Sunday, 26 February 2012

Schweitzer Gold Medal Day

That was the best day of skiing I've had, followed by a better and therefore bestest day today. I heard giddy locals saying this was one of their best days ever - and when that comes from grizzled Santa snow beard types who look like they've had decades of snow under their belt, I give it some credence. Sometimes life throws you so many bonuses it's hard to believe.

We woke up early, had a great breakfast, and made it to the rental/demo shop by 8am. First ones there. The ladies recognized the two other guys from yesterday, and said since we were return customers we'd get 10% off and Canadian at par. Forget that we'd pay 5x as much for powder skis when it snows a foot...

I got some really sweet Line Prophet 98's in 179cm. Had been eyeing up a bunch of others, but these are similar to what I've preferred before, and skips the goofy reverse camber stuff.

Made it to the lift line before the maze was set (8:20) and settled into the euphoric atmosphere with everyone who was up early. Maze gets set and everyone rushes the line, then settles into their spot. People's phones are going, and as it turns out, a tree fell on a power line, knocked one down, then a bus drove over it, and somehow in all this got stuck - so road is closed. The people up are the people up!

We're 10th chair and watch people getting face shots and waist deep turns under us. Lift shack is pumping out the tunes (there's no "classic rock" here one guy said, we just call that music), we hang a left and burn it all the way. Balls deep on Pend Oreille, so smooth, and the skis are just beauty. It's not cold but not warm, like -3C or so. Perfect.

Get to the bottom, and since there's actually not that many people up here, no lift line at all! We just ski to front, click tickets, then on. By 10:30 we had 11 deep, fresh, completely incomparable runs in - Stiles, White Lightning and Headwall caught buckets of snow. Pure magic.

Did a couple off the back on Lakeside Chutes, hit some good air, smooth landings. Those skis are so enabling its unreal. Lunch at 11:30 when some grumpy people started coming up once the road was open - and zero lunch lines.

Got back out for more laps - explored the back, settled in on the front, and at 2pm were still getting soft turns and face shots.

The 4 group dwindled to 3, then to two. Once down to 2, we ramped it back up to nonstop runs. Spin class and threshold work take away ski fatigue like magic.

All in it was 23 powder runs, no lift line over a minute, and as best we figure pretty darn close to 45,000ft.

Ski in/ski out access. Couch, hot tub and micro brews. Heated floors to dry stuff. Roller cylinder. Those are amenities that count.

I'd take a foot of snow over double rainbows any day, life just gets these exclamation points of awesome every now and then, and they're worth every minute. Deep snow, cheap awesome skis, no lines, perfect weather, great group!

There must be a god

Road up to hill is closed needing work, so those up here are the lucky ones...

Fresh

12" fresh snow overnight = in line at 8:20 with heavy artillery rented.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Heavenly Schweitzer

Quite possibly the best day of resort skiing I've had. The nine inches overnight was also added to all day long. Beautiful mild temps. We pulled in early for lunch at 11 and I got the first mondo burrito served of the day... and a Red Bull... like they say, it gives you wings.

First lift up post lunch had the back bowl open. Dropped in for a fresh untracked face shots run. Approached a drop I'd been eyeing yesterday; could see big open area below. Decided just to go, couple meters back from edge I could spot landing. Saw second ledge to clear, good as I then knew not to speed check, and a brief wonder if this was smart... off into silence. One one thousand, two one th- poof just so smooth and easy, like I might as well have just gone of a street curb. Probably biggest I've done.

Cycled down to Stella the sixpack chair, back to front, then up again to top to skip the double line. Get to top and they're just opening another zone of the bowl right in front of us. How can life even be this good? MDrop into the fresh that's above the knees when turning, and take the fall line off a drop I explored a wimpy side line on yesterday. Poof, face shot, stick it, ride away. So fun.

Our group dwindled to 4, from the morning's 7, kept cycling for the deep stuff. Added a few at the end off the top triple, then call it a day.

This icebreaker merino wool stuff is so nice - never wet, never clammy, not too hot either. The spin classes and threshold work all winter have been amazing - legs don't really burn at all, it's like magic. Lately some of the ski days have felt like the best I've ever had.

It's days like that are outdone by nothing more than heaven itself. It's snowing so hard now I can only see a couple hundred feet... Let's hope for tomorrow.

Bam!

That's an SUV I like to see looking like that.

9" overnight at Schweitzer

I have a feeling I'm really gonna like this.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Lift lines? Nada. Snow? Affirmative.

We had more vertical in by 10:00am than our Ontario visitor gets in a season at home.

18 run day, great snow. $19 pizza fed 5 (other two arriving tonight) of us for lunch. Great temps all day, light snow. Longest lift line was under 30 seconds!

Supposed to snow 4"-8" tonight as per hopeful weather forecasts.

Apres stretch and snacks on heated floor helps limbering up; hot tub pending.

