of acreage, and I wanted to get as many kilometers of trail as possible and take advantage of the natural terrain. We also get lots of beginners. We have a great ski school and we do a lot of lessons.

Jeff: Olavi, do you still ski?

Olavi: I don’t ski much anymore. I work days, and usually when I do ski it’s in the evening with lights on the Lake Trail or the easier trails with a headlamp. But I find my balance is nothing like what it used to be. I’ll be 80 on December 26. You know your limitations.

Jeff: A number of cross country ski areas have installed snowmaking: Trapp, Mountain Top, and others. Is that something you’d consider here?

Olavi: No, I think it’s too much of an expense to be worth it for us, it wouldn’t pay. So far we’ve been very lucky with our natural snowfall.

Jeff: Where do your customers come from?

Olavi: We get day skiers from the Capital District, Johnstown and Amsterdam, even Kingston and New Paltz. Overnight guests from Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio. We get lots of Canadians and Europeans. About 65% of our skiers are experienced skiers. We get racers early in the season, but later they travel to races. We also have a great volunteer Ski Patrol.

Ann: On weekends we’ll have 300 to 400 skiers. We hit 1,000 once, but it was just too many: people were elbow-to-elbow in the ski shop.

Jeff: How does this winter look?

Ann: Our reservations and our season passes are up. People seem to feel more comfortable spending money.

Jeff: Do you think a ski center can exist on its own as a viable business, or does it need to be paired with an inn or lodging business to be successful?

Olavi: I think it works best with lodging. It gives you something to fall back on, something for the summertime. And lodging in the winter without the skiing doesn’t do very well either. You have to have that combination.

Jeff: One thing that has always stood out is your website and the way you communicate with skiers.

Olavi: That’s Ann. When we met she was a PR person at Ellis Hospital. She doesn’t want to miss a ski report, and quite often she’ll update it more than once during the day. I’ll give her a report while I’m grooming. We try our best to be honest, but sometimes you still get it wrong.

Ann: At the time, I thought I was taking a big gamble spending money on the website, but it’s really paid off.

Jeff: How do you two share the work: the ski trails, the retail shop, the cottages and the restaurant?

Olavi: Ann is really the manager, and I do most of the outside work, the trails. In the winter, after the trail grooming, I come in and work in the ski shop selling skis and doing repairs. Ann gives me a to-do list.

Ann: Olavi may say I am the manager, but he’s really the heart and soul of the operation. He puts so much of himself into the trails and the grooming… Olavi says “I groom it the way I want to ski it.”

Jeff: Thanks very much Ann and Olavi for your time, and congratulations on your continued success with Lapland Lake. Olavi, congratulations on your upcoming birthday, and your Olympic anniversary. Kudos!

Photo of Olavi and Ann courtesy the Finland Center Foundation.

Jeff Farbaniec is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

A New Contributor: Ski Sports Writer Jeff Farbaniec

Please join me in welcoming Jeff Farbaniec as the newest contributor here at the Adirondack Almanack. Jeff is an avid telemark skier and a 46er who writes The Saratoga Skier & Hiker, a blog of his primarily Adirondack outdoor adventures. This winter, Jeff’s emphasis will be on the ski sports – everything and anything related to Adirondack skiing.

His first piece for the Almanack runs at noon today, an interview with Olavi and Ann Hirvonen founders of the Lapland Lake ski touring center in Benson (near Northville). Olavi is a former Olympian (1960 Squaw Valley) and at age 80, may be the most experienced groomer in the country.

For now, check out Jeff’s blog. He recently took a look at the pre-season ski movie ritual, took the snowmaking media tour at Whiteface, and spent opening weekend at Gore.

Jeff Farbaniec lives in Wilton, just south of the Blue Line in Saratoga County, with his wife and their 2 young children.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

DEC: Be Prepared For Winter Conditions

Visitors to the backcountry of the Adirondacks should be prepared for snow, ice and cold, and use proper equipment, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) advised today. Winter is an opportune time to take advantage of all that the Adirondack Park has to offer, however, the season can also present troublesome – even perilous – conditions to the unprepared.

Snow cover in the Adirondacks is now several feet deep at higher elevations. Visitors to the Eastern High Peaks are required to use snowshoes or cross-country skis for safety. It is strongly recommended that visitors to other parts of the Adirondacks do the same.

Snowshoes or skis prevent sudden falls or “post-holing,” avoids injuries and eases travel on snow. Ice crampons should be carried for use on icy mountaintops and other exposed areas. In addition, backcountry visitors should follow these safety guidelines:

* Dress properly with layers of wool and fleece (NOT COTTON!) clothing: a wool or fleece hat, gloves or mittens, wind/rain resistant outer wear, and winter boots.

* Carry a day pack complete with: An ice axe, plenty of food and water, extra clothing, a map and compass, a first-aid kit, a flashlight/headlamp, sun glasses, sun-block protection, ensolite pads, a stove and extra fuel, and bivy sack or space blankets.

* Drink plenty of water — dehydration can lead to hypothermia.

* Eat plenty of food to maintain energy levels and warmth.

* Check weather before entering the woods — if the weather is poor, postpone the trip. The mountains will always be there.

* Be aware of weather conditions at all times — if weather worsens, head out of the woods.

* Contact the DEC at (518) 897-1200 to determine trail conditions in the area you plan to visit.

Visitors should also be aware that waters have begun freezing over, but are not safe to access. Ice that holds snow may not hold the weight of a person.

Adirondack trail information can be found on the DEC website and the Adirondack Almanack provides weekly local conditions reports as well each Thursday afternoon.