Category Archives: Dad Life

Gear Review: Auto Snow Brushes & Scrapers

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We have lived in snowy climates for sometime, but the environs of Park City certainly upped the the snow fall levels a bit from Central and even Northeastern Ohio.  We also changed the requirements with the addition of our van – which at close to 10’ tall – is not going to fit in most garages.

Here is what we were using in Ohio.  

I am not going to spend time reviewing these older brushes, but you can see by the design, that ice scraping was a bit more important than actually moving snow.  I actually try to avoid scraping ice and use this method to defrost icy windshields (https://www.today.com/home/defrost-windshield-solution-t106477) quickly.

Last year, I upgraded our snow brush to the SubZero 48” Polar Vortex based on a review from Blister Gear Review.  A definite upgrade to what we had been using.  The foam part did fall off.  But an ample application of Gorilla Glue seemed to provide an adequate repair.

This year, I went ahead an upgraded a bit more to the 60” Snow Moover.  Again, an upgrade from prior brushes.

A few features of the Snow Moover vs. the Polar Vortex brush to point out:

  1. One side of the head is a brush and another side is a soft scraper vs. an integrated brush / foam scraper.  Both sides pivot, but you can see the difference.
  1. Longer reach – 60” vs. 48”.
  2. Straight vs. curved.  This probably impacts ease of storage more than anything else.
  3. Feels substantial vs. a lighter tool (a touch subjective).
  4. Ice scraper – pretty similar, but as I said above, I try to avoid scraping.

In summary, my recommendation is to get the right tool for the job.  That is 80% of the battle.  Either of these brushes is a good upgrade, but I have found the 60” Snow Moover to be superior.

Some other related gear review:

  1. Kinco Wool Gloves
  2. Snow Shovels
  3. Ski Gear
  4. Spatula

No affiliation with Amazon or any of these products.

Ski Gear Thought Experiment

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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So, I put this together to send to the Blister team, since they will give you gear recommendations if you are a member.  They’re great; I highly recommend their reviews as well as a membership.

However, I decided what I really needed was more reps, not more gear.  So as of now, I have not made any new purchases, but am considering another guided backcountry trip.

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I have been building out my ski gear lineup over the last few seasons; making an investment or two each season.  Where would you recommend investing for this season?

Here is my current gear lineup, built over the past five seasons or so, while living mostly in Ohio but skiing Colorado quite a bit.  We’re currently in Park City, Utah.

Skis (In Order of Acquisition):

  1. Dynastar Slicer (175) – I bought this ski back in 2016 and really love it.  It is my daily driver and I generally have to look for reasons not to ski this ski.  It inspires confidence.  It’s my baseline for the rest of the skis below.
  1. Dynastar Distorter (179) – I bought this setup off season in 2016 at a price that made it sort of impossible not to purchase.  I use it as a “beater” ski, when coverage is less than ideal.  We will occasionally cruise through the park, but that’s not where I spend significant time.  So generally this ski doesn’t do anything better than my other skis.
  1. Head Supershade iTitan (163) – Purchased this ski in 2018 and have learned to enjoy it early season and days I want to work on short turns / carving.  The ski has helped me progress.  It is obviously a short length and a carving ski, but I have found it to be way more versatile than I expected.  Matched to the right conditions and objectives, I always enjoy this ski.
  1. Line Sick Day 104 (179) + Atomic Shift Binding – Bought this at the end of the season in 2020 based on Blister reviews and as a 50 / 50 ski as I have started touring a bit.  Touring was all we could do at the end of 2020.  I also use the ski on softer inbounds days.  I find it seems to require a bit more attention than the Slicer and that I need to “drive it” a tad more to inspire the same level of confidence.  But that could also be conditions or my own shortcomings as a skier.

Boots (In Order of Acquisition):

  1. Nordica GPX 110 – Call this my first real ski boots that fit properly.  I have a narrow heel and my prior boots would fall more into the comfort category.  After a bunch of work, this boot and I get along just fine.
  1. Atomic Hawk 120 XTD – purchased with my Lines at the end of 2020 season for my touring setup.  I have been impressed with the boots and the fact that I’ve actually not had them worked on at all and they feel pretty good (only 2mm BSL difference between my boots).  I could use a punch or two.  I mix and match them a bit with my other skis depending on my mood.  They ski significantly better when you remember to take them out of walk mode.

Personal Details & Ability:

I am 46 years old, 5’ 11”, 160 lbs and am reasonably athletic (D1 track and field).  I’m not a super aggressive skier, and maybe take a little bit more playful approach.  I am a late to life skier, having grown up in Florida, but can ski 85% of the Canyons comfortably.  Steep bumps and deep powder are areas I need to work on in particular.  I spend most my time trying to keep up with my nine year old daughter, who is a natural skier (this will be her sixth season).  She skis the Atomic Bent Chetler in 133 because Santa likes her more than he likes me.  My ski lengths are probably conservative.

