Wednesday, January 30, 2019
4:15 AM—I check the weather first thing out of bed. High in the teens with dropping temps throughout the day. Windy—gusts to 50 mph. Cloudy. Snow flurries, possibly heavy, in the afternoon. My logical half says, “Go back to bed.” My skier half says, “Go skiing.”
5:25 AM—I just crossed the Gold Star bridge and realized I left the Nordica skis home, taking only the Volkl’s. Too far to go back, so I stay pointed northbound.
6:10 AM—I feel the car slipping a bit on black ice on Rte 2 in Glastonbury, CT. Not enough to scare me, but enough to wake me up quickly.
7:30 AM—VT 30 is partially snow covered, but in good shape. The temp is 10 degrees F.
8:20 AM—The parking lot of the Snow Bowl at Stratton has 6 cars parked in it. Are they not open? The Sunrise Express lift is spinning. Therefore the Sun Bowl must be open. I park and grab my gear.
8:25 AM—I rest my skis against the rack outside the lodge and look up the mountain before heading in to suit up. There is one lone ski track sinuously snaking down the face of Sunriser Supertrail. It’s a perfect serpentine “s” in a perfectly smooth coating of powder. I should have taken a picture, but all I could think about was getting onto that lovely snow.
8:45 AM—I’m riding the Sunrise Express lift out of the Sun Bowl staring at the lone track in the powder. Wind is quickly filling it in at higher elevations. “Snow Devils” are whirling about. I see only 2 other people on a chair way up the line of empty chairs in front of me.
9:15 AM—My first “face shot” of the day. No, the powder wasn’t that deep. The slopes came up to greet my face. Also known as a “face plant.” The Volkls think it’s funny to dive deep into the powder.
Stratton received about 6-inches or so of snowfall over night Tuesday. Groomers went out early, letting the fresh snow lay down like a blanket over the corduroy. Some novice terrain was groomed just before opening. On those portions of the summit that are severely windblown, you could see some “glacier ice” peeking though—evidence of the nasty rainfall last Thursday.
Skiing early on was in fresh powder underlaid with a firm base of mixed granular and packed powder. My Volkl RTM 84′s are not the best in powder. The Nordica NRGy 90s were right there by the door. Don’t know how I could have missed them. And I did miss them.
A Really Good “Bad” Day
Based on weather predictions, it should have been extremely cold and extremely windy. It should have been cloudy with snow flurries. Yes it was cold—13 degrees F when I left Stratton that afternoon. It was windy. At least early on. Then about 10:30ish the wind just laid down for several hours. It was breezy. Not windy.
Clouds? There were a few puffy clouds early on, as you can see in the first photo of this post. But by 9:30 AM the sky was such a brilliant, clear blue that you couldn’t help but just feel that all was right in the world.
The slopes were graced with a lovely coat of fresh white powder. Whoops of joy drifted out of the woods, and from the trails hidden from sight behind the trees. Beautiful, arcing curves laced their way down the face of the slopes.
As the wind laid down, it was cold, but spectacular. It was one of those winter days that, despite the cold, you just had to feel happy. It was impossible to not be at peace. You just had to smile. Brightly. It was impossible not to breath deep of the cold, sparkling air. And smile. Again.
A Lonely Mountain
So, the weather predicted was a far cry from the weather received. And equally as wrong, was the expectation of mobs of “powder-hounds,” thick as black flies in spring. See the image below. It was taken about 11:15 AM at the main base lodge at Stratton. Do you even see a person?
Obviously there were people on the mountain. But it was incredible how so very few there were. On one trip up the Ursa lift to the summit, there was not one person at the lift to get on but me, and I could see maybe a half dozen people on the lift up in front of me. Even the gondola had no line. Just a small cluster of people waiting to board the next car on the line.
I guess folks took to heart the weather predictions. They stayed in bed. Had breakfast. Maybe even went to work, heaven forbid. Doubts crept into my head the evening prior. I kept wondering if it would be worth the drive time to get there and be froze half to death, with the other half getting blown off the summit.
On my way home I stopped by to see Greg at Meulemans’ Craft Draughts in Rawsonville, a couple miles south of the Stratton access road on VT 30—a “must stop at” place if you are into craft beer, cider, or Vermont cheeses and wine. Greg confirmed that the locals “stayed in.” He and his wife Pat were out skiing in the morning and noticed that most of the “regulars” were nowhere to be found.
Needless to say, it was a great day at Stratton. Spectacular actually. The hills up north have been refreshed with a nice blanket of snow. All that carved up powder will be recycled into groomers for days to come. And conditions will stay good right into the weekend. The “polar vortex” is going somewhere else, so temps will moderate, making things a bit more tolerable.
Might not be a bad weekend to head north to ski and ride. Consider the Avie’s Ski / Sports trip running to Mount Snow on Sunday. But don’t delay. Sign up by end of today to ensure a seat.
Breath deep. Smile. Get out and enjoy the snow.