Saturday, April 5, 2014

Season Finale

Today wraps up the best ski season since I took up the crazy activity 11 years ago. Hard to believe that I've been skating on snow for so many years already. I can vividly remember the first time on skate skis, a crusty granular kind of day, where I spent more time on the ground than I did on my feet. Somehow I persevered through those first few challenging sessions and came to enjoy the sport immensely.

This season started back in November for me when I went up to Rikert in Vermont on Thanksgiving Day weekend. There was a period of uncertainty after that, but then the "polar vortex" stuck around for much of the winter, creating phenomenal, but often cold ski conditions.

The weekend before leaving for my Arizona cycling trip, I checked with Leah at Waterville to see if there was any chance if they'd still be open into April. There was something like over 30" of snow in the woods, so I thought certainly the snow would be there. The question was, would there be a business case to keep grooming the trails, pay staff, and stay open? Skier interest drops off pretty rapidly when the snow melts in people's yards even though the mountains are deeply blanketed.

Last weekend, 24 hours after adding to my sunburn in Arizona I was back at Waterville, in winter wonderland. The saturated powder was not much fun to ski in, but I did get a good workout nonetheless.  The base was still solid. The trails were going to close during the week, then late in the week an assessment would be made to see if they could open for two final days of the season on April 5 & 6.

I don't think I ever skied November to April before, six months out of the year, although barely touching the months of Nov/Apr. I really wanted to get an April ski in before putting the skis up for the season. Waterville came through for me. They groomed and reopened.

Arvid, the guy probably most responsible for getting me into this sport, joined me Saturday. The problem was, it was an identical repeat weekend weather-wise to the weekend before. A lot of rain with some snow fell over night, and that was going to coat the north-end trails. Another molasses ski to close the season out?

Mid winter conditions in April! Tripoli Rd on left, Lower Osceola on right.

It turns out the snow was much more like sleet. Sleet skis infinitely faster than soggy powder that hasn't transformed. Heading out, conditions were a bit soft, but otherwise fast. We went right for the hills. It wasn't PR fast, but descending was pretty good. I believe I descended Cascade Brook Trail my fastest. Arvid owns the downhill KOM in Strava and was potentially on track for a PR when he wrecked around one of the switchbacks. Of course, he was well ahead of me by that point so I didn't get to see it. Just the evidence in the snow. We were the only ones making tracks up there.

Funny, back at the Nordic Center, I was waiting for Arvid's electronic gizmos to sync up. The gal at the desk overheard my impatience and said "if you can't Strava it, it didn't happen!" Another Strava junkie no doubt.

Waterville really came around with their grooming later in the season. I had some big disappointments earlier in the season. I suspect the Nordic center doesn't have total control over grooming, as the Piston Bully comes down from the Alpine area. Perhaps criticisms became loud enough to bring more support to Nordic operations. Regardless, I was happy they opened this weekend. I ended up skiing at Waterville enough times I should have gotten a season pass. Maybe next year.

The sun started poking through by the time we got to Tripoli Rd and really put a damper on speed quickly. Still no other tracks there. Where was everybody? WV advertised they'd be opening for the weekend. You'd think a lot of people would want to get a final fix in. The 800ft climb was a bit of a slog, more effort than I planned to expend with a big ride planned for Sunday.

Arvid finishing Tripoli descent.

As we worked our way back, the lower elevation stuff that was groomed that morning became super sloppy and it was time to wrap it up. I finished with 32km and 2500ft of climbing in about 2.2hrs moving time. The road and mountain bike racing season has already started. I was in no hurry to shift 100% focus to the bike just yet. Training for Mt Washington can start now.

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