I must have thought a hundred times this year that I don’t seem to have been skiing on anything but ice, all season long. And, I just realized, that’s actually true.
The season got off to an early start, well before Thanksgiving, due to frigid temps that allowed for snowmaking – ordinarily packed powder – but as it turned out, that was just the calling card of the polar vortex. A few days of frigid temps allows lots of snowmaking, but invariably, we then got a couple of days of abnormally warm temps with NFP (non-frozen precipitation), getting all that fresh manmade packed down and wet, and then the bottom drops out of the mercury, and all that wet packed pow freezes the mountain into an iceberg.
I still remember visiting the demo shop before Thanksgiving and telling my ski guy that I hadn’t expected to be able to shop for my new Ice Ski until January, but hey, the mountain is hard as a rock today, so let’s go for it.
Good thing, too, because those new Ice Skis were the only thing I got to ride, all season. In Vermont, it was ice, ice, ice, ice. Sometimes there was a little layer of fresh-blown manmade on top of the ice. But we didn’t have any real fresh snow from the sky until February, so November, December, and January really were just ice. Then we got a couple of big dumps, but the polar vortex pretty much saw to it that the freshies got turned into ice in record time too. Warm, rain, arctic air. warm, rain, arctic air. over and over and over.
In March, we had midwinter conditions pretty much all month. Hard, fast, smooth surfaces, made for ripping, but still, basically…ice. I got about 2 hours of spring snow last week, but it started with ice – and, in fact, since the mountain received a 3-day ice storm last weekend, everything around me was coated with a full inch of ice, and half the runs were closed because of ice. I got another 3 hours of spring snow the day after, this time using my Rossi S3s, for the second time all season.
I said to myself, “It’s April. Time for soft stuff, mush, mashed potatoes, loose gran. No more ice. I shall get my Ice Skis summer-waxed” and did.
Now I’m staring down the maw of my last weekend of the season. Remaining items in the quiver to be summer-waxed on Sunday.
And what’s happened?
Another frickin’ ice storm. Snow report says lifties working hard to de-ice the lifts. No summit access for now. Watch for ice on the runs. It’s April 5, and I’m getting the same snow report I’m used to seeing for Superbowl Sunday. Ice. Ice, ice, and more ice. Even in Steamboat it was ice.
In New England, we’re used to skiing on ice. That’s why New England turns out some of the best technical skiers in the world. All that ice, you know. But this is the first season I’ve had where I literally skied on nothing but ice from start to finish. Literally.
I’m not exactly complaining.
We’ve had an unbelievably long season this year – five months, start to finish. Made possible by the bloody polar vortex freezing us out before Thanksgiving. What the vortex gives, the vortex takes away, though, so we’ve paid dearly for our long, long season. Too much snowmaking. Too many death cookies. Not enough freshies.
My technical skills took a huge leap ahead this year, partly due to getting skis that are really long enough for my size, and partly to spending five months solid of skiing on ice. I don’t mind ice now, not much. There are still some kinds of ice I hate: corduroy-shaped ice, and white ice, for example, but I am assured that expert skiers also hate those kinds of ice. You can’t ski on that stuff, you can only get through it. So I’m in good company on that. Some kinds of ice I like – the hard packed stuff I was skiing on week before last, where I could go so fast I was leaving a sonic boom in my wake. Or, at least, so fast it felt like I ought to be leaving a sonic boom. I liked that fine. Mostly now, I just ignore the ice. Back in the day I’d get rattled. “OH NO!! IT’S ICE!!!” I’d think. These days? Even with boilerplate or blue ice, I’m like “Oh, look, ice. Better not be on my edges when I hit that, and plan to turn elsewhere.” or even “I think I ran over ice a couple of times on that run.”
Now I have preferences about my ice. Like I said, some ice I actually like. Other ice, where a thick layer of ice has gotten chewed up by the groomers and left to cover the run like gravel covers a dirt road, pisses me off. That stuff is really hard on my skis. I actually got a gouge that was deep enough to require p-tex from riding over that crap. The ski tech wanted to know where I’d found rocks to ski over. No, I said, it was the snow that did that.
But today? Dammit. I shouldn’t be skiing on freakin’ ICE on the last weekend of the season. It’s APRIL, dammit. Time for blue skies and sunshine and nice, soft snow that doesn’t scrape the wax right off the skis. Today, I’m complaining. Bloody freaking polar vortex, sending a bloody freaking ice storm in April. Enough already.