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December 13, 2007

The Powder Hour

When your first run of the day is at 3 p.m., you can't expect much in the way of first tracks. But on Wednesday at Smugglers' Notch, my expectations were pleasantly shattered after a quick-hitting storm left between 2 and 4 inches on the mountain.

It was a horrendously late start to a powder day, I admit. But some things are out of a snow lover's control. I took a seat on the Sterling Lift with 60 minutes until closing time and hoped for the best. If I was plucky, I figured, I'd be able to find some leftovers in the woods and along the sides of the trails.

As I ascended Sterling Mountain, I was blown away at what I saw. Directly under the lift, on a run called Exhibition — for obvious reasons — were long, wide swaths of powder between sparse ski and snowboard tracks. And there were very few people around at that late hour to take advantage.

If this is the case on Exhibition, the most visible and direct vein down Sterling Mountain, all the quick shots, alleys and glades that make Smuggs lovable must be prime right now, I thought.

Almost all of Smugglers' upper mountains are open right now, and with more on the way (there is some serious buzz building about the weekend), everything is skiing phenomenally.

A brief period of rain and sleet mixed in during Wednesday's storm, but, strangely, it seemed to improve things. Instead of 2 to 4 inches of blow-away fluff, the snow was grippier with that little mix of wetness, like there was more substance to it. You really had something to push against when you got on edge, which made for some high-speed controlled chaos.

There were wind-scoured sections atop Madonna Mountain for sure, and other variability on the groomed trails. But in just one hour of skiing, Smugglers fully satisfied.

Just minutes before 4 p.m. I managed to squeak onto last chair. It being mid-December, I quickly realized I'd be skiing into the night. It was an eerie scene atop Madonna when I unloaded at 15 past the hour. Light snow continued to fall and fog enveloped the peak as darkness settled in. Only me and the lift operator were left up there - and he was packing up for the trip down. We shared a glance and both headed for the safety of lower elevations.

By the time I returned to the parking lot changed and ready for the drive home, nightfall was upon us. Until the solstice, when winter officially begins and daylight begins to expand, any late-day riding will end this way.

The icing on the cake Wednesday was a hanging crescent moon that came into view as I headed west on Route 15 back toward Burlington. It rose over a hint of light from the already set sun - one of those moons that takes on a two-tone glow as the dark side is still visible next to the bright crescent.

With conditions already an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, I'm downright giddy at the possibilities for later in the week. Snow has picked up as I type this Thursday night, and I'm sure I don't have to tell you about the possibilities for the weekend nor'easter. No one is confident on a storm track yet but there's a ton of moisture associated with the storm.

And the word is getting around. I have Boston-area friends who haven't skied in 10 years calling me about the conditions; people in Colorado are congratulating me for the timing of my move back East; even my father, who gave up skiing when I graduated from high school, is openly wondering what shaped skis could do for his technique.

I'm not sure when we can officially start applying the word Epic to this December of 2007. But I know this: If a gigantic nor'easter gives us a dumping measured in feet by Monday, we'll be getting darn close.

OK, a little weekend preview for a Friday. I know THE STORM kinda hangs over everything, but here's a brief list of goings on.

At Okemo, Sunday is demo day - Hopefully they'll have a lot of fat powder boards to try (hopefully you'll need them).

At Mount Snow, Sunday is "pay your age" days. Kids under 18 years old pay their age for a lift ticket. That's a steal.

A Smuggs, it's Cambridge Day on Saturday. Free tickets, rentals and group lessons for residents of Jeffersonville and Cambridge. A nice locals' appreciation kind of thing.

Enjoy and stay nimble with the forecast.

December 13, 2007 at 07:38 PM | Permalink


I have a fever, and the cure is more Snowbloggan!!

Posted by: Jeff | Dec 14, 2007 2:44:58 PM

Oh that's cute

Posted by: J Starr | Dec 14, 2007 3:18:40 PM

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