Brattleboro Cross-Country Confidential

 

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4/3 — Brattleboro: BOC trails . . .

. . . but not exactly the BOC trails, which are long gone (& there has been no grooming after that weird April Fools snowstorm a couple of days ago). Today the golf course is basically . . . a golf course, but with a thinning blanket of dense, soggy, sno-coney crust on the fairways, & in a strange way all this made for something like real back-country cross-country skiing, where there are no established trails so you choose your course based mainly on avoiding obstacles — in this case, the roped-off greens, more than a few patches of bare ground, & deepening pools of slush. Given those constraints, the skiing was surprisingly okayish — nice & grippy on the uphills, slow on the downhills. A very pleasant way to spend an hour on a sunny spring afternoon.

This was probably the last day of skiing at BOC this season. The rest of the week is supposed to be rainy, with rising temps, so . . . that’s all, folks!

B

 

4/1 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro

April Fools! Just when you thought the ski season was over, a leftover snowstorm snuck into town last night & stayed for nearly 24 hours, never quite turning to rain like the forecasters said it would. So, yay! I clipped into my skis at about 6:00 p.m. (what a rare treat: cocktail-hour skiing!) & set out for a few more turns around the ol’ hayfield, but . . . April Fools! The stuff on the ground, about six inches deep, wasn’t even snow, not really — more like dough, as heavy & dense as Portland cement just before it sets up. The first circuit was murder, a joyless slog, as though gravity had been unaccountably doubled. But . . . April Fools yet again! Once I’d set tracks, the skiing was pretty much like . . . actual skiing, except that any maneuvering outside the tracks was prit’ near impossible. On a not-so-hilly open hayfield this is fine; up in the woods on the hill behind the house, skiing would be suicidal in these conditions.

So, one last little April Fools Day joke of a ski — a suitable coda for a weird winter . . .

B

 

3/26 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro

Amazingly skiable snow, considering that, in the two weeks or so since it fell in such abundance, it’s been blasted by the wind, melted by the sun, frozen by frigid Arctic air, rained on, melted again, & frozen again. The quarter-inch dusting we got a couple of days ago has put a decent, sno-coney surface on the crust, & the overcast skies today make for uniformly soft, skiable snow . . . wherever there is snow. This may well be the last day of skiing this season (heavy rain in the forecast for tomorrow), so there’s a melancholy sweetness to taking a few laps around the hayfield right here where the ski season began in mid-December. Forty ski days since then — not so bad, not so bad at all . . .

Springtime in Vermont: mud season, & then black flies, here we come. Then summer, then fall . . . or as old-time Vermonters say, six months of bad sledding.

B+

 

3/23 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The calendar & the thermometer promised spring skiing in the 30s . . . but the wind was cold, & the skiing conditions were, well, pretty brutal — there’s still a lot more white stuff than bare ground, but what last week was snow got soft in the warm air earlier this week & then froze hard yesterday & never really softened up again today, so the one groomed trail (Lower Heartthrob, groomed yesterday just because) was mighty icy: hard work getting any traction uphill, hard work staying alive downhill. A good day for metal edges. I guess that I get the Diehard Award today — nobody else signed in.

B–

 

3/20 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Just like yesterday, but the warm-weather (50-something) deterioration of the trails continues apace — more bare spots, more soft-to-the-point-of-collapsing spots, more icy-in-the-shade spots. Today is officially the first day of spring, so this is officially spring skiing. Meaning: timing is everything! On “seasonably” warm, sunny days like this, the best conditions can be had, I’m guessing, at about 11:00 a.m. & 4:20 p.m., especially the latter — otherwise it’s just too icy or, around midday, too slushy. It’s been great to have this late-season skiing, but the fact remains that there’s no base at all, that your pole tips often strike hard ground, or mud, or asphalt, & that spring is here. . . .

B

 

3/19 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The trails were actually pretty good today, considering that (1) there was no base left by the time the snow returned last week, & (2) the past couple of days have gotten warm again — today must have been around 50, & sunny. Okay, so it’s spring skiing, so we ski in shirtsleeves. The trails were soft to the point of mooshy in places where the sun shone all day; they were frozen firm & fast in places that may have melted in the sunshine earlier but, by late afternoon, were back in shade; they were still kind of, well, snowy in places, in the woods, that get no direct sunshine at all. In these conditions the trails deteriorate pretty quickly, so there are bare spots, thin spots, slushy spots, icy spots, & groovy spots (not in the good sense, but in the rutted sense) . . . but overall, this was probably the last day of pretty good conditions as the returning warmth & sunshine take their toll.

Better get out there while the gettin’s good — warmth & sunshine may not be so great for the snow, but they’re great for people who like to play outside!

B+

 

3/17 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

I met up with Barb B.-T. at midday to enjoy yet another day in the afterglow of the nor’easter, with the snow still fresh, the sky still blue, the temps still just barely cold enough to keep the thaw-freeze cycle at bay. The gomers had been hard at work setting about half the BOC trail system, laying down plenty of classic tracks & corduroy skate lanes, all of them still all but pristine, hardly used yet at all. Super-consistent, buttery-smooth surface, great for uphill grip, downhill slide, & lots of balletic stride-&-glide in between — the kind of conditions that make you feel like the finest skier in the world. We made a big loop: up Sugarin’, & then, finding Faithful & Dunham Loop still ungroomed, back to the machine tracks, down Dipsy Doo, up & down the hills of Curvy Wurvy, & then, as the big payoff, the l-o-n-g, fast run down Cardiac Arrest followed by a gentle, dreamlike glide down Lower Heartthrob back to the parking lot. This is why we ski . . .

A

 

3/16 — West Brattleboro: Bonnyvale trails

Steve C. & I took to the hill at about noon — what a pleasure that the tracks I set two days earlier were still perfect, & the weather was still perfect, clear skies, temp in the mid-20s . . . perfect. We broke a lot of new ?ground,? made a loop of about three miles altogether: all the way up to South Street, along the old logging road on the ridge southward, & then more or less straight back down through the trees, with plenty of deep, pillowy powder to slow us down & preserve our necks.

A

 

3/15 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

As soon as the twenty-four-hour nor’easter finally gave way to brilliantly clear blue skies, the great BOC gomers managed to begin setting some classic tracks on a Greatest Hits of the BOC trail system: Sugarin’, Whoa Nelly, Upper Heartthrob, Lower Heartthrob. By the time I got there, at about noon, the tracks were still pristine & the snow prit’ near perfect — buttery soft. Far from the full complement of BOC trails, true, but what there was, as Spencer Tracy is said to have said of Katharine Hepburn, was cherce.

A

 

3/14 — West Brattleboro: Bonnyvale trails

Nothing like a nice, bracing late-winter blizzard to lift a despondent skier’s spirits! With just about all the December-January-February snow long gone, & all hope for the winter gone with it, suddenly a nor’easter blew into Vermont with nearly continuous heavy snowfall all day long. Nothing finer for honest-to-God, back-country skiing than a forest under a foot of fresh snow. Heading uphill through the trees into deep, dense powder was a hard, happy slog; gliding back down the trail I’d just so laboriously tracked was glorious, like dancing on a cloud. Lovely!

A

 

2/28 — West Brattleboro: Miller Road

Yet another February day in the 50s — mud season weather, April weather. I walked up Bonnyvale & then Miller Road, past the fast-receding tracks that Steve C. & I left behind just last week, when the thaw was already underway. Now the fields are half open — half bare ground, half melting patches of snow. February in Vermont: we used to call it winter.

Tonight President Trump will stand before the Congress &, I suppose, remind his followers that global warming is a Chinese hoax, & at least half of those present will leap to their feet, applauding wildly & slapping each other on the back — That’ll show those lib’rals!

Sad.

F

 

2/22 — West Brattleboro: Miller Road trails

It was so sunny & warm this afternoon that I didn’t even think of skiing, but Steve C. called me up & suggested that we give the Miller Road trails a try — & even with temps in the 50s, the snow conditions were surprisingly okay: dense but soft on the surface (sno-cone / mashed potatoes), good for grip & glide, lousy for maneuverability. A rare day when sharp metal edges were a distinct disadvantage — with turning so difficult, downhill runs were a matter of pointing the skis & hoping for the best. We made our way to Herman’s Field (named for Herman the Hermit, former denizen of these parts), where Steve practiced his telemark turns while I practiced pratfalls & flop stops, & then we toasted a fine Vermont sunset & spring skiing in February. Who’da thunk!

A

 

2/20 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

What a difference a day makes . . . or rather, several days of “unseasonably high temperatures” (in the high 40s & even up into the 50s). There’s still plenty of snow on the ground, & no bare spots so far, but the melting has been substantial. I arrived much too late — just after 5:00 — & the trails were icing up. They were already pretty shopworn after getting some heavy usage on the weekend (with particularly deep ruts left by that one certain skate-skier — you know who you are!), & so, with no new grooming since Friday morning, the trails were all but unskiable. Okay, I thought, I’ll just ski off-trail on the crust . . . but it wasn’t quite thick & hard enough to support my weight, & kept collapsing under me. Not much of an outing.

The temps are supposed to stay warm, with rain & — God help us! — freezing rain in the next few days. I’m afraid there’ll be no more skiing in what’s left of February, folks!

C

 

2/19 — Putney: Hickory Ridge trail

I never knew about this before: a beautifully groomed, single-track trail running more or less parallel with Hickory Ridge Road, starting (I think) at Putney Student Travel & going all the way up over the hill & down to Westminster West (I’m told). We had a jolly little party of Lynne W., Billy S., Lisa P., Marti S., & me. Lots of data: thanks to my watch, I know that we arrived at about 11:15 a.m.; thanks to an app on Billy’s phone, I know that we went 3.2 miles; & thanks to a thermometer, I know that the air temp was over 50 degrees. This is supposed to be Vermont in February! We stripped down to shirtsleeves & had a great time, especially in the trees & out of the sunny sections where it was too damn hot. (Did I mention that this is supposed to be February? In Vermont?) Marti, a great lover of summer & beaches, gave the outing an A+. Me, I’m more a February kind of guy, so . . .

A–

 

2/18 — West Brattleboro: Bonnyvale trails

The trick today was timing: there’s a whole lot of snow up there on the hill, but the forecast called for “unseasonably warm” temps — in the 40s — which would turn the snow to goop by mid-afternoon. So Barb B.-T. & I headed up the hill at about 10:30, & that turned out to be just about right. The snow was still snow in the shady places in the forest, & it was getting a little soft & sticky in the open places in the hayfields . . . but overall, still pretty damn great in the hours before those “unseasonably warm” temperatures hit.

A

 

2/17 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Wow, what a difference a couple of weeks can make — if more than a foot of fresh snow falls in that time. The gomers have served up a feast of all that snow, with all trails expertly groomed in one way or another — snowmobiled, rolled with the four-foot roller, rolled with the six-foot roller, &/or tracked for classic. This is the BOC trail system in its full glory, the way God intended. I got there at about 3:30 in the afternoon, leery about the warm temps in the forecast, but instead I found nice mid-30s temps & all that fine, fresh snow with very little meltage, driftage, or freezage. Good thing that the parking lot is at the bottom of the hill: the air temp was cooling down but still warm enough to make the surface ever-so-slightly sticky as I made my way up (good for grippage), & then, after 4:00, it was getting firm & fast as I whooshed back down. Whee-e-e-e . . . !

A

 

2/15 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro

The thing about a New England winter: always some new & sometimes weird combination of moisture & temperature. This morning it was pretty cold, below 20, with a gorgeous light snowfall, a couple inches of super-fluffy crystals that formed a kind of three-dimensional lace on top of the foot-plus of snow already on the ground. And then it got warm, high 30s. The result was a strange, sticky foam-snow — even with a fresh coating of Maxiglide on my ski bottoms, I still had to keep scuffing my skis on the tracks to clear the buildup. One of those days when I have to keep reminding myself how much I love this, how great it is to be out playing in the snow. . . .

