Mashed Potatoes in December

Waking up this morning I knew the forecast was calling for warm weather and rain. However, I had the choice of Christmas shopping or skiing and the latter won out. With temperatures in the fifties I figured I could leave the jacket behind, throw on a sweater and hit the slopes.

My first run down Wonderama was better than anything I could have expected. The snow was thick and soft and grabbing an edge was not an issue. I was soon flying down the mountain carving large GS turns, switching from inside to outside edge with no problem.  With such soft snow, ice patches were not a concern and I began to really lean in and feel the burn in my quads.  Once I reached the base my legs were screaming and I was out of breath. I skied right onto the lift and by the time I got to the top of West Peak I was still huffing and puffing.

Cutting through mashed potato snow in December is a rarity. The conditions reminded me of late season runs in March when flowers are starting peak through the snow and the days are becoming longer and longer. Usually warm weather and soft snow means the end of winter and the start of yard work, but today was a different story.

By the time lunch rolled around I was shot. My legs were jelly and I had sweated through the t-shirt and pull over I had on. I had ditched my gloves hours ago and the vents on my snow pants were wide open. Despite all these preventive measures I still was dripping and most likely smelled like a wet dog. As I packed up the car and began for home a thought dawned over me and I quickly turned around and ran back to the lodge. Ten minutes later I was back in the car with ski tickets in my hand and Christmas shopping complete. No matter the conditions there is nothing like being in the mountains and having the ability to give that to someone else is truly special.

posted in Windham Mountain by windadmin |

Disconnecting

It is my belief that in this over-connected, over-booked, constantly turned “on” world that many of us, either by choice or unknowingly, begin to lose touch with the basics. Every day I see articles online about how to maximize your time, or a segment on a morning show about the importance of taking a timeout to de-stress. But when all is said and done, the three minutes it takes to skim through the article or watch that segment is pretty much the only amount of time that we devote to ourselves in a given day.

Having been part of the mountain-top community for nearly 10 years now, you can really begin to see the difference between the people who take the time to enjoy themselves and those that are just squeezing everythign they can into  an-every-minute-planned day. And although I complain often about living in the only corner of the world with no cell service (can you believe a place like that even exists?!) I have made a conscious decision to capitalize on this very rare situation.

Over the weekend I convinced a few family members to go on a little run-walk with me sans electronic devices. Our roads are unpaved and “traffic” is considered two cars going by within a half a hour, which makes for a relatively safe trip by foot. We set out at about 9:00 a.m. Saturday morning and the first thing that struck me was the crispness in the air. Summer is certainly a little shorter in the mountains, but the chill caught me by surprise. As we began the treacherous incline to the top of our road (this is the mountains after all), I also began to notice that a few of the trees where highlighted by pops of gold and red; sure signs that the change of seasons is upon us.

Our path made a three mile loop away from and eventually back to our homes. We were all struck by the beautiful views and the number of houses we had driven by hundreds of times but never noticed. When we finally arrived back home, I began to wonder why it has taken me so long to go out exploring in my own town. In the end I am happy I didn’t spend that time reading out how to de-stress and instead disconnected from the over-scheduled chaos and actually took the time to take it all in.

posted in Windham Mountain by windadmin |

Getting Started is the Hardest Part

August has officially arrived and with it has come a realization that summer is drawing to a close. All of a sudden all the things that I meant to do this summer are rolling through my brain as a shockingly long list with very few checkmarks. There have been some accomplishments along the way: I have gotten to spend lots of quality time with my daughter before she starts school next month. I have achieved and maintained a tan for the majority of the summer, a testament to an ample amount of time spent in the warm sunshine. And there has been a lot of time spent with friends and family while consuming copious amounts of burgers and pasta salad – does wonders for the figure.

As I’m sure many of my fellow winter-sport lovers can agree, I have found it much easier to stay fit in the winter months when work and winter activities keep me constantly on the go. With Warrior Dash approaching, my lack of fitness has become glaringly obvious. I have never had the opportunity to run the race and had every intention of doing it this year. But as an unwavering over-achiever there is no way that I will be standing at the start gate unless I feel reasonably confident that I can conquer this mountain.

And so with the Dash in mind (and the awareness of the amount of jeering I will have to sustain from my coworkers if I don’t’ come through) I have begun to get my butt back in shape. Having finished Week 1 of training I am feeling great. Every day I am pushing myself a little harder, going from walking the entire course at the beginning of the week to running in spurts uphill and running all of the downhill.

