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Welcome the 2008-2009 Season...
4/23/09 Have to give credit where credit is due: Killington is going a long way to restoring some luster to its repuatation this season. You're skiing on quite a bit of still-open terrain at the Big K this weekend. New owners did some PR damage last year by announcing a surprisingly short season, but it seems this year they've realized the importance of being the Beast of the East. I make no apologies that K-Mart isn't my favorite place to ski, but hey, for those of you who can't make it to A-Basin tomorrow, it's your best option in the east.
4/3/09 Foremost in the minds of eastern skiers is "where will I find the best snow this weekend?" Colorado, Utah, Washington, Oregon...take your pick. My personal fave Powder Mountain near Eden, UT was positively pounded with new snow this week. Vail Pass on I-70 has mid-winter driving conditions right now. This time last year the Summit County resorts were sticky and mushy while the east had a foot of fresh at places like Stratton. This year, exactly the opposite. More snow being called for both in Summit County and the Wasatch. Simply incredible in the Rockies. Steamboat has new snow, same for Crested Butte, and up in the Pac NW, Timberline is calling in every few days with new snow. Back to the northeast, quite a few resorts were looking to next weekend as the grand finale, but they'll be lucky to limp through tomorrow. A glimmer of good news from West Dover, VT where Haystack may be returning from the dead after a couple of shuttered seasons. There's a new owner, and some plans on the horizon. Here's hoping.
3/30/09 Spending some time north of Salt Lake at spots like Powder Mountain and Snowbasin, we have to wonder if the season is ever going to end. Fantastic conditions are lingering up and down the Rockies...there's no question in the northeast, however, as many ski areas are glad that March is behind them, and they can at least look forward to next season. West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsy & Jersey areas have all banged it up, although word has it that a few places like Snowshoe and Camelback will try to reopen this coming weekend...the best option outside of New England right now is probably Belleayre, most of its terrain is still open and it is snowing there this morning...conditions in northern New England still decent, such as Sugarloaf...slushy as you get further south...if anybody has any doubts that Mount Snow is back on top, reports from Saturday are reminiscent of that resort's heyday; packed parking lots, liftlines, and an absolute mob scene for the pond skim/reggae music thing. We may be in the throes of a recession, but they weren't feeling it in West Dover this weekend.
3/18/09 With current headlines being what they are, the rhetorical "why aren't helmets mandatory" questions are rearing their heads again. Personally I don't wear one, and don't plan to [note: this changed in 2011; I've worn a helmet since]. My children wear helmets; I require them to. Is that hypocritcal? No, and here's why: Compare it to the advent of helmets in professional hockey. If you're too young or don't remember, pro hockey players of the 1970s and earlier generally did not wear helmets. Chicago Black Hawks great Stan Mikita comes to mind as one of the few that did. Anyway, after a few grisly injuries, helmets became more and more popular. As a few Eastern European players found their way into the league, they also brought helmets with them. Stick action began to get higher as players were emboldened by helmets, and pucks began to fly more. Ultimately the headgear became mandatory -- except for older players who were "grandfathered" and thus not required to change their approach to the game. They were more aware of high sticks, and were usually more conservative. Perhaps it's time to do the same thing for skiing. Not sure, but perhaps. Consider when I started skiing in 1971. Few trails were groomed (including the beginner hills!) and the long straight skis were inherently unstable. You simply couldn't ski all that fast, unless you were a racer or an expert, and racers wore helmets. Jumps? Forget it -- the ski patrol would knock them down. Today the scene is completely different. Most trails are groomed, and wide shaped skis provide a stable platform and make skiers more confident right from the get-go. Jumps? The resort builds them for you, and adds rails, boxes, buses, you name it. Skiers spend more time in the air, in the trees, and at high speeds than ever before. They should wear helmets. Those of us who are older ski differently, and we tend to be a little more aware of the skiers around us. Helmeted skiers have a comfort zone that has them ski a lot closer to other skiers. In other words, helmeted skiers are more likely to need a helmet. The rest of us dinosaurs tend to be more wary and aware. But then what of beginners? I submit that the groomed terrain and shaped skis will make a beginner much more prone to head injuries than in years past, because years ago the uneven snow would've tossed them prior to gaining any damaging speed. So yes -- let's make helmets mandatory at US resorts for all beginners, and let's make helmets a mandatory part of every rental package. And dare I say this, perhaps we should create an age requirement -- maybe even require helmets for all skiers moving forward, with an appropriate grandfather clause. 30 years ago I rode snowmobiles and never even thought about wearing a helmet. Today the equipment is faster, the trails are busy, and the potential for injury far greater. In the case of a snowmobile, my style of driving won't make any difference; I wear a helmet. Skiing isn't the same thing. In any case, our thoughts and prayers are with Natasha Richardson and her family. Indeed, with anyone suffering through an injury.
3/16/09 Monday greetings...back on January 26, amid my gushing about how exciting the women's FIS World Cup competition was this season, I hinted that the men's competition was shaping up to be closer. True indeed, unfortunately this horse race was overshadowed by Lindsey Vonn's overwhelming dominance in an overwhelmingly talented field. In the end, Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal edged Austrian Benni Raich by just two points for the overall men's championship. With just one slalom remaining on Saturday in Are, Sweden, Raich straddled a gate in the first round. Benni was the favorite to win the overall globe because of his skill in technical events; he did garner the GS globe. Incidentally, Ted Ligety took 3rd place in Friday's GS final. Overall, Svindal's two point margin is the lowest in the history of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup. Despite the closeness of the competition, Vonn managed to steal the headlines across Europe...conditions remain extremely strong in Colorado and Utah; Loveland received a couple inches overnight, and the Wasatch is simply buried. Taos is holding out extremely well...in New England, well, it's March. Some of it is good, some not so...Mid-Atlantic, we're approaching closing dates for Snowshoe in WV and Wintergreen in VA; both could hold out longer but have a habit of rigidly adhering to stated schedules as they shift their focus to the dreaded "G" word. Moving north, you're going to see a bunch of areas follow suit on the eastern seaboard, unless some cold weather returns to the region. In NJ, small but mighty Hidden Valley is shuttered but will re-open Saturday for a "Spring Fling" with $20 tickets. Easterners would do well to head as far north as they can this weekend.
3/13/09 Happy Friday the 13th! Looking forward to some excellent conditions across the country. Warm air has taken a toll in parts of the lower midwest and east, but the pattern should shift back to more seasonable temps, so we expect the rest of March to be strong. Let's talk New England; ss a barometer, Mount Snow is down to 73 percent of available terrain, while a bit further north, Attitash is at 100 percent. The snow pack is still excellent north of Concord NH, and at the Maine areas as well. In Vermont, Jay Peak has conditions that are simply phenomenal...and now we have to say a word about Lindsey Vonn, who we can't say enough about. She finished the season with a decent showing in a slalom race, a day after winning a GS race and claiming the GS title for the season. Add that to her Downhill title, and of course her overall women's title, and my goodness -- the girl is taking home three globes from World Cup competition. Vonn is easily the most dominant skier in the world right now. Disagree? She won world cup races this year in virtually every discipline: Slalom, Giant Slalom, Downhill, Super Combined, yadda yadda yadda. Lindsey is doing it all. Here's the killer: She's virtually unknown in the USA. Here's a professional athlete who is strikingly beautiful, she works impossibly hard, doesn't do steroids, doesn't do botox, doesn't do silicone, spousal abuse, drugs, Hollywood parties, or reality TV. Got her start at tiny Buck Hill Minnesota. Minnesota! She is well spoken -- and young girls have no idea who she is. She is the real deal, a full-blown beauty and a real person at 5'10" and 175 pounds. Lindsey Vonn is someone our young girls should be emulating, instead of the emaciated red carpet head cases who look like famine victims with fake boobs. Clearly the best U.S. women's skier in history. It is an honor and privilege to have Lindsey Vonn represent our sport and our country. Thank you, Lindsey, for a fantastic World Cup season.
3/11/09 Been quiet lately as I've been on a whirlwind tour of Colorado. More specifically, stops at Vail, Breckenridge, Loveland, Copper, Keystone and A-Basin in the Summit area, and personal favorite Ski Cooper in Leadville. Did find a few things that will prompt me to modify some of the listings on the Colorado page...Don't ask me to explain it, but I also managed to look in on Blue Mountain in Pennsy, and Boston Mills/Brandywine in Ohio. Right now that suburban Cleveland area duo is closed due to overly warm weather, but hopes to reopen on Thursday. As for Colorado, rumors of its demise propogated by a recent spate of 80 degree days in Denver are greatly exaggerated. Things did become a bit hardpacky, however, a couple small but important snowfalls over the weekend had everything skiing perfectly by Sunday. Not deep powder stuff, but excellent Colorado conditions...For the deep powder, look a bit further west to Utah, where favorites like Powder Mountain and Park City got walloped AGAIN yesterday....same in the Upper Midwest...great conditions in New England...the Mid-Atlantic is beginning to suffer; at some of the smaller areas the end is in sight...big news from the World Cup scene; the unstoppable Lindsey Vonn won another race, this the final downhill of the season, in Are, Sweden and by doing so she mathmatically clinched the overall womens world title. That's simply amazing.