B

 

2/14 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro

The wind stopped, I could get out there & resume the work of once again resetting tracks — plod, plod, plod the first time around, & the happy payoff of getting to ski on those tracks. More snow is in the forecast for tomorrow: this is shaping up as a real Vermont winter after all. The immortal Brattleboro Reformer headline of a few years ago — “Let Is Snow, Let Is Snow, Let Is Snow!” — makes for a lousy chant (did they fire all the copyeditors to save money?), but there’s always the great Woodstock chant: No Rain No Rain No Rain . . . !

A–

 

2/13 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro

How I would have loved another day of the magic powder — but the wind was howling all day long, & all that beautiful powder was swirling this way & that, & it might as well have been Wyoming out there. By the time I got out, in the last hour of late-afternoon light, just about all my trails from the days previous had been obliterated by the blowing snow, which gets packs itself more densely when it resettles after being blown around, getting especially dense near the top — a kind of proto-crust, even if the day stays cold & there’s no melting. The first time around, each of my loops was a real slog through drifts so deep that sometimes my skis disappeared altogether for several strides as they bashed along like a pair of navy ice-breakers bashing doggedly through Arctic sea-ice. Hard work! But I did allow myself the payoff of skiing back over the newly remade tracks — actually skiing, the second time around, not bashing. And skiing’s why we do this.

B

 

2/12 — West Brattleboro: Henar Vecino, Henar Nuestro

Another couple of inches of light powder fell this morning, & the snowfields were silent & lovely, & the skiing was just like yesterday — beyond perfection, magical. I won’t jinx it by saying more . . .

A+

 

2/11 — Chesterfield, NH: Madame Sherri’s Forest; West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro

One of those rare, magical ahhh. . . days after ten inches of fresh powder two days ago, then a fair amount of wind-driven driftage yesterday, & then — hallelujah! — another three or four inches of fresh powder last night, temps holding steady in the twentyish range. Festivities commenced early this morning: my good buddy Anne L. took me to Madame Sherri’s forest & we snapped on our skis & set out on a mission: hunt down the ice gripper that, on a full-moon hike last night, seems to have slipped off her boot somewhere on the trail, sometime soon after one of her companions may or may not have seen a catmount sliding through the trees (I have my doubts, but I love the wish that gives rise to the spectre). After skiing along for just five minutes or so, I spotted something poking up out of the fresh snow — it was indeed the Lost Gripper of Chesterfield. Mission accomplished! We then set out on the Anne Stokes trail, which hadn’t been hiked or skied on since the past few “snow events” — so we were in for real cross-country skiing, breaking trail through the trees on a pillow of fresh powder, stepping over a few little rills that trickle down the hill, then gliding back down over our track for the well-earned payoff — magic.

Then back to Bonnyvale, where I reset the Henar Nuestro trails & added a bunch of new variations, all the while thinking about the archeology of a New England winter, how the layers under my skis tell their story of the winter so far, the sequence of snow, rain, warmth, more snow, freezing rain, sleet, more snow, wind, more snow . . . a backward chronology that you press down with your skis & poke through, layer by layer, with your poles. I only meant to be out there for a half hour or so . . . but the time seems to have gotten away from me in that wonderful timeless way of a perfect snow day . . . & now, even after a couple hours of that already, I’m fixing to head out for a little more, just a half hour this time, I swear . . . no, really . . .

[late in the evening] I’m still in the afterglow of my third ski of this wonderful day — this time skiing by the light of the one-day-past-full moon, with the snow sparkling around me like an ocean of stars. Isn’t this why we live in Vermont?

A+

 

2/7 — West Brattleboro: Henar Vecino

Weird — it got too warm to ski for a few days, a lot of melting, & then it got cold, leaving the trails (& all the surrounding snow as well) petrified, treacherous, all but unskiable, & then, today, it sleeted four of five inches. So . . . sleet skiing, eh? . . . well, that’s a thing, & I headed out to BOC, only to find a NO SKIING sign — presumably because of needing to protect the groomed trails from the rain & warm temps looming in the forecast. But still, at least for the moment there was still all that sleet just lying there, minding its own business, so back to Bonnyvale I went. In order to get Trooper outside & staying put where he could see me, I got him parked on the driveway & then headed up into the Henar Vecino loop next-door. The sleet was the consistency of sand, or salt, & it went swish-swish-swish as I plowed through it — weird, & yet perfectly skiable, sleet on a hard-frozen base, & the sleet was still coming down & that too was weird because it sounded like steady rain as it hit the trees & my jacket & cap, but with sleet you don’t get wet & you barely even see it, a steady sprinkling of ice crystals the size of salt crystals, the size of grains of sand . . .

A–

 

2/2 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The same as yesterday, prit near . . . but a bit warmer, a few degrees, just enough to soften the surface ever so slightly . . . to the extent that it got me thinking about the connoisseurship of cross-country skiing, about becoming more & more sensitive to ever-finer nuances of snow conditions, which become ever more fascinating to an ever-shrinking number of fellow obsessives . . .

A–

 

2/1 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Ah, back in the saddle again after a lengthy hiatus. Kinda-sorta weird conditions out at BOC today: with all the pre-existing January snow frozen hard underneath, there was also an inch of nice, fluffy fresh stuff sprinkled on top, & then, just to make things a bit weirder, warm, above-freezing temps this afternoon. The result was a slightly sticky but perfectly skiable surface, though you had to be mindful of the ice just beneath the powder. Given that the crust alongside the trails (that is, everywhere but the trails) was frozen as hard as the packed trail base, & given further that the trails themselves hadn’t been groomed since the fresh snow fell this morning, & so were pretty choppy with the petrified traces of the skiers who used the trails the last time it was fairly warm . . . yes, given all that, today the skiing was actually pretty good just to the side of the trails, wherever that was possible. Which is to say: not so very bad at all.

B+

 

1/16 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Pretty much ditto last time: again the gomers have scratched up a fast, skiable surface, sno-cone corduroy on a rock-hard base, ideal for ski-skaters & quite doable for classic skiers with metal-edged skis. Good timing helps: when it’s icy like this, midday or early afternoon is best — softens up the surface a bit, gives the skis that much more bite.

None of these niceties, I’ll bet, mean a damn thing to Brattleboro Union High School’s championship-caliber nordic ski team, which was out on the trail today, whipping past me like some kind of spandex wind. Man, can these kids ski! Skate-ski, that is, & they’re out there training every day, whether the conditions favor skating, as now, or real classic cross-country on fresh, ungroomed snow . . . & even then, they still whip past me like a spandex wind!

B

 

1/14 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

After a couple days of rain & warm temps & now back to real January cold, we probably ought to have grade-F skiing conditions today . . . but our genius BOC gomers have managed to scratch up a couple of amazingly skiable loops, a mile or two of fast, crazy ski lane, a thin layer of sno-cone over an icy base, with some patches of bare rock ice & even some bare ground to make your way around somehow, pronto. Ski-skaters should love this! For classic syle, these are conditions that reward sharp edges & sharper skills — beginners, just stay home & watch football (or whatever it is that non-skiers do in wintertime).

B

 

1/10 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Fearing a truly ugly forecast for tomorrow — heavy rain, temps nearing 50 — I made a quick circuit of our exquisitely groomed trails out at BOC. The gomers have made the best of the two light snowfalls of the past few days, & laid down a nice, perfectly skiable corduroy on top of the hard-frozen base. There are some thin spots, a few icy patches, & the predictable tree debris on the forest trails, but still — we get to ski here. Thanks, gomers!

A–

 

1/9 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro, Henar Vecino

The local tracks, rained on last week & now frozen hard with temps below zero at night & only up to about 10 degrees at noon, ought to be all but unskiable — but there’s yet another half-inch layer of fresh powder that makes for surprisingly okayish conditions. Yesterday I walked the woods trails off Bonnyvale with my grippers on to check things out, & came across a young woman skiing like an old pro. “Oh, you must have klister on,” I said — to which she replied, “What’s ‘klisteron’?”

Ah, klisteron — the primordial goo from the all-but-forgotten, pre-fish-scale past! You can find it on an old periodic table, in the column of elements that react with prit-near everything — your hands, your gloves, your jeans . . .

A–

 

1/7 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The rain on our lanes has drained mainly to the plains, we’re back to nice, chilly January temps, & the gomers have had the morning to work their customary magic on the trails — so it’s time to head back to BOC. Good but not great conditions: cold temps (10ish), trails frozen hard with very thin coverage in spots, & the surface would be treacherously icy were it not for a half-inch of crumbly stuff on top & a quarter-inch more of the light snow that fell last night. (My dad, a son of Minnesota, would have called this a “skiff” of snow. Does anybody in New England ever use that term?) I saw a gaggle of newbies really struggling to make forward progress . . . but they were laughing, so they just might get the bug. For grizzled vets, though, it was a good day to be a good skier.

A–

 

1/4 — West Brattleboro: Bonnyvale trails

No skiing today — even though the weather has turned cold again, yesterday’s yuck (rain, drizzle, freezing drizzle . . . did someone say “freezing drizzle”? Yuck.) has ruined the ski tracks until we get some fresh snow on them, so it’s snowshoeing time — a good-enough way to get around in the woods, & that’s something . . . but it just ain’t skiing.

 

1/2 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro, Henar Vecino

Ditto yesterday’s report — aren’t we lucky that the perfect New Year’s conditions have hung around for one more day! And what a pleasure to see the proliferation of tracks connecting all the local hayfields with the trails in the forest. After all these years of mostly skiing on groomed trails out at BOC, I like being reminded that cross-country skiing is essentially all about . . . crossing country. Good thing I’ve got those nice, fat back-country skis. No skating on pencil-thin skis through all that powder in the woods!

Well, enjoy it while you can, folks — tomorrow’s forecast is all-day rain, with temps in the 40s. Yuck.

A

 

1/1/17 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro, Henar Vecino

Last night, as 2016 finally expired at the stroke of midnight, a light snow was falling — & we woke up to the first dawn of 2017 & yet another couple inches of nice, fluffy snow on the considerable base we’d already built up . . . last year. So this afternoon, sunny clear & windless, temp a little above freezing, the snow was close to perfect, & a great way to greet a carload of friends who happened to show up on their way from one party to another. Sharon S. & Ellen K. strapped themselves into snowshoes & headed up into the wooded hill between Bonnyvale Road & South Street; meanwhile Joe P. & I had a fine old time skiing the hayfields on the tracks that my neighbors & I have been laying down over the past several days.

What a great way to start 2017 — Happy New Year!

A

 

12/31/16 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro, Henar Vecino

We’re not even out of 2016 yet but we’ve already had a whole winter in miniature: plenty of snow, some mighty cold days, Wyoming-like winds, a couple of thaws, rain ruining our playground, & an ice storm thrown in for bad measure. So how nice see out the Old Year with a good foot of snow on the ground, a couple more inches of fresh powder, & just-right temps in the 20s. After a couple of spins around the go-kart track, I parked Trooper in front of the house where he could keep an eye on me as I circled the neighbor’s hayfield a few times. (Poor old Trooper can’t handle deep snow at all anymore, but he’s happy enough to be outside & lie peaceful & alert in the driveway.)

How great to see all the tracks that are proliferating through the forests & fields around here! Not only do lots of my neighbors ski (turns out), but nobody is paying any attention to property lines — everybody skis everywhere. This is true cross-country skiing — no mechanically groomed trails, just the tracks that go pretty much anywhere that you want to go . . . & if they don’t, well then, you just set out to make some fresh tracks yourself. Life as the Gods of Snow intended!

Here’s to Trooper & the rest of us finding our footing in ’17 — Let’s make skiing great again! (Uh, not that it hasn’t been great all along . . . )

A

 

12/30 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro, Bonnyvale trails

More snow fell last night, but by midday the sun was out & the wind was blasting — real Wyoming conditions. The trails I tracked yesterday out on the open field had all been obliterated by drifting by the time I got out today in the early afternoon. But then the wind died down, leaving conditions that can only be called excellent: plenty of fresh snow (& freshly redistributed by the wind), temp in the mid-20s. I started out skiing with my nabe, Lissa W., & was trying to follow her tracks into the woods . . . but, it turned out, there were lots of tracks — meaning, lots of people skiing today. Everybody skis around here! All the trails that I explored in the fall are now tracked by skiers, & there are some more trails I never discovered at all before the snow fell. Real cross-country skiing, like God intended — hallelujah!

