The newsletter of NJS&SC January 2016
I’ve been taking a hiatus from writing this newsletter and this is the first issue of the 2015-2016 season. I’m sitting, well actually it’s hard to tell if I’m sitting, because the plane I’m on is being bounced from side to side over the Pacific like a rag doll being blown in the wind. Not reassuring news for anyone planning on flying in the next few weeks and I’m trying to figure out what’s causing the ‘chop’ as the pilot just called it. Chop…. this is more like bursts of WW II flak being fired from ground batteries. I’m sitting in the butt of the plane and hear stuff hitting the floor in the galley just behind me as the flight attendants are running for cover trying to avoid getting hit with flying debris. We just left John Wayne airport in Orange county, Ca. and flew out over the Pacific while climbing in relatively clear skies. However, as we gain altitude we disappeared into the clouds with zero vis so maybe we got caught in turbulence between layers of air? Ah whatever let’s get into the January Ski scene.
So what happened to Summer you ask……thankfully for skiers it’s over or is it. Mother Nature has thrown a curve ball to the East coast and those of us who like Winter. The warm air just doesn’t want to leave and the recent deluge of rain was no help to the ski resorts hit with the most ski-adverse weather system in many years. The National Weather service calls it an El Niño year which is noted for warm weather in the East and colder and wetter than normal weather in the West. Whatever they call it, it’s hell on Eastern Skiing. No local resorts in the Tri-state area were open for Thanksgiving and all in Vermont struggled to open for Christmas. Those that were open were lucky if at 25%. Areas like Mad River Glen without snow-making have little chance of making money this winter and unless the weather turns drastically, I predict Mad River and others like it will not open.
Just after Christmas things in the East were beginning to look up as a cold front moved in. I spent the New Years weekend in Vermont and skied four resorts over as many days. That cold week gave the Vt. Resorts exactly what they needed. Okemo and Killington had the best and most trails open and the conditions were good. Sugarbush had both mountains open but since the cross-country lift to Mt. Ellen was closed I stayed at Lincoln peak so can’t comment on Mt. Ellen. There was little open on Lincoln peak but the lower trails (all three of them) had good snow. On the left side of the mountain, the Super Bravo Express Quad takes you 2/3 of the way up off-loading at Allyn’s Lodge. A blue trail named Downspout takes you to the Heavens Gate Triple that ascends to the Summit. Downspout was a river of frozen ice with a layer of snow on top which by the time we got there had been skied into a mogul-studded glacier. Admittedly, I am a terrible mogul skier and even worse ice skier so 2 hold-on-for-dear-life trips down Downspout were enough to convince me to stay on the lower mountain. Pico was scheduled to open on Saturday Jan 2 and since I had NEVER made an opening day at any ski resort we went to Pico although we knew it would have little open. That was a correct assumption as only the Golden Express Quad was operating and the choice of trails was well let’s say….limited. As you got off the lift you skied Fool’s Gold to Lower Pike and back to the lift…the word ‘repetitive’ took on new meaning that day! The following day we skied at Killington and conditions there were extremely good and a fair amount of terrain was open. While it was very cold and snowmaking was in progress some trails you’d think should be in the process of getting covered had no snowmaking in progress all. An example was that Ram’s Head Mountain was open but the main trail under the lift was closed.
NOTE: When I began writing this, I was returning from one-day business in Tijuana, Mexico. Aware of the woeful weather predictions for the East, I was hoping to see snow as we crossed the Rockies and wasn’t disappointed. The West is having a good year and to date a number of resorts including Lake Tahoe, have been slammed with major dumps of 28-36 inches and more over the course of a week. If extended winter weather does not materialize in the East, my suggestion is to Head West –because the Western resorts have snow.