This is my new favourite hill. Great terrain. Great snow - high enough that its not we crap. Low key, nice place, not all pretentious. Beer and pizza kind of fun. Seems really family friendly. Good value.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Schweitzer

Ski in/ski out house on the hill, $900 of groceries, and beverages, and it's snowing!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Family Day Monday




Cindy and I drove to Cochrane and parked in the Guy's Cafe parking lot for her first snow ride. Went up Gleneagles then out through all the new Bow River pathway system east of Cochrane. Lovely day, lovely views. Climbed out on Glenbow road, back on 1A, then Retreat Road and the singletrack by the Farmers' Market. All beauty conditions, very fun day.

Finished off with soup and sandwich at Guy's - my new favourite place out there.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Shoot! Ti Frame Crack

Houston; we have a problem. Was riding on Lower Springbank with Shawn... felt a bobby couple of pedal strokes coming into town and looked down right away... to see this. Nothing traumatic that ride at all; we did say 80km of some gravel but mostly paved.

Potatoes

I'm not a huge potato guy at dinners. Biking is another realm - these saved me on La Ruta, TransPortugal and TransAndes. I clue in slowly apparently... but meet the gel pack replacement. Nuke for 2:30 seconds. Self wrapped.

Big biking weekend

After a killer week last week of TCR 1 hour road to Nepal rides (35k on a trainer with a group and no breaks is intense) and our office lard-off weigh in, I was tired. Friday I lounged to rest up a bit for the weekend.

Saturday ended up with Shawn and I's schedules overlapping a bit so we snuck out for 4.5 hours of gravel with a good coffee and soup stop at Guy's Cafe in Cochrane. Whipped up a take out order of indian food for Gerry, Steve, Shawn and Trish to do a TransAndes debrief and gear pick up. They liked my domestic skills regarding how clean and pleasant smelling their gear was!

Sunday started great - did one of the best feeling things in bike work - pressed in a new Chris King headset. Headed west to Cadence where Devin made an appearance - great! Shawn, Devin and I did the direct off road route out to Cochrane complete with ice flows, cow tracks and the like. Good times. Rode hard on the way home, until my bike bobbed funny and I look down to see a frame crack. Shoot. Gonna have to work that out with the builder. Shawn and I stood the last 5km home (me of necessity, him of support), then he drove me home.

Decided to make a thai soup to feel less blue about the bike - so good.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Thai soup

Today was one of those days where the right thing to do was make a gallon of Thai soup. Whole house smells great!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Micro thought to Macro: Lights at Lodges to US and Global Economy

I enjoyed the opportunity to listen to Dr. Larry Summers speak (impressive bio that can be summarized as “smarty pants, economics”).  The U of C Public Policy school brought him up for his thoughts, but as well as an advocate for what well informed, rational, consciously limiting political bias thought can do for a city/province/nation.  Intelligence can be mimicked by deep knowledge of the arcane that others don’t know (which in this case could be economic regurgitation), or by slick delivery (ie. he has no speech artifacts present, nor notes).  Even more impressive was a lighting quick read and adaptation to audience, which indicates less pre-planned delivery and more thinking on the feet.   And needless to mention, the circumstances, thought processes, and outcome guesstimates of the USA were insightful.  And if 90 minutes of that wasn’t enough entertainment, “that which is not sustainable won’t be sustained” and “the US always does the right thing, after exhausting all alternatives” served as the entertaining tag lines to round out the selp deprecating economist jokes at the start.
 

Emerald Lake Lodge, Parks Canada, CRMR, energy use practices pontification

OK, so let’s start off by saying I’m not an expert on energy audits, I’m just an informed observer (plus investment banker) who works mostly in the hydrocarbon energy space (financing those who find oil and gas) and who works as well with renewable power producers.  That does involve the economics of each… not the fluffy feel good made up “wish it were economic” stuff, but things like loonies and twoonies real economics.  I’m also a guy who has renovated houses and made consumer level cost/benefit analysis choices.

This weekend Cindy and I stayed at CRMR’s Emerald Lake Lodge.  Lovely place, lovely experience.  We did such environmentally friendly things as XC ski, snowshoe, and maybe more consumption focused activities like eating Caribou, Elk, and fish flown in from who knows where… anyway, got me thinking, and perhaps there’s room for improvement?

I took note of their power consumption and generation to a greater extent than most lodge stays.  They experience frequent power outages, albeit for brief periods of time.  When we checked in for Saturday dinner we made small talk with the maĆ®tre d’ whom also does other roles around the place.  He’s a Field BC resident, and said the GM lives in Field too, both long term employees.  He mentioned they do struggle with the Diesel generators, and that they’ve had to replace them semi frequently over the last few years at a cost of like $40k.  Also mentioned during cold snaps how super strained they become when people start trying to add heat to the rustic rooms with plug in space heaters.

