Friday, April 29, 2011

Assume The Position....

Regular gas is currently $5 / gallon (excuse me, $4.99 9/10ths) in Kahului right now.

In Hana, it's $6 / gallon.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

New Toy....continued

Extremely Large Network Engineer TBG commented on my previous post regarding my new toy by asking where he could get one. Since the full story requires photos, I decided to respond via a blog post.

Yeah, I think this board would hold up to even TBG, who runs (I'm guessing) about 6 foot 8 (203 cm) and pretty close to 300 pounds (136 kilos).

Developing this vehicle was somewhat of a process. It started life as an MBS Comp 95x, which can be had at a good skate shop or via mail-order for about $500. But the first time I rode it hard, the (aluminum) brake rotors transmitted so much heat to the (nylon) wheels through their (stainless steel) mounting bolts / spacers that the wheels melted almost completely through in about 10 minutes of riding. The meltdown was so bad, I had to grind the melted wheels with a Dremel Tool to free the rotors from the congealed nylon goo (see photo).

Nylon wheels, before (left) and after melting / rotor extraction via Dremel Tool.

I then bought a set of MBS "RockStar" aluminum wheels, which unfortunately take a different-sized tire than the stock nylon wheels, so I had to buy new tubes, new tires, and for good measure I also bought a 2nd brake kit. I figr'd the best way to get around brake heat problems was to spread the friction amongst 4 rotors instead of two.

It works great. I can put it on a 25-degree incline, lock the brakes, and stand on it without the board budging an inch. That most certainly was NOT the case with the stock board. I've ridden it down the entry road to Polipoli State Park about 5 times so far without any heat problems. Polipoli is a very poorly engineered road with extremely tight switchbacks, and I've had enough brake power to make all the switchbacks without tumbling into the woods.

Today I rode down the Haleakala volcano from the Park Ranger Station at 6500' to Pony Express, which is about 2000 vertical in about 4 miles through about 16 or 18 switchbacks.

Haleakala Highway above Pony Express. Not for the faint of heart.

I stopped every 4 switchbacks or so to check the brake temperatures, and they were fine. Hot, but not too hot to touch. I was riding the brakes hard, because this thing is a handful on a road like this. It rides high and tippy. I've had to un-learn a lot of things that are habit from skiing and surfing in order to keep my skin attached. On a surfboard, if you want to cut back heel-side, you can bury the fin, kick your front leg back, and pivot the board on its tail. Try that with this beast at 25 mph and you've earned a trip to the E.R. The MBS requires subtlety and a very low center of gravity.

It's got really nice adjustable truck suspension springs, so I've been carrying a hex key set in my backpack to fiddle with the settings., Haven't found the sweet spot yet.

New Toy

Ski season is over. No more powder days. The winter North swells are over, no more big surf days. Other than surfing an occasional mellow South swell, amusement is becoming hard to find.

Hence, my new toy.

Note the four-wheel disc brakes.

Yes, I've already taken a wipeout (at about 25 mph), which is not nearly as much fun on a tarmac road as falling off a surfboard into the ocean or tumbling into 20 inches of fresh powder. But with a helmet, elbow guards, wrist guards, and thick clothing, wipeouts are survivable.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Kitzbühel Wins.....

Congratulations to my friends at The Hahnenkammrennen in Kitzbühel for winning the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Organizer Award for the best race week on the World Cup circuit.

The FIS OC Award is based on evaluations of each Organizer by key stakeholder groups of the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup ranging from the athletes to team captains and representatives of the print and photographic media and broadcasters.

Here is my personal take on this:

In 26 years in professional sports production, the HKR is the best event I've ever been involved with. Hands down. Their "secret" is this: In addition to a whole lot of smart and dedicated people, they're all skiers.


Not as simple as it sounds.

As events grow and mature, the organizations running them tend to lose the hard-core tennis players, runners, drivers (or whatever) who got the event rolling in the first place. A certain amount of professional management is necessary as events grow beyond a certain point, but as soon as (for example) the US Open brings in a guy from The Rockettes to run things, or US Beach Volleyball brings in a tennis promoter to run things, that's when everything goes to hell.

I'm actually surprised the presenters were able to assemble a bunch of the Kitzbühel guys for the above photo. Must have been at night. If it were during the day, they would have all been out skiing.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Insert French Joke Here.....