BURKE MTN: In case you haven’t been keeping informed of news up North, things have been happening. The people who own Jay Peak apparently bought Burke Mtn. about 18 months or so ago. After they dumped bazillions into the Jay Peak makeover which included the Mega-indoor water park, they looked for international investors and found at least one willing to dump money into Burke Mountain. Burke now renamed ‘QBurke” after its new owner Ary Quiros lies in the part of Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom which is a part of the Green state so-far largely untouched by man. While researching Burke, I found that resort has a very troubled history including: Bankruptcies dating back to the 1980s, a bounced tax check to the town of East Burke for $97,374.30, more bankruptcies, a public auction to sell it off and the Ginn Companies’ (former owner at one point) $675 million default with Credit Suisse bank.
The new owners are hoping to turn that around with improvements to the lifts and snow-making and unhappily for environmentalists, a massive building project expected to cost over $100 million. That is couple with a grand scheme to make a city out of the North-Kingdom. When the project at Burke Mtn. is done it will include four hotels, an aquatic center, a tennis facility and an indoor mountain biking park. [ I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to bicycle indoors just as much as I’d hate to ski indoors]. As of Jan 11, 2016 the hotel is built but not complete and the opening date is in doubt at this time. Apparently the new CEO is following in his ancestor’s footsteps and Burke defaulted on $3Milliion in payments to the Contractor who halted further work on the hotel until they get paid. Official word is that the hotel might open for Martin Luther Day weekend however, that depends on if ‘Q’Burke can find more money somewhere. Burke has seen its’ ups and downs over the years and as far as mountains go, it’s a good ski mountain but it future as a ski resort will be proven in the years to come. If those years are like the current season……don’t expect to see Burke around ten years from now.
Real estate development has been boom and plague to ski resorts for years and there’s no doubt it will go on, especially if global warming eliminates the sport of skiing. The resorts figure if they don’t “Build it, they won’t come”. Base development tends to bring families and well-heeled who end up buying condo’s and season passes so everyone’s happy. Everyone except those of us looking to find a wild place to enjoy. If you haven’t visited the North East Kingdom I suggest you do it now because Mr. Quiros has a grand plan to pave it over.
Ascutney: Ascutney Mountain Ski resort closed after the 2009 season and has not re-opened. During my lifetime, Ascutney had a hard go of it and this is the third and most likely last time it will ever close……as it’s not likely to ever open again. In 2012 the only high speed quad Ascutney had was dismantled and moved to Crotched Mountain in New Hampshire. Later in June of 2014 removal of all remaining lifts and snow making equipment began. The largest remaining lift was sold sold to Pat’s Peak in New Hampshire. Reportedly the base lodge fell into a state of disrepair, was condemned and scheduled for destruction (it may be gone now). Ascutney’s lack of major snowmaking and lodging for many years and its location may have doomed it. Any ski resort in the North East without a major commitment to snowmaking is pretty much destined to failure. Location should be factored in because while it was further south than Jay and Burke it was farther North than the central Vermont resorts and there was no easy way to get there. The only lodging in the area was a set of unglamorous condo’s built at its’ base which like the ski area itself is said to have an insufficient septic system (good luck on that one). The last time I skied there the condo complex seemed to be sinking into oblivion along with the resort. Too bad, because Ascutney mountain has good vertical and a nice set of trails but was in need of a major infusion of cash and there were no investors standing by. We’ll keep our eyes on Ascutney but it appears that Ascutney is now part of New England ski history.
