CouncilTracks – December 2014

The newsletter of NJS&SC

When I began writing this month’s newsletter the state of winter didn’t look good as the weather’s been waffling back and forth.  However, it’s beginning to look like Mother Nature is about to turn around as things are improving in the East and the far West.  Today is 12/11 and the Catskills just got one foot from the Nor’easter that blew through.  The same weather system giving the Catskills resorts a very badly needed base also gave Vermont an early Christmas present as Killington and others are reporting major dumps (24”) of new snow and state the snow is still falling.  Can you hear the bugles heralding in the season!

The weekend of 12/13-14 will be kickoff day to the new season for many of us and some of the areas such as Plattekill which have not yet opened.  My advice is get moving and out the door because SKI SEASON is here!  Killington has been operating since October so anyone who hit it back then has already been making tracks for two months!  Jean LeGrand of Ocean Ski Club sacheted into the December meeting of NJSSC this past Monday sporting a face that matched her red ski coat.  I looked at a tussled and tired Ms. LeGrand who said she just drove down from Killington after having skied there all day.  On the slopes all day, drives from Vt. To NJ to attend the Council meeting then home to Ocean County……wow Jean, that makes for a VERY long day!  Also at Monday’s meeting Council treasurer Norm Blumenstein said he got a day in at Mt. Tremblant over Thanksgiving, Dennis Young had a good day at Windham, Frank De Rossi got 2 days in one of which was at Sugarbush and one guy in my club already logged SIX DAYS at Hunter.

One week ago, things weren’t looking good then King Neptune stirred the Atlantic producing a Nor’easter and we got snow!  Parts of NJ and Eastern Pa. only got a few inches but a check of local conditions surprisingly showed that  Blue is reporting a 24-36” base with 11-14 trails open and further out Elk Mtn. is reporting 10 trails open.  The story gets better as you head up the Thruway to the Catskills which I thought was too far west to be affected by a Nor’easter.  Bellaire, Hunter, Plattekill and Windham all report 12” of new snow.  Plattekill opened on12/13 and for the first time in 4 years, NJSSC was able to hold Ski Skills Tune-Up Day at Windham (more on this later).  Current base depths in the Catskills:

Bellaire: 12-45”;  Hunter: 12-48”;  Plattekill: 10-20”;  Windham: 24-40”

The REAL Story however is VERMONT with most resorts reporting a whopping 24” of new snow……..BUDDA BING BUDDA BOO……….We got  S_N_O_W !!!!!

No one is happier than I over this week’s event because I was almost crying as I began this newsletter.  It’s good it didn’t publish sooner because this is the best Christmas present for the Catskills and Vermont in many years.

FELIZ NAVIDAD Vermont, you got what you wished for!

Ski Skills Tune-Up Day:  Ed Dalton, head of “Programs” is responsible for arranging Ski Skills Tune-Up day for us.  At the December meeting Ed said, “I know ski skills tune-up day is going to happen this year, I can feel it”.  For (3) years in a row didn’t hold it because of a lack of snow but this year we had enough snow and participants.  Our group of approx. 30 people even included a Virgin……Gina Stewart from High Life, a never-ever gave skiing a try for the first time.  As it turns out, Joe her boyfriend was a ski instructor but knows the wisdom of having someone else teach his main squeeze!

Meadowlands Ski Sale:  last week was the Meadowlands Ski sale held annually by Mt. Everest Ski Shop of Westwood.  That was probably your last chance to snag a bargain before Christmas arrives.  The next time will be the March sales at the end of the season and that’s a long time to wait for a new pair of skis or a board at discount pricing.  In addition to ski and snowboard gear, a number of resorts and tour operators were on hand.  I’m a new Rep for Plattekill and was asked if I could take over in the evening for two Plattekill employees who staffed the booth during the day.  Plattekill piggy-backed with the I Ski New York booth so in addition to Plattekill brochures there was a wealth of information from “I Ski New York”.

I Ski New York Passport:  While at the Meadowlands sale one of the more interesting things I learned about is the, “I Ski New York Passport” where children who are in 3rd or 4th grade get to ski FREE.  If you have kids in these grades you should know about this program.  The program is open to residents in all surrounding states even Canadians!  If you have young children in the target age group you might want to rethink your entire skiing strategy while you kids are young and ski exclusively in New York State.  I say this because this is the bargain of your child’s lifetime as it allows them to ski FREE ALL SEASON long for at least two years.  This incredible deal consists of an application that a parent returns to the I Ski New York program along with $25.  The child receives a book of coupons allowing them to ski up to (3) times at each of the participating NY Ski resorts.  The list is very inclusive with 32 NY Ski areas including Belleyare, Catamount, Gore, Greek Peak, Plattekill, West Mountain, Whiteface, Windham and many others X 3 days each………………….THAT IS A LOT OF FREE SKIING  for your child!!!  I was happy to see that my new “employer” Plattekill and all the other resorts are offering a magnificent incentive for children in the 3rd and 4th grades to learn to ski/ride.  The resorts are taking to heart the feeling that if your give someone your child from age 2-6 they’ll have them for life.  This program makes it possible for parents with children in 3rd and 4th grade to learn to ski without breaking the family treasury.  In times of expensive energy, food and excessive taxes this program provides relief from the high cost of skiing for parents with young children in the formative years.  It also is an aid to boost interest and help usher in a new generation of those who like to play in the snow.   I am very heartened to learn the at least NY has come up with a way to help families and encourage development of new skiers/riders.  For more information on this program please visit the I Ski New York website using this link:   PS:  Yes there are holiday black-outs BUT your children do get to ski FREE.

