today the mountain skied me

I have not been too enthusiastic about skiing this season. Not sure what is it. When skiing with my friend Charles I have wanted to quit before he does which is unusual for me.

At Mt. Snow, my first day of the season on Dec. 12th, I was underdressed and got a chill after lunch. We took a blue trail and it was ungroomed and deep heavy crud. That was tiring and not fun. Then there was a snow squall and i took a bad face plant because of visibility. I don't mind falling but I just wasn't feeling with it. Hey, it was the 1st day. But Charles was hot to trot. I quit an hour before he did.

Then went to Butternut and it turned out to be a powder day. That was pretty good once I realized that the snow was so light you could plow right through the crud with no ski deflection. Still, I was glad to quit for the day.

Last week was Hunter. It has to be perfect conditions for me to like Hunter. Too much too steep and too narrow. Couple of snow squalls with low visibility, high winds. Tired early. Not confident. Not having (enough) fun. Nuff said.

Oh yeah, I started tuning my edges myself this year so every time I hit an icy patch and didn't get the purchase that I thought I should be getting I was worried that I don't know what I'm doing with tuning (I don't).

Today was a scheduled ski day at Butternut and I even entertained thoughts of cancelling but went ahead out of momentum I guess, hoping it would be a good day.

... It was ...

Blue skies, 0 mph wind, not too cold. 100% open, every trail fully groomed, not crowded.

These are the kind of conditions that deceive me into thinking I'm a good skier. Hero snow. No, the mountain skied me. I didn't have to do anything. It was that good.

Sue and I have this thing at the beach in the summer. If you watch the waves as they break with sunglasses on sometimes we see this iridescent shimmery blue light in the water ... stunningly beautiful. We sit there looking at 6" waves going "oh wow" like tripping hippies. I don't know what it is, maybe plankton or something like that.

Well, my first lift up the mountain was like that today. The sun was just coming up behind the trees which were acting like a filter. I think the moon was just next to the sun. You'd never see the moon without the filtering effect of the trees and my snow googles. There was this quivering, iridescent blue blob that would appear from time to time ... such a beautiful vibrant color, it's hard to describe. Much bluer than the deepest blue of the sky. An auspicious beginning.

As I worked my way up from easy to more difficult trails I started to gain that old confidence back. I worked on my wide GS style turns, trying to keep myself facing down the fall line as I carved across the slope. I got some beautiful pure carves at least on my left turns, my right has always been my weak side. Pure joy. I think part of my edge issue may be technique rather than tuning.

Favorite runs of the day for those who know the hill and care: Whip to Hob Nob, Lower Downspout and Freewheeler. I skied everything except Upper Downspout as it was mostly bumped up except for a narrow chute on the edge and it looked like there may have been some icy spots too.

Quit at 2PM just because I said I was going to but I wasn't the least bit tired nor did my quads feel it at all.

So conditions have a lot to do with my ski happiness, in particular, groomed conditions. I would like to be able to handle ungroomed and cruddy conditions better and still have fun with it. Not have to fear those "uh-oh" moments when you wind up on a trail you thought was going to be groomed but is a bumped up nightmare. I can usually get down those all right but it's not what I call fun nor what I call skiing.

Goals for 2014-2015 in priority order: 1. have fun, 2. improve.

The Final Day ... Sugarbush

A week ago Thursday I skied Sugarbush in Warren, VT. Ostensibly my last day of the season. I thought I might go later in the month but I jumped at this opportunity as the temps were relatively cool and there was more terrain open than usual for late season. Also there were several days of rain in the forecast.
When I arrived it was just above freezing at the base but was not expected to go above the low 40s all day.
Super Bravo and Heaven's Gate lifts were running.

First run was mid-mountain off Super Bravo ... Valley House Traverse to Snowball to Spring Fling.

The surface was firm, a little fast. Ok for a warm-up run.

2nd run was all the way to the top of Lincoln Peak. To get there requires a run down from the unload of Super Bravo via Downspout to the Heaven's Gate lift.
I could never figure out why it took so much effort to control my speed on this section. It doesn't look that steep. Maybe because the surface was fairly hard.

 I should mention at this point that I had developed a problem with my left ankle bone, the protruding bump on the right side of the foot, from pressure of the ski boot. I noticed it first on my previous trip to Mt. Snow. This time however, it was painful the minute I put the boot on in the lodge. Not a good sign!

