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The Value of "Fit" (not gear-related...)

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to ski in New England for the first time. Although we missed some good-sized dumps on either side of our trip, I'd say we still had pretty good conditions, and overall the trip was a lot of fun. This post was going to be a TR, but it got me thinking, so it became a non-TR.

We skied Bolton Valley on Saturday, and Stowe on Sunday. BV had 6" of fresh powder, and Stowe did not see any appreciable snowfall before Sunday. I mention this only because I'm not sure how much of an impact it had on our trip, but I'd guess it had some.

In short, Bolton Valley was an amazing experience. We skied nearly 8 hours, and got our first run in before 8:30 AM. We rode the Vista quad to the top so we could start off slow, and eased into things by running a nice easy green to the bottom. There were three of us, and we had the first tracks of the day, an experience that we were lucky enough to have several times that morning. From there, we began to explore other options from the top of the Vista quad, and then went over to the Wilderness lift and I had one of my most enjoyable runs ever on Peggy Dow's. Then, it was over to the Timberline lift, and working through Sure Shot and Twice as Nice, where I've never had so much fun falling down HARD. I tried (for the first time) to follow a narrow little trail through some trees, hit an unexpectedly deep patch where my skis got stuck and launched me onto my face. I felt like I'd run into a wall, but couldn't stop laughing. I had snow all inside the top of my coat, but didn't care. It was FUN. We did that a few more times (falls and all), then just started skiing all over the mountain. There were no liftlines more than 90 seconds or so, and I don't think I could've gotten more laps in if I'd been the only one on the mountain. It was fantastic, and the place really had the great "old school" feel to it that I'd seen mentioned. By the end of the day, some of the stuff was crusting over, and there were portions of the trails that were skied off a bit, but the first 4 hours were outstanding. The twisty, turny trails were beautiful, and the tightly wound trails (especially off the wilderness lift) were a lot of fun with just the right amount of difficulty to make me feel like I was improving.

The next day was Stowe. To be fair, there was no snow overnight, so it's not an apples-to-apples sort of comparison, but I'd have to say that I only enjoyed it about 1/3 as much as BV. My girlfriend felt she was having issues with her boots, so she wanted to stay on green terrain again (like she had for a lot of the previous day), while my friend and I tried to ski a few blues here and there. Of course, to do that, pretty much meant leaving her to fend for herself among the hordes of people in the "learning areas". The few blues that we skied were starting to feel really iced over, and the greens, aside from "Toll Road" were pretty dull and really crowded. Toll Road may have been the longest amount of work I've ever put in for the least amount of "payoff" I can remember. I never felt comfortable getting up too much speed there because I wasn't sure what was going to happen next... At the end of the day, I tried to ski Gondoliere, because I at least wanted to work my way from the top of Mansfield. I say "tried" because it ended up being a lot of 2- or 3-turn segments to get over the ice and the emerging bumps. I did find my rhythm a few times, but then I'd hit a big icy patch, and feel uncertain again, and it was back to 2- and 3-turn bits. If I'd known, I would've skied that earlier in the day and hopefully would have enjoyed that more.

Without making this into an even more ridiculously long post, my point is that this trip really drove home that it's sooooo important to know what you need in a mountain before you try to pick the "best" option. I had asked about Bolton Valley, and heard everything from "it's boring" to "it's great old time New England skiing" and all the others in between. The reality is, I can see where both extremes would be right, depending on your point of view. For my group, it was perfect, in that it let us a) feel like rock stars while we skied the blue runs at good speed (they're not that steep, really), b) ski blue and green terrain from the same lift (meaning that my girlfriend and I could ride up together, ski separately, and meet at the bottom), and c) get lots and lots of runs in because the runs themselves weren't so long.

On the other hand, Stowe a) made us split up to ski blue and green terrain, b) made it tricky to ski from the top of either mountain on anything other than blue or black runs and c) gave us fits getting across Cut-Across #2 to Main Street off of Sterling (YUCK!). It was a fun day of skiing, but we probably could have enjoyed ourselves just as much at BV for a second day, or somewhere that was less geared toward the upper-level skiers looking for serious challenges. Most of the green terrain was just wide-open stuff that didn't really offer much of a "New England" feel. It could have been Whitetail, if it weren't for the surrounding views. I'm sure the stuff in the middle of the resort (on Mansfield) is probably better that way, but we really weren't up to it.