Hidden Valley, NJ: It isn’t often that news comes out of NJ resorts but this year some does. If you remember, Hidden Valley closed several years ago and that shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Hidden Valley was tiny, many years beyond needing a fresh coat of paint and badly in need of a benefactor. Living in the shadow of Mountain Creek, there was no way for this little hill to be profitable, it simply couldn’t run with the big dog. The resort went bankrupt, the Sheriff of Nottingham stepped in putting it on the auction block several times. It was strange that such a big piece of real estate was up for grabs and there were NO bidders. It was beginning to look as if Hidden Valley might go the way of towns in the path of Chernobyl and return to the wild. However, someone got an idea, attracted money and the Phoenix awoke. Hidden Valley was acquired and will attempt to operate as the National Winter Sports Activity Center….an establishment with the goal of teaching inner city and under-privileged youth to ski or snowboard and hopefully get them hooked on the snow-sports in a hurry. Two Ski-Patrollers I know told me the slopes were cleared of debris and rocks and look better. The place will NOT be open to the public for skiing and supposedly they are looking for instructors. You don’t need to be certified, just willing to teach newbies and work for free. Personally, I hope the concept takes off because we are long overdue a good method of introducing inner-city youth to the slopes. I also think working with under-privileged kids is a good idea. Such programs put them in a better place and gives them a chance. It also helps to instill a love for nature in a population who likely has no idea what Nature means. I wish the new Winter Sports Foundation well and hope they make it!
Tech Talk: I created this column for those of you who enjoy reading about what’s new in the way of ski equipment. I also created it for those who don’t like to read much technical stuff but wouldn’t mind a non-biased digestion of longer articles. It always amazes me how much new gear is put out every year and for 2015-2016 new gear is exploding! This month I’ll only mention what I think is really new in ski’s and leave other stuff for later issues. Ski designers have been working hard to create skis that do more and do it better than ever before! Many technical changes are being built into new skis. For instance, Elan has what they are calling wave technology which looks like waves on the top of the ski. They ‘waves’ give torsional rigidity but with good longitudinal flex in a lighter ski. They are engineering performance into the cap of the ski and removing metal from within the ski while delivering good performance and edge hold. They are paring their wave technology with rockered tip and tails but cambered mid-section of the ski. Other manufacturers are making skis with a depressed hollow running lengthwise down the center with elongated tubes running on both sides. These raised ribs add longitudinal stiffness to increase edge-hold while the depressed center reduces weight on a ski that is meant to be skied hard and fast. Although it’s still being used, rocker technology is being applied differently. The “bent-upwards water skis” of five years ago are almost gone but rocker in the tips and tails is being coupled with camber in the same ski. Picture a ski held horizontally with the top facing up: the profile alternates with ups and downs as the tips and tails curve upward (rockered). The mid section of these skis have traditional camber (think an ellipse from 6” behind the tip to 6” before the tail). Rockered tips allow you to initiate a turn easier and without catching a tip which usually results in a fall. The rockered tail doesn’t bite in and allows you to skid a turn. This type of ski is not intended for classical carving but makes more of a smeared turn while still retaining a fair amount of edge. A rockered ski can’t match a totally cambered ski in edge-hold which is why the experts recommend buying such a ski 10cm longer than you would expect. The marriage of rocker and camber makes an easier skiing ski but is not the best choice for those who ski hard, fast, and carve voracious turns.
The Expo: I’d like to thank Joe Harvis and the Expo Committee for suggestions to improve our show. This newsletter serves as a public forum so I’ll relay post-Expo comments I heard. Everyone liked the fashion show but many said they didn’t know it was going on until a club member walked by and said, “Hey I’m in the fashion show”. I heard more than one person say we need a runway next year. The DJ at the very end doesn’t seem to add much to the show so maybe there’s a better way for post-shows festivities and I hope someone can work on that. The raffles had better items but I heard people say if we offered better prizes more tickets will be sold. The jury is still out concerning what we got in return for what we paid WDHA. Attendance was good but it didn’t overwhelm the capacity of the Marriott. I personally noted that there were families present (not a lot but they were there) with younger kids. I believe that was a result of radio advertising as I cannot contribute it to anything else. It was great to see new vendors such as the folks with the nutrition table and the bicycle shop. Diversity IS a good thing.
Finale: I’d like to add that it was terrific that NJ Ski Council had a table and got air-time at the Warren Miller Film Festival in Morristown. That was long overdue and it’s something that can go a long way in getting us into the limelight.
Pray for cold weather!!!!