Okemo Opener

A too hectic life of late has kept me from getting onto the slopes. Yeah, there was a day or two I could have made my way north, but the thought of first day out being in -10 degree conditions was less than appealing. If I were already there on a multi-day trip I would certainly hit the mountain. But purposefully drive 3+ hours for that kind of exposure? Not so much.

But I got to Okemo just this past Wednesday. It was one of those wonderful days of sun, zero wind except for a zephyr breeze on the summit, and temperatures in the low to mid-20s to start the day. Ideal is the word that comes to mind.

Conditions were good. The snow was firm, frozen granular corduroy from top to bottom to start the day. As the morning progressed the snow softened at the bottom, progressing upwards as the minutes ticked past. By my last run—about noonish—things were still firm up top, but getting pretty soft back at base.

There were a number of trails that were open, but not groomed and with not much cover. It was obvious no snow-making had taken place on those trails. And maybe won’t this season. The year got off to a very warm, snowless start, and I can imagine that choices had to made in laying down man-made snow when conditions allowed that to happen. Regardless, there was enough terrain open to keep me pretty happy.

My one regret was not making my way to the Jackson Gore area. Only one trail top-to-bottom had been open over there since Day 1 and while I like that one trail just fine, it wasn’t worth the run over there for just that. But as I was leaving I heard that ski patrol had opened several other trails mid-morning. Oh well, next time.

Last season I only got out a couple times. I was pretty hesitant about how this aging body would respond. But I was pleasantly pleased that I skied without break for 3 hours before the quads started really complaining and the legs feeling shaky enough to let me know it was time to quit.

All in all, a very worthwhile trip. It was wonderful to sit on a ski lift once again, and chat with happy, smiling people sharing tips about where they had been and what trails they liked. It was great to hear whoops of joy coming from a trail behind the trees, and to hear the clicking and scratching of skis running over frozen surfaces once again. Everything else just melts away as the serenity of the slopes creeps in and pushes a big smile onto faces.

While sad not to see 100% terrain open, given what ski resorts have had to deal with this season, I was impressed. It was weird to leave Westerly area with snow piled high on the sides of the road, and to get into central Massachusetts and lower Vermont and have almost no snow on the sides of the roads. Hopefully the storm heading this way today and into tomorrow will leave the northern tier of New England under a heavy blanket of white, fluffy stuff.

I was using some new gear this first trip out, and I’ll tell you about in coming posts. Hopefully I get north again in the coming week. Maybe see you out there. If not, be safe. And get out there and enjoy the snow.

See You In 22

Avie’s Ski / Sports will be closed Saturday, January 1, 2022 — New Year’s Day.

The shop will re-open Sunday, January 2nd at noon.

Everyone at Avie’s Ski / Sports wishes you a safe, healthy, and fun start to 2022.

Winter Cometh—Finally?

left to right counterclockwise—Mount Sunapee, Okemo, Killington, Loon

Yes it has been an unusually, in fact strangely in your face, warm progression towards winter. The season of snow officially begins this Tuesday, December 21st. And it looks like things will begin to look and feel like winter.

The collage above shows it is snowing at Mount Sunapee, Killington and Loon. They are making snow at Okemo (so are all other ski areas) with the anticipation that snowfall begins shortly. The weather alert notes 5 to 8 inches of snow or more predicted. FINALLY! And the weather forecasts for the coming week and beyond call for continuing cold. FINALLY!

With the solstice only 3 days away, that means that Christmas Eve is only 3 days beyond that. And that marks the end of your official holiday present shopping. Hard to believe it is that close, but it really is.

New Inventory Arrives!

While time is tight, there is still time to get to Avie’s Ski / Sports and find some great gifts to put under the tree or into a stocking. New ski orders have come in and replenished variety, and a HUGE ski boot order arrived filling in rapidly disappearing common foot sizes. RIDE snowboards have also arrived so all you “single-plank” fanatics at last have some inventory to ogle.

So now is a great time to stop in and get fitted for ski or snowboard boots, and to grab a pair of skis or a snowboard while the grabbing is good.

Gloves, socks, base layer and outer wear inventory has also been bolstered recently, so the pickings are good throughout the entire store.

