My six ski weekends 2014-15

So, yeah, that lump under my carpet was nothing more than one of my cross country skis, which ended up staying in the basement closet all winter long, and never once saw the light of day nor found their way to parallel tracks in the snow. Usually, I get on them once or twice locally and also bring them on my "big" ski vacation each February. But, for the first time since 2003, I didn't take off President's week, staying off of any kind of ski that entire week. Of course there were ski trips throughout the winter, but nothing more than long weekends, and in retrospect that worked out really well.

And let me note that I was more eager than usual for time on the slopes this winter. My purchase earlier in the year and subsequent extensive use of the Skier's Edge trainer had me more fit heading into this ski season than I had been in recent years. I couldn't wait to see how my workouts translated into actual skiing fitness and technique improvement.

Last year, I finally skied the Rockies and more locally had set the minor goals of skiing 20 days and skiing in May. I hit both marks, though I know I was skiing on weak legs once the snow softened. This year, I set the simpler goals of getting to the remaining 2000 footers in the Northeast states I hadn't visited and just skiing stronger for the length of the winter.

All told, I managed six ski weekends and about two weeks worth of ski days. There were no day trips, and sadly no days in the Berkshires, Catskills or points south and west. I think it every year: so many mountains, so little time.

Thankfully, though, I did make the best out of my ski time, skiing with friends, meeting up with other familiar faces in ski country, visiting breweries, enjoying apres ski pints every now and again, snowshoeing and all that.

This winter did start off promising, with a lot of snow early. There was a ton of snow around for Thanksgiving, but I missed out on any skiing that weekend for a very good reason: the Giants had a game in Florida (and, hey, the 2015 NFL schedule comes any day now!!).

My first ski sojourn came two weeks later, when a buddy and I headed up to North Conway and Jackson, NH. Our four-day trip that started with dinner Thursday night here in town saw us leisurely head out Friday morning, stopping for a bit in Kittery and then crossing back to NH for lunch in Portsmouth, before arriving in Jackson later that afternoon. The road down from the Eagle Mountain Resort wasn't really safely walkable, which made getting around somewhat tenuous, so we opted for dinner at the Wildcat Inn and then headed back up the hill for a few pints.

I think it was only then when we sorted out our ski plans. The initial thought was skiing Wildcat and Sunday River, but we revised that rather impulsively. I wanted to get Bretton Woods off my to-do list, and that was a shorter drive and cheaper mountain than the fine one across the Maine state line. On Saturday, our first ski day, and fit or not, we weren't looking for anything super challenging, and instead enjoyed a nice day of cruising at Bretton Woods. We then spent time around Mount Washington and really found ourselves liking this entire area. I'm sure we will be back. In the evening, we hopped around some more in Jackson.

Bretton Woods!
Mt. Washington Hotel & Resort
Covered bridge in Jackson NH
The next day, we did ski Wildcat. I was hoping for the stunning views into Maine and of Mount Washington I had enjoyed during my previous visits, but low clouds meant less impressive views than what I was lucky enough to see previously. Still, it was a nice second ski day, but one which we cut a bit short to watch some important football games. We cabbed down to North Conway, settling on Delaney's for the games after a fine stop at the Moat Mountain Brewery.

On Wildcat, catching a glimpse of Mt. Washington between the clouds.
A flight from Moat Mountain. And a little chilli too...
We took the leisurely ride home on Monday, enjoying a bagel breakfast in North Conway, before spending some more time in Portsmouth and then trying to find a brewery in Connecticut. With so many Vermont trips between us, it was nice to finally get someone else to see the reasons why I mix in the longer trips to New Hampshire.

Exercising restraint all through the holidays, I didn't step onto the skis again until MLK weekend, which became a second four-day trip. Again, I basically revised my plans on the fly. I wanted to get Waterville Valley off my list and thought I could leave really early and be up there late morning. Then I decided to not overextend myself with a super early start and long drive before skiing, and instead joined my buddy Ray and his family at Pico for what we thought would be the first of several days of skiing together. Well, my opting for the closer mountain paid off when I learned that guys ski Pico for $27 on Fridays (the ladies get this deal on Thursdays). Not bad! We met up late morning and skied into the afternoon. We knew the temperatures were going to plummet, and I think it was single digits most of the day. But, it was certainly a nice, fun day on the mountain.


I left them and headed north, toward Burke, which was one of the 2000 footers on my list. I made a pit stop at the Norwich Inn, and bought a few bottles of Jasper Murdoch's fine brews. Yummy...I arrived in Lyndonville that evening. Temperatures were heading below 0 that night for sure. There wasn't much available in terms of dining options, but I found a diner within walking distance.

The next morning was frigid. "Will the car start?" frigid, in fact. A frost-bite warning was in effect early, and folks were advised to not go out before a certain time, which I honored. When I finally decided to head to the mountain, the car started right up, and I drove the short distance to Burke.