I don't doubt that Stowe is a vastly superior skiing experience to Bolton Valley. I would have a hard time defending any assertion to the contrary, since even just the views from the top of Mansfield would make me a liar. But, for me, I am not good enough yet to need most of what it offers. Maybe the fact that a smaller place like Bolton Valley *doesn't* offer the tremendous challenges available at a place like Stowe also means that the people that are skiing there are a little more like me?

I know it's a lot cooler to look for the steepest steeps, or the gnarliest terrain, but I can't worry about that yet. I don't get to ski that often, and I may never get to the point that I can even start to think about using words like "cornice" or "couloir" or "huck" (except when in direct proximity to the phrase "the last thing I remember, I decided to try..."). If a resort saves the "fun" for the advanced skiers, then it's probably worth waiting a few years before I invest in a lift ticket there, since I probably won't be getting my money's worth.

So, that's a lot longer than I meant to be, but that was on my mind as I was thinking back over the weekend. I can't wait to ski Stowe again, when I'm ready, whenever that is. Until then, I'll just try to be better each day than I was the day before....

post #2 of 8
Good insights.

That's why it's a shame so many "feeder areas" went broke.
post #3 of 8
Don't worry, it's not about looking cool by skiing the steepest stuff out there. It's about you and your GF having a good time.

Next time you come up try Okemo. It sounds like a you two need a comfortable mt where you can gain confidence.
It does offer the terrain your looking for.

Stowe is a great mt too, I'm sure you'll enjoy it in the future.
post #4 of 8
scootertig, nice write up. I'm glad you and your gf had a good weekend. Some other areas that might be more to your liking and style could be Berkshire East in Ma. It has been a long time since I was there (15 yrs) but I do remember they had a nice layout with the old style "New England" trails you mentioned. Another thought comes to mind is to go up I 91 check out Ascutney for a day then head up north some more and hit Burke Mt. One other place and don't laugh but try out Mad River Glen their Birdland section has great green terrain all serviced by its own lift. MRG is New England skiing at its finest. Best of all most of those ski areas will be easier on the wallet.
post #5 of 8
Agree with Max, Okemo is more of a intermedidate heaven. Stratton is another one that "make you feel like rock stars".
post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Snowbowler View Post
scootertig, nice write up. I'm glad you and your gf had a good weekend. Some other areas that might be more to your liking and style could be Berkshire East in Ma.


One other place and don't laugh but try out Mad River Glen their Birdland section has great green terrain all serviced by its own lift. MRG is New England skiing at its finest.
Actually, the day we went to Stowe, I had lobbied pretty hard for MRG, but my friend had his heart set on Stowe. He grew up in Burlington, and I think it was special to him to get to ski on Mansfield, or something... If I had it to do again, I'd definitely go MRG, in spite of its "experts-only" rep.

I've seen a LOT of love for Berkshire East on Alpinezone, so I definitely want to give it a look. Ascutney and Burke sound interesting, too.

post #7 of 8
Scootertig, there are some great feeder areas, "family areas," and great New England Areas are the North East. The feeder areas are going to be like the local areas that just teach any Joe Schmoe to ski, like many MA, NJ, PA, and CT areas (there are a few areas that don't fit the true feeder areas, but take it with a grain of salt). The "family areas," or more intermediate areas would be places like Bolton, Smuggler's Notch (They've been top rated for a bunch of years), Okemo, and a few others. When you look for more advanced New England type skiing, then you're talking about K-Town, Sunday River, Mad River, Stowe (and the back country between Stowe and Smugg's), etc.

It sounds kinda cheesy, but it is true in the east that you need to think about the typer of terrain you like to ski before booking a vaca. The East really does tend to be a little more specific than than the west coast or rocky mountain.
post #8 of 8
I am a Wachusett guy and a functioning blue-groomer-a-holic.

"The Beast" is fun. Narrow and steep. Nice little Mt with big fans. Ascutney similar.

Don't forget itty bitty Crochet (sp?).

Sunnapee, and Mt Snow are nice fam Mts with a little of everything.

If you want something for EVERYONE in VT. K-Ton is your place. Plus good nightlife.

Okemo will keep everyone happy plus it is "nice" with great snow making capacity.

I am curious what you meant by "ice" the day after a 6" cover. We would prob call that "loose granular" e.g. ice ground to pellets by the groomer.
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