Well they're not all focused on the Northeast, but they're all useful anyway
|Oct 21||Public post|| 4|
So here we are, in those crease weeks with a little bit of summit-topping snow here and there in the Northeast but not enough to make a run for unless you happen to live at the bottom of Whiteface.
Some dude named Sean Bagdon posted pics of his freshies coming down the Whiteface Toll Road on the Northeast Skiology Facebook group and he appears to be the same guy who crushed 145 runs in 24 hours at Crotched last year which is like a month of skiing for me so props to him.
A load of mountains from Stratton to Sugarbush Twittered similar summit pics and videos showing everything from dustings to a solid mat of white that spiraled out of that monster storm that blew my deck chairs into a scrap pile last week.
Still, it’s not cold enough just yet for the sort of consistent snowmaking you’d need to lay down and maintain a skiable base.
When will that happen? Don’t ask me. I can barely decide whether to wear a jacket to work. But I know where you can go, and I know a few other helpful and/or interesting resources that might help you jump the time gap between now and whenever Killington fires up the brand-new North Ridge Quad (which, by the way, is ready to go).
In the future, I’ll use this weekly news space to talk about select goings-on in the Northeast skiing community. Today, I’ll just identify a few of my favorite resources for staying in sync with local ski conditions, news, and history.
Conditions in the Northeast can suck. But they often don’t, if you know where to look. Skiology is doing the looking for you.
Founder Matt Bramble lays out conditions, tracks storms, and predicts snowfall with remarkably consistent and accurate updates. I use the combination of weather giphs, analysis and maps to parse storms and decide which mountain makes the most sense to hit on a given day. The maps predicting wind holds or measuring snowpack can be especially useful if you’re trying to outsmart the masses or hunt glades.
If you have one or more multi-mountain passes and a lot of flexibility to ski midweek, this is the best place to start when deciding, for example, whether Stratton is good enough for today, or if you need to invest the extra time to keep going to Killington or Sugarbush.
When I joined this group last December, it was six or seven weeks old and had a couple hundred members. My expectations were low. Less than a year later, the group has more than 4,500 people and is growing fast. That is a testament not just to the quality of the weather and conditions updates, but to the civility and general bonhomie of the group itself. It is the antithesis to the entertaining and necessary but knucklehead-riddled Ski The East Facebook group (which I also recommend joining, though it is less obviously useful than Skiology).
Another excellent Facebook weather resource is Braatencast, managed by Scott Braaten, identified on the page as “Stowe’s very own weather guru.” Forecasts here tend to be more focused on Vermont, with mentions of the Adirondacks. The stretch of Northern Vermont from Sugarbush up to Jay Peak already hosts the most consistent conditions in the region, of course, but this will help you really zero in on where and when to go.
Vermont is the more-or-less undisputed epicenter of Northeast skiing, and this is the best journalism focused exclusively on the state’s ski centers, both downhill and Nordic, with a sprinkling of backcountry. It’s a good mix of business, lifestyle, bargain-seeking, and powdery stoke. Its guides on the best Vermont ski swaps and locally focused megapass overview can help you get your essentials in place before the snow starts piling up along Vermont 100. Read their 2020 season preview here.
Here is another excellent online community, this one mostly focused on skiing in New York and Vermont. During the season, the front page features adventure-style recaps of forays into the mountains (I wrote one on my visit to Burke Mountain last year). Mega-mountains and family-owned joints get equal treatment here. There’s a lot of Gore. A lot of Plattekill. A lot of Magic. Sign up for the newsletter and see new stories as soon as they’re live. There is also an active forum.
4) Lift Blog
If you want to know which lift projects are in the works in the Northeast (or anywhere else in the country), this is an essential resource. The new lifts overviews (2019, 2020), are especially useful for sleuthing the status of chairs or tows. Jackson Hole-based founder Peter Landsman updates these lists with a workmanlike regularity, and the news section of the site often wanders beyond lifts to general interest updates around the industry as a whole. It’s worth subscribing to this email list – I especially like the Friday news updates. I’ll have much more to say about Lift Blog in the coming weeks, when I release the conversation between Peter and I on The Storm Skiing Podcast.
