Sugarbush, VT 21APR2007
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After a very wintry first half of April in Northern Vermont, the second half of the month brought more spring-like temperatures and weather. Although the storm that finished up on the 17th left many of the mountains with a dose heavy wet snow, it was a LOT of snow, and the mountains went into the rest of the spring season with excellent base depths. The depth of snow at the Mt. Mansfield stake had even hit 100 inches on April 16th. By the 21st, there had been some warm days where the temperature dipped below freezing at night, so the corn snow was forming on the slopes. Compared to the first half of the month, temperatures had increased substantially, but we still had snow on the ground even down at our house in the valley, so we knew that coverage in the local mountains would be great. Valley temperatures in the 60s F were certainly going to cause a lot of melting of the snow in our yard, but with the sunny forecast, it seemed like a great day to hit the slopes
Bolton had stopped running their lifts earlier in April, and although we had hiked for powder turns there on several days after their closing, it was once again time for some lift-served skiing. There were actually a lot of lift-served skiing options available in the area at that point. Looking back at the list of open ski areas that Patrick had been providing in the First Tracks!! Eastern North America Discussion Forum, 23 ski areas were still operating in the region. This is likely more than would have typically remained open at that point in the season due to the abundance of snowfall in the first half of April. Stowe and Sugarbush were our closest lift-served skiing options at around 25-30 minutes away, and we ended up making the trip to Sugarbush for a couple of reasons. Sugarbush had a good base of snow on their Spring Fling trail, and I was hoping there would be some moguls there that Ty could work on. When Spring Fling is allowed to bump up, I’ve found that its intermediate pitch makes it a great trail for learning to ski moguls. We were also very excited to check out the new Lincoln Peak Village, including the new Gate House Base Lodge, Timbers restaurant, and the Clay Brook residences.
I’d been to Sugarbush once since they’d started building the Clay Brook complex, but this trip was the first time I’d actually get to visit the completed structure. From a first impression, the new Lincoln Peak Village setup seems rather inconvenient for dealing with young kids on day trips. Even if you use the vehicle unloading area, there is still a long (50-100 yards) uphill trek around the Clay Brook complex to get to the day lodge. Depending on the amount of ski gear you’ve got and the age of the children you’re bringing, you may even have to make multiple trips. That was the case for us. Sugarbush does have a shuttle that ferries people from their cars to the unloading area, but using it isn’t always practical with very young kids and a lot of gear. The shuttle seems to drop you off in the same place you can unload your car anyway. Perhaps there is an easier way to get the kids and gear to the Gate House Base Lodge, but it wasn’t immediately obvious to us. Fortunately I was able to park in one of the designated temporary parking spots in the unloading area while we took the gear out of the car, and I got a close permanent parking spot after that. That sped the process up a bit.
Eventually we got everyone and everything into the village, and we were able to check out the new base lodge. We immediately found out that the lodge is set up with a designated changing area on the ground level. I’ve seen this setup before at places like Moonlight Basin and Deer Valley, and I’m sure many other ski resorts use this strategy as well. It’s nice in that it allows the cafeteria areas of the lodge to be free of ski boots, ski bags, and other clutter. I’m guessing that they run the cafeteria in the Gate House Base Lodge that way, because although we didn’t eat there, I did pop up to the second level to have a quick look. It looked quite spacious and I didn’t see any gear on the floor. Day tickets were available back down on the ground level at what seemed like a skier services area. The late-season ticket price for the day was $46, and we’d heard from our friend Chris that you could get a discount down to around $40 if you had a Sugarcard, even an old one from a previous season. We’d brought E’s most recent Sugarcard (from the 2000-2001 season), but it turns out that it was still too old since it was from the ASC days. The teller informed me that the use of old Sugarcards did work to get discounts, as long as your information was still in the computer system.
The changing area on the first level didn’t seem very large, but there weren’t many people around so we had plenty of space for all of us to get into our gear. Based on its size though, it felt like the changing area could be crowded during peak season, so perhaps people also use other areas for changing as well. Overall, the improvements in the Lincoln Peak Village seem like a tremendous step up from the previous structures that were there. Some of the buildings in the old “village” seemed like they were just temporary structures that had been thrown together very quickly.
