Mad River Glen - Ski It Even If You Can't
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JohnL
February 11, 2008
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
Some days man tames nature, other days nature shows man who is really the boss. Had probably my toughest day on skis yesterday (Sunday 2/10) at Mad River Glen in Vermont. Couldn't blame the conditions, cuz they were about as good as they get for Vermont; six inches of snow fell during the day and three feet in the past week. My main excuse: I'm ditching my Elan 666's and using them only for early/late season rock skiing. With the metal layer and sidewall construction, they are way too stiff for the bumps and tight trees that Vermont's fiercest can throw at you.

Pulled into the parking lot a little past 9:30 on Sunday (later than I wanted because of a late arrival from VA on Saturday night and an AM 45 minute drive from Burlington.) As expected, the place was packed; had to park on the road above the parking lot since all spots were taken.

Hadn't skied MRG since circa 98, so I had some catching up to do. The line at the single looked like at least 30 minutes, so I opted for the (somewhat) lesser line at the double. No singles line, but with the longer wait, single riders paired up pretty quickly. Met a variety of interesting people in the lift line. Scored points (and some disbelief - why are you not heading West?) for having travelled the farthest for today's runs. The people who parked behind me asked, you drive up for the day? (Not sure I could fit the drive to/fro and nab a day's worth of skiing in 24 hours.)

With the long wait in the lift line, against better judgment I opted against a run found on the trail map and head right to Not a Ski Trail. (Ski patrollers and Vermont locals will understand that one.) On the traverse through the woods, met up with a family I was chatting with in the lift line. "Do you want to pass on through?" "No thanks, you know this terrain better than me." Headed downward from the traverse, a bit past where the family dropped in. Man, the terrain in Not a Ski Trail is a loooot tighter and steeper than I remember it. In most spots, I couldn't swing more than a few good turns together. There was a good amount of snow there, but not a huge amount; many of the lines had already been skied and the base underneath was firm. (Been softened up and spoiled by Utah in the past few years.) The combo of not following a local as in the past and skiing the 666's made for some fugly turns.

Hit one more run on Not A with no more success in technique. Noticed on the ride up that there was even a long line at the beginner Birdland chair. For the next two runs, decided to hit a combo of trees and sides of trails heading the other direction off of the double. The snow was cut-up, but very nice at the sides of the trails. Shoulda stayed there, but the trees were calling. Most of the tree lines I hit during the day were pretty much very tight, pretty to very steep bump runs in the trees with anywhere from 4" to 2' of snow. Throw in the occasional rocks and scraped ice. If you can ski those lines well, you can ski anything, anywhere. (Unless a parachute is involved.)

By that time, the line at the single was more manageable but still not short. FWIW, they play the best music at the base of the single as any liftline in the U.S. Plenty of Dead, with an eclectic mix of old-school and newer school rock, folk and who knows what else. (Good music is prolly needed to keep the masses in the lift line from getting too restless.)

Scouted various lines on the ride up, and opted to ski down Chute a few turns and head skier's left into a section of Fall Line (per the sign on the tree?) then ducked left into the trees. Some great deep steep schweet tight turns in there, but not for me on my 666's. Would have been perfect for my Pocket Rockets (did see several of them during the day which you wouldn't expect for MRG.) Didn't even come close to scouting out any mini frozen waterfalls, but was impressed at how challenging the terrain was. There was a group near me struggling even more than me.

With the way I was skiing and with confidence level registering "E", I decided to bag any and all tree runs for the rest of the day. Hit a very nice run down Catamount Bowl to Lower Antelope. LA, what a trail! It is not steep at all, but is very narrow, and takes a measured long winding way down the mountain. Throw in some great snow, dense trees to either side, and a few bump sections, and this trail is one of the most magical trails I've ever skied on. You lose yourself on the mountain. (I actually did lose myself, since I thought the hand-made sign at the bottom directing ski area base to the left up a bit of a hill was a joke for flatlanders. Nope!)

Most notable was my last run of the day down the main section of Fall line (side step up the hill at the top of the single.) A great trail to be skied better on another day. Some sections were as tight and steep as the trees. Very bumped up, with many spots scraped bare in between the bumps. With an exit to Grand Canyon, I decided to call it a day.

I was amazed at how many parents were skiing with their kids and how well the little skiers ripped. Last run of the day, I saw one of the most incredible things I've seen. It was at the bottom of the last cliff band under the single. This little ripper (maybe four foot tall), jumps down and hits a mid point landing with his skis facing out and then jumps down that to a flat landing at the bottom. Total jump was at least 10 feet; no way adult length skis could fit on the mid-point landing.

On the landing flat, the little ripper jumps off the ground about as high as he came down, and high fives his family. This is where the Bode Millers of the world come from.

