Mitts for When the Mercury Drops

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When the skis, boots, poles and skins made an appearance in the living room for the third night in a row last week, I knew it was time to either get my husband a hamster wheel, or go visit the snowmakers on the mountain.

Vermont holds the record for most terrain covered by snowmakers in the East — after all, it’s home to “Hug a Snowmaker Day” (really), so we headed up to Jay Peak to pick up DJ’s season pass and to check out the powder — whether real, imagined, or man-made. (And as per last night’s snow-dump, everything is newly dusted in fresh snow.)

We arrived late enough in the day that all of the lifts were closed, which made skinning up the mountain both easy and legal, according to Jay’s AT/backcountry rules (off-limits when the lifts are running). Stir-craziness abated, DJ took a few turns while I put my new Black Diamond Mercury Mitts to the test.

Knitting Vermont Pride into Every Pair of Darn Tough Socks

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When it comes to manufacturing socks, Ric Cabot and his team at Darn Tough have proved their mettle. The only sock mill left in Vermont (or in New England), Darn Tough is a third-generation sock-manufacturing business that prides itself on producing and manufacturing its Merino wool socks exclusively in Northfield, Vermont — and standing behind them with an unconditional lifetime guarantee.

With his feet (clad in the over-the-calf ski socks he’s wearing today) firmly planted on Vermont soil, Ric Cabot talks about Merino wool, keeping jobs in Vermont and Darn Tough’s commitment to making socks that will stand up to a lifetime of abuse.

Westley: Socks have been in your family for three generations. You took over Cabot Hosiery Mills, Inc. from your father, and in 2004, launched the name Darn Tough. Why Darn Tough?

Even Greener at the Green Mountain Club

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Even a day hike on the Long Trail can feel like an epic journey, thanks to the tree roots, boulders, mud, slippery rocks and scree that litter the trail. It’s one of the toughest thoroughfares in the East, but not from lack of trail maintenance. On the contrary, the Green Mountain Club is just staying true to founder James P. Taylor’s original 1910 mission to traverse the highest, the most rugged and most beautiful of Vermont’s green areas. Most beautiful? Yes. But you definitely have to earn your vistas.

Off the trail, the GMC is equally protective of its green spaces, and last month unveiled a new wood-burning heat and hot-water system on its Waterbury Center campus. That might not sound so very different from the Vermont Castings that’s currently cranking out heat in your living room, but combined with new and existing solar panels and solar trackers, this wood gasification boiler means the club is now net-neutral and expects to produce more energy than it consumes.

So what does gold-star-worthy energy production look like?

Well, it looks an awful lot like a reused 8×20-foot shipping container with a red wood boiler inside, attractively clothed in knotty pine. It answers to the name of “Biobox.”

First foray into advertorial writing: Universum Top100 in the New York Times

Last week I wrote a little bit about reinvention following my move from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to rural Vermont, where I've been freelancing full time while looking for work. That's required quite a bit of reinvention — I'm back into the print newspaper business with an article in Seven Days about winterizing the Shelburne Museum, I started blogging about my outdoor (mis)adventures for the Eastern Mountain Sports blog and on November 17, this issue of the Universum Top 100 came out in the New York Times. My interviews with executives and other businessmen and women start on page 10.

Crampons vs. Microspikes (and the bruises to prove it)

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These are not crampons. They’re Kahtoola MICROspikes, and they’re awesome. And there’s a reason they’re listed under “Winter Traction,” not under Ice Climbing Gear/Crampons on EMS’ website.

For comparison’s sake, check out the aggression factor on these Black Diamond Sabretooth Pro crampons versus the Kahtoola MICROspikes. Much different.

But I forgot that last weekend while we were climbing Wright Peak in the Adirondacks. And I’m still picking scabs off of my left forearm to prove it.

And You Said We Were Car Camping...

I blame shopping for my mountaineering habit.

Usually a new hobby comes first and buying gear comes second, but for me, mountaineering was born two years ago in the fitting room of the Eastern Mountain Sports in North Conway, NH.

