Elk Mountain

Elk Mountain review: Best of the Pocono 1Ks
(day 9 [the 7th post] of an “extended” circle route of 14-15)

I had successfully sandwiched two areas into one the day before.  Thus I checked out so as to head home after my visit to Elk Mountain this afternoon. All these Pocono areas should be considered “day tippers” as there are no significant houses or base “villages” that offer après or ski in/out. Union Dale is the hometown of Elk Mt. offering a variety of brand name hotels.

This would be my 14th consecutive day of skiing and could well relax tomorrow before packing off to Colorado to connect with the wife and kids and their kids in Denver for our annual family western ski tradition. (And that’s another story.)

Elk Mountain

Elk Mountain was a gem.  I actually stumbled into a very neat “mini’-lodge” on my way to the main base lodge.  It was akin to a cabin tucked off in the corner of a base area. A small cadre of locals had staked their claim in the limited space. They had already started and stoked a fire which would be used for grilling their lunch.  It reminded me of a western miner’s cabin, although I’ve never prospected or mined for that matter.  My guess is the cabin served the original mountain when it began years ago. ( 1960, I later learned from the “history” section of their web site. And the mining cabin is officially termed the “Picnic Cabin”. Now you know the whole story.)

At any rate, I was re-directed to the real lodge a short distance away. It was large, spacious and again I surmise, very new. There were ample, large windows , a large, second level, balcony, a very nice restaurant and an accompanying bar with an adjacent lounge area. The cafeteria section offered plentiful tables, each with offering a view of the slope and close-by lifts.

Elk Mountain proved to be a fitting end to the PA Pocono extension of the “Circle Route” of ’15, The temperature continued on its climb up.  The snow was soft but still ample, especially in this late season.  What a winter.  this 14-15 season is a classic worth noting and referencing in future years.

Before purchasing my pass for the day, I chatted with the instructors suggesting as usual a  reciprocal youth-visit program. As so often, there was a tepid but respectful reaction that I read as, “No thanks. Not interested.”

I then prefaced my thought with, “I’m a super senior …” (to preparation to asking if there was a discount better than the tradition ‘pro-courtesy”) but before I could finish my question, my counter part injected, “Hey, congratulation’s.” implying “Big deal!” with patronizing disregard.

Elk mountain was the high water mark of my PA sojourn; nice variety: five expert trails and  a pleasing array of intermediate slopes, presented on over 128 acres. The snow making is with newer and efficient equipment. It was a pleasing experience. The best of the Pocono region.

With my first run I saw why there was so little recognition of seniors. Elk Mountain at least on this day appeared to be entirely seniors! It was a function of numbers, not a disrespect of seniors. My concern now, is the question: who’s gonna support this fine area a decade from today.  Guys, it behooves someone to get out there marketing to the millennials? Cappish?

The peripheral runs were good in that hey required no skating or any of the “cross-country shuffle” to negotiate the flats. Is fact I had enough momentum that very close to the bottom, as I glided laterally over a groomer-track, me knee collapsed and I settled my sad-ass onto the flat.

Oh, it was an effort to arise form a prone position. I recall another reason I like the steeps. It’s so much easier to arise once you skis are downhill. You merely execute a gentle lateral push with your uphill elbow and BINGO! You gravity does the rest and you’re erect! Fie on the flats!

And speak about humiliation! Well I was tired. It was my first run. I was stiff. But I admit it was a real side-show effort. When I finally achieved my objective (amid groans, wails, cracks, creaks and perhaps even under-my breath  curses) – a vertical position, I was startled to realize a fellow skier practically standing over me displaying  a very concerned expression.

“Good job!” he volunteered. I was concerned I’d have to call the Patrol for help,” How embarrassing. But I knew he was not teasing. He was serious! Oh well, I did press forward to eventually loosen up. Yea, yea, maybe I did need a day off.

It was a pleasing experience. The best of the Pocono region. Fair variety and a mogul field that ran almost the entire vertical rise. And nicely spaced, well formed and on this day: soft. I had to ease in (or more accurately, ski … “out”) on several runs due to tired state, until I finally loosened enough to proceed non-stop top to bottom.

On one of the lifts up, I chatted with another skier who I guessed was approaching my age. We talked extensively about his career and his impending retirement. He took was looking forward to moving west where the cost of living especially for retirees was more reasonable.  East coast states taxation is simply a burden few can justify much less afford on a fixed income. Go west. young man, Go west.

I did stat until the last run. But the lodge was a ghost-town. Again, indicative of the senior-pattern; so typical -early in,. Early out. Little après skiing life . It didn’t matter. It was a great day and I was on my way home; home and rest.