Council Trips:  Each year I dedicate part of the space in Council Tracks to a review of a “Featured Resort”.  Sine NJSSC has two trips scheduled to New England with the first to Stowe on February 25th I’d like to kick this part of Council Tracks off with a review of Stowe.

Stowe History:  Many of you may never have heard of the Civilian Conservation Corps but it was a program born of the great depression.  When the economy went bust and thousands were out of work then President Franklin Roosevelt created this public relief program for unmarried, unemployed men.  The US Government put such men to work by founding the Civilian Conservation Corps (“the C’s”) which operated from 1933-1942.  The C’s were responsible for many projects such as construction of roads, visitors’ centers, stone retaining walls and trails in our national parks. The “C’s” cut the first ski trail on Mount Mansfield in Stowe during 1933-1934.  A few years later in 1937 Sepp Ruschp opened a rope tow on what became known as the toll house slope.  That was followed by the first chair lift constructed in 1940 when Ruschp, Lowell Thomas and Roland Palmedo who had formed a lift building company opened what was heralded as the world’s longest chairlift at 6,330 feet of length.  It was a single chair and remained at Stowe for half a century before being replaced.  It was about that time when Cornelius Van der Starr visited Stowe for the first time and was hooked.  In 1946 (before many of us were born) the well-heeled Cornelius took ownership of Stowe and began a love affair resulting in Cornelius investing lots of cash in Stowe over a period of years.

As you drive into the valley, Mt. Mansfield is the large mountain on the left side of the access road while Spruce Peak sits on the right side.  It wasn’t until the 1949-1950 season that Spruce peak opened and was served by rope tows.  A few years later a double chair was installed on Spruce-peak for the 1954-1955 season.  Snowmaking arrived at Stowe in the 1967-1968 season and the rest is well……..history.

I skied Stowe 30 years ago which was long before the current Mt. Mansfield and the Stowe Mountain Lodges existed.  The first time I was there the area where the Stowe Mountain Lodge now sits was all fields with field grass sticking above the snow.  I vividly remember skiing down what surely must have been a winding dirt road covered with snow.  At one point, I went off-trail and skied through the field grass meandering my way through many small saplings growing in that area which surely must have been a forest years earlier.  That was then but here is information about the current Stowe, Vermont.

Stowe is a large 2-mountain resort with Mt. Mansfield having most of the blue and black trails. Spruce peak is the easier side but has enough pitch to get the blood running on several black diamonds.  Several years ago I was there while a very competitive downhill was being run on Spruce Peak.  It was a full-blown downhill with blue lines dyed on the snow so racers at high speed could hold a line and not veer off-trail into the fields beyond.  Mt. Mansfield has a summit of 4,396 feet (200’ higher than Killington peak) affording 2,360 feet of vertical drop to its base.  It’s a resort encompassing 485 skiable acres with 116 trails split between the two peaks.  If a die-hard seeking diamonds then ski the front four on Mount Mansfield.  Spruce Peak is a bit smaller and less demanding cruisers mountain.  If you want laid-back skiing and not have to worry about renegades, this is where you want to be.  It’s has the tendency to attract young families and slow skiing.  When the Stowe Mountain Lodge was built, Management made it easy to flip-flop back and forth between the two mountains by installing a gondola that crosses the street.  You can park on either side of the access road yet ski both mountains without ever having to move your car.  Both bases have lift ticket sales and cafeterias so no matter where you start from you’ll have the services you need.  The Spruce Peak side has the new base and top notch amenities if that is what you seek.

The Council trip to Stowe will utilize off-site lodging, primarily because a stay in the Stowe Mountain Lodge is pricey and would result in much higher price for the trip. In addition it’s nice to experience some of the local lodging to see what it’s like.

As of 12/15/14 Stowe is reporting 84% of its terrain and 11 of 13 lifts open.  Keep in mind that Stowe is far north in Vermont which means it’s colder more often and affords them more opportunity to make snow!  Today Stowe is reporting 27? and a 20-48 base with 48” at the summit.  The 2-foot dump of last week insures they have plenty to ski on!

Last Tracks:  I want to take this opportunity to wish all a happy holiday season.  Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa or something else……it’s a time of the year when many people reflect on life and express love and gratitude for family and friends.  If this is a religious holiday for you, I ask you to do more than pray.  Do something concrete for planet Earth because the Earth is in serious trouble and needs our help to preserve Winter and the snows that bless us all.  Since many government lawmakers have their heads in the sand (or somewhere else) and do nothing but bicker, we need to take action.  We need to do more than change light bulbs.  We need action that will bring tangible results…… park your car a few days each week and bicycle to work.  Don’t plant one tree, instead sow acorns, maple and birch seeds and plant an entire forest because that is what I did (yes an entire forest).  Now is the time to do more than pray because Snow needs our help and needs it NOW.

Merry Christmas and best wishes for a Happy New Year,

Bob Zega


Pictured below is the base of Stowe in the early 1940’s and looks oddly familiar to the one I saw the first time I skied Stowe many years later!

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