Saturday, January 23, 2010

Zoetrope Mountains

Yesterday, I skied through a 19th-century optical illusion. Skiing the 1800s? No wonder I couldn't get my wax to work.

A zoetrope is a spinning barrel, invented in the 1830s, with slits in the side and a series of "moving" images inside. By spinning the wheel you see the images appear to move and become real.

That's exactly the sensation I get when I'm skiing through the maple ridgelines of the North Shore, and distant ridges appear through the trees. If you stop and look, you can't ever pick out the whole mountain. Ski along, keep looking, and as you move you can see the whole thing.

I skied the Oberg loop, up off the Onion River Road in Tofte, Minnesota. It's part of the Sugarbush trail system. Though I hadn't skied it for years, I think of this 8K loop fondly. The trail heads off the Onion River Road, snaking between Oberg Mountain and Oberg Lake.

I never had a full view of Oberg Mountain itself, just a series of views through the trees. After passing below Oberg, the trail climbs up to a ridgeline that, typical of the North Shore, is blanketed in sugar maples. With the leaves off, the maples couldn't fully hide the distant ridges, and I got tantalizing, incomplete views of Oberg, Moose, Eagle, Leveaux mountains and even distant Carlton Peak.

Of course, it's dangerous to combine seeking the zoetrope views of the mountains with skiing curvy downhill runs. I had to give up my hunt for more peaks as I came down off the ridge, for fear that I'd end up plastered to one of those same maples.

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