Skiing in the Northeast is known for icy slopes, overcrowded resorts, and bitter cold winter months, but we have to make do with what mother nature gives us. Last season I skied at Mount Snow, Stratton Mountain, and Okemo Mountain. All three are massive resorts that all have something special to offer. Snow, has an incredible terrain park and glade skiing. Stratton, divided the mountain in half which allows you to hit runs over and over again without having to end up all the way at the bottom. Okemo, has a massive footprint which allows for the dispersion of crowds.
BUT, this post isn’t a review of those mountains, I’m here to tell you how to get the most bang for your (overpriced) buck on your Blue Bird Day at the mountain.
- Get there early as possible. Lifts start spinning at 8AM, which obviously is the best time to get on the mountain. Fresh corduroy on all the groomed trails and (hopefully) a fresh couple of inches from the night before. The time between 8AM-9AM are really the only time us, East Coasters, get to pretend we are out west shredding the pow. By 10AM everything is packed down and it’s back to the heavy snowpack and ice.
- Eliminate the time spent putting all your gear on in the lodge. Like most of us, we have to drive 1-2+ hours to get to the mountains. This is plenty of time to get your thermal layer underwear, base layer, mid-base layer, Gore-Tex under layer, jacket, shell, 10 pairs of gloves, hood…… You get the point. The best days I had were when the group was ready by the time we got to the parking lot, and walked right to the lift. No stops in the lodge. Which brings me to my next point.
- Avoid going to the lodge during peak lunch hours. From 11AM-1PM, lodges are a madhouse. Granted, they might be very warm, but that time can be more efficiently used for tearing up the less crowded slopes around noon. Pack a bunch of granola/power bars in your camelbak or one of the 100 unused pockets in your jacket. This should hold you over until you head home or the bar for some après skiing.
- Be smart when deciding which slopes to hit first. We all have our favorite trails; but realistically, grab a map and head to the furthest trails from the main lift first. These will be the least crowded and best conditions. If you’re advanced enough, immediately head into the woods for some glade skiing. Early morning glade skiing is comparable to no other. Rather than dealing with the packed, icy slopes, shred through boot deep snow as you fly through the forest of evergreens. Use the normal trails as your rest time before you duck back into the woods where the real fun is.
- Stay warm. It’s no surprise the dense air in the north east will make your bones ache from the cold, so plan ahead. Any gear or warmers that you have to buy in the resort will be overpriced. Pack the car with extra layers because you never know how the day is going to feel until you’re standing at the base or the summit and the snot is frozen on your nose. Keep in mind, you need to transfer all the heat from your chest out to the extremities. So separate pants, jacket, gloves will have gaps and not be as efficient.
- From bottom to top. If the boots are old, get a set of toe warmers ($2) stuff in your wool socks. Pants with a thermal layer or base layer between the shell work best. I wear a pair of athletic shorts under my pants so I can take them off after the day if they’re wet. Now, for the all-important upper body layers. Wear a moisture wicking shirt under everything. If you sweat in cotton, you will die. Wear a base layer thicker sweater/shirt. For the jackets, a down jacket under a ski jacket will have you toastier than…well…toast. A huge piece of advice I can give is, if your jacket isn’t water/windproof, wear a rain shell over everything and put the hood up over your helmet. This traps the most amount of heat. Also, make sure your wrists are covered in the gap between jacket layers and gloves. Never underestimate the awesomeness of mittens.
- There’s always time for one more run… Except when you have frostbite. Then go directly to the bar.
Adventure doesn’t find you… You have to seek adventure.