White Christmas?

It’s snowing up north right now, with a decent sized dump expected. The cold, for a change, looks to be hanging around for a while to keep that white stuff in a frozen state. And guess what? More snow expected later in the week up north.

While we here along the coast may not see a white Christmas the folks up north will. And that’s just great! We avoid all that shoveling and messiness but can travel a few hours to the north and get caught up in a wonderful envelope of white.

Now is the time to stop at Avie’s and pick up that gear you left to get tuned. It is also the time to pick up some last minute stocking stuffers—how about some socks to stuff in those socks?—or to be really, truly, giving (even to yourself) and pick up that new ski or snowboard package you have been dreaming about.

Avie’s closes at 5:00 PM this coming Friday, Christmas Eve. Be sure to stop by before then.

21/22 Ski & Ride Season

While Killington has been open for several weeks, the “real” ski and ride season for 2021 – 2022 begins Thanksgiving Day. That’s when most ski areas spin lifts for the first time and get the seasonal stoke going.

Things were a bit delayed this season, but now most all the major ski resorts have lifts spinning, skiers skiing, and riders riding. AND the north country got their first snowfall of significance this past Friday and Saturday. We hope that’s the start of a very, very white winter.

While this image—captured from the mid-mountain cam at Stratton—was taken before that first snowfall, it is just a very interesting image that captures the intensity of snow making, swirling winds, and bright sun. The trails at Stratton, and other ski resorts, are now bedecked in a mix of both natural and manmade snow. Truly the season is upon us.

And now we enter the holiday season, with throngs of shoppers flitting from store to store like skiers and riders jammed up on the limited open terrain of early season. Fortunately, Avie’s Ski / Sports has lots and lots of “open terrain” available.

Despite the woes we hear of supply chain limitations and shortages, Avie’s is loaded up with skis, boots, bindings, and winter weather apparel ranging from outer wear to beat the elements to base layers and socks that keep the core warm and dry.

Right now the ski and ski boot selection is excellent. Armada, Blizzard, Elan, Nordica, and Volkl skis are ready for bindings and some snow. Dalbello, Nordica, Roxa and Tecnica ski boots are waiting for feet to slip into them and hit the slopes.

Smartwool and Helly Hansen baselayers, North Face and Helly mid- and outer layers, all await the opportunity to show their mettle on the slopes. Gloves, goggles, and helmets are well stocked. Gear bags too.

And this season there are snowshoes! Try a new way to have some fun in the snow that doesn’t require a drive to the slopes. Just walk out your door and have some fun.

Killington had a delay in the FIS World Cup races yesterday due to wind. But they are back on track today. And we saw a few while flakes falling this morning down here along the coast. Keep your shopping on track and come see us at Avie’s Ski / Sports for all your winter sporting needs.

Girl’s Game

Ski season is now officially started—Killington opened on November 5th—and it is time to get serious about getting yourself ready for another season of fun on the slopes. If you started skiing a year or two ago and have been renting or leasing, now is the time to think about a shift to the next level. Rental gear is just great for getting started, but once you pick up the basics rental gear just can’t put you on the path to improving on a consistent basis.

So here’s a deal for all the women skiers out there who are thinking about making the shift from renting to owning their own personal ski gear. For $599.95 Avie’s Ski / Sports will put you into a pair of brand new ski boots that you will click into a pair of brand new skis. There will be no charge for binding set up and adjustment, and you get a pair of aluminum ski poles to complete the package.

While today there really is no such thing as a “bad ski,” Avie’s has chosen 3 pair that will be best suited to getting you from beginner into intermediate level skiing. You get to chose between Nordica Wild Belle 74 CA, Blizzard Phoenix 7.2, and Volkl Flair 72W skis. Each of these is a big step up from rentals—all are performance skis that are a bit forgiving so you can take the skills you have and expand them into becoming an intermediate / advanced intermediate level skier. Click Here and go check out the skis (a short scroll down).

