29 September 2009

A Hunerd

One hundred posts! One hundred posts and just shy of two years in existence. Many posts featured skiing; many others focused on something else; several have no relationship to anything whatsoever. Still, home is where your skis is and so I thought I would present a brief retrospective of my mostly skiing life before the birth of this here blog. In other words, some of the homes that housed the skis. It might offer perspective to this whole mess. Likely not.

I'll make my way back in time from my first post that commemorated the death of Hank Thompson. I don't think Hank was a skier so it was probably there where I first strayed from the point. I asked for luck in that first post and I guess I was given it. For better or for worse I'm still here. And I still ski. So crank the modem as there is quite a bit of pre-cyber skiing to upload.

Kazakhstan, 2005-2006

Prior to Chile we spent a year in the Wild Eastern town of Almaty, nestled against the Tien Shan mountain range. I ruined one pair of skis and seriously damaged at least one other. A pair of climbing skins died; a large part of my ego did too. I'd probably go back if given the chance.

Germany, 2006

Believe it or not at some point we needed a break from the garden spot of Almaty. We headed to Munich and Garmisch for one, a place we knew and loved (see below). I met with Frank and Joce and they took me on a nice tour of Oberschibahnhofstadtlergeflutenisch--or something like that. Some pictures are Frank's, some are mine. Thanks for the pictures, Frank.

Mexico, 2002-2004

Cold, snowy Mexico. Yas, yas, Jack's poem has nothing to do with the big volcano that carries the same name. His refers to an address, specifically an address in Mexico City where he lived in an apartment above a gringo junkie who made him run errands, specifically errands for more junk. My Orizaba has nothing to do with junk but I had to pass through Mexico City twice to get there and back. And while passing through I picked up and dropped off some gringos who climbed and skied Orizaba with me. Anyway I brought Jack's Desolation Angels up there with me to wait out the storms. And besides all that you could easily bend your legs in long sweeping turns listening to the quiet rhythm of Jack's voice.

A straightforward narrative of our errands is still available on Summit Post. I think all these photos are Peter's. Thanks Peter, wherever you are.

Nevada, 2001-2003

Northeastern all: Independence, Ruby, Wheeler, and Jarbidge. Back in the days when cameras were cameras and not the size of Altoid tins.

The great, Great Basin. There is nothing better.

My Nevada muse: Independence and Me

Idaho, 1994-2003

It's been home several times, in several places, for short periods. It's the beginning and it just might be the end. From the Soldiers to the Selkirks. Bottom to top. Again and again.

These are Lizzie's bowls:

These are the meadows we like to skip when no one is around; and no one is ever around:

And when the meadows can skip no more, there are always the summits. These provide respite well into the summer but most notably on 15 June 2004, the day before a small boy brought his own skis into my home.

I can't refer to Idaho without the mention of Drew and Luke. Two University of Idaho students who, new to the Fire Crew, would finish our eight-hour day of lugging around thirty-pound chainsaws through dog-hair stands of Lodgepole Pine and immediately jump in their truck to finish the day by hiking for summer turns along the Selkirk Crest.

"Where they going?" I asked Randy, our crew boss. "Skiing," he replied. "Wow," I said, tired, filthy, and impressed. "Yep," he said. And together we would go drink beer at the Cavanaugh Bay bar.

Drew and Luke liked to drink beer, too, specifically cases of Old Milwaukee; it's just that they prioritized skiing above all else including drinking beer, work, eating supper, physical fatigue, and sleep. While up at Priest Lake, they convinced me to buy Jeff's 210 Kazama Couloirs and Voile three-pins. I scrounged together a used pair of old Italian leathers that someone made more sturdy with a Merrill SuperComp liner. When the snows returned to the high country they took me on my first tour to an undisclosed location below Squaw Man to help set up their illegal hut they would use for ski trips all winter long. I don't know how many times I crashed that day but I haven't put on a pair of alpine skis since.

It was the combination of the skinny University of Idaho students with my recent return from Europe that set the skis skinning. The year of 1994 was spent fighting fires (pre Drew and Luke) and then traveling and working in Europe. If
ever I was a ski bum it was the winter of 1994-1995 when I was employed as a lift operator in the hills above Berchtesgaden, Germany. With daily views of the Watzmann, Obersalzberg, and the Eagle's Nest, and with weekly ski trips into the Salzburger Land, there was little I could imagine, then and now, that would have improved the situation much.

