We went from the snow zone to another mini thaw over the weekend. The damaging rains and warmth were confined to the more southerly ski resorts, while mixed precipitation and freezing rain fell in New England and northern New York.
The Catskills and Berkshires had plenty of snow last week on top of deep, man-made bases, so they will be able to recover in time for Presidents Day weekend. Ski areas such as Mount Peter in Warwick, Holiday Mountain near Monticello and the Victor Constant Ski Slopes at West Point received a good soaking but should be fine for the coming weekend, when grooming will be the key.
We’re reaching that point in the season where ski resort operators will only perform limited snowmaking to spruce up surface conditions. Warmer daytime temps and longer daylight hours — with a stronger sun at this time of year — make snowmaking less effective at creating packed powder surfaces. Instead, grooming machines perform their magic in reviving snow surfaces each day.
I skied at Mount Snow, in West Dover, Vermont, last Thursday when temperatures were in the single digits on the 3,600-foot summit and there was a steady wind out of the Northwest. Mount Snow received more than two feet of snow over the previous five days and conditions were the best of the season, with all 86 trails open and covering the full 1,700 vertical feet. One look at the Mount Snow trail map will tell you that it’s an intermediate and novice paradise. The entire front face, which is massive in terms of skiable acreage, is covered in blue square and green circle terrain. Better yet, it’s fun terrain that has pitches, rolls, twists and turns with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. For skiers and snowboarders that can’t deal with the cold, there’s the Bluebird Express, a detachable six-passenger bubble chair that runs right up the center of the front face and provides access to all of the resort’s terrain.
Advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders have their own playground at Mount Snow with the North Face pod of slopes. Trails like Free Fall, Plummet and Jaws are left ungroomed and bump up with some hefty moguls. Then again, there’s Ripcord, which is in a separate class and is the only double-black diamond rated trail at Mount Snow. For mogul mashing show-offs, head over to the Sunbrook side of the ski area where you can find the short, but steep, Bear Trap trail, which typically has music blaring across the amphitheater type setting.
Now for the piece de resistance. Mount Snow is the northeastern mecca for snowboarders and cross skiers with the top-rated terrain park at the Carinthia pod. Carinthia used to be a separate ski area that benefited from the overflow traffic at Mount Snow, but because of a lack of snowmaking couldn’t make a go of it as an independent operation and sold out to a previous owner of Mount Snow. Mount Snow’s current owner, Peak Resorts, which also owns Hunter Mountain in the Catskills, focused on the Carinthia complex as a dedicated terrain park. Carinthia is served by a high-speed detachable quad chairlift, a double chairlift and a conveyor carpet lift.
Runs like Nitro, The Farm, The Junkyard, Fool’s Gold, The Gulch, Mineshaft and Inferno are loaded with jumps, rails and other features that are mind boggling. Carinthia has a superpipe, one of the few in the Northeast, as well as its own base lodge and parking area.
Carinthia is also the training ground for 11-year-old Port Jervis snowboarding star Ashlyn Overland, who is currently ranked third nationally in the USA Snowboarding Association Boardercross, Menechune Division, for girls ages 10-11. She’s ranked first in the Slopestyle discipline in the Southern Vermont region and eighth overall at the national level. Mom Dawn Overland told me that Ashlyn is staying at Mount Snow to train and compete in the region, even getting her schooling in until the season ends and she returns to her school in Port Jervis.
I skied at Catamount on the New York/Massachusetts border Saturday with the mountain near 100 percent open. The trails were perfectly groomed and the temperature was a relatively balmy 35 degrees when I boarded the Catamount chair in front of the base lodge at 8:30 a.m. It was cloudy with a light fog hanging over the top 200 feet of the ski area. I used my clear lens goggles and flat light and must have been told a dozen times by fellow chairlift riders that I had the right goggles for the conditions. Hint, hint: it’s worth getting a pair even though you may not look as stylish as with your $150 designer goggles.
As usual, I never waited in a chairlift line and got to ski the Turnpike trail, which opened for the first time this season after a dedicated number of days of snowmaking. It’s the longest blue square run at the resort and also has terrain features such as rollers and jumps. An often overlooked way to ski or snowboard the area is to use the summit chair and take the Ridge Run trail over to the east side terrain, where you can find virtually endless combinations of empty slopes that all funnel back to the base area.
How about a return to the snow zone, and happy skiing and riding!
Woodstock resident Al Neubert is an expert skier and has been writing professionally about snow sports for over 30 years. His ski column will run on Thursdays. He can be reached at email@example.com.