We had fifteen people attend over two days with the hardcore doing both. From memory those that attended Saturday: jimmy, Johnnys Zoo, JohnL, Treebarker and son Josh and daughter Jessie, telerod15 and myself for a total of 8 that day.
Friday's hoped for snow event turned to freezing rain leaving a nice crust on several inches of new. The entire day remained rain free but we had some light fog early and heavy overcast all day. The snowmaking trails were in great shape so we started an easy warm up on Jack Rabbit, then to some of the other groomed cruisers, Expressway and Deer Run. Just when Rod was beginning to wonder if we were going to venture onto some challenge we meet up with JohnL and jimmy and proceeded to Stembogen. The bowl was rock hard bumps covered with crust and sno-cone. I managed to hack my way down the steepest section and watched as the rest of the crew ripped it good. Stembogen is what you would call a classic 'New England' ski trail. It twists through multiple switchbacks making every section run across the fall line before it switches and drops again. This is never groomed and bumps form helter skelter in amongst the snow making swells. It is real funky to ski. I'd like to think that maybe it's like Stowe’s Nosedive before they eliminated several switchback.
About three quarters of the way down there is an entrance to a 'gladed' streambed call the Ditch. It's a natural half pipe that funnels down on the skiers right of Stembogen. Although all other glades where roped, this one happen to be open. We all lined up on trailside and debated the possibility, considered the crust, thin cover, the rocks and stumps we knew to be there, we decided not to go. Then telerod jumped in and the rest followed like lemmings. Rod did fine on his mismatched rock tele-skis. Johnnys Zoo and JohnL did the best from the fixed heel crowd and Treebarker managed a few nice turns before he found a rock that had core shot written on it. I think that Johnnys Zoo made some of the nicest turns in the thick crust. I never trusted myself so I bailed every other turn and ended up hopping like a demented kangaroo. We all laughed at ourselves for giving into such foolishness but hey, that's skiing in the Mid-Atlantic. We traversed out about half way down after having whetting our off piste craving. We're still starving around here. I can't remember when we had a good lasting snow pack.
Next we hit High Hopes, a trail that intersects Extrovert and runs under a chair lift so it is a man made fall line trail that’s a little on the narrow side. The trail is groomed but the lift towers down the center makes for some interesting transitions. High Hopes starts out fairly easy and moderately pitch but as you approach the Extrovert intersection it begins to get a little steeper. People tend to pull up here to check both their speed and the conditions on Lower Ex. As a result by mid-day the hopes for easy carving get dashed by the icy tracks left by the groomer treads. It’s sort of like skiing on cobble stones. We were early enough to get on High Hopes when the corduroy was still fresh but we did ski it icy later in the day.
After High Hopes we were ready for Extrovert. Extrovert is Blue Knob’s signature expert run. EpicSki member Powdr calculated Ex to be 28.5 degrees, as steep as Killington’s Outer Limits but is much narrower and about 750 feet of vertical. Ex has snow making from near ground level guns and is never groomed. The result is the snow piles up in huge whales near the guns, a little less so at the other side of the trail. Skiing Extrovert is always a challenge especially over the whales which begin to hold some skier made bumps but soon the contours surrender to the random drop from the snow guns. You can find a ten foot drop off the back of some of those bumps.
On this day I was thankful for the crust on slush, it provided a slow surface to the ice moguls. I can’t remember who lead the charge, Marcus, JohnL or Johnny. All three had their moment and attacked the more challenging line. I looked for the more natural formed bumps on skier’s right at the top. We all pulled up at the High Hopes intersection then dropped again on the lower section which starts steep at High Hope’s edge then flattens somewhat but soon disappears over the last steep head wall. There was much expose dirt across that section and some snow melt that made the run out interesting to navigate. We all survived the experience, some with more élan then the rest; I was not among that group.
We spent some time watching the big air contest the resort sponsored that day. There were some awesome jumpers but I do believe the two plankers had the better air. I am biased though. The rest of the day we alternated between the groomed cruisers and the icy experts. Perhaps some of the others can fill in the details and fun stories from the rest of the runs that day. Treebarker’s clan and I left early to make the 2+ hour trip home leaving the core crowd to close the slopes and head down to Bedford. JimK/Jamesj and son were headed up that night to ski the Knob on Sunday. I would be back with my clan too.
Sunday’s weather was the opposite of the day before. Some snow fell overnight as the temperatures dropped into the teens. The skies were sunny, deep blue and temperatures rose to the mid-thirties throughout the day. Johnnys Zoo, Treebarker and family were absent but JimK and son along with August West and my brood were added to the crew. Later Mike C found the core group.
This was family ski day for me so I spent a lot of time on Mambo Alley and Jack Rabbit, the Knob’s premier novice and intermediate trails respectively. Mambo lazily starts on the skier’s right side of the mountain then twist and turns across the middle on its way to the left side. It rambles for about a mile if you ski down to the double chair. It has a good pitch to work your way from wedge to open parallel skills. My son loved burning down here looking for lips and dips to catch air. The entire gang followed us a few times then followed again as we move over to Jack Rabbit.
Old Extrovert regulars remember this trail as Bunny Hop. I guess that name implied the trail was tamer than it really is so now it’s Jack Rabbit. This is a long intermediate cruiser that is pitched just right for those looking to step up to the next level and earn their blue square creds. Like Mambo, Jack Rabbit provides a lot of ski time, good for gaining confidence and new skills. By mid-day both trails held the best snow on the mountain, not too deep loose granular making for effortless turning. Jack Rabbit still served up some icy sections to keep you on your toes. Mambo was sweet all day long. The snow on those two never went potato mash and the experts trails never really softened.
I got my boy to ski the next trails up on the skill rotation, Expressway and Deer Run but the hard surfaces and steeper pitches took him out of his fun zone and away from scarves to more skids so we went back to the Rabbit and Mambo. My wife and daughter joined the rest of the crew for some upper level cruising. Soon the big boys went off to find their challenge. Rod and August West stayed with us a long time and took time to work on their skills.
After wife and son called it a day and West took his beer break Rod and I found the gang on Extrovert so I joined them for some final thrashing. There I meet Mike C and latter shared a chair with him. I never really got to watch JimK ski as he always seemed to be ahead of the crowd snapping photos. I got a chance to see him ski Extrovert in fine form. As for his son, I found him at the bottom waiting for the old dudes to catch up. At the top of the next chair my daughter came out of the lodge to join us for my final run. We all headed to the top of Extrovert but our destination was Edgeset, a natural snow trail that falls back toward Stembogen. The snow was nice but there were a few bare spots. The bumps on skiers left were soft and evenly formed. It was a nice way to end my day and share a little challenge with my first born.
The great thing about skiing with this group was the generous nature of the participants. By this I mean all were encouraging and appreciative of each others skiing. Both days we wore huge smiles all day long. All you folks that stayed away because of weather concerns well, you missed out on a fine time. We had challenge even though most of the natural snow terrain was closed plus family time presented plenty of opportunity for blue square cruising. Yinz all come out next year, yinz hear! With some luck, we’ll gather at Laurel. Wildcat is only 28.1 degrees steep but the camaraderie will make up for that missing .4 degrees.