The forecast calls for a few more fine winter days before another rain / freezing rain horror show next week. What a weirdly wide range of conditions we’ve had already, & it’s not even January yet!

A

 

12/29 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro

An unexpected treat today, almost a miracle — I got to ski with Trooper! After last year’s sad debacle on the BOC trails, when his poor old rear leg gave out & he had to “swim” himself home with just his forelegs, I thought that his skiing days were behind him, & so did the vet. And now he’s got this vestibular disease, so that even when he’s just walking he seems drunk & unsteady on his three pins. But, after a week of rain & warm/cold/warm weather & all manner of shittiness had left the remaining crust thin & all but unskiable, today we did get a nice little storm that dumped eight inches of fresh, heavy powder. Thank you, Gods of Snow!

Sure, the part with Trooper was only skiing the as-yet-unplowed driveway, just an eighth of a mile, & sure, the snow was sticky & slow . .  but Trooper could follow me all the way down to the road & back to the house, & he seemed to love it, & for a few minutes there the good old times were back. That would have been an A+ day right there anyway, but then I slathered a coat of Astroglide on my skis, parked Trooper up by the house, & retracked my little go-kart system in the dusk with the flat light on the snow doing that weird inversion thing (Jesus/Elvis/Jesus/Elvis . . . ) & got some fine stride-’n’-glide in the fresh tracks, & all this, too, was magical . . .

A+

 

12/22 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro

First the good news: more than the predicted “dusting,” this morning’s snowfall laid a very nice couple of inches of fresh powder on top of the crust left behind by the rain four days ago. But the bad news: the crust isn’t quite tough enough to support the weight of, say, one skier — so no March-type crust hopping. I followed the faint, rained-on-&-then-snowed-on trails around my go-kart track of a trail system; the first time around it was breaking trail all over again, harder than before because of having to break through the crust, but once I had a packed track I could zip around quite nicely, thank you very much, & enjoy the fine late-afternoon/early-evening of the shortest day of the year, temp in the mid-30s, not quite warm enough to melt off the snow on the branches of all the trees. We’re welcoming the season in fine Winter Wonderland style — beautiful day to be outside! Now let the light come back, little by little, day by day!

B+

 

12/21 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Woohoo! Excellent conditions — the trails were groomed again this morning, the temp at midday was just right, about 32, for softening the surface just enough, the sky was clear & blue & stretched into forever. After that last lovely snow on Saturday (& despite the Sunday rain), the base is deep enough for the gomers to have set classic tracks alongside the skate lanes, & as near as I can tell the whole system has been rolled at least once. This is why we live here. . . .

It’s weird, this early in the season (in fact, the first official day of Winter, our favorite season!), to have to strategize my skiing time around the temperature as though this were spring skiing with big daily temp fluctuations. Usually the wintertime marriage of clock & thermometer doesn’t unravel until March, so I can ski in the last hour of light, always my favorite time to hit the trail. Now, though, what with Global Climate Change (you know, the Chinese hoax), the temp & the time are as estranged from each other as the Dems & Reps, regardless of time o’ day. Given the present state of the BOC trails, I’d say: try to aim for an hour of great skiing when the air temp is right around freezing, maybe a bit warmer (low-30s). At least for now, we’re already in that spring skiing thing where the porridge can be too hot, or too cold, or — like today at 1:00 pm — just right.

A

 

12/19 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Cold today, just like last week . . . so did we just hallucinate that yesterday it rained & rained & got up into the high 40s? Well, it did, but BOC had the great good sense to close the trails & beg people to stay off them for just one day (little enough to ask, right?), so that they could let the rain drain through the snow before it got cold again this morning & could be regroomed. Amazing work, gomers! They picked their moment just right, & laid down a nice, even surface that would be prit near perfect . . . except for a certain somebody (I have my suspicions) who, evidently, just couldn’t resist skate-skiing in the rain yesterday & leaving deep ruts behind, too deep for the grooming to fix. Otherwise the trails are in good shape, a bit on the icy side late in the afternoon (which occurs, this being late December, early in the afternoon).

A–

 

12/17 — West Brattleboro: Bonnyvale trails

I’ve been exploring the trails between Bonnyvale Road & South Road for a couple of months since moving into the neighborhood, & by now I have a pretty good sense of where the trails are & how they connect . .  but how great to have a longtime local & fellow XC nut, Steve C., take me for a big tour, including some trails & connections I hadn’t found before. And the snow! Last night & this morning, southern Vermont was treated to a big, beautiful dump of about ten inches of fresh powder — I rarely get to use my favorite cliché from the Rockies, “champagne powder,” in these parts, but today was a pop-the-cork kind of day in the woods. Perfect conditions: plenty of perfect snow, temp in the perfect low 20s. More than once Steve & I were rewarded with that magical skiing-on-a-cloud feeling you get on a nice long stretch with a just-right decline & a just-right depth of fresh powder. Thanks, Gods of Snow! Thanks, Steve!

By the way, the Gods of Snow that gave so generously today are supposed to take so cruelly away tomorrow — heavy rain with the temp up to nearly 50! Please stay off any & all trails that you don’t want to wreck!

A+

 

12/16 — Brattleboro: Henar Vecino

Mighty cold — it got down to about 10-below last night & barely up to 10-above today. Well, since any & all trails around these parts seem to be open to any & all neighbors, I gave the loop around the neighboring hayfield a try today, just before twilight descended. I found that the track led to yet another hayfield, with another perimeter loop already tracked. So great to see that my neighbors all seem to be skiers!

B

 

12/15 — Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro

It’s gotten very windy & cold, so inevitably the trails have deteriorated a bit, what with driftation & crustation, etc. Always great to get outside & ski, of course, even if it’s just on my little go-kart track, but I was going to downgrade the rating to a simple B . .  until I saw the new tracks connecting to the trails, & it made my day to see that my neighbors are using my trails — hooray! Welcome!

B+

 

12/13 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Leaping right in, the BOC gomers have done a superb job of laying down the first trails of the season — making a lot of a little, as is their wont. And the snow was still surprisingly great today, despite the warmish upper-30s midday temps. By late afternoon (which begins at about 3:30, don’t forget, & has turned to dusk by 4:30), conditions were just right. What fun to ski the Lab Land trails we worked so hard on this past fall! The snow isn’t deep enough yet to allow for fully groomed trails, but the gomers have pulled the four-foot roller over a lot of the main routes (more than are shown on the map on the sign-in station), & you can cover a lot of ground & get a full workout, all the way up to Dunham Loop — if you’ve got the juice.

A

 

12/12/16 — West Brattleboro: Henar Nuestro

Ah, we’re skiing again! We had a nice little snowfall this morning, about nine inches of fairly wet, packable snow, just cold enough not to stick to your skis (assuming you’ve coated them with Astroglide). The little cat’s-cradle of trails I set on the hayfield below the house is the skiing equivalent of a go-kart track — not exactly crossing a lot of country — but it’s great to loop around the field a few times & work out the first-day-of-season kinks & generally get warmed up for the real skiing to come.

And speaking of warming up . . . this was a nice little snowfall, an early Christmas gift, but it’s mainly been fairly warm lately & I suppose that this snow will be gone completely before winter settles in like it really means it. So let’s just enjoy it for a couple of days: time to hit the trail, kiddoes!

B+

 

*     *     *

 

4/5/16 — Brattleboro: Fort Dummer trails

Well, well, well . . . a weird little coda to The Winter That Never Was. Nearly two months after the last skiable trails disappeared during the warmest February in Vermont history, & then early spring weather prevailed throughout March (great sugaring, I’m told), it actually got cold & snowed this past weekend. The inch or two that fell on Friday night already looked fake in the woods by midday Saturday, like shaving cream used on a movie set to simulate snow . . . but then real snow fell on Sunday night & well into Monday — at least five inches, & not heavy, sludgy spring snow, either, but the kind of nice, granular, medium-density snow that we “should” have gotten in February. In fact, if we had gotten that snow in February, it would have fallen on our nice bulletproof base & the BOC gomers could have sculpted it into at least another two or three weeks of good skiing. . . .

Anyhow, these were my reflections as I took Trooper to Fort Dummer yesterday afternoon for a walk, & no sooner did I get him out of the car than I saw that somebody had been skiing, leaving a nice set of tracks that begged to be followed. But — no skis. I haven’t had ’em in the car for more than a month. Why bother? Because you never know, that’s why. I vowed to return the next day. . . .

And here it is, the next day, & by the time I got back to Fort Dummer it was warm enough (mid-30s) to have melted a lot of places on the trail down to bare ground. Well, gamely Trooper & I set out anyway, & indeed there were a few nice, skiable stretches on the service road up to the picnic meadow . . . but really it seems like this was one last little joke for Winter ’16 to play on us — a couple stray days of February in exchange for all the unwanted April days we had in what was supposed to be the dead of winter.

And that was our ski season, folks — fine for a few weeks there until it wasn’t. And today’s grade pretty much covers the whole year:

C

 

3/25 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

I’ve spent about eight hours over the past week walking the trails to pull up our trail-marker stakes, & all that’s left is a golf course with a few patches of ice here & there. A melancholy birthday & a premature end to a ski season that started late & then went all but snowless until we lost that base of frozen/thawed/refrozen/rained-on/re-refrozen sleet that fell at the end of December.

Last year I saw a couple of bluebirds when I was collecting stakes; this year, no such luck. Is this what March 25 is going to be like from now on?

 

2/25 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

After heavy rains last night & today, & the temp climbing up into the 50s, going for a “hike” at BOC this afternoon was a solemn & depressing business. It looks like mid-April out there — the ski trails are all but gone, just some lingering patches of rock ice with fossilized ski tracks, & the ground is 90 percent bare. It’s just a golf course. . . .

Some people want a scapegoat for this winter that never was — “Blame the Koch Brothers.” Even if it were that simple, there’d be little consolation. The fact is, it’s an El Niño year, weather fluctuates, we had a great snow winter last year & maybe we will again next year . . . & yes, the Earth is warming up & it’s almost certainly our fault . . . but we’re all at fault, not just the Koch Brothers — we all burn the fossil fuels that the Koch Brothers are happy to profit from, & if we weren’t buying coal (for electrical generation) & oil (for our cars) from the Koch Brothers, we’d buy coal & oil from somebody else.

Still: what a sad, crappy winter this has been. Pray for snow . . .

F–

 

2/17 — Brattleboro: BOC snowshoeing trails

So it’s come to this: with all the warm, snowless weather the ski trails are now closed so they won’t be damaged, & for the first time ever I gave the BOC Truuske trail a go today. Snowshoeing is . . . something, I suppose . . . something to do in the woods when the snow’s not good enough for skiing. Trudge-trudge-trudge instead of stride-&-glide. Once you make your peace with that, you’re left with the always-delightful fact of being outside, being in the woods. The Truuske trail winds along the creek & up the hill in a big loop — you’d hardly know that there are ski trails nearby (to say nothing of a golf course). At the slightly less than walking pace of snowshoeing, you hear more (birds chirping, squirrels skittering around) & see more (fox tracks, deer tracks, even moose tracks — I swear). I’d still rather ski . . . but snowshoeing is pretty darn okay, I guess.

Still — pray for snow.

 

2/15 — Brattleboro: Fort Dummer

With the temp back up to about 20, it was nice to go to Fort Dummer for a quickie this afternoon: up the main road, through the campsite areas on both sides, then through the open field & over to Sunset Point, then back down the service road, that nice, long, gentle downhill — whee! The wind has raised less hell at Fort Dummer than it has over at BOC, so the trails were surprisingly skiable, with much of last week’s two piddling snowfalls still intact. Somehow we’re managing to put a kinda-sorta ski season together, even as we’re still hopeful that a real Vermont winter will arrive sometime soon. Meanwhile, though, the forecast is for some kind of wintry-mix / freezing-rain / rain horror show tonight & tomorrow — if true, it’s certain to wreck our already marginal conditions. Sigh . . .

