Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Zander: Late snow extended his ski season; to West during storm, to Vt’s Stratton Sunday

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

Spring’s official arrival brought the best ski days of the year.

I had all but given up on getting back on the mountain this season — until sitting in my apartment Saturday morning.

Big snow. I gotta go to West, I decided.

I’d never skied fresh powder before. Or skied during a snowstorm.

I drove to West Mountain by myself in the midst of our 18-inch pounding, and took the chair straight to the top.

I’d gotten light advice from friends. But I’ll admit it. I was unprepared.

People aren’t kidding. ‘Pow’ is DIFFERENT. I wiped out immediately.

I got up in a foot and a half of fresh snow. And wiped out again. I had barely gotten started. I thought to myself — can I actually get down this mountain?

It was the most man vs. nature feeling I’ve ever had. Legitimately stressful — also exhilarating.

I — no joke — searched how to ski fresh powder on Youtube and threw it on one of my Airpods while I skied.

I fell several more times. At one point, my ski fell off as I fell past it. I had to poke around for a minute searching for it.

But Mother Nature didn’t defeat me. I learned some tricks on the way down.

It was a workout, and a thrill.

Plus other people were wiping out everywhere. So I didn’t feel so bad.

It whet my appetite for more.

The next day I went to Stratton for the first time — for the best day of skiing I’ve ever had. I met up with friends at the Vermont mountain Sunday morning.

Parking was a catastrophe. Stratton had not cleared Lot 2. Waiting in a line of over 100 cars for the Sun Bowl Lot, we were told to return to Lot 2, which was being cleared of snow as we pulled in.

We lost over an hour of time.

Approaching Stratton, I was a bit nervous after my first powder experience.

But that was quickly dispelled.

Stratton was not groomed, but the powder was much more manageable than the virgin snow of West.

I got a tip to put my weight on my heels — riding on top of the snow instead of carving hard through it.

My mom had kept telling me “lean back!” but I found that was really only part of the technique needed.

The first few runs I was still getting the hang of it. But when we turned down Upper Wanderer — it all changed.

It’s a narrow, winding trail. Pure powder, large snow banks, riding on the walls around corners.

Such elation. The most thrilling ski run of my life. I understand why people are addicted to the West Coast powder.

I love socializing on the Gondola — the region’s best public transport.

A Boston University senior was complaining about competitiveness of grad school applications. She’s going to Oxford.

We kept getting more challenging. On to the Black Diamond Upper Tamarack.

You have to think out where you’re going when you’re on powder, I learned.

But you also have to be flexible and ready to adjust, especially as the day goes on and trails get a little uneven.

The Diamonds, filled with moguls, presented thrilling and exhausting challenges. Total mind engagement required.

It reminded me of my years of doing improv comedy in Los Angeles — it was the same feeling of risks and stimulations.

We spent the day on Stratton — far longer than we had planned. It was great.

We took one last run, even though we were tired. It was probably a mistake.

Get My Drift was in rough shape. The narrow, steep portion was completely filled with rough moguls.

I wiped out. Got up. Wiped out. Legs, feet, exhausted from a day on fresh snow.

At one point I looked up at Mother Nature, and at the trees and the stunning view and asked, “Have you defeated me?”

Then I watched two kids wipe out next to me and stand up, laughing.

I clicked my boots in and got myself down the mountain, uninjured. And then I got a nice big coffee and a bag of M&Ms.

Skiing pow is fun.

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