I have always been a team sports and social exerciser so that hardest part has been getting out there alone. After my run after work last night I wondered why I had been putting this off. There are a million excuses to not do it but it really is the getting started that’s the hardest part. My hope is that by this time next week I will have hit my stride and be totally focused on the Warrior Dash and beyond.

posted in Windham Mountain by windadmin |

Wisconsin Races

Three years ago I made a trip to Lutsen, Minnesota with Warner Nickerson, Dane Spence, and David Chodounsky to help out at a race series that the Central Region was hosting. I had never been to the mid-west before that trip. When you think of ski racing it is very easy to overlook and area like that. We went for four races and had a great time. It was a beautiful part of the country and the people who put the race on were some of the friendliest, welcoming people I have ever been around. Since that trip I have stayed in touch with them and they have often asked if I can come back for certain races. Unfortunately the timing to do so has never worked out.

In early January I was once again approached and asked if I could go out to La Crosse, Wisconsin for the Nagy Memorial slalom races. For the first time in a while I had an opening in my schedule and made arrangements to join them for the races. The organizers were looking for a few others to race and I spread the word to those who I thought might be interested. A week before the races began we had rounded up quite the men’s race. In the race there were two Olympians, and five racers who had raced in a world cup this year. It was impressive to say the least.

My previous experience in the mid-west at Lutsen was different. It had a breathtaking view right on one of the Great Lakes. La Crosse was a different experience. It is a very small, mom and pop type, ski area located of all places on the banks of the Mississippi River. There are a few trail cut into a tucked away area of a bluff. The race trail at Lutsen was flat, but this was not the case in La Crosse. It was easily as steep as anything I have skied all year.

Everyone in the Central Region is proud of the La Crosse slalom trail and rightfully so. The trail was flat out of the start for five or six gates before a precipitous drop onto a pitch that was about 12 gates long before a final flat into the finish. In the races I struggled to find my rhythm out of the start and when I do that I am never able to find it later on.

It was a bit disappointing to come out to Wisconsin for some races that turned out to be good opportunities and not perform. I was a bit bummed out, but then looking back I had a really fun time there. I got to spend some time with good friends in a much less stressful environment and I met some wonderful new people in addition. It cannot go without saying that we were treated like kings. People went out of their way to help us and make our trip enjoyable. Everyone who had a hand in putting the race together out did themselves and reminded me why it is so great to travel to the mid-west for races. I hope that in the future our schedules work out to do it again. For now I am headed back east to Burke, Vermont for two super g races and two giant slalom races. It’s about that time in the season where a couple weeks of great skiing can turn the whole season around.

posted in Windham Mountain by windham |

Aspen

I’m on a plane returning form Aspen and Vail as I am writing this and I am still trying to sort everything out. The trip as a whole was rather disappointing. I had more crashes and races that I did not finish than I would have liked. I had a lot of missed opportunities to end up on the podium or even win the races. I had some bad luck with equipment mishaps and continued to struggle in downhill. I am still leaving with a smile on my face though, knowing that I have a long break from the Norams and can get some good training in to sort things out before the spring push.

I think that I left my cold and sinus infection behind in Vail, so that was a good sign moving on to Aspen. My thumb still hurt most of the time, but I got a splint that seemed to help. We went from sunny skies and very hard snow in Vail to seemingly constant flurries and dry grippy snow that broke apart with each racer down the course in Aspen.

I was excited for the two super g races that led off the race series. I had a nice early number and liked racing super g at Aspen. About 15 minutes before the first race I had finished warming up and stopped at the lodge quickly to get ready for my run. As I was taking my skis off one of my poles broke. I have never had a pole break so close to my run. I scrambled for a bit then called my Swix rep that was in Aspen that morning. He was leaving town, but turned around to bring me another pair. Unfortunately, he was not going to make it in time for me to meet him at the bottom then ride to two lifts to get to the start. I borrowed poles from my teammate, who was running after me. If things went on schedule I had 30 minutes to get from the finish of my run and back to the start to get him his poles. It was enough time, but the last thing I wanted to do was affect his run because of my misfortune.

I was without a doubt flustered from the moment I broke my pole. All I was thinking about was that I got my teammate’s poles back to him in time. I was thinking of how bad it would be if the lift had a problem or anything got in the way of me returning his poles. The last thing on my mind was the course and what I had to do to succeed. I skied the course without really thinking, sometimes it can work out and sometimes it doesn’t. In this race it didn’t. On the good side he got his poles back in plenty of time. The racer who went after me crashed hard and the race was stopped for half an hour. I caught my lucky break in more ways than one with the half hour hold. During that time a snow squall rolled in and it snowed heavily for the whole hold. The new snow completely changed the race. Essentially the race for first place was over, then snow slowed the track down so much that it was near impossible for anyone after the hold to be the fastest one down.

