real gifts of real life...

I have been amidst a tailspin of the real gifts of real life in all of it's madness, sadness, and glory.  The Wasatch is still dry, I fought off a nasty illness, and my family and I mourned the loss of a patriarch.  Rita Formero was my grandmother, and the mother to my own.  I hurried back home to Wisconsin for the services just days after I had returned from there for the annual ski movie premiere party I throw at Wilmot Mountain.  Thankfully, I was able to sit and visit with grandma and grandpa while I was back for the party.  For that I will be forever grateful.  On that following Monday morning Christine and I received the tearful phone call from my mother.  I took a long hot shower, and then wrote down what was coming over me like the morning's steamy bath water.   

"My 30 years of memories and her influence now melts down into gold. However, it is not for a savings account. It is the kind of gold that diminishes in value if hoarded. It is the kind of gold that exponentially grows for eternity when shared. It is the kind of gold that brings true purpose. It thrives in the transaction of a caring embrace. It is 30 years with Grandma, and I will spend the rest of my life happily doing my part to share that kind of gold with everyone. I am rich with it."

I thought about trying to write more about her and everything she was to the line of people that filed out the front doors of the funeral home.  Instead, I will take my own advice, and just share some gold.

More then anything, I found my heart breaking for my grandpa, Don Formero.  By this time he has spent more of his life with her then he did without.  However, I take comfort in knowing that the pain that he and the rest of us feel is the love.  The love we have for her, and the love she has for us.  It only hurts so much because there is so much of it.  When thats had some time to settle in and realize it can then start to change back.  Back into that comfortably pleasant and warm feeling of all the very same love that gathers inside of Grandma's house each winter, on Christmas Eve.  Merry Christmas.    

homeward bound...

I am going home.  I am always excited to do so.  I miss my family, old friends, and the down to earth folks that call my little corner of the mid-west home.  This trip is a special one for me because I get to share a little bit of my crazy pro skiing lifestyle with my people at home in Wilmot, Wisconsin.  December 16th is a Friday night just around the corner.  The Telemark Skier Magazine van will be pulling into town, and throwing a movie premiere party at 8pm in the Iron Kettle Bar at Wilmot Mountain.  As a member of the TSM Crew, I have poured a lot of myself into this movie and the magazine.  Celebrating the culmination of all the hard work with my hometown is a blessing that does not fall short on me.  I am super pumped to be able to celebrate another winter with all of my people in Wilmot.  

^My roots run deep through the earth under this sign.  This place flows in my blood like the swift muddy waters of the Fox River.  Every time I drive past this sign the nostalgia overcomes me like the spring floods over the banks of the Fox.  Home is where the heart is, and there will always be a piece of mine pouring from the snow guns into the sky over the slopes of Wilmot Mountain.    

^The guns are blowing now with some cold temperatures settling into the Midwest.  The boys in the maintenance garage at Wilmot Mountain are bustling and hustling to get some coverage on the ground.  Snow making is an art here, and these guys are a pretty rough and tumble group of Picasso's.  I hope the weather comes in their favor.  I'd love to be able to make some turns with my old man when I get there.   

^The lights of Wilmot at dusk is a beautiful thing.  Winter is settling in, and the holidays are approaching fast.  Friday night, December 16th, is just around the corner, and I am wrapping up the finishing touches to get ready for the premiere party.  Everything is coming together, and I am getting super amped for the trip.  So here is to cold temperatures, blowing snow, a warm bar, a good ski movie, and a cold beer with some good folks in a great place for one hell of a good party.  Cheers.    

Wasatch stalling...

A few weeks ago now, old man winter arrived in the Wasatch Range.  Some time before turkey and gravy we had a nice set of storms that lined up pretty well.  The avalanche terrain was sketchy with an old October snow still lingering near the ground.  That layer wreaked havoc on the Wasatch including the death of the legendary ski pro, Jamie Pierre.  Since the shock of Pierre's passing the storms have retreated.  The Wasatch winter is stalling out.  Fortunately for me, the warm sunny days have afforded me the opportunity to pursue other efforts.

^Like walking the dog at sunset without freezing. 

^Enjoying the last efforts of the fall colors.

^Pretty cool chill spot.  Winter is taking it's time.  We might as well chill and wait.

^Why not sneak in some late season biking.  No sense in fighting mother nature.  We just took what she gave us, and went riding instead of skiing.  

^We visited Christine's mother on the Alpaca ranch that she works and lives on.  This one was not shy.  She came right up and posed for this photo.  The pleasant weather allowed for a nice stroll around the farm grounds.  The River Run Ranch is nestled in a really cool spot along the Weber River in the rural high country of Wanship, Utah.