B+

 

2/14 — Dummerston: Flaherty Field, Black Mountain

It felt downright balmy out there today, what with the temp up to about five degrees & the wind finally dying down this afternoon. Although the big hay field behind the old Flaherty place has been pretty worked over by the wind, the surface is consistent & perfectly skiable. As I usually do here, I broke trail on a big loop around the perimeter & then got the benefit of my tracks a couple more times. Then it was up onto the old logging road on Black Mountain, where there’s plenty of snow for real cross-country skiing — working my way around obstacles like fallen trees & little streamlets, following the tracks of whatever lives in the woods: deer, foxes, fisher cats, yetis. . . .

B+

 

2/13 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Holy crap, it was cold out there today! Just about zero, with a wind chill, according to my careful, precise calculations, of minus 197. Bundled up like a Michelin man, I headed out late in the afternoon thinking, Where’d this come from? Well, yeah, from Canada . . . northern Canada . . . far northern Canada . . . but I mean, hasn’t this been a warm El Niño winter? But now we’ve got the Canadian Arctic counterpunching against the tropical South Pacific. Brrr . . .

Okay, think global, ski local. A couple of days ago, the gomers were finally able to groom a woodsy trail — Dunham Loop, alongside the freeway — for the first time this season, so I made a beeline across the frozen wastes to get out of the wind & into the trees. Well worth it, sez me — after making my way up slowly, stopping again & again to flip sticks off the trail, I was able to head back down & enjoy the best sustainable stride ’n’ glide conditions now available at BOC. And then back across the tundra — I mean, the fairways, which the wind was blasting almost bare of snow in many places — to the parking lot, all the while praying that my car would start. Brrr . . .

B+

 

2/12 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

You’ve got to navigate around some rocky patches in the thin spots, but the groomed trails — of which there are more than ever so far this season — are nicely packed powder that yet again show our brilliant gomers making the best of this year’s meager snow. Great work, guys!

A–

 

2/10 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Just time for a quickie around Dogtrot, which was groomed earlier today for a thin but very skiable surface (yes, there’s still some hay stubble poking through here & there, but it does no harm). Trooper preferred to break trail across the field today, & who could blame him?

I bumped into Hank L. & family (including Belle the Lab) along the trail, having a jolly old time. Hank insists that by this time next week there’ll be so much snow that Dogtrot won’t even look like hayfield anymore, & the rest of the trails won’t look like a golf course, either. Okay, from your lips to God’s ear, Hank!

A–

 

2/9 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Hooray, another couple inches of fresh snow! The lightest, fluffiest stuff imaginable — we’d better ski on it before it floats away. Trooper & I found Dogtrot very skiable, as were the Labland trails. Trooper fails to see any good reason why he can’t go on every other TOC trail, & I keep telling him: “You’re a dog, that’s why.” He fails to see the logic in this . . .

A–

 

2/8 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Trooper & I made our way across the Dogtrot field & up through the new Labland trails — our first trip there ever. The snow is very thin, but what’s there is quite skiable.

On the way back down to the hut, we came across Spenser Knickerbocker hauling snow-filled sledge after snow-filled sledge from the pump-house pond over to that very bad patch of rock ice & plain old rocks where Sugarin’ crosses Owl Loop. Bravo, Spenser! And Camille sent out a newsletter today that contained a photo of Brett doing just this kind of winter engineering in the same place with what looks like a brobdingnabian snow shovel. Great work, Brett! That’s the spirit, guys!

B–

 

2/6 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

No dogs today, so Barb B-T & I made a big loop around the trails that have been groomed: Owl, Upper Heartthrob, Lower Heartthrob. Even with a lot of traffic today (nice to see the trails being enjoyed!), the new snow on the old base was behaving itself very nicely, thank you, despite some thin places barely covering (or not covering at all) patches of rock ice & bare ground.

Word has it that BOC currently has “more groomed kilometers” than any other cross-country trail system in Vermont. Well, as pleased as I am about our three or four groomed “kilometers,” this is mostly just a sad commentary on the state of this strange El Niño winter in Northern New England.

B

 

2/5 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The dismissively forecast inch or two of new snow contained a couple of bonus inches — enough to put us back in business. I took Trooper over to Dogtrot, which hadn’t been groomed but that didn’t matter because the whole field is perfectly (or imperfectly) skiable, with still enough of that base of frozen sleet from late December to make a nice skiing surface, even with hay stubble poking through.

B

 

1/30 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

It was the best of skiing, was the worst of skiing: It finally snowed yesterday . . . but only about an eighth of an inch. But the gomers managed to get on it right away, & to get those seven flakes of snow (pretty much the January ’16 total) pressed nicely into fresh corduroy — superb to ski on. But in some spots, especially on the freeway side of Owl Loop, the new snow didn’t really stick to the rock ice underneath, merely masking it & making for some treacherous patches, at least two which strung me up by my toes (so to speak). But the good (95 percent) far outweighed the bad (5 percent). But the bad was really bad. But the good was really, really good. But . . .

B

 

1/28 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Getting mighty icy in spots, folks — but perfectly skiable where there’s been fresh grooming, so as long as you stick to the just-groomed sections, you’re good for some fast & furious fun. Stay off any trails without fresh grooming, though — they’re like petrified relics of ski trails of the distant past. . . .

B–

 

1/27 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Again it got into the high 30s today, so again the trick was to time the skiing just right. I missed it this afternoon; by the time I got to BOC at about 4:30, the trails were already getting very icy, making for fun & fast but challenging conditions. Until we get some real snow, things will be, essentially, just like spring skiing — more & more afternoon daylight, which is great, but also a daily thaw/freeze cycle to contend with, & larger & larger patches of both rock ice & bare ground.

Also: most people have the good sense & the group ethic to stay off the trails when they are especially soft . . . but not one particular skate-skier, who has graced our trails with deep ruts that are now frozen hard, adding pointlessly to the challenge of negotiating our snow-starved trail system. I hate to be bossy, but, well, they did make me the Trail Boss, so: please respect our fragile trails & help keep them in the best possible shape for everybody! Surely it can’t be a loyal BOC’er who’s doing this to our trails. . . .

B

 

1/25 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Everything fell into place just right today: I arrived uncharacteristically early, about 1:30, & the warm afternoon sun (it was about 35 or so) made for a nice, soft, sno-coney surface anyhow, but it so happened that the gomers had just done their thing on Owl Loop, so I got the rare privilege of skiing a perfectly virgin corrugated trail — what fun! Even after so many snowless days, the base (that layer of late-December frozen sleet) is still holding out . . . mostly. But tomorrow might be warm & rainy, so we’ve got to get our licks in while the gettin’s good — & today was amazingly good!

A

 

1/24 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Today was just like it’s been for a week now, but a bit warmer — probably right around freezing this afternoon, so that the sun softened up the trails a little, making them slightly more skiable (for classic, that is), even as a certain amount of degradation continues apace. Every day that we go without fresh snow, it becomes more & more critical to pick your moment when the porridge is just right — not too warm & soft, not too cold & icy. You can pretend you’re in California, where it’s almost always like this on the warm days between four-foot “dumps” in the High Sierra, creating alternating slush & rock ice as the shadows of the mighty Douglas firs sweep across the trails over the course of a long, sunny day. Actually, BOC is a lot better than that right now — it’s too cool here for slush (in so many ways).

Be sure to check out the latest issue of the Outing Club newsletter, which introduces me as BOC Trail Boss (aw, shucks) & features my very own XC skiing autobiography. It’s been a long & twisted trail that’s led me here to Brattleboro, but here I am, praying for snow just like a real native Vermonter . . .

A–

 

1/23 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

More of the same, superbly skiable where there’s been fresh grooming, with only slight (& inevitable) deterioration of the trails (debris, rock ice, thin/bare spots, etc.). C’mon, all ye fair-weather skiers: the air is cool & clear, the trails are very good for both classic & skating, plus it’s supposed to rain next week. (How maddening that all that snow that just fell on Washington & New York is regarded as a “natural disaster” & a “state of emergency” & an “act of God” — for us, the only disaster here is that we didn’t get the snow!)

A–

 

1/22 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

I should just get a stamp made: ditto of yesterday. Another fine, cool (mid-20s), winter afternoon; another fine grooming job on the main fairway trails. They’re still making a lot out of very little actual snow, mainly just half an inch of loose sno-cone on a base of frozen sleet . . . but there must be an upper limit in the number of times they can bounce the rubble, because, inevitably enough, there’s more & more debris from trees, more & more little rocks kicked up in the thin spots, & more & more patches of rock ice that just won’t groom (maybe we should get a zamboni). All that bitching aside, though, the conditions are still very good for the discriminating classic skier, & apparently great for the skater, too. The high school XC team was whizzing around like a cloud of gnats!

A–

 

1/21 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Pretty much the ditto of yesterday: another great grooming job (thanks, Brad!) has made for a handful of very skiable trails on the main part of the course. Skate-skiers, in particular, would be nuts to miss out! For classic, there’s a little more trickiness about getting the timing right, especially on sunny but cool (mid-20s) days like this. Starting out at 3:00 was just about perfect today. As for tomorrow . . .

A

 

1/20 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

What a difference a day makes: it warmed up to the high 20s today, just right for softening up the trails a bit, & the wind stopped. Plus, the gomers caught their moment & did their thing on a few more trails, so now we’ve got lots of options as we make our way up & down & all around the main hill. By getting there late again today, just after 4:00, I missed the peak conditions by about an hour; I was having some momentary troubles with flat light at about 4:30 & the trails were starting to ice up again, but they were still plenty flat, fast, & fun.

About the grading: there are those who might object (shades of W!) that grading the conditions each day is subjective — as though that’s bad, & as though there were some other, better, way to grade. I don’t think so! We ski for fun, after all; we’re not the 10th Mountain Division or the Norwegian resistance or heroic deliverers of serum to snowbound Alaskan villages. Nope, we’re just in it for fun, so that’s my main criterion: how fun was it today? What made it more fun, or less fun, than yesterday? Naturally, context is everything. Last year, I would have graded today’s conditions at about B+/A–. This year, however, different curve, so it’s time for the year’s first

A

 

1/19 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Yesterday’s wind never let up until late this afternoon; at about 4:00 when I hit the trails, the conditions were pretty x-treme, even as the wind died down: it was still blowy & cold (15-ish) & very icy . . . otherwise, not so bad. I first went over to Lab Land to see how many million branches have fallen out of the trees & onto the trail, but it’s never been groomed & it’s treacherously icy there in the tall timber, so I thought better of it & continued on around Dogtrot instead, which was last groomed about a week ago. Weirdly quite skiable — the ice is mitigated by all the hay stubble sticking up through the trail, which is mostly just a few inches of hard-frozen sleet. This year we take what we can get!

B

 

1/18 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Kind of a good-news / bad-news sort of day. Good news: It’s staying cold! It snowed again last night, a nice, fluffy inch or two! And the gomers were right on it this morning, grooming most of the main trails around the golf course itself! They even laid down the first classic tracks of the season in many places — groovy! It was sunny & gorgeous today!

Okay, now for the bad news: As soon as I arrived at about 3:30, the wind started to blow — hard. Although much of what the gomers pressed down into the trails stayed put, all of the rest of the snow on the fairways was soon airborne, swirling around & making ground blizzards & forming drifts. The trails began to get icy again, though nothing like the rock-ice suicide runs of the first part of January.

But for all of that, the good news outweighed the bad today, & the trails were fast & fun — a good day for metal edges & a bit of attitude. Keep praying for a real snowstorm!

A–

 

1/17 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Our BOC leaders are geniuses: closing the trails yesterday was a great idea, & then picking just the right moment this morning (not too cold, not too warm) to unleash our crack gomers was an even greater idea. They’ve managed to make a lot — two nice corduroy trails, anyhow — out of very, very little. Dogtrot & the Lower Heart Throb loop were fast & fun today, & if it stays cold enough, we’ll at least have these trails & maybe a few more until we get some real snow. (God, do thy stuff, please, & send down some white stuff — we’re ready!)

