This is less of a TR and more of a realization. The great early season skiing, and especially New Years Day have changed my approach to lift service skiing. Not sure if approach is even the right word. Actually it started last year on Valentine’s Day after the first of four or five major storms that made Winter 06/07 one of the best ever. I was driving North after the storm and I decided that I was finally going to get something “fat.”
By phone, I spoke to Jan at The Mountaineer in Keene Valley – a great, professional shop. After 45 minutes on the phone I ordered a pair of K2 World Pistes with G3 bindings to be shipped UPS. These skis are only 80 mm underfoot, but coming from a cross country skiing background — to me — they were fat. Probably more important…these were the first skis I’ve had with significant sidecut.
I get to the cabin and ski a day on my old Atomics and then the next day, the K2s arrive. As I’m riding the Straightbrook chair, I see these really little kids doing controlled wedge turns through some pretty big bumps. I’m thinking geez come ON, I HAVE to be able to do that. I never seemed to be able to do more than 10 or 15 bumps without loosing rhythm or crashing. Well it turns out, with that much sidecut, I could do it.
I started skiing the trees, and also floating in the untracked. The rest of last season is history…it was great for 3 solid months at least. Then, this year…I enjoyed whatever Gore could put together early season. And as I’ve reported – it was limited, but pretty darn good. So December, and specifically New Years Day comes along, and I’m floating through everything, while being shown around by some very knowledgeable locals from the Gore Forum (thanks Jimmer and the boys).
Gore was really pretty good this weekend. Almost all of the on-piste was open and the surface was really good. It’s been snowing in dribs and drabs since the thaw, and it been cold enough to make some sweet manmade. Anyone who has been skiing the mountain for a long time knows the great strides they’ve made with snowmaking. There was 2″ of natural on top of very carvable corduroy. Pine Knot, Chatiemac, Hawkeye…really everything open, top and bottom, was excellent. The headwall on Lies was really edgeable to the point that everyone skiing it was giddy. They opened the Rumor, from the top for the first time this year I think. It was like a pillow fight. Probably the best I’ve ever skied it when it was primary a manmade surface.
The point of this story is that I’ve become somewhat jaded about skiing the trails. If the trees aren’t open, and/or there aren’t soft bumps or untracked, I’m just not that into it. It may be too obvious to say that skiing in natural snow is fun. It’s why I love cross country skiing. Natural snow has personality that manmade will never have. But it’s more than that. For me…each turn in the trees is a leap of faith that I’ll be able to get my skis around. And every time I do, it’s a small victory. I love it.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a great day. I skied with Zelda and it was fun to see her ski the Hawkeye headwall with some confidence. But I’m jonesing for the trees. One thing was kind of funny…they opened the Tahawas and Otter Slide glades. Two very low angle glades. They were doable but thin. It was almost like they were saying, ok ski this and then YOU decide if you want to poach the steeper stuff. I said no way.
We skied the whole day, and when we picked up our daughter at the end of the day, it seemed that she was sick…so Day 20 was going to have to wait for another time. All in all – a great day, but I’m wanting more. More trees, more snow, more soft bumps.
A guy on FirstTracks made a comment to the effect that ANYONE can teley the trees. Like it’s cheating. I’m not sure what he meant, as I’ve never done any fixed heel skiing. Would love to hear what others think about that. To me tele-skiing is hard challenging work. It may be the reason I’m content at Gore. The runs aren’t that long and most of the chairs aren’t fast. The slow chairs help protect the goods from the ravenous alpine experts who would munch it up quick. I don’t mind the poky Dark Side and North Chairs, I need the break. And I’d rather wait in a short or non-existent liftline and spend the time with my butt in the chair looking at the Adirondacks. At 50 years old — I’m still improving — I could be happy at Gore a long time. If it snows.