Skiing is beautiful

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The movement is beautiful:

The technology is beautiful:

Every moment is beautiful:

How to be a ski bum

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What you’ll need: sicky pow-pow, big air

Songlist: anything by Snow Patrol, I’m Going Down by Bruce Springsteen

Further reading: Skiing and Snowboarding: Everything You Need to Know About the Coolest Sports

Today, December 19th, I look out into my backyard in Minnesota and am more than a little disconcerted. For I can see the ground. Not only is it visible, there is absolutely no snow even lightly dusting the grass. And while I don’t long for last year’s winter–there was approximately 10 feet of snow on the ground by this point–I am, as Bing Crosby so famously put it, dreaming of a white Christmas.

For a few years running, my family went on ski vacations in Wyoming for Christmas, where there was never a lack of snow. In fact, the ski resort we’ve always gone to, Grand Targhee, frequently has some of the best snow in the country.

I loved skiing as a kid but, being from Minnesota, I’d never understood what it was like to ski on a mountain. We learned on “Afton Alps” and at “Welch Village,” names that give quite a sense of grandeur to prairie hills.

Grand Targhee is different. On our very first day at the resort, a guide took us up on a Sno-Cat through acres of fresh powder and we schussed down through it all day long. At lunchtime we stopped at a little clearing with the Tetons just behind us. It was glorious. I remember the end of the day, thighs burning, falling into a deep pile of snow and being unable to get back up, yet grinning nonetheless.

As much fun as we had, I was a tiny bit jealous of the guide. I mean, he was getting paid to have this much fun. And he probably got to do it several times a week. I felt sorry for the other resort workers, the ones who had to man the chairlifts and rent out skis in the morning. But then I found out the incredible truth–they all got paid to play. Maybe they weren’t all lucky enough to be trail guides, but on their days off they could ski to their heart’s desire! I felt like I’d stumbled on a well-kept secret–wouldn’t everyone take this job if they had the chance? I assumed one day soon I’d be wearing the black-and-red Targhee jacket, helping skiers onto the lift and honing my technique in my down-time.

But now, I’m sad to admit, I haven’t been on a ski slope in four years. The job doesn’t seem quite as appealing anymore–a friend of mine works at Winter Park, Colorado and hasn’t spent Thanksgiving or Christmas with his family in four years–but I do miss the mountains. Someday soon I’ll be back in the powder, schussing away.

Grand Targhee trail map

Advertising for gorillas

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Also known as guerrilla advertising. Which means using every available medium to show your product, like…


And handrails inside those buses:

And benches at bus stops:

And escalators:

And sides of buildings:

And the revolving doors below:

And telephone poles:

Reason 3: The location

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After touring a few dozen colleges and browsing the brochures of a few hundred more, the campuses began to blend together. I remember that my decision to apply to Dartmouth hinged a on a few unique attributes. I liked that there was a jewelry studio and a pottery studio. I liked that the sailing team practiced on a gorgeous nearby lake, the crew teams practiced on the Connecticut River that borders the west side of campus, and the equestrian team had a farm of their own (I imagined I would join at least one of these).

The Dartmouth green with mountains beyond

While I didn’t end up using either of the studios or joining any of those teams, there were plenty of other unique places that I loved at Dartmouth. On Monday I talked about the DOC trips that go out into the surrounding mountains and end up at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge. Dartmouth actually owns 27,000 acres of land in northern New Hampshire, all of which is protected against development and vehicle traffic (except to those affiliated with Dartmouth). Dartmouth students regularly maintain trails and cabins on the Appalachian trail, which runs straight through town.

Dartmouth also has its own skiway, just a half-hour from campus. In the winter of my senior year I took a snowboarding class Tuesday and Thursday mornings and was able to get back in time for afternoon classes. We have an organic farm, a climbing gym, a golf course, and a cabin on an island in the middle of the Connecticut (I spent the night of my 21st birthday in that cabin).

So, while not every Dartmouth student is outdoorsy, the school sure does make it easy to enjoy the out-of-doors. Classes were canceled on Valentine’s Day of my junior year due to an enormous blizzard the night before, and everyone I knew either made for the sledding hill on the golf course or the green for a snowball fight. There are a million other reasons to love the school–the intelligent student body, the wonderful professors, the study abroad programs, the alumni network–but if you were to take the Big Green out of the White Mountains, Dartmouth would lose its true spirit.

How to be a Dartmouth tour guide

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What you’ll need: pep, the ability to walk backwards

SonglistThe Salty Dog Rag by Red Foley, Twilight SongBig Green Fight SongBlame it on the Boogie

Further readingThe Aegis
I was sitting in a coffee shop last week when Jackson 5’s “Blame it on the Boogie” came on. At that moment, I missed Dartmouth terribly.

I’ve talked about Dartmouth many times over the past 10 months of this blog, and it’s this time of year that I become most nostalgic. The leaves turn so gorgeously red and gold around Hanover, New Hampshire, that tourists drive through the area “leaf peeping.” Upperclassmen are reunited after study abroad terms or internships at Goldman Sachs. And freshmen arrive on campus for their DOC Trips, full of energy and anxiety.

