I lost track of how many times I went from cutting hard through the slush to holding my breath to lightly skim over the ice with my skis, all in a matter of seconds. My eyes can typically discern even the smallest of slick spots, but the thin layer of powder is keeping these covered this time. It’s even worse on overcast days where the conditions are the same, yet I’m starting to see spots in front of my eyes as I stare at the blanket of all-white snow.
I stop for a moment to catch my breath and look back to see my grandfather is still halfway up the mountain, attempting to regain his composure after one of his skis caught a soft patch. This is when I realize something is up. We’re on an easy trail to wind down for the day, and he never falls. That man was born with skis on his legs, his father a competitive skier in Norway back in the day. There were no picturesque snow-covered trees, nor were any of the natural snow trails covered in a fresh blanket of flurries.
This isn’t typical of New England skiing in the winter, so what gives?
February 2016- All the natural trails in the woods are unusable
Circa 2014, snow-topped trees are in abundance.
My grandfather and I have a routine: as soon as there’s a sign of snow on the mountain, we’re dialing one another to see how our schedules are for the week ahead. Last year I logged between 20-25 days hitting the snow.
This year? A grand total of two days. TWO.
The mountains were calling and I couldn’t go, not because my workload had increased, but because of how unusually warm it was. It didn’t make sense to go up when it was all soupy snow that pulls you at random, nor did it entice me to pack my gear when half the trails were closed due to lack of snow. It’s a little discouraging when you’re being whisked up the mountain only to look down and see grass and mud not just poking through, but dominating half of your view. Plus cramming onto a few trails with every man, woman, and snowboarder? Nothing about that seemed worth it.
Our go-to, Mount Snow, located in West Dover, Vermont is known for its top of the line snow blowers, holding the record for the most snow makers on the East Coast. But that can only do so much to combat the rising temperatures and freezing nights, the perfect combination for the worst skiing season I’ve ever experienced. Going fast was not an option. As soon as I became confident I that could spot all the bad patches, I would catch on another and nearly topple into the person next to me. Everyone was falling, that’s when I knew it wasn’t me just whining and out of practice. It was the first time I had seen mountain safety bringing several people down the mountain via emergency sled in just a few hours.
Could I have put up with it?
Braved a few more days of nearly tumbling down the slopes all in the name of my favorite winter sport? Probably. But skiing for me has always been an activity I enjoy where I can bond with my grandfather. I’m not in it to perfect my jumps, nor learn how to conquer the moguls, but as something I can do to get away from my laptop and into the fresh air. It’s the sound of the blade of your skis carving into the ice and the sensation you are flying that keeps me coming back for more. I’m always up for the challenge when it comes to anything physical, but this felt more like sheer luck every time I made it down from a run without falling.
But this season really fell short for me; I didn’t feel safe.
A few years ago, I was gliding down the mountain on April 1st. In the first weeks of March this year, I’ve already packed my goggle and ski boots away, and it doesn’t look good for the rest of the month. One thing’s for certain: it has me looking at flights to Utah for next winter.
Do you dare to partake in some New England skiing, or are you all powder? How was it on your mountain? Comment with your favorite place I should check out for next winter![yikes-mailchimp form=”1″ title=”1″ description=”1″ submit=”Submit”]