3/2/09 March Monday and the news is all over the map...first we go to Idaho where the massive new Tamarack Resort will be shutting its lifts off on Thursday, with no plans to reopen. Creditors are gobbling up what they can, backers are backing out, and the whole thing is crashing down. This will be the largest ski area to close in history. Usually anything even approaching this size reopens, however with the economy in tatters, it may be a while...let's do some globe-hopping to Bansko Bulgaria, where Lindsey Vonn madea strong case for some more globes this weekend; she won her fourth straight super-G race Sunday, extending her overall World Cup lead to nearly 400 points. She claimed the downhill title earlier in the weekend by finishing third in Friday's DH. The super G win puts her in solid contention for that globe as well. Fabienne Suter of Switzerland came in 2nd, with Slovenia's Tina Maze 3rd. Germany's Maria Riesch refuses to go down easy, garnering a 5th place and staying within 391 points of her friend Vonn. It's highly unlikely Riesch will get close, but strange things can happen...just a short hop away in Kranjska Gora, Ted Ligety triumphed in the GS, while Frenchman Julien Lizeroux won the slalom event. The GS win was Ligety's third podium this season -- all in GS -- his first in the top spot. Ligety's last podium came at Beaver Creek back in December. He did also grab third in the GS championship event at Val d'Isere...where's the snow? Best powder skiing in the east today is at Wintergreen Resort in Virginia; 10 inches of fluffy white with a few ungroomed trails just waiting to be tracked...the modest ski hills in the Poconos and Jersey also got hammered...storm was heaviest along the coast, so places like Belleayre didn't do as well, but nobody's complaining...only complaints right now are the groans starting up in Summit County, where rising temps are expected to ice things up a bit...So where's the best skiing in the west? Like the east, you've got to look to the south a little bit, to Colorado's Wolf Creek and you've got today's best combination of snow and sunshine in the USA. It just kind of goes that way when a storm leaves three feet of white fluffy.
2/24/09 Tuesday round up.....outstanding conditions throughout much of New York state, we can tell you modest Greek Peak was skiing like Utah this weekend. Found outstanding packed powder just below the border at Elk Mountain in Pennsy. Meanwhile a first-hand report from Mount Snow says it was the best conditions in years. Ditto from Bromley, where we get news of knee deep pow....a day late reporting this but the news bears repeating: Lindsey Vonn is now the all time leader in U.S. ladies' wins on the World Cup circuit. Mrs. Vonn won the Super G on Sunday in Tarvisio, Italy, after finishing 2nd in a Super-Combined on Friday and 2nd again in a Downhill on Saturday. Sunday's win gives her 19 on her career, edging ahead of 1980s great Tamara McKinney. Two seconds and a first in three days, all with a much-ballyhooed champagne bottle thumb injury. Photos of Vonn and her bandaged thumb made headlines across Europe, while most Americans have no clue who she is. This massive weekend put Lindsey 299 points ahead of Maria Riesch in the overall standings, with Anja Paerson another 100+ points back. I'll say it again, here we have the greatest U.S. womens skier in history, and she got her start on tiny Buck Hill in Minnesota. Meanwhile in Sestriere, Romed Baumann of Austria won the final men's World Cup super-combined race of the season Sunday. On Saturday, Swiss great Didier Cuche got his first win of the season in a GS race. Ivica Kostelic remains atop the overall leader board. Jean-Baptiste Grange and Benni Raich are about 30 points back, with Aksel Lund Svindal another 50 behind. The mens globe is very much up for grabs.
2/19/09 Thursday greetings, have been traveling throughout New England on a whirlwind tour of a dozen ski areas, managed to click into the bindings at three of them. A morning at Wildcat in New Hampshire made it clear why this modest throwback area won the Ski Magazine readers' poll for "best scenery" nationwide. It's one of the few resorts where you actually look straight at a much larger peak, raw and undeveloped, towering into the clouds, and so close you feel you could reach out and touch it. The only negative with "the Cat" is that some of the trails rarely see sunshine in February, and the light is so flat on those that it really is like skiing into a bowl of milk. Otherwise, Wildcat has some of the best cruisers in the east...interesting news from elsewhere in New England, where western Massachusetts biggie Jiminy Peak reports their busiest Pres weekend in history...from the Catskills, Belleayre is offering an unusual "second half" season pass. We're going to see more and more of this as the economy continues to tank...speaking of tanking, the Mid-Atlantic banana belt is having a rough go of it, mixed precip and yo-yo temps at places like Camelback and Wintergreen are not what we've come to expect in February, but then again we did have a January to be thankful for...just the opposite point of view in the Wasatch, where Alta, Snowbird et al got more than a foot yesterday. Even better news up north; a foot-and-a-half at Snowbasin and almost two feet at Powder Mountain. And since this is "throwback Thursday," we're pleased to report that Beaver Mountain up east of Logan received 18" of nice fluffy powder. If you're ever in the neighborhood, you gotta "ski the Beav."
2/9/09 Afternoon Update from Val d'Isere, where it's all Svindal after Miller skied out of the slalom. It's a shame, because Bode was two seconds up on Aksel when he straddled a gate. Miller had bobbled a bit on the upper portion of the course, recovered, then the miscue. Sort of a typical story for Bode's season; seems he hasn't fully recovered from that trip to the orange room on the Birds of Prey course.
2/9/09 This just in from the World Championships in Val d'Isere: Lindsey Vonn scored gold in the downhill, and that kid from Switzerland we keep telling you about, Lara Gut finished second. I don't know what's the bigger story this year. Well sure Lindsey is dominating everything right now, so she's the story. But if this 17 year old Gut isn't making people sit up and take notice, I don't know what will. Barring injury, there's no telling what this youngster might do when she hits her early twenties. Right now on the men's side, Aksul Lund-Svindal has the slimmest of leads over Bode Miller in the super combi; the slalom leg goes off shortly so we'll update this afternoon...Bigtime warm-up in the east with rain in the forecast. New England skiers dodged the usual January Thaw this season, but it seems it was just on hold until that ol' groundhog did his thing. Not too much damage to the deep base on snowmaking-assisted trails, but we can tell you that a lot of the natural cover trails are in tough shape. Mount Snow has dropped a bunch from its roster, although we're pleased to see that Belleayre is holding tough. Moving south a bit, Elk has dropped a couple trails. The real "banana belt" resorts are holding steady, however, and that's good news. Moving down the eastern seaboard, places like Hidden Valley in NJ, Camelback in PA, and Wintergreen in VA all blew enough base and survived the weekend at 100% open. Things have warmed a bit in the midwest as well, but again we see that Detroit metro area Alpine Valley has terrific conditions with everything on the "upper mountain" open. Moving to the U.P., Big Powderhorn is skiing nicely on 33 of 33; with the pleasant temps we gotta say that's the place to be today. Or Val d'Isere; either would do just fine. Moving west, nothing out of the ordinary to report. We looked in on modest Wolf Mt in Eden, UT and saw that everything is open nicely with temps in the mid 20s. Incidentally, with a night ticket price of just $20 -- even an all-day holiday price of $32 -- Wolf is one of the best values in the Rockies. Wasatch? whatever. It's Monday, cut me a break.
2/4/09 Midweek Midwest Report...what needs to be said? Conditions are spectacular. Lutsen, for example, received 8-10" of fresh on Sunday night, and now has fantastic packed powder across the whole complex. In Iron River, MI Ski Brule added a couple inches last night and is skiing all but one run. Hey, you're gonna have bone-chilling temps all over the midwest today, but if you can deal with it you'll have some great conditions under the boards...Speaking of the midwest, Minnesota native Lindsey Vonn just rolls along; the WC leader took the first gold at the World Championships yesterday. She's unquestionably the best female skier in the world right now. So when people bash the midwest as a bunch of mole hills, just remind them that one of those mole hills produced a fairly decent skier. Lindsey indeed got her start at vertically-challenged Buck Hill in Burnsville, MN.
2/3/09 Happy day after Groundhog Day, celebrating furry Punxsatawney Phil who reminds us that we're in the midst of the best overall winters we've had in years. Normally we're reporting on mountains finally being 100% open in early February, but we passed that marker a few weeks ago. It's been fantastic, folks, and Phil says it ain't gonna end anytime soon. We hope he's right...big news this weekend off the World Cup scene in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, where both the men and the ladies were racing. Italians Manny Moelgg and Giorgio Rocca were 1st and 2nd in the slalom, and the downhill was cancelled due to fog. So what's the big news? Well, if you want excitement, you should realize that it's mostly on the ladies' side of the hill. Lindsey Vonn shredded both the slalom and the super G, winning both events and widening her overall lead. Also noteworthy is that Resi Stiegler is moving along with her comeback; she was potentially scheduled to run the SL in Garmisch but elected to work as a forerunner instead. Resi reports that she was "all over the place" and "I was a rodeo queen all the way down so I have a few more things to work on." Gotta remember, Stiegler has been at it since she was a teenager, and at age 23 she'll be poised for some podium finishes when her knee fully recovers.
