We’re about halfway through winter, right? Look back at it so far and how would you rate it for winter recreational opportunities?
I know I’ve skied a lot, both Nordic and alpine.
I’ve skated outside five times.
No sledding yet, but I’d say it’s been pretty decent.
Talk to some ski area officials, however, and you’ll learn they have a different take.
Sure, it was snowy in December, but it was frigid, and skiers and riders stayed away.
Then came the January rain and ice: great for skating, awful for ski areas.
“Mother Nature certainly presented us some challenges in the first half,” Gore Mountain Marketing Director Emily Stanton said Wednesday afternoon, as the snow dumped from the sky. “Obviously Christmas and Martin Luther King weekend, between the cold weather or the challenging weather, presented some hurdles. But snowmakers have been up to the task, and now that Mother Nature is contributing, all of us are celebrating!”
Stanton said lots of new terrain is opening at Gore, including the extremely steep Rumor, and also the connector trail to the Ski Bowl. But the trees are the draw when the powder comes, she said.
“One of Gore’s treasures is the glades, and when this weather comes we are able to open glades on every mountain area and really present to people the variety of terrain that this place has,” she said.
Charles “Chic” Wilson, owner of Easton’s Willard Mountain, was also enjoying seeing the snow pile up Wednesday afternoon, but his voice almost seemed cautiously optimistic at best.
When I suggested this snow might be great for the upcoming Presidents’ Week, he quickly said, “Let’s not talk about vacation weeks for fear of jinxing it.”
I think he was only half kidding.
He said Willard and all ski areas need a solid vacation week to make up for the frigid Christmas break and the rainy stretch that followed.
“The first half was not what we’d call a good one,” he said. “But the second half could be great. Who knows?”
Spencer Montgomery at West Mountain Ski Center had a different tone Wednesday, though. He acknowledged what Stanton and Wilson said about the challenges, but he was laughing when talking about how great the skiing has been since Sunday’s 12-plus inches.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “The skiing is unbelievable.”
His enthusiasm is bolstered in part because the predicted 6 inches of snow here on Sunday turned into almost 13, when north and south got significantly less.
“That storm came and just hung over the top of us,” he said. “That doesn’t happen often.”
He was literally laughing out loud into the phone at the recent snowy good fortune while vowing to continue with snowmaking to ensure strong coverage and a strong finish.
“This is what you live for,” he said.
And by the end of the phone conversation with Wilson, he was feeling pretty inspired too, it seemed.
“I know I got a lot of smiling faces walking in the door right now,” Wilson said. “We don’t get to play in this often.”
I would have loved to be skiing Monday.
I would have loved doing almost anything other than what I was doing — driving down I-87 under a cloudless sky with a foot of fresh powder in all directions — to say goodbye to my oldest daughter for more than four months.
The small talk on the way down was forced, but OK. We found a ‘70s music channel that provided both nostalgia and comic relief.
It’s no secret that my oldest daughter looks a little like me (she has hair though), but acts even more like me. We love the same music, love baseball, love writing.
It was rough to say goodbye in the airport. Really rough.
But before leaving for JFK Monday morning, we were running around doing errands and talking about how cool it was that this dumping came as she was leaving winter for the year.
We talked about skiing together, Nordic and downhill. She even went solo this winter when I couldn’t join, a first for her and she loved it. She said she didn’t feel cheated on winter.
Ironically, her flight to Madrid was delayed — because of snow in Madrid.
It’s right before deadline Wednesday evening and I just returned from powder turns with friends at West Mountain. It was just what the soul ordered. I’m drenched from snow, a little leg weary, and smiling wide.