IT’S ALL DOWNHILL
Matt Pepin/Globe Staff
Note: This story originally appeared as part of the Globe’s “It’s All Downhill” skiing and snowboarding newsletter. Sign up here to receive it by email every Friday.
Finally it’s getting cold in New England. It’s about time.
After a pretty mild fall, I’m ready for it to feel like skiing weather. And truth be told, I really like skiing in cold weather.
The snow is fast and firm. The air is exhilarating. A lot of other people stay in the lodge.
Last season, my least favorite day on the slopes was an early March Saturday that got warmer and warmer and ended with puddles on the slopes and slush everywhere. It was still fun, but that day was on our minds when we canceled a trip the following week when similar conditions were likely.
Cold temperatures and the accompanying smaller crowds are at the heart of a lot of my ski planning, and some of my most memorable ski days were also the coldest. My annual buddy trip is always midweek in January, and we’ve had some pretty frigid adventures, like one day at Cannon a few years ago where two runs in a row were quite an accomplishment.
One year we arrived in Lincoln, N.H., in the evening and thought an after-dinner walk would be a good idea, but we only made it maybe 50 yards before turning back because it was so bitter. With full ski gear on, it certainly would have been do-able, but of course we hadn’t bothered.
The next morning, we woke up to about six inches of the lightest, fluffiest powder I’ve ever skied, and our first six or eight runs at Loon were among the greatest ever because we had the place to ourselves as we skied, or more accurately floated, first tracks through ice-cold champagne powder.
There was a stinging day at Ski Butternut a long time ago. Another that’s a distinct memory was a late-January trip to Jay Peak. Frigid Friday evenings at Wachusett in January and February are also among my favorite days each season.
I can only recall two really miserable times, and both involved being on a lift stopped for more than the usual delays, once at Wildcat for about 15 minutes, another on Jay Peak’s famous Green Mountain “freezer” lift on the aforementioned day.
With a Turtle Fur balaclava, really high-quality base layers, and sometimes glove liners under my best Dakine gloves, I usually don’t get unbearably cold. Even when you chill up a bit on the lift (as long as they keep moving), once the skiing starts I tend to not feel it so much. I do have a high tolerance for pain, so maybe that has something to do with it, but man it is a rush to ski in the cold. Give me a bluebird day in the low 20s and that’s skiing heaven.
The forecast is for an Arctic blast, which should help more areas open, and those already open add more terrain. The non-skiers around me are rolling their eyes and mocking me. But I say bring it on.
‘TIS THE SEASON: Sunday River held its annual “Santa Sunday” on Dec. 4, and had 180 skiers and snowboarders turn out to help raise $2,845 for the Sunday River Community Fund. Photo above was provided by Sunday River.
WORTH A TRY: GoPro released an interesting video this week of sand skiing in Peru. Jesper Tjader and Emma Dahlstrom are the skiers, and the location is Cerro Blanco, which is nearly 7,000 feet above sea level and includes runs that go for a kilometer.
I’ve often wondered about skiing in sand, mostly when visiting Jockey’s Ridge on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but usually forget about it when I see kids try to use a boogie board on the OBX dunes and basically go nowhere. But I’m guessing the Peru conditions are different, because it sure looks like GoPro’s skiers are moving right along.
WATCH THIS GUY: A name to follow on the men’s World Cup ski racing circuit is Ryan Cochran-Siegle. The Vermonter suffered a devastating knee injury in 2013, and it’s been a long road back. But last weekend he skied to a 15th place finish in the super-G at Val d’Isere. Tom Kelly of the USSA has a great look at Cochran-Siegle’s journey on SkiRacing.com.
‘TIS THE SEASON PART 2: You can’t go three clicks without landing on a gift guide these days. This one from TheSkiDiva.com is pretty good, IMO.
SPEAKING OF GIFTS: The US ski team has produced a calendar called “Under the Suit: Bodies of the Ski Team” to help fund its efforts, especially those of the athletes below the top level who have to pay their own travel expenses - $15,000 to $35,000 a year. The calendar costs $60, and yes, the athletes are nude in the manner of ESPN Magazine’s “Body Issue.”
A MOUNTAIN OF TROUBLE: The Globe Magazine has an in-depth reconstruction and update on everything that has happened at Jay Peak since the Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against Jay’s owner, Ariel Quiros, and former CEO, Bill Stenger. The case is still in court, although Stenger has settled.
The good news is that the court-appointed receiver, Michael Goldberg, while not much of a skier himself, is doing what he can to keep the ski area up and running. It’s a tangled web and an unfortunate part of New England skiing history.
THE SNOW REPORT: Halley O’Brien is out with another entertaining edition of her video series “The Snow Report”, this time filmed in Utah with Warren Miller film star Marcus Caston. We’re going to provide embeds to TSR each time there’s a new one out.
NOT DOWNHILL, BUT STILL COOL: Came across a great story on New Hampshire Public Radio’s Outside In podcast in which host Sam Evans-Brown, a former competitive cross-country skier, explains how his image came to be on the side of a bus in Argentina. But the story within that story is even better, and it details an act of sportsmanship not unlike what we saw at the Rio Olympics with Topsfield runner Abbey D’Agostino.
I’d highly recommend listening to Evans-Brown tell the tale , but the short version is this: During a race in Argentina called the Marchablanca, Evans-Brown was leading when he was thrown off course because of an unseen beaver dam and a rock on the final downhill portion of the course. The man who was behind him, an Argentine named Martin Bianchi, had unsuccessfully tried to catch Evans-Brown on an uphill just prior to the final descent. When he saw Evans-Brown run into trouble, rather than continue on to a certain victory, he stopped and waited for him to resume the race because he felt the conditions were unfair. Then they competed as they had to the finish.
Evans-Brown won. Bianchi was honored for his sportsmanship. It’s a wonderful tale.
NEW SLOPES: A story on the New England Ski Industry website about a small new ski area planned for Nashua, N.H., sounds great - any place that fosters growth of the sport should be a good thing, right? Then you get to this line: “The slope would be an upside down ski area with a small ticket and rental office at the top, as well as a porta potty.” I can’t imagine much worse than going in a porta potty in ski boots.
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