I immediately liked the "welcome to our corner of the state" vibe of the place. I did runs on the lower half of the mountain to start, went inside to warm up and then headed back outside to do runs on the more challenging upper half of the mountain. Despite subzero temperatures, it was a fun ski day. The place was busy, but not crowded. Really out of the way in northeastern Vermont, I am certainly interested in going back, especially after some of the development underway is completed.


Did I mention it was cold?
Later that evening, I headed over to Stowe. I was a little annoyed to learn that lift tickets were something like $103 or $108 for walk ups. Had I known to recharge my Bypass card beforehand, it would have been a more palatable $89. I should add that any skiing that day would have been gravy, as it was Championship Sunday, the mother of all football Sundays. It was also still cold, although not so cold as the last 36 hours had been. I decided to snowshoe instead. So, I got in a nice hike, and then settled in to watch the two games.

Snowshoeing the notch road, I had to dodge the occasional sledder. :)
Snow started falling Sunday evening, and Monday at Stowe was sure to be awesome. Another option I had was to drive south 90 minutes, and meet Ray and crew again to enjoy what I heard were great conditions at Pico.

But, about a week earlier, I had purchased a nonrefundable ticket from Liftopia for Mt. Sunapee to use on Monday. Use it or lose it, as the saying goes. Mt. Sunapee isn't a 2000-foot mountain, and it wasn't originally on my list of places to ski this season, but of course I'm always interested in skiing new resorts. So, I drove the 90 minutes there, and hit the slopes, skiing in temperatures a solid 40 and perhaps 50 degrees warmer than what I had skied at Burke. It was a nice change. While a nice mountain, it was a bit icy. The snow seemed to dump in Vermont and tease in New Hampshire. Mostly overcast, I still liked the scenic views, and would really like to see it on a sunny powder day. As I recall, it ended up being a short ski day. I headed home late that afternoon, trusting the directions of a ski lodge worker who advised me of a direct route west into Vermont, which was all good until I got really confused in a small town on the NH-VT border. Regardless, I ultimately made it onto 91 and was home a few hours later.

So, I still hadn't skied Stowe. Most winters in recent years, I have had two weekends there by this point. As my next ski weekend was taking shape, the only question was would I have skiing partners. Well, the Seahawks made it to the big dance, so that meant the crew would be watching the game in Syosset. I had no interest in driving down to Long Island on my birthday, and so decided to head north.

Not wanting to use up my days off, I tried something different, driving up to Glens Falls after work on Friday. I spent time at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery, and pondered skiing West Mountain to see what renovations had occurred there, or the bigger Gore. I picked the former. While a good economical choice, not all of the lifts were running on this very cold Saturday morning, and even when they were finally opened, many of the trails were closed for some reason. It was rather disappointing. I took a new route to Stowe from up there, a scenic road that cut along the bottom of Lake Champlain, and arrived in Stowe in the early evening.

A flight from the Adirondack Pub & Brewery

West Mt!
Sunday, I finally got to ski my mountain. It was a great ski day. I did lots of top to bottom runs, and could certainly feel the difference made by the work on the ski machine. And, cold or not, the place was stunningly empty--with the Patriots in the Super Bowl, or maybe it's empty regardless of who is in the Super Bowl, it seemed the entire village headed home that morning. It's not a bad way to spend a birthday, having Stowe pretty much to yourself. Once done skiing, I made a quick stop at the Trapp Lodge, and then went out to watch the big game.

As often seems the case, a big storm was headed to the mountains as I was planning to leave. It made for a tough drive home on Monday. Oh well.

That was it for most of February. With kids in the group now in college, nobody took off President's Week, so I skipped it too, deciding there was no good reason for me to pay holiday rates. I had plans here and there for various ski days throughout the month, but nothing materialized. Back in November, however, at the New York Ski Expo in Albany, I had purchased two greatly discounted tickets to Whiteface. Realizing that nobody would be joining me there this winter, I headed straight north that last weekend in February.

I must say, Whiteface and the village of Lake Placid is a great destination. It's an expensive village though. I tried to short circuit some of the expense by again heading up as far as Glens Falls, staying at a cheaper hotel the first night, which also allowed me to once more enjoy time at the Adirondack Pub & Brewery. It was still a bit of a drive to Whiteface on Friday morning (90 minutes), but I think I made a good move.

