The Short List

FasterSkierSeptember 18, 2010

At some point during last week’s fantastically awesome ski for which I do not have pictures, I started wondering whether I was on my best-ever rollerski. (While there is probably some debate over just what goes into making any workout the “best-ever”, which I’ll get to in a second, let’s remember that there is no debate over my best-ever snow ski. This day is still head and shoulders above anything else.) It was a long ski, which gave me plenty of time to think (that’s another topic – the wanderings of my mind while training – on which I could probably write sometime, but not right now), and here is what I’ve come up with.

First of all, I do a lot of rollerskiing. And most of it is just training. I say “just training” to mean there’s nothing special. Some days it’s for 45 minutes, other days it’s for 3 hours. Sometimes it’s intervals, and others, just distance. Occasionally there are even memorable workouts, but usually there’s nothing particularly special about the rollerski (the roads I’m on and where I go) itself. Everywhere I’ve trained I’ve had my standard routes. Hanover certainly had more of them than Bend or Putney, but at the end of the day, the roads that I see 5, 10, 20, 50 times a year tend to lose their novelty.

I guess I’ve begun to define the criteria of what makes a great rollerski. It’s not about the workout (at least, not entirely about the workout), it’s about the road. It’s about being somewhere new, somewhere memorable. When I was coming up with this list, I realized pretty much every rollerski that made the cut was long. But long seems to be a necessary, but not sufficient condition. They are all also all point-to-point. And most end with a big climb. So maybe it’s a combination of getting a long (and usually hard) workout, going somewhere new and different, and getting some toughness points to go along with the view at the end (why else would I climb big hills?). At least those are the pieces I’ve identified. So, without further rambling, here is my short list (in no particular order).

McKenzie Pass If you have made it this far without having read about “rollerskiing the west side“, well, I don’t know what to think. I’ve also rollerskied the east side. It’s shorter, flatter, worse pavement, and there’s no transition from dense forest, to dry forest. But the lava flow is still there on top. I feel pretty good about saying that McKenzie Pass will always be a special place, no matter how many times I go up there. (5 in 2010 and counting).

Paulina Lake/Newbury Crater One of the things that bugs me about Central Oregon (when compared with VT), is the relative lack of roads. The road biking options are pretty limited (we don’t really have hills and valleys, which means there aren’t roads through every valley), but there are a lot of roads that go up for a while. Newbury Crater has one of those roads, except instead of ending at the base of some bigger mountains (ahem, Century Drive, Three Creeks Rd, Santiam Pass, Mt Hood Highway, Willamette Pass …) this one goes into the caldera on top of the volcano. There are lakes up there, and they’re nice to swim in. The ski itself is close to 3000’ of climbing over 18 or so miles, and most of the up is in the middle third. The vertical and old chip-seal (slow going) make the ski plenty tough. The views (of the Cascades, the obsidian flow and the lakes) make hanging out at the end pretty easy.

Mt Bachelor circumnavigation No destination, no particularly new roads and it’s a loop. I’m breaking all the rules. I did this with Marshall a couple of summers ago. We were on our Aeros (which are fast at 90 PSI) and it still took us almost 5 hours to go 52 miles. That’s what rain and very rough chip-seal will do. I’m kinda proud of the fact that we did this unsupported without really thinking about it. We just filled up camelbaks, brought a lot of food and went. It’s not one I need to do again, but one I’m glad I did.

“Mt Ascutney”: Relatively short and very steep. My first attempt up Ascutney was sophomore (?) year in high school when Zach, Shams and Will Rawstron dragged me along for a hike up/ski up workout. I was fine (I think) on the hike, but by the time the skiing rolled around I was pretty well done. I got to stop when those guys met me walking down the road (they’d been up to the top) about 2/3 of the way up. It was very dark and I was very tired. But, it was one of my first big workouts in my training career. I’ve skied it at least one other time, when I dragged Jon and Scott down during sophomore summer. That day we did a bike/ski assault (you should never do just one climb up Ascutney). Mostly I remember it being hot. And a weekend. So we had a lot of cheering from spectators, which is always nice.

Hanover-Moosilauke One of the best things about Ruff’s training plan was the variety he builds into the ODs. Sure, they all start with either River Road or Route 5, but after that he does a really good job of picking a different road up a different valley to climb each week. After 4 years of training in Hanover (and a few guest appearances since), most of these skis have lost their novelty. There are a few memorable moments – like trying to double pole Chelsea senior year, where I forgot food and bonked horribly, ate half a bag of Doritos at the bottom of the climb and finished in the dark – but for the most part the Wednesday afternoon ODs sort of run together. Moosilauke, however, stays memorable.

Partly, this is the terrain. After a few hours the route takes you over the shoulder of Cube on 25A. That, Hanover – Cube (the Pancake House), is one of the standard Wednesday afternoon ODs. On the way to Moosilauke, it comes about halfway. And of course, there is the climb to Moosilauke itself. It’s no Ascutney, but at the end of a long day, climbing 118 is plenty tough. It’s tough enough to make V2-ing the whole climb no sure thing (I’m one for two), and it has brought more than a few college students to their knees. On the days when you can beat the van and the dark to the top of the climb, the view of Franconia is a pretty good reward. And of course, any ski that makes Ruff say “nobody is not a hero today” has to make this list.

Crater Lake I may have said “no particular oder”, but this has to be number 1. First, roller skiing in National Parks is illegal. I’ve known this since Jens woke us up at 4 in the morning to do our roller ski time trial up Cadillac Mountain before the park rangers started patrolling the roads, but apparently not all park rangers know this. In the summer of 2007, on the way back from Mt. Ashland, we stopped and rollerskied up to (and then past) Diamond Lake, and made our way to the north entrance of the park. At the entrance gate, the park ranger waved us through and we were on our way. Aside from the obvious reasons to like rollerskiing in National Parks (they’re National Parks, the scenery tends to be pretty good), a lot of them have really good pavement. From a little past the north entrance to the rim, the pavement was fantastic. (It’s hard to overstate how much nicer good pavement can make a rollerski. Even the most boring (flat and straight) road can be fun a few times if the pavement is good. And conversely, an otherwise great road can be rendered unskiable by a bad paving (or chipsealing) job.)

Good pavement and minor law breaking aside, this ski was awesome, because Crater Lake is awesome. The pictures only sort of do it justice. It was also my first time actually seeing Crater Lake (it’s hard to count peering through the fog to maybe see the water when Dad and I were there that spring as really “seeing” the lake). The whole ski was great. The approach to the lake is a long flat, followed by a long climb. I’m not sure exactly why (fire, elevation, the fact that their was a bit of an explosion a little while back), but most of the climb is exposed. Every time I get climbing on a road above tree line I picture myself on the high mountain passes of the Tour, and that is always a fun thing to imagine, but I’ve digressed. The road really feels like it’s climbing up the side of a mountain, which makes sense, because that’s exactly what’s happening. Except, of course, the top of the mountain isn’t there. Instead, the road stops and you’re left to look down on one of the more spectacular sights I’ve ever seen. Also, as soon as we reached the rim, a park ranger showed up ready to arrest us. When he found out that we skied through the north entrance a few hours earlier, his expression changed. I’m pretty sure the poor ranger from the gate got a stern talking to that evening.

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