Ski it if you can, or even if you can't.
JimK - DCSki Columnist
February 11, 2008
Member since 01/14/2004 🔗
2,739 posts
Nice post and story John. I'm sure you skied it a lot better than you're letter on. Nonetheless, I get renewed respect for Denis' stories of sexagenarian cliff huckers.
Another thing, this "alternative ski area" thing that MRG has going seems to have exceeded all expectations as a drawing card. I guess it's all about the extraordinary terrain.
Denis - DCSki Supporter
February 11, 2008
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,234 posts
Nice going John. Glad you got there when it's prime. It's quite possible that one of those little rippers you saw was one of my grandsons. They have season passes and were there that day. You hit a bunch of my favorites, 'Not a Ski Trail', Fall Line, and MRG's signature, run Antelope end to end. I too like to bypass that traverse back to the lift and ski to the road. Often there are a half dozen nice powder turns there because everybody takes the traverse. I like a mountain that has stuff that can kick my butt.
JohnL
February 11, 2008
Member since 01/6/2000 🔗
3,518 posts
JimK,

Thanks for the kind words. But on this day, my skiing truly sucked. I call em as I ski em and I left out a few more incriminating details. No need for false modesty; I bit the bullet prolly close to a dozen times and had to stop my line countless times more. Trust me, I had a mega snow wedgie going on. Not fun when the temperature dips and the winds wip up during the day. But tomorrow is a new day and a different set of skis...
tromano
February 11, 2008
Member since 12/19/2002 🔗
998 posts
Sounds like a pretty rough day. But it was a good story. Every now and then I have a really bad day too. Bad tune, wrong skis for the day, whatever it can be rough.

You probably had better conditions than were had at beaver off trail. Big wind storm hit mid week and added 2-3" of wind crust on almost all aspects everywhere. Then blue bird, sunny days hit and hardened that up. And Friday through Sunday highs got up to upper 30s and 40s but didn't quite make it into a corn cycle.
Denis - DCSki Supporter
February 11, 2008
Member since 07/12/2004 🔗
2,234 posts
John, I'll see if anyone from the SkiVT-List is going to be there tomorrow. I have many friends on the List who can be identified by the piece of green & black plaid they are wearing somewhere. If you see any of them, ski up, introduce yourself, tell them you are from DCSki and are on a mission to see if Denis is full of bull or not. They are a great bunch and always willing to show someone around their mountain. A standard meeting is 10 AM or 1 PM at the flagpole. I can't guarantee that there will be any of them there on a Tues., but I'll put out a call.
skier219
February 12, 2008
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
I think humbleness and MRG go together. It is a ski area to be respected and to be skied with modesty. If someone tells you they totally ripped all the trails at MRG with no fear and no calculation, then they are probably lying. Skiing tight, icy/rocky, bumped tree trails there is among the toughest skiing around; I know because I have sucked at it many times.

I had a pair of M666 and also Magfire 12, and they are great skis for overall all-mountain capability, but they are too heavy and too stout for many types of skiing. The first day I had my 184cm M666, I followed my brother in law into a path through the woods at Silver Creek (a downspout of sorts that started on Knife Blade and came out at the top of the Mountaineer lift). Now, I am not a great skier on narrow paths through the woods, but the M666 made it even tougher -- they felt like planks underfoot and could not turn fast enough. I can completely understand how these would be out of their element at MRG.
Laurel Hill Crazie - DCSki Supporter
February 12, 2008
Member since 08/16/2004 🔗
1,873 posts
JohnL, you sure are getting around. Utah last week and now the east coast legend. Did I tell you I hate you? Mad River is one place I must ski before my number is called. A pinhead friend of mine calls MR home so I'll have a local guide if I ever feel I'm up to the task.

How much do you think your off day had to do with skiing all the soft pow in Utah? I've yet to get out since I've been back but my experience tells me that I'll have a difficult time on the hard pack. By now all the base here in the east has got to be bullet proof. It always took a while to regain my touch on ice.
skier219
February 12, 2008
Member since 01/8/2005 🔗
1,318 posts
 Originally Posted By: Laurel Hill Crazie
How much do you think your off day had to do with skiing all the soft pow in Utah? I've yet to get out since I've been back but my experience tells me that I'll have a difficult time on the hard pack. By now all the base here in the east has got to be bullet proof. It always took a while to regain my touch on ice.


LHC, that was my experience as well, and I bet JohnL experienced it too. I was pretty sloppy my first couple days back on east coast hardpack after Utah. It was a leap from long fat skis on soft snow to short skinny skis on ice.
jimmy
February 12, 2008
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
2,650 posts
Eh JohnL's finding the snow for sure, hey i don't hate you can i tag along next season?

Rob u should've called in sick or dead today. I took my life in my hands on the drive up to 7springs this morning but oh the snow. Seems they got 3 inches overnite and another 3? today. I was finding untracked all day, spent a bit of time on tyrol and stowe but moved over to north side, the snow on sunset kept getting deeper and there just wasn't enough of us to ski it out. It snowed so hard for a while u couldn't see the bottom of NF from the top. I got out of there just as the snow was turning to nasty. It's all gone by now.
fishnski
February 12, 2008
Member since 03/27/2005 🔗
3,530 posts
Snif ..Sniff..Jimmi the Snow Hound...Bet it was Nice..DAMBIT!
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