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This winter has been anything but in the northeast. No surprise there.
What is a surprise is when you can find good conditions despite the lack of snow and the yoyo temperatures we have experienced all season long. The abundance of human made snow seems to had held up better than mother nature’s.
Good conditions are exactly what we all found at Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont on the last day of this winter, or shall I say the winter that wasn’t.
|We found wide open trails with few skiers and riders on the last day of Winter|
Cold weather returned on winter’s last day. Temperatures were in the forties on morning the day before and dropped throughout the day bottoming out in the low twenties at night.
The low temperatures gave the groomers at Okemo something to work with. And work with it they did.
In this writer’s opinion no resort grooms better than Okemo.
The forecast for the last day of winter was for sunshine and high temperatures in the low thirties all day. With the colder temperatures we had to add a few extra layers to what we had been wearing the past several times out. We had to get the mittens back out as well; hand warmers too.
It was a demo day at Okemo and skiers and riders were taking advantage of the opportunity to test out the equipment that would be available in the fall. This added to the buzz and enthusiasm that abounded around the base area at Jackson Gore.
Crisp temperatures and blue skies always make for a great ski day and this day was no exception. The sun was apparent on our faces and my black ski pants were warmed by the sun’s radiance.
With fresh corduroy all over the place the pace was fast, the runs a joy. Even though only about half the trails were open there was still plenty of cruising to be had.
Starting out at Jackson Gore to took a few runs on the Quantum Four lift. Despite the cool temperatures the bubble was not needed. We ripped down Sunset Strip, Blue Moon and Lower Limelight a few times and then headed south down Mountain Road to the Main base area.
|Skiers and riders were still queuing up for the Sunburst Six at Okemo|
Up the Sunburst Six we went. We were early enough to beat the crush that would come. A couple of runs on the South Face Express found some bare spots but the patrollers had been out to mark them. By late morning the almost equinox sun had turned to corduroy into frozen granular but not too heavy. No mashed potatoes were served.
|Some video from the last day of winter at Okemo|
We trekked North and East to over to Solitude and took several great runs on Coleman Brook, Sidewinder, Heaven’s Gate and Boomerang. These trails are just far enough north that the sun, which had reached its highest point in the sky in the past six months, had not done its damage. With few skiers and riders on the trails and non existent list lines we were able to make several laps adding to our vertical for the day.
Deciding to call it a day we headed back to Jackson Gore where we started. The demos were winding down but skiers and riders were basking and enjoying the last of the winter’s sun.
Okemo is scheduled to be open to April 3rd, but as always it is best to call or check before you go so you can be prepared for
We headed over to Stratton Mountain in Vermont on March 9, 2016 to take in some spring skiing. It was a great day.
Despite temperatures into the lower 60s the snow held up and the conditions were good. Too many skiers and riders stayed away and missed out. The lack of activity made for a surface that was not too churned up making it gripable and not too heavy.
Even though this season had been warmer that normal there have still been some cold days so I was looking forward to higher temperatures. Gone were the layers of clothing that kept me warm throughout the season. It was a pleasure to be able to move without my bulky parka and mittens. A light shell and a thin pair of gloves worked best. I was able to open to the vents on my helmet for the first time.
We started out in the Sunbowl which lived up to its name. After a few runs we headed over to the “main mountain”. A couple a runs on the Ursa Express banging on the bear, runs, Polar, Grizzly, Black and down.
It was cold in Vermont as recently as three days before and the base was still firm. Only the top two inches had softened up and which made for good skiing and riding.
By the end of the day a few “brown spots” began to emerge but patrollers were out marking them. Upper Standard was in good shape with its top to bottom run. The bumps were gone from Upper and Lower Liftline which allowed for good coverage and fun sliding along.
Rain is forecast for the end of the week so it unknown so it is best to check conditions before heading out. Check out www.stratton.com for the latest conditions.
Last Friday after 2 days of rain I went over to Okemo to ski. I did not go with much enthusiasm of great conditions but then again has anyone had that forethought when you prepared to go ski in the east this year? Of all the ski areas to choose from Okemo is one of the few areas that know how to systematically make snow and keep their trail as consistent as possible .
Taking that and all the factors against ski areas this season I was pleasantly surprised at the conditions that I found there. First after the 2 days of rain, we had a sunny day, there was a breeze that lowered the wind chill down a bit but at Okemo you can ride the Sunburst six or the Quantum four Lift. Both are yellow bubble chairs and pretty much keeps you out of the wind. Or, take some of the lower chairs that don’t quite make it to the top like the Solitude Quad and thus do not get the wind whipping over the top.