I was amazed at the return ride: Just under four hours; closer that the Adirondacks! I shall return, This is conceivably a doable day-trip from home-town, Buffalo. 231 miles from my door. And I broke up the ride with one for my preferred road stops: a TA truck stop. All are similar and pleasantly predictable: convenience store, clean rest rooms, reasonable gas prices, AND a great cafeteria with good service often a help yourself salad bar. You can stop with confidence at truck stops, but TA is always exceeds my highest expectations.

The one in Dansville, NY on I-89 turned out to be more than halfway, and it’s a good thing. After a big serving of pot-roast, I grew sleepy, just making it home before a good-night’s, well-earned “extended” circle route.

But wait. There’s more! Although technically not a part of this “extended circle”, I was able to pick up Blue Knob just two days later. KA-POW! This visit closes out PA. One more state down and off my bucket list.

And the 14-15 season was far from ended. Come, Ski With Me! There’s another “mini? circle too!

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Montage & Blue Mt.

Montage Mountain, Blue Mountain reviews: two Pocono 1Ks 

(day 9 [7th post] in a 10/9 circle route 14-15 season)

The great circle route of ’15 was extended. John had departed returning safely home via his newly acquired Pius.  I had sampled New Jersey’s only 1K resort, Mountain Creek. I extended my usual schedule as, I drove into the night to locate and occupy my motel in the Poconos. This 14-15 season was great! The conditions were still fine, the coverage good. Pennsylvania lay before me. PA, here I come!

I was off with an early start to Montage Ski Area. It was another pleasant day – a lot warmer than the previous week. Perhaps I was further south, but significantly spring was rushing in on the east.

The trip was easy in theory, but a complication arose from an error within my Hyundai navigation system. A real human behind the reception counter at the hotel I was lead to informed me I was not the first person to be troubled in this manner. It had happened at least twice before that she knew. I wonder it they were driving a Hyundai? She set me straight. It was a simple correction and I was at Montage, the proper and correct area in short order.

Montage Mountain review:

Montage is well maintained friendly and the facilities are modern and well run.  The main lodge and reception area are the first I’ve seen that are half-way up the hill. Yea a few are at the summit, most are at the base, but the Montage lodge is ded center halfway in (or down the hill.  You can ski to the bottom or take a lift up once you  get your ski pass.

The vertical drop of Montage is listed at 1000 feet exactly.  I’ll grant it the benefit of the doubt.  it certainly is a nice little area. The lodge was band new with a fast-food court offering more than one vendor. The common area was large, spacious and well lite with natural light from the large windows. It was appealing and enjoyable. The reception desk was very helpful, but being late in the season and a weekday, I didn’t chat with any instructors or patrol.

The area is compact listed as  120 acres of terrain. The more challenging runs were the lower half. The upper section serves as a fine teaching hill. The outer fringe runs did offer some trees, not real exciting, but again a good intro for beginners to the potential thrill and challenges of glades. The upper and lower sections did connect allowing for  continuous top to bottom.

The bright sunshine substantiated my positive experience skiing Montage. You can’t have a bad ski day anywhere any time the sun brightly basks the slopes!  I cruised the wonderfully groomed runs all morning and would do it over again in the PM, but I thought,  “Why not go to Blue Mountain?” It was close by, and I might be able to ski an  extra area if I combined two stops today.

Not anticipating the unexpected

So it was off to Blue Mountain, a short but very doable jaunt from here.  However on my way, I missed an exit which on the interstate took my an incredible 20 or so extra miles to the next exit. I did enjoy the scenic journey through the Lehigh Valley of PA. But I had to pass through  the lengthily tunnel not once but twice. On my return leg,  I was traveling a bit fast ’cause I was instated with my foolish mistake.  On the approach heading north I spotted what I took to be a very common eastern “road turd”, the seemingly ubiquitous ice clumps that accumulate in wheel wells to then peal off with the heat of the engine, the swarm sun or the over-used road salt.

Not that big, I gauged I would ride right over it, so I kept my cruise control engaged and held my tack to pass dead-center. It what was I fraction of a second, indeed my front bumper glided over unaffected.  But almost instantly The center of the car was jolted upward. The CD player jolted my Great Courses” disc into ejection. My sun glass holder jolted open The entire car was thrust up and over by several inches and I almost lost control. That was no ice chunk!

I more coasted to a stop by gently applying my brakes highly concerned about possible damage. Nothing, (just as I had suspected) on the visible exterior, And a close inspection for leaks od busted stuff hanging down likewise revealed nothing (to my surprise and relief). So I return to task realigned on course, but at a lower speed. All seemed OK. But, the interior was disheveled with my eight days of accumulated stuff, all effectively bounced  and thoroughly redistributed about the cabin. Looks like all’s well, but there’s another story here!

