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?
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.
The group from Avie’s Ski / Sports had a blast at Stratton on the January 13th trip north. Conditions were phenomenal. Temperatures stayed in the high teens, but without a breath of wind. Great temps for skiing and riding.
And the sky. Such a beautiful sky. Not a cloud to be seen anywhere. The only thing resembling a cloud were the snow-capped peaks of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire off in the distance to the east.
Ok, great weather. How were conditions?
Incredibly good. Most of the mountain was open, and most open trails were groomed. With no wind, the snow stayed on the trails. The only spot that got a bit nasty in the afternoon was Janeway Junction. Too much traffic always seems to make that spot get scraped to glacier status. But if you avoided that, the rest of the slopes were firm, fast, and snow covered.
The new lift in the Snow Bowl area of the resort is a fantastic addition. The trip back to the summit from the bottom of World Cup now takes about 5 minutes rather than the 15 or so minutes with the previous lift. Better still, few seemed to know it was there because there was never a line. So, you could avoid the long, slow runout back to the base area with a short hop back to the summit. Very nice addition.
Was it crowded?
Even more surprising were the crowds. Or lack thereof. Yes, it was busy, but the longest wait I had was at the Sunrise Express lift out of the Sun Bowl, where it took about 5 minutes to get on the lift. So there were fewer people on the trails than what I think of as “normal” for a Sunday.
And once the Patriot’s game started, the trails got even more lonely. For those that decided to forgo at least the start of the game, the skiing and riding throughout the afternoon was spectacular.
Starting to get the idea it was a great day? It was. Personally, I thought the snow in the Sun Bowl area was the best, and my favorite trails for the day were Sunrise Super Trail, skiers left as you get off the Sunrise Express chair, and Lower Downeaster, skiers right coming off the chair.
Right at the end of the day, the Sunrise Express lift in the Sun Bowl experienced problems and was shut down for repairs. Fortunately they got everyone off before shutting it down. This left the Solstice lift running, which I hadn’t been on before. It is a sloooooooow lift, but when it’s the only lift, you take it. Fortunately I took it only once, for my last run of the day. I took Big Ben, a novice trail right off the Solstice lift, back to the Sun Bowl lodge. It’s a scenic, winding trail through the woods, experiencing a gentle grade. It pops out of the woods at the top of a big, broad slope leading past the tubing hill.
The sun had been on the slope earlier in the day, which was now in the shadows as the sun was setting. I tipped over the top of the long wide slope, quickly finding out that the sun must have slightly thawed the surface, which then froze over as the sun dipped behind the mountain. For a novice trail, I had a fast ride down the slope back to the lodge. Big carves across the face of the trail, all the way to the bottom, was a fantastic way to end the day.
I was tempted to jump on the lift for one more spin down Big Ben, but opted not. My quads were screaming from a fun afternoon of torture. I decided to let it end on a high note. My quads were very grateful for that decision.
The bus ride back to Westerly was particularly quiet. Everyone was what I call “blissfully exhausted” from a fun day on the snow.
Mount Snow on tap
This coming Sunday, the 20th of January, the Avie’s Ski / Sports trip heads back to Vermont to visit the slopes at Mount Snow. Same great price of $99.95. Be sure to sign up by early afternoon on Thursday the 17th to help ensure that the trip will run.
Sure, you can still sign up for the trip after Thursday. But you run a risk of two very bad things happening. First—too many people waited until after Thursday afternoon to sign up, and the trip was cancelled because we thought there wasn’t enough interest. Second—too many people did sign up before Thursday afternoon and there are no seats left on the bus. In the first case, everyone loses. In the second, there is a big number of winners, and one loser.
Don’t be a loser. Sign up before Thursday afternoon
Following Mount Snow Avie’s heads to Loon in New Hampshire on the 27th. On January 30th, a Wednesday, Avie’s Ski / Sports has the first mid-week trip of the season, heading to Okemo. I urge you to be on that bus. Mid-week skiing and riding cannot be beat. Sign up for this trip early so that we know there is enough interest.
Vermont and New Hampshire are getting whacked with a nice blanket of that fluffy white stuff we call snow. This weekend—Sunday specifically—you can be at Stratton on January 13th.
The 5 to 7-inches of snow, maybe more locally on the mountain, will freshen things up quite nicely for our skiing and riding pleasures. Stratton is a fun mountain, with a variety of terrain for all ages and abilities. A brand new lift over in the Snow Bowl will give another opportunity to get to the summit without returning to the base village.
