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.
I was at Stratton taking another lap down Lower Downeaster, the trail you see pictured above. My feet were tucked into a pair of Dalbello DS 110 boots. Those boots were clicked into a pair of Volkl Kanjo skis. And I was loving life.
Towards the end of last ski season I found myself struggling a bit, and having too many days coming off the slopes feeling defeated. Or at least confused about why things weren’t clicking like they always used to. Skis didn’t respond like usual. Or worse, they seemed to have a mind of their own, wanting to go somewhere other than I wanted.
This season started off the same. I knew the reason. I just didn’t want to face it.
As I cruised into my mid-60s, I knew that I wasn’t as strong as I was a decade or so earlier, and what strength there was ran out quicker. And it took longer to recover that spent strength. Sure, I could ski in my Dalbello DS 130 boots atop the Blizzard Quattro RS skis, and ski really well. But after a couple hours of euphoria on that pairing, things degenerated. Rapidly.
Skiing is my winter release. The snow covered slopes are where I bleed off stress, forget the rest of the world and its associated problems, declutter my mind, and simply relax. To the max.
I needed to find a new set up that wouldn’t sap strength quite as quickly and would let me stay in that “happy zone” for as long as I wanted or needed. So as this season progressed I skied various demo skis Ted has available at Avie’s Ski / Sports. I really liked the Nordica Dobermann Spitfire 76, as well as Blizzard Brahma 82, and Volkl Kanjo.
The Spitfire 76 skis were great carving skis, and they were a blast on the groomers. But they were a bit heavy, and stiffer than what I felt I was looking for. And maybe a bit too skinny. If I went that direction, why not just keep the Quattro RS skis?
The Brahma 82 skis were great all over the mountain, but again were a bit heavier and stiffer than desired. What I was gravitating towards, it seemed, was something lighter and livelier.
Kanjo was great all over the mountain, had a lot of pop, and were incredibly light. They seemed for me to be the most fun of the three. But were they really the ski I was seeking? I thought they very well might be.
So, I bought a pair. I pondered bindings, and Ted suggested Marker Squire (instead of Griffon) to keep things really light. I also picked up a pair of Dalbello DS 110 boots.
I sharpened the skis so they would cut into a firm, hard-pack surface, and waxed and buffed them to a perfect high gloss shine. Then I took the new set up to Stratton to give them my undivided attention for the entire day.
Like I noted earlier, I was loving life. I skied until late morning without feeling fatigued and beat up. I took a short break to hydrate and refuel. Then went back out for another couple hours of fun with my new best friends.
I will miss the exhilaration of tipping down a steep slope with feet in super stiff boots clicked into race-worthy skis. That outfit is now in the hands of a younger man who will put them to good use in actual race conditions. So I feel good knowing those great skis and boots will continue to do what they do so well.
I admit, I am starting to feel my age. But that doesn’t mean giving up something as fun as skiing. It just means I need a new way forward that adjusts better to a new, aging, and changing me.
If fact, out on the slopes in my new set up I feel like a kid again, discovering the magic of sliding downhill over snow in the cold mountains on a pair of sticks with an enormous smile plastered on my face.
The new ski gear available today is simply magic. Boots are incredibly light, and with GripWalk, easy to walk in. Skis are available in so many configurations that it is truly impossible not to be able to find a pair of skis that make you feel like it’s the first time out all over again. Except this “first time” you will actually spend time skiing instead of falling!
And there are many options for trying before buying. Demo skis are there for the trying. Talk to shop employees who have skied the skis—like those at Avie’s—and let them help you find your new best friends.
Same for ski boots. New boots are so light, so warm, and so easy to get in and out of, that you will wonder why you didn’t upgrade sooner. No matter the size of your foot, there is a ski boot width and stiffness combination that will put and keep that smile on your face.
A Word About Volk Kanjo
For me, Volkl Kanjo paired with Dalbello DS 110 was the answer. For you it may be some other ski, some other boot. Regardless your age, if you are looking for a really lightweight, lively ski that holds turns wonderfully, carves as well as they do short quick turns, Kanjo is a pretty darn good choice.