An Avie’s boot fitter will work with you to get your feet into a perfectly fitting pair of Dalbello DS AX 65W, Roxa R-Fit Sport W, or Tecnica Mach Sport HV 65W ski boot. Any of these three boots will nestle your feet into a comfortable but snug fit that will have you wondering why you didn’t do this sooner. These moderate flex boots will help you learn to drive the skis into and out of turns but still be forgiving enough that you can relax and have fun. Click Here to go check out the boots (a bit longer scroll down).

Building your new ski gear outfit can’t be any easier than this. What goes into your ski package is limited to skis, boots, and poles that are in stock. Getting over to Avie’s and shopping now will provide you with the broadest selection of ski and pole lengths, and boot sizes.

Think Snow! We hope to see you soon at Avie’s Ski / Sports.

Welcome Back Snow!

Smugglers Notch, Vermont

We drove up to Vermont this past Friday to visit Dan and Alice. They are long-time friends—I’ve known Dan since high school. It started raining when we got to Killington area, then continued the rest of the day. And through the night.

Saturday morning dawned grey, but with patches of blue breaking through. By late morning it was a beautiful, classic Vermont October day. Sunny and brisk with temperatures in the high 40s and low 50s.

Dan and Alice live up by Sugarbush. We all went out for a morning hike to stretch our legs and tire the dogs. Low and behold, way up on the tall peaks the landscape was capped with a coating of white. Later, in the car, we spied snow atop Camel’s Hump and other high peaks we didn’t know the names of. We didn’t get as far north as Stowe, but Alice sent me a photo from a friend who lives up by Smuggs. That’s the view above.

On our drive home Sunday we got glimpses of Pico and Killington peaks from Route 100. We saw ski trails carved among the trees graced with white. Okemo showed only a few ragged remnants of white scattered in shady areas. Either the snow didn’t happen or it melted. We had temperatures Sunday morning at 30 degree by Sugarbush and Mad River, but well into the 40s in Ludlow.

No, it wasn’t a skiable snowfall. Even if it was I didn’t have my ski gear with me anyway. And if I did the mountains aren’t open for over zealous skiers and riders. But it was heartening, and exciting, to see white atop the lovely hills of Vermont.

I could wax poetic about the juxtaposition of brilliant fall colors and the stark white of the high peaks. But I won’t. All I really saw was the beautiful white snow and the slideshow playing in my head of skiing past and skiing to come.

While the visit north with Dan and Alice was meant to be chill and to help clear heads of Zoom meetings, work day pressures, and the rest of the mental clutter associated with our lives in pandemic days, it did more than that for me.

The very sight of snow on the mountains stirred a restlessness somewhere deep inside. A smile came. Happy thoughts arrived. My mind darted deep into my memory and drew forth the feel and smell of frozen air breathed in, the dull sound of the thunk of ski lifts running over the towers, the crisp click of edges on crust, the soft shush of skis cutting a turn, the muted whoops and laughs from deep in the trees.

I always return refreshed and rejuvenated after a visit up to see Dan and Alice and pile of dogs and cats that make up their household. But this trip, with sightings of snow, left me not only refreshed and rejuvenated, but hopeful. Hopeful that despite all the other uncertainties of the moment, the air will chill and snow will fall. The freedom and release of pointing a pair of sticks downhill and playing with gravity will indeed be here again. And soon.

Thank you Dan. And Alice. Of course, Thank You Vermont.

And So It Begins

The first issue of Powder magazine was in the mailbox last week, followed a few days later by SKI magazine. Those are my indicators that it’s time to turn some serious attention to the upcoming ski and ride season.

I have of course been thinking off and on since late July about the upcoming season of white. Will it be a snowy season? Will all the crazy pandemic restrictions allow for some unrestricted play on the slopes?

Good questions that will no doubt be answered in due time. We will be exploring and reporting back in this blog space what approach New England resorts will be taking as they ready themselves for skiing and riding.

A 2020/2021 Ski and Ride Season?

For the moment, it will have to suffice to say that the ski hills to our north are planning for openings pretty much at the usual times. A few may open a week or two later than usual, and you can pretty much bet that all will have some kind of restrictions on number of people on the premises on any given day. We will be exploring their approaches and post that info as things firm up.

With that said, given the uncertainty of how that nasty COVID creature will behave as we enter winter, things may—and likely will—shift as time flows along. You may want to consider subscribing to this blog so that you stay in the loop, so to speak.

