The End ...



My last ski day this season was last Saturday, Apr. 27th at Sugarbush. It was the best last day I’ve had ever and my 7th season skiing.

Brian and I went up there together. It was a beautiful bluebird day, at least in the morning. By the time we left after lunch it had clouded up. Lincoln and Gadd Peaks were open, serviced by the Super Bravo Express Quad and Heaven’s Gate Triple.

For our first run we took lower Jester down from the Super Bravo. It was dicey to say the least. About halfway down we encountered a work crew just in time for them to throw a shovelful of snow on a strip of dirt so we could proceed! I still wound up skiing over a patch of dirt expecting to take a sudden stop and dive but I scooted right over it. Either my wax was still good, the dirt was wet enough or I had unweighted enough or all of the above.

Needless to say, we next looked for better terrain. Again we took the Super Bravo but this time took the Valley House Traverse over to Snowball and Spring Fling. Much better! One narrow spot but mostly wide open. Fun!

The view of Upper Jester from the Super Bravo unload looked pretty appetizing but we needed to then ski over to the Heaven’s Gate Triple to get to Lincoln Peak. We followed the signs but when we finally got to the Heaven’s Gate traverse it was closed! Puzzling! We could see the lift running and people skiing down the trails so they had to have got there somehow. Back at the base we asked the lifty about it and as it turned out resort owner Win Smith was right there next to us and offered to lead us over to Heaven’s Gate. He’s a good skier and it was a challenge following him but I’m proud to say I was able to keep him in view (not actually keep up with him) without crashing! So the trick is, go right off Super Bravo unload and just follow Downspout all the way to Heaven’s Gate. Ignore the sign that directs you to take a right off Downspout! At least in the late season when the traverse is closed.

The Heaven’s Gate lift runs right up alongside Ripcord, a double-diamond trail. It looked to be by far the most popular run judging from the number of people on it but too rich for my blood. I could definitely do it but I felt that it would tire me out too much and with the snow getting heavier and wetter by the hour I wanted to preserve my quads to get the most out of the day. Maybe next year! :-)

The nearly 360 degree view from the top was phenomenal with views of Lake Champlain, Whiteface and Mount Mansfield over by Stowe. Wikipedia says "Mount Mansfield is one of three spots in Vermont where true alpine tundra survives from the Ice Ages." Cool! Literally!

As anticipated, Upper Jester was in great shape. It’s a heavily switchbacked trail of moderate width but the snow cover was edge to edge with no bare spots. I did that for a couple of runs. Brian did Ripcord and then we met up for a final run to lunch consisting of Upper Jester to Spring Fling.

Huge fun but my legs were pretty fried by that point so I opted to call it quits after lunch while Brian made 2 more runs from the top of Lincoln.

So why was it my best last day ever? I guess primarily because of my skill level and strength  which so far has improved and increased respectively each year. I am able to handle the heavier spring snow and negotiate hazards like ice and bare spots better. More control. Also it was a beautiful day, the open trails were in great shape (except for Lower Jester), new skis, spring wax  and I had my friend with me! :-)

Ski Day 21 and no complaints!

I’m going to sleep now. Wake me for the ski expo in November.