I skied Kanjo on big, wide, groomed trails, as well as on narrower, windier trails. These skis carved incredibly well on the big groomers. They also made short carves on narrow trails, as well as jumped side-to-side quickly and effortlessly.
I even took them over a couple of ungroomed trails to see how they would handle more lumpy, crusty, crummy conditions. They didn’t chatter or slip. They sliced their way through the crusty crud, loving every moment. And so did I.
Though I haven’t taken them there just yet, I think Kanjo will play nicely in both the bumps and in the woods. These are a lively set of sticks that perform well beyond their price point. There is a demo pair at Avie’s if you are considering getting a new pair of skis.
A Word About Dalbello DS 110
The new Dalbello DS line of boots are phenomenal. For a 4-buckle overlap boot, feet go in and out about as simply and easily as can be imagined. Not like a pair of slippers—lets’ be serious! But wicked easy.
The change from a 130 to a 110 stiffness boot was not as traumatic as anticipated. The response from the ski is not as forceful or immediate, but I still was able to drive a ski—even stiff skis like Nordica Enforcer—without much problem (other than taking more effort, as is normal regardless the boot stiffness).
Bottom line? No matter age, ability, or desire, there is a match up of boots and skis that will be your soul mate. All you need to do is explore some, and find them.
I decided to make a run up to Stratton this morning. I’m glad I did. It was Strattonspheric. That means it was other-worldly good. Outta-this-world good.
Look at the picture, taken from the summit near the top of the new Snow Bowl lift. I think that’s proof enough that my decision was a good one. A really good one.
That’s Bromely Ski area center right. Way off in the distance, not really noticeable in the image here on the webpage, unfortunately, you could see the snow-capped twin summits of Camel’s Hump. Stowe off behind that—I think. That’s how crystal clear a day it was.
Okay, so you give me a high-five for a great day of sightseeing in Vermont. What you really want to know is — How was the skiing?
It was phenomenal. Stratospheric even. Despite it being clear and sunny, it was cold. In the teens at the summit and mid-twenties at the base. And it stayed cold. With a breeze that wasn’t quite a wind. The snow stayed firm-and-fast on the upper mountain, with lower mountain trails softening up just a bit. Not so much as to be sloppy or “grabby.” Just nicely soft.
The snow they received over this past weekend gave the mountain operations folks a chance to make a major “reset” on the trails. The St. Patrick’s Day Avie’s bus trip to Okemo experienced “groomed variable surfaces,” which translates to “chopped ice.” Not that those conditions were bad, they were actually quite good. But the snow today at Stratton was delicious, good old packed-powder. It was spectacular.
Grizzy—a Double-Diamond to the left off the Ursa lift, was fully groomed top-to-bottom. First time I had seen it groomed this season. It was spectacularly fun. Multiple times. As was Polar Bear, Black Bear, Tamarack, Standard, Spruce, Drifter, Sunrise Supertrail, and Down’easter. To name a few.
Time to Act Is NOW!
Bottom line is that conditions are incredibly good right now to the north in ski country. Take advantage of it. Read this, then call in sick for tomorrow. Go skiing or riding. It will be worth the effort. You won’t regret a moment.
Some warmth creeps in towards the end of the week, which will make for some good spring skiing and riding, for sure. But if you like your snow-covered slopes to be firm-and-fast, go tomorrow. Leave tonight if you can so you can’t change your mind.
Yes, the ski and ride season is winding down. Resorts will be reducing access day-by-day, and trail counts will dwindle. All the more reason to get out there one more time. Or two. Maybe three?
Right now there are several pair of Blizzard Firebird Race Ti skis at Avie’s Ski / Sports. A lot of folks, myself included, don’t really think about getting race skis. If you don’t race, why bother thinking about getting a pair of race skis? I sure wouldn’t. But I did.
Here’s my race ski story
I have a pair of great carving skis—Volkl RTM 84—that are my “go to” sticks. They are great all over the mountain. But at 84 mm in the waist, I admit they are a bit tiring on busy days when lots and lots of sharp, tight turns are being made. In other words, they are a bit of pain on those slope-side days when it’s more like people dodging than skiing. Namely, weekends.
