I am always reflective on the last day of the ski season. Seasons begin and end and begin again in one big blur. Some ski days are epic, others not so much. One day becomes the next until all of a sudden you’ve stopped appreciating the magic that can be found whenever you are on the snow.
But I always appreciate the last day of every season. I always remind myself not to take it for granted, after doing just that for every other day during the season. It is hard to be reflective when you are engaged in the madness, desperate for that next powder day.
The madness subsides and things slow down a bit by May. My health prohibited me from hiking to Tuckerman Ravine for end of season turns in June or July. But it doesn’t matter where or when the last day of the season happens, the feelings are still always the same.
After weeks of waiting for the perfect spring corn weekend, I realized it may not happen before the season ends. Warm t-shirt weather and perfect spring corn bumps are more rare than a powder day during any given season. But that doesn’t mean that the skiing won’t be fabulous without the warmth, sun, and perfect corn. The late season was passing me by while I awaited perfection when I realized the perfect turn can still be found in less than ideal circumstances.
Those perfect turns were found hammering down Preston’s Pitch, the steep finale to Superstar. I kept finding that perfect line and letting the skis go full speed, bashing the bumps for direction and speed control, more the former than the latter. I kept saying one more run but then I’d find myself turning right back onto the lift rather than turning left towards the lodge. Back up again, trying to find that same line that felt so good during the last run. And failing to find it until that last pitch… and there I was again hitting the same bumps even faster than the last time.
The coverage on Superstar is amazing for mid-May thanks to two weeks of cold and cloudy weather with temperatures well below seasonal norms. The snow was nearly edge to edge and absolutely top to bottom with several sections of Superstar featuring base depths as deep as the chairs moving uphill. Significant amounts of snow were stockpiled at the top and bottom of the run. Memorial Day is almost certainly going to happen. June is a possibility with a little help from the weather.
They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. But there sure as shit is such a thing as free skiing. Killington opened the Superstar lift today free of charge to anyone adventurous enough to ski with some walking required.
While the cover shot of this blog post shows limited snow on the final pitch of Superstar, the upper and middle of Superstar were still wide and deep. After hiking down half of the Headwall, the snow was wide open and continuous throughout the entirety of Middle Superstar to the rollover before the final pitch. Middle Superstar was groomed flat which was a treat.
Normally I prefer bumps in the spring. But the novelty of opening up huge edge to edge turns during the last week of May was amazing. So I let it rip on Middle Superstar. The Headwall and Lower Superstar both satisfied the bump itch with great coverage on the Headwall and sporty coverage on the final Lower pitch.
Just over half of Superstar was continuous and wide open. Hiking was required to get down to the snow on the Headwall and again 2-5 times (dirt/grass skiing threshold depending) below the rollover on Lower Superstar. But it was a small price to pay for the quality turns on Middle Superstar. I made it three runs before setting up tailgating shop and hanging out in the sun.
Huge props to Killington for going all in for late season skiing this season. Despite a season snowfall total one third of normal, Killington blew piles of snow on Superstar that were taller than the lift towers. During the heart of the season during an abysmal year, Killington made a total commitment to skiing until June. And they would have made June if it wasn’t for a meltdown this past weekend with highs in the 80s-90s all weekend.
I used to throw considerable shade at Killington. But those days are long past. As recently as six years ago, Killington was closing up shop in April despite promising May skiing. That closure came with Upper Ovation and Skyelark still open and nearly edge-to-edge top-to-bottom skiing on Superstar. Adding insult to injury, a major snow storm buried mountains in New England a few days after they threw in the towel. Yet they still would not reopen.
It is hard to believe the turnaround and attitude change during the past few years. Killington has been going later and committing to May during the past few years. But this year, Killington attempted the impossible in shooting for June despite one of the worst snow years in history (and almost making it happen, if not for a meltdown Memorial Day weekend). No more shade from me. Killington is the Beast of the Beast, the King of Spring, and the yardstick against every other ski area will be measured for first to open and last to close honors.
Standing at the top of Superstar, I couldn’t help but smile. Today was something I had been wanting for months… a perfect sunny spring day with top to bottom bumps. It made up for at least a third of this shitty season. May was more than halfway over and Superstar was still going strong despite one of the worst seasons on record.
Killington did not have to do this. Everyone would have understood if they had not blown Superstar a lift tower deep in man made snow. No one would have criticized Killington if they called it quits on May first like the other major resorts in New England. Years ago, we grew used to Killington closing with Superstar still edge to edge and top to bottom.
But not this season. Perhaps, never again will we have to make excuses. Maybe, never again will Killington make prudent financial decisions instead of running their business like the late season means something. Like the mountain has soul.
I normally reserve my two Killington vouchers for either early or late season. But despite this only being the second week of March, it IS already the late season. Saturday was the pick up the weekend with projected low 50s but with a slight breeze. I gave Stowe and Sugarbush some consideration but ultimately I thought further south would be best for any possibility of good corn snow. In hindsight, there wasn’t going to be good snow anywhere this weekend, let alone good corn snow.
I arrived at Killington surprised by what I found: a resort still busy with guests (probably due to advanced booking and not being able to cancel). I was dumbfounded to see Snowshed and Ramshead bustling with activity and skiers. Given the conditions I skied today, it would be a safe assumption that those skiers did not have a good time.
I assumed lower elevation and southern facing Bear Mountain would be the best place to start so I ascended via Superstar and made my way south. Conditions were dismal and atrocious everywhere. Soft slush piles of pushed around snow alternated with frozen, scraped, and icy slides for life. I quickly got in the rhythm of skiing into the piles and making turns on top of the slushy mounds. But most beginner and intermediate skiers fought for dear life. These conditions were found on all trails including main beginner thoroughfares such as Great Eastern.