1/29/09 Throwback Thursday and we're going to remind you of our response to the age-old question, "where can mere mortals go to ski powder like we see on the magazine covers?" The answer -- same as always -- Powder Mountain in Utah. Oh sure, you can find powder at Alta, Snowbird, Vail, Steamboat, etc., but unless you time it just right you'll find things quickly tracked out, and you'll have to hike to get to the fresh. Let me tell you, it's no fun to pay $80 for the privilege of hiking in snow. If you want to make runs off a lift, in powder, without having to sneak into rock chutes or jump off frozen waterfalls, Powder Mountain in Eden, UT is it. "Pow-Mow" has powder runs for novices, intermediates, experts, and maniacs. Skiers that aren't used to pow can jump off the piste and ski short sections down to the next cat track, or shoot off across gently sloping meadows for an easy glide. Never been there? Neither have most other skiers; it's hard to compete against the glamour of Park City, but that's why the skiing is so fantastic. This morning, for example, Pow-Mow has runs with three feet of untracked frozen smoke...news from Innsbruck is that FIS World Cup skier Daniel Albrecht remains in an artificially-induced coma, now going into day seven after his Kitzbuehel crash. Overlooked in the aftermath of Albrecht's suborbital flight is the fact that hard-luck US skier T.J. Lanning paid a visit to the orange room yet again. Lanning has been slowly trying to make a comeback after a previous launching a few years ago, when he went into the fence on the Birds of Prey course at Beaver Creek.
1/28/09 Hope you saw Warren Miller's recent column in Ski magazine, which essentially says, "these are the good old days." I totally agree...although I only go back to the early 1970s I can tell you that the differences in less than 40 years are mind-boggling. Today's average unskilled skier is light years ahead of what they were on straight skis with bogus bindings. Even the worst skiers look more stable than many intermediate skiers did 30 years ago...Big difference in lifts, we used to wait in 45 minute lines and think nothing of it...Grooming! very rare back in the day. first place I skied, Dutchess NY had a beginner hill groomed by a bulldozer towing a giant section of concrete pipe. Nothing else got groomed...Terrain parks! Good grief, we had to build jumps ourselves. You'd find a likely mogul and sort of stomp around on it. Then everybody would jump it, until the ski patrol would come along and knock it down...one thing we should bring back from the good old days are the small feeder hills, the community rope tows where people could learn to ski for a couple dollars. A lot more people tried skiing back in the day. Today, you'd really have to be crazy to "try it" at Stowe, where a first timer adult lift & lesson is $88 plus $40 for the rental equipment. Who's going to "try" skiing for $128? One of the few remaining feeder hills is Living Memorial T-Bar in Brattleboro VT where $5 buys a lift ticket, and nearby Mount Snow provides free lessons there. Kudos to Mount Snow! The industry needs to do more of that if it is to survive as we know it.
1/26/09 Biggest news in the industry right now comes from New England, where bone-chilling temperatures have returned to the hills. Skiers throughout the northeast are looking at the most open terrain and the best conditions in years; yet the temps at higher elevations in places like Stowe and Sugarloaf are prompting frostbite warnings. The Mount Snow ski patrol is even stocked with "Bag-Balm" to treat skin damaged by exposure...Let's hope the temps warm up a little bit -- but not too much -- at Waterville Valley on Sunday. WV is hosting their annual "Turn the Mountain Pink" fight against breast cancer, with a host of raffles and competitions to raise funds and awareness. I don't know about you, but I find that the slopes on Superbowl Sunday are usually devoid of bodies, and one of the best ski days of the year. Now even if you are a football fan, Waterville is only open until 4 PM, so you won't miss a thing...Lots of news from the World Cup scene, most notably that Daniel Albrecht remains in an induced coma following his sub-orbital flight at Kitzbuhel last week. A quick rundown from the Hahnenkamm: Austria's Klaus Kroel won the Super G, followed by Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and Ambrosi Hoffmann of Switzerland. Bennie Raich, who was the overall leader going in to Friday's action, DNF'd. In the main event, Saturday's Downhill, the Swiss were pleased to see countryman Didier DeFago win on the local course. Austrians Mickey Walchhofer and Kroel rounded out the podium; Swiss Didier Cuche tied Bode Miller for a respectable 4th. Hermann Maier drew a huge crowd response with a run worthy of 10th place. In yesterday's slalom event, Frenchmen Julien Lizeroux and Jean-Baptiste Grange finished one-two, with Italian Patrick Thaler in third. 34 racers DNF'd in the first run, add in a couple DSQs and just 21 men were tallied. The combined saw just 11 survivors, led by Swiss Silvan Zurbriggen, followed by Croatians Ivica Kostelic and Natco Zrncic-Dim. This was Zrncic-Dim's first podium. (Try saying that ten times fast) When the dust settled, Kostelic moved into the overall lead, with Raich and Grange close behind, and Svindal a mere point behind Grange. We've been focusing on the battle in the women's ranks, but this is turning out to be even more exciting...moving to the ladies' side, the battles in Cortina were very well skied. Switzerland's Dominique Gisin won the downhill Saturday, followed by Lindsey Vonn and Anja Paerson. In Sunday's GS competition, Austrians dominated the podium with Kathrin Zettel, Michaela Kirchgasser and Elisabeth Goergl running 1-2-3. Vonn managed a 10th place finish, while Anja Paerson was back in 18th. Maria Riesch DNF'd, so you can imagine what happened with Vonn's overall points lead. In today's Super G, Sweden's Jessica Lindell-Vikarby scored her first victory, followed by Austrian Anna Fenninger and Switzerland's Andrea Dettling. Vonn was disappointed with her 8th place finish, but put even more distance on Riesch and Paerson, both of whom crashed out.
1/22/09 Throwback Thursday, we're please to report that New Hampshire fave Black Mountain is now 100% open, including some of the glades that haven't been open for the past couple years...on the opposite corner of the country, throwback Mt Lemmon Ski Valley in Tucson is having one of its best seasons in years...big goings-on in New Jersey this weekend, where Mountain Creek is doing a Tubbs Romp-to-Stomp fundraiser to fight breast cancer. We pick on the Intrawest properties from time to time, but have to say that if you live in the NY metro area, Creek should be your first choice this weekend. Do the snowshoe thing in the morning, and your entry fee includes free skiing afterwards. Kudos to MC for this. If only we could get them to put the mountain back the way it was...rough news from mens side of FIS World Cup competition, in Kitzbuhel this weekend for the 69th edition of the traditional Hahnenkamm races. They're slated for a super-G on Friday, followed by the legendary downhill on Saturday and a slalom on Sunday. Well, the news is that Swiss Daniel Albrecht crashed heavily in training earlier today, and was placed in an induced coma. Albrecht launched in much the same manner as Scott Macartney did last season, despite event organizers taking steps to tame that jump. Bode Miller was fastest in training, followed by Albrecht's teammate Didier Cuche. Albrecht is said to be in stable condition, and is on his way to Innsbruck for additional treatment. He's got two wins this season, and was a respectable 8th in the overall standings. Don't be surprised if you see more carnage on the Streif course this weekend...on the womens side, spotty weather cancelled the third day of downhill practice in Cortina. No word yet on how this will affect events this weekend.
1/20/09 Worldwide economic woes prompt some interesting news from Rossignol subsidiary Dynastar. Dyna announced lay-offs of the majority of its staff at its Sallanches factory in the Haute Savoie. The lay-offs are partial, 187 of 272 workers will be unemployed for 12 days in February and 17 days in March. Rossy says more than a third of its skis remain unsold; next year they plan to scale back production from 800,000 pairs of skis to 650,000. In addition to Dynastar, Rossy also owns the Lange and Look brands.
