I remained a tad skeptical heading up to Waterville Valley today. After warm temps and heavy rain earlier this week, most areas were pretty much turned into hockey ice. Reports from the Valley begged to differ, so Dave Penney and I headed up. Conditions were either going to be a frozen granular nightmare or a speedfest not to be missed.
It was in the teens starting out. The wind was kicking up something fierce too. The brilliant sun and cloudless skies helped make up for it. Our goal for the day was to ski a complete perimeter loop, hitting all of the high points along the way. This was not going to be a hammerski session, but more of an endurance/tempo paced workout. I figured it would take about 3.5hrs.
We started by heading up Jennings Peak from the Nordic Center. The trail surface was quite hard and scratchy but nicely edgeable. And it was fast! Finally we got some transformed snow to zing around on. Prospects were quite good both of us would complete a full perimeter sweep of the trails.
I brought my new cheapy movie camera with me, velcro strapped to the side of my head Borg style. Today I was capturing my first real footage, or should I say megabytes. I followed Dave down the Jennings switchbacks while recording. He’s still nursing a tweaked ankle and played it safe. Barely able to edge skis around the switchbacks got the heartrate going a few beats higher.
The Upper Fletchers and Criterion climbs were next. Everything was meticulously groomed. The granular surface offered twice the glide that I’ve become accustomed to this winter. You’d think that would make the climbs easier. No. You just go faster. We got to the golf course in well under an hour. This took 75 minutes the last time I was here when I worked a lot harder on sandpaper snow. I shot some more video across the golf course. In 1280x720p HD, it looks quite nice. You’d never know a $95 camera captured it.
The further north we got in the valley, the more tempered the granular surface became. The Swazeytown/Beanbender climb was a piece of cake compared to prior times. We bombed down Upper Snows to pick up Cascade Brook Trail, one of my favorites. I captured more video from the top back down to junction with Snow’s. I was amazed how big the H264 coded file sizes were when I got home, so only this 4 minute snipped is included here. Vimeo upload size was 147MB, but they basterdized the embeddable resolution almost as badly as Youtube does. I can play the original full-screen and not see pixels. Note about 18sec in, Dave almost bit it, thus the victory salute.
Cascade Brook Trail from D. Jansen on Vimeo.
Heading down Livermore was delightfully fast, but the fierce headwind placed a speed governor on the steepest bits. We ran into Mike Seeger, the Nordic Center director, at the bottom of Osceola. He intercepted a mountain biker coming over from the other side of Thornton Gap, perhaps with intentions of bombing down the groomed side of Tripoli Road. I’m thinking to myself “how cool!” Mike told the guy he wasn’t interested in him messing up the ski trails.
The north side of the north end got a light dusting of snow that was tilled in with the granular. It had superb surface texture. Skogs would have been so enamored by conditions on Moose Run/Wicked Easy, he would have skied that all day and forgot the rest. We talked with a couple CSU guys from the Westborough area there. My camera seemed to be quite the conversation piece.
Continuing on our perimeter mission, the Upper Osceola out and back was next. Dave was assimilated next by donning the Borg contraption. I went down first but skied out of camera range a little too quickly.
The beastly Tripoli Road out and back climb was next. With such good glide, you really had the luxury to “soft pedal” up this one with legs going a little limp. It was straight into the wind up top. With a nice sugary granular surface and tailwind, 30mph (50kph) should easily be achievable on the descent if you dare. I believe this was the first time I broke 30mph on this descent. A more skilled or more reckless skier could potentially break 40mph in these conditions. Alpine skiers may not think any big deal of this, but keep in mind skate skiers have free heels, have zero shape to their flimsy skis, and have no edges. In other words, you have no brakes. Factor in that people are also coming up these narrow trails, it’s risky business carrying a boatload of speed. I’ve gone over 50mph before on alpine skis, and that is not nearly as scary as going 30mph on a XC ski trail.
To complete our perimeter sweep, we did the little Pipeline Trail blip, an often overlooked trail. Then it was Swan’s Way back to the Nordic center. Temp was in the 20’s finishing up with nary a cloud in the sky. It doesn’t get any more perfect than that. We finished with 44.3km, 1274m (4180ft) of climbing, in 2 hours, 55 minutes skiing time. It was one of my best ski days of the season.