Last year at this time . . . aw, heck, it’s just too depressing to go there. This year, we’ve got to grade on a curve, so:

B+

 

1/16 — Brattleboro: Fort Dummer trails

It turned warm overnight, up into the 30s, & heavy, wet snow was falling this morning, so I thought I’d give BOC a try before the snow turned to rain. All the way over, I was grumbling about how much I’d wanted to believe last year that, due to climate change, Winter ’15 was the new normal . . . & now it turned out instead that there was no new normal, which is pretty much the old normal: unpredictable winters in northern New England. Some people are grumbling about global warming, some people are grumbling about El Niño, & some people (like me) are grumbling that January in Vermont just plain means that it’s supposed to snow, supposed to be cold — grumble, grumble.

When I arrived at BOC I found that the trails were closed (just as well, I suppose — skiers, snowshoers, & dogs would just wreck whatever base is there), & then the rain did, very light . . . so I went to Fort Dummer. The rain let up & I found an inch or two of heavy, wet mashed-potato snow sitting on the sleet / rock ice . . . & it was surprisingly skiable. I went up the service road to the picnic meadow, then over Campsite Hill, & around the full loop of the Sunrise Trail. Coming down the south part of the loop was a little hairy — not enough depth to cover up the big rocks that stick up in the middle of the trail along the steepest part — but then, back at the campsite area, I could retrace my earlier tracks all the way back to the front gate of the park — fun, easy stride-&-glide all the way.

Last year, this would have seemed like crappy conditions. This year:

B

 

1/15 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

“Marginal” would be overstating things — the “snow” conditions basically suck right now. There’s little bare ground (though plenty of grass is poking up through the thin spots), but all that sleet that got heavily rained on is now frozen hard, with big stretches of rock ice in all the low places, & just a sad little dusting of snow blowing around on top, here & there. Incredibly, while I was clearing branches off the new Lab Land trails yesterday, I heard voices & poked my head out in time to see the BUHS ski team doggedly skating their way up Whoa Nelly — God bless ’em! I hope there were no casualties! Today, I found that enough of the drifting snow had accumulated on the lower section of Freedom/Sugarin’ to allow me to ski back & forth a couple of times, but, with patches of rock ice in every direction (including down), it felt more like pretending than real skiing. . . .

Pray for snow! (More “wintry mix” is forecast for the weekend. Ugh.)

D–

 

1/9 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The weird base of frozen sleet has persisted long enough for a little dusting of snow, plus a just-right temperature (right around freezing), plus some very adept work by the gomers, to make for a surprisingly skiable surface on a single big loop that begins at the parking lot & goes up the hill via Whoa Nelly & then the whole length of Curvy Wurvy, down Cardiac Arrest & back to the parking lot via Lower Heart Throb. Very nice for both skate-skiing & classic stride-&-glide.

However. It’s supposed to start raining tonight & then come down heavy tomorrow, with a high of 50, so that’s probably it for this phase of Winter ’16. We still haven’t had a real snow! But the National Weather Service calls for snow in a few days, so maybe January will arrive before, say, February. Let’s hope.

B

 

1/1/16 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

It got cold last night, & it stayed cold all day — I thought I could catch a good time for the conditions, but even mid-afternoon it was still only 15 degrees or so & the whole course — trails, fairways, everything — is frozen hard & treacherous. Even with metal edges, you just can’t get purchase on this stuff — making for a real hips-&-shoulders work-out, hardly any stride-&-glide, too much work & too scary to be much fun.

Last year I got well into that epic season of great skiing conditions, day after day, month after month, trying not to think too hard about the possibility of getting through my first full season of skiing in forty-some years without a single fall. Not to put too fine a point on it, but as of about five minutes up the trail today, day two, I no longer had to worry about being burdened with the thought of not falling this season . . . maybe next year . . .

And on that note, Happy New Year — let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

C

 

12/31/15 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Finally! On the very last day of the warmest December on record, we’re skiing again — this might be the latest start to the season since I’ve been in New England. We’ve put the extended autumn to very good use, with lots of work on the trails, particularly Lab Land, which is now a whole network of trails in that fairly steep patch of forest between Dogtrot & Faithful. So today I got to try ’em out!

But first, an observation: this white stuff we’re skiing on, it ain’t even snow. It’s a thick layer of sleet that got rained on, then freezing rained on, & now thawed slightly on a sunny afternoon in the 30s. Hard-frozen sno-cone base, with enough crumbly sno-cone at the top that the skis work just fine. Still, think of it: it’s January in Vermont, & we still haven’t had any snow. Scary.

But we do have skiing! Trooper & I had a nice trip across the stubble field that is Dogtrot, & then up through the Lab Land maze. It works! Of course, there are a lot of rocks & logs & stuff to step around, but that’s real cross-country skiing.

B

 

*     *     *

 

4/2/15 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

I accidentally went skiing today. That is, I got a message from Brad Dinwiddie about going over to BOC to pull up the trail-marking stakes, & that’s exactly what I thought I’d gone there to do . . . when Jack & Carl skied down to the parking lot & told me that the skiing was “great,” that they’d been all over the course & found enough snow that they never had to take off their skis & only once had to step across a grassy section. Well, that was enough for me: I happened to have my skis in the car, so I made an executive decision that the ski season was still on & that the whole course was dog-friendly today, & with that Trooper & I were off to the races.

The course is still more than half snow-covered, & at 50+ degrees Fahrenheit, it’s all corn snow, or sno-cone, where it’s not rock ice or bare altogether. There are places where the remnants of the trail are still actually pretty good; mostly, though, you just point yourself in the direction you want to go & then make a game of finding the little connecting isthmuses (isthmi?) between one snow patch & the next. Jack & Carl were right: most of the course is indeed skiable if you’re creative about picking your route. These would be appalling conditions in February . . . but folks, it ain’t February.

Tonight it’s still nearly 50 degrees, & it’s raining, with more warm rain in the forecast for the next several days, so I suspect that this was the last hurrah of the season today. Dear BOC, Hank, gomers, & especially the Gods of Snow: thank you so much for a spectacular long winter season of great skiing!

B–

 

3/30 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The cold weather is lingering; I doubt that it hit 40 today. There’s still a lot of snow out there. So I really don’t get it: where is everybody? Okay, yes, it’s spring skiing, not pristine mid-February snow conditions. You have to make some adjustments this time of year. Fine, you adjust — it’s fun! So . . . where is everybody? If you’re not skiing, what are you doing for exercise instead — slogging through the mud on Wantastiquet? Subjecting yourself to the rack & screw at the gym? Playing video games while polishing off whole sleeves of Oreos?

Those reflections aside, I certainly don’t feel like a “bitter ender” out there at BOC. Who’s bitter? Spring skiing has its special challenges, but it’s still more fun than just about anything else we might be doing for exercise these days, folks!

B–

 

3/29 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

These fast-lengthening days are such a temptation to keep pushing ski time later & later. At 6:30 in the evening the trails (that is, what’s left of trails & crust) were getting pretty icy, which added to the challenge of not getting stuck on snow-peninsulas surrounded by bare ground. It’s nearly over out there, folks, & I’m the only one still signing in each time . . . but I don’t seem to be the only one still leaving fresh tracks out at BOC, hmmm . . .

C+

 

3/28 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

I was a little late to catch the right moment of the day — always the trick with spring skiing — so things were a bit on the icy side in the late afternoon. By now I’m not even thinking of BOC as a trail system; the trails are either bare ground, or rock ice, or indistinguishable from the slowly melting crust all around. Which is fine — now you can just point yourself up or down whatever fairway you want. And the Dunham Loop Trail is still quite passable if you can dodge a few sticks. Just about the whole course is perfectly skiable! Okay, maybe not “perfectly,” but there’s still, say, 80 percent coverage over what is undeniably a golf course, & yet the fun factor is still over 90 percent, so it’s still well worth it — sez me!

B

 

3/27 — Brattleboro: Fort Dummer

Even with temps in the 40s there’s still plenty of snow — or crust, or whatever to call it this late in the season. I caught the time/temp moment just right: the Sunset Trail at sunset. The snow had a lot of pillowy give to it, & so skiing was especially 3-dimensional, almost like surfing. Some icy patches along the trails, but not enough to induce terror.

B

 

3/26 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Another day of conditions exceeding expectations. Just like yesterday, it was warm but overcast, so the snow was uniformly soft but still quite skiable, classic style. I pushed my luck & went up Forest, which was mostly okay but for a lot of debris & a couple of bare spots that were hard to get around. C’mon, folks — if the skiing was this good in December, you’d flock to BOC — so how come I’m only the second person to sign in today? (Though not, obviously, only the second person to enjoy the skiing . . .)

B

 

3/25 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

I can’t quite believe that I’m about to dole out an A for ski conditions in late March — but there it is. Today was warm, probably in the high 30s or even the 40s, but was overcast all day, so the warm air was baked evenly into the snow, making for slowish but highly skiable conditions on trails & crust alike — a great day for the classic stride & glide, in fact. So many unexpected blessings to count . . . you’d think it was my birthday.

A

 

3/24 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

A gorgeous early spring day, & I finally caught the moment by getting there at about 4:30 — the few groomed trails were very good, though I was leaving inch-deep ruts — & elsewhere there’s still lots & lots of the ’tween-trail crust, which is perfectly skiable just about everywhere . . . as long as it lasts. So it’s real spring skiing: soft in the sun (snow ranging from sno-cone to mashed potatoes) & firm-to-icy in the shade. Still worth it, folks!

B+

 

3/23 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Another day too cold to soften up the snow, so another day of damn hard work getting uphill on the fairway crusts — all herringbone all the time — & defying death on the downhills. A good day for sharp metal edges. Not a good day for the trails, with their many bare patches & their stretches of rock ice. Forget the trails, in fact — from here on in, we’re just skiing out the crust, which may not make it through the rains expected later in the week. But the crust skiing on the fairways is sorta-kinda fun — & just what would you rather be doing on a cold day in this not-really-spring?

C+

 

3/22 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The thing about trying to time it for spring skiing is that you can usually count on the conditions, this time of year, to be icy most of the day, so the trick is to catch the moment when things are warming up late in the morning (or cooling down late in the afternoon) just enough to soften up the surface. Well, no dice today — it never got above freezing. The trails are pretty awful — icy, rutted, downright dangerous. But the crust is actually fairly good — rippled like the sea on a nice day, a skiable sno-coney kind of snow. And there’s still nearly complete snow cover . . . even though you can hardly call that icy, wind-swept carapace “snow.” I suppose that the Arctic, or the Antarctic, is much like this in the polar “summer.”

B–

 

3/19 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Well, it’s spring skiing — whatdya expect? Mooshy, with a few bare spots on sunny slopes; hard frozen, deeply rutted crust in the shade. It’s amazing that there’s still so much snow, or whatever you can call this abundant white stuff that originally fell as snow, some of it as long ago as Thanksgiving, & that has now been through the freeze/thaw cycle dozens of times, & has been rained on two or three times . . . & yet, incredibly enough, given that it’s late March, is still there. So let’s ski on it!

B

 

3/12 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Well, after that great long stretch of superb winter trail conditions, from mid-January right on into early March, things have now changed considerably — the difference being, of course, the effects of three days in the 50s & three nights in the mid-30s. And last night it got cold again & today was in the 20s, mostly. Evidently the gomers made a pass at a few of the trails this morning to groom what is now officially corn snow, & this made for a nice, firm, very skiable surface this afternoon.

However: just as evident as today’s grooming & very light traffic afterwards, there were, fossilized deeply into the trail, a single set of classic tracks, & a single set of skate tracks, & a single big-pawed set of dog tracks, all obviously left there during that warm spell . . . & these tracks were, at times, a real impediment to skiing today, even with this morning’s grooming. Hey, you guys: Was it really any fun to slog through the slush like that? Were you thinking, Hey, I’m wrecking the trail? Or maybe you were just thinking, Damn, it sure is warm & sloppy today or I told Bowser we were going for a ski & by God we’re going for a ski. In any case, we shouldn’t need a written rule or bylaw for something so axiomatic: Don’t Wreck the Trail. If you’ve just gotta stick to your program & get out on a day when the snow’s really soft, then fine, ski all you want to — but not on the groomed trails.

