So it’s mid-November here in New England (actually it’s mid-November everywhere) and we’ve been having what has felt to me like a pretty normal fall season. Perhaps a little less rain than usual but we haven’t had any crazy cold weather, we haven’t had any crazy hot weather, nor have we had any freak early season snowstorms (Halloween 2011 ring any bells?), and I’m taking that as a good sign. For me and for most skiers I know it’s been a pretty tense offseason after the horror show that was last winter. I spent the summer alternating between trying to just play it cool and ignore weather patterns altogether, and stressing like hell about what role precipitation after 3:18 pm on the second Tuesday in August would play in shaping the upcoming winter. Yes it was an uneasy summer for me but I’ve calmed down as the year has progressed, and now that we’re approaching winter’s doorstep I don’t want any extraordinary weather wreaking havoc on my psyche.
As the season approaches, it’s only natural that we get excited to ski. The ski films making their local tour stops, the early season dustings up in the mountains, and the skis in the cellar just begging to be waxed all serve to add to that fervor. So when it hits your Facebook newsfeed that the ski areas are cranking out the manmade snow and opening for business in mid November, can you really turn down the opportunity to get on the snow and make some pre-preseason turns? It’s a decision I’m faced with every year. Do I take advantage of the miracles of modern ski area operation and head up to the mountains for some November skiing? Or do I hold my fire and wait patiently just a little bit longer for the REAL stuff to actually start falling before hitting the slopes? There are pros and cons to both approaches.
For the record, I am not anti-snowmaking, not by any means. I fully understand that even with helpings of natural snowfall, ski areas in New England need the assistance of snowmaking to open before the New Year. That’s just the way she goes. And in order to stay open late into the spring, or to make it through those heartbreaking mid-winter thaws, ski areas need to be able to pile up a base of manmade snow while they can. Some of the best late spring bump skiing is found on trails that were covered with manmade early in the season, allowing them to hold cover well into April in most cases. Before the real snow falls however, do I really want to be skiing on nothing but manmade snow? Certainly it’s nowhere near as good as the real stuff- and don’t let any ski area marketing campaigns fool you. While occasionally you’ll arc a turn in manmade snow that sounds fairly normal, most of the time it sounds like you are carving into some sort of plastic weirdness. Early in the season when it’s nothing but snowguns roaring, the open trails are usually just mellow cruisers and sometimes walking is required to get back to the lift. Certainly nothing that’s going to get the heart racing too hard. Couple these meager terrain offerings with a lift ticket that is expensive even at early season pricing levels, and you are left wondering whether molesting your skis in your living room for another few weeks is the better option.
But wait, didn’t I mention there were some pros to early season skiing? Sure there are- I mean it is skiing, isn’t it? Like I wrote about last week, “skiing is anything you do with skis on your feet“. Hitting the slopes and carving up some manmade snow definitely counts, so if you are just dying to click into your bindings on something other than your carpet then the real thing is just $39 and a few hours drive away. What else is good about early season skiing? Well for starters, everyone else who’s headed ta da hill is probably just as fanatic about skiing as you are. The camaraderie is great and being in the mountains with snow under your skis, regardless of where it came from, is an awesome feeling. Additionally, if park skiing is your thing then early season skiing is a no brainer. Jib skiing especially needs the least amount of snow and incline to make happen and you can hit rails and small jumps all day long in a pretty relaxed atmosphere.
It’s November 20th and for me it remains to be seen whether I will make it up ta da hill over the next few weeks. Between work, social obligations (I have many), and the impending avalanche of Christmas parties it just may not be possible. That being said, don’t be surprised if you see me taking a few laps and working on my park skills on a random Friday afternoon sometime soon. Despite the fact that I’m trying to sit tight and wait for the real stuff before I get into it, who can resist a few precious hours up on the mountain after all?
Posted under News by Bubbles on November 20, 2012 at 8:55 am