We skied ~85 days last season.  Mostly inbounds at the Canyons, or early season at PCMR, and ~5 days night skinning PCMR, and ~5 backcountry days.  Backcountry was a touch scary around here last season, but hope to do a bit more this upcoming season and did my AIARE level 1 in March at Snowbird.

2021 / 2022 Season:

My goal would be to continue to progress as an all-around skier and would prioritize any investment along those lines.

Here’s what I have been considering:

  1. Powder Ski: I lean toward something like the Moment Wildcat, Blizzard Rustler 11 (length?)
  2. Dedicated Touring Setup: Raven (length?) + ATK Raider? My spirit animal is the Raven, what is yours?  I am really just looking for an excuse to buy this setup.
  3. Updated Daily Driver: Something a bit firmer (Masterblaster, QST 99?). I honestly would consider getting the Dynaster Menace 98 in longer length before you can no longer find it.
  4. Invest elsewhere – Newer boots, other, etc.  For boots, I would probably be looking at the Nordica Pro Machine in 120.

What would you recommend?  And I welcome any other reactions to anything I wrote above.

Gear Review: True Temper Snow Shovel

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Sometimes the right tool makes all the difference.

If you live in a snowy climate and you are looking for an upgrade to those common, cheap plastic snow shovels that last about a season, get the True Temper Industrial Grade Snow Pusher.

This is the right tool for quickly moving snow around.  Especially the wet heavy snow that the snow blower cannot handle.  Or maybe that light 1 – 2” where it might be faster than actually getting the snow blower out in the first place.

In the 30” size (it comes in 24″ and 36″ as well), the Pusher makes short work of the sidewalk and steps in one back and forth pass.

Also, as the name implies, it is not really a shovel.  I actually don’t believe in “shoveling” snow.  I am lazy.  It is way more efficient to push snow, than lift snow.  Think snow plow. So the end of this tool looks a lot more like a snow plow blade, than a shovel.

After a bit of research, I snagged mine, in store at Home Depot toward the start of the season last year.  Totally worth it.

The Mountain West: Not All Sunshine & Lollipops

Reading Time: 2 minutes

We have really enjoyed being out here in Park City, Utah for an extended period of time.

I have written about the path that got us here.  In short, we were here when the pandemic started and decided to shelter here for a little while. A little while turned into a while longer.  

Last year, we missed most of fire season.  There were a few days where you could tell there was something going on with particulates in the air.  Mostly eerie sunsets.

This year has been a different story.  We have seen a lot of these kinds of forecasts.

We have learned about PurpleAir.  There have been consecutive days where it has been legitimately smokey – with smoke coming over from California (i.e., the Dixie Fire).  

And we had our own fire recently.  There were evacuations and disruptions. And a lot of smoke.

VLAT Operating Over Parley’s Canyon Fire near Park City, Utah

Recent events have made us appreciate the clear days even more.  Even the locals are distressed with the situation this year.  

Fire season is something to understand if you are considering the Mountain West.

Unexpected Benefit

Reading Time: < 1 minute

I am a cyclist.  I generally ride as much as I can.

This does create some tension in my personal life.  Safety is a root cause.

So, I have ridden with Road ID’s “ecrumb” application (https://www.roadid.com/pages/road-id-app)  for several years.  It allows my wife, or anyone else I add, to track my rides via an emailed link.  There are similar applications from other companies.  The main benefit is if something unforeseen would happen, your last known location is traceable.

Recently, I discovered an added benefit of the application.  I lost my phone on my ride. 

I had put my phone in my jersey back pocket.  That’s fairly common.  But this was not a particularly well fitting jersey and I had my repair kit in there as well.  And, I had a little off bike incident that apparently dislodged my phone without me knowing it.  We won’t call it a crash, since I never hit the ground, but I did come off the bike in a fairly unceremonious way.

As soon as I got home, I realized my phone was missing.  We looked on the “ecrumb” and the application reported the last known position as the spot of my little event.  When I rode back to the spot, there my phone was, laying under a little bush.

A nice surprise.

Hard Tacos

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Mrs. SFTE decided to torture our daughter the other week.  She made tacos.  Taco Tuesday you know.  But with a wrinkle.  She made hard tacos.

These were the new and improved version.  These hard tacos had flat bottoms so they stood up on their own.  However, they still broke down the middle, spilling all the contents as my daughter found out the hard way.

I honestly cannot remember the last time I ate hard tacos.  Guessing here; but I think you could measure that time in decades.

It’s funny how your perspective changes.  I think the first time I realized there was such a thing as soft tacos was at a restaurant at an age not too much older than my daughter.  What a paradigm shift that night was.  Maybe they were widely available before that.  I really have no idea.  All I know is that from my perspective there was only one kind of taco: hard.  And once I realized soft tacos were an option, I never went back.

Sort of like soft tacos for my daughter – until the other night.  She had no idea. Ha ha ha….

