Paid: $49 (weekday full-time student price at window)
Quality of Random Lift Strangers: N/A
Weather: Sunny with high winds at the top.
Would Return?: Probably
Mt. Rose was exactly as advertised: unpretentious, locals-centric, solid vertical and elevation, and windy (although I think everywhere was probably windy that day). In terms of attitude and vibe, Mt. Rose was night-and-day compared to Heavenly (and Squaw) and, ceteris paribus, I preferred Rose’s relative easy-goingness – not that ceteris ever *is* paribus. Conditions were pretty firm (not icy) on-trail and off-trail was cruddy (this included the tree areas unfortunately). Mogul runs were carved deep with pretty inconsistent snow (thanks to the warm weather, lack of recent significant snowfall, and wind I’m sure). Spent all day on Northwest Magnum 6 (heckuva lift name) after hearing that the east-side runs were more scraped.
It was exciting to be able to see our hotel from the top.
- Wish they’d had some better snow, obviously. The chutes looked like they’d be fun, but we saw (from a distance) one person who ventured in there all day and, based on his form, he didn’t look too happy.
- Was also sad that the trees down the lift-line weren’t more skiable (I tried twice).
- Didn’t understand why they wouldn’t run the little triple chair off to the right of us. There’s not a ton of skiing at the very top and the triple looked like it would at least be out of the wind. (I’ve been told by a local, however, that it’s not actually any less windy on the triple, just a lot slower.)
- Not very crowded – we didn’t share a lift ride all day.
- I liked that the ticket booth woman barely even blinked when I requested the student rate (I’m 41; yes, I’m a full-time student with the ID to verify it).
- It’s cool that there’s one resort around Tahoe that offers such intense discounts.
Conditions were definitely a little firm that day. That said, it was hilarious listening to locals complain about how terrible the “ice” was. At Blue Knob that’s called straight-up powder.
Paid: $93 (bought at Sports Authority in Reno the night before)
Quality of Random Lift Strangers: 5/10
Weather: Absolute Bluebird (my bro’s thermometer read 42 degrees on our way up Sky Express the one time)
Would Return?: Definitely
Given the advice I’d read on EpicSki, we chose a side and ended up spending almost the entire day skiing Dipper Express (we took a couple of runs on the California side since it seemed obligatory). No complaints about traverses. I think they’d had some snow the day before, so things weren’t too scraped and, in the trees at least, conditions could be described as soft. Our favorite run was in the trees alongside Big Dipper and Meteor – left us with a long, blue run-out, but I like hard-packed bombing runs, so all was good by me.
View of the lake from the California side.
This is what the snow looked like in the trees (on the Nevada side).
- The pulled pork sandwich at East Peak Lodge was huge, but otherwise merely okay. Barbecue baked beans were generous, but I would have preferred a sweeter sauce with a little more vinegar and somewhat less chili powder. #yelp
- To me, the oddest thing about the layout was that we were kind of “trapped” on the upper mountain. If any of us had left anything down at the car (we parked at Stagecoach), it would have been a blue square-and-slush hassle trying to retrieve it.
- Stopped at the Red Hut (Kingsbury Grade) on the way up the hill. The bacon there is something to write home about.
- Plenty of people there, but the Nevada side was pretty roomy and lift lines were close to non-existent (things were decidedly more crowded California-side).
- People here had a somewhat disturbing penchant for making high-speed, lane-shifting entries into the lift lines. I imagine they learned that on the 880 somewhere around Hayward.
- The ski patrol dude who rode up the lift with us should probably be friendlier toward people who paid $93 just to be there for the day.
In the net, I loved Heavenly. The price is silly, but the views were awesome, the tree-skiing was fun, and there were plenty of places to roam even without entering California. Just for the price, I can’t imagine going there more than once a year, but next time I’m in Tahoe to ski, it will be on the itinerary.
Headed up skiing to Crystal Mountain with my dad yesterday. I’m guessing I hadn’t been there since some time before 2000 (the year). Um.
Here are some facts so that I can list here in order to break up the photos:
- It was a beautiful, sunny day.
- Got up to maybe the mid-30′s, warm enough to soften the snow, cold enough that it never turned to slush.
- Even though it hasn’t snowed up there in a week or whatever.
