Friday, July 1, 2016

Peter Grubb Ski Hut

One of four unique, back-country huts operated by the Clair Tappan Lodge in the Lake Tahoe area, The Ski House of the Day, the Peter Grubb Ski Hut, "may be difficult to locate in heavy snow years:"

But an intrepid group of skilled back-country skiers found it, enjoyed it, and recently shared their experience with me!  (These photos were taken during a January 2016 visit).  The hut is located about 3 miles (hike or ski)  from Route 80.  The remote hut is maintained by volunteer groups organized by the Sierra Club (during the summer and fall)  who then get priority in the lottery to reserve the hut for winter stays.

In addition to the abundant snow, visitors are welcomed to the hut by the small signs posted on the front door...first a welcome sign:

...and then, particularly noteworthy, an earthquake warning sign:

The hut was built in 1938 in memory of avid skier and outdoorsman, Peter Grubb whose untimely death occurred at age 19 in Europe.  In a letter to his grandfather, shortly before his death, teenage Peter wrote:   

"I just got back from my second trip to Norden at the Sierra Club Ski Lodge. We had a grand time skiing. As you probably have heard from Mama, on the first day I broke my skis which I used over New Years, the ones which I made at school, luckily though they broke exactly in the center so I sawed them off to about 3 feet each and used those successfully the rest of the trip, the only disadvantage being that they sank further then ordinary skis in the soft powder snow.....I am including a diagram of the lodge which is just about completed. I do not know if you have heard yet about the group of small ski huts which they plan to start this year, thus making a John Muir trail of the winter...near Tahoe...."

Blanketed in that soft powder snow, this is one of those huts that Peter wrote about, and is named after that young skier.

The Peter Grubb Hut has a "back-door" off the upper level of the hut...offering accessibility when the front door becomes totally covered by snow.  A solar panel powers the lights.

There are two rooms inside the Peter Grubb Hut:  a main room which includes a cooking area (with counter space, cabinets, pots and pans, etc.) a wood-stove, a few picnic tables, benches...and happy campers:

Off to the side is a welcome sight...a small room full of dry wood...

 ...which comes in handy to build a beautiful, warm fire in the wood stove:

It's pretty cozy with logs for stools, and a clothesline for drying skins or other wet gear:

The ladder leads to the second room, an upstairs sleeping loft...

...basic and comfy for a few people...

...or warm and cozy for a lot of people...

Apres-ski in the Peter Grubb Ski Hut:

And how about this split-level out-house...the upper level will remain more accessible after the lower level door becomes obstructed with snow:

A nice collection of skis ready to go...

A captivating smile emerging from the hut through the snow-tunnel:

And they're off:

...for some spectacular skiing:

...until it's time to watch the sunset over the mountains...

 Special thanks to Tim and Teresa for sharing their experience at the Peter Grubb Hut!
Check out their other amazing ski adventures on the Mexican Blankett .

The Peter Grubb Hut may be "difficult to locate in heavy snow years" but that's exactly what makes it a back-country skiers dream house!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Freestyle Ski House

It's that time of year when high school seniors are deciding what college to attend.  Many factors go into the decision...including where and with whom they will be living.  There's something in the works that could sway the decision for some Vermont-bound students next year.  The Ski House of the Day is one that actually doesn't exist...yet.  It is the Freestyle Ski House, at the University of Vermont (UVM) proposed for the 2016-17 school year.

Situated in Burlington, Vermont, UVM is in the heart of ski country and within an hour or two of some major New England skiing, such as Stowe, Jay Peak, Smuggs, and a whole lot more.  There's also Mount Tremblant and other international slopes just across the northern border.  In fact, The Ski Channel has named UVM one of the top ten US colleges for skiers. So, instead of a regular dorm, a house dedicated specifically for skiers is probably an easy sell to most college students who decide to go to UVM.

 According to one of the Program Directors,  UVM's The Freestyle Ski House  concept is a proposed living/learning environment for students who are interested in furthering their goals related to skiing. And  UVM's Living/Learning Center says the house is designed for students  "to progress their skills and knowledge of the sport."  But is this really just a My Kappa Pow frat house?  Maybe.  Or maybe it's a place for students to actually inspire ideas that intertwine skiing with academics... hey, how can we improve the safety engineering of that tele-binding?...Can we come up with some new app that could help keep us safe from severe weather threats?....We need to invent that new safety device, or something to improve first-aid out on the slopes?...or, what about the business aspects of snow-making efficiency...maybe there's a better way?.....Or, we're going to have to be the ones to put an end to global warming before it puts an end to our sport!   Hopefully this is the kind of conversation that might be sparked in the living room of the proposed Freestyle Ski House, and if so, I'd say....skiers:  make first tracks to get there!  And please, send me some pictures of the house when you do!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Trump Palace in Aspen? No Deal.

