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January 31, 2008

Rain, Sleet, Snow, oh my

I couldn’t find anyone who braved Wednesday’s precipitation pu-pu platter to make it to the mountains, so I lack even second-hand knowledge of how the snow held up through the sleet, wind, rain and, yes, even snow.

Actually, many of the state’s chairlifts were shut down during the storm, so skiing and riding wasn’t even an option for most Vermonters on Wednesday (unless you were hiking the backcountry, and if you were, please tell me about it. That’s a story people need to hear). As such, snow surfaces will remain a mystery until this morning.

Frankly, I’m not optimistic, although this picture from Smugglers' Notch taken Wednesday does provide a beam of hope.


Apparently it started hammering in the hills about 2 p.m.; the ski areas were reporting 2 to 4 inches by the afternoon. But because the rest of the precipitation gamut was part of the package, they were a pyrrhic few inches.

Jay Peak’s snow report went “variable, frozen granular, icy.” Gotta love the honesty. The Tram, Flyer, Jet triple and Bonaventure Quad were all on wind hold.

Stowe closed down all lifts around noon because of lightning, of all things to strike in January. The Gondola and Sensation Quad remained closed the rest of the day.

Sugarbush shut everything down around noon.

But there’s good news on the horizon. A winter storm watch has been posted for southern Vermont, and a storm scheduled to arrive late Thursday night should hit all mountain areas with some form of frozen precipitation.

It will be more of this changing to that then back to this, but when all is said and done, Saturday could be a legitimate powder fest.

January 31, 2008 at 12:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 30, 2008

Carving Lives

Ever wonder what happened to carving snowboards? They were a big part of the sport in the early 90s — then halfpipes, misty flips and the X Games happened and carving went underground.

Over in Europe, they never gave up on the genre. Instead they pushed it to the extreme — thus, Extreme Carving. (You know … it feels good to use the word extreme again. Now that it’s finally fallen out of favor with the likes of Mountain Dew’s and Taco Bell’s marketing departments, maybe we can reclaim it as the most accurate description of limit-pushing skiing and riding.)

It’s funny how differently Europeans approach some things. They’ve even kept monoskiing alive. And in the video below, they show off how far carving snowboarding has come — all while we were obsessed with the terrain park.

January 30, 2008 at 12:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

January 28, 2008

Saturday at Jay

It’s amazing to me what people will do to get their turns in. Jay Peak on Saturday was packed full of people from Canada, New England and New York who had all driven to that remote part of the Northeast Kingdom to take advantage of a fresh eight inches and a sunny, windless day.

With the Flyer lift down (for unknown reasons), lift lines ranged from 20 to 30 minutes. But no one seemed to mind. Views from the top stretched as far as they ever do and happiness seemed to abound.

We ran into friends of friends who woke at their Boston area homes about 4:30 a.m., hit the road at 5 and got to Jay shortly after the lifts opened. At dusk, after a hard-charging day in the glades and backcountry stashes, they loaded up for another four-plus hour ride back home.

That’s almost nine hours in a car for about six hours of skiing and riding. And there was little doubt they were going to make the trip, not after a week of snow squalls deposited more than 30 inches on Jay Peak.

This, to me, is the best indicator that downhill snow sports offer a special kind of thrill/feeling/buzz. There seems to be no limit to the lengths people will go to get a shot of it.

Here are a couple images from the weekend, courtesy of Jay and Sugarbush.

Waist deep available in bounds a full two days after the snow squalls quit.

AND ...

A Classic “Oh Crap!” moment from the races at Sugarbush.

January 28, 2008 at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 25, 2008

The Urban Skier

It's hard sometimes being a city dweller.  You do your best to keep tabs on mountain weather and snow conditions, you read the high peaks forecast and take updates from friends at higher elevations, you try to determine when your hectic urban schedule will allow for a few hours on the hill and you do your best to time those hours with passing snow squalls.

Your entire week becomes a puzzle of appointments, office sessions, household commitments and blocks of free time you try to turn into ski time if everything would only fall into place just right.