In fact, as any ski freak can tell you: when the conditions are like that (very deep snow on a very warm day), it’s hardly different to ski on or off the trail — either way, you sink in deep. So why wreck the regular cold-day trail that we’ve been cultivating for months? Anybody can look at the weather forecast. (Most skiers live for the weather forecast, right?) So here’s a proposed ethic: if we’ve got a great trail base going late in the season, & then the weather forecast indicates that we’re in for three days in the 50s after which it’ll get cold again, then we stay off the trails. But if the three days in the 50s are to be followed by, say, a week in the 80s, then okay, go ahead, sploosh your way through what’s left of our wonderful memories of Winter ’15. . . .

B

 

3/8 — Rochester, Vermont: When Words Count Retreat

Today Marti & I were directed to the trails set by the Forest Service — but we’d hardly gone a half mile towards Rochester when we spotted an xc trail heading into the forest up here on the hilltop area (is that where we are? is that why it’s called Mountain View up here?). Magical conditions: the trail had been tracked into deep powder by, say, a half dozen skiers before us, leaving the snow under the tracks pillow-like & the snow beside the tracks, where you pole, cloud-like, all of it requiring a delicate attention to balance. So skiing that trail was surreal: gently slowish-motion 3-dimensional surfing.

And all around, the beautiful Green Mountains, looking very Vermonty & loftier than any of the forested hills around Brattleboro.

A+

 

3/7 — Rochester, Vermont: When Words Count Retreat

Now here’s a change of pace. The Green Mountains of central Vermont are like a time machine that takes you back two or three weeks to mid-February — a little more snow, a little less degradation due to rising temps, a lot more elevation than the Connecticut Valley. On actual trails, these would all be good things . . . in the field across the road, maybe not so much. Breaking a trail in such deep snow (at least 2 feet) is damned hard work, & on that first tough slog uphill I was thinking C+, maybe B– tops . . . but the subsequent downhill on the trail I’d just made was sorta-kinda fun, & going back up was much easier than the first time, & the next downhill was pretty damn fun after all. Always good to play in the snow!

B

 

3/6 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Another fine day out on the links: the snow is firm, fast, frozen, & fun . . . but also unforgiving. Late in the afternoon, as the sun was setting, I’d already made it all the way to top of the hill via Owl Loop — a real shoulder workout on fast, frozen tracks — & then, as I was zipping down Sugarin’, I saw movement in the trees — three whitetail does skedaddling. Sap’s rising, folks! On that last little stretch back to the parking lot I got abstracted thinking about how magical it was to see those deer on a such fine day of skiing day . . . & maybe it was so magical & so fine as to make this an A+ day . . . & then wham, down I went, tripped up by a little hiccup in the tracks that I should have seen coming. Yet another humbling comeuppance!

A

 

3/5 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Since there’s a full moon tonight, I thought it would be cool to hold off skiing till evening, & then head over to Memorial Park & buy a ticket for the T-bar & try a few runs, downhill style. (It’s weird to pay for your downhill skiing with money, rather than with the effort required to ski first uphill . . . but of course this is the eternal difference between “Alpine” & “Nordic” skiing.) Anyhow, late in the afternoon I took a peek at BOC’s Facebook page & saw that with the return of the cold the gomers had been busy, & I just couldn’t resist. I didn’t arrive until ridiculously late — 5:30 — but found that the groomed trails were very skiable indeed, fast & fun. I took Unity up the winding section through the trees & over to East Orchard, & then Lower Heartthrob, mostly just double-poling on the hard, fast, perfectly groomed gentle decline all the way back to the parking lot — wheeee!

A

 

3/4 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Good news, bad news. Good news: we seem to have dodged the rain bullet, or the freezing rain bazooka shell. Bad news: after well over 24 hours of freakishly warm air temps, the top couple of inches of snow have turned to dough, so when you ski on it you sink in to the point that it’s virtually impossible to maneuver, & yet there you are, whizzing along the still-superb base, which is pretty great on flat stretches, but a tough poling workout on the uphills, & a scary thrill ride on the downhills. Our unforgettable run of A conditions is over, RIP.

When I arrived, late as always, hoping that things had started to cool down, I found instead that Hank had taken the very sensible measure of closing all the trails but Dogtrot so that they wouldn’t get too badly rutted. The hope, of course, is that when the cold comes back tomorrow & today’s inevitable ruts freeze hard, the gomers can get out there & put a new surface on the trails. We’re officially into spring skiing conditions now, folks!

B–

 

3/3 — Brattleboro: Ft. Dummer

No shortage of snow, that’s for sure. Today was the first time I’ve skied the Sunrise Trail this season—a good challenge, especially on the uphills, because the packed trail (2 snowshoes wide) is flanked by deep powder, making it all but impossible to ’bone your way up.

For whatever reasons of luck, skill, or cowardice, I’ve gone the whole season so far without a fall—not one. Maybe I’m just not skiing hard enough, or not skiing in hard-enough places. Well, comeuppance time: after making it all the way around the very difficult Sunrise loop, I was ’boning up that last little steep bit . . . when one of my tips snagged a hidden sapling in the deep powder, & the next thing I knew I was on my knees. Time to pray for humility!

A–

 

3/2 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Just plain ol’ good skiing: even though I once again courted fate by waiting until much too late in the afternoon (I signed it at 5:10), it was still a little too warm (30-ish) to be icy, & last night’s inch of fresh snow had blown around without drifting too much. We’ve had an unprecedented string of fine skiing days, & the trails are holding up amazingly well . . . but the word I fear most this time of year, rain, is in the forecast for Wednesday, so . . .

A

 

3/1 — Putney: Putney School trails

Except for one thing, the Putney School 5k trail was absolutely perfect at midday: a nice, wide, well-groomed trail in very good condition; the same perfect temperature as yesterday, about 20 or 25 or so; the first fat, tentative flakes of an anticipated 1–3 inches just starting to fall. All perfect, right? A+ stuff. Except for one thing: the main Putney School trail system takes you down, down, down that hillside to the west of the big field by the school, & then, of course — cross-country karma being what it is — up, up, up that same hillside. And up . . . and up . . . So, although the physics of the trail are superb . . . the psychics of the trail are inverted: most of the fun first, with most of the hard work to finish, like a meal that begins with several wonderful desserts, more than enough to fill you up & make you giddy with a sugar high . . . but then, uh oh, there you are at the bottom looking up at the trail disappearing into the trees, & now it’s time to eat your vegetables . . . & more vegetables . . . & more vegetables. . . .

I do have to say this, though — even as a meal served upside down, this is one great trail. If only there were a good way to begin at the bottom of the hill . . .

A

 

2/28 — P-----: D---- R----

Sometimes, every now & again, everything’s perfect: the sky, a cloudless blue; the air, a crisp, comfortable 20–25 degrees; the snow, freshly groomed & right in the sweet spot between too this or too that; the woods, lovely, light, & deep. Perfect. What my dad would call “Cadillac” conditions, meaning: the best there is, luxury . . . though not for the likes of us. But there we were today, the likes of us — Marti & me — back here in her old stomping grounds (evidently one-time residency in this neck of the woods, even if it was years ago, makes her an honorary lifetime local, hence welcome on these hush-hush-private trails). Marti was trying a new pair of skinny touring skis that were perfect for the newly set tracks, so no snow caking onto the bottoms like last week, just gliding along on a dream. . . .

A+

 

2/27 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

I’m really pushing this end-of-the-day thing — I didn’t sign in until 5:30 today & was kicking myself for not getting out an hour or two earlier. But lucky me: I bumped into someone just coming off the trails who said that Forest was “recommended” (meaning: Four out of Five Gomers Agree — Try Forest Today!), & sure enough, Forest was freshly groomed & was lots of fun on what would otherwise have been an icy & difficult trip up the hill. Up near the top, along East Orchard, I never quite get which trail is which, Forest & Fortitude & Upper Heartthrob, etc., but the skiing was great wherever the grooming was fresh — on most stretches I was the first skier to follow the gomers, & both the tracks & the corduroy were in perfect shape. Lots of fun coming down — fast! — on Upper Heartthrob & a fine glide home on Unity, almost too late to be out (well after 6:00). Thank you, Gods of Winter! Thank you, Gomers!

A

 

2/26 — Brattleboro: Lilac Ridge Farm

My writing buddy Ross treated me to a nice long jaunt along a snowmobile trail through the woods near Round Mountain on a part of Lilac Ridge Farm he calls “the Rogers place.” It was maddeningly close to being perfect — if only it were just a few degrees warmer, to soften up the icy sections . . . if only it had snowed just a half inch this morning, to put a fresh surface on the trail . . . etc. But a glorious day to be out anyhow — thanks, Ross!

A–

 

2/25 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Not much recent grooming, still pretty icy late in the afternoon, so today was a nice day to stay on the lower, flatter trails — Lower Heartthrob & the lower part of Unity. Fast & fun!

A

 

2/24 — Brattleboro: Ft. Dummer

The snowshoe trails made for a fairly difficult skiing surface today; just as I arrived (a little too late in the afternoon, as usual), a bunch of middle-school kids were piling into a mini-bus after stomping a lot of deep holes in the trail (they didn’t have snowshoes, just boots). So that, plus the thawing & refreezing from Sunday, made the trails a real challenge, particularly on the uphills.

I hate to admit it, but we’re getting into spring skiing conditions — which means, above all, that skiing needs to be carefully timed each day according to sunshine & air temperature in order to catch the moment of optimal conditions. That is, the porridge has to be just right — not too soft & mooshy, not too hard & frozen, with further attention to sunny & shady places, etc.

But who doesn’t like spring skiing?

A–

 

2/23 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Back to deep-winter cold, but the warm weather yesterday has left the trails a bit icy & challenging. Today I stuck mostly to trails like Forest & Unity that don’t get so much direct sunshine, & they were okay, but the more exposed trails, like Fortitude, have thawed & refrozen in spots. I did a little true cross-country skiing through the untrammeled powder between trails — it’s deep, & the poles go down about 18 inches before hitting that old half-forgotten post-icestorm crust.

A–

 

2/22 — P-----: D---- R----

Great news & not-so-great news today: Another 8 inches of fresh beautiful snow, hooray! But it’s also freakishly warm, well in the 30s, so by midday the snow had a somewhat doughy quality, making it hard to maneuver on downhill curves. Also, Marti was having a devil of a time with snow caking onto the bottom of her skis — damn, we should have brought the Easy-Glide. (I treated my skis with this stuff more than a week ago & they’re still sliding along just fine.) But what a gorgeous day to be out in the woods!

A–

 

2/20 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Another cold day, 10-ish; the trails are fast & they’re getting a little chopped up with use, but it’s been too steadily cold for any thawing that could lead to iciness. I love the Dunham Loop trail for the sake of the long, long stridy-glidy downhill it gives you; theoretically I should be bothered by the presence of a major Interstate highway just 50 or 100 yards away, & I can certainly hear & see the cars if I think about it . . . but mainly I just don’t think about it.

What I was thinking about today was an interesting visual wrinkle to the how-late-can-I-ski question. As the light starts to get dim, the snow on the trail can seem to “flop” or invert: little ridges suddenly seem to be little grooves, depressions seem like raised areas, etc. I suppose this is a matter of the way we process visual information to create the idea of 3-D landscape; “reading the snow” of a ski trail means making sense of very subtle nuances of gray on white, & as the light is beginning to fail, the brain begin to misinterpret the information provided by the eyes. Barb calls this “flat light” — light insufficient to provide unambiguous 3-D information about the surface we’re skiing on. Interesting, interesting. . .

A

 

2/19 — Brattleboro: Ft. Dummer

The snow-shoers have packed down a nice little 18-inch-wide half-pipe that functions very well as a ski trail & makes me think of Nordic communities where “mixed-use” trails (boots, snowshoes, skis, sledges, dogs) are simply the wintertime norm — no grooming, no machines.

