An Uphill Battle: How hiking, good friends and beer saved the season
Saturday Night Lights at Stowe Mountain Resort.
I have a confession to make: I’m a recovering ski bum. Ok, maybe it’s not a secret; or, more likely, maybe I’m not recovered at all.
At some point I decided to trade a career rolling burritos in a Western mountain town for a more professional way of life back east. As I ease into my new role as weekend warrior, the sound of Howitzers clearing the Western steeps of avalanche danger has been replaced with the click and clack of a keyboard and a steady stream of email notifications. Despite the lifestyle shift, the sensation of sliding on snow remains my cold weather muse.
This year, under the banner of a sparse snowpack, my focus on skiing has evolved. I’ve long since ditched 360s in favor of free-flying spread eagles, and the joy of soaring through the air with my legs spread and arms dangling is second only to the joys of floating through fresh powder. Considering Old Man Winter’s absence, this year’s ski days have been full of adventure, good friends and, naturally, beer.
Despite being equipped an affordable pass that represents the end of my 20’s, skinning has replaced the chairlift as my preferred method of uphill travel. The bitter cold dawn patrol hikes, starlit after-dark skins and fully lit evenings of uphill travel have all sweetened the bitterness of our snow-starved ski season. It’s exciting to see alpine touring gain traction in the east.
Equally as impressive is the reception that uphill travel has received at a handful of my favorite ski hills. Bolton Valley, with its designated uphill zone, has become a quick and easy destination for my friends and I to grab a few afternoon laps before tossing back some Long Trail “Sick Days” in the parking lot. Along with Bolton, Mad River Glen set the scene for this year’s most memorable days. Inspired by a sense of adventure and a mandatory stop at Mad Taco, I cruised over the App Gap one Friday night for a different variety of après.
Adventures earned at Mad River Glen
The joys of après-ski are obvious, but when you spend 40 hours a week behind a desk, après-work slowly creeps into your vocabulary. Fueled by the weekend - and a couple of tasty beers – we grabbed our overnight packs and charged up the long and winding Catamount Bowl, arriving at the lodge late into the night where a cold sleep at the summit was made bearable by the silky-smooth early morning turns.
More recently, a 5 am wake up call was punctuated by 10 inches of hard-earned bluebird pow and one hell of an icicle beard in what culminated in a perma-grin to start the work day.
It’s totally killer that resorts like Bolton, Mad River Glen, Killington, Sugarbush and Magic Mountain are accommodating the free-spirit of Vermont’s Earn-Your-Turns Movement by establishing reasonable uphill policies. Likewise, Stowe is getting in on the human-powered party with their community-driven Saturday Night Lights Uphill events. I was floored to find about 100 skiers and riders geared-up and ready for a Saturday night climb up Gondolier (pictured above). To see so many people stoked on skinning was a revelation. The common factor in all these missions, besides a couple of Long Trails in the parking lot, is a solid crew of friends who share the same joy of sliding on snow.
Starting the day off on the right foot at Mad River Glen
We haven’t had an epic season–especially when you look at all the social media coming from the west– but there’s more to being an east coast skier than chasing powder. There’s community, friendship and beer.
We all know there’s no friends on a powder day, but you damn well better have some friends around when you’re riding boiler plate hard pack, dodging rocks or just need some extra motivation on that last lap.
Written by Long Trail Brewing's Drew Vetere.