The best part of the trip, sponsored by Avie’s Ski / Sports in Westerly, Rhode Island, is the price.
$99.95 per person
That price includes a ride to and from Stratton, on a comfy coach bus. Get on the bus in the morning and relax for a few hours as someone else does the driving. Get to Stratton and ski and ride all day long. Get on the bus at the end of the day, exhausted from so much fun, and let someone else do the driving.
The price includes your lift ticket cost. If you were to drive all the way to Stratton on your own, then go to the ticket window and get your lift pass, you would experience at least three unpleasant things. First, you would have driven all that way to Stratton early in the morning instead of relaxing with friends and family. Second, you would pay MORE for the lift ticket than for the entire Avie’s Ski / Sports cost of the trip. Third, at the end of the day, tired and crabby from paying full price for a lift ticket, you have to drive all the way back home.
So, don’t go on the Avie’s Ski / Sports bus trip this Sunday, January 13th, to Stratton. Then you get the pleasure of driving 6 hours AND paying MORE for your lift ticket than if you joined the folks leaving from Avie’s. That sounds like a great deal for YOU.
But not for me. I will be on that bus leaving Avie’s Ski / Sports and headed to Stratton.
Decision to confirm the bus and driver for the trip to Stratton must be made by mid-afternoon Thursday.
That’s tomorrow.Tomorrow afternoon. If you want to go on this trip, you need to have your reservations in place before mid-afternoon tomorrow. If too few are signed up to go, then the trip gets canceled. That would be a sad thing. Sad indeed.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday morning at Avie’s Ski / Sports. Stratton awaits us!!
Mount Snow was offering $17 lift tickets today, Friday the 17th of March. So I went to Vermont to go skiing. I went to Stratton. I figured it would be less busy. I was right. And Stratton let skiers and riders start having fun on the slopes at 8AM instead of 9AM. I made a good choice.
But will YOU make a good choice? What choice you ask? The choice of whether or not to go on the Avie’s bus trip this Sunday, March 19th, to Okemo.
I tell folks “the best decision is an informed decision.” So I am going to give you some informing.
Stratton had almost all of their trails open. And the condition of all of them was fantastic, whether they were groomed or not. They even had a few trails open that hadn’t been open at all this year because they don’t make snow on those trails. The cover was a bit sparse in places, but they were totally skiable. Because of that, I got to ski 2 trails I have never been on before, and one I forgot existed because it hasn’t been open in 2 years. My favorite was Standard, the one running down the gondola lift line. Steep enough to get up enough speed to kick up massive sprays of snow from top to bottom. So fun.
Everything was wall-to-wall packed powder. Because of that the snow was a little slower than usual, but it was nice seeing everyone going down slope with big banners and swooshes of powder being kicked up all over the place. First thing in the morning, when the sun was just peaking up over the tops of some of the slopes, the sky all pink and orange hued, the view of skiers and riders kicking backlit snow plumes into the air was just beautiful to behold. That in itself was worth the drive.
Okemo is just next door to Stratton. They got the same approximate 2 feet of snow. And almost all their trails are open. And they too are wall-to-wall packed powder. Temperatures are staying cool so the snow is going nowhere except back on the slopes each night when the groomers are out doing their grooming thing.
I hear there are precious few seats left on the Okemo trip, so don’t hem and haw over your decision. You got the goods. Make that decision. It should be an easy one. If I see you Sunday morning on the trip to Okemo, you made the right decision. And you won’t regret it.
I had the pleasure of spending Tuesday and Wednesday up at Stratton doing some skiing. It was the annual “Demo Days” dealer event where we get to visit ski and snowboard dealers, see what’s new for the upcoming season. i agree it is a very trying and difficult job, but someone has to do it. I don’t mind taking a shot “for the team” every once in a while. …more
While many Tuesday morning were breathlessly waiting to see if a woodchuck would see it’s shadow, a few Avie’s staff were up at Stratton taking part in an “On Snow Demo.” This event allows ski and snowboard retailers an opportunity to test new and existing gear to see how it handles. Sometimes it’s an all new model, and sometimes a tweak of an existing model. Either way, it’s an awful lot of fun, but it really is work. The purpose of that work is of course to be able to help Avie’s Ski / Sport customers select the gear best suited to their needs and desires. And it sure is a lot easier to do that if we’ve had a chance to try the gear out first-hand. …more
I went up to Stratton today to see how things have been shaping up snow-wise. I found a mixed bag. But before jumping in, let me say that the folks at Stratton made great use of the recent cold. Given they’ve had too much warmth and too little snow, the results are impressive. …more