I had not skied well and was frustrated with that. The problem was that I let my broken equipment get to me. I did get luck to run before the snow came in. I wound up finishing fourth, a bit relieved that Mother Nature had helped me out, but pissed because I knew I should have won. I left the mountain feeling like I dodged a bullet by skiing poorly and still finishing fourth. The next day I would have a better chance.

In the second race I skied the top section well. The top is flat for about 15 seconds before an abrupt break over onto a steep pitch. I skied that section solidly. It is not where you win the race by taking chances, but you can easily loose it by doing so. I continued the solid skiing all the way down, but as soon I crossed the finish I knew I missed my opportunity on the bottom.

The bottom of the course ran much easier than I thought it would have during inspection. I was a but loopy, traveling more distance than I needed to, and could have made up time by pushing the line and being more aggressive. It was a simple mental mistake that easily cost the three tenths of a second that separated me in sixth place from second place.

At this point for me the difference between where I am finishing now and winning is completely mental. I need to be more confident and trust that I can push things and still make it down. I need to flip the switch because at this point in the season making it down safe and clean does not help.

From super g we moved into downhill. A few years ago I started doing downhill for one reason, to help my super g. I find that doing downhill makes super g much easier; it helps to get a feel for the speed, terrain, and the trail. Downhill has been hit or miss, I have had some great downhill races and some slow ones. I have still not figured it out. Even though we already raced the super g races, I did the downhills because of the overall NorAm standings and I needed the points to stay close.

The forecast of snow forced the cancellation of the second training run and after just one run down the overly turny course we get right into racing. Things went pretty well in the first race as I finished seventh. It was one of my best results in an Aspen downhill, so I was happy. I wish I could say the same for the second Noram downhill. I went out with the same approach and was slower, finishing 17th. Downhill is still a mystery.

The trip ended on what could have been one of my most embarrassing moments on skis. Our final race was the US National Championships Downhill. It was not captured on video and I have still not decided if I am lucky or not. I was in the starting gate and fired up for my last run and looking to turn things around from the previous day’s disappointing finish. The top of Aspen’s downhill is flat for nearly the first 45 seconds. I pushed out of the gate and was skating as hard a possible. When I was about to settle into my tuck I decided I had better throw in an extra push. This hesitation threw off my timing.

As I went for the last push, I planted my left pole mistakenly inside of my left ski. I did not have enough time to lift it before tripping myself up. The next thing I knew I was on my stomach sliding past the first gate. I was filled with a mixture of anger and embarrassment. I was too embarrassed to really do anything, but take my skis off and walk back to the start with my head down avoiding eye contact with whoever might have been around.

I have to give credit to some of my fellow racers, especially the Canadians who managed to put a smile on my face when I showed up at the finish fully clothed. They began to call me Fritz, in reference to Fritz Strobl from the Austrian team. He was one of their many downhill greats. His accomplishments include winning numerous world cups and the gold medal in downhill at the Salt Lake City Olympic games, but he is also remembered for falling while skating out of the start at Wengen. I couldn’t help but smile remembering about Strobl. It happens to the best I guess.

posted in Chris Frank Blog by windham |

Vail

It has been forever since my last update and I must apologize. I am trying to recall what has happened since my last update. My European trip finished up relatively smoothly. We finished with a few giant slalom and slalom races in France. I was one of the better racers there, but that does not mean anything is certain especially in Europe. I ended the trip on a high note, but winning the last race, slalom. Unfortunately I do not have any pictures from awards because I missed the awards ceremony. I do not usually do this, but I would say it was extenuating circumstances. There was a problem with the timing system so no times were being posted for the second run. On top of that we had a ten-hour drive from France to Munich right after the race. Because of those factors we were on the road before the race was even over. I had no idea I won until I reached Munich and saw the results online.

It felt great to get back onto American soil. The trip was fun, but being on the road in Europe wore me out. Doing things on my own was difficult as well. Coordinating everything takes a lot of extra effort. After a few days home I fell apart and got sick. I felt it coming on and tried to be proactive, but soon came on a sinus infection that wiped me out for a week. The day before leaving for Colorado, where I had some NorAm tech and speed races, I broke down and went to the doctor’s office and got on some antibiotics.