All this to say, Ripcord,
at the top of Lincoln Peak looked very tempting. It is steep in places but was groomed invitingly, at least from view of the lift but I thought I should hold off because of the foot problem. Steeper runs means more pressure on the problem bone when making right turns. So, instead of turning right and down Ripcord, I turned left and herringboned up to Jester. Herringboning hurt too! :-(

Jester is a blue square with good views of the Mad River valley. It has several switchbacks which can get cruddy on warm spring days but it didn't get warm enough this day. I took upper Jester
and then lower Organgrinder, a black diamond.
Upper Organgrider
is nasty looking, ungroomed, large natural bumps (whales really) and steep, should be double diamond but the lower part is groomed and almost blue square steep although the pitch is pretty consistent making it a good workout. Here is a shot from the top of Lincoln Peak looking all the way down Organgrinder.

After this I took several runs from mid-mountain, Lower Jester, Domino Chute, Downspout, Organgrinder, etc.

7th run, just before lunch was upper Jester and over to Snowball and Spring fling on the other side. By this time short section of slope on Snowball was pretty soft and heavy. It caught me by surprise after all the hard pack of Lincoln Peak and I turned but my skis didn't. Popped right out of both bindings very neatly and took a low speed tumble into the soft stuff.
That slope must have been at just the right angle to catch the sun or something because lower down it was hard pack again.

Break for lunch, then a few runs down the lower mountain, one from the top and my screaming quads called it a day.

12 runs and 18000 vertical. Not bad for the last day of the season. Got a little air time too.

Wonder what that foot problem is about? I've had those boots several years without any trouble. Maybe I'm skiing more and harder? Thinking about cutting a hole in boot right where it hurts. Not really but maybe buy a sheet of padding and see what I can do with that. I'll worry about it when next season rolls around.

Here is the link to my stats for the day in case you are interested:

spring awesomeness at Mt. Snow

Skied at Mt. Snow in Dover, VT almost 2 weeks ago. Predicted temps were 30 at 9AM to a high of 54 at the base but it was already over 30 when I arrived at 8:30.

Ticket price was $29.99 senior rate on-line pre-purchase (oh yeah!). Nobody there! Parked in the 1st row.

I did my usual green circle warm up on Long John to Deer Run to Long John

but was eager to get to the blue squares. Snow was soft(ish) but not yet mushy/heavy/carved up.
I was also concerned with how my DIY spring wax job would fare in such conditions. So far so good.

2nd run was right down the middle of the Main Face, Lodge to Exhibition.

3rd run:  Drifter to Canyon.

4th run: jog left a little and down Snowdance,
probably my favorite on the Main Face. Blue square, long (1.7mi), groomed and wide. I saw the ski patrol dropping the rope on River Run but passed on it this time. I wanted to make sure I saw the lift spinning. This was just after 10AM, scheduled opening time for the North Face.

#5: I shot over to the North Face on River Run.
This was my first time ever on the North Face. River Run was still setup from the night before, not icy though, just starting to soften up a tad. Pretty easy blue square. Scoped out the diamonds on the ride up the Challenger lift on the North Face. A lot of them were bumped up pretty good. Some down right nasty looking with names like "Boulder Pile". I passed on them and went back to the Main Face at the top. I wanted to check out the status board back in the lodge to make sure I knew which trails were groomed before I committed. So back down Canyon on the Main Face for #6.

After a brief break in the lodge for coffee, a bite and the status board,  I took another run down Sundance.

Run #8: back over to the North side on River Run. Ready to take a shot at the groomed black diamonds. The Main Face was starting to get mushy and crudded up. Too much like work! Carefully scoped out what I could see of the groomed diamonds on the way up the lift. They were to my right. So far, so good. Fallen Timbers and Chute. I usually avoid anything black diamond or higher named "Chute" ha, ha. Fallen Timbers sounds like a glade and looks like one on the map but they said it was groomed.

#9: wound up taking Chute.
Not bad. A little narrow but still wide enough to make a couple turns across. A few ice patches, easily avoided. Groomed as advertised, a couple of rollers but not what you would call "bumps".

OK. Ready for Fallen Timbers.
This run was in the best shape, wide, flat, no ice. and it was NOT in the trees! ;-)

Another crack at Fallen Timbers, one last run down Chute and back to the Main Face and down to the base. These 2 diamonds were definitely my favorites for the day. I would love to have done them some more but my legs were giving out from the steepness and knew I would have one last tough slog down to the base in the Main Face mush.