Why I Run

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I used to be a reasonably competitive distance runner.  Team titles, individual titles, all conference, academic all American, blah blah…  Like decent.  Not world class.  Not national champion.  But generally not somebody you wanted on your shoulder 1,000 meters out.  And running was a really big part of me and my identity.

Some days, those accomplishments seem like they were achieved by a different human. Despite only being ~15 pounds over my racing weight back in college.

Working out regularly and even structured training is still part of the mix.  Even after some time away post college.  I eventually came back to the training and competing.  Because I need it.  That is just who I am.  It is part of me.  Chicken or egg problem.

The bike (or bike trainer) has been a big part of that regime.  But still nothing beats running for me.  Despite the nagging and chronic pain and injuries that began plaguing me late in my college career. And continue still.

As I was recently attempting another come back from my injury (I will call it my injury because it’s been with me for decades), I began reflecting on why I run.  What am I trying to get out of it?

In my days competing, the goal was to be as fast as possible in the races that mattered.  Period.  Everything was focused on enhancing performance.  At the risk of actually not competing in those races, because you broke.  But the risk was worth it.  And necessary.  Everyone else was pretty much doing the same thing.

The motto I trained under was:  Take one day off; you know it.  Take two days off; your coach knows it.  Take three days off; everyone knows.  Each year, I could generally count days without a run on my fingers.  And, I found it easier to track weekly mileage on a plus, minus ten basis.  Just the deltas to ten.  Eight was minus 2; ten was zero; 12 was plus 2, etc.

Now it is different.  I run and train with different goal in mind.  I run today, so I can run tomorrow.  

And that impacts each run and the decision making around each run.  It may lead me to run slower (ok, maybe a lot slower) or shorter or stop at the first twinge of pain or even take days off (gasp).  

Maybe I am just getting old.  But thinking about running and training through this lens has helped.

Travel Shave Kit

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Thought I would share my travel shave kit, which I have been using for a number of years. 

I use a safety razor at home, which I found out the hard way, is not travel friendly.  Also, I prefer to have a separate bath kit packed.

My kit:

  • Razor – Yes, sir! No twelve bladed shaving monstrosity here.
  • Brush – Economy brush; nothing fancy.
  • Shave Cream – Palmolive Classic Shave Stick.

A few key features:

  • Small and compact
  • Versatile – equally functional at a hotel or campground
  • Carry on Friendly – no liquids
  • Inexpensive – the shave stick is $4 and has lasted for years
  • No Surprises – not going to run out of shaving cream unexpectedly
Photo by Kolleen Gladden on Unsplash

A Sense of Accomplishment

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Am I the only one that gets a sense of accomplishment out of using up household items like a bar of soap or a bag of coffee? 

Why do I do that? Am I weird? (Rhetorical question – don’t answer that)

I think some of that ties back to work not providing much of a sense of completion on a daily basis. That’s the downside of knowledge work. I think one of the differences between working in iIndustry” versus working in consulting or banking is there is no finish line with the former.  With Banking and Consulting every project is a finish line.

The time scale in “industry” is much longer. You can look back and see “years” of accomplishment. Transitions and shifts in the business that took a relatively long time to manifest themselves.

Further reading: Shop Class as Soul Craft

Book Report: The Conscious Parent

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This is meant to be more of a book report, than a review.  In particular, I want to highlight three lessons from the book, The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary, that I found impactful.

This is a book that Mrs. SFTE read and highly recommended.  As with most books that require a bit of work, I struggled through it a little bit.  It was more me than the book. However, I found the book to have some concepts worth thinking about and that are really relevant across many situations – not just parenting.

The theme that I appreciated the most is that despite being a little unconventional and promoting concepts such as spirituality, mindfulness, and meditation, etc., the book is most certainly not suggesting that life should be all roses and rainbows.  In fact, a main message within the book is the life is not alway going to be pleasant and a parent must help a child understand that there will be frustrations, boredom, and the just plain “ordinary.” I found this theme welcome in a world full of millenial attitudes and expectations.

  1. Changing Your Behavior – “Matching our emotional energy to that of our children is far more effective than asking them to match their energy to ours.”  Be the grown up in the relationship. Parenting is as much about modifying your behavior to meet the situation as it is modifying your child’s behavior to what you think it should be.
  2. Focus on the Process as Much as the Outcome – This is a sentiment that crosses many disciplines.  And there’s good reason. “When we focus on the achievement of a goal instead of the learning process, our children miss many opportunities to develop their self-esteem.  Rather than telling them, ‘Good job. Here is your gift,’ it’s important to highlight their character development, sharing with them how proud we are that they showed patience, determination, and bravery. … In this way our children discover the joy in learning, quite apart from reaching a destination.”
  3. Allow Your Child to Just Be – In order to allow your child to develop, grow, and flourish, sometimes you need to step back and let them be who they are and figure things out for themselves.  “We are so heavily invested in our children, determined that they not mess up but become a success, that in our desire to be “good” parents, we find it difficult to just be with our children in their as is state, allowing whatever is happening to exist.”

In summary, a good book that certainly inspired some self-reflection.