Wow! What a way to go out. I squeezed another day out of my season pass that I certainly wasn't expecting. It turned out that I had worse days even in mid season.
I had expected that my last run of the season was with Henry Barboza at Stowe party and a couple of times I almost put my gear away for the summer since then. For once I was glad I procrastinated. I had been watching the reports for the last week and seeing that the Face kept reporting 44 trails and not going down any. I also had been noticing not much rain and cold nights for the last couple of weeks. We also did get some significant snow last Sunday night into Monday and even though it didn't hang around long in the lower regions Whiteface had kept it's namesaking appearance all through the week. Friday I decided to give it one more shot. I called my friend John who I had been trying to get together for some runs at the Face all winter with no success. Either of us had always been going in another direction except for our one trip together to MRG for the roll back the clock day. His phone rang once and he picke!
almost immediately. This was strange in itself since he has two teen age daughters and they use dial up net service and only have one phone line. (prehistoric, eh?) It turns out his wife and kids had gone off to visit relatives for the Easter holiday but he had work obligations that he couldn't forego. The first thing he says is he was just picking up the phone to call me to see if I wanted to go skiing Saturday. Now that was a good omen.
I arrived and parked right at the bridge on the main road at about 8:50. A week before the Stowe party I went about the same time and the first lot was full and the road all the way out and a considerable amount of cars were starting to fill in the second and third lots.The day would turn out to be spooky in regard to the relative few people who had the same idea John and I did.
The temp on my truck console read 29 degrees. I was wondering what surface conditions were going to be like. John showed up before I got both boots on and we waited a little for a couple of his friends that he said might try to get in a couple of runs with us. I had been pondering all the way over whether to go rock skis or new skis. I went with rockers and it turned out to be a good choice as the lower mountain basically disappeared within a couple of hours, but more on that later.
We didn't see his friends so we did the face lift up and ran our packs down to mid station. Upper Valley under the chair was sweet groomed loose corn with solid base underneath. Easy, effortless, high speed bank and carves right off the bat without any warm up even. This was kind of like going out to dinner and being served the fillet mignon first before the salad. At mid station John said he wanted to try and find his friends and we headed down lower valley to the base. More of the same was found but the corn got looser the farther down we went. At that time there was plenty of cover to get to the gondi without much trouble. Of course, the cats had neatly laid out the access lanes and as long as we kept on them there was no problem.
Up we go to the summit of Little WF and there are his two friends sitting on the snowboarder sit down and put your bindings on bench waiting for us. He had never skied with them so wanting to be a cautious guide he suggested Excelsior to be on the safe side. This was not a bad idea since one of them had only been skiing about 10 times in his life and was from Maryland and just up in this neck of the woods for college. Excelsior can be awesome but most of the time (like 95 %) it is overused horrible skied off solid ice. Not this time. We bombed effortless high speed trench carving turns in the same stuff we found earlier on Upper Valley. I even let out a few screaming yee hahs and got a case of the giggling babbles when we all stopped to gather our wits and decide where were we heading. I'm sure this wasn't Valhalla but it doesn't take much to excite me especially when Whiteface is this nice. The friends really o!
time for one more run as they had other commitments for the day. We opted to go back up LWF double and do the same run again. I had no agenda and it sure was nice and it fit the abilities of the other two perfectly. I would have considered the day a total success just on what I did thus far but "wait--there's more".
We followed the friends down to base and found the corn turning to slush and really disintegrating below tower ten hill. Up we go the face lift and right over and up the summit quad. Our thinking was that the sun and warmer temps would soften up the summit. Although it got to 42 degrees in the parking lot when I finally left it never got above freezing on the upper reaches all day. We ventured out into upper Skyward from the alternate entrance below the patrol shack due to exposed ledge and boulders off the very top. Yes it was in the direct sun but it was also hard as rock. Back we traverse to Peron's and head down that. Directly facing into the sun it was also hard for the first couple of hundred feet then magically it changed pitch and angle just enough that we hit corn literally on one distinct mogul. The lower two thirds of Peron's was just like Excelsior. Awesome, outrageous! We cut over to lower Es!
find stiff set up powder. There was no evidence that this trail had gone to corn in any recent time. Essex and Northway angle away from the sun and are sheltered in the shade most of the time. Continuing down lower Northway we hit sweet cruising corn again but by the time we get closer to the intersection of Excelsior it gets thinner and thinner and browner and slushier. We straightlined a couple of needle eyes of whiter slush and made a decision not to get caught on that lower part again. A pity since three quarters at least was gorgeous corn.