Some days you pass on the 90-minute round-trip to the mountains even though you might have the time because the snow's too hard or it's single-digit cold or maybe the wind is ripping and the light is flat. Other days you're running around the greater metro area in a frenzy of obligations and the sun's out and there's new snow on the ground and you just can't shake that need to gather downhill speed, angle your body toward the ground and feel centrifugal force build and subside in rhythm.

It's timing, it's planning, it's the whims of Mother Nature that determine the quantity and quality of your ski experiences when you're tied to the urban landscape.

Vermont's mountains were in various streams of snow squall activity this week and inch totals varied widely from spot to spot. Jay Peak reported 16 inches since Wednesday; Burke reported 1. Mad River reported 3 to 6; Smuggler's reported 12.

And this snow went relatively unforecasted. There was talk of snow showers but nothing approaching a foot. It wasn't until I strolled into work Thursday and checked some snow reports that I realized what was going on. You certainly wouldn't know it from the half-inch on my front porch near Burlington.


Stowe's web page screamed "Powder Alert." On Jay's site they were exalting The Jay Cloud, posting pictures like the one to the right and asking "Why aren't you here?"

Thing is, the people checking web sites Thursday were most likely the ones with all sorts of work-related reasons why they weren't on the mountain. And do you know how hard it is to turn a work day into a ski day on such short notice? It's nearly impossible. The puzzle pieces just don't move that way.

The moral to the story of the way powder snuck up on us this week is probably that there are a lot of things you can't control. Or maybe it's that the whole idea of control is an illusion that stunts enlightenment and breeds frustration.

Then again, the moral might be simpler than that. Maybe it's better to have fewer things to control in your life — a lesson of simplification, which invariably leads one out of the city and into the hills, where there's currently more than a foot of fresh snow in some spots and the chance to feel that centrifugal force building and subsiding with each turn.

January 25, 2008 at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 24, 2008

A Local’s Guide to the X Games

Winter X Games XII starts today, and eight Vermonters have their hats in the ring in what has become the world’s biggest annual competive snowsports event.

Vermont’s contingent includes snowboarders from Stratton and Mount Snow, a snowmobile racer from Jericho and a freestyle skier from West Bolton. The group features the famous — Kelly Clark, Lindsey Jacobellis, Hanah Teter — and the up-and-coming — 16-year-old snowboarder Lizzy Beerman of Weston, a junior at Stratton Mountain School.

Practice began in Aspen, Colo., Wednesday, and television coverage on ESPN and ABC begins today at 9 p.m. For those interested in keeping up with the locals as they fly high for cash and prestige, I present the following viewer’s guide.

Athlete: T.J. Gulla
Hometown: Jericho
Event: Snowmobile cross
On TV: Round 1, 9:30-11:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN; Round 2, 3-6 p.m. Saturday, ABC; Finals, 9-11 p.m. Saturday, ESPN

Lizzy Beerman
Women’s snowboard halfpipe
9:30-11:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN

Kelly Clark
Mount Snow
Women’s snowboard halfpipe
9:30-11:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN

Lindsey Jacobellis
Women’s snowboard halfpipe, boardercross
9:30-11:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN (halfpipe); 3-3 p.m. Saturday, ABC (boardercross)

Hanah Teter
Women’s snowboard halfpipe
9:30-11:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN

Kevin Pearce
Men’s snowboard halfpipe, big air, slopestyle
3-6 p.m. Saturday, ABC (slopestyle final); 9-11 p.m. Saturday, ESPN (halfpipe elimination round, big air final); 9-11 p.m. Sunday, ESPN (halfpipe final)

Ben Jacobellis
Men’s boardercross
3-6 p.m. Saturday, ABC

Tanner Rainville
West Bolton
Skiing slopestyle
2-6 p.m. Sunday, ESPN

NOTE: Watching the X Games waiting for a particular athlete or event can be frustrating. The coverage jumps around and there's no guarantee the Vermonters will get on the air. The best bet is the women's halfpipe where four Green Mountain riders will be competing, three of them X Games veterans capable of coming out on top.

January 24, 2008 at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 22, 2008

Manny the Snowhound

I couldn’t blame my mutt at all. He was looking out the window at quickly accumulating snow and a world of white and whining like a little baby.