Blue Mountain review

Blue Mt. Was another favorable experience. It the larger resort of the two. One  lodge was at the summit and the runs offered more of a challenge.  The vertical is listed as 1082 feet with acreage of 182. The slopes seemed steeper, more varied with more woods and a greater variety of terrain.

A noteworthy crowd assembled as the dinner hour approached.  My guess it was attributable to two factors.  It seemed school groups had arrived, but I think the great weather and sun shine was drawing out folks who had to avail themselves of the late season conditions. I skied into the evening on the well lit runs chalking up a very full and enjoyable day.

With still had the one last PA 1K remaining on my list, I returned to my motel with a stop at my Internet center to enjoy the dollar menu, catch up on my email, and the day’s news. Returning to the hotel, it felt different without John’s streaming music, but I managed to fall into my usual deep sleep – like a baby with an innocent conscience. (HA! Believe that and you’ll believe anything!)

So there’s more of the PA Poconos. Come, Ski With Me!

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Mountain Creek NJ

Mountain Creek review ’15: New Jersey’s One-and-Only
(day 7 in a 10/9 circle route of the ’14-’15 season)

A mountain?  In New Jersey?  47 miles from the city? No way! Yes, way. And a 1K at that. It’s New Jersey’s one-and-only! Mountain Creek by name, formerly known as Great Gorge side by side with a sister property, Vernon Valley. The area was also known as home to an infamous Playboy Club. Mountain Creek is full and fancy resort as opposed to a simpler ski area. It is a large, complex, impressive operation, well-worth a visit. A real ski experience. In NEW JERSEY!

“OK,” I said to myself, “let’s get this over with.” To cross another sate off the bucket list, I’ve gotta ski it.” Was I ever pleasantly pleased. I like this place, Mountain Creek. I enjoyed it. I had fun! Contrary to my prejudicial frame of mind and stubborn bigotry, people were pleasant, even considerate and nice.  “MOST”, I emphasize; but not all. Then again (you can meet jerks anywhere. Every slope, every place  has ‘m. And let’s face it: sometimes, I am “it”!)  But still, the closer one gets to the coast, the more frequent the likelihood of “self-centered , inconsiderate “snow snobs“.

Mountain Creek review ’15

It is a true resort with full-facilities: the massive “Appalachian Resort” distinctive among others, shops, rentals, instruction, tubing and various other activities. It is nicely family friendly providing three magic carpets for the littlest ones.

But,  let’s study: other “surprises” by the numbers:

#1: The elevation: I know, I know the promo lit does say, “Vertical drop of 1,040 feet, but did I really believe it? NO! … but now I’m a believer..

#2. The approach, the drive up was enjoyable. I though New Jersey was one continuous string of strip malls sandwiched between parking lots. Oh contraire, the ride out was a bucolic, country experience.  I even stopped at Thomas A. Edison’s incubation lab in West Orange for a quick fix of National Parks to sustain my history habit.  Now, I recognize I’m the silly-goose, the ignorant jerk. But it’s been said that, “confession is the first step to repentance”.  Thus perhaps, I am on my way to my transformation. Yes, yes only now can I say, “I’m a believer”.

#3 The size. The official reviews all clearly state there are 167 acres.  I think that’s groomed runs.  If the annual natural snow drop of 67 inches ever comes in a large dump, or a rare coastal storm moves in, it might be possible to ski the woods for even more variety.  But for the normal day, let’s think in terms of mostly groomers and packed runs.

#4 The staff – wow were they ever friendly. When ya come in with a chip on your shoulder, expectations can be self-fulfilling,. But I was wrong and Now I’m a believer. As I stated. the place is huge. There are several remote parking lots. There is a large lodge with a small parking allotment. I came on a Sunday. Like any ski resort, especially on a mild, sunny Sunday, the expected crowds were there. Being new to the area, I cautiously drove up to the main lodge and central drop off point.

My modus operandi to reconnoiter, plan and execute the best maneuvers for a successful sortie. I (did I mention my low expectations?) fully expected to be rudely admonished and brusquely hustled out of the way or even on my way to a distant lot to fend for myself and hike back to the lifts.

A courteous attendant called (politely I add) me and asked, if I was going to ski? Perhaps it was my white head (I don’t wear a helmet driving.) or the fact that I was a single ( thus to drop off my skis would require more time to exist, unload and re-enter the car.) Yes I responded upon which he said, “Wait, Ive got a spot for you. He then directed me to a coveted, envious parking spot a feet feet from the main entrance form the lodge . To my further astonishment and total appreciation, he then replaces to bright orange station removed momentarily for my convenience, waved and bade me “Enjoy!” Wow, do I believe in Angels? Was I in New Jersey? You betcha!

