During Spring Break of March 2000, I ventured up to Maine for an afternoon of some great skiing at Sunday River. The race season with UMass Lowell Ski Team had concluded the previous month and college graduation was two months away. Having raced for several years, I wanted to get off the groomed terrain and try natural terrain and tree skiing. Thus, my second solo outing to a big mountain taught me some hard lessons about tree skiing and rope ducking.
Pico offers up some first rate skiing, without the crowds and McSki atmosphere that plague neighboring Big Brother Killington. UMass Lowell Ski Team descended upon Vermont during the night of a fierce snow storm. When we awoke Saturday morning, many inches of snow had accumulated already. Upon reaching Pico, we found over a foot of fluff at the summit! My first true Powder Day. On our first run, half the team ascended to the summit via both Quads, and we proceeded to fall often in knee deep fluff skiing the Summit Glades. Amazing!
All that fluffy powder was not good at all for racing, though. We had to clear all the powder away from the gates. This took numerous times of the entire 100 person league snow plowing the course before it was racable. After all that snowplowing, the ruts on the race course were huge! It was an unbelievable day to ski, but an abysmal day to race.
Pico has some interesting terrain. Everything off the Summit Quad is gold. There is a relatively flat section on mid-mountain that was hard to deal with. Pico is essentially four mini-peaks. They have a Triple and Double on the Left and Right Wings for access to the smaller peaks. The first quad goes up the gut of the mountain, to mid-mountain where it services intermediate and beginner terrain. And their Summit Quad gets you to the real goods. Unfortunately, this means that top to bottom skiing is not really much of an option. However, there is quality skiing everywhere on the mountain.
UMass Lowell Ski Team hit Vermont’s own “Mountain in the Sun;” Bromley, for a weekend of racing the gates. Saturday brought snow showers and high winds early, and then the sky opened up into bright and sunny skies for the rest of the weekend! Bromley is not kidding about the sun exposure, bring your sun screen, you will need it!
Bromley is an incredibly well laid out mountain. Looking at the map, a bowl full of tough diamond runs rests comfortably on the right side of the map. Located far away from intermediate terrain and serviced by its own lift, a clear difficulty distinction is drawn which separates the men from the boys. Most of the mountain’s intermediate terrain is located right down the center of the mountain and is served by a fairly slow High Speed Quad and a pair of doubles. Towards the left side of the map, you’ll find beginner heaven with gentle grades and soft snow from the sun’s exposure.
Value wise, Bromley is slightly expensive for what they offer. However, their expert terrain is nothing to laugh about! They market themselves as a family mountain, which I found to be their niche. A great weekend of skiing and racing was had for myself and the team.
The UMass Lowell Ski Team held races at Loon on the weekend of January 29nd-30th. Due to skier rotation, I was only to race in the GS on Saturday. Thus, I had the day off from racing on Sunday to explore Loon. Loon has well earned it’s reputation as one of the most crowded resorts in New England. On Saturday, I nearly had a heart attack waiting twenty minutes in line for the Kancamagus High Speed Quad, minutes before I needed to prep for a race! Sadly, Loon’s proximity to the Boston Metro area and low priced season pass means the over crowding of Loon will continue.
This is disappointing, because Loon does offer up some fun Expert Terrain in it’s East Basin area. Trails such as Flume, Triple Trouble, and Angel Street are super runs and glades such as Mike’s Woods are amongst New Hampshire’s finest. However, with Loon’s tendency to be quite crowded, these slopes can get skied off very quickly. They are best enjoyed mid-week after a significant snow storm. But for a slightly longer drive, better options abound for mid-week powder days!
Fortunately for myself, on Sunday (my off racing day), a rain/ice storm had moved in creating abysmal skiing weather. Why you ask was this fortunate? Because it kept skiers away from the mountain! The warm weather and rain softened up the scraped and icy snow, making for some fine skiing conditions. I was actually quite happy to have the day off on a Slalom day any ways!
Serious skiers at Loon should avoid the Kancamagus High Speed Quad and Gondola at all costs. Trails off the chairs in the East Basin offer up the best trails on the mountain. Trails off the Quad and Gondola are almost exclusively blue square cruisers that attract the most skiers.
The weekend of January 22nd and 23rd brought the UMass Lowell Ski Team to Cannon Mountain in the Franconia Notch of New Hampshire for two days of racing. My performance in the Giant Slalom on the Rocket trail was excellent until I carried more speed than I could control and blew passed a gate resulting in a DNF. Cannon was to become my home mountain while I lived in northeastern Massachusetts and this weekend trip to Cannon laid the foundation for my strong inclination towards the mountain.