I have a pair of lighter, wood core skis—Nordica NRGy 90—that are pretty good on a powder day and great on the slopes when the corduroy is soft. But they aren’t so good on hard pack and because they are wider still, even more tiring on a busy day of people dodging.
So last year I was thinking about a new pair of skis. I wanted something a bit shorter in length and definitely narrower at the waist. I wanted something that would be good on the hard pack. They had to be able to make lots of sharp, fast turns. They had to be good at people dodging.
From Carver to Racer
I knew that meant carving skis. Shorter and narrower however than the Volkl RTM skis. I had skied a pair of Blizzard Quattro 8.4 Ti skis a couple of times, and was quite impressed and liked them a lot. So I was prepared to pick up a pair. Maybe 174 cm or so in length, and maybe 76 mm or 78 mm at the waist.
So I dropped into Avie’s Ski / Sports and told Ted about the new skis I was interested in getting. His response was, “Get a pair of race skis.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Full camber for more fun,” was the reply. “And they’re race skis.”
I just wanted something fun and easy to ski on busy days. I thought that race skis would be total overkill for what I wanted. I really had no intention of racing. I was skeptical.
But Ted has never really given me bad advice. At least so far as ski gear is concerned. So I considered what he suggested. But I still thought it was overkill to be on a pair of race skis simply for dodging people.
After some further thinking, I decided, what the heck. If I really didn’t like the race skis, I could sell them and go with my original idea for the Blizzard Quattro short and narrow option. So a pair of Blizzard Quattro RS skis were ordered—174 mm in length, 69 mm in the waist.
Smile A Mile
The skis arrived. I waxed them up nice and slick and headed to Okemo to give them a try. When I saw Ted the next day, he asked “How were they?” “Okay,” was my response.
Yeah, my first time out on the race skis was not the best. I had picked up some kind of bug and probably shouldn’t have gone skiing. But I did. Needless to say I got the kind of day on the slopes I deserved for being so stupid.
So I took the skinny little Quattro RS skis back to Okemo the following week when I was healed and hale. At the end of the day my face hurt. From smiling such a big smile. A smile as wide as a mile. For so many hours on end.
Skis On Steroids
The thing about skis designed to race, is that they’re designed to race. That means they perform in ways unbeknownst to normal mortal skis. They truly are skis on steroids.
For starters, the bindings are designed differently. They are beefier and shock absorbing. Yeah, spring-loaded to completely dampen out vibrations. That means little to no chatter. That means superb grip all the way through the turns. No matter how tight or how fast.
The ski itself has carbon fiber layers from tip-to-tail. Laid down bi-directionally so that the ski has lots of liveliness. And the skis handle the transmission of power from boot-to-ski instantaneously. What all that means is they are fast into and out of the turns. They bite deep and hold fast.
In true race ski styling, the Quattro RS is a full camber ski. No rocker in this pair of sticks.
It took one run to figure them out. And only one run. My short description is—Light and lively. Powerful and performing. Graceful and gratifying.
What it’s like to own race skis
It had a been a while since I had been on a pair of full camber skis. Rocker has been all the craze and I had forgotten how responsive full camber skis are in the turns. And with such a narrow ski, I honestly could not believe how fast they went into and out of turns. With the race-designed bindings, coupled with the carbon fiber inlays, there was no hint of chatter at the tips, and no slipping in the turns. None.
But a word of warning. They really don’t like to go slow. They turn at slow speeds, obviously. But they feel sluggish and weird. Not very responsive is an adequate descriptor. Dormant also does it. Once you get a bit of speed under them though, their mood changes completely. You need to be ready to let them run, and you need to have the ability as a skier to put them on edge.
With the Quattro RS skis connected to my ski boots, it didn’t matter where I went on the mountain. I do admit however, that they were most fun on the steeper slopes. At Okemo, Chief offered a really fun run. So I skied it run after run after run. On another day I skied every black diamond at Okemo—except mogul runs. The Quattro RS skis were pure joy on every single run.