I’m well aware that on grid, a lot of conservation technologies, whether it be reducing consumption or differing methods of generation, face tougher competitive economics – generating electrons is relatively cheap at least before politics and “wish it were economic” influences.  Small scale generation with Diesel has a different set of economics (it’s expensive – generally speaking, generators are best run for short periods at max load).  This got me thinking even more, and I recalled back to a trip through Argentina and Chile at the end of 2006, where even remote Argentine lodges had then-state-of-the-art compact flourescent bulbs and grassroots innovative ways to generate electricity (one that had a pretty rudimentary run of river system stood out).  And that’s in a country/area with less societal wealth/technology availability than when you’re 2h away from Calgary and/or 15 mins off the TransCanada and the train line so anything can be brought in.

He also mentioned the National Parks are restrictive on allowing changes.  I guess that’s their duty.  Having said that, if there’s a Parks Canada employee whose job it is to turn down perhaps economic, innovative projects in favour of keeping the Diesel generators going, I think a head check could be in order.  Silence is supposed to permeate the air, not generators (albeit down by the staff accommodation).  Generally speaking, marginal power prices from Diesel generation cost runs over $120/MWh, with lifecycle cost including the generator, tanks, noise insulation, etc. usually well over $200/MWh.  Needless to say, this his high relative to grid – which just emphasizes that in generation setting such as this, reduction of use becomes a greater focus. 

Their web site says 24 cabin style buildings accommodating 200 guests in total.  More importantly I think I read 85 various rooms between the lodges and cabins.  There’s also common areas, hallways, checkin area, that gym area, and then what seemed like quite a sizeable spread of guest housing by the parking lot (where the generators were housed in reasonably camouflage but brand new wood fascia buildings designed to blend in). 

So let’s say 85 rooms plus areas, plus another 15 rooms/areas (probably all bunks) for staff – round numbers is good.  100 rooms.

If our room was indicative of all, we had 4 lamps, 6 halogens, 2 other lights, plus bathroom lighting of 3 halogens.  That’s 15 lights.   We also had a stairs/hallway up with a couple, for a total of 17.  They were all incandescent, burned out at a high rate I’m guessing (I observed two in our room that burned out in our two day stay, likely with the power cycling up and down/failing 4x we noticed during the stay).

They weren’t low Watts.  Let’s say the bulbs were 75W and the halogens were 50W, and they were half half.  An average of 62.5W * 17 is 1,062.5W per room.  But intermittent and low utilization right?  Yes, probably.  But the architecture and rooms are rustic old school.  When you’re in you turn on most of them we were finding.  So say 1kW potential lighting only drain per room times 100 rooms = 100kW.  Now that’s a number that can drive some small scale economics.

Wal-mart posted an analysis, and is implementing, switching to LED bulbs, even at a relatively high price point per bulb (a hugely different concept than “cost”).  In their view, the power savings helps drives the economics, but further, so does the lack of bulb replacement.  Without rigorous economic analysis, I’d argue that a Diesel generated resort vs on grid Wal-mart would have even enhanced electricity cost economic benefit.  Also with Australian import workers changing bulbs at a higher frequency than Wal-mart employees changing fluorescent bulbs as the base case (based on the frequency of them failing in our room anyway, plus incandescent vs. CFL technology), the directional argument would go the same way.  I bet Wal-mart’s analysis is pretty sound.  And two directional points as above would lead me to the conclusion that it’s probably also economic to switch to LED bulbs (in the next year or two) for this resort. 

Let’s say, conservatively, that each halogen and incandescent bulb is replaced (they make ones that fit each socket type) can produce equivalent lighting to the mixture noted above, for 10W a bulb on average.  Peak room consumption would drop to 170W, peak resort (lighting) consumption would drop to 17kW from 100kW.  Note that’s a big step change. The up front cash cost of this at $15/bulb bulk purchase would be on the order of $25,000 – note however this is less than the Diesel generator that was quoted as just being purchased, and which apparently powers out frequently.  Any probability assigned to lessening the frequency of purchasing $40k generators would seem to be compelling.  This also frees up capacity and likely alleviates the brown-outs from strained Diesel generation for washing, cooking, some space heating appeared to be electrical, computer networks, etc. all which are present.  Caveat here is that $25,000 might be dropping $5,000/year for next couple of years.  Guess it depends on how many generator replacements and brownouts one can tolerate.

So perhaps at the very least it a) keeps that generator running comfortably for years at lower fuel load, b) reduces the time people spend changing bulbs and the cost of it, and c) can improve uptime for lighting (not to mention computers, POS systems, etc.). 