There is a great view of Somerset Reservoir from the North Face that I didn't have the presence of mind to snap but here's a nice pic of the view that someone else took:
Finished up back to the base on Sundance and survived heavy crud without mishap. My wax job did well although I did apply some swix F4 liquid for a touch up about 11.

Here's a link to all my stats for the day:
Alpine Replay Stats
Great day! BTW, I also found a great shortcut around the town of Wilmington. Avoids the bottleneck at Rte. 100 and 9. From Rte. 9 just before Wilmington take a left on Haystack Rd., rt. on Ray Hill Rd., left on Mann, left on Coldbrook which changes into Handle. Just stay on Handle until you get to the resort.

One more road trip for the season? Maybe Sugarbush?

Groomed or not groomed ...

Skied at Windham Mountain on Tuesday. A little chilly, overcast day. I got there early, before 8:30. Lifts spun at 9.
Got snagged as a buddy-for-the-day by Steve G., a former wall street trader up from "Joizy" for the day.
Steve told me he checks the online trail report and sees what is groomed and what isn't and sticks to the groomed trails.
I check it too but pay more attention to how many trials are opened than whether they are groomed or not.
After warming up on a few short greens we headed over to the west peak and hit Whistler straight down the mountain under the lift for a few runs.
We alternated choosing runs between us and I took Steve over to Windfall

which is a new blue square this year. It was not groomed and not great. Not icy but pretty hard and rough.
Later we took Waltz, a narrow but not too steep chute into Warpath from the top. Not groomed and not great either.
I did a similar chute in the same general area, Wizard (formerly Whisper) and it was icy just about all the way into Warpath same as I remembered it a couple of years ago only this year my skills are better.
Later, after Steve left for the day I skied Why Not (groomed/good) over on the east peak and then Wing'n It (not groomed/bad).
The lesson learned: ungroomed trails are OK on powder days or as a necessary evil to get to good snow otherwise why bother?
Favorite runs of the day: on the west peak, upper warpath to whiskey jack
and on the east side, Why Not to Wintuck to lower Wicked.
Good surfaces all and Whiskey Jack is one of those narrow twisty blues that is just the right pitch and has banked turns that for some reason I find so exhilarating. Other similar trails like that are Sidewinder at Catamount and Drifter at Stratton.
25 runs for the day in all and here is a link to my Alpine Replay stats:

Nice Day at Gore Today

This Missus and I had a nice day today at Gore Mtn. in North Creek, NY. Thanks to $12 lift tix from iSkiNY (Ski Areas of NY, Inc.). They started this last year with one day, Jan 10th and expanded it this year to 2 days. We took advantage of both and went to Gore both times. Gore doesn't offer any other deals that meet our criteria ($30 max).
Today started out really cold, windy and overcast. Single digits, wind chill sub zero, etc. etc. But later in the AM to afternoon the sun came out, wind died down and the temps went up to a scorching 19 degrees (at the base that is, i don't know what it was at the top).
The surface was "variable" as they say which means watch out for ice but there was soft snow to be found. That's the usual mission here in the east, find the good snow.
Sunway was pretty good but that's usually the most crowded. Wind in the AM was brutal on Top Ridge. Almost blew you off the trail.
I found a nice stash on Quicksilver which is a blue square off Sunway, un groomed and whales. Nobody else on it. Later in the day it was more scraped off in places, the whales had become moguls and it was more crowded. Almost lost it right at the end otherwise I did okay. I even enjoy negotiating a few bumps if the snow is worth it.
We took 2 trips up to the high peaks area for the view. One run down Cloud and another down Headwaters to catch the Straight Brook Quad to the top. Cloud was OK. One icy steep section that wasn't too fun. Headwaters had all the snow guns going.
Echo was the only run open in the Burnt Ridge area. Was kind of scratchy. There is one section that is black diamond level steep. It would be ok if the snow was good. I keep trying it each visit. One day the snow will be right and it will be a fantastic run.
My favorite run of the day was Twister.  There was soft snow all the way down and it's wasn't too steep. Did that one twice.
Mrs. MTBMan1 usually likes the Pete Gay trail on the North side. It was OK except for one patch of hard ice right across the trail! But that double chair is too slo-o-o-w on a cold day!
The Missus favorite was Cloud, for the view.

I don't know what's up for next week. Looks like some (more) r**n in the forecast! :-(

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!