The trail surfaces were nicely groomed corduroy with very little ice, which was certainly unexpected after all the rain. Okemo’s staff knows what to do when it comes to where to put the snow when needed. Of course it was a Friday so the slopes were not crowded as shown below on Sidewinder.
In addition there were some guns going on Sapphire which in my opinion made it the trail of choice for the day. I must have skied it 5 times. Coleman Brook and Sidewinder were also in great shape along with Upper and Lower Arrow which brings you to the Clock Tower lodge and the bubbled six pack. The six pack had quite a few people waiting, It took about 5 minutes in that lift line. No problem at all!
The only issue was as the day progressed the trails seem to degrade and on the trip back to the Jackson Gore area you have to take lower Limelight. This trail is always an issue later in the day and gets very scratchy because of all the traffic. The only choice you have is to ski the edges where all the snow accumulates.
While skiing the Solitude lift the choice of lunch was simple. At the base of the lift there is the Epic restaurant where you can sit, relax and enjoy a different meal away from the standard fair of the typical ski lodge offerings. Epic has become a very popular place to have lunch and basically just a few dollars more than the cost of soup , burger and fries you can have a different interesting meal. Plus you get waited on in a comfortable atmosphere. More to come on the restaurant in a future blog.
So taking into consideration all the pluses and a few minuses, when the northeast ski season certainly has not been stellar, it turned out to be a great day of skiing. Of course the season is not over yet and there certainly could be some storms in March, so let’s hope so.
From Part 1 – Mike, Phil and I traveled to southern Colorado to ski Crested Butte and Purgatory
It snowed all night. I didn’t sleep well. I never do before a ski day. Knowing it was going to be a powder day at Crested Butte only made my tossing and turning it worse. My room was too dry; I needed to drink more water.
Snowplows circled the condo all night moving the mounds of powdery snow from one place to another, their backup alarms droning as they got ready for the crowds that were bound to come.
Since I couldn’t sleep I got up, dressed, made some coffee and waited for the others. Looking out the window it was apparent that it was still dumping.
The others rose. After some coffee we dressed and headed to the lodge carrying our ski boots. The altitude was apparent as I huffed and puffed up a flight of stairs. I was breathing heavily but I felt OK. The mega hydration that I have taken part in probably helped.
The clouds were still puking snow. There was over 14 inches on the ground.
The night before we were told that the Bakery/Brown Labrador Pub had a best breakfast deal on the mountain base. We trudged up the stairs and grabbed some cinnamon roles from owner Steve Mikeska and carbed up for the day ahead.
Steve, a native a native Texan, has been serving up the goods at Crested Butte for over 20 years
We finished our cinnamon rolls and grabbed our skies and poles from the valet. It was around 8:45 and we could see the march to the lift beginning as those staying in the condos throughout the area headed to the lifts.
We donned our skis and headed to the Red Lady quad lift where we met Erica Mueller who was kind enough to take us around for the day. Getting on the lift it was easy to see that there was untracked snow everywhere. Exiting the lift I cranked down my boots and took stock of the “fat” skis I had attached to my boots.
Being from the east I had never been in snow so deep and so fluffy. It took some getting used to. It was hard to get started and we continually had to find trails or parts of the trails with enough pitch to keep our speed up.
As we headed down the first run a dog bounded across the trail in front of us. My original thought is that is was an avalanche dog but it did look like the retrievers that I had seen before. It’s snout was too pointed; its tail too bushy. Erica yelled to us that is was a coyote as it jumped into the trees never to be seen again.
After a couple of runs on the Red Lady we headed over to the Paradise lift and up into the Paradise Bowl for some wide open skiing. It was tough going for me as the snow was deeper. It was still dumping and the visibility was not the best but the snow was soft and the pitch was greater so we began to get the hang of it, getting a rhythm of back and forth.
Over to the right I could see a line for the North Face lift. The T-bar was not open yet. We could hear the random reports of explosions as the patrollers made the north face bowls safe skiers and riders even though the snow had come pretty much straight down all evening and there were minimal winds.
It pretty much snowed on and off all day with visibility sometimes going to zero.
We skied over to the Umbrella Bar, which is between the tops of the Prospect and Gold Link lifts for some water. Western resorts are very good about having water available to keep guest hydrated. I continually remind myself to drink water in an effort to stave off the effects of drier air and the higher altitude.
For lunch we dined at Uley’s Cabin which is located at the base of the Twister Lift. Uley’s takes its name from Uley Scheer who was a local historical figure and bootlegger. Uley’s reputation as a provider of food and moonshine are the inspiration for the dining and entertainment. I had the Rocky Mountain Elk Bourguignon, with Yukon potato puree and baby carrots. The Elk was fork tender and not at all gamey. It was a great lunch.
