INSPIRATIONAL PEOPLE

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On January 19, 2012 Sarah Burke, freeskiing pioneer, six-time X Games gold medalist, role model and inspiration passed away from injuries sustained in a training accident.

Female athletes everywhere owe a debt of gratitude to Sarah’s passionate trailblazing efforts over the last 15 years. As the first competitive female freeskier, she successfully lobbied the Winter X Games to include women in freeskiing events on equal standing. It is because of Sarah’s efforts that female winter athletes are some of the only athletes in the world to receive equal prize purses to that of men.

Sarah brought worldwide recognition and validation to the sport she so loved. Without her efforts, the halfpipe competition for skiers would not be included in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Sarah is a pioneer of her generation. Her life and legacy embody the true spirit of action sports; a movement of individuals driven to innovate, master and explore the frontier of physical possibility. Sarah’s love of skiing took her life to amazing places.

Her accomplishments on skis continue to inspire girls and women everywhere to believe in themselves and follow their hearts. Her passing is not a cause to pack up our skis, but rather a reason to step-in and ski for Sarah and the dreams that inspired her star to shine.

 

 

 

 

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Thinking about Elspeth Beard today as I pack up my motorcycle for a long weekend tour. I’m heading south to the BMW Motorcycle Owners International Rally in Pennsylvania to check out the latest and greatest motorcycling gear from custom earplugs to battery chargers, rendezvous with friends, listen to some great live music, take a riding course and be transported by adventure travel presentations.

Back to Elspeth. I only recently learned about her and was instantaneously impressed with her intrepid spirit, and am more than a bit jealous of her bravery. In 1980, at age 24, Elspeth dropped out of architecture school and began a solo around-the-world motorcycle journey. (Today she runs a successful architecture firm in England and still rides.)

Her travels took her from her native London to the U.S., up to Canada and down to Mexico and then on to Australia. From there she headed to Indonesia and then Burma, India and Nepal. Her route home took her through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece and Europe. By the time she returned to England, after three years on the road, she’d clocked 48,000 miles on her odometer and lost fifty pounds. She survived crashes and illness and rebuilt and maintained her bike single handedly.

122_0705_02z+elspeth_beard+on_bike

I love the confidence and ease Elspeth exudes in this photo while straddling her 1974 R60/6 BMW. She stopped and made the aluminum panniers part way round the world.

Read more of Elspeth’s amazing story here. I hope she writes a book someday about her adventures. It’s tales like hers that light my imagination and make me realize that almost any dream is possible if I really want it to come true!

I’ll get back to blogging when my motorcyle’s back in the barn.

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I was saddened to learn of the passing of Adirondack legend and staunch environmentalist Anne LaBastille on July 1st at the age of 75.

I was introduced to LaBastille through her 1976 autobiographical book, Woodswoman. In it she relates her experiences of building her own cabin at the northeast end of Twitchell Lake, near Big Moose Lake in New York’s Adirondack mountains. She chronicles the trials and tribulations of living self sufficiently – and alone – in a remote place with honesty, as her chosen lifestyle was often physically and emotionally difficult. On leaving her marriage and building her cabin, she writes that she came to the Adirondacks to “sit in my cabin as in a cocoon, sheltered by the swaying spruces from the outside world.”

Her writing sparked my imagination and fueled my belief that anything is possible, and that women doing “men’s work” does not mean they’ve lost their femininity. Her stories inspire independence in the outdoors as well as in all aspects of life. Because of her courage I realized I did not have much to fear in the woods if I was sensible and prepared and consequently have spent plenty of time confidently tramping around solo in the Adirondack mountains. Living alone in a cabin without running water or electricity has been a decades-long dream for me – perhaps hatched when I first read Woodswoman.

In an obituary this week, long time Adirondack guide and outdoors writer Joe Hackett described LaBastille:

“Following the publication [of Woodswoman], LaBastille became an instant role model for thousands of young women all across the country. Her story offered evidence that a lonely life in the forest can foster great confidence.