No complaints

Well, it looks like ski season is finally over. Unless someone wants to treat me to a day or two at Jay Peak. ;-)
In any event, I have no complaints. It's been a great season, especially the late season, March into April.
In fact, since I started skiing 5 years ago, every season has been better than the last. Primarily because of my continual improvement but also because the ski areas here in the East do such a great job making and grooming snow when the weather is less than stellar for the natural stuff.
This week, i got two great days at Stratton. Late season special for over 65 geezers like me ... $10. Can't beat that.
Monday, the hill was still fully covered but the Sun Bowl was closed down so the trails serviced by those lifts were not open. The upper mountain was still hard until about 11AM but after about 1/3 of the way down it was great. In fact the cord at the top of Mike's Way was more like a washboard. Everybody was commenting on the noise! It made me laugh it was so ridiculous.
I went back on Thursday and the mountain had taken a pretty good hit from warm temps and rain over the 2 days between trips. There were a lot of unmarked hazards, ice, bare dirt and such so you had watch your step, at least I did.
The Ursa lift to the upper mountain was marked Experts only which spooked me the first time I approached it but after lunch I went up anyway and was glad I did. The temp never got above freezing up there so the top third or so stayed hard all day. Also there were some nasty hazards right at the top of some of the runs so I guess therein lies the "expert" warning but I navigated them OK. It was well worth enduring the dicey parts. Once you got past the ice and things softened up the snow was creamy and buttery and little trafficked. In fact, I was so alone on some runs that it was kind of eerie.
Mike's Way had a really ugly bare spot and a wide patch of ice at the top but once you got past  that it was almost pristine. Wide, mostly untouched soft groom all the way to the bottom.
By the way, the best thing I did that day was get my skis waxed. I intended to do that at first but the First Run shop was closed. After 3 runs I asked the lifty where I might get it done and he suggested I try the rental shop. They were closed too but someone inside saw me and he was glad to do it for me no charge. Wow, what a difference that made. Really smoothed out the crud.
A favorite run at Stratton is Drifter, a long, blue, narrow twister that had my quads burnin' pretty good by the end. I did that one both days. Lots of fun!
I also had a good time exploring a few of the short runs on the west side of the lower mountain like Snow Bowl Alley, White Birch and Hemlock which all feed into Flukey's Run .... pleasant, mellow.
Monday I did try one of the black diamonds over on the east side, Upper Tamarack, which was kind of chunky but soft and covered edge to edge. I look forward to exploring that area more next year. Looks like fun.
Kudos to Stratton for offering such great late season deals. I hope they do it again next year. I eagerly anticipate going back.
So now it's go through a little withdrawal and then gear up for biking and hiking!

Stratton VT - 3/22/2103

Yesterday I skied at Stratton VT. I haven't been at Stratton much in the last couple of years. Since being bought by Intrawest they have not offered good enough deals that meet my criteria ($30 or less).
However, lately they have begun offering some discounted advance purchase tickets that, since I have become a "senior", do meet my fiscal requirements; $29. (Incidentally, as of April 1st everybody will be able to pre-purchase $29 tickets and my price as a senior goes down to $25!)
I have always liked Stratton. They have some great terrain, a lot of variety and long runs (Wanderer along the west side is 3 miles).
Of course all of the resorts in the Northeast have been raving about the conditions the last couple of weeks so I was very excited to get in on it.
What Mrs. MTBMan1 and I have been doing is bypassing the main area and going straight to the Sun Bowl. It has a smaller mountain feel. Parking is easier with no need for shuttles and it's generally less crowded.
Conditions were very good. They'd had about 15" of snow during the past week and it showed it on the ungroomed trails. Otherwise everything was powder and packed powder. I even caught a few pristine groomers on my first few runs. One of my favorite runs is Lower Downeaster but it was a bit bumpy today so I couldn't really let go on it. On the other hand, Gentle Ben was great. It's kind of a twisty trail with switchbacks but the surface was consistent. After doing all of the trails on the lower part of the Sunbowl and one run from the top down Black Bear, I traversed over to the Main side.
I did Wanderer the long green along the western edge.
Favorites on this side for me were Drifter and Get My Drift which, as the names imply get an almost constant windblown coating which keeps the snow soft and smooth.
Wound up doing 16 runs and pretty much frying my quads which makes for a pretty good day.
Here are my stats: http://www.alpinereplay.com/stats/?id=46688

Next up: Windham on Monday.