- It was really clear, no clouds in any direction. You could see Adams, St. Helens, the Olympics, and even Rainier.
It feels like the top of the world up there. It’s also a little windy.
So then I spent most of the day skiing Green Valley. There weren’t crowds anywhere on the mountain, but there were especially no crowds in Green Valley. They have an express lift there now. I don’t know how long it’s been there. I could probably find out on the Internet.
Presumably the caution was due to the presence of snow, a slope, and good visibility.
- It’s sort of funny what constitutes an Intermediate run here vs. Pennsylvania. A lot of Crystal’s blues are steep enough to be double-black at Seven Springs (probably just black at Blue Knob).
- And I sort of forgot how steep Crystal was just in general. Eastern skiing has already Stockholm Syndromed me I guess.
There’s also a gondola there now. It starts at the bottom (by the ticket booths, kind of below the lodge) and ends essentially next to the old #2 (Rainier Express to those living in the now). Here are three photos that include the gondola:
I’ve always been fond of those photos that make the gondola look like it’s flying at 30,000 feet.
The view looking up Middle Ferks.
The gondola seems kind of under-utilized from a skiing perspective. It makes for a very long run, though, going top-to-bottom. Plus it costs an extra $8 on the lift ticket. I dunno. Neither Stowe nor Whiteface charged extra for their gondola. It doesn’t seem like the resorts’ cost-benefit analyses should actually be different.
- I remembered Crystal having a lot more signs telling you what run you were getting on. There aren’t very many of them, which is probably fine, just that there are a few places where a person might get himself in trouble through lack of knowledge.
- It was fun re-visiting sites of childhood trauma (top of 2, middle of Deerfly).
- The walk in from the parking lot is still punishing.
- Not to say that Crystal is some sort of great vlue or anything, but it’s kind of surprising that this place costs so much less than Stowe ($74 w/ gondola vs. $92).
- The pizza slice was pretty small for $4.50 and $6.50 for a cup of chili seemed exorbitant. The $3 fries were a relatively good value though.
That’s probably good enough.
My hotel was located about six miles away from the Smuggler’s Notch ski resort going by way of Highway 108. The state of Vermont closes Highway 108 between Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch during winter. Ergo, it took me about an hour to get there via the great circle route. Not a bad drive, just a little silly.
From the top of Smuggler’s Notch you can see Mt. Mansfield and some of the runs at the Stowe resort 4 miles or 70 minutes away.
So anyway. As a ski resort, Smuggler’s Notch is kind of a locals-oriented place. Not that I didn’t meet plenty of French-Canadian snowboarders, but still, it doesn’t try to be a big destination resort. Which is sort of a good thing. One of its charms, though, is that it only has old-school, slow double chairs:
On the other hand, at least it’s not a single-chair, right? ‘Cuz nowhere would have one of those any more.
The day I was there was warm (50+ degrees) and sunny. Snow conditions ranged from spotty to slushy, though it should be noted that in the continuum that exists in my mind there’s some decent snow between spotty and slushy. Maybe just not a lot of it.
Also, this is the friendliest resort I’ve ever been to. Maybe it was the weather and the fact that the lifts are slow enough that lines develop at them resulting in no one being allowed to go up the lift solo, but whatever: everyone I sat next to on the lift wanted to talk. I met:
- A guy who sold his landscaping business in Massachusetts to move to Vermont and now works for the parks department somewhere.
- A guy who told his boss, who’s from Tennessee, that he shouldn’t bother trying to keep his car clean in the winter and that he better get used to employees coming in late whenever there’s a decent overnight snowfall.
- A woman whose best friend lives in Pittsburgh and who regrets the fact that USAir no longer flies non-stop from BTV to PIT.
- A French-Canadian teenager who has been to more major league ballparks than I have and who takes joy in hating on the Canadiens.
- A guy whose daughter is big into whitewater kayaking and is taking a month-long trip down the Colorado River this month.
- A guy who denigrates Jay Peak (another ski resort) because it’s too close to Canada and, thus, draws too many Canadians (he refers to it as “Eh Peak”). I’m still not sure as to what the appropriate number of Canadians at a ski resort would be.
- Other people.
