Closing the curtain on the 20/21 season

The final fizzled snowstorm up north was our April Fool’s joke coming right at the end of the season. I didn’t want to make light of the season by posting yesterday- that would have felt cruel.

Quick retrospective

  • The Coronavirus pandemic created a stampede on purchase of outdoors equipment, including cross-country skis. Prospects that this could prove to be an unusual season were borne out anecdotally. Ski touring centers scrambled to position themselves to be ready. But were plans and economics upset by travel restrictions or staffing issues?
  • A slow start to the XC season yielded to a great mid-season for many of us. But the fantastic February for downstate NY and the mid-Hudson region obscured the fact that the snowpack was short of norms in the north country. Barkeater Trail Alliance says it’s pretty much over for most of the backcountry as well. Reasons for the fast-disappearing snowpack are covered in a post on the Facebook page ‘Northeast skiology
  • The entire World Cup racing season seemed weird. Norway took a month off from the circuit, and got so nervous that races had to find other venues late in the season. Weather wasn’t so wintry at the World Championships: national teams cut up their uniforms into shorts and short sleeves to race in 50-degree weather in Obserstdorf Germany.
  • On a high note, Jessie Diggins won the crystal globes for both overall and distance points.
Krista Pärmäkoski of Finland and Jessie Diggins of the USA racing in shorts and short sleeves due to warm temperatures
Krista Pärmäkoski and Jessie Diggins racing in temps above 50 degrees. (Photo: NordicFocus, via Fasterskier)

Final state of the touring centers

A late blow of snow put a few inches across the north country, but since most centers were already closed, and ground was largely bare, it didn’t do any good. The only areas where extra XC skiing might be possible are some public parks and trails in far northern Vermont or New York, and the trails at Mt van Hoevenberg where a few manmade loops plus some flatland with a touch-up of new snow are open.

As an aside, at this time of year I usually find some touring centers basically abandon their website at the season end without saying goodbye formally. The naughty list of season-enders that left their last post up this year are:

  • Bear Notch
  • Cascade
  • Grafton Trails

For what it’s worth, ‘State of the touring centers‘ is updated. NOHRSC servers seem to be offline today, so here’s a graphic of snowfall for the past 48 hours in the northeast. The lightest blue is for 1″. No area seemed to get more than 4″, which matches observations posted by ski areas.

NOAA northeast US snowfall or 48hrs ending 12:00z, April 2 2021
NOAA snowfall analysis for 48hrs ending 12:00z, April 2 2021

Yep, it’s time to clean those skis and give them a coat of wax for storage.

365 plus 1

COVID lockdown for us continues. A year and a day and counting.

At home we still maintain a 6-8 week supply of toilet paper and paper towels, and I make sure I have at least four weeks’ worth of the bagged ground coffee I like best (itself a subsitute for the freshly-ground coffee I used to get when I still commuted to work). The freezer stays stocked with meats and ready-to-heat’s. We still wipe down our groceries and restrict our outings. We order in once a week from a local restaurant to help them out.

If we had to we could probably go four weeks on pasta, beans, nuts and other canned goods in the pantry. We did not get into making bread, but we do keep and ample stock of rice. I guess it would be really bad news if something happened to the water supply (not to mention gas and electricity).

We know the difference between N95, KN95 and KF94 masks. We monitor the trend of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths like casualty lists in a conflict. Every encounter with people indoors for more than a few minutes is a ‘Day Zero’ event. We keep ourselves safely distanced from people outside the family, and mask up for our sake and theirs.

The last year has been a demon to family members who love the never-ending parade of consumerism, novelties, and Instagrammable places that were part of life in 2019.

On the other hand, I’ve gotten on snow a reasonable amount this season, had the luxury of enjoying nature in winter, and interacted with other people in a low-risk way. I’ve used the time to learn more about technique and instruction on snow. I bought rollerskis and a pair of nice skate boots, and got back into skate skiing.

We parents still have our jobs, at least for now. No one in the household got Coronavirus, and some have begun the vaccination process.

The hardest part of a difficult journey is near the end, where we loosen our grip on the goings-on. Our desire to see ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ leads us to anticipate a feeling of relief and release ahead of the actuality. It’s a knowable and preventable risk, countered by a refocused attention on executing the process and not cutting corners. As Yogi Berra said: ‘It ain’t over till it’s over’.

Happy Pi day.

A crystal globe, an environmentalist, and The New Yorker

It’s likely that almost every cross-country skier in the U.S. knows who Jessie Diggins is; many snow sports aficionados know how important winning the World Cup is; but there are a lot more people who are neither athletes nor cross-country skiers but know who Bill McKibben is. And there are plenty of people who don’t know Jessie Diggins, could care less about the World Cup, but do read The New Yorker.

McKibben founded 350.org because he believes strongly that the risks of climate-related catastrophe increase as atmospheric Carbon exceeds 350 parts per million (we’re already at 400 and counting). He’s also an avid cross-country skier and writes for The New Yorker, usually on things having to do with climate.

But this weekend he used some bits to write up a shout-out to Jessie Diggins for clinching the title as this year’s overall World Cup winner, only the second time an American has done so, and the first for an American woman.

So here I sit in a Venn diagram intersection where interest in XC skiing, environmentalism, and readers of a hoity-toity magazine all overlap, cheering for Jessie Diggins, overall winner of the 2020-21 Cross-Country Ski World Cup.