Early morning turns to start the season!

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The first east coast turns of the season have been made!

A 5:30am wake up proved to be a tad on the early side. After a nice couple cups of coffee and breakfast I headed to the Stowe parking lot. Bits of wintery mix hit my windshield but there was nothing on the ground…

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Arriving at the parking lot things looked a bit grim. Whatever. I’m here, I might as well walk to the top and see what up there.

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Right as I started walking it began snowing. A quick inch fell! Just enough!

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Snoliage at it’s best! After a 15 minute wrestling match with my frozen boots I got them on, and made the first turns of the season!

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West vs. East …. Grand vs. Cozy

Growing up in subrural (the rural equivalent to sub-urban) New England I was always surrounded by forest and the largest mountains I saw were the White Mountains of New Hampshire. When I first visit “The West” I was in awe. Everything was so big. The mountains seemed like they were 10 times the size and everything was steep. I am certainly not the first east coaster to experience this feeling. When I moved out west after graduating from college I began to really explore these mountains that felt so large. I found that they really weren’t that large. A season exploring an area and it would begin to feel small again. I began asking myself what the true differences were between the East and West Coast.

tight New England trees

Tight New England trees

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Big Colorado expansiveness

I have often described the East Coast as cozy and the West as grand. A 360° view in the East is a rare sight. Only the occasional mountain top or large field has a truly wide panoramic view. The West is the opposite. There are lots of arid area with no trees, and where there are forest, you can usually see right through them. Always being able to see a long distance will make a place feel big for sure. I think this is why people always say the sky is bigger out west.

About as open as it gets in VT.

About as open as it gets in VT.

The West is also steeper. Mountain with 2 or 3,000 feet of prominence can be found all over the east, but generally they aren’t steep. They are essentially a very large hill. For sure, out West there are much bigger mountains, but even the smaller ones seem bigger because they are steeper.

big and steep

Big and steep

I believe that there is still a mentality of westward expansion in the minds of East Coast youth. Whether that means moving to Portland, or San Francisco, or moving to the mountains of Montana or Colorado. When you grow up in the East you are always looking West for opportunity and adventure. I can’t say from personal experience, but I don’t think the same can be said for people that grow up out West. Maybe there is some drive to move to a big Eastern city like New York, but there is certainly no mystery and magical allure like the West has for us Easterners.

Easterners laugh at UT tree skiing

Easterners laugh at UT tree skiing

Growing up in the East, when I moved West I often found myself feeling exposed and out of place. I was endlessly exploring the grand expanses Colorado and Utah had to offer, but I would always be happy to be back in the cozy shelter of trees. I spent almost 3 years on and off in Colorado and Utah. This summer and fall I am back in Vermont. I am very much in the woods. Line of sight stops 3 feet from the forest edge. There are huge white pines surrounding the house and the small yard gets a maximum of 4 hours of sunlight a day. I feel very at home in this setting. However, for the first time in my life I find myself craving the wide view the West offers.

Wide view

Wide view

I’m sure somewhere in the world there is a compromise to be found, and I will just keep looking.

 

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Fall!

I’ve been doing really great all summer and fall. I’m excited to begin the ski season, but I’ve been happy biking, climbing and enjoying the warmth. I know I won’t have much of that for the next 18 months once the season begins.

But the past couple days, despite the impending triple winter, that time of year has come; all I can think about is snow, skiing, freezing my fingers and toes off, and glorious faceshots. Here’s a little gem from Cyril that perfectly summarizes how I feel.

 

Rustler High Life Episode 1: Freedom from Aaron Rice on Vimeo.

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It’s All Mental!

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When I think about the upcoming year it is inevitable that I begin to wonder if what I am attempting is possible. So much could go wrong, and it is a very difficult task to imagine taking on. However, when I start to think about the possibilities, I am not worried about my legs being able to carry me, or my lungs being able to support me. That’s the easy part. The hard part is the mental game.

I worry about the 15th day in a row of 10K+ days, where my touring partners are working and the snow is a bit crusty. This is when I will have to really dig deep and convince myself that it’s worth getting out of bed at 6am for the end goal. That warm cozy bed with my down comforter and my red pillow that I have had since I was a young kid. I need to pull myself out of the comfort and jump outside into the freezing cold. However, I know that an hour into the day, as I stand on my first summit I will have no regrets about leaving the comfort of my bed. Nobody has ever regretted waking up early and climbing a mountain, at least I never have.

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Training for the physical aspect of climbing mountains all day has a formula. Set goals for vertical climbed, cross train on a bike or by running and hiking, eat right, don’t sit for long periods during the day, all things that athletes will naturally do. There is no formula though for the mental game. How do you train yourself to be better at getting out of your cozy bed every morning? How do you train yourself to not be lonely when you haven’t socialized with anyone but your touring partners in a month and a half? These are the questions I have been trying to answer recently.

One answer I have come up with is to do things that are hard. Push yourself mentally. Practice overcoming the mental battle. Right now this is taking the form of a very small goal. There is a little mountains stream that runs through my backyard. It quickly rises and falls with the rain, and the temperature changes with the sun and rain as well. But it is cold. And I mean really cold. When it has been sunny for a few days, it is bearable, but most of the time it is breath stopping, foot cramping cold. No matter how cold the stream is though after you jump in you feel refreshed and rejuvenated.

The Raging Miller Brook Dex Admiring the Raging Miller Brook

I was jumping in occasionally, maybe when other people wanted to I would push myself to jump. I realized jumping in the cold creek was the perfect mini mental battle to practice on daily. I decided for the rest of the summer, I would jump in the creek each day. If is was sweltering heat, or a grey rainy day, or I worked all day and wasn’t home in until 11pm, I would still force myself to jump in. Because after you jump in you always feel better, I am not forcing myself to do something I don’t want to do, I’m pushing myself to do something that is difficult.

While jumping in a creek is a small act each day, I hope it will be great training for getting myself up out of bed at 6am and heading out into the cold winter to walk uphill and summit mountains. I am currently on day 8.

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