Next we head up LWF and get off at the top of Mountain run and do that. Wooowwww!!!! This is Killington type spring skiing at it's finest. Soft billowy moguls of easy sliding corn and not bottomless juicy slush. The elevation does make a difference. I think 90% of the people there were sticking to Mountain run and Wilderness. We did another Mountain Run with John trying the opposite side and I did a little jaunt over towards the far side of upper Parkway and circled around back to the headwall. The corn was a little more stiff and buoyant over that way as few had ventured over and disturbed it. Upper Parkway headwall was sweet but roped off to send me back to Mountain Run since it wasn't open the rest of the way down. Finishing up the rest of Mountain run we decided on one more before lunch and made it Wilderness. Mountain Run they groom regularly, Wilderness they hadn't been. This was very much the!
Outer Limits or Superstar at Killington at it's finest. I wish I could have cloned myself and did that one the rest of the day.
After a long leisurely lunch in the cool sun we opted to go up again and do a full Essex with a cut over Excelsior and Connector and on to Lower Cloudspin. Essex was still set up powder around the frozen icy moguls but was fun picking a line through and trying to keep to the stiff powder and carve turns. Lower Cloudspin was sweet gorgeous carving corn like Mt. Run. We haven't hit a bad run yet, "but wait---There's more."
I convince John to head for the summit one more time with the premise that if Skyward still isn't good we can do Peron's again. Riding up the lift we gaze at lower Skyward and wonder if that's frozen slush or soft corn since absolutely no one had been down it that we could use to gage by. At the top I determine that either bad or good I was going to do Upper Skyward and Lower for at least one run just to say I did. He said what the hey and off we went. Upper Skyward never softened up all day until we got to the intersection of lower cross over loop. From that point down----bingo. The additional elevation kept the corn stiff and very carveable with no ice to skid out on anywhere. From that point on we still had at least 1000 vert. feet of gorgeous sweet carveable corn right down under the lift all to ourselves. I repeat, this was not sloppy slushy mashed taters type stuff. This was high grade eastern corn.&n!
Putting up with the teeth rattling frozen surface for a couple of hundred verts was well worth the reward. So much in fact that John suggested we do it again with a slight variation. This time we stuck to Skyward into Niagara and lower Cloudspin. I was cranking steady 10 ft radius no skid carves on my junker Elans all the way down Niagara. Niagara is usually three skids and look out below here we come. Not yesterday.
At this point we made our way to mid station for a water break and rest. It was about 2PM and John made the decision that his legs were mush and he couldn't handle any more. I bid him adieu and watched him head down.
You know what parents tell their kids when they take more on their plate then they can eat. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach. Well I didn't know how much more leg I had but I headed back up. I did a Northway top to bottom and found it just like Essex and the upper third of Skyward. Finding myself on lower Northway again and remembering I said I wasn't going to do the bottom of that again I dropped left over the edge and popped out on to Excelsior and decided to make my way up to Skyward again. This time as I ventured down the frozen upper part I encountered a skier who had convinced three snowboarder friends to go down it. The three snowboarders of somewhat lesser ability than the skier literally butt slid and heel edge braked their way all the way down to the softer corn near lower Cross over loop. I am not kidding, it's a wonder there is anything left to the seat of their
pants. The skier was yelling at one that he was going to cause lifetime harm to his spine if he didn't stand up. The guy yelled back that if he did stand up he wouldn't have a lifetime to worry about his spine. I continued down and savored another run all by myself through that delicious corn under the chair that no one seemed to want to join in although a lot of sliders went overhead on the chairs. I guess they were all doing Peron's. I saw the snowboarders near mid station later so they made it in one piece apparently.
At this point my legs were going and frequent stops to get feeling back in the quads were necessary. I grabbed my pack and tried to plan my final run of the day and probably season. I thought why not go out with a bang. I headed down Approach for the first time and encountered hard frozen surface to a point just above the top of Empire. Bingo, that was the corn line on that trial and back into the sweet corn again. This time I did a complete Wilderness top to bottom with only about a dozen leg stops. It was still sweet kicking off the left side of the trail into the woods and back out and rocking off the first moguls on that side and back into the woods again. This is the side of the trail that they buried in snowmaking for all the professional bump competitions and there was still no danger of snagging the snowmaking pipes along the edge. I cut over at mid and took lower Boreen to get to base. This wa!
really bad. I should have stuck to lower Valley. This was just juicy slush and very little of it over thin ice and rock and mud. After a couple of resounding grabs under my skis I stopped a couple of hundred feet from the base and took them off. Most likely that was the last time they will be on my feet until November.
This morning I heard that because Gore is already planning to run next weekend that if they do Whiteface will also just so little sister doesn't get bragging rights. The electric motors are being stripped out of the gondi for scheduled maintenance and if next weekend flies it will be uploading and downloading off the face lift with skiing only on Little Whiteface and the summit. I dunno. It might be worth it. There is still a little P-Tex on the bottoms of the Elans. Jimski