According to the National Ski Areas Association, there were 476 ski areas operating in the United States last season. When you’re deciding where to ride, that can be overwhelming. Skibum.net has the best minute-or-less descriptions of every single ski area in the United States that I’ve ever encountered. Straightforward, concise, and often hilarious, these single-paragraph overviews are – when compared to my own experience – more or less dead-on accurate.
You will leave this site amped up to ski places that you never knew existed, or had dismissed because they’re smaller than their better-known neighbors. Its description of Black Mountain, New Hampshire, made me feel foolish for overlooking this understated gem for so many years. Descriptions on the Massachusetts page drove me to highly satisfying day trips last season to Bershire East and Bousquet (with my daughter), neither of which I had previously considered.
This works out west, too. If you’re heading out to Jackson Hole, for example, you may want to check out neighboring Snow King, which, with its 1,571-foot vertical and 400 acres, would be a player anywhere in the Northeast, and which the author describes as a “fun, excellent ski area. Like its big brother [Jackson Hole], Snow King has all sorts of hidden trails, unofficial routes, little cut-offs…ideal for the wanderer.” Or you may want to skip it altogether for Grand Targhee: “…when the powder is good, there is none better than Grand Targhee. #1 ski area in the USA when the weather is right.”
The endearing theme repeated endlessly as you skim state by state however is how absolutely essential small-time operations are to the future of the sport. “Any ski area — no matter how small, no matter how flat — is important and deserves our support in this age of elitist madness,” the author writes in the description of 190-vertical-foot Riverside Hills in Estherhville, Iowa.
The next time you walk up to a ski area ticket window on a midwinter Saturday will likely be the last time you walk up to a ski area ticket window on a midwinter Saturday. Even at small mountains, the peak season prices can be outrageous. There is a better way.
For the pass-less among us, Liftopia is that better way, especially if you buy early (like, now). If you’re conditions agnostic or just optimistic and can ski midweek, you could play megapass-maker and lock in a dozen days of skiing at quality Northeast mountains for $300 or less. Hit Smuggs for $25 (as of Oct. 21; this and all other prices will rise, as mountains typically offer a certain number of tickets in escalating price tiers as you approach the date of skiing), on Thanksgiving, Sunday River for $30 the following week, Wildcat for $30 the Tuesday after that. Those are 1980s prices, and waaaaay below what you’ll pay anywhere near those dates. You can score similar deals for Sugarloaf, Burke, Magic, Jay Peak, Mad River Glen, and dozens of other mountains.
I use Liftopia to fill in the gaps for areas such as Plattekill that are must-skis but not on any of my passes, or to pick up tickets for my daughter when we’re heading to a mountain where I have a pass and she doesn’t. You can learn a lot more about Liftopia when CEO Evan Reece comes on The Storm Skiing Podcast in the coming weeks.
7) The New England Lost Ski Areas Project (NELSAP)
For every open ski area in New York and New England, there are more than five closed ones. Massachusetts alone has 172 (process that given that the state only has 13 operating ski areas). These range from single-tow operations to substantial resorts such as Vermont’s Maple Valley.
NELSAP documents them all, through the site and through a series of regionally specific books. Founder Jeremy Davis has spent the past two decades piling testimonials, antique trailmaps, photos, and first-hand explorations together into a priceless historical archive for anyone who cares about the history of the sport. Jeremy will be a guest on The Storm Skiing Podcast in the very near future, and I’ll write much more extensively about the site at that time.
This one is less useful than fascinating, an archive of thousands of trailmaps stretching back to the dawn of lift-served skiing. In the fashion of 1990s-style “web-surfing,” it’s a fun place to go when you’re done thinking for the day and just want to see the Cannon Mountain trailmap from 1941 or peak at the tragically closed Saddleback or check your memory of whether a chairlift used to climb Kidderbrook at Stratton (it did).
I’m sure there are plenty of terrific sites, groups and resources that I’m unaware of – please make me aware of them, and I can include them in a future similar roundup of useful things.
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