By Mike Roth
(January 2015) In the past, I have avoided skiing during the holidays. The main reasons were long lift lines and crowded slopes. In the past couple of years I have found that is not necessarily true anymore. This year I went over to Mount Snow with my grandson Alex. I must say I have never seen so many cars in the parking lot and found myself parking in Wilmington, or it seemed. However Mount Snow has it figured out. Their black and white cow buses, otherwise known as MOOvers, provide transportation from each parking area and drop you off right at the main entrance. I highly recommend this rather than having to schlep all your gear and hoof it.
That being said what would you expect to find on the slopes and at the lifts? As an older skier I am certainly tainted by the long holiday lift lines of yesteryear, but no longer! As you can see the Bluebird Express, a blue bubbled 6 pack high speed lift, appeared to be jam packed but what you see here in the picture was no more than a 10 minute wait. The Grand Summit Express takes you to the same place on the top of the mountain and had a wait of 5 minutes or less. The lift system at Mount Snow gets skiers out and away from the base area very quickly. There are plenty of other lifts to access once you are up on top.
It was snowing lightly all day with the temperatures in the low 30’s. The snow guns were blowing on many of the unopened trails. I would say about 50% were opened (or closed depending how you want to look at it). As good as the snowmaking capacity of Mount Snow is, it looks like next year it will be getting even better with the final approval of a new snowmaking pond that has been in the approval stages of Act 250 for years.
The opened trails were all machine groomed packed powder with plenty of great cover. Admittedly there were areas that wore down quickly but the temperature allowed you to bite into it with your edge if you needed to. As the day progressed the trails, of course, degrade slightly but taking into consideration the number of open trails, number of people, and the snow conditions, the mountain held up really well.
My grandson immediately wanted to go over to Carinthia to ski the terrain features that are permanently built there. We skied over to the terrain park which was Nitro to Lower Fools Gold. Now, I really don’t mind skiing along on a terrain park because all the snow on the sides basically never gets touched. Unless you ski across below a feature from side to side of the trail, it is actually quite safe. But if you cross, you are taking your life in your own hands. It is amazing to see these skiers and boarders hitting the features one after the other with little or no concern of who is on the bottom of the landing zone (no spotters). I am surprised there are not more accidents there, but hey that’s another story in itself.
On the return to Mount Snow from Carinthia the only way to get back is to take Long John. It is the only beginner trail from the top (with a couple of cut offs like Deer Run and Little John). It is a very nice long run but due to the lack of other trails, it seemed to be the busiest trail on the mountain. For that matter, when I went on other trails there seemed to be no-one there. I took Exhibition and Cascade to Snowdance myself (because my skiing companion’s feet were cold). The better skiers had their choice of plenty of terrain with fewer skiers on them even on a busy day.
I can’t end this without saying something about lunch. We always used to grab something in the cafeteria like soup and a burger which did cost a bit more than usual and it was all premade or should I say precooked, usually well done. However at Mount Snow there are numerous dining choices with sit down fair and quick service, assuming you have made a reservation when you arrive at the mountain. Our choice is always 1900” Burgers. They serve specialty, hand-made Angus beef patties made to your specification (I asked for Pittsburgh and that’s how it came out). That was around $12 which is not high for a ski area and it came with a generous helping of fries and a side of your choice. If you compare that to the food in the cafeteria and the lines, it seems to be a much better option.
One other thing I forgot to mention. If you trust your GPS the drive to Mount Snow may take you over Haystack Road, which avoids route 100 out of Wilmington. That is a big mistake. It may be a bit shorter but it is possibly the worst road I have ever been on, with potholes, glare ice and single lanes because of poor plowing. It may save a minute or 2 but the damage to your car is not worth it. When leaving Mount Snow you do run the risk of a long wait at the light in Wilmington, which backs the traffic on route 100 for a mile or so depending on when you leave and the day you are there, but taking the alternate route is not an option as far as I am concerned.
Don’t forget January is learn to ski month all over the east coast.