I arrived in Vail, Colorado for two NorAm giant slaloms and two NorAm slalom races with only skiing once in the week leading up. I have done this once before, but it was in speed, which is a bit easier to hop right into. Slalom is tough to get back up to the pace. I tried mightily my first run down the course, but about ten gates in I just exploded. One second I was making a turn and the next thing I knew I was flying through the air. I had loaded up my ski and it sprung me right into the air. My body landed on the ice with a thud. I broke the fall with my hip, shoulder and thumb. Only my tumb hurt after the crash and it swelled right up. The next morning I was hurting. My hip was sore, I couldn’t lift my arm above my head and I couldn’t bend me thumb.

I tried to push through it and race the second slalom, but it didn’t really work out. Between being sore and having no energy coming back from being sick it was a mistake. Easy to say that looking back, but there was no way I would have been convinced in the morning.

I began to turn things around in the first giant slalom race with two decent runs, but both races were riddled with mistakes. I walked away form Vail with my head hanging pretty low. My expectations were much higher, maybe a bit too high considering I was not able to ski until arriving in Colorado.

On the bright side of things I have moved on, both mentally and physically. I feel much better as I am sitting writing this. My body has nearly healed although the thumb is still sore; it may or may not be broken. I am in Aspen enjoying a day off before we start a seven-day block of NorAm speed races. I am looking forward to making something happen here. For the first time in a while I am looking forward to changing gears and racing some super g and downhill. Aspen has always been good to me and I am hoping that continues.

posted in Chris Frank Blog by windham |

My Baby Will Shred

Every parent thinks that their child in the most amazing in the world. When they finger paint we see Picasso, when they make noises we think they will be the next Mozart, and when they take their first run we see Lindsay Vonn. So when I tell the tale of my daughter’s first time on a snowboard, please know that I am aware that reality may be far from my perception. But I happen to think I saw a little Shawn White yesterday.

My daughter is a vivacious (couldn’t sit still without duct tape) 3 year old that I have been promising to get onto a snowboard all winter. My husband and I are both snowboarders, he much better than I, so it didn’t really make sense for us to start her off of skis. That and I have an image in my head of family trips with my little girl shredding past adults trying to get off of their butts. So when I took her out on Tuesday, the goal was to get her to like it enough to convince her to take a real lesson someday.

She struggled to walk in boots one size too big as we walked toward the bunny hill. “I’m tired already, Mama.” Uh-oh, I’m losing her already. I strapped her into her board and held her hand as she slid down the hill. “Okay, now stand on your toes a little” I directed. She did as asked and started turning slightly to the right. “Now try to stop,” I said, wondering where her instincts would take her. She immediately put pressure on her heels, the board turned parallel to the hill and she stopped. Okay, I can work with this.

We made our way over to the Magic Carpet, which she thought was fun but was a little disappointed that she didn’t get to fly. On her second run, about 10 feet down, I hear her little voice saying “Mama! Let Go!” I let go of her hand and loosely hold her hood so she won’t know I’m there. As she starts picking up speed I panic a little and start to pull her back. A long slow S is left behind her. We’re doing okay.

For run three, I am not allowed to help her off the magic carpet – she can do that herself now. For the next three runs I pull her from the lift to the top of Wooly Bear but after that I am not allowed to touch her. She’s doing it by herself. When did my baby get so big?! I can only compare the amount of pride I felt that moment to when she took her first steps. My baby girl is going to shred someday…soon.

posted in Windham Mountain by windadmin |

Chamrousse

It has been a rough start to my Europe trip so far. I am like a baseball player on a bad day 0 for 4. I have yet to inspect a course let alone race. All of my first four races have been cancelled due to weather.

I arrived in Europe on Tuesday, the 2nd, to brilliant sunny skies. From Munich I made my way over to Oberjoch, Germany where we were scheduled to have two gs races. I went to sleep my first night here excited for the next day’s race. When morning came we were greeting with pouring rain. It was not encouraging at all. My only hope was that it would be snowing up at the mountain.

Driving up to the mountain the rain changed over to a wet heavy snowfall. I was rather optimistic riding up in the cocoon that was the bubble chairlift. When I opened up the bubble at the top my hopes were dashed. I stood at the top of the racecourse for 15 minutes while everyone waited to hear if we would race. Sure enough they cancelled the day’s race.

Half an hour after cancelling the first race the organizers also canceled the next day’s race. The decision turned out to be a smart one because it was too windy for the lifts to even run the following day.

From Oberjoch I hit the road and headed for two FIS super g races in Wengen, Switzerland. It was about a four-hour drive. Along the way my teammate and I stopped at the Head ski factory in Austria so he could pick up some skis. Walking into the factory was very cool to say the least. I was surprised with how friendly and open the employees were. They let us roam around and explore.