This time of year is my absolute favorite: now there’s no trouble getting in a full day’s work followed by a nice, vigorous late-afternoon ski. And the question that concerns me isn’t so much What time does the sun set? as How late can I ski? That is, at what point is it just too dark for a skier to be able to read the snow effectively? Today the answer to that question was: 5:45 pm. Not bad, not bad. . .

A

 

2/18 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

So what do you do when your work life is interfering with your ski life & there’s simply no time to ski . . . but you do need to travel a bit, & your route could possibly be reinterpreted to include Upper Dummerston Road, & the BOC trails do happen to be right there anyway . . . ? The loop around Lower Hearththrob is just about doable in ten minutes, it turns out, what with the great snow & the fine, fresh grooming & all. Thanks, gomers!

A

 

2/17 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Pretty much the same protocol as yesterday, but today was a bit warmer (a balmy 20-ish), & I mostly stuck to the groomed trails, which are fast & fun. And the real triumph today is that even though I didn’t hit the trail until just after 5:00, there was still time to get a good hustling ski in before dark, so we’ve turned the corner on winter: it’s now possible to get something like a full day’s work under your belt before rewarding yourself with some time out on the snow where you belong. We get to live here!

A

 

2/16 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Okay, here’s the situation after the Saturday/Sunday blizzard (a little new snow but lots & lots of wind) reshuffled the deck, snow-wise: the gomers seem to have regroomed a few trails on the freeway side of the course, & these are nice & fast on a cold day like this (somewhere around 10 degrees). On the east side of the course (Upper & Lower Heartthrob, etc.), the trails are pretty much completely drifted over . . . which makes for real cross-country skiing over terrain that I’ve really only known as groomed trails. In some places I followed the tracks of the dozen or so skiers who seem to have ventured out earlier today; in some places I found myself breaking trail in drifted (sandy-textured) snow more than a foot deep on top of the base. A bit of a slog at times, but that’s real skiing.

A–

 

2/14 — P-----: D---- R----

I’m not really supposed to advertise this place, which is semi-private, so you have to know someone who knows someone, etc. Oh well — one of those New Englandy things, I guess, & lucky me, because I do know someone who knows someone. Magical conditions: cold enough (~8 degrees) to keep a guy moving, tons of fresh snow & still snowing lightly, a recent grooming on this great trail system through the sugar bush.

A+

 

2/13 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

All woods trails today: up Forest & down Unity. The snow on the packed trails is getting a little stiff — still far from “icy,” just stiff enough to be challenging when maneuvering at speed through the trees. But how glorious to be out in the cold air (~10 degrees) amidst all this snow!

A

 

2/12 — Brattleboro: Ft. Dummer

The snow is just about the deepest I’ve seen up here. So nice to follow the snowshoe trails — real cross-country skiing, like our ancestors used to do, from cave to cave, back when poles were still made from bamboo sticks & ski socks were woven from belly-button lint. And they skied with pet dinosaurs — but today I got to ski with Trooper.

A

 

2/10 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

It just keeps getting better: a couple inches of fresh snow. Trooper & I just about the first ones on the trail after the gomers have done their magic. Ahhh . . .

A

 

2/9 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

A quick loop around Dogtrot with Trooper. Trail holding up just fine & dandy in the cold air.

A

 

2/8 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

One of those rare, magical days . . . perfect snow (fresh from the sky & still lightly falling), perfect temperature (mid-20s), perfect afternoon (Sunday, no work rush). And perfect grooming: nice, w-i-d-e lanes not unlike those (they say) up at the fabled G------, just north of L---, N-- H------- (of which I disclaim any knowledge whatsoever — I swear, officer, I swear).

So this is the dead of winter? — seems pretty damn lively to me. We get to live here!

A+

 

2/7 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Back to Dogtrot & lower Freedom with Marti & Trooper. Mid-afternoon the air temp was the warmest it’s been in a week or two — thirty-ish — & we could feel the snow softening up a little under our skis. This might be cause for minor concern about iciness when the cold comes back . . . but the great good news is that we’re supposed to get another nice dump in the next couple of days, as much as a foot on top of what is already the best snow we’ve had in several years. Thanks in advance to the Snow Gods, & may it stay nice & cold!

A

 

2/6 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Everything nice today: Nice chilly air (15-below this morning) to keep the snow nice & fresh. Trooper & I had a nice couple of loops around Dogtrot. At least on the lower part of the trail system, the base is holding up . . . nicely.

A

 

2/5 — Brattleboro: Fort Dummer

Another few inches of fine, fresh, Vermont Grade-A Fancy powder snow last night — ain’t we got fun! Whoever has been skiing up at Fort Dummer has laid down a mighty nice pair of tracks, which now form a deep slot in the surrounding snow. This kind of skiing used to be called “touring”: not really deep-woods trailblazing & definitely not racing around on a machine-groomed trail. I imagine that this is what commuting is like in certain parts of Scandinavia . . . or, say, Marlboro, Vermont. Those lucky, lucky souls. . . .

A

 

2/4 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Just as I suspected, Dogtrot had been groomed by the time I got there in the afternoon, & I took Trooper out for a short one in the cold air. The snow is perfect — fresh, lightly packed, no thaw/freeze/thaw/freeze cycles as of yet. Thanks, gomers!

A

 

2/3 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Remember the Snowmaggedon we were supposed to get last week, & didn’t? Well, we got it yesterday . . . or at least a lovely 16 inches of the kind of light, dry snow that falls in very cold air. Trooper & I were among the lucky first few to follow the groomers out onto Dogtrot — but then we found that Dogtrot still hadn’t been rolled, but the lower part of Freedom had, so we made three loops around before Trooper started to get alarmingly gimpy with that rear leg of his. Better give it a rest.

A

 

2/1 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Trooper’s back, so we kept to the legal doggy trails — just as great today as they were yesterday, & even better, in fact, because Trooper’s back. The snow on Labland & Dunham Loop is still nice & fresh; connecting them, there’s still that exposed section of Owl Loop that’s drifted over in a few spots. Poor Trooper got bogged down in one especially deep drift; it was heartbreaking to see him drag his one rear leg along behind him as he churned himself forward with his front legs. But he emerged with his head unbowed & his tail wagging. He likes skiing at least as much as I do!

A

 

1/30 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

A couple more inches of fresh snow — if this keeps up, we may have a real winter on our hands. When I arrived at my usual too-late-in-the-afternoon time-slot, I heard someone in the parking lot say, “This is skiing snow.” Can’t argue with that! Again I went with the ungroomed woodsy trails today: the newly reconfigured Labland was lots of fun, & Dunham Loop trail was so sublimely great that I never thought even once about the freeway just a snowball throw down the hill.

A

 

1/29 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

It warmed up to a balmy 25+ today, so the trails softened up a bit (& slowed up a bit, too, but that’s okay). The long fairway trails — Upper & Lower Heartthrob, Sugarin’, etc. — are especially nice in weather like this.

A

 

1/28 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

More trails have been regroomed today, & it’s cold (below 10) so the packed snow is fast. I could quibble about icy spots, a fair amount of blow-down (small branches, etc.) on the trails . . . but c’mon, it’s winter & we get to ski — what’s not to like?

A

 

1/27 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Okay, so Snowmaggedon was something of a bust — the nor’easter dumped most of its load on Connecticut & Rhode Island & eastern Mass, & instead of the 2 feet we were promised for southern Vermont, we got, oh, maybe 4 or 5 inches . . . hard to say, since it was so windy that the snow was blowing into uneven drifts even as it was still falling. The gomers did a heroic job of pressing down as much of it as they could onto the hard-crust base. This paid off best on the woodsy trails (Forest, Unity) that were protected from the wind. And the steep climbs on Forest were just the thing today to ward off the cold — just keep on a-movin’!

A–

 

1/26 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Well, the BOC trails sure could use some fresh snow. And that’s exactly what the weatherfolk are predicting, with a nor’easter bearing down on us. Somebody on VPR said the storm would be “Historic, catastrophic, & crippling!” Snowmaggedon! Snowpocalypse! Bring it on!

B

 

1/25 — Saxton’s River: Vermont Academy trails

Mighty cold but how nice to get into the woods for some real cross-country skiing. Sorry, ski-skaters — I love watching you guys whiz along on wide, machine-groomed trails, but there’s no way you could ever manage trails like these (narrow, ungroomed, a bit icy here, a bit chewed-up there) just like our ancestors skied on when they were hunting mastadons & being hunted, in turn, by saber-toothed cats.

A–

 

1/24 — Dummerston: Flaherty Field

Whoopee, winter again! Top marks for beauty: fresh snow flocking the trees, misty silver light, etc. etc. etc. Kind of challenging to ski on, though, because under the couple of inches of fresh powder, there is the Ghost of Ice Storms Past — a treacherous crust on top of that nice New Year’s snow . . . & below that, a treacherous crust on top of that nice Thanksgiving snow, making for conditions commonly known as double-crypto-crustaceousness. I can even see the trace of my Thanksgiving tracks under all those layers — this ain’t skiing, it’s snow archeology. Well, okay, it is skiing, I guess — fun, but not too.

B

 

1/18 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Well, I knew it was supposed to rain today, & get up to 40 degrees F, so I thought, Okay, then, I’d better get to BOC early — & I managed to drag Marti & Trooper there by 11:00 a.m. By then it was already sprinkling pretty steadily, & the trails were icy & fast — much faster than they’ve been in all the cold weather of the prior couple of weeks. We made it once around Dogtrot before deciding that skiing in the rain really ain’t all that fun . . . & by the time we made it back to the parking lot, sometime before noon, “they” (Hank, etc.) had already made the decision to close the trails to avoid damaging them.

So that’s the ski report, leaving out the rest of the story: the part about the rain on cold pavement meaning, essentially, ICE STORM . . . & the part about Upper Dummerston Road suddenly becoming a three-dimensional skating rink . . . & the part about sliding the car into a snowbank, & having to put on chains, & parking in an unused driveway, & then having to walk a mile to Sherm & Beth’s house to wait out the hour or two I knew it would take for the road to be salted, by which time the day’s little ski jaunt had turned into a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour. . . .

So let us review: we’ve had two nice little mini-winters now — one at Thanksgiving & then this last one, the past nine days. Let’s all pray for another big snow, another winter.

C–

 

1/16 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Labland has been problematic lately — trees must have fallen across the trail in several places, so this season I’ve had to bushwhack most of the way up (never down — that would be suicidal) to get Trooper from Dogtrot to Faithful: the trails legal for canines. So today, at Hank’s instigation, Brad, John, Gurudaram, & I rerouted Labland along better gradients, with a new entrance on Dogtrot closer to I-91. And then Trooper & I gave it a go (up, of course — never down): even though we still have some wrinkles to work out, it’s a big improvement, & will be even better when we get some serious snow on top of that icy base. And I look forward to seeing more dog tracks alongside the moose tracks (no kidding!) throughout this section of the forest.

A–

 

1/14 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Lucky me — the gomers had just worked their magic when Trooper & I got to BOC for a couple of loops around Dogtrot. How do they do it? Even with hay stubble poking through here & there, they still manage to create a fine, fresh surface for the discriminating skier.

A–

 

1/12 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

It snowed another inch this morning, & the prediction was that the temperature would warm up & the snow would turn to sleet & then rain . . . luckily the precip petered out before those bad things happened. This afternoon was brilliantly clear & unusually warm (over 30), making the snow sticky — almost but not quite sticky enough to clump to the bottom of the skis. So the skiing was slow . . . but so what? It was still skiing.

B+

 

1/11 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Barb & Walter were back; we only had an hour today, so the four us — all eleven legs of us — did the Dogtrot loop a couple of times. Cold again, so the snow’s still holding up. And then we had to run off & attend, ahem, a performance of Verdi’s Requiem. (At least two members of our party would have preferred to continue playing in the snow.)