The biggest difference I can state about skiing on race skis is this—Confidence. I love my Volkl RTMs. They are great skis. But there are times when I need to put on the brakes because I know they will slip in a turn. With the Quattro RS skis, once I had used them a couple times and knew how they responded underfoot, I never even considered that they would slip in a turn. And they didn’t.
I can honestly say that 2017 was the most fun I have had skiing in a while. The Blizzard Quattro RS skis made that happen. The feeling of standing at the top of a steep slope looking down over the ski tips, knowing that I could—and would—go down with grace and ease at high speed, was exhilarating.
Because the skis were fast and nimble, and because I didn’t have to fight them through turns, I didn’t get nearly as tired. So I could ski harder for longer periods of time. Which is a pretty good trade-off in my ledger book.
A Whole New View On People Dodging
I never did take out the Quattro RS skis on a weekend. Which is funny because that’s why I was in the market for a new pair of skis. I wanted something “turny” for those crowded weekend-day trips to the slopes. And I found that in the Blizzard Quattro RS skis. But I found myself driving up weekdays—skiing the day then driving home—so I could point them down slope and carve my way to the bottom. Unimpeded.
So I don’t really know how they are at people dodging. My guess though, is they will be pretty awesome. I am however, already thinking about mid-week trips where they get a chance at unbridled freedom on the slopes. They honestly are that much fun.
If you are in the market for a new pair of skis, and you love carving up the slopes, give race skis a bit of thought. Several pair of Blizzard Firebird Race Ti skis are hanging around Avie’s Ski / Sports waiting to introduce someone to a whole lot of fun.
Try Before You Buy
If you’re not sure about having a pair of super skinny sticks underfoot, you can grab a pair of Firebird “demo skis” at Avie’s and try them out. If, after a trial run with them, you love ’em—and you likely will—you can deduct the rental fee from the cost of the ski. That’s a pretty sweet deal.
I admit I never really gave race skis much thought. It was a mistake on my part, and I’m glad Ted pointed me in a good direction. So I am passing that tip along in hopes you might take heed and give race skis some thought. Better yet, just take them out on the slopes and let them help you decide.
There are lots of great skis at Avie’s Ski / Sports right now. Blizzard Firebird Race Ti is just one of many. If you are thinking about new skis or ski boots this season, check out the new “Skier Need To Know—Skis” and “Skier Need To Know—Boots” pages. These new Avie’s resources will help you think about what might be the BEST ski or ski boot for you.
Ski resort changes are rampant for the upcoming season. And at least from what I can see, all of them good. Some of them fantastic. Here we give you a quick rundown of what changes we see coming up at the ski resorts that Avie’s Ski / Sports visits on ski and ride trips.
Killington has some exciting changes for this season. New for this year is a high speed bubble chair at Snowdon Mountain. Tunnels have been constructed along Great Northern so that skiers and riders on that trail go subterranean. Now folks coming down those very fun blue square trails at Snowdon can proceed downhill without worry of dodging crossing skiers and riders on Great Northern. That’s really nice.
Killington this year follows suit and will be using RFID lift ticketing. Many ski resorts have converted to the use of RFID ticketing. Personally, I love the RFID system. It is quick and easy. No liftie chasing after you to scan your pass. No standing around when the pass won’t scan until the 14th try. Some may miss the giant, bristling wad of lift tickets and wire wickets hanging off their jacket zipper. I won’t be one of them.
Killington has also installed a new lift in the South Ridge area. The new lift will bring skiers and riders to a point near Killington Peak where they can access the resort in most any direction. This will really help with traffic flow and allow much better access across the resort.
This year will be a very exciting year for skiers & riders.
Okemo has been purchased by Vail Resorts, Inc. Mount Sunapee in New Hampshire and Crested Butte in Colorado were also a part of that deal. No details or hints of change have been released at this point, though there are rumors of a bubble quad on the South Face in the near future. Given the sale just happened at end of September, we may not see any massive change for the upcoming season.
