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Headed north from Albany at 6:45 AM. Not being a college freshman, the
early hour was no big deal. ;) Drive was uneventful most of the way,
with only occassional sightings of downed trees/branches to reflect last
week's nasty weather.  Didn't really see any ice until the last few
turns on Rt 17 up to the pass.  Area around there looked devastated,
especially on the steepest mountain faces. On the other side of the
pass, looked out over a sea of white, with mountains rising out of it
like islands. Very National Geographicish.

From the MRG parking lot, it looked like a beautiful ski day, with fresh
white snow and bright blue sky. Starting off on the double, the woods
looked pretty normal, with just some downed branches and the wires to
Birdland indicating that they had been hit by the ice. From a bit above
the Birdcage on up, though, it was another matter. Every tree was coated
in ice and sagging, with many broken branches either down or hanging.
Pretty incredible.  It was also amazing to see so little ice on the
lift, considering how it looked in photos on the web page. Clearly, a
lot of work has gone into getting the mountain up and running again.

Skiing in the morning was generally good, although a bit strange.  With
all the destruction around, it felt kind of like skiing through a
disaster area (which in a way it was).  While numerous trails and all my
favorite woods areas were closed, what was open had good cover. Some of
that cover was pretty solid though. At times, skiing the powder sounded
crunchy, like there was gravel underneath. Not really any rocks to worry
about, though.  The underlying ice is covering them well, though it's a
bit strange to occassionally see the ground and rocks through a layer of
ice that's as clear as glass. Also, the powder helped soften the tops of
the moguls on Catamount and Grand Canyon, but the thick ice made them
pretty unforgiving. Chute looked particularly rough, and my knees
instructed me to not even think about it.

The groomed trails were generally soft, which led to their being very
popular. At times they were pretty crowded too, and in the afternoon I
actually saw a patroller stationed on Broadway near Grand Canyon,
telling people to slow down. By that time, it seemed the majority of
skiers were doing the same run - top of the double down Fox, down
Broadway and Snail to the Birdland area, then down Easy Way to the base.
Most other trails were pretty empty, though the mogul runs made you pay
a price for the solitude.

The sun appears to be slowly melting the ice on the trees and the
Birdland lift. While this is generally a good thing, you need to be wary
as well. I occasionally saw ice dropping off the Birdland lift onto the
trail below. It made me think about wearing the helmet I wear ski
racing, as protection against the falling ice. But I tend to overheat
when skiing - especially icy moguls - and it would have been
uncomfortable to the point of distraction. I also like to hear what's
going on around me, and helmets seem to affect people's hearing. (Last
week at Flatton I was hit by two helmet-wearing skiers who apparently
didn't hear each other nearby and collided in mid-turn, after which one
slid into me).

The mountain will probably look more natural after all the ice melts off
the trees and they bounce back some.  But certain areas will look
different for a long time. Large trees that were prominent on Creamery
and the headwall of Gazelle are gone, the bottom of Paradise looks like
an open slope now, and some woods runs (especially Gazelle Woods and
some of the bands) have disappeared under lots of fallen trees and
branches. It's going to take a lot of work to get things back to normal.

All in all, it was an interesting day.  But I was grateful for the
recent snow, the grooming, and the major clean-up job that went on over
the past week. Can't imagine what it would have been like without any of
them.

  Dave