”Her story proved to be an inspiration for a generation of female outdoor enthusiasts, and it empowered them to be more independent and self-reliant in their enjoyment of the outdoors. 
”In the process of paddling, hiking and camping throughout the Adirondacks, she became an icon of the mountains she wandered. Undoubtedly she cultivated her image, and it didn’t hurt matters that she had blonde hair, a fit figure, a bright smile and a tangible sense of independence. She exuded an air of confidence, and whether she was walking into a diner or paddling across a pond, her presence turned heads. She recognized it and enjoyed it.”

Although I’ve re-read Woodswoman a number of times – and will again, I’ve never read her other books about life on “Big Bear Lake”. I now feel the urge to visit the library and check out Beyond Black Bear Lake (1987), Woodswoman III (1997) and Woodswoman IIII (2003).

woodswoman

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I’ve been following French cycling champion Jeannie Longo’s career since the 1980’s. I was thrilled beyond belief when she mounted the podium to accept her gold medal at the 1986 World Championships in Steamboat Springs, Colorado clad in one of my Mountain Ladies & Ewe knit earflap hats!

Last week, 52-year-old Longo powered her way to her 11th French national time trial championship win and her 58th national title, leaving riders half her age in her wake.

“A 58th title is a figure somewhat symbolic because it (1958) is the year of my birth,” said Longo. “This is the one I wanted and it really has made my season.”

Longo is accomplished on both the road and track and is an Olympic gold-medalist and twelve-time world champion. While champions come and go, she has been an inspiring and impressive constant in women’s cycling.

Despite the fact that she will be almost three times older than some of her rivals, she has indicated that she wants to ride the world championships in Copenhagen later this year. My hat’s off to you Jeannie!

1986 Jeannie Longo

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“One can never be bored by powder skiing because it is a special gift of the relationship between earth and sky. It only comes in significant amounts in particular places, at certain times on this earth; it lasts only a limited amount of time before sun or wind changes it. People devote their lives to it “for the pleasure of being so purely played” by gravity and snow.”

This quote by Dolores LaChapelle, one of powder skiing’s pioneers, is from her book Deep Powder Snow; 40 Years of Ecstatic Skiing, Avalanches, and Earth Wisdom. Dolores was reigning queen of Alta powder back in the days when the only lodges there were the Rustler and the Alta, and cars parked along the road.

Deep Powder Snow chronicles her skiing life before and after Alta, personal trials and epiphanies, her special relationship with snow and gravity and is laced with her philosophy of Deep Ecology. It’s a wonderfully thoughtful quick read.

I’m on my way to Alta right now and hoping for fresh powder. Dolores’ little book is tucked in my pack.