Things That WILL Happen This Season

There are some things that you can absolutely, no questions asked, be sure of happening this coming winter season.

  1. Avie’s Ski / Sports is morphing from summer to winter. Every day new boxes, big and small, but all containing fun things, are being delivered to the shop. Skis, bindings, snowboards, boots, gloves, goggles and more. In the coming weeks shorts and sandals will be replaced by skis and snowboards.
  2. The Avie’s Ski / Sports website is being updated with information on all the gear that will be in the shop this season, with descriptions of that gear. And be sure that we will highlight the new and improved features going into that gear so you can make informed buying decisions. An early October completion for the website update is planned.
  3. The tuning shop will be opening. So beat the spiders off your skis and snowboards and bring them in to Avie’s for a nice tune up. If you are one of those people who really, really love their gear and had summer wax applied—time to get that lovely wax scraped off and buffed out!
  4. Avie’s Ski / Sports is overflowing with seasonal lease gear. Yeah, I really mean that. The upper floor of the shop looks like a colorful porcupine convention! Come in and get your pick of the quills. For those with kids a seasonal lease is the best bargain you will find anywhere. For adults unsure of what gear they want, lease to own is a great way to try-before-you-buy.
  5. All precautions are being taken at Avie’s to comply with safety. Masks, hand sanitizer, and distancing. Get with the season and pull on a ski or ride neck gaiter and come on in for a bit of shopping.

What’s Uncertain for This Season

Well, we never know how the weather will turn out. But I am hoping, as we sit here amid a prolonged drought, that all that saved up precipitation will come back to New England between December and April as fluffy white snow. Join me in that hope. You never know the power of positive thinking!

We also don’t know the availability of the incredible Avie’s Ski / Sports Ski & Ride bus trips. Discussions are underway to determine safety as well as ability to fit into still undetermined ski resort plans for limiting numbers. Again, tune in here to get updates as things firm up.

In the meantime, enjoy the fall season. Colors are popping. Sunday River has been firing snow guns. Frost has graced the high elevations. Days are becoming crisp and the nasty humidity a thing gladly forgotten.

Get out and hike and bike and strengthen those leg muscles. Ski and ride season will be upon us soon. I know I am ready!

Finding My Mojo At Stratton

Stratton was my skiing destination on Wednesday. I needed some slope time.

Conditions were great. Fast and firm on most trails, with some a bit softer where there had no doubt been some man-made snow mixed into the corduroy stripes. The ungroomed trails, from my view of them as I rode the chairlift, were lumps of hard snow with troughs of ice in between. I didn’t venture into the ungroomed territory.

I was a bit hesitant about going because it’s a holiday week with lots of schools being on winter break. But it sure didn’t look like a holiday week. There were 4 cars at the Sun Bowl when I pulled in shortly before 8:00 AM. It was about 3 degrees when I arrived. But without a whisper of wind to be felt, the temp was quite bearable.

For the first few hours there were very few skiers or riders out and about. A number of trails were closed, or partially closed, for various free-style and race training events. So there were lots of school kids on the slopes, but they were all clustered in those areas where the training sessions were being held. That left more than enough mountain to play on.

I’m heading off on an annual trip to Killington with my daughter Allison in a couple of weeks. We hit the slopes long and hard, with numerous unofficial challenges to see who gets top-to-bottom first. Each year the challenge, for me at least, gets tougher and tougher. Last year was the first year she beat me down the hill. Not by much, but a clear and clean, unofficial win.

No Confidence & Self-Doubt

As I have said, I needed some slope time. For some reason, and I don’t know why, I have been struggling to ski well this season. Actually that’s not true. The struggle part is true, but not that I don’t know why. I just lost confidence in myself, creating huge self-doubt. That’s the “I don’t know why” part.

I ended last season skiing a pair of Blizzard Quattro RS race skis, skiing stronger, faster, and more confidently than ever that I can remember. What happened between now and then to shake my confidence to the point it toppled over and shattered? Like I said, I don’t know. But it happened.

