Return to the Mountains: Back to the MAX

Since my fateful and educational collision with a tree at Stratton in early December, I watched my social media feeds with a mixture of jealousy and anticipation as the east got some good early season snow. Surely, I thought, Ullr’s bloodthirst was slaked due to my offering, and he was preparing the mountains for my return.

Then, right on schedule, came the January thaw. All of that glorious fluff gone thanks to two days of rain and near-60-degree weather. I began to dread the ice that would follow as I now fear ice in a way I hadn’t before. But as I kept an eye on the forecast and saw that some areas were due to get up to eight inches of fresh snow, I grew excited and decided to head up north for the first time in six weeks.

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MAX Pass Adventures: Stratton

When we decided to spring for the M.A.X. Pass this year, I was confident we would get our money’s worth. Killington, Pico, Gore and Whiteface are all favorites. Belleayre and Windham are close to home, family-friendly mountains that I knew I could bring my kids and have a good time. But Stratton and Okemo were unknown to me.

stratton square

I’d heard that both hills were a bit bland, serving as playgrounds for wealthy city people, but it was my goal to use our MAX Passes to spread our wings. We’d already skied the Catskills a few times this season and this past Saturday was our first chance to venture farther: a day-trip to Stratton with Junior, my oldest son.

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Deep into a Steep Vermont December

In December 2016, on an early-season trip to Killington, our group planned to visit Okemo on the second day. Conditions in the region were typical for December—the snow was hard, crusty, and mostly manmade with a slick layer of ice hiding underneath. When I saw the next morning that Jay Peak had landed nearly two feet of surprise snowfall, I headed north in search of powder, with or without my friends.

I arrived to waist-deep powder runs on some of the steepest trails and glades in the northeast, making the day trip well worth the five hours of extra driving. That was my first day as a “powderhound,” obsessively checking the weather and allowing Mother Nature to steer my Subaru to the mountains I would visit.

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