With a major snowstorm brewing overnight and concerns about road conditions and drive times, I made the decision to ski Burke today instead of Jay. I was mostly fearful of the dreaded change over to mixed precipitation scheduled for late afternoon when I would most likely be coming home. Having recently driven home in a snow storm from Jay that involved stressful white knuckle driving, I was content to avoid the possibility of a treacherous long drive home and wind holds by opting for Burke Mountain.
When I awoke, three inches of snow had already fallen at my home and it was puking. The drive to Burke would be more eventful and tougher driving than my drive home. Franconia Notch was particularly brutal especially being stuck behind two snow plows, who were doing a damn fine job by taking their time with things. The plows split at the Route 3 exit and I sped up to Burke as fast as conditions would allow with plenty of time for first chair.
Ultimately, Burke turned out to be the best choice, but not because of the weather conditions. The forecasted mixed precipitation never really occurred and a break in the storm coincided with the drive home. Burke was the better choice because Burke and Jay both received the same amount of snow fall at exactly one foot and Burke had very few skiers, low competition, untracked on the trails from open until close, and no wind holds. Whereas at Jay, some lifts were shut down at noon time which would have resulted in crowding at Stateside and untracked would have been a glades only experience only an hour or two after opening.
This was all unbeknownst to me when I arrived at Burke. Along with two other singles, I claimed first chair on the Willoughby Quad which was a very windy and extremely cold ride. My muscles were extremely tight and sore from yesterday’s open to close powder fest at Jay. Opting for the Dippers, I had hoped to find a few inches of fresh covering a groomed run but found only groomer tracks and occasionally wind blown. Ducking into the woods, I found just a few inches and the leg burn was really intense finishing out the run down Boarderline. Wanting to avoid the Willoughby Quad due to the wind and cold, I hoped on the Poma Lift which was only running to the halfway station in the morning. Turns down Lower Warren’s Way burned. The morning was not going my way as I was tired, cold, not finding the powder I had expected, and under the impression going to Burke instead of Jay was a bad decision. I went back to the lodge to recoup, warm up, grab a bite to eat, and wait for the storm to pile on the inches.
After an hour’s rest, I returned to the Willoughby Quad with realigned expectations. Much to my surprise, the storm had piled more than just a few inches. Additionally, I began making better trail choices. Sides of trails were providing boot deep untracked on a variety of trails. The snow was a thick and dense powder that was very surfy feeling, though you could submerge your tips or duck into wind blown pockets. Willoughby was especially interesting as the wind kept redirectly the snow so it essentially looked untracked every run.
Due to the wind and cold, I returned to the lodge once more for a brief warm up around noon time. When I returned to the slopes, the snow had mysterious slowed and eventually stopped completely with hardly any change over to sleet. Temperatures were noticeably warmer and the wind had calmed down. I began alternating lifts and sides of the mountain as I would ascend the Willoughby Quad and ski the east side and then ride the Poma and ski the west side. Awesome snow was found on most trails and boot to knee deep untracked could be scored along the sides of the trails in plain view of the lift well after noon time. Opting to try the trees, I found some really nice deep stuff in Birches where I also found a pair of rocks that provided substantial base damage including two core shots, one of which was the size of two quarters. Two undisclosed chutes provided knee to thigh deep powder including a few epic turns resulting in face shots and near white room conditions. Spectacular. Not bad for what I thought had been the wrong decision!