For kids: its Halloween, dressing up and candy.
For some: Its spectacular foliage, picking up the leaves and getting ready for Winter.
For hunters: its game time for Moose.
Skiers also have their own rituals :
– Ski porn and ski shows.
– First flakes and first snow.
– Race to see which ski area will be the first to spin lifts in the country (A-Basin or Loveland) and in the East (Killington or Sunday River).
– Hunt for Snow enough to ski on.
– And number 97 for a Mad Skier!!!
Hunt for White October!!! At least a bit of October white to turn on !!!
October 2013 was no different: After a warm first half of the month in Eastern North America, diehard skiers were looking at the first sign of slidable snow (natural or fake). Things got back to normal with some seasonable temperature in the second half of the month. The first real snowmaking window opened on Tuesday with Killington and Sunday River turning on the guns for a October opening.
Killington was fighting to regain its past reputation as first to open/October skiing with its 3rd October in a row.
Sunday River was pulling all the stops to open again this October for the 6 out of 8 times, having only missed 2012.
Both ski area seemed to have the attitude to hunt for it: Killington have refound that attitude it had lost for a few years while Sunday River wasn’t going to throw in the towel and play second fiddle to the Beast in Vermont. In the afternoon of Thursday October 24, Killington turned on its lifts for skiers while Sunday River announced they were opening the Saturday. Like last October 13, Kmart reserved its first full day for passholders on that Friday. Some people didn’t care, as they found about one foot of natural snow in higher elevations.
Meanwhile in Maine things soured; Sunday River made this announcement on Friday before I left for Montreal:
We’re still aiming to open tomorrow, but the weather has taken a turn for the worse. As such, we’re going to make the call tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. as to whether or now we can open, and here are the reasons why:
It’s much warmer than any of us expected, snowmaking has stopped, temperatures do not look favorable moving forward, leaving each and every one of us thinking: we’ll be damned if we go back on our word to you about tomorrow being opening day. If there was ever a testament to the dedication of our teams to you, it was illustrated just 20 minutes ago by 20 plus men boarding the Locke Mountain Triple. They weren’t going up to ski first tracks, they were going up there to physically move snow in time for tomorrow’s opening day. None of us are ready to admit defeat, but there’s a chance that we may.
So what does this mean? It means that despite our snowmaking efforts since Tuesday, we’ve made significant process, however there will be walking to the mid-station in addition to downloading to the base. It means that we’ll continue to make snow when we can, but it’s going to take a miracle to make the amount of snow most of you are used to expecting. It means that the coverage is variable, so when we say for advanced skiers and snowboarders only, we really really mean it. It means that opening day conditions are nowhere near our standards, despite even our best efforts. And finally, it means that even if we’re able to open tomorrow, we need to set some expectations.
So…if you’re looking for tremendous conditions and ample snow coverage—get ready for the most honest snow report assessment maybe, like, ever—this weekend isn’t for you. If you want to come up, check things out, ski a little, and check out our progress, come on up and say hello.
Keep thinking cold thoughts and we’ll continue to too. Tomorrow’s update will be here at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow.
Sonic Youth : ‘Cross the Breeze
We waited until 6:30am’s green light to head on the road for the first time this season. We had considered heading to Killington which is the same distance from Montreal (actually 3km less), but I prefer the drive to Maine and T2 run versus Rime. As we noticed with the last minute…hold on by Sunday River, things can change fast on the margins of a ski season. Sunday River had hoped to 2 runs initially and barely managed one and Killington would offer 5 runs on that Saturday.
There was an early pre-dawn red fiery sky over the distant hills mixed with dark clouds to the East: we were driving at great speed towards it on the Eastern Townships Autoroute with Pink Floyd’s Animals shouting in the speakers, like two snow hobbits seeking white in Mordor.
A short time after we crossed the border into the extreme northeast corner of Vermont and New Hampshire, we were into the wilderness. Not many skiers in these parts in October : the odd store had a bunch of killed animals on the walls, not skis. As we got crossed one last notch, we could see white on the mountain tops.
Pink Floyd : Dogs
Reading material : 40% Porn, 40% Guns and weather almanach. Wait? No, this ain’t ski porn!? This isn’t the FamousInternetSkiers Calendar????
Barker Parking Lot
We found an empty spot close to the lodge as a few skiers were already leaving. They had their first few runs of the season and were happy. From experience over the last opening at Sunday River two years ago, I remembered that the conditions generally got better as the snow was being skied.
Sunday River’s open as soon as possible, no time or need to groomed it, it’s the skiers job to massage the snow. It makes for some challenges and it keep skiers on their toes.
The rode up the slow Locke Mountain Triple; it was being particularly slow as people kept downloading as were riding. Some snowguns were still functioning towards the bottom, but they were being turned off as we were riding up. The temperature was clearly moving above freezing. There was no blazed donut skiing this year.
The surface was irregular, but not firm. The conditions got sketchy and thin as you moved below the pitch. Sketchier than previous visits (2009 and 2011) with a few streams to jump to reach the midstation: almost wondering how close to the freezing mark?
People didn’t care, they were just happy that Sunday River managed to pull it off. The mountain crew had to manually move the snow around to make skiing possible today. After the previous day bloom message, conditions were much better than expected. Absolutely no walking was required. Kudos for the mountain crew’s hard work.
As in previous experience, the skiing got better as the snow was moved around by skier traffic and I found my legs. The bumped up pitch by the mounds snowguns was fun to ski.
As MTL_Ripper mentioned, there is no easy start to the season. He was adjusting from an injury while people’s eyes were trying to adjust to his 3D drawing on his white jacket – you would think that the liftees around were stoners being tripped out by it. It was a great conversation piece.
The mountain crew were making snow on a few other upper trails, but as mentioned in their message, the weather window wasn’t as great as anticipated and they didn’t manage to get Upper Sunday Punch open.
It would be great if Sunday River could get a temporary snackbar instead next to the midstation. Although we were getting pretty hungry, but we kept skiing. It started snowing as we were making our last runs; we downloaded off with about one hour left: greatly satisfied of our day. I would have skied more, but they will be always next time.
MTL_Ripper needed to find an actual drinkable coffee, the last one found in the wilderness was pretty bad.
No lineup and long wait to get up or off the mountain this year. The email might have scared a few people away? One run lasting 180 meters vertical down a black diamond run; that ain’t bad for October. It always a surreal moment when you walk off a lift and its warm with no snow in sight.
Thank you again Sunday River for making regularly making October possible for us, Mad rippers.
MadPat’s Gallery :
Sunday River ME – October 26, 2013