DeepPowderSnow

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Skiing Legend – Wendy Cram
Today is Wendy Cram’s 90th birthday. My first job when I was in 8th grade was folding ski sweaters at Wendy’s Ski Shop in Manchester Center, Vermont. He’s one of those rare adults who never treated me as a little kid and his stories and lifestyle left a big impression on me.
I recently spent the day with Wendy in Stowe, VT. He re-told some of my favorite old stories over a glass of red wine and laughs at lunch. Wendy (Wendell) was born in Bridgewater, Vermont in 1920, near the home of Bunny Bertram’s famous rope tow in Woodstock. Having the rope tow within miles of his hometown had a huge influence on Wendy’s life.
Learning to ski on long wooden skis and using ski poles made from wooden dowels capped with tin can lids for baskets, Wendy proved a natural athlete and excelled at skiing.
By 1937 Wendy was a strong skier and a budding racer. He decided to take on the challenge of logging the most skiing vertical in one day at Suicide Six ski area (325’ vertical drop) using Bunny’s rope tow which was powered by a Model T engine.
As Wendy tells the story, “We were getting all these reports of records being set in Europe for the most vertical skied in a day using lifts, so we decided to try to set our own record on the rope tow!” He continues to explain how a banked snow ramp was built at the bottom of the lift so he could ski up to the rope without slowing down, grab on, and be pulled up the hill without missing a beat. The rope tow’s speed was accelerated for the day. Starting at dawn and running until dusk, he ate sandwiches on the short ride to the top of the hill to keep his energy up. Though, he can’t quite remember the total vertical feet, he skied a hundred and some runs and says his record still stands. “I went through three pair of mittens on the tow that day,” he laughed.
Insert 1939 pic here
Wendy was named to the 1940 Olympic Ski Team in Norway, the year the Olympics were cancelled due to World War II. His nay blue Olympic sweater now hangs in The Vermont Ski Museum in Stowe, VT.
Insert sweater pic here
In 1943 he shipped out to Camp Hale, Colorado as part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division.  Because he was an expert skier and racer he was assigned to the elite position of ski instructor. There soldiers trained at altitude to fight and survive under the most brutal mountain conditions, on skis and snowshoes, and sleeping in the snow in white canvas tents.
We stopped by The Vermont Ski Museum’s 10th Mountain exhibit after lunch. Wendy reminisced about carrying a pack weighing a staggering ninety pounds and the rugged training they underwent. “We sang a lot of songs to keep our morale up, most of  ‘em you wouldn’t want to repeat in polite company!” he chuckled.
Insert 10th pic here
The same day, we visited “Storm Trooper” a bigger than life bronze statue of a 10th Mountain soldier located in Stowe. Two hundred and fifty-six Vermonters enlisted in the 10th Mountain Division and they are commemorated on a granite plaque near the statue.
Insert storm trooper here
Wendy re-located to Idaho to the glamorous Sun Valley resort where he hobnobbed with the rich and famous and taught his fair share of movie stars. He even used to bring the budding filmmaker Warren Miller a hot breakfast every morning in Miller’s unheated trailer next door.
Every year the Diamond Sun downhill race was held at Sun Valley. According to Wendy the two mile course ran from the top of the Baldy lift to the base. There were no control gates and there was no padding on the lift towers or trees. It was every skier for himself. The goal was to break a pre-determined specified time. Skiers picked their own lines. As Wendy points out, there was no grooming and ski areas were a little more “natural” then than they are today. Wendy was awarded the coveted a Diamond Sun pin for breaking the time in 1 minute 47 seconds – a gold pin in the shape of the Sun Valley sun logo with a diamond in the center. The race was cancelled a few years later; too many skiers were getting seriously hurt in the race. He still wears the pin on special occasions.
Wendy moved back to Vermont and opened his ski shop in the 60’s. I spent my teenage and college years working at Wendy’s. Even after the shop closed down in the late 70’s Wendy remained involved with skiing. Up until he hung up his skis for the last time a couple of winter’s ago Wendy was one of the most sought after ski instructors at Stratton and one of the area’s biggest personalities. He never missed a day of skiing.
Insert Wendy 80’s pic here
So here’s a toast to Wendy on his birthday – “Thanks for the inspiration to keep us all doing what we love the most!” Wendy is living proof that skiing is a lifelong sport that keeps you young at heart.

Happy 90th!

Today is Wendy Cram’s 90th birthday. My first job was folding ski sweaters at Wendy’s Ski Shop in Manchester Center, Vermont when I was in 8th grade. He’s one of those rare adults who never treated me as a little kid and his stories and lifestyle left a big impression on me.

Woodstock Days

I recently spent the day with Wendy in Stowe, VT. He re-told some of my favorite old stories over a glass of red wine and laughs. Wendy (Wendell) was born in Bridgewater, Vermont in 1920, near the home of Bunny Bertram’s famous rope tow in Woodstock. The rope tow, being within miles of his home had a huge influence on Wendy’s life.

Learning to ski on long wooden skis and using ski poles made from wooden dowels capped with tin can lids for baskets, Wendy proved a natural athlete and excelled at skiing.

Setting the Rope Tow record at Suicide Six

By 1937 Wendy was a strong skier and a budding racer. He decided to take on the challenge of logging the most skiing vertical in one day at Suicide Six ski area (325’ vertical drop) using Bunny’s rope tow which was powered by a Model T engine.