1/19/09 Folks, if you ain't skiing whenever possible right now, you need to have your head examined. We're looking at epic conditions nationwide. Starting in the northeast, Sugarloaf has the best pow on the snowfields in recent memory. Even little Bousquet in Massachusetts has outrageous tree skiing right now. New Jersey's Mountain Creek is open border-to-border for the first time in years. In Pennsy, Elk Mountain added the Lehigh trail this weekend, putting it 100% open and pure skiing heaven. In West Virginia Snowshoe has all but lower Shay's, and they're putting snow on that trail this morning. Turning to Michigan, Caberfae is fully open; even Bohemia is wall-to-wall. In Minnesota it's a bit chilly at Lutsen today, but you'll find every single trail and lift ready to go, including all four lifts on Moose Mountain. In the Dakotas, Terry Peak doesn't have a huge base, but the two feet of snow is fantastic and they're open 100%. In Colorado, warm daytime temps at Telluride, offset by bitter nights with regular snowfall are adding up to EPIC conditions. Incredible conditions across the state; same in Utah. In the Sierras, the snow is unbelievable. Mammoth, for example, is offering killer terrain for the off-piste enthusiasts, and 90 groomed runs for us mere mortals...scanning the country, in fact the only ski area of any consequence where we're finding bad news is in Washington State, where Loup Loup is shut down due to impassible icy roads and general lack of snow on iced-over ski trails. Perhaps an east coast style sacrifice of burning straight skis for the snow gods is in order....lots of goings-on in World Cup racing over the weekend, particularly in Wengen where a full calendar saw tough-luck Scott Macartney crash in the Lauberhorn downhill. Scotty Mac busted up his knee and is probably done for the season, and sadly, at age 31 we have to say the odds are against him making it back to his prior skill levels. Remember he's been working his way back from that ghastly fall at Kitzbuhel last season. Anyway, the first event in Wengen was a Super-combined won by Swiss Carlo Janka. Countryman Didier Defago won the downhill on Saturday, and Austrian Manfred Pranger ended a long winless streak with a victory in the slalom on Sunday. The bright spots for the American team came in the downhill, where Bode Miller finished 2nd and Marco Sullivan took 3rd, showing more of the downhill promise we saw a year ago in Chamonix. Benny Raich retains the overall lead....on the ladies' side of the World Cup, action at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee was equally compelling. Our own Lindsey Vonn won the super-combi on Saturday, followed by Austria's Kathrin Zettel and Sweden's Anja Paerson. Paerson won the downhill on Sunday, followed by Swiss Dominque Gisin and Vonn. Maria Riesch gave a strong showing in 7th, but with no tally on Saturday, Vonn was able to pass her for the overall lead. Paerson is just behind in third overall. As I said below, Vonn, Riesch & Paerson are making this one of the closest and most exciting seasons in the history of ladies' WC. Previous overall leader Tanja Poutiainen of Finland sat out the speed events, and will likely no longer figure in the chase...in the all-important brand rankings (well, it's not really that important), Riesch and Paerson have the Head brand on top of the ladies chart, with Rossignol in second, largely due to Vonn's efforts. On the men's side, Raich, Walchhofer, Svindal and a host of others have Atomic on top; Grange and Defago have Rossy in second.
1/14/09 With fond rememberances of W (well, at least some. alright, a few. would you believe one or two?) Here's the Wednesday Washington Report. Although the midwest and northeast are enjoying the best first half season conditions in years, a lot of areas in the mid-Atlantic are playing catch-up. NJ, southern NY, VA, much of PA and south have not had an easy time of it. For the inauguration-bound, a quick lesson: Washington regulars have grown accustomed to steady temps and a steady supply of computer controlled snow in recent years at fave Wintergreen. Even with marginal temps, Wintergreen can blast the slopes -- but when those temps see-saw into the 60s like they did in December, all bets are off. Well if you're a political-type headed to the inauguration and you'd like to sample the skiing, or if you're a political-type suddenly finding yourself with plenty of free time after the inauguration, fear not! The temps in the Blue Ridge have dropped nicely and held steady for a while now, and the snow cannons are blasting at Homestead, Massanutten, and the Big W. Massanutten has all but four slopes open, and is blanketing the unopen terrain this morning. Wintergreen has had a tougher time of it, but mountain ops' plan for Thursday through Sunday is to drop the ropes on 8 more trails and 2 terrain parks. That will put the slope count to just about 100%, with a few short connectors on "Highlands" still to come. So if you're Washington bound, you do have to head west to ski -- but you won't have to go very far; 146.28 miles from the steps of the Capitol to be precise...World Cup news, Swede Markus Larsson crashed heavily during practice on the Lauberhorn course in Wengen this morning. He lost consciousness and had to be airlifted, suffering a concussion, broken nose, and some cuts and contusions. In other words, he came out fine as downhill crashes go. The FIS World Cup circuit will run the traditional mens downhill on the Lauberhorn on Saturday, bookended by a super-combined on Friday and a SL on Sunday. We'll recap the survivors on Monday...remember, this weekend is regarded as the halfway point of the season. If you haven't made a push to hit the slopes, now's the time to get a move on.
1/12/09 World Cup recap from the weekend's action in Maribor Slovakia, where the ladies raced GS Saturday and SL on Sunday. Hometown skier Tina Maze won the GS, followed by Italian Denise Karbon and Germany's Kat Hoelzl. Fin Tanja Poutiainen kept up her winning ways by notching 4th, while Lindsey Vonn took 7th, one spot behind youth sensation Lara Gut. In Sunday's action, Overall Leader Maria Riesch of Germany beat 2nd place Kathrin Zettel by over a second. Poutiainen finished 3rd, and 4th was a tie between Vonn and Sweden's Anja Paerson. Pouty and Vonn remain 2nd and 3rd overall behind Riesch. Vonn's second run Sunday was nothing less than sensational; she was 18th after the first run and really turned it up for round 2. Riesch prevailed despite Vonn's charge, which gave Maria her 4th consecutive win in SL competition. As far as Lindsey's current rank of 3rd overall, the only people who should be discouraged by that are Maria and Tanja. Vonn is not known as a great technical racer, yet here she sits in 3rd after a flurry of slalom events! With a bunch of speed events coming up, Vonn is poised to retake the lead. Riesch will offer competition, of course, but Vonn is historically better in speed events. Poutiainen has a history of sitting out the downhills. We should point out, of course, that skiers tend to rise to the occasion in all events when they are having a good season. So with these three ladies all having great seasons, this is one of the most compelling World Cups in quite a while...the men did the same GS/SL deal in Adelboden, Switzerland. Austrian Benny Raich won the GS over Italian Massimiliano Blardone and Norway's Kjetil Jansrud. Ted Ligety's 9th was the best showing for team USA. Right behind Ligety was Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, who was the overall leader going into Adelboden. On Sunday the slalom greats took over; Austrians Reinfred Herbst and Manfred Pranger paced the field 1st and 2nd, with German Felix Neureuther in 3rd. Ligety finished one ahead of Bode Miller in 15th. Raich came out of the slalom with a respectable 11th, while Svindal did not point, which puts Raich in 1st overall, Jean-Baptiste Grange in 2nd, and Svindal 3rd. Ligety and Miller are 10th and 11th, and while they shouldn't be counted out, are not showing the stuff that is likely to factor in the overall. Fan favorite Hermann Maier is tied for 13th with Canada's Eric Guay...anybody else notice how network television avoids ski racing like the plague? This weekend NBC had two days of 17 year-olds in baggy pants doing spins in a half-pipe at Mount Snow. Now these kids clearly have terrific skills, and the things they do are incredible. But is it really compelling television? It's virtually impossible to tell one from another, and the graphics on their skis are generally illegible -- not a lot of value there for the ski manufacturers that sponsor the individuals. Add in a lot of Moutain Dew® signs all over, and really, this event reminded me of the old "Battle of the Network Stars" back in the 1970s. "Tanner Hall did a 900 alley oop and nailed it switchie!" I'm sure that's fantastic, but I'm also sure that a majority of television viewers have no idea what it means. Wouldn't some highlight coverage of ski racing be a bit more exciting, and meaningful?
1/9/09 Tough news from Austria, where the World Cup team has announced that ace Rainer Schoenfelder is ending his season due to a shin injury. Far sadder is the news that promising 25 year old Christine Sponring has called it quits due to continuing knee problems. Although Sponring never won a World Cup race, she did garner a silver in the Super Combined at the 2001 World Championships. We wish her well.
1/7/09 Word has just come down from Atomic that they are recalling certain bindings for heel replacement. Models affected are any of the following manufactured between 1998 and 2002: Race 310, Race 412, RaceRace 310, RaceRace 412, Xentrix 310, Xentrix 311, Xentrix 412, C 310, C 311, C 412, CR 310, CR 412, R 310, R 412, SX 310, SX 412, Device 311, Device 412, Centro 310, and Centro 412. This recall also affects some bindings private-labelled with the Dynamic brand: ADX 310, RD10, X412, and Centro 412 from the same time period. If your bindings are subject to this recall, you need only take them to an authorized Atomic dealer for free service and replacement of the questionable parts. Atomic shows you how to find the year of construction with a well-done series of photos and explanations on this consumer service webpage. It's interesting to look at and familiarize yourself with this info, even if you don't own the affected bindings.
1/6/09 Afternoon Update World Cup slalom news from the Crveni Spust course in Zagreb, Croatia. Not a good day for the red white and blue as Bode Miller was disqualified for having oversized boots (too high) and Ted Ligety made a costly mistake during a run that had him in the lead. Jean-Baptiste Grange of France won, while Ivica Kostelic wowed his home crowd with a 2nd place finish. Ligety's bobble put him in 16th...the ladies fared no better yesterday; Lindsey Vonn crashed while leading -- and with the finish just a few gates away. Germany's Maria Riesch won and took the overall lead away from Vonn. Tanja Poutiainen again passed Vonn in the overall; her 7th at Crveni Spust puts her in 2nd overall...skiing in the northeast is on the rise at some resorts; Okemo reports skier visits 7% ahead of last year, Jiminy is up 4%. Morning report is immediately below:
1/6/09 Interesting news from Vermont, multi-day tickets at Okemo and Stratton are now interchangeable. Not sure if this was a meeting of the minds, or if the Muellers' recent sale -- which supposedly gives the two resorts a sort of distant connection between financing firms -- brought this on. Either way, it's a good deal for weekenders looking to mix things up a bit...odd news from Vail, this tidbit from the Blue Sky Basin lift. Some poor dude got on the lift, however the chair pad wasn't flipped down. He somehow fell through the seat of the chair, and was left dangling by his ski. Fortunately the fellow's boots stayed in his bindings. Or maybe he would've preferred they had popped; you see, when he fell through the seat, his pants and undergarments stayed trapped by the cushion. I don't know about you, but dangling from a chair with my junk hanging out isn't my idea of a good day on the slopes. The poor fellow was rescued none the worse for wear, other than perhaps his pride.