Recently I listened to yet another Donald Trump presidential campaign pep rally.  His views and attitude are outrageous and embarrassing to me as an American. Trump's primary claim to fame is that he is rich, and successful at business deals.  Is that enough to make us trust and respect him with our future?  Not for me. However, since he incessantly boasts about the size of account, I wondered what and where his ski house might be.  Is there a Trump ski house?  Surely someone with his wealth must have one (or more than one), right?  I was expecting to find something really huge, garish, and oh-so-expensive.  But, I discovered an even better representation of Trump than a personal ski of his famous "deals" in an iconic ski town.

But first, here's where the real skiers, the locals as well as the competent, experienced, skillful visitors, challenge themselves in Aspen, (not a place for braggarts and loudmouths like Trump)...Highlands Bowl Hike. Majestic and fragile, it takes skill to ski here (and skill even to get here if you actually hike it);  it's an environment where people like Trump (for whom trash-talk substitutes for skill) could not even presume to be able to succeed:
Photographer: Tim Swain

Beneath those majestic mountains is the quaint yet glitzy ski mecca of Aspen, Colorado. This is the story of Trump's failed ski hotel deal in this historic, fragile town.

It was to be called the Trump Palace.  (Really?  Trump Palace - in Aspen?).  According to the Washington Post, in the spring of 1987 Trump was confident that he had worked out all the details of a "deal" to purchase a prime piece of real estate at the base of Ajax, Aspen's main slope. With the property in foreclosure, Trump artfully put down about $17 million to get his big hands on this enviable ski that would surely generate a great fortune.  However, it turns out that he was getting out in front of his skis. While he was planning the design of his proposed ski "palace", another developer, Mohamed Hadid was taking steps to purchase the same property.  But apparently unlike Trump, Hadid actually did his homework and learned the all-important facts.  Hadid discovered an outstanding priority debt on the property, paid it off, and under the law of Colorado the site became Hadid's at the last minute of the "deal." Whether it was ignorance of the law, or not bothering to uncover the facts, or maybe smug arrogance, I don't know;  but Trump's efforts failed and it cost him this valuable Aspen ski property.

About a year later, in Ski Magazine (Jan 1989), I. William Berry pointed out that the locals were in fact distrustful of Trump.  Revered long-time Aspen local, Gretl Uhl (who established and ran the famous Gretl's on Ajax for many years, and who earned great respect and admiration in Aspen), told Berry "I don't trust the big developers and their sweet talk...businessmen like Donald Trump and his kind have no feel for this fragile town."  (Thought-provoking words, indeed, from a wise woman who in her youth had seen the ugly side of power and politics converge when another charismatic sweet-talker seized political power and in her Bavarian mountain village the Nazi's confiscated her family's business and drafted her to work for them against her will).

Shortly after the failed Aspen deal, Trump recycled the proposed name into his new apartment building on the upper east side in NYC (where you can get a nice 2-bedroom condo for about $3 million, but you certainly can't ski).

Despite that failed Aspen ski hotel deal, Trump's most infamous episode in Aspen, according to the Aspen Times, is the 1989 on-snow fight between him and his then wife Ivana, and his then girlfriend, Marla. Apparently Trump's idea of a family Christmas was to go to Aspen with his wife (an expert skier, by the way) and his girlfriend....same town, same slopes, same restaurants, same parties, different hotels. Good times.  It came to a huge head one afternoon just outside of a trail-side restaurant (formerly Gretl's)--with all the shouting/fighting/cheating/rich guy/wife-meets-mistress/dirty laundry being thrown down right out on the ski slopes for all to witness!  Vanity Fair called the scene a cat-fight.  This behavior might be a good plot for a B-movie, a trashy novel or a reality TV show in the making; but presidential?  I think not.  That on-ski spectacle is more predictive of the behavior we are now witnessing as Trump tries to use the "low-educated" that he claims to love in order to bully his way into the White House.

In fact, in watching his roller-derby style political rallies over the past few months, it occurs to me that Trump would probably have thrown Samuel Adams out of a Trump rally labeling him a "troublemaker" for voicing his revolutionary calls for freedom; he would surely have thrown out Thomas Jefferson for protesting against Trump's religious intolerance; and likewise the common sense words and Thomas Paine himself would have been expelled with jeers and ridicule.  "Get him out of here."  "Knock the crap out of him."  How different our country might have been if Trump and his kind were perverting the course of justice on their bully pulpit at our country's inception.

Considering her thought-provoking criticism of Trump, he would probably even expel the beloved Aspen icon Gretl Uhl, too.

Which brings me back to the thoughts of the Aspen locals like Gretl....distrustful of Trump's sweet talk, and perceptively understanding that Trump and his kind have no feel for their fragile town.  Maybe Gretl's sentiments are even more significant today in a broader sense than just Aspen...maybe Trump and his kind have no feel for this fragile democracy of ours.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Slalom House

The Slalom House, a totally unique structure, is an innovative, new concept introduced by Shokhan Mataibekov in the city of Astana (a planned city in which there are numerous futuristic buildings) in Kazakhstan (formerly part of the Soviet Union).