It was a fun day. Tried skiing in the glades a little bit, which was kind of different. A few of the decent slopes had enough snow on them to go down. The atmosphere was as laid back as I’ve experienced at a ski resort. Cool place I’d be happy to check out again some time.
Skiing Stowe was expensive and nice. Great weather, they take care of the mountain well, tons of parking right next to the lifts (!!), lifts go to useful places, many (long) runs of varying description, etc. Locals seem to dislike it because it doesn’t offer them any in-state discounts. Fair enough, but the discounts for out-of-staters aren’t great either, but I got over it.
Top of Mt. Mansfield (Vermont’s highest point!) from the top of the Stowe quad.
Looking up the gondola lift-line.
Chute full of moguls somewhere at the bottom of the hill.
I think this run (“Hayride”?) is less flat than it looks.
View across the top of the ski hill from the quad to the gondola.
So that’s what it looks like. Sunny weather and the snow was surprisingly good everywhere. What else?
- I think the locals also don’t like it because Stowe doesn’t let skiers ski in the woods. That’s usually sort of a thing in the northeast.
- Stowe moves a lot of people up the hill, but the slopes never seem crowded and there were never any serious lines. The place feels smaller than it is. IMHO. In a good way.
- A lot of French-speaking Canadians. Again.
- The resort has two different sides to it with a gondola connecting the two sides (by crossing the parking lot and the highway). The other side is kind of lame though.
- Although it seemed odd to me that the lame side is the one with all the condos and shops.
- The lodges on the non-lame side seem a little more rustic than you’d expect at a ski resort that charges $92 a day.
- Skiing on the quad is more challenging/interesting than skiing on the gondola.
- The bacon cheeseburger in the cafeteria was overpriced. That probably would’ve gone without saying.
- At the top of the gondola they have a waffle stand, but I did not buy a waffle.
Had a great day here. Would gladly return. $92 (or $78 pre-purchase through Liftopia) is steep, but if you’re going to drive 12 hours to go skiing, I mean, you know. May as well.
First night of the trip I stayed in Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks in New York. Thought the place was cool when I was there in the fall of ’09 on my road trip (e.g., this 48stateroadtrip post), so was stoked to be back up there. Took about nine hours from my house in Pittsburgh to the Best Western in Saranac Lake.
One of the best things about that part of the country is its complete lack of pretension. Saranac Lake is a lake-based tourist town, but it doesn’t come off acting like it. Which I appreciate. For whatever reason.
So that’s about what the place looks like. Also they had icicles like this:
Which were pretty awesome. All we get in Pittsburgh are straight, boring ones.
I suppose it’s a good thing it was icy, otherwise I’d feel like I hadn’t had the true Whiteface Mountain experience. “Iceface” being the nickname. It rhymes (sort of) and, therefore, is true. Also it’s icy there.
New York, Adirondacks. Near Lake Placid. It’s where they did all the skiing events for the 1980 Olympics. Steep, stupid pretty, stunningly cold, and firm.
Whiteface summit. The olympic downhill course started here. I tried it. It was steep. And icy.
Heading up-lift toward the summit.
Whiteface summit (highest point in New York!) taken from the top of the gondola.
Lake Placid taken from the top of the summit lift.
Inside the Gondola with French-speaking Canadians. The French-Canadians seem to need to talk (to each other) a lot.
Au Sable River at the bottom of Whiteface Mountain. You cross this to get from the parking lot to the lodge.
I guess that’s enough photos. Whatever. Some bullet points because they’re easier than paragraphs:
- -2 at the bottom, -12 at the top. Degrees Fahrenheit.
- Firm at the beginning of the day, firm at the end of the day.
- “Firm” means “icy”.
- Just about had frostbite from driving there. Switched hands on the steering wheel every 30 seconds so I could keep the other one inside my coat. Apparently it takes more than half an hour for my car’s heater to start working.
- I had never skied from a gondola before. It’s warmer than the normal chair lift.
- Tons of French-Canadians.
- The cafeteria chili wasn’t very good.
- I got my lift ticket for $25.75 off of Liftopia. Regular price is $79. BKD ftw. For once.
- I caught an edge on the downhill course and ended up sliding on my belly for about half a mile. It was steep. And slick.
