EpicSki Academy Stowe 2010:
A Trip Report by Bob Barnes
Bud Heishman tames some unruly bumps
The smiles on the faces of wet skiers coming into the lodge at the end of the day was a real testament to the success of the weekend.
I couldn't agree more with OldEasternSkier's above assessment of the 2010 Stowe ESA! It's a testament to the dedication of all the participants, willing to take one more run even as Sunday's morning snow turned to a drenching rain by mid-afternoon. The skiing was still great, and the weather reports scared the less-fanatical skiers away, leaving all of Stowe pretty much just for the few of us.
Snow conditions ran the gamut from "good" to "good for you"--perfect for an early season tune-up. The much-
publicized two-plus feet of snow earlier in the week was the light "cold smoke" powder that mostly ended up in the woods ... somewhere. Beneath it was either "fast grass" (to be nice) on the natural runs, or bulletproof manmade base--perfect for a well-tuned slalom ski, but challenging when the loose groomed upper layer got scraped off and pushed around in the afternoons. Great real-feedback-keep-you-honest conditions!
On Saturday morning we began on the old quad chair on Mt. Mansfield. Conditions were good, but the Saturday morning crowds enjoying the new snow added some challenge. Waiting in the very long liftline after the first run, we decided that, at the high speeds my group enjoyed, we could spend way too much time standing in line if we didn't change tactics, slow down, and work hard for a run or two. So we dedicated the next run to some serious technique focus. After lunch we joined Mike's group for a run off the gondola, which had just opened for the season that morning. The skiing was exceptionally good up there, and the heavy hoar-frost and snow-encrusted trees were surreal, especially when you ventured off the run into the little side chutes in the trees. This was skiing!
Mike Egan at the top of the Gondola
And the gondola lift line was nearly non-existent, for some reason (it was cold up there?), so we ripped a bunch of fast runs with light focus (can't tell you what--those who were there know, and everyone else will have to come and find out for yourself!) on Saturday afternoon, making up for the crowds and hard work of the morning. Ecstasy!
Following a little apres-ski in CharlieB's Pub, we filled Saturday evening with video review, technical and bootfitting presentations, and the excellent banquet and raffle, entertainingly emceed by the inimitable PhilPug and Tog. Thanks to all of ESA's great sponsors who donated prizes: K2 skis, Slidewright, Starthaus, Snowind, Black Diamond, Transpack, and to Bud Heishman and Mike Egan, who donated a day of coaching each.
Sunday's weather forecast was foreboding: snow, turning to downpouring rain by noon, along with very high wind warnings. "Perfect!" I thought--"the better to keep the crowds away!" And so it was, with the parking lots relatively deserted compared to Saturday. It snowed steadily Sunday morning, with five inches overnight, and the conditions were superb. The gondola disappeared into a heavy bank of fog at the top, with complete whiteout blind conditions. Perhaps you can't buy a decent turn in those conditions, but once you realize that there are other things for sale, a whiteout can be fascinating, and a great exercise for developing the senses of touch and sound. Once we broke out of the fog, the rest of the run was perfect for more high-speed, um, "training." It was amazing to watch my group and other ESA participants, as they stood out even at a distance and silhouetted in the flat light, linking smooth, dynamic turns like very few others on the hill.
We skied five or six runs off that gondola in the morning, with the fog bank dropping lower and lower on the mountain with each run. Then we headed back to the Mansfield Quad for a few runs. As the snow started to become sleet, and the winds picked up, we ducked into the mountaintop "Octagon" for lunch. The real rain held off until later than predicted, but by 2:00pm it had arrived. For the last few runs, the mountain was nearly deserted, but the skiing remained first-rate. We skied a few runs through some little off-piste trails through the trees, and another great little chute identified only by a "Warning--thin cover" sign that turned out to be quite accurate.
Finally, at the bottom of what we had intended to be our final run, with the rain now steady, we ran into Mike's group again, also heading back to the lodge. We decided that one more run, with both groups together, would be the perfect way to wind up the excellent couple days of ESA Stowe 2010. And it was! With virtually no one else left on the mountain, we paused to take in the great view from the top, and then enjoyed a sublime last run back to the Spruce Lodge.
Two days at ESA go by all too quickly, but the memories and the learning will last forever. Thanks to everyone who skied with me for all or part of the time--Tom, Scott, Linda, Martin, Tricia, Rusty, Jean-Marc, and Chris, and to all the other participants and coaches--Bud, Troy, Sue, and Mike, and to videographers Phil and James, for a great time. Thanks too to Stowe Mountain Resort, to Dave Merriam, and special thanks to Cgeib, TrekChick, Tog, and PhilPug for your tireless energy and help with putting on this "unparalleled" event. I can't wait for the next one!