As Wendy tells the story, “We were getting all these reports of records being set in Europe for the most vertical skied in a day using lifts, so we decided to try to set our own record on the rope tow!”

He continues to explain how a banked snow ramp was built at the bottom of the lift so he could ski up to the rope without slowing down, grab on, and be pulled up the hill without missing a beat. The rope tow’s speed was accelerated for the day.

Starting at dawn and running until dusk, he ate sandwiches on the short ride to the top of the hill to keep his energy up. Though, he can’t quite remember the total vertical feet, he skied a hundred and some runs and says his record still stands. “I went through three pair of mittens on the tow that day,” he laughed.

Wendy around 1939

Wendy around 1939

1940 Olympic Ski Team  Member

Wendy was named to the 1940 Olympic Ski Team in Norway, the year the Olympics were cancelled due to World War II. His navy blue Olympic sweater now hangs in the Vermont Ski Museum in Stowe, VT.

Wendy with his 1940 Olympic Team sweater

Wendy with his 1940 Olympic Team sweater

The 10th Mountain Division

In 1943 he shipped out to Camp Hale, Colorado as part of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division.  Because he was an expert skier and racer he was assigned to the elite position of ski instructor. There soldiers trained at altitude to fight and survive under the most brutal mountain conditions, on skis and snowshoes, and sleeping in the snow in white canvas tents.

We stopped by the Vermont Ski Museum’s 10th Mountain exhibit after lunch. Wendy reminisced about carrying a pack weighing a staggering ninety pounds and the rugged training they underwent. “We sang a lot of songs to keep our morale up, most of  ‘em you wouldn’t want to repeat in polite company!” he chuckled.

Wendy reviews the 10th Mountain Division exhibit at the Vermont Ski Museum

Wendy reviews the 10th Mountain Division exhibit at the Vermont Ski Museum

The Storm Trooper

The same day, we visited “Storm Trooper” a bigger than life bronze statue of a 10th Mountain soldier located in Stowe. Two hundred and fifty-six Vermonters enlisted in the 10th Mountain Division and they are commemorated on a granite plaque near the statue.

Wendy visiting The Storm Trooper statue in Stowe, VT

Wendy visiting The Storm Trooper statue in Stowe, VT

Sun Valley Days – The Diamond Sun Race

After the war Wendy went back to the glamorous Sun Valley resort in Idaho where he hobnobbed with the rich and famous and taught his fair share of movie stars. He even used to bring the budding filmmaker Warren Miller a hot breakfast every morning in Miller’s unheated trailer next door.

Every year the Diamond Sun downhill race was held at Sun Valley. According to Wendy the two mile course ran from the top of the Baldy lift to the base. There were no control gates and there was no padding on the lift towers or trees. It was every skier for himself. The goal was to break a pre-determined specified time. Skiers picked their own lines. As Wendy points out, there was no grooming and ski areas were a little more “natural” then than they are today.

Wendy was awarded the coveted a Diamond Sun pin for breaking the time in 1 minute 47 seconds – a gold pin in the shape of the Sun Valley sun logo with a diamond in the center. The race was cancelled a few years later; too many skiers were getting seriously hurt in the race. He still wears the pin on special occasions.

Wendy’s Ski Shop & Stratton

Wendy moved back to Vermont and opened his ski shop in the 60’s. I spent my teenage and college years working at Wendy’s. Even after the shop closed down in the late 70’s Wendy remained involved with skiing. Up until he hung up his skis for the last time a couple of winter’s ago Wendy was one of the most sought after ski instructors at Stratton and one of the area’s biggest personalities. He never missed a day of skiing.

Most requested ski instructor at Stratton - 1980's

Most requested ski instructor at Stratton - 1980's

So here’s a toast to Wendy on his birthday – “Thanks for the inspiration to keep us all doing what we love the most!” Wendy is living proof that skiing is a lifelong sport that keeps you young at heart.

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