But wait, there’s more. I had inquired ahead, of professional courtesy (Believe it or not, I still instruct.) “Yes”, was the first nicety. “There is a profession discount available, just bring proof” This is normal, expected and appreciated, thank-you. But as I presented the expected documentation, I was even more tickled with a warm salutation, a very pretty smile, and an unbelievable, “No charge. Enjoy. Let us know what you think. Hopefully you can come back.” Wow! Was I in ski heaven? Not quite, but surely I was approaching.

#5 Ease of movement: Facilitated by a unique “people-mover” gondola. Yes, there was a crowd and definitely there was a line. But we boarded with skis in hand (saved time, streamlined effort, assuring I’m sure to “first-evers”, precluded the ignorant, “only-me” or “walk-over/walk-on” line crashers.) 6 even 8 per “stage coach” to be whisked to a real ski lift. There are six adult lifts plus thee magic carpets and one people mover (gets you from the staging area to the adult lifts.)

#6 Impressive terrain: There exist woods and even large rock out-croppings, medium sized air-generators that I’d love to try under better conditions than this day.

There are three distinct summits at Mountain Creek. Vernon Peak is a magnet for beginners and the second has the more challenging runs. If there is any doubt you can compare the lines. The easier slopes always have the longer lines and the patrons have a glazed eyes that seem o to blend two states of mind: sheer excitement combined with total confusion, Yet the body is driven by the thrill of it all, a primeval instinct of survival combined wit a child-like delight of play and games. The lines at the more advanced lifts tend to be more organized, orderly, focused and respectful able to string words in to coherent sentences which link to convey logic thoughts and coherent logic. And the people are more tolerant and polite.

Granite Peak provides more challenging runs but South Peak seemed to be a bit steeper and and sports some nice terrain park  stuff with a couple good jumps. And there were some borders executing very nifty aerials. Impressive! Am I in New Jersey? You betcha! Now I’m a believer.

Sojourn Double lift that spans the Granite and South Peaks . It brought back recollections of the questionable “lift” that connects Mt Ellen with Sugarbush south allowing evidence of ownership under single  management. It is horizontal in design and more intended to connect two former independent facilities that in actually provide distinct  skiing or boarding opportunities.  The peaks or in deed linked, but the actual run is far more tedious than fun. I pity the poor boarders who must “hop” the flats rather than skate with the flexibility and freedom of skiers! The propaganda cites the longest run as 2 miles, but it is more akin to “a walk.”

#7 The general attitude of the patrons: Noteworthy. I chatted with many on the lifts up. The size of the facility lead me to ask of favored runs and directions to preferred slopes and secrete stashes. I received helpful answers and suggestions. One youthful couple even went out of their way and show me their most-favored run. Was I in New Jersey? You betcha!

#8 The skill and talent of the clientele:  I don’t see myself as a ski snob, but I have been around for a few years, and after a while you begin to separate the beginners from the experts. You begin to recognize native ability and discern talented maneuvers. I saw some good moves in the terrain parks at Mountain Creek. Don’t be overly presumptive for as expected at any area (but particularly one near a big city) there are plenty of beginners, “straight downers” who are threats to themselves and others. The same ones who ski over the tops of our skis despite our continual, conscientious efforts to use the bottoms.

#9 Snow making grooming and mountain management: 100% coverage, I marvel the quality results under the adverse conditions. And Mountain Creek has trained and motivated a courteous and effective “customer- contact” staff too. Well done folks.

#10 Basic ontology: How could anyone create, organize, operate and maintain a ski area in New Jersey? To answer that, Come, ski the Garden State of New Jersey!

On to the Pennsylvania Poconos: Come, Ski With Me!

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Magic Mountain VT

Change of Plans: Magic Mountain review ’15
day 5 – 4th post of a circle route 10/9 in 14-15

We had skied 4 of 5 VT areas would we miss the 5th? We were using my car largely because John’s family’s Prius was totaled in a collision which, thank the Lord, no one was injured.

Thursday evening Shirra, wife of John called with good news: A difficult to find, hybrid Prius could be purchased in New Jersey. Like John, Shirra is proficient with computers and a whiz on the Internet. She is organized, thorough, and efficient. Having done due diligence in her car search, Sirra’s job was done. Now John must take the hand-off, ran the confirmation in person and consummate the sale if warranted.

Perfect! This was a meticulous play for restitution. The  priority of this play dwarfed our current game plan. John recognized it as  proper and timely. I concurred totally. Simple logic deemed John should return ASAP to execute his role as key-man, provider, defender of home and family. And we’d only scratch 1 day of skiing. No problem. The mountain will always be there. We could well use a day off following 10 full days of great exercise.

