It really doesn’t matter how long the lifts have been running; Thanksgiving traditionally marks the opening of winter for skiing and riding enthusiasts. This year in Stowe, Turkey Day was great for those who managed to escape for a few runs. The sun was out and the snow surface was about as good as it gets.
Wednesday had been pretty unpleasant, as far as the weather went. A couple of inches of wet glop had accumulated overnight and, for the few brave souls who ventured out, that classic bromide held true: “The skiing’s great but the weather sucks.”
But it all changed in the next 24 hours. Stowe Mountain Resort reported at 6 a.m. that 5 to 7 inches of new snow had fallen, but folks poking around the edges would report nearly double that. It was awesome. For the rest of the week, people were saying, “How great was Thanksgiving Day?”
Friday continued with more great conditions and trails covered with fresh snow. Spruce opened for the first time and both T-Line and Lullaby Lane saw the ropes dropped. Everywhere, skiers and riders were cruising over big dry mounds of fresh snow. It wasn’t particularly busy, perhaps because of the infamous Black Friday, but as one group left the hill, others trickled in for a few runs.
Saturday was a different story. For the first time this season, a lift line was forming at the bottom of the Quad. It wasn’t especially long, but it reminded the locals that there will be lots of riders and skiers showing up from far away to confirm for themselves how much fun there is to be had these days in Stowe. Since it was pretty cold, the Octagon was just about full for much of the day, and there seemed universal agreement that this was the best Thanksgiving in recent memory.
Yes, at the moment the locals are happy — always a good thing.
Speaking of cold, the temperatures actually dropped below zero for the first time this winter. That plunge highlighted a run of early-season cold weather that has pushed snowmaking ahead of schedule. Single-digit temperatures and very little wind provide an environment as good as it gets for maximum snow production.
Think about how many trails are already open. Nosedive and Liftline top to bottom and Upper Hayride top the list. Every trail off the East Ridge — Tyro, Sunrise, Center Line, etcetera — is done. Several key trails off the Sunny Spruce Quad should open any day. Best of all, Perry Merrill already has received some man-made snow from top to bottom and, with any luck, the Gondola will be open by this weekend.
The weather warmed up a bit during this first week in December, but not enough to put a real crimp into snowmaking. The daunting task of covering Main Street is now underway, a development that will please Mount Mansfield Ski and Snowboard Club leader Igor Vanovac, though The Scribe is sure Igor will remain antsy until the club’s remarkable race facility is ready for this year’s crop of racers, many of whom have just returned from a training trip to Copper Mountain in Colorado.
The natural snowpack, though still modest in depth, has been near perfect for Nordic skiers, particularly so early in the season. These conditions have led to some very good early days at the Trapps touring center. The Scribe enjoyed three straight days at Trapps on a remarkably good surface. For six days in the Notch, where cover was thin, he had been using his old gear from the early 1990s. After that first day at Trapps on the groomed surface of Telemark Trail and Sugar Road, it was time to break out the newer gear. It sure was nice to have some glide when trying out his rusty skating technique.
Ski bum racing is just about a month away. The maestro of the ski bum racers, Terry McNabb, has finagled an extra race or two for the schedule and the Ski Bum Championships now are going to be held on the first Tuesday in April. How cool is that? Bums, start putting together your rosters.
It is amazing how fast Christmas and the New Year will arrive, and a week later bum racing begins. Very shortly, the club will hold its annual ski bum team registration party. This event offers both a preview of the great bum party scene and a chance to get your team entered and paid.
Save money and simplify your day on Jan. 7, when the first race takes place. Terry also reports that interest in hosting the bum parties is off the charts, helping drive the call for more races.