1/5/09 Back after our annual holiday hiatus...let's do a once-around...in the midwest, we check in at Indiana's Perfect North Slopes and find happy faces everywhere, fully open, schussing on a four-foot base...Wisconsin-wise, Cascade Mountain outside of Madison is typical of the upper midwest right now, 100% open and looking darn good...in the southwest, the real barometer is Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff, which is open and really skiing well. This resort has its hands tied by some mishmash of Indian gobbledeygook that prevents snowmaking -- nevermind the fact that the tribal council blows snow at their ski resort/casino. Somehow the gods will be desecrated if treated water is used to make snow, yet boozing and gambling is fine? I've yet to hear a good explanation for that one. Folks, you can't feed peanuts to a horse and claim the result is peanut butter...in the Rockies, we're pleased to report that Utah's magnificent Powder Mountain is now fully open, including Powder Country...in Colorado, our fave Ski Cooper is 100% open and fabulous...northwest and the word from our friends in Bellingham who ski at Mt. Baker tell us everything is deep and wonderful, with an occasional lift on weather hold. Good problems to have...Let's go clear across the country now, this past week was the week that often makes or breaks the ski biz in the northeast. We're pleased to report that after a nasty warm rain right before Christmas, ol' man winter cooperated with a few snowfalls and some super cold temps. Mount Snow is a good barometer for what went on; Sneaux went from 90-something percent open terrain down to about 20 percent, then rebounded nicely to finish off the holidays at about 60 percent of terrain. Obviously the resort further north fared better...what's going on at Camelback, the biggie of the banana belt? Usually this resort has lifts running hither and yon, but this recent holiday week witnessed lines not seen since the 1970s. Very few lifts running. Hmmm....moving south, the weather picture isn't quite as rosy, Virginia's mega ski resort Wintergreen is doing well with what they have, but warm temps today and nothing open on the Highlands section isn't what the faithful are used to. Then again, this is skiing in Dixie, so we takes what we gets...lots of goings-on in the World Cup scene, we'll save that for tomorrow after today's races.
12/22/08 Lots of news to report this morning, before we get to our usual World Cup review we should report that some white stuff fell in the northeast, from Maine to parts of Maryland. Looking for many resorts to be 100% open for Christmas, which is quite a change from the past few seasons. In Vermont, Sugarbush has more snow than they know what to do with, and is open 100%. Moving down the map, Okemo has all but a dozen of its trails open, and Mount Snow has rebounded nicely, with about 90% open...Loads of goings-on in World Cup action this weekend. Usually we cover ladies first, but so much excitement in the men's category we'll go there first. Swiss Daniel Albrecht won yesterday's GS in Alta Badia, followed by Croatia's Ivica Kostelic and Austrian Hannes Reichelt. American Ted Ligety gave a nice showing in 4th, and overall leader Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway helped his case with a respectable 8th place finish. Earlier in the weekend at Val Gardena - Groeden, Italian Werner Heel made the hometown crowd happy with a first in the Super G, followed by Switzerland's Didier Defago and an unlikely 3rd place by Swede Patrik Jaerbyn, who is pushing 40. The rankings showed a nice 5th from American Marco Sullivan. On Saturday's downhill, Austrian Mickey Walchhofer took one of his frequent turns at the top of the podium. Bode Miller finished second, followed by Canadian Manuel Osborne-Paradis. Surprise: Americans Erik Fisher, Steve Nyman, and TJ Lanning were all in the top ten. Scotty Macartney showed just how well his comeback is going by finishing nicely in 15th...the men are skiing slalom in Alta Badia as I type this...Friday in St. Moritz, Swede Anja Paerson won the Super Combined, beating Nicole Hosp of Austria by about a second. Switzerland's own Fabienne Suter took third. The hometown ladies showed big in the Super G on Saturday; 17 year-old Lara Gut won, followed by Suter. Italian Nadia Fanchini finished third. If you haven't yet heard of this Lara Gut, pay attention -- she's got 2 podiums in just 13 starts. As they say in NASCAR, she's "scary good." The ladies' downhill scheduled for yesterday was cancelled. Looks like cup leaders Tanja Poutiainen and Lindsey Vonn sat it out, so Vonn remains atop the overall leaderboard...late news, Kostelic won the mens' slalom today, with Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Grange in second and Austria's Benny Raich. Italian skiers gave the locals quite a few reasons to cheer, with Giorgio Rocca, Manny Moelgg and Patrick Thaler lining up 4th, 5th, and 6th respectively.
12/18/08 Throwback Thursday, and we look at one of our sentimental favorites, Black Mountain in Jackson, NH, open on the platter pull today, looking to go to a route from the top of the triple by the weekend...in case you hadn't heard, a gondie came a tumblin' down on Tuesday at Whistler-Blackcomb, appears now that ice wedged in a tower somehow and sent the whole thing down. Lucky it wasn't the new interconnect thing, which at some points dangles a quarter mile up in the sky...mid-Atlantic states need another cold snap to make things nice for the holidays. Resorts like Wintergreen and Camelback are open, and open is certainly better than closed, but things are still a bit iffy on the trails.
12/16/08 Quick look at conditions around the country...a nice cloud came flying down Colorado's central I-70 corridor, dumped almost 2' of snow on Vail and Beaver Creek. Vail is firing on all cylinders, open all the way to Blue Sky Basin...speaking of two feet, that's about the base in Flagstaff, where Arizona Snow Bowl is waiting on just a bit more so they can groom that volcano before opening...moving slightly east to New Mexico, Ski Santa Fe has about two-thirds of its terrain open and is offering special reduced rates that top out at just $39 for adult all-day tix...in Oregon, Mt. Hood Meadows is operating on a similar scale, claiming "early season conditions in effect" and whatnot. Although only a 29" base at this point, MHM seems to be getting an inch or two every other day, so that should correct itself in no time...a few inches every other day is also the rule in the midwest; Minnesota's small but mighty Buck Hill is working on 15 of 16 runs. Another Minnesota fave Coffee Mill is working on reduced days and reduced lift tickets, but expects to be fully operational by Friday...in the Carolinas, Sugar Mountain in Banner Elk is operating a dozen runs on three lifts...surprising news in Pennsy, where Camelback has quite a bit of terrain open, more expected for the weekend. North and east at the Jersey areas the story isn't so pleasant...in New York, Belleayre has sloooowly been adding terrain; it seems that state budget cuts have put a bit of a damper on what is usually an aggressive snowmaking operation...ICE is still the big news in New England, where last night even the great Sugarloaf took a slushy hit. Killington and Okemo actually closed on Friday when the power went on the fritz. Although we gotta say, things didn't stay ugly for long in Ludlow, Okemo turned it around and is currently about half open, which is quite a bit of terrain. Mount Snow, on the other hand, is still experiencing electrical difficulaties and is running partial operations with a reduced ticket rate. Sneaux is hoping to be back in full swing today.
12/15/08 Weekend news from the latest World Cup stop in La Molina, Spain is that Tanja Poutiainen briefly moved into the top spot overall with a victory in the GS. Poutiainen moved 2 points ahead of Lindsey Vonn, who skied out in the second run. This was in Saturday's competition, where Italy's Manuela Moelgg finished just .002 behind Pouty, and Austria's Nicole Hosp rounded out the podium in third. Best American finish on Saturday was Julia Mancuso's 18th. Tanja's turn at the top turned out to be brief, as Lindsey finished second in Sunday's slalom event. Maria Riesch won that one, her first slalom victory in over 4 years. Vonn finished second to Poutiainen's sixth, and moved back into the overall lead. In men's action at Val d'Isere, Austria's Benny Raich won the Super Combined event that was pre-empted by weather in Beaver Creek. Carlo Janka of Switzerland won the Super G, followed by Canadian John Kucera, American Ted Ligety, and then Raich. Janka also won the giant slalom, giving him a darn fine weekend. Those finishes pushed Janka into third overall, behind Aksel Lund Svindal in first and Raich in second. Don't look now, but Hermann Maier is in sixth...update from Utah, Powder Mountain finally has enough snow to open, will be operating for night skiing starting tonight.
12/8/08 Big goings-on in Beaver Creek this weekend, where Benny Raich of Austria won the World Cup GS, edging American Ted Ligety by the narrowest margin possible, 1/100th of a second. According to the Vail Daily, had the two been racing together, Raich would've beat Ligety by 5.7 centimeters. If you're not metric aware, that's about 2.25 inches. In other words, it was close. Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal garnered third and current lead in the overall standings. Other than Ligety, another bright spot for the red white and blue was Tim Jitloff, who finished with his first world cup points. Bode looked good until he bobbled and went out of bounds. Miller is down to 13th in points, but overall leader Svindal says Miller is still the man to beat...Nadia Fanchini of Italy won the season-opening Super GS for her first World Cup victory. Lindsey Vonn placed ninth...nice mix of snow in northern New England last night, Okemo got almost a half a foot in some places; current cold temps will put the rest of the east coast in business for the season.