After getting what my teammate needed we were back on the road in more pouring rain. Shortly before leaving we found out the first super g in Wengen had already been canceled. We decided to head there a day early anyway. I had never been to Wengen or that part of Switzerland before and was really psyched about the trip. It is famous for the world cup downhill that it has hosted for the last 81 years.

The town of Wengen is not accessible by car; the only way in and out is via train. This made for quite the production of getting our equipment there. We pulled into a large parking garage, loaded all of our stuff onto carts, took the elevator up a floor, wheeled the carts to the train track, unloaded the bags, and then loaded the bags onto the train once it arrived. After a 20-minute ride up a mountainside through what I imagined to be beautiful terrain, I couldn’t see anything through the fog; we arrived in the town of Wengen.

We repeated the whole process again in Wengen. We unloaded everything off the train, put it on carts, wheeled the carts to the other side of the train station, and then waited for the small electric car from the hotel to puck us up. When I arrived at the hotel I was informed that I missed an important memo. The hotel owner informed me that the races had been canceled earlier that day. From the look on their face they clearly felt bad for me.
Initially a bit of panic set in. We had no idea what to do. After a bit of brainstorming we decided to come to France two days early and race in a resort just outside of Grenoble called Chamrousse. It was a complete spur of the moment decision. Just a few hours ago we arrived after repeating the whole process to leave Wengen and four more hours in the car. As we pulled into town the sky was clearing and we found a place to stay at the last minute. It looks like things are turning around.

posted in Chris Frank Blog by windham |

European Cups

After a brief period of uncertainty, I now know what the next couple of weeks have in store for me. I left Panorama and Canada not knowing what I would be doing come January. I wanted to head to Europe to race European Cups and have another shot at getting a world cup start, but I wanted to avoid the headaches that I got last year there. Before even booking a ticket I wanted to make sure I was able to do the races that I needed to.

Shortly before Christmas I found out that there was a spot for me in the European Cup races that I wanted to do. It was a huge relief knowing that if I were to make the trip to Europe I would be able to race. Christmas morning I booked a flight and I am sitting here on January 2, 2012 in the Newark International airport waiting for my flight to Munich.

The first half of my trip is pretty full with racing and driving. I touch down in Munich, Germany on the 3rd. From the airport I hop into a rental car and drive to Oberjoch, Germany for a race the following day. After that I will make my way to Switzerland for two races in Wengen then head to Val D’Isere, France. It will be a lot of time in the car, but split between three people it shouldn’t be too bad.

I am looking forward to this trip more than usual. I always enjoy heading to Europe for racing, but this year I am even more excited for it. When I go to Wengen and Val D’Isere I will be visiting new places to me. I will be spending a lot of time in the car, but it is a great way to see the European countryside and I am glad to have a few people to share the trip with.

My goal is to get some top 10 finishes in the European Cup races and get some more world cup starts. I think that my chances are good and I am looking forward to racing after a much needed break.

posted in Chris Frank Blog by windham |

Like Riding a Bike

I know that my claim to fame will never be my natural grace. Growing up my parents nicknamed me “Boo-Boo-Legs” as the lower half of my body was continuously covered in bruises. Family gatherings often bring up stories of me as a child being unable to sit in a chair without spontaneously falling out, and my brothers get a kick out of the fact that I have mastered falling both up and down stairs. I still walk into walls from time to time, always have mysterious bruises and, unfortunately, seemed to have genetically transmitted my clumsiness to my daughter (whenever she falls, I tell startled onlookers not to worry – she bounces).

While I am not unlike others in my tendency for ridiculous injuries, my lack of coordination and fear of getting hurt is always more of a problem come the winter season. I am a self-proclaimed perennial beginner at snowboarding as I have never been physically or mentally able to graduate past intermediate terrain. I did, however, manage to clock in enough time on the snow last season to become proficient enough to not embarrass myself.

So when I went to gear up for my first day on the snow this season, I had very mixed feelings. When I told my friends, who are of course exceptionally talented skiers and riders, that I was afraid of what would happen to old Boo-Boo-Legs once I strapped into my board, they told me not to worry: It’s like riding a bike. But what if I was never really good at riding a bike to start with?

So my husband and I headed up the hill for the first time this season only to find out that, as I feared, I had forgotten much of what I learned last year. A lot of falls and a few choked back tears had me thinking that I should really give it up. It’s been more than a decade and it doesn’t come easily so what is the point? I “pulled over” on a trail to feel sorry for myself when my husband hit me with a rather harsh pep talk. I’m trying too hard and making it into work. I need stop comparing myself to everyone else, let go and have some fun. The rest of the afternoon was markedly better and I returned in one piece. I guess Boo-Boo-Legs will ride again.

posted in Windham Mountain by windadmin |