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A Cool Yule: Keeping the holiday spirit alive outside 

click to enlarge outside_santaskiing.jpg

During his 19 years as director of Mt. Bachelor's Nordic Center, Bob Mathews strove to keep things festive around the holidays. That meant an employee dressed in a full Santa suit skiing around the tracks handing out candy to skiers and the instructors giving lessons while sporting elf hats, ears and tunics.

Even though he's long gone from Mt. Bachelor, Mathews still believes in the holiday spirit and owns a complete Santa suit, beard and boots. Every holiday season, he dons the Santa suit and skis around the trails at either Meissner or Swampy Lakes offering candy and holiday best wishes to skiers on the trails.

Last year, Mathews was joined in his holiday cheer ski by Santa-suit wearing Sam Handelman and Sam's wife Barbara in a supporting role as an elf.

This past Saturday the trio did the standard Swampy Lakes shelter loop in reverse much to the delight of skiers they passed on the trail. There were shrieks of delight in seeing the skiing Santas and getting a candy cane. Lots of pictures were requested and the Santas complied. What they were unable to deliver was a request by one skier for booze instead of the candy cane.

The skiing Santas added a nice touch to a spectacular deep powder snow day. Congratulations to both Bob and Sam for sweating along in funny red suits with really itchy fake beards to make so many skiers' day a bit brighter.

Meissner Update

Kudos to groomer Lee Fisher for putting down some first-class tracks and skate lanes so far this season at Meissner. The skiing has been fantastic, including a few of what many of us recall as typical central Oregon bluebird days with that unbeatable combination of cold snow and bright blue skies. Put another way (for those who still wax for grip) blue hard wax days.

Meissner has, in a way, become the victim of its own success. No sooner was the parking lot expanded that it became packed on weekends and is getting close to being packed on some weekdays. And while it's nice that further expansion of the lot is in the works, it won't happen until 2015 and who knows at what elevation the snowline will be at that time.

What is now known is that users more than ever need to put money in the strongbox at the trailhead when they ski Meissner. Grooming costs are creeping upward of $2,000 per session and keeping the good tracks coming is worth a donation or an annual membership in the Tumalo Langlauf Club.

Iron Man

If you didn't get to see NBC's coverage of this year's Iron Man-Hawaii this past Saturday, you missed a very nice profile of local octogenarian triathlete Lew Hollander.

The sit-down interviews with Hollander were excellent and featured Smith Rock as a backdrop. Hollander admitted during the interviews that he has his sights set on living to 120. A worthy goal, and one suspects he'll make it.

As a total aside to the program, local triathete Matt Lieto's brother Chris (a well respected pro tri-guy) was featured in an ad for the new Ford Escape.

Mountain biking...
but where?

Even with the amount of snow hitting the region this past weekend, people looking to get in a mountain bike ride should look no farther than the Maston. Last weekend, the riding, save for a few mud puddles on the south end of the loop, was firm and fast.

The tread at the Maston is the firmest it's ever been and as riders are finding out, it dries fast. Also note that the Maston is truly in its own microclimate so it tends to get less snow and rain than surrounding areas.

Last Call for Chrome

No it's not a fender giveaway. But it does help to have a four-wheel drive truck if you venture down to the lower Deschutes where another steelhead season is nearly in the books. Angling officially closes on Jan. 1 (although those so inclined can continue to pursue fish in the roughly 26 miles below Macks Canyon) and a few hearty souls will take one last shot at a late season fish in the next week.

I managed to hit a tagged hatchery fish last year on Dec. 30 and returned to the same spot on New Year's eve with a couple of fishing buddies only to be greeted by a driving snowstorm and finger numbing temperatures. Soon toes and lines were frozen and we headed back to Redmond for warm seats and cold beers at the Cascade Lakes pub. This year's run of fish, despite a promising start, did not come close to matching last year's epic returns.

One other option for chrome junkies is to target the John Day River where fish should now be making their way past the Clarno area. For those willing to travel or already headed to the Portland area, there's also been some confirmed reports of early season success for winter steelhead on both the Sandy and Clackamas rivers where a strong push of early returning fish made for a pleasant post-Thanksgiving surprise. (EF)


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