12/5/08 Good word from Blue Mountain in eastern PA is that they are extending early season half price ticket rates through the weekend...the World Cup circus heads to Keystone for the Birds of Prey downhill this weekend, Bode Miller usually is the man to beat here...rumors are flying fast and furious that the Mueller family (Triple Peak Resorts) is selling out to CNL Lifestyle Properties of Florida. The Muellers started by rebuilding Okemo, negotiated a deal to operate Sunapee, and then bought Crested Butte. CNL owns Summit-at-Snoqualmie, Brighton Ski Resort, and owns Sugarloaf and Sunday River in some sort of lease-back arrangement. CNL also does this lease-back thing with a few Intrawest properties. Supposedly they'll do the same deal with the Muellers. We'll wait and see...
12/3/08 All good news in Summit County; Ski Loveland leads the list of ski areas that were positively dumped on this past weekend. They're reporting just 21% of terrain as open, but that's a little misleading -- trail count is right there and they haven't cranked lift 6 and 8 yet. Those trails could be open if the Big L had the bodies to do it; it's really one of the best early seasons in recent memory...neglected to report in Monday's weekly World Cup wrap up that Lindsey Vonn 4th place efforts keep her on top of the ladies' overall standings.
12/2/08 It's "Throwback Tuesday," today we report on a couple of throwback ski areas. We define throwback as fixed-grip lifts, small comfortable lodges and no clocktower villages...these are the places we like best...First, word from southern New York state is that Plattekill will be open as of Saturday, and will have discounted tickets through December 21st. That's good news from one of the last remaining places where "if you can see it, go ahead and ski it" is still the rule. If you haven't been, Plattekill is where people hang hand-made trail signs to point out their favorite little chutes and secret routes. Gotta love it...And another throwback ski area, Vermont's Magic Mountain is scheduled to open on December 13th. That is important, since Magic has been on the verge of closing down many times in recent memory. Fact is that new ownership has some good things happening and this Londonderry ski resort is being run in a professional manner. That's important, and they deserve our support...Another of our favorite throwbacks is Ski Cooper in Leadville, Colorado. The Coop plans to open sometime around the 12th-14th, conditions permitting....in Utah, small but mighty Wolf Creek is scheduled to open for the season this Friday. Located right in Eden, this is one of those places with the creaky fixed grip lifts and -- most importantly -- affordable ticket prices. It's also got a terrific variety of terrain.
12/1/08 Biggest news in the ski world today is the surprising win by Austria's legendary Hermann Maier in yesterday's World Cup Super G at Lake Louise. His last victory came over two years ago in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Canadian John Kucera finished second for the home crowd, and Didier Cuche of Switzerland was third. Pleased to report a respectable 5th place for American Marco Sullivan of Squaw Valley, California...the ladies were slaloming in Aspen over the weekend; Czech Sarka Zahrobska garnered her first World Cup victory, beating Austrian Nicole Hosp by .23 seconds. Tanja Poutiainen of Finland was third, while a still-recovering Lindsey Vonn took fourth...Saturday in Lake Louise the men were in downhill competition; king of the hill was Italian Peter Fill, another first-time winner. Carlo Janka zoomed from an impossible 65th starting slot to finish second, while Sweden's Hans Olsson was third. Heart warming story was the return of Scott Macartney. The story isn't his 59th place finish, but rather the fact that this was his first Cup competition since crashed and bounced like a rag doll in Kitzbuhel back in January. The fact that Scott still has the stomach for World Cup level competition is quite remarkable.
11/26/08 As mentioned yesterday, what started as glonk in New England turned into snow; Okemo, K-Mart, etc. all getting a nice layer of free inventory...Pennsylvania will weigh in for real on Friday 28th when Blue Mountain opens for the season...word from New York is that Belleayre will open with their highest first day trail count in years; three routes off the summit and two on the lower mountain...in Utah, super lux Deer Valley has begun the countdown in earnest; 9 days remain 'til opening...friends at Squaw Valley tell us they're thankful for turkey and all their other blessings, but will quickly resume prayers for snow once they've finished the gravy...Have a great Thanksgiving folks, we're out of touch for a few days, planning to check out the twig season action in Massachusetts and New York...remember our soldiers in your prayers of thanksgiving
11/25/08 Once the Rockies and the Northeast ramp up, it can only mean one thing: Time for the Pac NW to chime in...it's early yet, but old favorite Mt. Baker has about 19" inches of snow at Pan Dome. They need just about 30" to crank the lifts, so we're watching and waiting...across the state in Dayton, another mighty mid-sized area, Bluewood is waiting for more snow. Just 3" on the ground this morning, but it won't take but one of their typical snowfalls to open things up...in Chewelah, 49º North needs more than the dusting currently on the ground, but again it's a bit early so we're quite hopeful...Mixed news in the east...Banana belt ski areas (that's New Jersey, the Poconos & Maryland/Virginia for those of you who aren't aware of it) are taking a beating this morning as rain pounds the snot out of any snow they managed to put down last week...Belleayre New York and points north of there got a nice hit of snow last night, Vermont/New Hampshire areas are receiving a quasi-wintry mix this morning, although some areas like Mad River Glen and Attitash are mostly getting snow...mixed news in the Rockies too, word is that Lindsey Vonn suffered a nasty knee bruise during a fall while practicing at Copper Mountain. Doctors say there is no lig or cart damage, but no word yet on when our champion will return to competition.
11/21/08 It's all wonderful in Western New York where Holiday Valley has about three feet of white stuff on the ground...looking a little further west, Boyne opens today, while a couple of resorts in Michigan like Big Powderhorn and Bohemia still need a little more white stuff before they crank up the lifts. Marquette Mountain opens tomorrow, but will not have beginner terrain right at the get-go. Lower peninsula biggie Caberfae opens in a week...in Wisconsin, Cascade will open tomorrow, ahead of schedule, albeit just for the weekend...in New England, Attitash cranks this weekend, sister resort Mount Snow as well. The real buzz right now is what is up at Stratton, they're holding off on opening for a few more days, and the word is that they intend to drop the ropes on 40 trails when they do. Now, if you believe the east's definition of a "trail" then you also believe in the Tooth Fairy. But when you consider that Stratton usually kicks off with a trail count in the 20s, it makes you sit up and take notice.
11/20/08 The western resorts continue to open more and more terrain, Alta is doing a nice job in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and of course Snowbird continues to open terrain at a steady clip...moving to the midwest, Brule is up to half a dozen lifts...back east, New Hampshire's gentle giant Bretton Woods opens with a mile of skiing today, while the Poconos are set to weigh in tomorrow with Big Boulder...looking at the southern Appalachians, West Virginia's sizable Snowshoe has been bombed with almost three feet of snow over the past couple days, and will open today with six runs on two lifts. The east is looking at its best start in years; let's hope this isn't a repeat of the '06-'07 season when it warmed up with perfect golf weather right before Christmas.
11/19/08 Is it possible that the Beast of the East is back? We're talking about Killington, of course, which not too many years ago was doing a land-office business at this time of year. Then ASC ran out of money, and other people's money, and then ran out of places to borrow money to pay the interest on the money they borrowed to pay interest on the money they borrowed. So K-Mart was sold to Powdr Corp., who said something akin to "November?! Whaddya, nuts?" And the mighty K has been taking a drubbing in the press lately, including this columnist. Sooooo, they're open now, blowing snow like crazy, already have more than 8 miles of trails open. I don't want to get overly optimistic here, maybe it is just the weather, but whatever it is, we need to give big Kudos to K-Mart!
11/18/08 Pennsy has weighed in, throwing snow last night at places like Snö Mountain and Camelback, New York is on track with guns blazing at Belleayre, Bristol, Windham, Hunter and others. A smattering of snowmaking in the Berkshires; Jiminy laying down a lot of white stuff. The temps are outstanding in the northeast -- finally. In New Hampshire, even southern ski areas like Crotched fired up the fan guns...one hill in the east that has managed to open and stay open is southern biggie Sugar Mountain, currently running a lift and five chairs. Others in the Carolinas are blowing snow to beat the band, notably Appalachian, which is slated to open Friday. Beech and Cataloochee appear to be poised for opening -- re-opening in the Cat's case...in the midwest, Brule is open as mentioned previously; as usual tiny Afton Alps slipped in under our radar, they're open of course. Not to be outdone, another of Minnesota's small-but-mightys, Buck Hill is open with a single run and blowing snow for more. Buck Hill, lest we forget, is where a little girl named Lindsey Kildow learned to race.
11/17/08 Meet the new boss, same as the old boss: Lindsey Vonn (nee-Kildow) won the World Cup slalom event at Levi, Finland this weekend. In case you weren't aware, the reigning overall world champion is a speed specialist, so this first ever slalom win for Lindsey is not good news for the rest of the field...on the mens side, overall champ Bode Miller made plenty of noise on his own, finishing second...snow just pounded the eastern side of the Great Lakes, while the upper peninsula is anticipating some heavy snow today or tomorrow...temps finally dropped in the northeast yesterday, that big roar is the sound of snow guns firing up across New England. A few Pennsy resorts like Snö Mountain have made noise about doing the same, but we haven't seen anything just yet.