Taking off Friday was also a good move, as I got to enjoy some pretty empty slopes. MRG had posted to expect a "Comfortably Cold" weekend, and that was the most perfect description ever here too. Blue skies, no wind, but single-degree temperatures. I spent time on all three peaks, piling up runs, taking pictures, and really enjoyed a cool but awesome day. I felt good--and fast--on Cloudspin and Skyward. It was one of the few times this year I recall really opening it up. I remember wishing I had my helmet cam on so I could find out how fast I had gone. But, part of me is equally glad I didn't, as I probably wasn't going as fast as I thought. I stowed my skis at the mountain that afternoon and returned to the village, seeing the Olympic sights and a town full of outdoor enthusiasts. I stayed at the Best Western in town, and I had dinner at the Lake Placid Pub & Brewery.


It's not at every mountain you can say you skied a run that was used for the downhill in the Olympics...
On top of Little Whiteface peak

Stopping for a picture on the Wilmington Trail

A flight from the Lake Placid Pub & Brewing

Saturday was more crowded on the mountain. I got an early start, and skied for awhile, until I felt the lift lines growing unbearably long. I remember wondering if I was leaving too early, only to see from the parking lot that many had left before I did. I guess I put in a longer ski day than I realized.

I had originally considered heading over to Stowe that afternoon, but a storm coming in on Sunday caused me to decide to head home Saturday night, and not deal with bad driving conditions again. And, really, I was perfectly content to have had two solid days of skiing. So, I returned to the village and walked around Mirror Lake for the first time in maybe 30 years, and ate a late lunch at the Great Adirondack Brewery, resisting the temptation for any of their concoctions, though buying two small growlers to try when I got home. I then hit the road and was home late Saturday evening.

In past years, this has turned into the stretch of the season where biweekly ski weekends were becoming something of the norm. This year was the same story, at least for March.

Mike and I headed up to Stowe days before St. Patty's day. He drove, which was great. We stopped at the Otter Creek Brewing Company on the way up. The ski weekend was the usual for us: not enough skiing and too many pints. And, not even drinking pints, but chasing after and buying them: a Friday morning of skiing turned into chasing a certain beer truck around Stowe and Waterbury. But, it was a fun trip. I got to use my T&C credit from when I shortened my Whiteface weekend, and then we headed to the reliable Stowe Motel. I got in two days of skiing, while Mike only skied Friday with me, opting for snowshoeing on Saturday.

Stowe, once again!

An apple cider and donut stop preceded a breakfast bagel stop Sunday morning, which started the relaxing day in the passenger seat of the slow and easy drive home. We headed south on 89 to 107 to 100 to 4 to 7 to 22 all the way down from outside of Bennington to Pawling.

Two weeks later, to close out March, I was at it again. I still had that last 2000 footer on my mind, I still wanted my Stowe time, and I wanted to maybe squeeze in something else. But, that's not all doable in two days. So, late Friday afternoon, I headed up to Lincoln, NH. In the worst traffic I can remember on a ski trip, I was stuck in Springfield, MA for hours. I ended up getting to Lincoln really late, after every place to eat had shut down.

Saturday morning, I double-backed the short distance to Waterville Valley. It's definitely a nice mountain that can only get better. When they develop the learning area and separate ski schools from the main mountain, this will be a place I want to visit again. I covered the mountain pretty solidly and headed over to Stowe.

Waterville Valley!

Now I had a decision to make. On one hand, it would be silly for me to drive here and not ski Stowe or one of the other big nearby mountains. Second, I also had a cheap ticket waiting for me at Pico. Finally, I had the chance to drive a bit farther south and get to Magic Mountain, a place I've wanted to try these last few years. If I hadn't had such a hellish drive Friday night, I surely would have skied Stowe and headed home in the afternoon. But, I decided to knock two hours off my overall drive, check out a new mountain and have an easier drive that evening. The decision was aided by the cold temperatures that morning of this brutal winter: No place was going to be good that morning, but they were all going to be really good once the sun warmed up the slopes.

And, Magic was great by the time I was taking my first ride on their famous red chair. The skis carved into the softening snow seamlessly. Rather iconic, this lift is still kind of a slow ride. I did a few runs, had lunch, did a few more, and then headed home. It's another place I would gladly ski again.

Magic! (Stratton in the distance)
Mileage-wise, this was not the most well thought out ski trip I've ever taken, but it was comparatively easy on the wallet, and let me shorten my ski to-do list for the 2015-16 winter, which currently only has three new mountains I really want to ski.

Somehow, I managed to hang onto all but my Sunapee lift ticket (Stowe uses a card reader). It was a good ski year.
My Liftopia map increased by four new ski resorts this winter.
First year for the Ski Nation app. It was fun collecting pins. I like that it also counts cross country areas.
Regardless, we are late into this 2014-15 ski season. My ski apps show a lengthening list of places skied, and I did feel good every day that I got to ski. This coming weekend, however, is it for many of the mountains that remain open, and only four or five will be open next weekend. I'm not sure if I can squeeze in another ski day. My alpine skis can't wedge themselves under the carpet, but they are just about ready to join the XC skis in the closet for the next few months...


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