Monday, March 11, 2013

Ski Trip-Vermont & Quebec

I still had a few lift ticket vouchers to use so I made another trip to Vermont and Quebec.  I was hoping to go last weekend which was snowier but the stomach flu kept me home.  With rain and temps reaching the 50s in the forecast, I figured I was running out of ski season to use the tickets so I left Friday morning.

I got up at 230AM Friday morning and headed for Mad River Glen in Vermont 5 1/2 hours away.  I got there early of enough to get on the lifts when they opened at 9AM.  The previous three weeks Mad River Glen had about three feet of snow and claimed to have some of their best conditions of the year.  Early in the morning the colder temps made the snow tough but as it warmed up and cleared the snow softened making for some decent spring conditions.

Mad River Glen is something of an iconic ski area for several reasons.  It's known for its old school ski feel.  They depend on mostly all natural snow.  Their snow making system consists of a few mobile snow cannons and that's it.  Compared to most ski areas, their grooming is minimal, focusing on mostly just the beginner terrain and some of the intermediate terrain.  This leaves the trails with interesting snow and lots of moguls.  Mad River Glen has the only public single chair lift in North America.  Interestingly enough it is also one of the fastest fixed grip lifts taking skiers to the summit in about 10 minutes.  It's one of the few ski areas left that doesn't allow snowboards.  Mostly it's known for some of it's challenging terrain.  It has plenty of tight trails mixed with the trees making for some challenging runs.  It's signature trail Paradise has been listed as one of the most challenging trails in the US (debatable).

I skied from open to close breaking only for a short lunch.  The place definitely  had character and some challenging skiing.  I  For the most part even with a weak snow season, coverage was pretty good.  The 2000+ vertical make for some long tiring runs.  Some of the large bumps on even the intermediate runs made the day even more tiring, especially since I was awake since 230 AM.  Although Upper Paradise was closed, I made a run down Lower Paradise which bypasses the frozen waterfall.  It was a steep tight trail in the trees, definitely challenging.  I had a harder time with the neighboring trail Fall Line (I think I just picked a bad line).  I ended up skiing every open trail and glade and had a pretty good time. has more info.

I had reservations at the Subaru Motel  and slept in my car again at a hiking/cross country skiing trailhead about 15 minutes south of the Quebec border.  I slept here last trip in Vermont last month when skiing Jay Peak.  Near midnight I was awaken by flashing police lights and I though I was going to be told to move.  It ended up being a car accident and I was let alone.

The following morning I made my way 40 minutes north to Owls Head, Quebec.  Owls Head is located just north of the border and sits overlooking Lake Memphremagog.  Owls Head is a nice little gem.  It is perhaps  the most scenic ski area I have been to in the east.  The lake is about 30 miles long and the trails seem like you are skiing right into the lake.  The ski area is smaller than many of the ski areas in Quebec's Eastern Townships but big enough and has nice variety to make for some fun skiing.  There are 50 trails of all levels with 1750 feet of vertical.   I skied from 830 to just past 330. Again I skied every open trail and all of the glades.  It was a gorgeous blue bird day hitting maybe 40F without a cloud in the sky and it was relatively free of crowds.  For the most part the conditions were better  than Mad River Glen with better snow coverage. The other novelty skiing Owls Head is that it's in Quebec and you hear almost exclusively French.  The staff at the resort could speak English if necessary though.  The lift ticket prices are very reasonable too.  The weekend rate was only $49.  During the week it is only $20 on Tuesday and Wednesday.  has more info on the ski area.

I headed back into Vermont in the evening toward Burke Mountain.  I slept in the Subaru again about 15 minutes from the mountain and was at the resort ready to go when the lifts started spinning.  Burke is tucked away in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and lacks the sophistication of the big Vermont destination resorts.  It is strictly a ski area, not a resort.  It has a Saddleback vibe (see last post for Saddleback info).  It typically sees less crowds as a result.  The mountain has a good variety of terrain, quite a few glades, and over 2000 feet of vertical.  Burke had a rough winter with snow and despite being 100% open some of the trails were in rough shape.  On the natural snow trails there were lots of bare spots with rocks and ground poking through the snow.  The skiing on the groomed trails was nearly perfect though.  I hit nearly all of the open trails with the exception of a couple that were extra rocky and bare.  I skied a handful of glades which varied from poor to fair coverage.   The temps warmed up into the 40s quickly and the snow started to get quite slushy in some areas.  I skied a little past 1PM putting in a solid nonstop half day of skiing before heading back home.  has more info about Burke.  Puma's homemade soup was a good treat when I made it back home about 6PM Sunday evening.  With 50s and rain the next couple days, this might be my last skiing of the year downhill or cross country if there is no more significant snow.

Riding up the Single Chair at Mad River Glen

The Camels Hump from Fall Line at Mad River Glen

Looking toward Camels Hump on Antelope

Looking at Jay Peak from Owls Head

Skiing down Colorado toward Lake Memphremagog at Owls Head

Another view of the lake 

Upper Glade at Mad River Glen

Ponsoon Glade at Owls Head

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