11/14/08 Been remiss in failing to mention Mammoth Mountain thus far, we kind of figure it's open all the time anyway. After Timberline, they tend to have the longest season in the country. In any case, the big Sierra lava dome has 280 acres of piste right now, most in the country by far....Arapahoe Basin has expanded open terrain to the summit, running folks down the Lenawee Face/Dercum's Gulch route....northeastern skiers are looking at a major change in the weather pattern sometime this weekend. Temps will supposedly drop and give the usual suspects an opportunity to blow snow in time for scheduled Thanksgiving openings...in case you haven't heard, the ultra-private Yellowstone Club has filed for bankruptcy. Not sure if that ski area will open this winter. Not sure why we even care....earlier in November (if you look down the page) you'll see our Colorado opening schedule, so far so good, everybody opening on time....Utah weighs in with Snowbird, which has been open for a few days now....the World Cup circus is in Levi, Finland for a slalom this weekend, USA ladies Hailey Duke and Sarah Schleper join reigning overall champion Lindsey Vonn on the hill, while the men send Ted Ligety, Jimmy Cochran, Tim Jitloff, Cody Marshall and Tim Kelley along with independent reigning champ Bode Miller.
11/12/08 Looks like New Englanders have a place to ski today, small but mighty Woodbury in western CT has blown their usual early season sand trap sized patch of snow, complete with rail and whatnot. Woodbury has had the occasional "first to open" New England bragging rights in seasons past, and although they can't claim it this year, they deserve kudos just the same for trying to kick start the season.
11/11/08 Big shout out to all the Veterans reading this today -- thank you for your service, and we hope you have a great day! Big news from Michigan is that Ski Brule surprised us by opening yesterday; they had been scheduled for today but the winter wonderland they're enjoying enabled Brule to crank 'em up a day early. Looks like this place is in for another great season....not much happening in New England; word is that Stowe and Sugarbush had the guns firing last night, meanwhile mother nature blessed the northern areas with some nice white stuff as well...in New Jersey the story is that Hidden Valley has finished repairs on their triple chair -- it had been fried by lightning over the summer. Good news from a great little area, which by the way is hosting a swap this weekend.
11/7/08 News from New York State is that the chairs have all been strung and Gore Mountain's new Burnt Ridge Triple is ready for the season. The mountain is scheduled to open on November 28th...we like what we're hearing from small but might Ski Cooper in Colorado, new this year,season pass holders will be able to purchase a discounted "Buddy Ticket" Monday through Friday for $25.00. That's some good thinking by the Coop folks.
11/6/08 Here's some news from a couple of local favorites...Utah's Powder Mountain is heading into winter after quite a bit of off-season activity in the Hidden Lake terrain park. Pow Mow has expanded the park area, re-graded some of the approaches, and added a number of new features. Notable is a big up and down thingy constructed of old utility poles...in general terrain parks seem to be moving toward a more natural appearance, the trend is to native materials versus the typical plastic and metal stuff that has been standard...New York favorite Plattekill is ramping up to a December 6 opening with some nice improvements around the edges: Lodge renovations, a new snowmaking pump, and a new groomer. Now add in a new outdoor firepit for atmosphere, and you're really cooking. I guess you could say Plattekill is the Pow-Mow of the east? Anyway, if you have a chance this season, these are two ski areas that offer an excellent, uncrowded, unrestrained alternative to the bigger mountains nearby.
11/4/08 Happy election day, everybody...Time for our annual "when will they open" blog...from Colorado, here goes...November 7: Breckenridge, Copper, Keystone, Wolf Creek. November 19: Winter Park. November 21: Echo, Eldora, Vail. November 26/27: Aspen, Beaver Creek, Crested Butte, Monarch, Durango, Cooper, Snowmass, Steamboat, Telluride. Other than Silverton, which has targeted November 29th, the balance will open in December: Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, Howelsen, Powderhorn, Solvista, Sunlight. As you know, we're already "lovin' the Big L" and "spacin' at the Basin." Loveland still ahead on terrain, with about 75 acres open right now...news from New Jersey is that Mountain Creek no longer shows a halfpipe on their '08-'09 trailmap. This was the site of the Chevrolet U.S. Grand Prix a few years back, when for at least one weekend lil' ol' Creek was the center of the snowboard universe. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
11/3/08 News from Minnesota biggie Lutsen where a new chairlift has been installed to the summit of Eagle Mt. It's a triple that loads at the chalet, and it will add about 30% more uphill capacity on that particular peak. Also, we hear they are re-opening The Plunge, which is a fairly nasty elevator shaft that Lutsen likes to say is the steepest in the midwest. No argument here. They'll be opening November 21st, assuming the weather cooperates...Michigan's mighty Ski Brule is looking to open Friday. We're not sure that's going to happen, although they have done their best to lay down some snow. Even if they don't open as planned, you ought to check out their early-season ticket deals; Brule has some pre-buy prices that are outstanding...back east, snow guns blasted Okemo this past weekend...word from Pennsy is that Elk has widened the Lenape trail. This is the trail furthest to skiers' left, was a meandering narrow New England style thing. We'll have to wait a couple more months to check it out.
10/31/08 Evening update: Looks like the management at Killington must've come to their senses, realizing they have a heck of a lot of snow, the one-time "beast of the east" is back in action as only Killington can be -- planning now to throw caution to the wind and open Sunday -- and they're gonna do it in style. Lifts running will be the K-1 Express Gondola and the Northridge Triple, with the usual roster of early season trails involved: Great Northern, Rime, Reason, Upper East Fall, Middle Chute and Lower Bunny Buster. Folks, this season is starting off in a big, big way in the east. It's conceivable that for the first time since I don't know when, on Sunday there will be more open ski areas in the east than in the west!
10/31/08 Mid-day Update: Apparently this one went under the radar, folks -- tiny Dry Hill in Watertown, NY has apparently been open the past couple days! Closed today for Halloween...barring thermal catastrophe, Mount Snow will have the Launch Pad lift running tomorrow, and is setting ticket prices at ten bucks...
10/31/08 Happy Halloween! New England weighs in with its first lift-served skiing of the season, Sunday River turned a bullwheel yesterday afternoon in fact. Reports were that the Riv would open today -- perhaps they were concerned about being skunked by Mount Snow? In any case, Sneaux is re-opening today as well, albeit with earn-your-turns terrain on Launch Pad. Hey, we ain't complaining! If this is any indication of what's ahead, easterners have a great season in store. The Riv is running a triple and skiing on the T2 trail; show up in costume and you ride for free. Otherwise, lift tix are $25...meanwhile the snow is blowing at Killington. What gives? The place looks like a winter wonderland; had K-mart put some effort into it, they probably could've opened this weekend with multiple lifts and trails. I suppose that in this economy, they gotta do what they gotta do....see if you can guess who I'm going to be for Halloween...every kid that comes to my house with lots of candy will have to fork over half of it, and I'm going to redistribute it as entitlements to kids who don't have the same trick or teating opportunities. BOO! Nah, just kiddin'. Have a great day everybody, and PLEASE, DRIVE EXTRA SLOWLY TONIGHT. Those few minutes you may gain are NOT worth a child's life.
10/30/08 New England resorts are finally getting in on the action...Sunday River turned on the snowmaking machinery early yesterday, and southern Vermont's Mount Snow followed suit last night. Sneaux fired up the army of fan guns on Standard, which is their usual early season trail. Only thing is it isn't usually this early; with temps supposed to warm over the weekend we can't imagine that this snow will hold, but who cares! (well, maybe their controller cares) Point is we've got an early season push going on here that we haven't seen since Killington's heyday, and them days have been gone for a while. The Riv is pushing for a Halloween opening, which they were able to do briefly last year. Who knows what Sneaux has in mind. Kudos to both resorts...in just one short year under new owners they seem to have shaken off the doldrums and the funk they were in during ASC's death spiral...make some notes if you're an easterner planning to hit Cataloochee: they're in "early season" mode, which means limited hours. Today and Friday you can ski from 1pm until 10pm, and then on Saturday and Sunday, daytime from 8:30am - 4:30pm. Cataloochee will wind it down after that, close for the week beginning November 3rd, and then play it by ear next weekend. We'll keep you posted as we get our reports.
10/29/08 Lo and behold the small but mighty Cataloochee in Maggie Valley, NC was first to open with lift-served skiing in the east yesterday, cranking a chairlift with a single route down the lower hill. Meanwhile, Ol' Man Winter added insult to injury in New England by sending an inch or two of glop. Poconos and Catskills got a fair amount of snow. It's all a teaser, folks, it will be gone by the weekend. Any lift-served skiing of any consequence is at Loveland right now, A-Basin is open with less terrain, and of course there's lift-served snow to be found at Timberline Lodge, but right now it's just weekends only...a couple of resorts, including Smuggler's Notch have banned employees from using Burton's pornographic and mutilation snowboards, we're glad to hear that. Of course as old-schoolers we're calling for an all-out boycott of anything with a Burton logo on it. Burton says they support women's issues, yet they create snowboards with nude models. Each year thousands of Eastern European teenage girls respond to ads for "modeling" jobs -- seeing the same sort of glamorous images as bait -- only to be shipped via Mexico to the United States for sexual slavery. Wonder how the latest crop of young women, sitting in a van in a Mexican backwater right now, cold, hungry, exhausted, and frightened out of their minds, feel about Burton's "support." Last year, Burton encouraged trespassing. That pales by comparison to their latest chicanery. I'll say it again, Burton is bigtime bullsh-t. I urge all old-school skiers with any shred of decency to boycott any product with a Burton logo on it.