It's a 21-story apartment building that has as its dramatic, imposing, functional feature...a ski slope that spirals around the exterior of the building from the rooftop to the ground level!  This amazing structure gives new meaning to ski-in/ski-out!  The building is called The Slalom House, for obvious reasons:

If approved, it will contain 421 two-bedroom apartments, wrapped up in a 1,000 ft outdoor snowflex-covered ski-slope.  This means residents will be able to ski right from their apartment, in the city, in any season!  Think of the possibilities:  forget the treadmill - how about a quick couple of runs before work in the morning, or for the kids who live here there will always be friends wanting to come over to play, and those single millennials who live here have a built-in destination to invite a date over for some night skiing and maybe a little apres-ski.

I think the Slalom House is a very cool city-style, year-round ski house!  And after Kazikhstan, I'd love to see it duplicated in a place near me.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Ski Home

Today the first of the preliminary votes of the 2016 US Presidential election will be tallied;  it is New Hampshire Primary Day.  With billionaires central to this season's political conversation (those funding their purchased candidate, those running for President themselves, and those targeted for take-down by Sanders...), I'm wondering how many billionaires-in-chief have a ski house of their own in the ultra-rich ski town, Aspen, Colorado.  It has, after all, mountains of spectacular skiing (alongside those mountains of money)...and it's also the place for the wealthy to be seen.  But even Aspen billionaires aren't immune from less than respectable behavior...the slopes of Aspen were, after all, the site of that ugly on-the-ski-trail cat fight between Trump's (then) wife, and (then) girlfriend at Christmas in 1990.    

So... with those politically-minded billionaires in mind, check out the ski house that CNBC dubbed "the biggest home in the richest town in America."  The house is an astonishing 21,000 sq ft, on 7 slope-side acres, with features like a car turntable in its immaculate, massive garage.  In 2013, the incredible house was for sale at the reduced asking price of $40 million.  

On this 2016 New Hampshire Primary Day, this Aspen ski compound is my pick for Ski House of the Day.   
It is simply called "The Ski Home." 

Source: CNBC

There are not enough superlatives to describe this ski house, so I'll suggest the quick tour instead:

...and remember to vote!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Ski House Gone Red

Valentine's Day is coming up this weekend, but for a more important reason, February is Heart Month (according to the CDC).  In addition, the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women / Wear Red Day is call attention to women's heart health in particular.  According to this organization, heart attacks are the Number 1 killer of women (more than all cancers combined).  Even we women skiers can be at risk for cardiovascular disease, like Leann who experienced a heart attack while she was skiing.  But it is empowering to note that (the American Heart Association says) 80% of all cardiovascular disease may be preventable!

My interpretation of the "Go Red for Women" program is that maybe each time we see something red (whether it's a red dress, red shoes, red car, red skis, red ski parka, red mittens, red home decor, red furniture, red house ...anything) let it be a reminder about our own heart health.

So, in honor of "Go Red for Women," I'll offer today's Ski House of the Day as a gentle suggestion to us all to find out about our risk, know the warning signs, and have a plan about what to do in the event of a heart attack.

The Ski House of the Day is the Aquila Lodge in Sunriver, Oregon.  Why did I select this one for today? Like women who take control of their heart health, it's bold, beautiful, strong, and in its own way it's got GO RED written all over it:

Check out the red leather furniture in this cozy living room - it  is gorgeous!

Bold and beautiful log bed and red decor in the bedroom.

                                                   Pretty red towels in the bathroom.

(OK...the hot tub is one thing that isn't red, but maybe some apres-ski red wine could complete this inviting scene):

Whether in a lovely ski house like this or elsewhere, take notice of everything red and empower yourself this February.  

Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn showed her support for "Go Red for Women / Wear Red Day"...and similarly we can all do the same by wearing something red (skiing or not) this month, as a sign of support, awareness, and most importantly as a reminder to ourselves that we each have the power to take action for our own heart health.

Go Red for Women!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Sweet Swap in Switzerland

Here's a ski house that could be just perfect for a Valentine's Day ski trip later this month:

I recently found this very sweet ski chalet on an interesting website that was new to me (although it's been around for several years)...Snow Swappers.  They way it works is that owners of ski houses join in order to "swap" with each other.  This way owning a ski house doesn't keep them stuck skiing the same mountain all the time. There are simply swap agreements between members -- no rentals, no sales, just a system of  "I'll let you use mine, if you let me use yours."  What a great concept!

Assuming that I'd find less-than-desirable ski houses here, I was pleasantly surprised when I actually browsed through to see what kind of places were being listed for swaps.  Ski houses of all types, all over the world, in some fabulous ski resorts, and many that were highly desirable...just like this one.

First, I'll say that when a ski house is in a location like this, I don't know why anyone would need to ski anywhere else because you can ski 400 miles (650 km) of trails right from the front door of this chalet!  It's in Morgins, Switzerland, and is connected to the expansive Portes du Soleil which is Europe's largest linked-together ski area:

The chalet itself looks adorable, and it seems pretty roomy with three bedrooms and two baths, plus the all-important heated ski boot room!

There's even comfy leather living room furniture for resting up after hitting all those trails:

So, for those lucky enough to own their own ski house...this is something to have a look at...and maybe swap for a cute chalet like this for a cozy Valentine's Day ski holiday.  Sweet swapping!