Yep, as AndyD versified, on this snow-choked weekend, we went to Stratton.

First, a big thankyou to laSH for getting us to two free half-tickets (and
in case anyone is wondering whether you can show up and say you lost the
printout but you have ID and they can look it up in their computer... they
won't and you can't.)

Which leads to the Valet thing... If they'da sprung for the second free
tick, I'da sprung for deluxe parking... they didn't and I didn't.

Which, since the upper lot was full and the lower lot where they wanted to
put us involved a bus ride, led us to the Sun Bowl side of Stratton. Which
turned out to be a good thing.

But before that, what on earth led us to Stratton??? The answer is equal
parts geography, cruise-envy, fatigue, and fear of wind hold. Over a
leisurely Sunday breakfast--a tasty concoction AndyD makes called scrambled
eggs and potato chips--and after a soothing hot tub, we contemplated the
relative merits and probable conditions of Mt. Snow, Magic and Stratton. We
decided to pay Tag a visit.

And let me tell you, it was epic.

Okay, not quite epic. But it was very, very niiice.

We spent the morning at Sun Bowl, where bright rays made a welcome antidote
to chill winds. The lift rides were the sort where you pull your hood tight,
endure the blast and don't say much. On that eastern face, on the chair
rides up, the prevailing west wind crested the mountain top and Bernoulli'd
straight into our faces. Of course, once off, and facing downhill, the power
gusts were pushing at our backs. We raced the wind-whipped snow devils down
wide open, uncrowded, sweetly groomed and sweetly rolling blue and black
cruisers, varying our speeds between fast and faster.

The trails had between one quarter and four inches of the same light fluff
people described farther north, over a hard surface that machines had
somehow kept from turning icy. It was inviting to turn in, which we did more
for the pull and dance of it than for any speed-checking effect, since, as
JimCrowley noted, this snow didn't check speed. The light, turny TM22s gave
the feel more of skips than of turns, which for someone of my build, is
saying something. Andy doesn't so much turn as swoop. Always reminds me of
an eagle.

The runs over on Sun Bowl are long. Sometimes we'd do the full 2000 verts.
Sometimes we'd stop and ride Kidderbrook chair, missing the bottom runout
that, I suspect, inspired Bruno's flattening unflattering name for the

Yeah, the trails are not exceptionally different one from another, except
for sussing out where the better snow lay. But they dipped and dived and
turned (a bit)--enough to make gravity an irregular verb. And did I mention,
the conditions were great?

And there's woods. In between every third cruiser we threw in one of the
easily spotted tree runs. No deep powder, not a heck of a lot of powder at
all, but whether tracked or un-, the snow surface was a chalky wind crust
that was mittently edgeable. And yes, I kept thinking that, 24 weekend hours
after a dump, at MRG or 'bush, all these obvious would shots would have been
pounded to a slick glaze. They skied fun top to bottom. Some roots here and
there but mostly well covered.

Early afternoon, we shifted over to the mid-mountain "Bear" runs. Shorter
than Sun Bowl and featuring some uphill windblasts that brought a sting to
the cheeks. Still, the turns and dips kept us trying one then another and
another. (Cool steep shot at the bottom of Upper Downeaster.) And there were
woods there too.

Next was an exploration of the Bill Koch nature trail, extreme skier's
right. A faint set of tracks from before the last storm led us in on what
started as an obvious clear trail. It soon was not. We lost the tracks and
gomered ever left for fear of ending on the wrong side of a ridge. There was
a fair amount of climbing over felled trees and tiptoeing over snowcovered
pine schwack. Fun stuff if you call that stuff fun--which I do--but not
exactly skiing. We reached an intertwined series of unauthorized tracks and
eventually popped back out on Upper Kiddeberook, maybe halfway down the
mountain. The Koch trail remains an enigma. It's pretty over there, though.

Late afternoon, we returned to Sun Bowl. The winds were just as strong, but
the chill had lessened. We skied our legs to jelly and went home happy. No
Tag sightings.


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