It continued to snow all day. Several more runs on the lower mountain rounded out the day as the altitude and deep snow took its toll on us. The day was complete with a little under 10,000 feet of vertical.
Day two was almost a repeat of day one as the snow continued. The groomers had toiled through the night and worked their magic. However, another eight inches of powder had accumulated on top of what was groomed which made working our way easier. We were still getting used to the powder. The center of the Paradise Bowl had been groomed but the sides were bumped up with soft moguls.
The snow continued all day with the visibility was constantly changing. At one point Phil and Mike reported suffering from ski sickness or Häusler’s disease which is a form of motion sickness which is suffered by some skiers when weather conditions, especially visibility, are bad. They found that this was especially pronounced in the wide open trails which had few reference points. Phil reported that the effect diminished on narrower trails and skiing closer to trees, which acted as a reference point, helped.
After a light lunch at the Bar I headed over to the Silver Queen Express. This quad lift goes almost all the way to the top and services the entire front of the mountain.
The locals had come out, as the powder was deep. They banged through the trees and the steeps. At times they seemingly popped out of nowhere covered with the white stuff, smiles of their faces, pumping their fists in the air.
Day two was completed with a little over 16,000 feet of vertical and 15 miles of distance. The deep powder continued to hold back on the vertical and distance. This was OK though.
We received tip to check out Slogar Bar & Restaurant down in Crested Butte for dinner. After making a reservation (highly recommended) we headed down the hill. The snow continued and the streets were not well plowed. We found a parking stop right in front. The menu at Slogar consists of two items, skillet fried chicken and grilled steak. Both are servered family style. We ordered the chicken and chowed down on the relishes and biscuits while we waited for the main course. The fried chicken was good. The creamed corn and mashed potatoes rounded out the main course. A scoop of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce for desert and we were done and stuffed. We even had chicken to take with us.
We drove back to the condo and crashed. It was still snowing.
On day three the clouds began to lift. We hear that our friend Bernie Weichel was in town. Bernie is a bit of a legend in the ski industry. He owns a condo at the foot of the mountain.
More trails were groomed overnight and the skiing was great. We met up with Bernie and he took us around, as he knew his way around better than we did.
We had some great runs on East River Express. The snow was great on Treasury and Black Eagle. There was still untracked snow of the edges of the trails.
Skiers and riders were dropping in from skier’s right on Black Eagle. Bernie explained that most of these were coming down off of the double black Spellbound, Phoenix, Third bowls. It is a long way back up to these bowls from the based of the East River Express since the had to take this lift to the top and then ski to the Paradise Lift and ski down to the North Face (t-bar) lift.
After a quick lunch at the Umbrella Bar Bernie and I took a few runs on the Silver Queen and took some great bump runs on Monument and International. We even took The High Lift T-bar up over 11,000 feet to ski down Eflin’s Way.
The day ended with over 19,000 feet of vertical and brilliant sun. The view of the Peak of Crested Butte, which had eluded us for the past few days was clearly visible.
Tired from pounding the powder for three days took the shuttle into Crested Butte and dined at the Elk Prime Steak House. We did not have reservations and although it is a bit pricey it offers a good selection of locally wet and dry aged beef and seafood. Not being anywhere near and ocean we ordered steaks, that came in large portions, enough so that we could order three entrees for four hungry skiers.
We hopped the shuttle back up the hill and retired for the evening. It had been a snow packed three days.
In hindsight we never made it up into the double black bowls. We didn’t need too! Crested Butte, once known for it’s extreme skiing and riding, has more than enough beginner and intermediate trails to satisfy the average person and family. Sure, the extreme terrain is available for those who want to tackle it. Keep in mind however, that one needs to be in top physical condition and know what they are doing in order to ensure their safety and the safety of others.
I am living in the Capital District of New York State, where I have the best of all worlds when it comes to skiing opportunities. (Well not really the best since we are not near western skiing) however almost the best, since I have numerous ski areas at my disposal which allow us to do day trips. Day trips is one of the ways to keep skiing affordable for the family especially when you may have 3 or 4 or more in the family to ski.
Vermont and Massachusetts have their ski areas that are within 2 hours from my doorstep and in my opinion that is the limit to day trip skiing. So why do many people ski in Vermont instead of New York state? Maybe it’s just the New England attraction, or the highways from the New York metropolitan areas to Vermont and New Hampshire?
There are certainly numerous larger ski areas that are comparable to those in Vermont Here in New York, as a matter of fact there are over 50 ski areas in New York State. The larger areas are on the eastern part of the state which is closest to the Vermont border.
