Winter’s Last Day Certainly Wasn’t

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
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.

There were still plenty of skiers and riders at Okemo
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

 

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Spring Skiing at Stratton Mountain Resort

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.

Upper and Lower Standard were in good shape
Upper and Lower Standard were in good shape

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.

Great carving snow
Great carving snow

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.

There still is good skiing in the Northeast

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 .

skier on Sapphire - photo by Mike Roth
skier on Sapphire – photo by Mike Roth

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.

epic fare- noodle soup photo by Mike Roth
epic fare- noodle soup
photo by Mike Roth
Epic fare - pulled pork sandwich photo by Mike Roth
Epic fare – pulled pork sandwich photo by Mike Roth

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.