Vermont - December 31st 2000 & January 1st 2001
Sunday, December 31st, 2000
Sometime around Monday or Tuesday of last week, I began hearing about a proposed nor'easter for the New Year's weekend. The weather gurus on the ne.weather newsgroup were going nuts, as this could be the first big storm for the coastal cities in a number of years. A clipper type low along the northern tier of the U.S. might merge with a storm coming out of the south, and Boom!, bomb out as a nor'easter off the coast. Although the southern storm pretty much went off the coast down south, the situation was set so that the northern low transferred its energy and made a low off the coast anyway. Two friends, Dave and Chris, came up from southern New England, and as Saturday progressed, we watched the storm dump plentiful snows across New Jersey, Philly, New York City and many points down south of us. Some areas of New Jersey were in the bull's eye with over two feet of snow. The latest report I saw for Mountain Creek ski area in NJ was 29 inches. The Catskills also got some heavy bands of snow, I saw Hunter Mountain reporting 30 inches. Overnight Saturday, the storm worked its way up into northern New England, and by early Sunday morning, Sugarbush was reporting 10 inches. This number would swell to 16 inches by the end of the day, and 24 inches by Monday.
We got an early start on Sunday, but even at 8:00 A.M. the parking lot was already half full of holiday vacationers and powderhounds. After a bit of mechanical troubles with the Gate House lift, we were some of the first group to get up to North Lynx. We ran off three quick runs on the North Lynx Chair since there was no line and the snow was sweet. Untracked turns down Morning Star revealed about 12 inches of new snow, pretty light at about 6-7% H20. The base was already pretty good, so rock exposure was minimal. We eventually worked our way back down the mountain through some of the usual woods, the new snow covering most of the obstacles that we had encountered on Thursday.
At this point it was back to reality as we encountered the holiday crowds. The lower lifts had pretty substantial lines, and they unfortunately hadn't started up Spring Fling at this point. We headed over to the Valley House Chair which seemed to have the best chance at a short wait. What we really wanted to do was head up to Heaven's Gate, but with the wind howling, I wasn't sure it would be running. I set my radio to scan mode to catch the latest on what was happening with the lifts, and soon found out that Heaven's Gate was running. We made the traverse over and found no line (people seemed to be hanging out at the lower lifts, possibly due to wind?) I'd heard no mention of Castlerock on the radio, and had to assume it wasn't open yet, so we hiked over to get some fresh turns. It turns out that the Castlerock lift is broken, so it will be inoperable for a bit until they get a new part for it. Although there was a bigger crowd than usual, we all caught fresh tracks down Middle Earth and got some quality video footage. We found 16 inches of nice light fluff that made even the excellent conditions on the regular trails seem like a waste of time. E had to eat her words about the hike not being worth it.
We were contemplating another lap on Castlerock when we lost Dave at the top of the Super Bravo Lift in a blinding gale of wind. Ironically, Dave had refused taking a radio from Chris at the beginning of the day. "No, no, I don't need a radio, I don't plan on skiing alone." Well, he did that afternoon, despite our efforts to find him. Chris, E and I enjoyed some fun runs and hit some woods in the Snowball area. It had been snowing hard all day, and when I did some checks in the woods, even the lower mountain had about 16 inches of new snow at this point. It turns out that Dave was more resourceful than we thought, and worked himself in two more laps over at Castlerock, praising the untracked on Lift Line, and commenting on how the snow was falling so fast that he had to break trail on the hike. Meanwhile we're searching for him and feeling sorry that he might not be able to find his way around the mountain! Ha, we're onto him now ;)
We drove home through some of the heaviest snow we'd encountered yet. Even though accumulations for the Green Mountains had looked iffy for a bit, that famous nor'easter wraparound was now in full effect and the snow continued to pile up. It snowed heavily all the way back until the Champlain Valley, where things had stopped a bit earlier. We also put together a short QuickTime web video (~7 MB) with footage of Jay in the Snowball wood from Sunday. You can find out a bit of information about the web video here, and download the movie by right clicking on the movie image below (recommended) or click to have it open and play in a new window. Moving your mouse over the movie image will also display a few still frames from the video.
Monday, January 1st, 2001
I wasn't sure if I could convince everyone to go back the next day for a few more runs, but another 8-10 inches, and reduced prices due to the Sugarcard sealed the deal. It turns out that Sugarbush had decided to honor the Sugarcard on January 1st, despite it being a holiday week. Chris received an email, and E was very impressed that when they couldn't reach her by email, they actually called her by phone to let her know that her Sugarcard would work if she wanted to use it tomorrow.
All the crowds seemed to have disappeared when we arrived on Sunday. I'm not sure if we would have returned if it wasn't for the Castlerock factor, but the lure of 24 inches of untracked light powder was too much. We spoke with other folks over there and everyone agreed that they should form a petition to just leave the Castlerock chair inoperable. ;) We hit Castlerock trail this time, and although we didn't have first tracks by any means, the remaining untracked off to the sides was consistently knee to waist deep. The topmost snow had even lightened up a bit more than the previous day so it was pretty spectacular. Later we did a run down Rumble and still found untracked in the lower sections. I hit one sweeping turn where Dave said "Oh man, you looked like a water skier on that one, I couldn't even see you for most of that turn because you were under the snow." He wished he had the camcorder for that one, but if I had a nickel for all the amazing shots we miss... I did catch Chris on video snapping his composite pole on Rumble. That's the second composite pole destruction I've seen, and both caught on video. I'm beginning to wonder if they're more durable than aluminum after all. If the temperatures stay cold, the skiing is going to stay fantastic so get out there and enjoy.