Le Massif and K-ton 3/4-3/6

So me and a buddy got into the car Friday around 1pm. We were hoping to head to Stowe and ski Jay, Stowe and Mad River Glen, but the rain earlier in the week, followed by freezing temps laid waste to the conditions – you know it’s bad when Jay Peak is closing glades and warning you to watch out for ice. MRG closed down shop to wait for a thaw or more snow. There had been a chance that the weekend would be warm, and so soft bumps and good beers would have made a great weekend, but the thaw kept getting pushed back in time and intensity. So we weren’t hopeful.

Round about Albany on the NY Thru-way, we settled into the harsh realization that Canada was in our future….one last weather check at the Lake George exit after driving through a snow squall that got our hopes up showed no significant change, so we settled in for the long haul!

About 630 miles, 10 hours. Found a hotel at the base of St. Anne about 30 minutes from Le Massif, where we planned to ski the next day.

Pro Tip; There are a lot of hotels in the St. anne area that for whatever reason weren’t showing up on our phones as we drove. We might have found more reasonable lodging if we went to Best Western’s web site, or maybe a Canadian tourist site. Hotel was nice – room was small, and really there isn’t much going on at St. Anne or the area surrounding it. We found out from a local that the town above le Massif – forget the name right now – was a better spot for restaurants and bars etc…. But that would have been another hour in the car. If we were there for more than two nights, maybe we would have cared, but as is the place worked fine.

Next morning, up and out the door in -7F temps…..hit -9 by the time we got to the top of the Horst.

Fun Fact – Le Massif is not a mountain – it is a horst and graben (technically a half graben.)

Oh my – we just drove 10 hours to get frost bite! Yikes….

First run down a groomer to the gondola – thank god they had a gondola! – on soft snow….feeling pretty happy…..second run, found the trees, and we never questioned the drive again.

Conditions in the woods were incredible. Le Massif had gotten the same rain that blew up Vt. but it turned to snow faster and delivered 8-10" of fluffy powder. Quite a bit got groomed into the trails, but more of it ended up in the woods….just spectacular soft snow everywhere.

the snow piles on the side of the road coming in were insane – they had feet and feet of snow, so the soft stuff was sitting on an incredible snow pack, making the entire mountain ‘see it and ski it’….

We lapped the gondola as the temps crept up to -2. Then we went to the hike-to back country section.

We went straight to sector 3 and it was hands down the nicest glade/conditions combo I’ve skied for many years. Just crazy awesome. Some little steep pitches through the pines then nice long lines through lower angle hardwoods….we then found the trail to sectors 4 and 5, up a little hill….two more great stretches, and then we came out a the bottom of the mountain. about 2500 vert. feet of glade skiing in soft powder….unreal.

The hike to the glades is pretty long- maybe 20-30 minutes. And they rope it off at 2. So we couldn’t repeat that. Laps on off the Gondi and a few new glades there till they closed up shop.

Into the lodge for some bad Canadian beer and music….good time despite the beer selection.

Pro Tip: You can legally bring one case of beer per car into canada. If you enjoy hoppy, flavorful beer, you should do this every time.

That night, we went to a brew pub – ‘micro brasserie’ for you french Canadians – and we managed to find the best tasting beer I’ve had in Canada yet. The session IPA had a good hit of hops and lacked the over bearing sweetness that so many Canadian IPAs have. If anyone cares, I’ll look up the name of the brew pub. Food was marginal, but beer was pretty good.

Next morning, back to the horst in balmy 4F temps….right to the hike trail to repeat sectors 3>4>5…..even better today after the wind over night filled them up with drifts. Cut many fresh tracks and sank to my knees a couple of times.

Secotrs 1 and 2 looked like they had nice steep sustained pitches – they looked a little hairy in fact – but we didn’t try them. A group hiking with us said they were a little boney and wind scoured. We still planned to try them in the PM, but instead, we ended up on the far side of the mountain – a trail names 42 named for the degree of pitch, which seemed a little less than accurate – it was steep, but I don’t know about 42 degrees – which providied the best soft bumps – the far side of the mountain…er, horst…..must have been shielded from the over night wind that turns a lot of trails to ice. 42 was super soft and fun.

Then we found a glade right next to 42 that was really nice – steep pines up top, rolling hardwoods down below….really great. Since we had to drive 5 hours to Stowe that PM, we decided to forgo the tiring hike again, and miss out on Sector 1 or 2. and just lapped the chair lift serving 42 and that glade all PM till it was time to boogie.

Two incredible days.

Rolled into Stowe about 9, made up for the lack of good beer by enjoying a bunch of Vermont’s finest at the Bench, then got up Monday morning…..weather.com had Stowe cold till like 2PM. Nothing really open other than groomers which we were sure would be crap. They had blown some snow, but we decided that wasn’t enough draw.

K-ton is on the way home….figured we’d give the mountain a chance to warm up by driving down there….hit it around 11 – maybe the sound would soften things up and anyway, the drive home after would be shorter.

Haven’t been to K-ton in 20 years. And I immediately remembered why I don’t really need to go back. Despite being only about 30% open, if felt like every trail had 5-6 intersections, and most trails were really just ways to move around the mountain. They blew snow on cascade and superstar, so they were soft, and cascade was filled with bumps, and super fun. But that was really about it.

The rain killed them – place is totally brown.

We ended the day with Outer Limits – which was remarkably soft! Thought it was going to be horrible. that trail was the premiere terror fest when I was a kid – still a pretty good pucker…..bumps the size of small cars, serious pitch top to bottom….really fun to ski that again and think about being a kid learning to ski bumps, and how damn scary that thing was!

Also checked out a few of the new labeled glades and K-ton. they look great. They were of course torched at this point, but I’m sure they rock with snow.

So it was a nostalgic day, with a few fun runs, and nice to think back about high school ski trips….but that was enough of the Beast for me for a while.

Pro Tip – the Jamaican chicken place at the mid base of the old Gondola line smelled great. We were going to do lunch there, but we never found our way back.

My season might be over – gonna try to get the kids up to S. vt for a night for a couple of days of spring skiing, but after skiing K-ton, I’m really not sure who is going to last much longer. Really surprising to see how rough it is in that area.

tl;dr…..went to canada. Great skiing. Bad beer. Went to Vt. Great beer and Outer Limits. Overall weekend, 5 stars.