Areas like Gore with a vertical of about 2500 ft. and Whiteface almost 3430 ft. of vertical in the Adirondack and Hunter 1500 ft., Bellaire 1400 ft. and Windham 1600 ft. in the Catskills come to mind. All of these areas have substantial vertical and high speed lifts that can easily compare to many of the New England ski areas. If you are looking for numbers of trails there may not be the same but you can only ski on one trail at a time and as far as I am concerned when I find a trail with great conditions on it I sometimes tend to stay on it and not jump around the mountain.
These areas are easy to get to, just up the New York State Thruway and 20 to 30 minutes west for those in the Catskills approx. 2 hours from NYC metropolitan areas. Gore and Whiteface are 30 minutes west of the Adirondack Northway about 1 &1/2 hour to 2 hours respectively from the Albany capital district.
When you get to the top of Whiteface Mountain, you’ll be at the top of northeast skiing. No ski mountain in the east reaches higher. Around you, dozens of Adirondack peaks jut into the horizon. The fresh air filling your lungs has just blown over a protected park larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite, combined. And below you lie trails that have led Olympic athletes to glory. American Phil Mahre won silver here in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Andrew Weibrecht, a Lake Placid local who grew up skiing at Whiteface, earned a Bronze Medal in Super G at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and a Silver at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics! It’s your turn. Of course you can’t forget Lake Placid with the rest of the winter venues to see and use.
Compare the verticals to Stratton which has 2000 ft. of vertical. I think one should not look at the vertical when choosing a mountain to go to but more the lift length and what they service because many of the mountains have similar capacities of lift. Not necessarily in numbers of lift but in vertical and lengths of lifts. As far as I am concerned as long as I am on the snow no matter how long the run is, I am happy.
The further west you go the mountains are not quite as big so if you were to live in the Syracuse area you can ski areas like Song Mountain, Greek Peak and Labrador. These 3 areas are smaller with about 750 vertical feet but if you want to ski and are not looking for the long expensive ski vacation or ski weekend with overnight stays and meals you can always ski these areas.
There are also areas further west that service the Buffalo and Rochester area. Again, many of the ski areas with limited elevation but still great opportunities to get out and ski. The smaller ski areas provide an important service in the ski area business. They are the feeder areas for the bigger ones. They are the ones that are closest to your community to help supply the lesson programs and ski clubs for the public schools to get out and learn to ski, hence many of these areas are open at night for the afterschool programs. West Mountain is another good example just 45 minutes from Albany and some new additions this year to the mountain.
For more information of about New York State skiing check out the websitehttps://www.iskiny.com/ you will find stat , deals and what ‘s going on throughout the season at all the NEW York State ski areas.
I guess I am lucky in where I live since I can ski probably 20 different ski areas within 2 hours of my house in New York, Massachusetts and Vermont. No real reason to venture further east into New Hampshire and Maine. Unless I plan a trip and then Utah and Colorado comes into mind. Since the start of the eastern skiing season was really marginal this year I did take advantage of western skiing and will write about that trip next.
Great Ski Conditions for the Upcoming Presidents Week Holiday Period
Yesterday, I received a report from my friend David who went to Gore, he said that most of the trails were in great shape, including Sunway and their offshoots. Twister was well covered and Hawkeye and Chatemac over on the high peaks area again good cover and bumped up. His comment for the day was given what the facility had to work with they did a great job. I am sure they will be making snow as much as they can over the next few days to get ready for the Presidents week vacation next week.
Seasonable weather has returned to New York State bringing with it fresh snow and great snowmaking weather which will set up a great week of skiing for the President’s Week Break. Ski conditions around the State are strong with plenty of open terrain. Ski areas will also be making snow to open additional trails and while there may or may not be snow in your backyard there is plenty at your local ski area.
While temperatures may start out chilly this Saturday, remember to dress in layers and take breaks. You can warm up with your favorite hot beverage at the base lodge of your favorite ski area.
Temperatures will quickly rebound for the rest of the weekend and will be absolutely perfect for skiing and riding all over New York State. Whether you are a seasoned skier or learning for the first time it will be a great week to enjoy the slopes around New York State. Chairman of I SKI NY Dave Riley said, “While this season has had a challenging start, there is still plenty of ski season left and next week looks positively great for skiing”.
Ski areas also have special events planned for next week starting this weekend, be sure to check our ski reports daily at www.iskiny.com. Remember if you have a third or fourth grader they can learn to ski free or ski free with our I SKI NY Free For Kids Passport Program. Find out more and apply today at www.iskiny.com.
Skiing is a great sport for life that whether you have learned when you were young or just learning now it is a great, healthy family activity. Put the phone down, get the kids away from the video games and plan to go skiing this weekend and next week and create new memories that all will treasure forever.