It started innocently enough: I told my boyfriend that I was going into the dressing room to try on a few sports bras in advance of what was to be “some snowshoeing and maybe some car camping if we feel up for it” (his words). Ten minutes later, I reappeared and was handed a pair of double-boots, crampons, an ice axe and a topo map…of Mount Madison in New Hampshire.

So much for car camping.

An experienced winter backpacker, DJ coached me through the basics, aided by George at the North Conway school. A lifelong skier, I’d never known that mountaineers used plastic boots too — never mind that crampons came in different sizes and varieties of intensity. I also invested in a thick pair of socks (likely a trip- and relationship-saver).

Moving to Vermont and reinvention

Four months ago, I left a challenging and creative job at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a semi-regular freelancing gig for the Philadelphia Inquirer for a new challenge: My husband and I moved to Vermont. Worn out by commuting and sick of the rat race, we went looking for greener pastures and found them in a little island just north of Burlington. While my husband is in the final stages of his reinvention from newspaper advertising guy to environmental-engineering-chemistry-communications-guy, I’m writing. And pitching. And writing. And…blogging.

After years of turning my nose up at anything other than print journalism (I even wrote a blog post about how bloggers were killing journalism shortly after The Bulletin folded), I suddenly find myself joining the ranks of those digital-media types. And you know what? It’s fun. Although the anticipation of running to the newsstand to pick up a paper with your byline isn’t replicated, it’s replaced by the thrill of hitting a button and…instant gratification.

So keep an eye on this space, and check out my first forays into adventure journalism at the Eastern Mountain Sports blog, where I’ll be blogging about all the excursions and adventures here in Vermont. Polar opposite from my city career? Yep.

A Case of the 'Umbles

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Warm temperatures across Vermont this week have split outdoorsy types down the middle: those reveling in that last ride or run in shorts, and those snow fiends making nose prints against the window every time a cloud scuttles across the sky.

I’m pretty firmly in the “celebrate bare knees one last time” category, but I’ve left a few smears on the windows the past few days too — namely as a result of our friends back in Pennsylvania bragging (or lamenting) about the first snowfall — in October. I’m also eager to stop having native New Englanders say “Oh, so you haven’t made it through a real winter yet?” I think it’s time to get that rite of passage over with.

That said, while I haven’t been a resident in the frozen north through an entire ski season yet, I have had a few experiences with cold weather — including a day shoeing horses in the high country of Montana’s Crazy Mountains during a sleet/snowstorm, a memorably cold night flying cargo with a plane full of horses and a cargo door that wouldn’t shut, and numerous long days out on the trail.

But nothing comes close to my first case of the ’umbles.

A Proliferation of the Absurd

By Lindsay J. Warner

“Above all, theater must not be realistic,” the narrator intones during the prologue of the BalletX/Wilma Theatre collaboration Proliferation of the Imagination.

Consider yourself duly warned.

What unfolds is a joyful, absurd, funny and utterly ludicrous take on Guillaume Apollinaire’s Les Mamelles de Tirésias (The Breasts of Tirésius), whose plot, as described in the prologue, is as “simple as a periscope.”

Be warned in that respect, too. A dramatic non sequitur in execution, Proliferation of the Imagination follows no set rules of cause and effect. It revels in the execution, but, true to Surrealist edicts, exists to further the goals of the movement, rather than to present a holistic production (remember that Apollinaire first coined the term “Surrealism” in the preface of Les Mamelles de Tirésias). 

Issues of Shame and Guilt in 'Race'

By Lindsay J. Warner

From John Grisham’s A Time to Kill to Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities, racially charged courtroom dramas have captivated American audiences with tense in-court debates. Like Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird though, the climax of David Mamet’s Race takes place outside the courtroom, as two lawyers — one black and one white — and their young African- American assistant debate a case in their offices, becoming prosecutors and jury both in their discourse.

Race, driven by the frequently tense relationship between Jack (Jordan Lage) and Henry (Ray Anthony Thomas), speaks in clipped, lawyerly tones that waylay the viewer into believing it is a play about right and wrong, guilty or not guilty. As their young assistant Susan (Nicole Harris) begins to enter the conversation, however, it’s clear that Mamet has little interest in the verdict of the court case, and cares only to expose the inherent feeling of guilt and shame that emerge when talking about race.