But wait! Let’s consider this: Rutland to Buffalo: 5.5 hours; 375 miles + Buffalo to Edison, NJ 6.4 Hours; 377 miles and double that to return totals 19.33 hours with 1,132 miles  AND two drivers: 1 with 2 drivers present, each required for both the Prius and the drive-down delivery vehicle. Rutland to NJ dealership: 3.5 hours; 275 miles then of course add the home leg for totals of 9.9 hours; 652 miles. It’s a no-brainer, but John didn’t want to presume or impose. Imposition, NO!  Premeditation? Manipulation? YES!

Feature this: We ski Magic Mountain as planned. We exit as scheduled, but grab a room in Saratoga, NY just 30 miles south of Hickory Ski Center, a classic mountain home to a sluice of the past; an anachronism suspended in time, frozen in the century past,: a small, difficult to reach, tougher to timely score because its all natural snow on this eastern side of the Adirondacks depends on the down-slope dehydrated westerly winds. But in this record 14/15 season, Hickory now had plenty of snow.

Hickory is only open on Saturdays and Sundays. Their loyal client base, their obsessed pass holders are like their snow and budget: circumspect and thin! I suspect employees are few and far in this back country cul-de-sac, rare gem of a mountain. So the dealership closes at 4:00 PM. We will ski from the opening, depart at high noon to arrive precisely at 3:11 PM. “Trust me John. It’s a promise.”

Me thinks John was not a believer. “Well I don’t know …” was the response.

“I’ve been doing this all my life, I do it for a living.” was my retort. AND finally , “It’s my car!” Case closed. We’re off. We checked out and closed our account at the inn. We owed nothing since we pre-paid to insure our great rate and we are both frugal spenders.

Magic Mountain review
Magic Mountain proved to be another classic Vermont area. A short drive from Rutland through the picturesque countryside. Convenient parking, no lines, clear skies, bright sunshine and plenty of snow. The mountain offer a special deal this day that might well top any professional courtesy we might beg, so we saves our pride, paid our price and totally enjoyed the day.

The staff even so polite and ever so helpful. We received a tour of the facility with valuable opinions and useful recommendation which supplied us an accurate overview and all by the pleasant young gal that “sold” us out passes. We introduce ourselves as employees of BSC until she had completed in introductory tour.

We performed the cursory sweep of the flanking round-abouts, the beginner and intermediates runs that traditions mark the boundaries of most areas. This blue/green exercise will always give a good feel of the facilities and accurately assess the “user-friendly” feasibility.

Then we plunged into the woods our young friend had well-reviewed for us. They were so extensive and plentiful that John and I were soonn separated. I love the woods. I’ll ski  ‘m when ever possible. But these were exceptional. Several ravines interlaced many dense copses of well-spaced hard woods. Groomed runs caught you at various points that allowed speed demons and cruisers a polite and alluring way out – rapidly meeting John’s search and needs. I did meet back up a bit later, and you guessed it{ at the watering hole. Well done, John.

Magic as  one of the last truly independent ski areas in the state. It’s different, it’s real, and it’s challenging, but most of all, it’s just plain fun thanks its dedicated band skiers and riders. The village Londonderry is home- base, but the lodge itself is and nicely appointed with a large open area for brown baggers plus a good-sized watering home whose menu listed food and spirits. There is an area that musical groups or any entertainer would find comfortable, and all provided with a nice view of the slopes.

If you have been following this Great Circle saga closely, you might recognize this Magic day as a Friday. One might expect the slopes to display a late morning wave of professionals who could well juggle their flexible hours to schedules a few runs on such a fine late winter afternoon. Not today. The slopes we all ours.  A large rally of snow machine enthusiasts were rallying at the base for what appeared to be a very large event and competition. The sleds were impressive and the crews were courteous and friendly. There was no interference with the skiers.  It looked like fun. Another cult of winter sports freaks out enjoying the weather, the conditions and Vermont in general!

Magic Mountain in the summer ’14 is currently in the throws of a sale. We are assured that the new ownership group is committed to not only a purchase of Magic but make a long-term investment in its infrastructure to improve the ski experience promising snowmaking and more fully operational lift system. Let’s trust!

The road to Magic is just another example why we take “the road less traveled”.  And our road trip was now extended. Another superb day down, but we’re now pointed to NY and of course NJ. First to ski the morning then wheel and deal for a used car! In New Jersey!

Come, Ski With Me!

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Long Trail Lodge

Long Trail Lodge: Another Bunny Trail Tale
Apres Life in Central VT (evening of day 4 in the string “Extended Circle” of 14-15)

This side-story or “bunny trail” hops around my “Extended Circle Route” of the 14/15 season. John and I were in Vermont capturing 5 ‘n 5. In advance planning we conferred with Jack, a native of Killington who went on to carve a career position in Tahoe, the most diverse ski region anywhere. Not only was Jack a notable mover and shaker at Squaw Valley, basin, but he married up with Virginia who was an instructor of note at Northstar resort. They have allied and aided the BSC instruction and coaching teams for years!