Nice job by an Air France pilot yesterday at JFK. He must have thought he was in line for a croissant, so he'd just shove the American aside (like the smelly bastards all do).

Typical fucking Frog.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Sad Incident in Jackson Hole

A sad recent incident in Jackson Hole illustrates one of the major difference between skiing in the US and skiing in Europe.

A 78 year old, retired physician was arrested for skinning up the mountain at Jackson Hole to watch his granddaughter race.

In the US (really, in North America) you are not allowed to cross ski area boundaries under penalty of arrest. You are not allowed on inbounds ski trails without a lift pass, even if you are not using the lifts. This, despite the fact that virtually all ski resorts are on leased Federal Land. Land which, in theory, belongs to all of us. In Utah (for example) at Park City and The Canyons, which have an adjoining boundary, it is against the law to cross from one to the other - even if you have bought a lift ticket for both. People are arrested for this all the time.

In Austria, the concept of trespassing and property rights are fundamentally different than in North America. Austrians are not allowed to prohibit reasonable passage across their land. Property owners can put up reasonable fences, and those crossing must exercise reasonable courtesy (can't drop trash, can't camp out, can't create disturbances at odd hours, can't cause any damage) but for the most part, anybody can put on a pair of skis or snowshoes on one side of the Austrian Alps and cross the entire country using whatever route they please.

Both sides respect these laws.

I guess the key phrase is "reasonable". In Austria, if you are crossing somebody's land and fall off their mountainside, you can't sue. It is your own damn fault. If you die in an avalanche, whether you are inbounds or out of bounds, you can't sue. You need to be aware of hazards like cliffs, terrain traps, and unstable snow packs. You need to have a clue. You need to accept risk. Here in North America, with lawyers suing everybody in sight for anything they can think of, and anybody to whom something bad happens claims to be a victim of somebody else's negligence, all bets are off.

It's a bit like the gun control issue. One would think reasonable people could come to a reasonable agreement for the greater good. But once lawyers and lobbyists take over, any hope of reasonableness vanishes. I really don't blame ski resorts for enforcing crazy laws, because legal costs threaten the viability of every single resort in North America. Patrolmen have a right to prohibit uphill travel at certain times to certain areas so they can perform avalanche control, which involves howitzer cannons, nitrogen-powered missiles, and explosives. That is certainly reasonable. OTOH, as a backcountry skier, I just have to shake my head at a 78-year-old guy, who's got 75 years of ski experience, out for a casual skin on a groomed cat track on Federal Land, being put in handcuffs and thrown in the clink. That is not reasonable.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Ski Porn: A Film About How A Bunch of Middle-Aged Guys Get Their Rocks Off High In The Austrian Alps

During one of the epic all-day alpentours Hermi6 led us on in Austria a few weeks ago, Michael Huber (President of the Kitzbüheler Ski Club) lagged behind the group most of the day. This vaguely registered in my oxygen-starved brain as strange, because Michael is a world-class alpinist. But hey, whatever. I was concentrating on just not falling off the mountain. Turns out he was lagging behind purposely, because he was filming.

At the end of one of the best alpentouring days ever, Michael presented us with his "Director's Cut" of our alpentour of the Torhelm and the Katzenkopf, two of the highest peaks in the Kitzbühel Alps.

The 2011 ski season is, alas, over. Best ski season ever, for me. Watching this makes me want to click into my bindings and do the whole thing over again.

I'm the guy in the sand-colored pants and orange rucksack. Ted is wearing a tennis ball-colored wind jacket. Hermi6 is wearing a bright orange jacket, which he sometimes shed in favor of a blue windstopper jacket. The guy with the headband is Hans. The short guy is Gidi, a retired Kitzbühel professional ski guide.

After hiking up out of the ski resort of Zell Am Ziller, we summitted and skied both the Torhelm and the Katzenkopf, then skied a wild & crazy valley runout about 6 or 7 Km long through a bunch of farms, finally arriving at the end of a remote mountain road near a small alpine town called Kelchsau. Michael phoned back to the KSC, and somebody drove out to pick us up in a van. We were 5 or 6 towns over from where we started, and I don't know how many miles.

That's one of the cool things about alpentouring in Europe, as opposed to skiing in North America. In Austria, before you leave, you pack maps, topo maps, the train schedule, and the bus schedule, because you actually ski to someplace. In North America, you ski all day and wind up exactly where you started.