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Skiing by Headlamp

posted Feb 16, 2013, 1:40 PM by Hans Hill   [ updated Feb 16, 2013, 1:40 PM by Dave Musgrave ]

There is something weird about skiing with a headlamp, well at least with my old school one. It has a narrow beam that allows me to see just enough of the trail to determine my actions in the next two seconds, maybe one second when descending hills.  Memorization of the trails has become a necessity. The wife and I typically head to the Government Peak Trails after work. Showing up at after 6 PM usually requires headlamps, but we find the trails completely vacant. Back to the headlamp, my model has a bulb housing the size of a coffee mug and a battery pack that holds half a dozen batteries. I’d venture a guess that most people’s ski setup weighs less than my head lamp and to be honest, I don’t need the weight penalty. The positive side of having an archaic headlamp is by having such a narrow field of view there isn't much to distract me. I know some would consider this a negative, but I find it a means to self reflect.

My last ski had me remembering my younger days. I got into nordic skiing by failing at ski jumping. My mother's second cousin (I still have not figured out what relation that is to me, so we will call him Keith) was big into cross country skiing. He also helped coach ski jumping at Hilltop. In an effort to keep me active in the winter time, Keith suggested I head over with him to the ski hill and try out this sport. He outfitted me with a skis that appeared to me to be stretched waterskis, way to long and wide enough that I thought I could perform a miracle by walking across Lake Hood in the summer time. I made several runs getting use to these mammoth skis, just pointing them straight down the hill and learning to scrub speed before I hit the fence.

Eventually it came time to see what happens when I become airborne. I was not a brave kid and to this day, I am unsure as to the motives of why Keith thought ski jumping was something I'd enjoy or excel in. Nevertheless, I was a kid who followed direction and they were simple.

1. Climb the stairs.

  1. Put skis on.

  2. Point them down the ramp.

  3. Stay relaxed.

No matter how much I wanted number 4 to be the one direction I was able to do, it wasn't going to happen. Although I was not aware of Led Zeppelin at that time, I could swear the iconic phrase from Stairway to Heaven kept repeating in my head. Half of the steps were just chiseled out of snow and ice, but as I neared the top I could begin to see wood steps. The steps passed the simple machine that was to translate gravity's force to a horizontal vector, I gasped at the size. To this day I have not returned to the ramp to verify the actual height, but at that time I was certain it was 50' high, but that doesn't jive with the fact that I could see the ramp surface when I was standing next to it.

As misguided as Keith's intentions were, I don't believe he wished for me to be mortally wounded. As such, he had me climb “only” halfway up the ramp to put my skis on. Tracks similar to classic tracks were set down the ramp to aid in my attempt to escape the earth's grasp. It may have been an hour, ten minutes or thirty seconds, but in those moments standing perpendicular to the ramp’s surface, I became a man at the age of 10. I had determined that I did not want to become a ski jumper, but that I was going to follow through with this because I had taken the steps (literally and figuratively) to complete this.

The following seconds caused me to second guess that logic.

I can not recall the exact sequence events that followed me descending the ramp, but my excellent powers of deduction conclude that I did launch off the ramp, the skis did touchdown first and I was on top of them...momentarily. What I do recall is the pain of my face being used as a friction brake while my skis turned and twisted various directions, as I demonstrated a new human propelled ski hill grooming technique.

Keith checked on me at the bottom of the hill. He helped remove my gear. As we walked back to the warm up hut, he kindly made this life altering suggestion “Maybe we should get you some cross country ski gear.”

The Club Continues to Thrive

Our recent tally indicates that we have 170 active memberships (Includes single and family member types). If you know of any family, friends, acquaintances, enemies that ski, encourage them to join the MSSC. The more members we have, the more power the club has to help improve the Mat-Su Valley ski community.

Late Season Races

The MSSC has always recognized the value in providing races for the community. With the recent addition of the Government Peak area Trails to available race venues, the Club is holding a Trail Race towards the end of March. Because of the variable snow we have been having, this race will be held based on the conditions. Please log on to the MSSC website for upcoming details.

A hallmark race the club has been putting on for the last few years is the Race to the Outhouse at Archangel Road. #2 will be occurring April 6th. For those of you who competed in #1, this is a fantastic opportunity to see how the past season training has treated you. Here's a Pro-Tip: Us your pen-name when registering to race to avoid having to claim an embarrassing race time...not that I have ever used this tip.

This past season, the club had received a grant to purchase race timing equipment. While not overly complicated, the club will be putting together a “timing Training” to educate those club members who are interested in volunteering as race timers. Please keep watch on the website for dates and times.

GPRA Bus Service

Mat-Su Community Transit (MASCOT) now offers service to and from the Government Peak Recreation Area. For $2.50 each way, MASCOT can pick up and drop you off to various locations through Palmer and Wasilla, Fred Meyers, Target, etc. Service is also being offered to the high school teams. No more do you have to jump into a cold vehicle after a hard ski. Ride the bus and relax.

Serenity Falls Hut Trip

Every season the club offers a ski trip to Serenity Falls Hut, near Eklutna Lake. Here is how it works. The 12 mile lake side trail is groomed the day prior in preparation for the trip. The day of, a snowmachine and trailer will be used to haul everyone's gear to the hut. Enjoy a days ski to the hut. Everyone pitches in for dinner at the hut. The next morning the reverse happens. The hut is very spacious and is in a very scenic area (visit DNR's Park and Rec site for pictures).

The trip is planned for March 9-10th. Please email the club if you are interested in attending this great event.