Ski day 14 - Mt. Snow - speed kills

Kills my quads that is. And not actually speed but the G-forces of big carved turns. Ok. Best day of the season so far. Got my first senior ticket (turned 65 on 2/14). And I had $34 in credit from last year so I only had to pay $23 for the ticket.($58-35, don't know why they gave me the extra dollar).
They were 100% open except for one trail over on Carinthia that they were building up for a rail jam or something on the weekend.
Absolutely killed my quads on 17 runs. Snow was great although quite a few trails were on the bumpy side. I did come to terms somewhat with the bumps though. Did some exploring. After a couple of warm up runs on Long John and then Deer Run I skipped over to the Sunbrook side and checked out a couple of trails that weren't open the last time I was there. Big and Little Dipper. They were blue squares but ungroomed so there were some bumps along with some soft powder and some hard pack.  I had already planned out what I was going to do the next time i encountered bumps: side slide and/or 180 degree hop/stop turns all the way down. That worked out pretty good. I was even able to actually pick a line and do some moving turns. Big accomplishment this year.
After Sunbrook I tried to get to the westernmost side of the main face or even do River Run which is the one blue square on the North Face. In the process I did not find River Run but did One More Time which is the westernmost run on the Main Face. That turned out to be quite bumpy with thin cover and ice although not very steep. I did even better here than on the dippers but the trail was quite long and really tired me out so I didn't do that one again.
Favorite run of the day turned out to be Snowdance, a long, wide and even intermediate run with no bumps or hardpack. I did garlands all the way down so it really extended the length of the run. A real quad killer but I just loved it.
Conditions were great, not crowded, sun came out .... what's not to like?

Ski day 13 - Sugarbush

Thanks to Warren Miller, we had another fine day of skiing at Sugarbush at price that met our $30 or less price limit criteria (free).
Also a pleasant surprise was $100 for a room at the Golden Lion Inn right at the base of the Sugarbush access road. Amazing! Breakfast included!
Mrs. MTBMan1 and I went up on Thursday, Feb. 28th, stayed the night and skied the next day, March 1st.
They had got a nice dump on the previous Wednesday so they were 100% open and conditions were quite good but it was raining the whole way up on Thursday. I kept waiting for it to change over to snow as we approached the mountain but it never did. I tried not to get upset (not very successful).
However, we did have a great day.
We didn't realize it but that turned out to be Vermont and NH's school vacation week so it was quite crowded in the lodge at Lincoln Peak. Also, getting established on Lincoln Peak required quite a bit of hoofing from the parking lot up to the lodge. Very tiring. (note to self: park at Mt. Ellen next time, much simpler. Then take the Slide Brook quad or the shuttle over to Lincoln Peak,)

We took the Gate House Express Quad up to the halfway point on North Lynx Peak and warmed up on Pushover, a green trail before heading out to Mt. Ellen on the Slide Brook.
As we did on Valentine's Day we warmed up on the lovely green circle, Northway before heading up to Rim Run at the top.
Now, there was a problem. The entire top third of Mt. Ellen was shrouded in a dense cloud. Visibility was very bad. Almost white-out conditions. After awhile I started to lose my orientation as to where the trail ended and the cloud began or even up and down! Not good. We scooted off there pretty quick and made no more attempts on the peaks.

Eventually we made our way back over to Lincoln Peak and ended our day there. I made one attempt at the top of North Lynx Peak on Birch Run, a blue square. The snow was excellent but the run had got a bit bumpy by then which is not my cup of tea. Fortunately, the trail was wide with tree islands and the right side of the trail had got less traffic and was pretty manageable for me. Nevertheless, after that I stuck to the lower part of the hill.
My pick for the rest of the afternoon was Pushover to Overshot to Sleeper which bypassed the Chutes.
So, green to blue.
Thanks, Sugarbush for making your Warren Miller freebie all-mountain! Do it again next year! :-)