I had work to do, and his whimpers were getting under my skin. I’d give him the sometimes-effective “just relax boy” in a soothing but stern voice, and he’d glance at me as if to say, “You want me to relax? Do you see what’s happening out there?”


Of course, he was right. As last Friday’s squall kept depositing fresh snow it was becoming more and more evident that we were missing out on some genuinely powdery fun. My boy Manny is a snowhound of the highest order. That’s him in the photo with the shit-eating grin plastered on his face — this from a dog who actually does eat shit — following my buddy Chris last season in some April pow.

He knew exactly what he was missing. Problem was, I did too. And in my own way, I was whining right along with him.

When I was in his position — dependent on my dad to get me suited up and ready to play in the snow — I was a brat too. There were some mornings, new snow or not, when the entire family would be moseying their way through a pre-ski day breakfast, bullshitting about movies, mortgages, the Red Sox, whatever, and I’d be there all dressed up and just dying to get outside, tugging on my father’s sweater saying “come ooooonnnnn daaaaaaaad.”

I remember that feeling well. And now, the spiritual entities that dole out karmic retribution were giving it back to me in the form of my anxious, powder-loving shredhound.

Fortunately for him (and me) I finished up Friday’s work and made it out for some frolicking over the weekend. Things are on the up and up here in the Greens. Each of these small and medium-sized storms is burying that rain-freeze layer deeper into the past. Long-range outlooks keep us in a winter-like flow through the end of the month (read the skiing weatherman’s breakdown written on Saturday).

Good news for snowhounds of the four- and two-legged variety.

January 22, 2008 at 07:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 20, 2008

A Peak at Tucks

It’s never too early to start picking out lines in Tuckerman’s Ravine. These shots of the famous New Hampshire bowl were taken in the last few days by the Mount Washington Avalanche Center. Check out that huge slide fracture just below the lip. Yikes.




January 20, 2008 at 07:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 18, 2008


The snowpack is still very much in recovery mode, and an expected half foot or more by Sunday morning will go a long way. Already 2 to 4 inches are on the ground.

The new snow should make for a wild snow golf tournament at Stowe on Monday. Ever putted in powder? The event is part of Stowe’s annual Winter Carnival, a great opportunity to shake off any cabin fever and go a little nuts. After all, the Jagerettes will be in the house.

The carnival continues all week with a professional ice carving contest and snow volleyball tournament.

Down the road, Sugarbush will hold the first event of its “Call Out” series on Sunday. You’ve heard the story of Babe Ruth pointing his bat to the center field bleachers in the 1932 World Series then smacking a home run to center field. This event gives skiers and riders a chance to do the same thing in the terrain park.

Call out your trick then do it. You’ll be judged on whether you complete the trick you call. It’s an interesting format in the ever-evolving world of freestyle.

January 18, 2008 at 12:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 17, 2008

Ski Tube

With our anticipated Friday-Saturday storm still gathering strength over the Carolinas, it seemed like a good time to troll You Tube for some down-home, backroads Vermont ski videos.

These two clips show the varied styles and approaches people bring to snowsports — from balls-to-the-wall backflips to quiet backcountry powder turns. They represent opposite ends of a spectrum that makes snowboarding, skiing and telemarking not only irresistibly fun, but also expressions of individuality.

Let's start with the quiet backcountry powder clip, shot in December on the Moretown Gap road. Then, if you’re so inclined, turn your computer volume to 11 and jam out to the backyard huckfest in clip No. 2.

January 17, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 14, 2008

Loose Granular Loves Company

A friend and I went to Sugarbush on Saturday, where the groomed stuff skied like loose sand piles, the steep stuff was treacherously frozen solid and mostly closed and the snowguns began recovery work from last week's rain.

In a post-apocalyptic sense, it was a lot of fun. I'll resist the urge to apologize for the quality of some of these shots. Just know that I'€™m getting a sleek new Canon within days.

Also, check out images of the kids going off at Stowe's slopestyle contest on Saturday.




January 14, 2008 at 11:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)