Glen Ellen! / Sugarbush North – Dec 23 2012

Best day of the year by a long shot. I arrived around 9:30am, which is as good as I can do on a day trip from western mass. I also like sleep. First time out this year skiing solo, and my mission was to hit the woods whether they were open or closed; whether they were full of powder or barely skiable.

I figured this would still give me more than enough time before my legs gave out. I'm still working on my stamina, at least compared a couple seasons ago. Maybe I've just been getting tired of skiing ice. Turns out something worse than fatigue would cut my day a little short..

So I took no time to hit the lift when I got there. Took two chairs straight to the top. Choices being Black Diamond, FIS, or Rim Run off the top. I took Rim Run first time down, then I think Elbow and Cruiser. A nice blue run to get my snow legs. I found out immediately that the snow conditions could most accurately be described as:

Powder / Packed Powder / Crusty Powder / Machine Groomed / Frozen Granular / Ice

Literally almost every kind of snow going on at once. Supposedly they got 10" of snow last night. From what I heard today was *the day* to be there. But the 10" they got last night was definitely some fluffy stuff and not exactly forming a solid snowy base over the frozen surface beneath.

Base depths were really good, actually. But on top of about 20" of snow was a layer of freeze-over. And then whatever fresh snow on top of that. So I took more runs on blues and blacks mostly off the North Ridge chair, as this chair seemed to offer the best access to the most open terrain without going all the way to the bottom of the mountain. Basically terrain off this chair was fully open. Stuff at the bottom was half and half.

Due to the powdery-then-icey nature of the surface, I found that the best way to adapt was to make shorter turns, control my speed better. I put more thought into my pole plants than normal. Turns out my skiing was pretty good (I thought) and the icey patches weren't really too daunting. But my legs were getting tired already.

So one more time up I looked to the left of North Ridge chair and I saw what looked like some really solid woods. Steep, but really snowy with at least a couple good lines already tracked out, and other lines untracked.

So I went in there. OK this is what I came here for! And it was amazing in the woods. The snow under the trees didn't even seem like it got frozen over at any point. I could stick my pole in 2 or even 3 feet in some places. I wished I had my powder baskets on the poles, as they were doing me literally no good in such deep powder. But once I found out how unusually good the woods were, that's all I skied.

The powder was light and fluffy. Not "powder" that you can't turn though. Since it was only day 2 open there were a lot of untracked lines in the woods. Bushes were covered with pillows of powder. I skied some of the coolest snow pillows of my life. Like, bush to bush to bush to bush just skimming the tops of them.

It kept snowing all day so conditions actually improved a little over the course of the day. By 2:30 or so I knew I was starting to have problems. I had been having some trouble breathing all day. I have asthma which only happens in the cold for whatever reason. I started gasping for air a lot and getting tired really quickly. This was no good, and my legs were getting really beat from skiing steep woods all day.

So, one more chairlift up. I noticed that I had forsaken upper FIS previously, and figured this would be a good last run. I basically hucked off the top of it because it looked pretty snowy. Found out reaaal quick FIS was totally glazed over. Due to the lighting it was impossible to see what was packed powder and what was ice. So I stopped myself as quick as possible and took to jump-turning down pretty much the whole thing.

After that I was so beat up, barely made it back down to the lodge. It was 3:00pm or so, which I figured was an acceptable time to leave.

Just got back, popped some photos on FB (public gallery check em out) and sat down to write this.

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