Riding up the Superquad, I noticed that Spillway and Timberline were not spinning. After a quick rip down Lower Winter’s Way to Lower Misery Whip, I found out that King Pine was not spinning. And after a long run out on Cross Haul, I found out that Whiffletree was also not spinning. Looping up and over to the top of King Pine, I found that the new trails off the Brackett Basin ridge were closed.
Today was all about flexibility and patience. Quality snow and good turns could be found, especially after I got past my initial disappointment. With the singles line for the Superquad back to Double Runner, I decided it would be a Double to T-bar day.
Excellent wind loaded snow was found on skier’s left of many trails. The MO for the day was traversing looker’s left from the T-bar and skiing skier’s left on the trails. Spillway, Winter’s Way, Misery Whip, and Ripsaw all offered nice turns, scraped in some places and creamy in others. I found Bubblecuffer to be especially nice. But the run of the day was saved for last as we took Haul Back on Greg’s suggestion which yielded epic wind blown pow.
I was fortunate to meet up with some of the AlpineZone crew after lunch. Skiing solo was okay. But on such a day as this, the company changed the day from somewhat blah to incredibly fun. Skiing with a crew made my day and made the afternoon something special. Last chair came all to quickly and my legs gave out just as the lifts came to a stop.
Sunday commenced Day Two of the AlpineZone Summit at Sugarloaf with partly cloudy skies that would eventually give way to completely overcast with low elevation clouds around the upper elevation. Unlike Saturday, Sunday seemed to get colder instead of warmer as the day wore on with conditions on the groomers deteriorating quickly after the fresh cord had been skied multiple times. Most folks in our group skied hard for a few hours and were on the road before noon.
The day began with the novel experience of having one full hour of first tracks prior to the General Public being allowed to board the Sugarloaf Superquad. Knowing that Sunday would feature more firm and fast groomers and wintery temperatures, I was hardly excited to wake up early for first tracks. After checking out of our condo, we did make it to the lift by 8:00 A.M. To my surprised delight, the first tracks experience was novel and delightful.
While the General Public began to queue up for their first turns, we had already lapped the Superquad railing arcs into untouched cord. I am many years removed from my racing and grooming skiing days, so I had forgotten that skiing fresh cord for a groomer lover is the equivalent of fresh untracked for a powder hound. I realized that groomer conditions would quickly worsen throughout the morning as more and more people skied the groomers. I also realized that due to the mountain’s layout, we had lapped the main routes off the main lift prior to any other skiers and would be moving onto the rest of the mountain while most other skiers were starting to scrap down trails that no longer had fresh cord.
“It is just like a powder day!” I exuberantly exclaimed while riding the Superquad. Perhaps my quote of the weekend. But within the context of being far ahead of the masses and being able to experience the best conditions faster and in higher quantity than the General Public, this was a fair comparison.
Sugarloaf has been a mountain that has inexplicably eluded me for well over half my lifetime. Having only been to Sugarloaf one time as a little kid on a ski vacation with the family, it is a mountain that has long been on my to do list. Along with Bretton Woods, Stratton, and Okemo, The Loaf was one of a very limited number of major ski areas in New England that I had yet to fully explore. A dubious list without distinction for such a fine quality mountain as Sugarloaf. With fond memories and low expectations due to poor weather and a mediocre March, I find myself driving from Saddleback to Sugarloaf on Friday evening with significant anticipation.
AlpineZone and Sugarloaf partnered up for the Summit and offered forum members an incredible deal at just over $150 per person for two nights lodging and two lift tickets along with some other perks including two parties with refreshments, the full resort treatment, and first tracks for an hour Sunday morning. We were essentially offered a complimentary two nights stay with the purchase of two slightly discounted lift tickets. This was the no brainer deal of the season and special thanks go out to the AlpineZone Team and to Sugarloaf for making this Summit possible.
Our six person condo in the Snowbrook Village afforded an awesome all encompassing view of the mountain due to its lowly proximately to the base of the Snubber Lift which serviced most of Sugarloaf’s condos off the access road. The condo was spacious and well stocked with a complete line up of appliances and creature comforts. For a skier that historically day trips 95% of the time and hostels one night stays the remaining 5%, the condo was a rare treat of an oasis allowing me to relax, grab some drinks, and have a good time without worrying about the drive home or early morning alarm for the next day’s alpine start.
You may have noticed that I have wrote quite extensively about many aspects of the trip but have yet to provide a conditions report and blow by blow summary of exciting runs as per normal. If you have already drawn the conclusion that conditions were below par for late March during what is historically their snowiest month of the year, your reasoning would be sound. Conditions were similar to Saddleback during the day prior: firm and fast. Sugarloaf did a commendable job grooming the snow into an eminently edgeable fast and hard packed surface following Thursday’s rain/freeze event. We were even able to escape the groomers on occasion with mixed results ranging from the absurd to what could only be described as situationally and relatively amazing.
En route to Sugarloaf for the 2010 AlpineZone.com Summit, I met some other “Zoners” for an afternoon at The ‘Back. The mountain received Thursday’s rain with a twist: a 30 degree drop in temperatures through the evening. My expectations were about as low as possible which meant that it would not take much to impress.
Saddleback did an absolutely outstanding job getting their product back into shape. I was not optimistic about good skiing conditions whatsoever and was completely blown away by the product Saddleback offered. I had no designs on skiing anything but groomers but we were able to get into some bumps and even some trees due to some nice wind blow in places. But we did spend most of the day on the groomers which skied incredibly well. Saddleback did an amazing job grooming the trails into top shop. Saddleback did better than both Sunday River (second hand) and Sugarloaf (first hand).
This season continues to be the ski season that was not. At less than twenty total days, my season came to an end on this less than stellar day at Sugarbush. AlpineZone.com forum members numbering about a dozen arrived at the bush to find a cold spring day featuring rather firm and unforgiving snow conditions.
I arrived early and stashed some food at Allyn’s Lodge. Immediately, I noticed the snow had set up hard and firm. Other skier’s said to avoid Heaven’s Gate. So I warmed up by taking the traverse down to Spring Fling twice before heading towards the Heaven’s Gate Chair to the meet up location. A meet up was the only reason for anyone to be heading towards Heaven’s Gate.
After a horrendous ski down a slick and icy Jester, we took the traverse to Stein’s Run which was just starting to get skied in. Bumps up top were widely spaced but better than a few weeks ago. I started finding a groove towards the bottom of the run. After finding a really nice line, I let the speed run a bit. But near the bottom, my legs stopped hammering and I got into the back seat causing a wheelie and a fall. My right palm hit harder causing a reinjury of my ligament damaged right thumb.
I knew right away that I was done for the day and likely for the season. A season that never really got started despite some good days early season. Jay Peak got less than a foot of snow from March 1st through the end of the season (normally, a very snowy period). I spent the best powder days on the disabled list or at work. With a total of just under twenty days on the season, I can rank this season as my worst in over a half dozen years. Even without the injuries, it would have still ranked rather low. This is one season that I am not sad to see end.