Island Lake Lodge has a micro run of river hydro system, which I understand may be harder to do in park land, but in reality they are quite non-intrusive.  There’s significant head to work with, and with all the walking bridges over the river that runs out of the lake, I’d half bet you could conceal most of a generator under an interpretive bridge.  If it is only able to be “half” concealed, I’d bet a small national park style plaque explaining what it is would just interest people more rather than it being labelled an eyesore.  Not sure on year round flow rates, but it was cool this weekend and there was running water everywhere (both into and out of lake).  Has some higher capital costs, but the useful life is long, the ongoing cost is low (free fuel as long as gravity and wetness are on earth), and is quiet.  Depends on amortization period I guess, but seems to me the park, and the lodge, are going to be there in a hundred  years (ie. half the intrigue of the place currently is entirely the fact that it’s old now).

A total side note would be to consider natural gas or propane Diesel engine bi-fuel modification (Enerflex among others do this).  I presume they have fuel storage on site for space heating, not sure of natural gas (perhaps eliminates some capital up front).  But the conversion kits show high payouts on continuously running Diesel engines, especially at current natural gas prices.  Keeps same generators, reduces input costs.  Economic for drilling rigs, for frac pumpers, etc.

Aside from all this half assed guesstimating, I’d think a real energy audit could yield the same results/directional push on economics alone.  Plus, a national parks situated, semi remote lodge, may generate an intangible benefit of impressing its customers with such visibly progressive displays of striving for economics in tandem with “greenery”.  If remote Argentine lodges could do it 6 years ago, why can’t we now?

And for my wingnut idea of the day, why does a large Diesel bus have to transport you 1km from guest parking to the lodge?  That’s capital the lodge has to tie up… and it’s a large Diesel bus.  Alternatives:
a)      Tell the Aussie kids they get a lot of exercise here as the customers drive to the lodge (where there’s guest parking right out front for day use people only), and they valet them down to overnight, and *gasp* walk back up.  15 trips a day between 3 guys on concierge = 5 trips at 10 min each, equals one hour of walking per day.
b)      Get someone to tinker with an electric tracked mega golf cart thingy.  Like those old snow cat style boxes on wheels.  What are electric’s disadvantages?  Range and high speed.  What if the thing’s whole purpose in life is 1km trips with no particular speed requirement?
c)       Rustic – customers walk, gear is dog sledded.  Or donkey pulled. 
Seriously, a bus just seems like overcapitalization… it’s a semi-remote lodge, the attraction is being outside!

Random side note is that the availability of water or conservation of water is apparently not an issue there, perhaps Field septic can be used.  Toilets are the old school high water volume kind, where as other self-sufficient lodges I’ve been to use more modern approaches.

Some of this is worthless pontification, but I believe there’s some merit.  I’m not going to be back there soon, and I’m not collecting the lodge revenues or writing their investment cheques, so I have little say in it other than this hot air with a couple non-intensive research numbers. 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Near Lake O'Hara

Lovely snowshoe on way home today.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Emerald Lake Lodge

Three and a half hours of XC skiing today and one hour of hot tubbing, combined with a leisurely breakfast and a mid ski hot chocolate make for a great day.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

White Lightning, Jonny Rocket

Please see White Lightning over there on the right, and Jonny Rocket tucked in behind.

Beauty day at Sunshine. White Lightning is solid all over the hill now, and turns on the jets on the groomers. Didn't even blink at that sketchy sidestep around to the shoulder 4m up on the rocks with only 6" wide to work with.

Jonny Rocket was on his own skis and boots for the first time today. He's skiied 8 times. But we all know Jon isn't timid when it comes to speed, steeps, or technical sections, and the terrain park. The bike gang had wondered what Jon would be like on skis. I can say he skis like an adult with superior strength and endurance, with the exuberance of youth he brings to everything, mixed with the downhill talents of a singletrack phenom, all in a 9.9 on the gusto scale and a 0.2 on the fear scale bombing around in a blaze of snowflakes. What did you expect?!

So much fun! Spent a few runs warming up, few challenging ourselves on some Standish steeps, then a half dozen speed groomers on Divide plus a trip through the terrain park each trip. I had a sweet jump on the big one where my left ski ejected on landing, and then my right about a second later. In a surreal outcome, I just boot skied the packed snow with normal form like nothing happened - the ejection was so clean. Turned around and they both were just parked on the landing pointing straight down with the brakes dug into the snow... but didn't want to try my luck again till after lunch and a binding snug up.

After a superb lunch with chili piled on everything we made our way to Standish, the terrain park, Shoulder, Goat's Eye and home.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Christmas saturday

Huh?

Ok, this morning we rode intense semi slick mountain bike trails for 4h, it was awesome. First exercise I've done since TransAndes, and I felt a bit lethargic. Pulled out the old Specialized, which rides great, save for tires with no traction, so paid a bit for that on the ice. Generally I got schooled by the whole group.

Then it was delayed Christmas dinner, so a full house of action for 5 hours. Lots of food, photos and chat. Fun and tiring.