We were able to stow our ski bags in the roomy shelving units provided in the changing area, then we set up camp outside at the base of the Super Bravo lift. Since the terrain and spring snow would likely be a bit too much to ski with Dylan, the idea was for one parent to stay down on the base area and play in the snow with him, while the other headed up on the slopes with Ty. With the nice weather, it looked like that was going to be a good plan. I took the first shift of skiing with Ty. We rode the Super Bravo Quad, and then made our way across to Snowball and down to Spring Fling. We found nice spring snow on the route, and great coverage, but unfortunately we didn’t find any bumps on Spring Fling. Sugarbush seems to be grooming Spring Fling and providing it as a cruising option. Personally, I think Snowball is great for cruising, so I’d prefer if they let Spring Fling bump up, or at least let half of it bump up, and left Snowball for cruising. Ultimately, Ty wasn’t going to get any bump skiing practice on Spring Fling, so we had to look elsewhere.
There were actually a lot of trail options to choose from to seek out bumps around Lincoln Peak, but not wanting to spend a lot of time searching around the far reaches of the resort at Ty’s pace, I decided we could give Birdland a shot. Birdland is right below the Super Bravo Quad, so access was quick. Upper Birdland is marked as an intermediate run, and Lower Birdland is marked as an advanced run, but when they are bumped up the way they were, I’d say they’re both pretty advanced. Upper Birdland starts off with a pretty steep pitch, and Lower Birdland is narrow, has some ledges, and some areas are set on a challenging double fall line. I didn’t think it would represent anything overwhelming for Ty with the nice spring conditions, but he would certainly be challenged. He worked the bumps with a mixture of skiing the troughs and sometimes jumping or popping up a little off the tops as he likes to do. Most of the time he used the trough-skiing technique in the steeper sections since the pitch required more speed control. There were a few patches of grass/rocks on Lower Birdland where the snow had melted out, so combined with the ledgy areas, a few spots had limited route selection and challenged Ty even a little more.
After that run, I switched off with E. She headed up with Ty, and I played around with Dylan at the base. At first, Dylan and I just played around in the snow. Then Dylan decided he wanted to do some skiing, so we strapped on his skis and I pulled him around on the snow with the H bar. After he was done with skiing, he explored the area more and became intrigued with some brown slush puddles. It was nice that he was in his waterproof ski pants because it wasn’t too long before he was pretty much sitting in the slush. Up on the slopes, Ty had decided to try out Murphy’s Glades, which he coupled to Lower Birdland. E said the run went well.
We switched back again and I did another run with Ty. He started with Murphy’s Glades again, so I got to see what conditions were like there. There were actually some bump lines around there as well, so Ty had some additional practice in the moguls. While we were on Lower Birdland for that run, Ty started to occasionally sit down on the trail after he’d complete a line, which is generally a sign that he’s getting tired. We decided to make that his last run and get some food, and he didn’t have much of a problem with that. With his four runs, he was already at around 6,000 feet of vertical, which is a pretty good day for him, especially since he was working on some rather steep bump lines. For my own three runs, the Avocet had recorded 4,595 feet of vertical descent, and the Suunto had recorded 4,610 feet. That was a very small difference of just 0.3%.
We changed out of our ski clothes back in the changing room, and then I made a few trips to bring all the gear back to the car while E hung out with the boys in the village. A couple people had driven their vehicles up the closed access road along the south side of the building to load up their gear. I decided I’d be a law-abiding citizen and obey the traffic signs, but I guess I’m not the only one that hasn’t figured out the optimal loading/unloading procedure in the new village.
Once I’d gotten everything back to the car, we stopped into the new Timbers restaurant for a late lunch. It was after 3:30 P.M., but fortunately the restaurant has service outside the typical meal times, and we were very happy to find that out. We had the option to eat in the lounge area, which was perfect with the boys. It was very relaxed there with huge comfortable chairs, and they were able to mill around during the meal instead of being confined to their seats. There were a few other people in the restaurant, some at the bar and a couple others eating, but the crowd was light. There were a lot more people across the way at the Castlerock Pub, where there was live music. They had some of the doors and windows open at Timbers letting in the fresh air and the music. The food was good, as was the atmosphere.
Before we left the resort we took a walk through the Clay Brook complex, checking out the outdoor pool and hot tub, and then the building’s interior before exiting by the front doors to the parking lot. The facility seems nice, and I’m really excited by the improvements that Sugarbush has made to the village. We’ll have to check out the new cafeteria in the Gate House Base Lodge at some point. I guess my biggest complaint about the new setup is the difficulty of getting gear and young children to the lodge on day trips. At one point during the day, we did actually hear a girl on our radios inquiring if we were associated with SkiVT-L, but we didn’t get a chance to get back to her. At the end of the day, clouds started to build in a bit, but we’d had a really nice day to kick off our spring skiing season so it was hard to complain.
Some pictures from the day can be found at the link below:
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