Ski the Northeast - From Massachusetts to Quebec
Ski the Northeast - From Massachusetts to Quebec
It's becoming another challenging year for skiing in the northeast.
The early season was showing such promise with the 2017 Woman's Slalom World Cup kicking off the season at Killington in Vermont the weekend after Thanksgiving. Though some of the athletes complained about the quality of the snow, when my daughter and I took to the Killington trails the day after the races finished, we were astonished at the conditions. Our hopes swelled for a great season.
My daughter races in the USSA Tri-state competitions across Massachusetts. We are used to the season starting Christmas week in the state, so any early season training has to take place at points north.
Killington Gondola on display in New York City in the mid-90s. ©Mark D Phillips
Riding the Killington Gondola in 2016, the ultimate in comfort. ©Mark D Phillips
Killington has the well-deserved moniker of the BEAST OF THE EAST. Killington Peak offers an elevation of 4,241 feet and one of the prettiest gondolas in the US. Each cabin sports a unique design, and back in 1994, I was commissioned to photograph their initial release to the public. They hold a special spot in my heart. It was a great moment riding to the summit with my daughter and telling her about the image I captured of the gondola on the street in NYC and in the Whitney Museum of Art.
With the seven peaks available and over 73 miles of trails, Killington is designed for the large crowds that descend on the east coast resorts from New York City and Boston.
Looking for a well-priced, family-oriented overnight? We stayed at the Summit Lodge just down the road from the base lodge. With views of the Killington trails from your room, the lodge is crammed full of antiques, wood beams and a beautiful common area with board games, couches and a fieldstone fireplace. Each morning, the breakfast (included in the stay) was made to order in a gorgeous terrace dining room with Eggs Benedict to Chocolate Chip Pancakes.
O’Dwyer’s Public House is located on the lower level of the lodge and offers a delectable array of homemade soups, salads and comfort food, including Lobster Mac & Cheese or Chicken Pot Pie.
Killington shone during the World Cup and is a great place to visit. Hopefully the world will come back to Vermont. Check out our World Cup coverage on SouthBrooklyn.com.
We followed our Thanksgiving trip with a stop at Mount Snow. Mount Snow is one of our stalwarts. Each year, my daughter’s race team begins their training at Mount Snow. The first weekend of December has always been a hit or miss trip. This one was no different. Saturday gave us spring conditions with mashed potato snow followed by a Sunday with a much harder surface. We return to Mount Snow in January when conditions are always better.
With 37 miles of trails on 590 skiable acres, Mount Snow is just over the border in Vermont, touting themselves as the closest BIG mountain to the Northeast’s metropolitan areas. It also features over 73% of their trails in the intermediate level, making it accessible to nearly all level of skier and boarder.
For boarders and trick skiers, the Carinthia Peak at Mount Snow is the place to be. Eight terrain parks and a Superpipe with 18’ walls have helped develop Olympic champions. In the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Devin Logan won the silver medal in the Olympic Games debut of women’s ski slopestyle, West Dover native Kelly Clark took bronze in women’s snowboard halfpipe, and Carinthia pro team athlete Nick Goepper brought home bronze in men’s ski slopestyle.
Our choice of residence is the Kitzhof Inn, inspired by the architecture of alpine lodges in Austria. Simon and Alison are the fourth owners and took over in September 2005 when they moved to Vermont from London, England. The Kitzhof is famous for its “Hearty, Vermont Breakfast” included free with each night’s reservation per person.
Even in the fog, the Erik Guay trail lived up to Mont Tremblant's famous World Cup skier. ©Mark D Phillips
The Norh Side trails at Mont Tremblant offer wide open, beautifully groomed snow-covered vistas. ©Mark D Phillips
Old trail map for Mont Tremblant on the wall of the Refuge. ©Mark D Phillips
Our Pièce De Résistance for the pre-season was Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Canada. This was our first visit to the Laurentian Mountains, which actually include the Adirondack Mountains to the south in New York state. Our drive from New York City took us past Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain, one of our favorite locations in the mountain range. But on we went, crossing the Canadian border near Montreal and driving nearly three hours further to the picturesque resort of Mont Tremblant.
Arriving late at night, we didn’t really see anything. The next morning, Eliza and I left early, the recipients of a headstart up the mountain given to guests who stay in the village. The online pictures we viewed as we booked the trip did not do the location justice. We began our morning on the Cabriolet Gondola from the village to the base of the slopes, a pleasurable ride over the rooftops of Tremblant village, which looks like a European travelogue.
Once at the base of the slopes, our next ride aboard the Telecabine Express Gondola to the summit of Mont Tremblant, gave us our first view of the lower trails leading to the village and lake. The higher we climbed, we began entering a thick fog that quickly enveloped everything. At the summit we were greeted by visibility that was non-existent. Because it was our first day on an unknown mountain, I immediately freaked out and said we needed to wait for it to clear. As we quickly found out, it doesn't and it is an unfortunate regular early season regularity caused by the unfrozen lake and snow making. So I manned up and followed my 18-year-old daughter into the fog. And boy was it worth it!
We took off following a group of snowboarders who seemed to know where they were going. As we inched down the first incline, we spotted the rock wall that bordered our initial trail. We followed it a couple hundred yards and began seeing detail up ahead. A couple of quick turns and we broke out into clear air and some of the best snow we have been on in years.
Finding ourselves on the North side of the mountain was unexpected, but to our incredible luck turned out to be one of our favorite locations. With long black and blue trails, big, wide steeps and rolling terrain, it provided a level of fun with enough distance to truly let your skis run. On our return to the South side, my daughter wanted us to try the trail named for Erik Guay, the winner of the 2010 Super-G Crystal Globe, the 2011 World Champion in Super-G and the Canadian record for World Cup podiums, who grew up skiing at Tremblant.
On our second day, we took advantage of a program I discovered online, the FREE mountain guide. Bruno joined us for runs on some trails we had not tried before and gave us some tips on skiing Tremblant. He also told us about The Refuge which became a highlight of our last day on the mountain.
Hidden between two black diamond trails halfway down the mountain, The Refuge was a cabin that felt like it had been there since the dawn of human habitation at the mountain, with a wood stove, picnic tables, beer, and a couple food choices. It was an oasis in a majestic setting. If Bruno hadn't told us about it, we never would have known it was there. And if we hadn't gone to the Refuge, we wouldn't have gone down the Toboggan trail to the Le Soleil lift. It was one of the most amazing lift ride I have ever taken. The vistas across the Laurentian Mountains were stunning and the lift took you over what looked like back-country tree skiing. We even saw a deer far below us eating from scraggly bushes in a large, open meadow.
So now we are back skiing our local Massachusetts mountains and dealing with another warm winter. As much as we love our small mountains, the weather has been making it harder and harder to keep their slopes open.
But as long as we can make snow, we will take advantage of our favorite, Blandford Ski Area. Check them out at skiblandford.org and pray for a blizzard!