10/28/08 Aside from the small patch of hike-to terrain park at Mount Snow last week, the east has been as quiet as expected this pre-season, what with Killington no longer in the hunt for first-to-open honors. But that's about to change in a big way as North Carolina's Cataloochee has been cranking the guns for the past couple days, and may open with lift-served skiing early this afternoon. This will be two years in a row that the southeast trumps the northeast in this department! New Englanders are close behind, looking at snow in the forecast for this evening, and hoping that by some miracle a bull wheel will crank somewhere. Anyway, the Cat hasn't finalized their opening as of 10:15 this morning, so we'll just wait and see...speaking of the east, all kinds of grumblings and rumblings about Stowe, which is owned by struggling AIG, and Stratton, Mountain Creek, and Snowshoe, owned by Intrawest, struggling with debt reminiscent of American Skiing Company in its waning days. Intrawest also operates Copper, Winter Park, and Steamboat, along with a bunch of other resorts. Tremblant comes to mind. The company sprang from Whistler/Blackcomb, where they are creating a Disneyesque monstrosity in anticipation of the upcoming Winter Olympics. Can you imagine a government bailout of AIG, while taxpayers are shelling out $84 for a lift ticket at Stowe? Gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling....not unlike stepping in horse poop.
10/27/08 The World Cup kicked off its season this weekend on the glacier at Soelden. From the men's camp, Swiss Daniel Albrecht took the top spot, teammate Didier Cuche was second, and -- how about that -- American Ted Ligety came in third. Word is that Bode Miller overcommitted in the middle of his run and scrubbed some time. Unlike some courses, Soelden has a lot of flats (well, at least what WC skiers consider flat) and Bode couldn't make up the setback. He finished 10th...on the ladies side, Austria's Kathrin Zettel finished about a second ahead of Tanja Poutiainen of Finland. Austrian Andrea Fischbacher lined up third. Reigning champ Lindsey Vonn finished a respectable 9th, while Julia Mancuso disappointed a bit with 17th. The real bright spot in the Americans' campaign was young Megan McJames, who grabbed quite a bit of attention by starting 38th and finishing a remarkable 14th....those morons at Burton are at it again. Last year it was a campaign encouraging snowboarders to trespass, based on a bizarre and erroneous interpretation of the Bill of Rights. This year, it's images of naked women on snowboards. It's one thing to be plain old stupid, but it's another thing entirely to infringe on other peoples rights. Burton fans use the old, "you can't tell me what I can and can't look at," which is the exact same argument that pornographers use. The Burton people ought to sign Caligula as a spokesman. Whatever happened to respect gets respect? They don't respect anybody else's rights; I certainly don't respect theirs. As for me and my house, we don't buy anything with a Burton logo on it....Mount Snow is down to just a skinny ribbon of snow, but we continue with major kudos for their efforts thus far...Loveland is pulling ahead of neighbor A-Basin right now; the Big L has expanded to two additional routes down the mountain while the Basin is still working just on the High Noon route. For the life of me I can't figure out why Loveland doesn't draw more people.
10/20/08 Glory hallelujah, Mount Snow in southern Vermont kicked off the season in the east this weekend! After cranking the fan guns at the base area for a couple of evenings, Sneaux was able to put down a couple inches, along with a few rails and hits. Then the mountain opened for business (sort of) with hike-up skiing and boarding available at no charge. It may be a gimmick, a publicity move, an attention-getter, a buzz-builder, but hey, who cares! They want buzz? They got it. Buzz, buzz, bzzzz. This is fantastic, it's the sort of thing the industry needs to jump start the season. Bravo Mount Snow!
10/14/08 The season is set to officially kick off tomorrow, October 15 with Loveland and A-Basin vying for first to open honors. The Basin originally announced a 9:00 AM opening, grabbing headlines in the local Denver papers. Loveland, perhaps still smarting from last season, went for a little one-upmanship by announcing that their lift would spin at 8:30. Now Arapahoe has revised to the same 8:30. A quick view of the webcams gives an indication that both areas are ready, if a single intermediate route can be called "ready." Looks like A-Basin has done what they're going to do, while the snow is still flying on the other side of the divide where Loveland is putting the finishing touches on things. It won't be a terrific day of skiing, but I'm willing to bet there'll be a lot of smiling faces tomorrow!
10/10/08 Reigning World Cup Women's Slalom and Combined champion Marlies Schild of Austria, broke her leg yesterday while training in Tyrol. Marlies was airlifted off the Rettenbachferner glacier for immediate surgery. Docs say she'll miss six months. Schild was an odds-on favorite to repeat as slalom champ; at age 27 this could be career-ending. Let's hope she can do a Herman Maier and come back better than ever.
10/8/08 The guns are back on at Loveland and have (finally!) been cranked up at A-Basin, which means it won't be long...in the east, some frosts and snow dustings at higher elevations have a lot of people stoked for an early winter...thinking back to last season, Sunday River opened briefly -- a few hours -- at the end of October. If it builds excitement and buzz for the season, I suppose it's worth it....not a lot of news to report right now, so I'd like to take a moment to mention something from a tiny ski area in western Pennsylvania that makes a lot of sense. Y'know, a lot of stuff in Pennsylvania doesn't make much sense to me. Scrapple and yellow mustard come to mind. But when you see something like this, it says that Pennsylvanians are pretty smart about some stuff. I'm talking about a thing called the "Last Call Special" at humble Mount Pleasant in Edinboro, PA (near the city of Erie). This is a deal where you ski the last two hours of any day for ten bucks. You can't beat that with a stick. Don't know how well this works for Mount Pleasant; personally, if I lived anywhere near Erie I'd have a seasons pass for this ski area, but it sure seems like a great value. Anyway, if you're ever in NW Pennsy, be sure to stop in and make a few turns. Here's a link. I honestly have more fun in a few hours skiing with normal people at these small ski hills than I do at some of the big resorts that shall remain nameless. Vail.
10/7/08 News from Portillo is that a few members of the US Mens Alpine Team are having a great training session, particularly Scott Macartney and -- hoping to return from injury -- Steve Nyman.
10/2/08 Lots of action in New York: Towers were installed at Gore yesterday, and reportedly the same crew is making their way north to Whiteface today for the Lookout Mountain expansion. Lookout will add a whole new dimension to Iceface, a chair and series of trails on the "other side" of The Slides. Two expert trails look like they'll be real rock-and-rollers, with a couple elevator shaft type sections. The new pod will also have a traverse to a tree skiing section, and an intermediate trail that continues down the mountain...other news from New York state, Belleayre will indeed open this year, contrary to rumours that operations were slated for budget cuts. It's not without some trauma, however, as Belleayre will be short two lifts as part of reduced operations. They haven't said which two, but the smart money is on one chair and one mitey-mite lift at the lower base. Ain't it odd that the two state resorts run by The Olympic Regional Development Authority are expanding, while the one operated by the Department of Environmental Conservation is contracting. Hmmm.
10/1/08 Despite the wacky economy a few ski areas and resorts will be entering the season with expanded terrain. Last year the big news of course was the Montezuma Bowl at A-Basin and in the east, a new peak at Loon. While there are a couple of things happening in the west, they tend to be a combination of hike-to terrain, a chairlift out of some random canyon, and promotional spin. (We'll update you on all of those as the season nears) Usually this is done at someplace like Mammoth Mountain or Vail where nobody knows exactly how big the ski areas really are anyway. Now when something like that happens back east -- it's news. This season the biggest and newest is probably the "Burnt Ridge" addition at Gore and the Lookout Mountain thing at Whiteface. Burnt Ridge is 35 acres of trail on 200' of added vert, which Gore says is pushing the total to 2300'. That's pretty cool. It amounts to four new trails (3 really; 2 blues, a black, and a connector) and a bunch of tree-skiing terrain that they insist on calling glades. Gore says everything is on schedule for the upcoming season.
9/25/08 A bit of World Cup news, Women's World Champion Lindsey Vonn is skiing in Portillo for a few weeks, ripping some lines on GS and DH courses with Stacey Cook, Kaylin Richardson, Chelsea Marshall, and Leanne Smith. Julia Mancuso, meanwhile, is on the other side of the globe training on the New Zealand snow...how about a little pre-winter weather forecasting fun? Northwest and northeast looking the same as last year, while the rest of the country will be a bit warmer. That's what the scientific types are saying so far...
9/24/08 Huzzah! The guns are cranking at high elevation at Loveland. Nothing happening at neighboring A-Basin yet...last season A-Basin opened first, perhaps that was to garner extra publicity for the new Montezuma lift.
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