After loosing the first to open battle to Killington, Sunday River responded by offering significantly better terrain at a cheaper price for the Veteran’s Day weekend. While Killington offers two trails off North Ridge with hiking to download and a top to bottom route that “may require walking”, Sunday River has three and a half unique top to bottom runs in addition to a connector trail. Unfortunately for Sunday River, the snow condition quality did not match the route count quantity.
I hoped for a half dozen runs before the lines and downloading became overwhelming. Instead, I got a baker’s dozen before the lines and downloading became barely a minor annoyance. The guns were on and then they were off. The turns were good on variable man made blow with natural and skier induced terrain obstacles. Skier’s right on T2 was sweet and Upper Punch sucked the big one. Coming off a mammoth earned turn powder day last week, this wasn’t much to write about. But it was still turns sweet turns and I’ll be back for more next weekend if the natural hasn’t returned.
Inspirational credit for the post title goes to Pat at Ski Mad World. The originally proposed title was not to be but there will be other days for sure! As for Sunday at the River, conditions varied from sliding on golf balls to sublime cheesecake: carve out a slice and dig in–de-lish!
Icelanticskier spied me in line at the Locke Mountain Triple and we partnered up for the morning. T2 was skiing proper in the morning with fine grooming which gave way to a much more variable Sunday Punch. The top to bottom run ended with fine carving on Lower Punch which gradually scraped down and bumped up later in the morning due to traffic. Upper Sunday Punch featured the afore mentioned golf ball skiing. “At least we know what that skis like, now!”
Every other chair went empty due to the mid-station loading option. The line backed up past Rocking Chair onto the end of Lower Punch. I may ski all season without waiting in a longer line. Due to the lines at the base, we loaded at mid-station once before noticing the Barker Quad starting to turn. This saved the day as more late arrivals were still adding to the customer base.
Right Stuff was nasty! And I mean that in a good way. The guns were blowing top to bottom on Right Stuff which piled up several large mounds to bank around and jump off. Two especially nice hucks were available near the start of the trail allowing for a quick one-two huck fest. Skiers left had the goods with sublime turns in and around the bumps. As the morning gave way to afternoon, skier traffic took its toll scraping the snow down considerably and further defining a few small bump sequences. My legs were shot by quarter past one when I called it a day. Right Stuff gave me far more than expected with great variable terrain features and bumps.
Four days at the River in the past month for only $100. Money well spent for some quality man made snow skiing during a dearth of natural snow. That being said, I bid farewell to Sunday River until next October with most other major resorts coming online this week.
There are few things that can cause longing for a WROD. One of those things is summer, an obnoxious and offensive season known to cause what some skiers call “the Jones”. Another thing that can cause a longing for a WROD is a DOWR: when ribbons die prematurely. I found both a WROD and a DOWR at Sunday River today. But I would rather find a DOWR than the patron saint of the lowly desperate skier: the Download.
T2 was generally firm hard pack and scrapped snow. Skiers left had limited amounts of loose snow whereas the edge of skiers right had sufficient loose snow and soft bumps to make for a few fun turns. Skier and rider traffic was thankfully limited despite the holiday and generous offer of free skiing to veterans and their families. The mini park on lower T2 was rather busy which helped keep the trails clear and the liftlines down. Despite Sunday River’s best efforts, T2′s edges are beginning to creep in towards the center of the trail.
Upper Sunday Punch was closed due to a disconnect at the summit and thin coverage under the chair. Sunday Punch to Lower Punch was roped. But ducking the rope to ski Punch and walk out is common practice to avoid downloading. A solitary tilled groomer track provided interesting turns on the pitch under the mid-station; the snow was extremely firm considering the temperature. Two ski carries were required short of walking your skis through two grassy breaks in the snow. Things got interesting where Right Stuff merges with Sunday Punch but turns could still be had until the merger with Tourist Trap at which point it was a matter of when, not if, the skis were going to come off for good. I stopped short of skiing over rocks and hiked a football field length back to the lodge.
With only two options covering limited terrain, the skiing population of the northeast is starting to get excited for the season. This weekend will no longer feature just the desperate and shameless, but the rabid Jonesing ski population that is only just now realizing that summer has long since departed. This weekend will likely be a shit show for sure, so I am glad I was able to take advantage of the mid-week holiday. With no end in sight for the above average temperatures, the Death of the White Ribbon will continue for the immediate future–working its way slowly up the hill and creeping in from trail edges.
You can generally see good management in action not by watching good managers but by watching good employees. Such is the case at Sunday River. As I approached the Locke Mountain Triple Chair, the liftie greeted me with a welcoming “How are you doing today?” After the chair was bumped, I was whisked away to an enthusiastic “Enjoy your run!” Even though Sunday River is not my cup of tea, I could easily see that the resort has a special buzz. One aspect of said buzz is being treated like a friend rather than a guest.
Sunday River is the first ski area in the Northeast to open top to bottom. Skiing was on T2 and Upper Sunday Punch to the mid-station, followed by Sunday Punch and Lower Sunday Punch below it. Snow guns were blowing on a significant number of trails including Upper Sunday Punch, Sunday Punch, Jungle Road, Ecstasy, and Right Stuff. With a few more snow making opportunities this week, I expect all of these trails to be open wall to wall next weekend.
Today’s conditions varied greatly from trail to trail. T2 offered the best coverage with some sugar on the sides. Upper Punch contained some sections of dirty snow and death cookies. Below the mid-station conga line, Sunday Punch had delightful soft bumps under a frozen waterfall of blowing snow and Lower Punch was teeth chattering refrozen hard pack, several sections of thin coverage were easily avoided. Skiing was true top to bottom with no need to take skis off or walk, though some less adventurous skiers still opted for a download.
The comparison to last year when–leading up to Thanksgiving–conditions got worse every week instead of better is night and day. Any skiing during the first week of November is good skiing. Top to bottom skiing without walking is especially delightful, which is more than can be said about Killington’s current offering costing twice as much with lift lines twice as long.