Made it up to Haystack in Vermont for the Massachusetts Day $29 deal. Haystack is the often overlooked little sister of Mount Snow and the Bastard Child of American Skiing Company. Despite Haystack being less crowded, having no lift lines, and decent terrain, the mountain has not been as successful as neighboring Mount Snow. Instead of increasing advertising and awareness, ASC simply turned Haystack into a weekend only operation to reduce friendly fire on Mount Snow.
The loss of everyone else becomes my gain! Despite the $29 deal for Massachusetts residents, the mountain remained rather uncrowded. Most lifts were ski on with an occasional one to two minute wait on the POMA Brand Barnstormer servicing the summit and the Hayfever Triple accessing two-thirds of the mountain. The CTEC Brand Witches Triple, servicing Haystack’s expert terrain, closed shortly after the mountain opened due to high winds. This lift would later re-open and was always ski-on. The base lodge was roomy and had adequate seating with a perfect window view of the mountain face.
After a slow drive across Route 2 due to snow from the previous day, I arrived at 9:00 A.M. The wind nearly knocked me off my feet as I put my skis on the rack by the lodge. Ominously, one of the ski racks had blown over indicating a cold and windy start to the ski day. After booting up and buying my lift ticket, I hit the Barnstormer Triple to the the summit.
Immediately I noticed that conditions in the morning were going to be terrible. The resort had received rain the previous week and since Haystack does not open mid-week… none of the ice and crust had been skied off or groomed. Groomers had made a quick pass of the mountain leaving much to be desired. Most trails in the morning featured shards of ice. Such shards would be similar to what one might expect if you shattered a window. When you initiated a turn, the shards would scatter and tumble nosily down the slope. Really interesting and different surface conditions; I can not say that I have ever skied anything quite like it before. It was not pleasant in any case, but certainly could have been worse!
I started down Upper Dutchman and took a right onto Broomstick and then onto Witchway, leading me to the Witches Triple. Hoping to access the steep stuff right away, I had a cold and windy ascent in which my chair almost hit a Lift Tower. Turns out, conditions were generally far worse off the Witches. To continue my warm up, I tracked down the Blue Square Spellbinder to find really good groomed turns and even it a small spot of Pow on the side. On my return up the Witches Triple, I noticed a Last Chair sign on one of the descending chairs. An employee at the unloading station noted that they were shutting off the chair due to high winds. With Gandolf and Cauldron closed, I opted for a run down Merlin. The run had nasty ice particles everywhere but was still edgable. The bumps on the left side of the trail were covered with an unbreakable crust and impossible for me to ski.
I returned to the Base Lodge to warm up and grab a snack. That was the trend, as many other hardy souls also ventured inside to join those who had yet to even boot up. Although, it was not that cold. I could have stuck out the wind for several more runs. But with conditions that bad, why bother?
After my break, I returned to the Barnstormer for several more punishing runs. Especially awful included Oh No skied top to bottom, Stumpjumper which was more unbreakable crust than anything, Last Chance featuring a downed skier and lots of ice, and other such connector trails which were equally as brutal.
Awesome turms were hard to find but definitely available. Specifically, the line from Little Steep to Needle to under the Hayfever Triple was cool as I cut the steepest line available and showed off quick Slalom turns to the Chairlift audience. Also, Shaft was a short, steep, and narrow trail with some excellent cover and no ice. Finally, Wizard off the Witches Triple was awesome later in the day as I traced turns with the sun at my back. There is something really cool about watching your shadow in front of you as you cut quick, short, and nimble turns. There was even a small stash of powder to be found on Wizard.
For bumps, one had to contend with the semi-unbreakable crust on Merlin, which was half bumped. I could not ski the crusty stuff, but by late afternoon several skiers had broken things up a bit and conditions were… um… variable! But skiable, nonetheless. Without any grace, technique, or skill… I made a few fun and interesting runs over the bumps on Merlin. These should be fine now, after the efforts of several dedicated bump skiers that said “Screw It!” when faced with an awful crust layer.
Back in the lodge at 3:00 P.M., I began unbuckling my boots, and I noticed that one of the buckles had broken in half during the afternoon! My 10+ year old Nordica 483 boots had finally bitten the big one. After two years of debating buying new boots but opting not to because of the price, I had little choice. I stopped by Bob Smiths Wilderness House on Comm Ave in Boston and Dave expertly fitted me into the perfect boot. After measuring my foot and asking me how many days a year I skied and if I skied aggressively (YES!), the first boot he brought out was perfect. He brought out two other boots for good measure and options, but the first boot was it! It is last years Salomon X Wave 10.0s at a slight discount for being a previous year model. I had not done any research on boots before going in on purpose so I would not be biased and would pick on feel alone. When I got home, I researched the model and found it was described as being perfect for my needs. The boot is best for big sized people with large, wide feet that ski very aggressively in all terrain types. It’s rather stiff (which I really like) and takes some force to bend it (which I have) and was recommended by one person for ex-racers (that’s me!) that ski aggressively, but no longer race and want comfort in their boots. So I have found the perfect boot. I can not wait to try it out and eventually (when I have some more money!) get some foot beds.