So there I was at Stratton. I took a first run down Black Bear, caught an edge and almost fell. Next run I ducked under the gondola and went over to the broad, gentle “meadows” trails for beginners. Caught an edge and almost fell. I wondered if I should head home before I got hurt.

I took a quick break in the lodge and had a hot chocolate. This whole thing was idiotic. The problem was in my head, and only my head, and the question was how do I get it out of my head? I could not stomach the thought of an oh-so-disappointing trip to Killington where I would be afraid to ski. There had to be some way to unknot that part of my brain saying “can’t do this.”

I decided I would go back to the summit and ski my most favorite, and least favorite, single trail at Stratton. How can a single trail be both most, and least, favorite simultaneously you ask? And just what trail at Stratton might that be? That trail would be Kidderbrook.

Upper Kidderbrook is big and wide with a few nice steep sections where you can ski a real “fall line” because the trail is basically straight up-and-down. Lower Kidderbrook is a narrow, twisty-turny, not very steep section of trail taking you back to the chairlift. Right at the end, just when you think it’s over, you have to scale a small hill to get up to the lift.

It’s my favorite trail because of the exhilarating plunge down the upper portion. My least favorite because you have to wind your way along the long, slow runout back to the lift, then scale a hill to actually get to it. Fun on the upper. Fun-sucking on the lower. Technically it’s two trails, but functionally it’s one. If you ski the upper, you must ski the lower.

Confidence Building

Why Kidderbrook? It’s a confidence builder. Kidderbrook is the trail I have brought daughters, nieces, and friends onto as they progress from beginner to confident, advancing intermediate. I take them when I see that their skills are good enough, but they are convinced they just aren’t ready ski or ride a black diamond, expert trail.

I hustle them past the trailhead sign which clearly says “Experts Only” and shows a black diamond (or two) in front of every trail name. The trail starts easy. On the first plunge, the width of the trail makes it seem more manageable somehow. No woods or twists and turns to worry about on the steep plunge down. And then, at the bottom of the second drop off, you stop and have them look back up the hill.

From that vantage, Kidderbrook looks as steep and challenging as it actually is. All I say, as they gaze back up the hill in awe is, “That’s a black diamond, and you just came down it.” They then realize they just slid down a really steep, expert, black diamond trail and didn’t die! The newly found “expert” basks in that great feeling all the way back to the lift and says. “Let’s do that again!” I of course say, “Let’s find another black diamond to master.”

That’s why I was sliding over the snow at the start of Upper Kidderbrook trail at Stratton. For some reason, and I don’t know why, even before I hit the first headwall on Upper Kidderbrook, I felt that focus come back into my head. The thick, nasty miasma rooted in my skull thinned like morning fog over water as a gentle breeze begins to blow. And the body responded. The skis tipped into the snow, the edges bit deep, and we carved our way down the fall line. Confidently.

I went back to the summit and skied down Tamarack. Then down Upper Standard. And then anywhere and everywhere, that was groomed. The skis responded as they should. As I knew they could, as I knew they would.

I don’t know how the fog of “no-confidence and self-doubt” got into my head, but I hope it doesn’t come back. It’s so very frustrating a thing to feel like you can’t do something that you darn well know you can. The nasty no-confidence, self-doubt thinking creates a self-fulfilling, self-feeding cycle of doubt that takes solid root and blossoms.

Fortunately, there’s Kidderbrook, confidence builder. I got my mojo back and working. Now I can look forward to Killington, knowing that I can at least keep Allison in sight as she rips down the slopes in front of me. If she is in front of me that is.


Ready For Winter!?

This summer I built a woodshed

Though not considered winter snow sports, our next door neighbor built the Taj Mahal of chicken coops last season. Complete with multi-colored lighting, flowers, and other enticing egg-laying decor. Secretly, I think the Taj Mahal coop is equipped with air conditioning and a home theater. The chickens love it, and lay dozens upon dozens of eggs. And then for no apparent reason, egg production slowed. 

I thought it might be the rusty chain link fence surrounding my wood pile. It did look pretty shabby all of a sudden. The ripped and tattered blue tarp on top didn’t add much either. Maybe the horrid sight depressed the hens.