I imagine a little snow and about 15 degrees warmer would make this place great. If only.
And then I woke up. Ended up hiking up to September Morn lake (decent climb!). It’s a cool lake and would’ve been a better place to camp (better sites) if not for the fact that it’s another two (three?) miles from Keyser Brown and another 1,000+ feet in elevation climb. Das Leben ist ja schwer.
Morning reflections in Keyser Brown.
September Morn Lake, where I presume Neil Diamond danced until the night became a brand new day.
A 12-inch brookie I caught there.
A 120-inch brook I crossed there.
View of Keyser Brown and First Lake from the trail above.
First Rock Lake (with rocks).
Big Thunder Mountain.
- Should have spent more time fishing at September Morn.
- Not having a working watch is hard.
- Had serious line problems, but was able to salvage enough to jam knot a couple strands together for fishing up at September Morn.
- Then lost most of the rest of my line hiking back from First Lake and, thus, was out of the game.
- There was a nice fishing hole for nine-inch cutts at the bottom of a cascade between First Rock and Keyser Brown. I thought someone should know.
PS, More SEO fodder in the title. Sorries.
I’m just gonna throw a bunch of photos up. Two nights, two days essentially. Park up in British Columbia, borders Jasper; Mt. Robson is the tallest peak in the Canadian Rockies iirc. Iffy weather. Photos.
Highway 16 running through Mt. Robson Provincial Park (Fraser River at left).
The goat welcomes, the clouds warn.
You can ride your bike for the first 3.5 miles -- but no further.
Bridge over Robson River near Kinney Lake in-flow.
Lunch-time view from the shelter at the Whitehorn campground.
Whitehorn Mountain and the Robson River: the money shot.
Same place, other money shot.
Photo of the Falls of the Pool
View from the Emperor Falls campground.
Berg Lake and Berg Glacier from the trail up Toboggan Falls.
Mt. Robson and Mist Glacier and clouds.
Outflow from Berg Lake.
It's sort of like the waterfall is dreaming of the mountain. It used to live there after all.
The bottom of the steep part.
The river below Kinney Lake.
- Camped first night at Whitehorn, second night at Emperor Falls.
- There are a lot of people backpacking in this area. Many are friendly. It’s supposedly the most popular back country trail in all of Canada.
- It was way less crowded than Banff/Jasper.
- Very nice, very well-maintained camp sites — there are pads with bark and benches and stuff.
- Have to make reservations a month or so in advance.
- Took my point-and-shoot camera, which doesn’t do well with bad lighting; i.e., it’s prettier than these pics make it look.
- On second day hiked up to Emperor Falls, set up camp, walked down to Lake… eh, I forget. Some lake on the Jasper side of the line. Then hiked up Toboggan Falls (probably worth it), then went back to camp and played solitaire.
- Mountain House Chicken Teriyaki is pretty good.
- The two miles between Whitehorn and Emperor Falls is the steep part, but you pass by three big waterfalls, which sort of breaks up the horror.
- The first three miles (to Kinney Lake) is a tourist hike. I saw a Mennonite family biking up to the lake (the women were wearing dresses, it was sort of cool).
- I think the weather there is usually iffy.
- I don’t like breakfast.
- A&W in Canada (the restaurant) is awesome. Just really, really awesome. No joke.
Banff and Jasper are the ultimate in drive-up outdoorsmanship. So few reasons to go more than a hundred yards from your car, all packed into a 200-mile highway. It’s brilliant in its way.
Emerald Lake in Yoho NP -- so I shouldn't blame Banff/Jasper for this one.
And this guy was in Kootenay NP -- but still.
And so was this -- but all the rivers look the same there anyway.
This is Marble Canyon, but there isn't even any real marble there.
Another interchangeable river view (Bow River, Banff NP).
The mountain peaks are likewise interchangeable.
Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefield, the ultimate drive-up glacier experience.
Athabasca Falls, which is mostly covered by a highway overpass.
Maligne Lake + Bad Lighting = Tourist Nirvana.
Maligne Canyon and by trying to get as few tourists in the shot as possible I totally missed the story.
And when I finally left Jasper for the last time, heading west into the unknown wilds of Mt. Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia, it was with a profound sense of relief.