We sat with Jack and Virginia during one of our now well established afternoon sessions at BSC which immediately follow our Saturday lessons: Live music by leading local bands combined by BYO, pot-look snacks, munchies sharing all of which starts shortly following dismissal time at the Xtreme Team camp. Jack and Virginia return frequently to their early stumping ground: Rutland. VT and Killington resort. “If you’re going to Ver,ont. you have to meet Oke,” they advised. Did they steer us right? Oh yea! “After skiing, stop at the Long Trail lodge The manager is an old friend of ours,” we’re informed. “Oke is a character, and he has a bottomless bag of tales and stories.”

This advice is to good to pass over. After four days of John’s healthy vegetables balanced by my junk food, it was our night to enjoy a real meal. (I try to enjoy at least one decent dinner a week.) The “Long Trail Lodge” is a well regarded local spot. The food is good. The atmosphere is “my-kind” and the bar alone is worthy a visit. The Lodge lies right on the Long Trail of Vermont. Sections of the trail double as the well regarded, very famous “Appalachian Trail”.  In Vermont like all mountain states, summer is just as much if not more fun as winter.

The Long Trail Lodge has a sister camping facility. Over time it has established itself as a fine rest stop and comfortable oasis for the countless hikers to break for good food, real accommodations, a watering hole and solid camaraderie. For years guests have signed the guest book and often adding comments for fellow travelers, kith ‘n kin at home and posterity in general.

So John and I stopped in on our return from a frigid day at Killington. I was still frozen and was most likely carrying a chip on my shoulder. Bah, humbug! You could probably read it on my face. Upon entering to a warm greeting, I inquired of the front desk, “Say, do you know a guy named Okie?

“I might.”, was the cautious reply accompanied by an incisive, but not intrusive look-over.

Well, I knew instantly. “You’re him!” I blurted,” as my frosty demure was not simply melted, but rather   evaporated. “Jack and Virginia.” I continued, “send their best. They advised us ‘gotta meet Oke’. I think they’re right.”

Oke was actually working so he politely turned down my offer to tip a few with us. But he opened up and the information, jokes and stories began to flow. Virginia and Jack were right and right on. What a time. What an education. John and I did eventually took a break to eat.

Among a myriad of other BS, Oke informed us of his sign-in routine and ritual – sign the guestbook and comment if you choose. John recalled his wife’s parents had hiked the Long Trail years prior.  On the spot, during our delicious dinner, John called to connect with Bill, his father-in-law. “Yes.”, Bill replied from afar.  “In deed Pat and I had stopped to break at the Long Trail,” he continued, “but, most likely not the Lodge but the campground.”  Oke dug out the records and John poured over the archives in search of the cherished treasured signatures. All transpired while savoring a few drafts. We didn’t unearth the buried prize, but it was fun was in the hunt: searching, sharing and consuming the “Cracker-Jacks” and infrequent “peanut” en route as we “hiked” the trail back in time. The entire experience itself a memory in the making, topped with the forging of new friends. Thank you one and all.

Stop and say “hello” to Okie. Enjoy the meal or stay the night, ski the entire central VT region or concentrate on a couple fine resorts. Then share the good news.

Then, go on to day 5 … Come, Ski With Me!

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Okemo & Killington

Okemo & Killington review
9days 3&4 in the 11/10 string “Extended Circle”

Okemo review

Wednesday was our best full day of skiing : Okemo. It was just short of an hour commute but our route took us along a scenic New England back country approach. I was surprised at the size and the attendance was greater than the prior two areas, but still no lines! Several charter buses pulled up to unload in a seemingly orchestrated fashion, The base area was compact well organized and displayed a clear semblance of a village, Pleasantly attractive exuding a sociable warm.

The lodge was large, spacious and well laid out It was modern appearance with large wrap around windows emitting plenty of light. A stand behind reception desk was staffed with a vibrant staffer who pleasantly doled out information and suggestions to efficiently keep traffic flowing and effectively steered, Vet smooth operation,

The lift was right out the large cafeteria doors. We immediately latched into a frequent skier, not a resident, but a condo owner who appeared to use as opposed to rent his unit (a good indicator in and of itself). He loved the area and took pride in showing us his favored runs as well as “little secretes. He was very pleasant and we enjoyed his company and appreciated his advice inspire of his somewhat over-inflated assessment of obviously self-taught skiing skills.

Again, we efficiently used our time and effectively covered the much larger than antiquated area. Several lifts took us to long twisting peripheral sweeps, well-spaced mogul fields and a truly enjoyable and equally challenging glades; close knit hard woods with dips and bumps all well covered with natural snow, How sweet can it was! John found his well groomed speed runs on which he could lay it all out with abandon on several uncontested steeps. We did get separated in the late afternoon I favoring the bumps and John opting for more speed. John extended to the bitter end, most likely escorted off the hill by the closing sweeping of the Ski Patrol, while I whimped out before the last lift up in favor of food and heat, perhaps a function of age but certainly a manifestation of strength and endurance (or lack thereof).

