Owls Head 12/21

Date: Sunday 12/21
Location: Owls Head, Eastern Townships QC

After a great day at Burke on Saturday ripping glades with Catsup and crew followed by watching our beloved UNH Wildcats lose a tough one in the FCS National semifinals, OysterRiverColin and I headed up to Newport for the night.
$100 room at the Newport City Motel was perfectly fine for 2 guys on a ski trip. Very good pizza about a 1/2 mile down the hill called Hoagie’s if anyone is ever in the area.

I had been thinking about Owls Head for a couple yrs now since I saw them on the Fox44 card. Wknd before XMas trip was in the works for a couple months now as long as I could find someone to go with me. Crossed the border and drove up to the mountain passing by very scenic farms and small hills. Owls Head, like Burke, is a lone peak/monadnock that rises majestically from the small hills that surround it.
It’s very rural country up there but only about 20 mins from the border so combined with a Jay/Burke trip it can be a lot of fun.
Booted up in the lodge and immediately was struck by the amount of French being spoken…nearly 100%. I know it is Canada but I guess I thought being so close to the US that people may come north and avoid lines/higher $ at Jay. Didn’t seem to be the case as the demographic had a very locals feel to it. Signage is both french and English and those works at the mtn speak both but French being the primary language.

Lodge: Old school, wooden building with 3 levels. Bottom floor was tickets, rental/retail shop and a restaurant/bar that we did not sample. Middle floor is the cafeteria and where ppl boot up…huge room with wooden picnic tables. Very functional space with ample room for all. Top floor I guess has some old hotel rooms you can rent on the cheap and be slopeside. It reminded me a bit of the Magic lodge but on a much larger scale….definitely stuck in the 80’s but it works well for them.

Lifts/Terrain: Grabbed our Fox 44 tickets and headed up to Sommet-Main Quad. This is a HSQ but very old school, chain driven Dopplemayr. It does the job though and we basically spent all our time lapping this chair. Off the top options were a bit limited given the mtn was probably only 30% open or so. Going right gets you to a couple nice flowly blue squares (Peak/Centennial) that lead into Crossover and Lower Standard. Mix of ice, death cookies, some lsgr. Nice pitch to the runs and they do wind their way a bit down the hill like classic old style runs should. Overall though they are much wider than your classic New England style runs. It’s clear to me that when the HSQ’s when in back in the 80’s the trails were widened considerably so some of the character was lost.
Lily’s Leap was a very nice curvy blue square that had some amazing views of Lake Memphramagog that we occasionally could see. Generally visibility was not good as there was a thick cloud deck that set up around mid mtn that I think was partially the result of the widespread snowmaking they had going on all over the hill.

Did 1 run over to far skiers right to the Lake Chair which is another old HSQ. Spent just 1 lap there as only 1 route was open (Upward Trail) and conditions were a bad mix of FSGR/LSGR/Death Cookies/sticky snowmaking snow.

Back to the lodge to warm up after 8 runs. Paid cash for our hot chocolate, thankfully they do accept USD (at par) though if you need change it is returned to you in Canadian funds. There is a little village (Mansonville) that you can stop on your way out to buy things and get rid of the Canadian $ if need be before crossing back over.

Back to the Main quad and did another half dozen runs, checked out a short/semi steep gladed called Magog that was very scraped off though acceptable coverage. Owls Head must not get as much snow as Burke as the coverage was not as deep and clearly was impacted more by thaw/re freeze than Burke to the south. Few more runs lapping what was open but effectively only 2 unique routes off the top yesterday with some short connector options at the bottom.

Overall Impressions: A bit incomplete given the limited terrain we had to sample. There are some steep black groomers that we could see from the chair (Kamikaze, Colorado, Kormans Dive) that looked like they would be a lot of fun when snow is good. Not much evidence of narrow MRG/Magic style trails which is what I expected given the other TRs I’ve read on Owls. There is a new glade off the top called Kaboul that we didnt hit but looked very steep/tight along with Kandahar far skiers left. Had no way of seeing tree spacing/pitch on the middle mountain glades (Ponsoon, Oz, L’Urubu) because the trails to get there were all closed.
Owls Head I think is perfect for a day trip getaway to do something different if you are already skiing the NEK. I could also see renting a slopeside condo for a couple nights as the mountain does seem big/diverse enough to spend a multiple days there. Virtually nothing going on nearby or at the mtn save for the bar for apres and unsure how popular that is. There was not 1 person in there when we left the mtn at 1:15 so me thinks it is a lot of families and those who bring their lunch….we saw a lot of brown baggers in the lodge.
I’m not sure it is a 3+ day destination on its own by any means but another trip may be to sample Orford and Sutton.
Those who like steep groomers with views will enjoy it. Seems lines would never be much of an issue as they have a ton of lifts and various small trail pods.
I’m glad I went and the skiing being already paid for made it worthwhile….will be back someday I’m sure to give a more complete review of the terrain when its 100% open.