Mount Snow has a new lodge that will be open this season at the Carinthia area of the resort. New snow making guns will be firing up to blanket the area with snow made from a huge new water retention project that will improve snow making considerably. The one other tidbit for Mount Snow is that some portions of the Long John Trail, a beginners trail, are being significantly widened to improve skier and rider flow.
Stratton, keeping with the trends, has been purchased by Alterra Mountain Company, which owns 12 ski resorts. Stratton is their only New England holding. With this is coming a new high speed lift to the Snow Bowl area. This will be a great addition, reducing a 15 minute ride back to the top to only 4 minutes. Pretty sweet.
Loon has replaced their gondola cabins with new ones. No other changes on the mountain that I could find.
Resort changes are just the tip of the iceberg.
All these resort updates will bring some nice changes to our skiing and riding experiences this season. For sure. But that really is just a small part of what is really exciting for the 2018 – 2019 ski and ride season. Especially for skiers.
Skis are trending towards improved on piste performance and better carving on the groomers.
Based on race boot designs, ski boots are trending towards improved performance and fit.
Follow the Avie’s Ski / Sports blog so you don’t miss out as we report on what’s new. And there is lots. I will be posting something new every week. Hopefully this will help get you as excited for the new ski and ride season as I am. And that’s lots!
Wow! What a storm that was! Ok, wasn’t really, but that’s Ok. We had less to shovel, and less ice to slip on this morning. It’s all good. Except all that promised snow didn’t happen. Such a bummer.
Until you look north, where it’s still snowing this morning. Take a look at the leading image to this post, looking up Mountain Road at Okemo, and see below for a peek up Lower Chief, taken from one of their mountain cams about 7:30AM today. Almost 2 feet of snow in total. Looks mighty tasty from my seat at the keyboard. Wish I was there.
Wait a minute, I can be there! This Sunday! All I have to do is get to Avie’s and sign up for the bus trip going to Okemo this Sunday. And it’s the Customer Appreciation Trip when Ted gives away all sorts of interesting, fun, and useful ski and ride bling. I better get there quick and sign up before the bus fills.
Wait a minute, I work there and will be going regardless. YOU better get there and sign up before the bus fills and YOU get left behind, chipping ice off your sidewalk instead of playing in one of the best snowfalls this season.
And if it isn’t already tempting enough—though being on a trip with Ted and the rest of the shop employees should be enough—Okemo has another 3 to 6-inches of snow on tap for delivery Saturday. Ted special ordered the extra snow just for this trip, just so you know.
You don’t have to dig out, because there’s nothing to dig out of down here. So just get down to Avie’s today and get on the list of soon to be very happy skiers and riders taking advantage of not only great conditions, but a great deal getting there.
See you Sunday morning. I want to see the giant smile on your face at the end of the day Sunday. You will be sure to see mine.
I just got back from a trip into the northern realms of Vermont for a bit of skiing. While riding the lifts and enjoying the tug of gravity on the way back down, a few things gelled in my mind that I would like to pass along for you to contemplate.
First, it seems that the ski areas in lower Vermont, meaning Killington and south, actually have a bigger base than up north. Or maybe it’s just a different kind of base. But my observations suggest that there is more skiable snow on the trails in lower Vermont.
It’s tough for some of us to think about skiing or riding when the temperature in Westerly is creeping near the 70ºF mark. In February. And there isn’t a speck of snow left on the ground. In fact, daffodils and a few other early bloomers are poking greenery up through the not frozen ground. Many are thinking spring is sprung and skiing and riding is done for another season. But the ospreys aren’t back just yet, and for me that’s the true marker of the start of spring.
I got to spend a couple days on the slopes in Vermont with my daughter Allison and her boyfriend Rob. We hit Killington and then Okemo. I thought I would share a few thoughts, especially for those thinking the season is over. It’s not. …more
Forty skiers and riders, including my niece Kayla, made the journey to Okemo Ski Resort in Ludlow, Vermont yesterday to enjoy the snow. Yes, it was a busy day on the mountain with President’s Day weekend in full swing. But the condition of the trails made the hustle and bustle fade rapidly. …more