My crazy life means I have to be flexible.  The off-season includes a variety of pursuits from day to day.  One day I will be working on a rental property.  The next day I will be selling ad space for Telemark Skier Magazine.  The day after that I could be working on a remodel project.  Then there is a night shift at the airport nearly every evening.   All the while training for the ski season that is late in arriving.  My day job should be skiing by now, but the storm scarcity in the Wasatch has afforded me some unexpected time.  Thus, I jumped on the opportunity to finish a remodel project that I've been neglecting.  Needless to say, that was a popular use of my time with my wife.  My brother-in-law, AJ, came out a while back and really moved this bathroom project along.  He is a stud workhorse, and I could barely keep up with him.  He sure was a big help.  Check out this timeline of things coming together.

^Early demo stages.  The toilet and sink used to be there.

^I was really excited to take a sledge hammer to the old cast iron tub.  I hated that old thing, and I took satisfaction in smashing the hell out of it.

^New plumbing and tub in.  Durock and waterproofing rolling.

^Durock on the floor, and ready for tile.

^Tiles on the floor, and more going up around the new tub.

^The work shop, and the supervisor.  She doesn't do much work, but she is cheap, and she keeps the job site in good spirits.

^After the unexpected extra time I finally have it close enough to finished to move back in.  Looking good to me.  Just some sealer and a shower curtain, and I am back in business.

^Vanity and toilet are in, operational, and leak free.  That is good in my book.  There are still some finishing touches yet to wrap up, but I am happy to be much further along at least.  The brownie points with my wife are nice too.  Happy wife, happy life.  She is a trooper for being able to handle my unorthodox lifestyle.  Maybe that's part of my charm, maybe not.  All I know is that she still keeps me around so I won't question her.  Soon enough the winter will finally set in, and I won't be able to get to this kind of work much through the crazy pro skiing schedule.  She is the one that has to suffer through project stages.  I am glad I was able to get a chance to get this one into a livable stage before the madness does begin.  I think I need a long hot shower now. Wilmot Mt....12/16...8pm...Stoked!

"Wilmot, Wisconsin? Are their mountains there?"  This is a standard chairlift reply I get for my answer to the equally standard chairlift question, "Where are you from?".  I always have to explain that the part of Wisconsin that cultivated me is a landscape of rolling hills blanketed with thick forrest land.  Farming has cleared the flatter expanses, and the Dairyland is still a fitting nickname.  The terrain and the local culture resemble the region's laid back nature.  However, "Old Man Winter" is as mean and unforgiving as anywhere on the habitable earth.  Thus, winter recreation of all kinds is alive, well, and appreciated in these parts. 

^Wilmot Mountain is my hometown ski resort built upon an ancient glacial moriane.  It is nestled perfectly between Milwaukee and Chicago in it's namesake small town of Wilmot, Wisconsin.  The severe cold temperatures gave way to revolutionizing the man-made snow making process here.  My family history in Wilmot goes back just as many icy generations.  To this day, the chairlifts retain upholstery my grandfather stretched onto them many bitter winter seasons ago.  The hardworking folks of Wilmot Mountain are my people.  Both literally and figuratively.  The old Wilmot Highschool gymnasium soaked up a lot of my blood and sweat.  This all adds to the experience each year when I bring my latest ski movie projects back home for a ski movie tour party at Wilmot Mountain every winter.  I have been looking forward to my return again this winter.  Friday night, December 16th is the date this year.  I am so jacked to see all of my people start rolling in when the doors open at 8:00pm.  Telemark Skier Magazine is bringing the new movie, "Loyatly" to town, and it is sure to bring some rock and roll to the party.  Wilmot can handle the rest.  

^They always fill the Iron Kettle Bar at Wilmot Mountain.  I've been bringing a movie party home for years now, and I am always still touched deeply at the sight of all the local love that comes out to celebrate with me.  I like to think that we all come together to throw a pretty damn good party too.

^The snow machines are usually blowing snow outside as the Iron Kettle packs full of jubilant folks of all ages that are ready to celebrate another winter.  The kids line up for stickers as others line up for a beer.  All of them a blessing that never falls short on me.  It makes me nostalgic each and every time.  The movie always stokes the fire, but the Wilmot folks add the fuel that makes the party burn warm and bright all night long.  December 16th is only weeks away, and I am chomping at the bit to ring in another winter with all of my favorite kind of people in the place that built me...Wilmot, Wisconsin.  