Now the ride back was a matter of Providence. We meandered beside an iced over stream and took a slight diversion from our route down just for the fun of variety and exploration. It was still light and the scenery was worthy of wandering. The it appeared in framed distinctly between our visors and dash. Was this a mirage or was it real? It was a sight to behold: the legendary LONG TRAIL craft brewery!

And we didn’t even suspect it nor did we even dream of it. But here it was. Wide open and awaiting our entrance. The experience exceeded our anticipation! We efficiently secured two stools in the back corner, sampled two of their best, marked our spot to take the self-guided tour and returned to sample more. We chatted on with the bar-tenders ad traded stories with an animated couple next to us. Lastly we wrapped with a couple of growlers, nicely priced and filled with the bar-keep’s personal, recommendations. A great discovery and an opportunity we capitalized upon. Oh yea, and they served good food too.

Killington

Killington, the largest area in the east. Seven distinct peaks. Acres of tails. Ya can’t ski it in a day. Noted for its long season, its excellent snow making and grooming. It is a mover and shaker on the central Vermont economy. It has opened and supported innumerable careers and supportive businesses. Killington practically makes its own weather! Well that’s an exaggeration, but barely beyond the imagination.

So John and I tucked up the road to ski the resort. One draw back totally beyond anyone’s control was the weather. It was near zero at the base and well below at the summit. Unfathomable to John, I had never skied Killington! Been there for a couple races. Even dropped my youngest with his friend;s family who invited Kji to spent the weekend with them as they skied the resort. I had to go, but did I mention it was cold?

Sure, we were professionals and had the best equipment, but it was cold! John is many years my junior. Yea, OK I’m old enough to be his father! He’s is in better shape; he’s stronger and he was warmer. I was suffering. John loves to ski fast. Granted mountain maintenance groomed well throughout the night I’m sure. Corduroy abounded everywhere. But it was frozen granular corduroy! It seemed like I was crossing the gouged warning tack at the shoulder of the road, you know the ones that vibrate the car so violently along accompanied by an equally alarming notice that wakes everyone in you car and attest to your lousy driving. But the situation was compounded with a painful, indeed a painful, biting cold.

So I whined and went in after each run to hug my hot chocolate cup and hope John would prolong his next run down. He didn’t, speed merchant that he is. And I had to stall and lolly-gage all the more all day long. And I made him quit before last-lift, But we did enjoy some cold-medicine that we discreetly wrapped paper bags around so nobody would know we were breaking the rules and denying the resort of yet more revenue. Oh well, the lodge was empty. It was so cold, the usual crowd had repositioned in warmer more comfortable environs.

My first experience may be my only experience at Killington. The lodges were plentiful and pleasant. The runs looked interesting and challenging, And the resort is big. I term it :Eastern hoity-toity. I’m confident the nightlife is phenomenal, but I can’t attest first hand. I’ve now been there; didn’t do it justice, but am proud and pleased to mark it done, and hope to redo it under better condition i.e. a warmer day.

However our diner stop on the way home was one of those truly memorable experiences. And that’s another story. Then we rolled into our room to surprising news from John’s wife, Shira.. We almost scrapped the next day skiing Magic Mountain for good cause, but creative transformed a premature return into an extension! The tale continues and the trail goes multi-state. Yes! Three more states and four new areas! But that too is another story.

Come, Ski With Me!

Next: the Long Trail Lodge (evening of day 4)  return to [“A“] of  Extended Circle  return [HOME]

Pico & Bromley

PicoBromley reviews
A Short Circle through Vermont’s Central region:  days 1 & 2 – 1st in a string of 5/5 in 14-15

Near the end of a great 2014-15 ski season we agreed on a compact plan: a classic five ‘n five: 5 areas in 5 days; all Vermont, centralized around the iconic Killington resort; all midweek visits thus assuring short lines; no waiting. We left very early Monday morning to arrive at Pico for the open; aa full day of exploration and adventure.

John and I were done with our instructional programs. John is a part the Mountain Rangers and I work with the Xtreme Team, both are all-day, Saturday commitments. And I had been helping out midweek working with school programs: Tuesday with a great home-school group and Wednesdays brought the local Waldorf school. Into the late afternoons we worked the local community ed. program.  Basically all these programs are youth oriented, however we always encourage parental participation. Plus both John and I served private lessons as needed.