I did need wood for the coming winter. So I decided to upgrade rusty fence for a classy and classic lean-to-style woodshed. I hoped that would put “The Girls,” as neighbor Lisa refers to them, back on the nest.

The Shed—Taj Mahal chicken coop in background

The new shed looks great with the Taj Mahal chicken coop in the background. And it looks better still with a couple cords of split, seasoned hardwood in it. 

I’m  about  set  for  winter.                 Are  you?

Farmer’s Almanac is saying that for New England, expect snow. And lots of it. Their predictions are for greater amounts of snow than is usual. They are also predicting that significant snow will be seen by, and in, December. To be sure the snow sticks around, Farmer’s predicts colder than normal temperatures throughout the season. This is a great prediction for all us winter snow sports enthusiasts. 

Oh yeah, I’m all for that!

It would be great to get in a half dozen or more days of skiing before Santa slides down the chimney. And I would be thrilled to see abundant snow continue all the way through until late March. I’ll even wish for the below normal cold. Provided that doesn’t mean the marrow-freezing cold we experienced last season between end of December and mid-January. That kind of cold put the damper on winter snow sports. It was so cold even ski lifts became belligerent, with many refusing to spin! No thank you. Keep that kind of cold up at the North Pole for the reindeer to enjoy.

So, are you ready? Ha ha. I know you aren’t. Temperatures have been floating into the 90s, even along the shore. So I know the only cold you are thinking about is the rapidly melting ice diluting your Dell’s.

The days however, have grown noticeably shorter. And the sun, while still hot, doesn’t carry the same fiery intensity it did a month ago. Yellow school buses have replaced out-of-state license plates. But the most telling change, is the morning bird song having been replaced by the evening chorus now provided by the End of Summer Insect Ensemble.

Winter snow sports enthusiasts take note!

This is not a cause for sadness! New ski and ride gear is beginning to show up at Avie’s Ski / Sports. While still in boxes, it won’t be long before the new “winter crop” of The North Face, Smartwool, and other apparel hangs from the racks. A rainbow will splash across the walls of the shop, made by the colors of this years bounty of new skis and snowboards, boots and poles.

While still it’s too early in the fall season to not stop in and pick up a new stand up paddle board—fall is perfect paddling weather—it’s not too early to start thinking about ski and ride season.

And this winter, there will be much to explore at Avie’s

Expect to see some twin tips and race skis available. There will be new brands, as well as the tried and true. While it’s always exciting to ogle the new skis and boards of the season, the real change up will be found in the ski boot section. Recent changes throughout the industry will be bringing along some great opportunities for your feet, especially those of you with wider feet.


Stay tuned to the Avie’s Ski / Sports Blog page as we help you prep for  the upcoming season. New gear. New brands. New styles. And a new ski boot universe.

Oh yeah, the shed upgrade was well received. “The Girls” are back to filling the Taj Mahal to overflowing. 

March Magic

Today I had the pleasure of popping into Okemo and spending the morning cruising the mountain slopes. Like Killington the day prior, the newly fallen snow was plentiful, though Okemo had smoothed out many trails into delectable corduroy. They did leave quite a few trails ungroomed, so there was a nice diversity of snow across the mountain.

My legs were still a bit sore from the day before, and it took a few runs in Jackson Gore to work out the kinks. Most of the trails in the Solitude area were ungroomed, and so not very busy. I stayed there for a bit, then wandered back to the main mountain, ending my day with a quad crushing run down Chief.

There is abundant snow on all the trails, and if forecasts are on target then it will mostly stay there as temperatures warm a bit by day, then tumble again by night, preserving the snowpack. There are rumors afoot of another “dump” early in the coming week; let’s hope it’s true. 

Regardless, conditions are incredible right now. Most of the ungroomed trails will eventually get groomed over the coming few days to preserve and enhance conditions, so if you want the lumps and bumps, get out there soon. And if you like the groomers, get out there! Now! 

And to help you get there, you can hop on the bus from Avie’s this Sunday the 11th of March. The bus heads to Stratton for what I am sure will be a great day of playing in some very, very, tasty snow. Seats still available, but dwindling rapidly. 

However you can get there, get there. And enjoy some of the seasons most endearing conditions.