My 2005-2006 Ski Season began just over eight months ago on a snowy October 23rd. During the Summer of 2005, I had predicted that October 23rd would bring the first significant snowfall to New England and that I would be skiing that day. What I could not have predicted was the amazing amount of ups and downs my season would take. From epic early season hike-to-ski powder dumps to an injury that put me on the Disabled List for almost three months and then right back into the powder in March and onto some phenomenal late season skiing on the Presidential Range, the season was a wild roller coaster that I hate to see come to a close. Most people will remember the 2005-2006 Season as terrible at best, but I end the season with many fond memories. And I picked a fabulous day to end the season.
Perhaps the worst botched forecast of the year occurred this past week when forecasters suggested that Saturday had a 40% chance of rain and 50% for Sunday. By Saturday, the forecasts had been changed to mostly sunny with highs in the low 80s for both days. But I am glad for the screw up, as I had committed to attending an outdoor party that got postponed due to potential rain. Sweet!
After many weeks of anxious anticipation, the Mount Washington Auto Road finally opened to the summit this weekend to the delight of many a New England Skier. With exception of Left Gully and Airplane, the East Snowfield currently has the longest continuous vertical drop in New England for skiing. This bright, sunny, and hazy afternoon brought well over a hundred people to the East Snowfields to partake in a final farewell to winter in New England.
Plans to carpool up the auto road were scrapped yesterday due to logistical issues. Since my Saturn does not have low gear, it would not be allowed on the Auto Road. Believing that the Auto Road folks would not look kindly on my sticking a thumb out near the gate, I opted for a one way ticket setting me back $26 big ones. Plans were to either Hitch a ride or hike back down. Fortunately, I was offered a ride by a kind person which saved me the hike down. Since I paid for the lift, I am unsure if this afternoon qualifies for my “One Run for the Price of None Tour.” Doesn’t much matter about the payment as all the turns had to be earned regardless.
Crowds were already filling up the Snowfields upon my arrival at approximately 9:30 A.M. It did not take me long to realize that I had over packed, but without a car to base operations from and a potential hike down, I took no chances on over packing gear. I booted up practically laughing with glee; this looked like it would be damn fun.
With threats of precipitation, I made the early morning hour drive to Jay Peak (if 9AM can be considered early morning!). Views from Route 100 South and Route 242 West were not impressive. Turns were definitely to be had but not in abundance. I pulled almost everything out of my pack at the parking lot as the temperature was quite warm.
The Jet featured several broken patches, the largest one was just above the mid-point of the trail. Above this large patch, the snow pinched to climbers left, then broke apart before pinching climbers right and then pinching again climbers left. Essentially, there were two really small patches up top, a decent middle patch, and a nice wide open bottom patch. With exception of the bottom patch, most of the Jet was too broken up to get a good rhythm going. I did manage to only click out of my skis once on the descent from the top of The Jet.
Next I headed over to Haynes, which did not have as much vertical but did have much better continuous snow allowing for much more interesting skiing. Climbing up Haynes and the Jet after my last few climbs over on Washington was humorously easy in comparison. It is amazing how much steeper the most mellow slopes of Gulf of Slides and Tuckerman Ravine are in comparison to a typical black diamond pitch at a ski area. Turns down Haynes were fun but I did not have the heart for a third run. After the snow ran out on Haynes, I clicked out for a short hike and then skied over snow and grass until the snow ran out near the bottom of the trail. Desperation perhaps or just plain laziness. Or both.
Sometime during the halfway point of my third run down F.I.S. at Sugarbush yesterday, I recalled that due to the injury and other variables, Saturday was my first day of the season pumping out big bumps on a steep slope. Also at about the same time, I realized I needed to save some leg for Tuckerman Ravine the next day. But I am never one to save up potential energy for potential good skiing when I already AM experiencing good skiing. So three more F.I.S. runs later…
I got the days backwards this weekend. I figured Sunday would be warmer and the Ravine would experience less freezing over night so I thought it would be the better day for the Ravine despite tiring my legs out on Saturday at da’ Bush. Turns out it was too hot on Sunday so I should have reversed days. Not that the skiing in the Ravine was not fantastic, but hot days are not fun for lugging forty pounds of skiing equipment a few miles.
The parking lot was slammed more than the previous week’s Inferno Race, likely due to perfect weather this weekend and less than acceptable snow conditions the previous weekend. I tossed the skins in my bag based on a report indicating traction on the upper third of the TRT would have been helpful. Glad I did, as my fair weather hiking sneakers did not like hiking up the snow. I switched over to skins about 100 verts above the second bridge and only needed to take off the skis once until reaching HoJo’s, woo hoo! Better traction and less weight for around a quarter of the hike to HoJo’s is cool by me. Next weekend I would not have bothered.
After much debate regarding skiing plans for the final weekend of April, I decided on taking advantage of Sugarbush’s $10.00 lift ticket Saturday afternoon. Due to an over night freeze, I decided Tuckerman Ravine could wait until Sunday and one final day of lift serviced skiing for the season would be preferable to hiking for turns at Jay Peak. My decision was sound and resulted in a fantastic afternoon of skiing under a bright warm sun and Blue Bird skies.
Due to the overnight freeze, I slept in and took my time getting ready. Temperatures were still a bit brisk when I packed up the car around 8 A.M., but forecasts called for temperatures to soar into the fifties during the afternoon hours so I worried not. I made a quick detour and stopped by work to pick up my camera before making the drive down Route 2 and Route 100B to Sugarbush.
One would think people would come out in droves for $10.00 skiing on a perfect Blue Bird afternoon. But pulling into the parking lot at Mount Ellen, one would be sorely mistaken in believing many people thought skiing in April is a worth while endeavor. Their lose is my ski on lift.