Updated: Dec 9, 2019
Resorts are opening up all across the country and people are starting the migration toward snow. Here in Vermont, and for most of the East Coast, it's a time of both anticipation and disappointment.
Anticipation for the upcoming season is certainly more prevalent than the disappointment. The ski movies from TGR, MSP, Level 1, and PBP come on tour, athlete edits and team edits drop online, and the stoke is high. Everybody is hyped to ski powder. What the East doesn't offer as much of: powder. It's Thanksgiving and it was raining last night and my driveway consists of an ice rink with some trees for bumpers.
It's been a trend for a number of years now, we get snow in November, then between Thanksgiving and Christmas we have on and off rain, snow, warm days (32+) and also super cold days, which resorts use for snowmaking. The rain and warm weather is where the disappointment sets in as resorts have needed to close trails they were able to open just days earlier because Mother Nature didn't quite want to cooperate and keep the temps low. This lack of consistent cold weather makes it tough for some of the smaller resorts to get open for the holidays. Places like Magic Mountain, Middlebury Snow Bowl, Bolton Valley, and even Bromley Mountain (some years) don't always have enough snowmaking, or customers, to really justify getting open as early as places like Killington and Jay Peak. These first few weeks of the year can be a good booster to these resorts and give them a little bit more revenue to keep amenities up to date.
Climate change is definitely a factor. How much of a factor? That's hard to say as it's such a slow process, but what I do know is that over Christmas break when I was little, say 2002-2003, I would be able to make an intense fort in the snowbank that the plow would create in my driveway. The fort would have 4-5 foot walls, benches, stairs or a snow ladder to get in and out, and the occasional tunnel (my dad wasn't a fan of tunnels, so I didn't make many). I also remember the snow sliding off the roof and eventually being half way up the windows on the floor level of my house. This hasn't happened in years.
Back to the anticipation, a more positive outlook on the coming winter.
Stratton Mountain, mid-December 2015
I'm always one of the more giddy people pre ski season. Skiing and snowboarding are incredible sports. They could be one of the best for longevity and health (bone density and muscle strength and endurance, see Mike Douglas show you here).
Painting the mountain like a blank canvas, jumping off anything you can find, there's nothing better. There are only a few things that are more free than sliding on snow. Powder skiing. Yeah, that's the best thing on Earth. I do love laying some trenches down on some nice East Coast groomers...but powder? There are no words. I've only had a handful of true powder days, two or three in Vermont, one in California, and three in Montana. Montana so far has had the best snow and terrain for powder. Montana is so good that I'm going back there again in February 2020, for my fourth trip.
In the white room, Montana 2018
Conditions this week in Vermont are looking rock solid. You'll need your edges to be razors, anything less and you're going to have a bad time. It's a great time of the year to build your legs up for the late season or to get some skinning in.
In all honesty, these early season turns are what make East Coast skiers. We ski ice 70% of the season (remaining 30%: 10% powder days, 20% spring skiing). It's why when we get a few days where we get 4" seem so good. We all know it, we go ballistic, call it "deep", and a "powder day" and it's like a normal day for anybody in Utah, Colorado, and Montana. They all get a reset 1-2" each night, all we get is a dedicated crew of groomers getting out there and making the most of what we have. We'll be skiing some hard pack here on the East until at least late January, we'll get a day or two of good snow, but for the most part it'll be hard, fast, and unforgiving.
East Coast skiers and snowboarders are the real deal. We can stick uphill ice and we'll let you know. Keep the stoke alive, snow is on the way.
See you out there,