^I am coming home.  On Friday December 16th to be exact.  I can't wait to see the bright lights of Wilmot on the horizon.  There really is no place like home.

mind-blowing in Moab...

^Oh.  Welcome to Moab, Utah.

^Some hours before the picture of Moab's warm welcome was this breakfast in Farmington, Utah.  In Farmington, there is a chill in the air, and moisture on the wind.  The threat of winter is very near.  I am as giddy as a school girl.  Every skier knows the eager anticipation of a good lineup of storms in late fall.     Standard practice is to scratch that itch with ski movies, facebook, and training.  Some skiers pack up the ski gear and chase the early openers.  My wife, Christine, and I made the call to travel south.  With mountain bikes.  

^That brings us back to here again.  To me, on the edge of a cliff so large that my observation to Christine's inquiry was, "This cliff is so big that it makes my naughty parts tingle!" The dessert spine jutted out in the vast canyon pictured as our welcoming to Moab at the top.  This view of an interesting section of Arches National Park was a total mind blow for both of us.  The welcoming was grand.  I was not thinking about skiing.  Not at all.

^We're stoked! Quick, a hold out self-portrait immediately followed by a high five.  That's right.

^However, we came to ride.  So we snapped some photos, shared some reflections, and then clicked back in and got after it.  Christine is digging deep to crest the steep slickrock hill.  Dig!

^The top awards a worthy prize to the efforts of the ascent.  Usually does.  So metaphoric.

^Thank you...

^...and, thank you.

^Then back at it.  We rode hard on this trip.  I was trying to leave winter thoughts up north in the Wasatch.  Chrisitne was trying to extend her chances to get in the bike saddle.  Perfect alignment to just flat out ride long and hard.


^... and downhill...

^... and across hill...

^... and uphill again...

^...and uphill again...

^...and even between hills.  This place is a very unique and special landscape.  We had to have a pep talk about stopping for photos.  We both agreed that we wanted to keep ripping it hard, but acknowledged our mutual desire to stop and take a photo every five minutes.  

^Okay, one more shot.  Classic lens reflection shot.  You have to get that one don't you?

^Cameras away, and we can get back to business.  Moab boasts that they have the best mountain biking on the planet.  So far I cannot facilitate a valid argument to the contrary.  I haven't biked the whole planet, but I will say that Moab is near the top of my list.  Even though the La Sals were capped with snow, I was still not thinking about skiing.  I was much more focused on keeping myself out of trouble on the courageous surface.  Slickrock makes me feel like Superman.  Climb steeper, turn sharper, and do it all faster.  Easy to get ahead of myself on the red rock.

^Lunch break.  Pretty nice spot.

^Granola bars go really well with warm tap water and a side of this kind of scenery.  The senses all blend together under the influence of such energy.  Christine and I both agreed that we were lingering in a mind set of sentiment and severe gratitude.  We are blessed to be able to have such adventures in such awe inspiring places.  So much so that I could barely handle the enhanced deliciousness of my typically standard granola.  Yummmm.

^Seriously, how can you not get spiritual after looking up from the camera lens at something like that.  My girl and my life flashing before me in a blur through a landscape of unmatched red rock beauty.  Come on.

^More riding...

^...more photos...

^...and more riding...

^...and more photos.  Abyss Canyon.  Fitting.  The last time I took some time to stare down this canyon was with a good friend of mine, Tony Helmstetter.  As I mentioned previously, I was feeling the love emanating from the sun soaked red rocks.  I had to take a moment to shoot a picture message over to my buddy.  Just to let him know that I was thinking about him in this powerful place that he showed me all those years ago.  

^Ironically, while I was composing the message to Tony my big brother, Tyler, called me.  I laughed as I answered the call and proclaimed to my big brother, "Funny you'd call me right now!"  Christine was keen to the moment.  She snapped this photo while I explained my state of mind to my big brother.  He is obviously a pivotal factor in my journey to that particular "How'd I get here?' moment.  That is what it is all about for me.  Those moments are all around, and in all kinds of shapes and forms.  The keen eye will see them, and more of them when coupled with the conscious effort to seek them out.  Christine saw this one, and nailed the photo.  I will call it, "Brother!".

^Another crazy adventure in another inspiringly beautiful place.  Moab slickrock mountain biking is unmatched.  Add in riding it all with your newlywed wife, and the experience slowly turns into gold.  Hence the golden hued 80's album cover style shadow photo.  A little touch of some of our cornball humor coming through.  I must say, we are a pretty damn good duo though.