The plan in order was: Pico, Okemeo, Killington, Bromley and Magic Mountain. We had a fantastic mid-week rate at a hotel across the road just down a piece from Pico. It had the quite necessary Hot tub (inside and appreciated with the still sub-zero temperature) Daily breakfast and the all important WiFi high-speed connection. It was a small establishment, and I’d call it mildly charming. It had a common reading room overlooking the open reception area I can’t quit label as “lobby”. It did have a natural wood fireplace who’s real stone work reached up the wall stretching over the second exposed second story wall to the ceiling. There was no fire while we were there and I suspect even the busy weekend wouldn’t warrant the effort despite the charm a wood fire can provide. And when this frigid outside, a tradition masonry monster might suck out more heat than it provides; a real energy waster.

Pico review:

We made great time on the NYS expressway system to arrive directly at Pico shortly after the 9 AM opening. We pulled into the second row not too far from the central walkway entrance, No crowds, very easy. Pico was a very good day. Cold, but very enjoyable. On Monday lines were nonexistent and we skied our brains out with only a short lunch snack in the very comfortable “sun-shine room” where brown bags and coozer wrapped beverages were not only acceptable but more like expected.

Of all things that I recall is a rather long skate necessary to reach the main lift. But compare this ridiculously minor to the open runs, wonderful glades and delightful mogul fields we romped through the entire day. As you look up the main run, there is an area to the far left (north?). It was closed for the day, but still most of the runs it serviced were still accessible by descending from the top. I’m confident the smaller lift on the left, is operable when the weekends business warranted.

There was a collection of condos that suggested a loyal owner base and I’d guess rentals are possible, But It’s not a huge resort, It’s better described as a very good day area with some night activity likely, But the real social scene I suspect is at Killington or certainly the nearby city of Rutland. We both recommend the Pico experience especially mid-week.

We were merely minutes from our lodging. We checked in easily have reserved and prepaid on-line. Pico is just minutes from Rutland, to be recognized as a city as opposed to a quaint little New England town.

Bromley review

We passed through Rutland on out half hour jaunt to Bromley the following morning. The parking lot was across the road from the lodge. An open “stage coach” was pulled by a modern, muscular 250 pickup. A pleasant 2 man operations team, one to manage the horses and one to assist us in boarding was “johnnie-on-the spot” with no wait time and quick with any and all the information we needed.

Again no crowds, a nice mountain and very comfortable lodge, The skiing was equally pleasing although the terrain seemed a bit less challenging and the coverage a mite thinner. The slopes tilted with a bias toward the south. We had a panoramic skyline with over mountains clearly visible in the distance. The sun was out, but offer no threat of snow loss especially as the temperature was again near record lows.

I love the “down-home” areas with family-friendly, brown bag compatible lodges. Now “brown-bag” carries two connotations. Families and school-agers know it as a packed lunch, loving made at home and carried to a public, communal eating area, usually a cafeteria.  To crusty curmudgeons a brown bag is wrapped around a beverage of choice to imply we’re too lazy to unpack our grocery item and facilitate the contentious deposal when done. Deluded as we think the outside world to be, we actually delude no one but ourselves. It is a social compromise: socially acceptable behavior for senior citizens, deployed only men but tolerable for only for a short period of time – immediately after a full day of hard skiing, And it’s only acceptable in “down-home” ski areas! So, I love Bromley!

Disembarking from the pickup pulled, parking lot wagon, we were privileged to rescue a fair maiden distressed by her disabled steed. A very attractive young lady had tried to create an additional parking slot to our immediate left.  I though I had taken the last slot in the well-cleared almost manicured parking lot.  What was she thinking? Well, she was chagrinned.  With the aid a yet another strong knight, we pushed her out with some effort before the pick-up crew returned with yet another, unhitched pickup and a tow rope. This Bromley staff is good!

Her excuse for the nose plant, kamikaze like into the formidable snow bank was this: She drove through the night all the way from Maryland. to ski the day in her former ski home. Another ski nut like ourselves! She had a sense of sense of humor as well as dedication. I wish we had more time to swap stories, but she had to get going to stay on schedule. (Was she returning to MD tonight?). Again another loyal testimony to the worth of down-home areas. Bromley it is!

John and I had now completed our seventh consecutive full day of skiing starting at BSC, we were feeling good and stoked for more. We stopped for food and beverage in Rutland grocery bear retreating to the hot tub. It was a sketchy as the prior evening, but we as the only two users needed the therapeutic heat for our weary bones. A good long shower was warranted following, Both of us speculated on a female take and concluded both wives would be relocating had they accompanied us. From a male perspective, it was a great price.

Well into the dark evening and long past my usual”curfew” of 8PM, we set about what was to become our evening routine. I crashed while trying to catch up on the daily cable news, and John worked into the night on his computer.

Ready for day #3; Come, Ski With Me!

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