Before that were the high school beer drinking condo crashing benders in Vail, Winter Park, and Keystone. These events were focused slightly less on skiing but were important nonetheless. The skiing was never really the point (though we did it anyway) but, boy, that Michelob Light sure came in handy.

Then there was Shawn and Todd, the two other dog-faced 10th Mountain Division skiers who straight-lined Copper Mountain with me in our attempts to escape German mortar fire. Sometimes we did, sometimes the explosions would send us reeling across the pistes, crashing into the trees for shelter from the ambush--all to the confused looks of other skiers who clearly had no idea that a world was at war.

Keep connecting the dots and they would take you back to 1969, or four or five years later, at Eldora and Idlewild (RIP)
with half day ski lessons and half day skiing with Dad. A pretty nice gift from a Texas flatlander.

No retrospective would be complete without a dedication to "Trey", Bub, and WKB, who more than anyone know what snow and skis and high altitude does for me. With sometimes reluctance--and only after a promise of lamb and Remelluri at the end--they still humor me with a day of lung heaves, leg cramps, and giant smiles. Thank you for the support of a lifetime.

The last word, though, must go to the real ski buddies, who still scamper around the living room trying to control their anxious yelps while I haul my gear up from the basement. I have no idea where this blog or I will be in another two years and/or one hundred posts but I bet they will be there with me, well away from the backs of my skis, with an offer of unconditional loyalty in exchange for a permanent if not traveling home.

22 September 2009

Pfifferdaj à Ribeauvillé

A recent trip to the Alsace took us to the town of Ribeauvillé. It was my intention to visit the
Cave de Ribeauvillé, the oldest coop winery in France. Instead, and unknowingly, we stumbled upon the oldest festival in the Alsace. Not a bad trade off.

Depending on your language of choice, the Fiddlers Festival, Pfifferdaj, or Fête des Ménétriers is a 528-year-old (to be exact) celebration of the brotherhood of wandering minstrels. In the 8th century Ribeauvillé--known then as Rathaldovilare--was passed from the Bishops of Basel to the lords of Rappoltstein. The brotherhood of musicians bought protection from Lord Tony Soprano Rappoltstein in the form of a tax and every year they made a pilgrimage to Ribeauvillé to pay their dues and hold their annual meeting.

Today the festival commemorates the 1000-year history of le Moyen Âge des Ribeaupierre, or the Middle Ages of the Lords of Rappoltstein. It's quite a show and officially lasts about tweleve hours though I suspect the unofficial festivities exceed what is listed in the program. The parade alternates between marching bands and floats with each float a representation of a particular time during the Middle Ages. We were there roughly five hours and by the time we left the parade was only about a third finished.

Naturally, there was plenty of food and drink. Lord Rappoltstein might have ruled the place a long, long time ago but Lord Pork is still the once and future king.

There are other options, and if you buy some of them you're even given free wine.

The floats started rolling down through town about three o'clock. We weren't quite sure what to expect. We weren't disappointed.

During the 12th century Ribeauvillé saw tremendous growth and became a center for commerce in the region. "Le Boom de Ribeauvillé" brought development, trade routes, prosperity, whorehouses, and all other forms of good livin'.

Take that Tournament of Roses!

There was the Beautiful and the Ugly (Le Beau et le Laid):

(Thanks for the pictures Mariah!)

And what parade would be complete without tortured children, experimental surgery, and a good burning at the stake? The Inquisition arrives in Ribeauvillé:

(Thanks Mariah!)

The streets were packed and filled with wine, food, and happy people.

Friends and foes alike set aside their differences and enjoyed the moment. Stockholm Syndrome in Ribeauvillé:

And to top it all off, many vintners are reporting that 2009 will be the best vintage in twenty-five years. Here's to the unexpected!

More Ribeauvillé resources:
La route des vins d'Alsace
Office de Tourisme du Pays de Ribeauvillé-Riquewihr
Les Ménétriers à Ribeauvillé (in French)
Le site officiel de la Ville de Ribeauvillé (in French)