Ski Day 11 - Belleayre

School vacation week is a bit difficult for me to find someplace to ski because everybody is ramped up with holiday pricing and no deals.
Last year I was able to night ski at Bosquets for $25 on President's day so I was grateful for that.
This year, I was even more fortunate in that because school vacations varied amongst the different northeasterly states, Belleayre decided to only charge holiday rates for the 1st weekend and the Monday of President's Day itself. So the rest of the week reverted to normal non-holiday pricing. Still too rich for my wallet but, hooray, they have a "Coke Wednesday" wherein you present a Coke product at the ticket window and get a lift ticket for only $30 which qualifies for our self-imposed $30 lift ticket limit.
Thanks, Belleayre!
They advertised 34 out of 53 trails open which is plenty for me.
Conditions were pretty good although there was some hard pack, I didn't run into any ice or thin cover.
This was the day I discovered a comfortable way for me to ski the black diamonds ... garlands.
A garland is where you traverse a wide slope at a shallow angle and do as many turns as you can while traversing in one direction before you turn and do it the other way.
I am also able to bleed speed in or out by tipping down hill or edging up the skis respectively without actually making turns. So I am able to control my speed pretty well without just doing straight traverses which I find very tiring and does not maintain a good rhythm ... prone to falling as i get going either too fast across rough snow or too slow at the end of a turn and lose my balance.
The black diamond "Dot Nebel" over on the West side was my sweet spot after lunch and I just rode that until it was time to leave.
Thanks to Belleayre for an affordable daytime ski during a holiday week!

Ski Day 10. Sugarbush

Sugarbush is quickly becoming a favorite. Long runs with interesting terrain. Big (for the East) mountain skiing. The only reason we don't go more often is 1.price and 2. distance (almost 4 hours for us).
This year we've had 2 good price deals. The first one was a no-strings $14 all-mountain lift ticket on Valentine's Day. Very generous of Sugarbush, I thought.
Mrs. MTBMan1 and I went, of course. We spent one night with some rels in Rutland the night before and met up with Mrs. MTBMan1's sister and her husband who live about 1-1/2 hrs. south east of the hill.
Conditions were quite good as I remember it. Lots of soft snow and most trails open although not 100%.
We parked at Mt. Ellen  and proceeded to warm up on a few green trails. A real favorite green turned out to be Northway. It's narrow and flat like a cross-country trail but very beautiful and shrouded in white coated evergreens.
Overall favorite on Mt. Ellen is Rim Run from the top. Wide, with a spectacular view and good snow.
The Slide Brook quad was running over to Lincoln Peak so we took that. The ride is 12 minutes with great views. The first time is particularly exhilarating as we were not use to facing and moving DOWN slopes as well as up.
On Lincoln Peak we stuck with the Gate House Express Quad and the lower part of North Lynx Peak.
A nice run was Sleeper. The first part of the blue section of Sleeper was closed so we had to go down Sleeper Chutes which is black diamond but I managed to slip slide my way down that and then back into the blue square part of the trail. Lots of fluffy powder and trees. Very pretty. Another favorite.

Everyone in our party had a great time. Kudos to Sugarbush for a memorable and pleasurable outing!

Ski Day 9? Belleayre

Ski day #9 (i think). This past Wednesday I went down to Belleayre off route 28 in the Catskills. The deal was $30 for a lift ticket if you presented a Coke product at the ticket window.
Conditions were awful to OK. The first trail I tried was a blue square that wraps around the east side called Roaring Brook. The middle 3rd of this trail was like skiing on pebbles. Not fun. In fact I hit something that was more rock size and nearly lost it.
Correctly assuming there was probably better, I checked out the west side via the Tomahawk lift. Deer Run is an equivalent trail running along the west side and it was much better. Getting back on the lift I overheard someone say that Peekamoose was excellent from top to bottom so I tried that next and it was very good. A smooth coating of packed powder over the groom like someone had plastered it. Very nice. The upper portion is a black diamond and the lower is blue square. I had a good time working on my black diamond technique and by the 3rd run on it I felt pretty comfortable.
So things turned out pretty good.
The runs are short unless you want to ski all the way down to the lower lodge over green terrain. Not too challenging. But the runs are still longer than Bosquet which @ $20 for night skiing looked to be my only option during the Feb. holiday break. However, this year, Belleayre is not going to charge holiday rates after President's day that week including $30 Coke Wednesday so I most likely will be back then.

Next up, Feb. 14th (my 65th birthday) at Sugarbush, VT. $14 full mountain lift tickets. You heard right. $14. No strings.

By the way, after my birthday, I can now officially get senior rates at most places. Oh yeah!

Here's a pic of me biting the dust (powder) at Butternut a couple of weeks back.