The Mountain Times

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The Mountain Journal: Skier checklist: Lessons for maximizing mountain adventures

What's on your skiers check list? Cold smoke powder? A Western escape to one of Killington's sister resorts such as Park City in Utah or Okemo's Crested Butte in Colorado?

Does your list include a special Eastern adventure? It should! Every year my list includes certain mountain adventures mostly here in the East but some outside New England as well. A dear friend's daughter who married a year past spent their honeymoon skiing in South America. Check! That's one mark off their bucket list. But, their short list also includes ongoing weekend escapes to the family's second home in Vermont.

So what's on your checklist?

Years ago, living in the high alpine in Colorado, and often hiking to 13,000 or 14,000 feet, my list included regular weekend ski hikes in my ongoing search for untracked powder. Occasionally folks trained for the 'Powder 8' contests and several ventured to Alaska or Canada for helicopter forays. Still, not all our lists are as spectacular.

In the East, my annual list includes ski escapes with friends and also incorporates certain job responsibilities in my role writing for multiple magazines and mountain newspapers. A few days past, after a day skiing at Pico Mountain, I was riding the gondola to Killington Peak when two folks (both sporting season passes) asked me if Pico would be worth a day escape. They had never skied the mountain! I gasped, then explained that not only are the trails delightful but its not often crowded. They decided they would have to plan a day at Pico.

Too often folks miss out on easily accessible adventures.

Here in Central Vermont you can easily fashion an exciting Eastern list. Here's the thing, Eastern skiing and riding escapes can offer unrivalled diversity. Whether planning to enjoy weekend bump skiing on Outer Limits at Killington or planning a hot air balloon ride in nearby Quechee Gorge, Vermont resorts can offer a long list of adventures. In fact, as most of us know, when the snow is right, area resorts can offer a remarkable array of winter adventures. The area has steep slots. Bumps. Wide open cruisers. And, this year, there's also been lots of powder. 

Powder days are excellent.

Sure, we all know that fresh powder is the stuff of dreams. In truth, though, powder is never guaranteed even in - dare we say this - the West. It's true! And it's the rarity that makes powder so special, I think. In Vermont, at least once a season - and this year on several occasions - a massive storm will pummel the Killington/Pico/Okemo region.

You have to get out those days, whatever it takes, you won't regret it!

A few years ago I was working in New Hampshire and it started to rain. Rather then sitting idle, we trekked to Killington. And, while it was raining in town it was snowing - heavily - on the top of the access road.

Elevation can be key. And Killington, the second highest peak in the state, has altitude.

Incidentally, we just gasped as the snow on top was actually light and fluffy too! We were lucky. A month later, after enduring the frustration of several January rain storms, I hit the lifts again, this time to test skis for a story, I then rediscovered great machine groomed packed powder. Fortunately, Vermont resorts had made snow all week and the conditions were soft and easy to carve.

Perfect.

I praise snowmaking.

The take home? Think about your adventure list. Powder? Check. Snowmobile ride? Check? Hot air balloon ride? Not yet! Take a chance. And, with a little luck, you'll catch great powder too. But, in the meantime, enjoy the corduroy. And enjoy the region. Savor each adventure, from your first run to your last run.

Tagged: The Mountain Journal, Skier's checklist