The Dartmouth Outing Club Trips are pretty much the best thing ever created. Two upperclassmen take a group of six to eight freshmen into the surrounding woods to hike, kayak, rock climb, canoe, or do nature painting. Yeah, yeah, a lot of American colleges are doing this nowadays. But Dartmouth was the first. And Dartmouth, a school that loves tradition above all else, does it the best.

Mmmm...Cabot cheese

On day one you learn how to salty dog rag and you learn how to blame it on the boogie (which was mortifying to dance in front of my parents, who were still looking on with pained expressions, not quite ready to leave their youngest child at college).

You stay with your group for three nights alone in the woods, you eat a whole lot of Cabot cheese, you get told a lot of lies by your trip leaders (I was lucky enough to be a trip leader for 3 years running), and then you get together with a few hundred other freshmen at the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge for the best dinner of your life. And then you return to campus to start orientation and you realize that coming to Dartmouth was the best decision yet of your young life.

I’m pretty enthusiastic about Dartmouth, probably more now–3.5 years after graduating–than when I was actually there. I know it has faults, some that seriously bothered me at the time. But now I can only remember the wonderful parts: that dozens of my closest friends lived within 5 minutes walking distance, many of them in the same house; that all you’re required to do is learn and grow and have incredible experiences; that everyone is still in the same phase of life (this has struck me especially now that friends are starting to get married and have babies while I still feel like a kid).

The first trip I led watches a sunset together

I was so enthusiastic about Dartmouth that I applied to be a tour guide…my junior year. Unfortunately, the admissions office was mainly looking for uninitiated freshmen who had only unbridled enthusiasm for the school–my enthusiasm was bridled by that point. In my interview I said that I would be able to give prospective students the full picture, which was not the picture that Admissions wanted to give. I also didn’t know enough about the sports teams.

But even though I was rejected as a tour guide, I still think I would make a great one. This week I’ll tell you the rest of the reasons why I love my alma mater. I bleed green, after all.

Yoga is for posers

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When I was a kid I had a book of yoga postures for children and loved to page through it, trying out my favorites: archer pose (in which your foot touches your ear as if you were drawing an arrow), eagle pose, and the one where you got to walk around on your knees. The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that it disabused me of the idea that I’d created my own pose–I was sorely disappointed when I came across the shoulder stand pose, photographed and documented.

Following are some of my favorite poses, done by people in beautiful locations. Let’s start with Eagle:

yoga eagle poseTree Pose:

yoga tree poseWarrior Pose:

yoga warrior poseSide Angle Pose:

Dancer Pose:

yoga dancer poseKing Pigeon Pose:

yoga pigeon poseAnnnnd, Shoulder Stand, the pose I once invented:

yoga shoulder stand pose

How to be a farmer

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What you’ll need: a pitchfork, a plot of land

Songlist: Maggie’s Farm by Bob Dylan, Sting’s Fields of Gold

Further reading: My Antonia by Willa Cather, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath

The American dream...sort of

For anyone who thinks Minnesota is some arctic wasteland, let me tell you, it gets hot. Today the heat index was around 115 F, and is only supposed to be worse tomorrow. Experts at escaping the weather, many Minnesotans flocked yesterday to movie theaters, chilled-out coffee shops, air-conditioned malls. I went to the Walker Art Center for a screening of Sweet Land, a wonderful film set in Minnesota and directed by my mom’s friend, Ali Selim.

There is nothing quite so quintessentially American as a scene of a farmhouse behind rolling fields of wheat (throw in a bald eagle and a bison and you’ve got prime presidential campaign material). Yet the independent American farmer is a disappearing breed, in part because corporate farms are buying up the land, and because it’s too expensive for most people to start a farm from scratch, between buying acres of land and necessary equipment. Thus farming also has an air of romanticized nostalgia.

The two main characters of Sweet Land, falling in love with each other and the land

Sweet Land, which focuses on a small farming community in Minnesota just after WWI has ended, trades heavily on this nostalgia and romance. One slow-motion scene shows the two main characters separating the wheat from the chaff in golden light–no wonder these two characters fall in love.

Having grown up in the midwest, I visited farms on school field trips and devoured Laura Ingalls Wilder’s accounts of the prairie from which my cities rose. I suspect I am thus even more susceptible to the romance of farming, and, as a girl, often imagined myself waking early to milk cows and collect eggs and going to sleep with the setting of the sun. Besides literary references and field trips, my only real experience of farms was secondhand through the weary gazes of girls my age at the Minnesota State Fair. Though their hair was tied in french braids, just the way I imagined mine would be, their boots were covered in grime, their hands of the flanks of the animals they were showing. It was not quite the same romance as I pictured.

These next two weeks I have a chance to see if I’m cut out for the farming life. While my neighbors are away in France, I’m keeper of their urban menagerie: a cat, a parrot, and more than a dozen chickens (they also have three dogs and a lizard, all of which have found other temporary homes). The hens are lovely and chatty, but after spending a half-hour just figuring out how to change their water gives me the initial impression that I won’t be starting up a farm any time soon. Stay tuned, though…perhaps I’ll be whistling a different tune after bringing home the delicious eggs these girls lay.

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