A

 

1/10 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Barb & Walter joined Trooper & me for a nice, long, two-hour ski through the cold, sparkling air, around Dogtrot via Honeysuckle Gulch, up through the woods on Labland, up around to the Dunham Field Loop — fine conditions. The snow is still a bit thin in spots, but, as is their wont, the gomers have done a great job of making a lot of a little.

A

 

1/9/15 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Ah, back to Vermont winter . . . but what a weird winter so far. Let us review: after that beautiful Thanksgiving snowstorm & several days of great skiing, it got warm & rained . . . then after Christmas we got a couple of inches of sleet, then freezing rain, then days & days of cold weather, leaving a hard, shiny carapace of ice o’er all the land — the skiing conditions were suicidal. And the people were sad. But last night & this morning it snowed again, & the people were happy! At least the ski people were happy, & the BOC gomers were happy to keep us happy & they pressed the new snow into nice corduroy trails before the wind picked up this afternoon.

So Trooper & I gave Dogtrot a whirl. The trail surface was amazingly good, considering that the gomers had only an inch or two of fresh snow to work with. It was cold & the wind was cold & the snow was blowing all over that big open field, swirls of fine, sandlike snow across the open tundra, making it look like a polar Sahara, like . . . winter in Vermont, like skiing.

A–

 

12/28/14 — Casper, Wyoming: Casper Mountain, county trails

By myself today. Feeling ambitious, I decided I’d try to get a sense of the full extent of all the new trails by doing the whole perimeter of the system. Well, I discovered that one of the most far-flung trails was a loop that was only groomed halfway, & so I returned to the main system by way of a snowmobile trail that ran along the cold, windswept ridge where all the new radio & cell phone towers are . . . making it a joy to get back into the trees & onto the groomed trails. This time I parked the truck at the old Wawa Pancake House at the downhill end of the trail system, so I got to end my day’s ski with a mile of big strides & big glides, almost like swimming gently through space, twilight in the pines. Heaven should be exactly like this. . . .

A+

 

12/27 — Casper, Wyoming: Casper Mountain, county trails

Today my old buddy Tom Rea & I, with no dog in tow this time, came up to try out the county trails (as everybody has always called the Natrona County Parks Department Nordic Trails . . . or whatever the official name is). The fabulous snow from yesterday had been expertly groomed, the snow & the temperature (20-ish) were perfect. We discovered that the trail system has been nearly doubled in extent since the last time I was here several years ago — & I hate to make invidious comparisons, but the sheer vastness of the landscape here, & the miles & miles of pristine groomed trails &, above all, the perfect snow all combine to make our beloved Brattleboro Outing Club system seem small & brave & sad. (I won’t feel this way if & when the magic returns to the BOC trails . . . I promise.)

A+

 

12/26 — Casper, Wyoming: Casper Mountain, K2 tower area

Okay, okay — it’s not Brattleboro, it’s not Vermont. But how could I pass up a Christmastide trip back to my old hometown & the chance to ski on Casper Mountain, where I first learned to ski nearly forty years ago? Especially when the snow was already a foot or so deep even before new snow started to fall at dawn on Christmas Day & hasn’t entirely stopped since? And I mean real, honest-to-God Rocky Mountain champagne powder snow, the kind that falls through thin, dry air & stays perfect. Well, in town the snow only stays perfect until the wind picks up & blows it to Nebraska . . . but up on the mountain, except in a few exposed spots, it falls among the lodgepole pines & aspens & limber pines & Engelmann spruce & ponderosa pines, & it flocks all the trees, & it just keeps building up, getting six feet deep by April, & it never gets rained on or sleeted on, & it just stays perfect — perfect, I tell you, perfect!

So . . . with that outburst out of my system, I’ll just report that I took my niece Teresa, a snowboarder but XC ski novice, up to the K2 tower (locals will all know where I mean) because we had Teresa’s mutt, Albert Einstein, with us (so the county trails were off-limits today). Teresa was a great sport & a dogged learner as we made our way along the ridgetop road for a mile or two out & then back to the truck, & all the while the snow was perfect & even in hazy sunlight a few flakes were still falling & the air itself was sparkling & I could have wept at the beauty of it all. This was where I became a cross-country convert all those decades ago, & this was why — no turning back once you’ve tasted the magic.

A+

 

11/30 — Dummerston: Flaherty Field

Already this nice little teaser of winter is coming to a close: the temp is near 40 & the forecast for the week calls for even warmer days & everybody’s least-favorite weather, the dreaded “wintry mix,” a.k.a. yuccho-goopo. The big loop trail I made a couple of days ago is still passable today, not icy at all but you do hear that ominous crunching sound under your skis as the melting snow collapses. And the snow elsewhere is turning to mashed potatoes, getting too heavy & thick for maneuvering when you get a little speed up going downhill. But all in all, conditions were okay for a nice little workout — hey, it’s skiing.

B

 

11/29 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

A nice big perimeter loop around the golf course, which suddenly isn’t a golf course at all anymore, but our wonderful BOC wintertime playground — big improvement, sez me. Even more of the trails have been groomed & not just a single narrow swath like yesterday, but full trails tracked on one side for classic & wide enough for skating. The stretch along East Orchard Road was mostly not groomed, so the day’s work was a nice combination of hauling ass on the groomed trails & slowing down to smell the roses (or pines, or whatever) on connector trails blazed by a few of my fellow BOC’ers earlier in the day. Let’s be grateful for this Thanksgiving prequel to the real ski season while we can; it’s supposed to warm up, starting tomorrow, so all this lovely white stuff will turn to moosh next week, with rain in the forecast.

A–

 

11/28/14 — Dummerston: Flaherty Field / Brattleboro: BOC trails

Can it be? It can! We’re skiing again — there’s been a nor’easter, me hardies! Usually all we get from nor’easters is rain, or, in winter, gummy white dough followed by rain, but this time, starting at noon the day before Thanksgiving, we got 12 inches of nice fresh powder. Wonderful to see the world transformed from late-November dreary to cross-country heaven in just 24 hours! First snow of winter, wet enough to be packable but not so wet as to be sticky — so: perfect for skiing. According to tradition (the last three or four years, anyhow), I made my trial runs for the season out the back of Marti’s back door & around the big field just off Black Mountain Road. Three big loops: one to set the trail, two more to enjoy it. Real old-time cross-country skiing — no machines involved, & the only fuel burned was this morning’s oatmeal. Hoo-hah — we’re skiing again!

A

 

That was morning — gorgeous, sparkling fresh snow, lots of it. And then, late in the afternoon, I just happened to be driving along Upper Dummerston Road, minding my own business, & came upon the country club, & since I happened to have my skis in the car, I thought I’d get greedy & get a second ski in today. Good idea, it turns out: the mighty Gomers had already run the roller over a number of the trails & the surface, though it had gotten plenty of use in the course of the day, was mostly highly skiable, just a few thin or icy patches. So nice to be out in the twilight.

And with that, another great season of skiing in underway — oh yeah!

A–

 

*     *     *

 

3/31/14 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

It rained heavily yesterday, the wind blew hard last night, & the temperature has mostly been well above freezing for the past few days. I went to take a look at the trails this morning &, well, there aren’t really any trails to speak of, just remnants that don’t really connect the scattered patches of dirty, branch-strewn snow. There may be enough snow on some of the fairways that skate-skiers can give themselves a mild workout . . . but that’s pretty much it for BOC this season.

And what a great season it’s been! Many thanks to the BOC members, to the crack crew of Gomers who kept the trails in such fine shape throughout most of the season, despite long stretches without fresh snow, & especially to Hank Lange, whose vision, dedication, & enthusiasm make cross-country skiing in Brattleboro what it is.

We get to live here!

 

3/29 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Another warm, overcast day of evenly softening (i.e., melting) snow, & again very skiable wherever it’s skiable at all — which is still 90 percent of the whole golf course. Even some, though by no means all, of the icy patches were passable with a nice skiable coating of slush on top. I love spring skiing!

And that may be just about it for the BOC trails this season — the forecast calls for heavy rain tomorrow and a high of around fifty, so by Monday there may be little left at BOC but an archipelago of snow islands . . .which can be kinda sorta fun if you can find isthmuses (isthmi?) connecting them, but no fun at all when you find yourself stranded with no choice but to risk “skiing” over bare ground or unclipping your skis altogether & surrendering to the inevitable: it’s over.

A–

 

3/28 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

A warm (mid-forties) afternoon — misty after a full day of rain, so the snow is slushy but weirdly skiable . . . in fact, excellent on the trails & much of the crust — except for the areas that have turned into frozen ponds, or where the snow & ice have disappeared altogether. No problem getting up Forest — except for (see above). I startled a big doe along the way — sorry! By this time tomorrow, Forest may be melted out in so many places that it won’t be a ski trail at all anymore this season, just a winding path through the woods, & that deer will be right there where she belongs.

But there’s still plenty of skiing to be had at BOC . . . so where is everybody? Where is anybody but me & the deer & the squirrels & the birds? (Okay, one skate-skier earlier in the day, who left his tracks but not his name in the ledger, hmm . . .) Even with warm temperatures & rain, there’s still enough snow for at least another week of skiing, I’ll bet. Just get the timing right — I’m guessing mid-mornings & late afternoons will be skiable.

What would you rather be doing?

B+

 

3/27 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Things warmed up into the high thirties today & the skiing was very good at about four in the afternoon — good ol’ springtime sno-cone on the surface, with firmer stuff not too deep underneath. By & large the crust between trails is better than the trails, which are very deeply rutted & frozen to rock ice in the low spots. More & more bare spots & frozen ponds to avoid.

So it’s real cross-country skiing: you pick a spot, maybe the top of a rise or a space between trees, & go there & pick a new spot, & go there, & so on. Real cross-country skiing like this, where you’re picking your own route according to nuances of terrain, snow condition, obstacles, & openings, can be more deeply engaging than just following groomed tracks & trails — certainly as fun as trail skiing, just in a different way. Even though most of the skiing I do these days is trail skiing, I’m glad I first learned to ski & to love skiing on Casper Mountain back before the era of groomed trails, & much more recently, I’m glad I opted for back-country skis when I upgraded a few years ago! They may be a bit fatter & therefore slower on trails, but it’s great always to have the option to make my own trails.

How is it that I was the last one to sign in at the kiosk — two days ago! — & yet there are a fresh pair of classic tracks & a fresh pair of skate-ski tracks? Hmm . . 

B+

 

3/26 — Brattleboro: Fort Dummer

A cold & very windy day — no chance that the BOC trails will soften up for skiing, so I pulled my ice grippers on & walked the Sunset Loop, thinking about . . . snow.

You know that old saw about the Eskimos having so many words for snow? Ten, or fourteen, or twenty-three — whatever. The implication is that Eskimos have to live intimately with all the possible manifestations of snow, so they damn well better have ways of characterizing the white stuff in whatever form it may take . . . & also that, since we benighted (or bedayed) gringos just have the one word “snow,” therefore we have a laughably impoverished conception of the white stuff. Well, stuff & nonsense, sez me! We may not have such a wide range of one-word nouns for the various forms of snow, but so what? We make do nicely with adjectives & especially with metaphors — oh, we have ways of describing the nuances of snow, all right: fluff, powder, silk, thick flakes, clumps, dry snow, wet snow, old snow, fresh snow, light snow, heavy snow, glaze, rock ice, white sand, styrofoam, Sierra cement, corn snow, mashed potatoes, sno-cone, big granules, little granules, slush, glop. There’s twenty-four right there, so I guess we win, right?

 

3/25 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

It was a brilliantly clear, brisk morning, a real birthday of a morning . . . but I didn’t manage to get out to BOC until five — much too late for a cold day, even in springtime. So the trails were all but unskiable, with deep ruts frozen hard & deadly. Time to stay off the trails & stick to the crust, which was very firm & icy but at least fairly smooth, providing some harrowing fun on the downhills.

The nor’easter that was supposed to dump lots of snow on us tonight & tomorrow has decided to dump all that snow in the Atlantic Ocean instead — so say the weatherfolk (Mark Breen on VPR, & the National Weather Service online). And they’re calling for rain this weekend, with highs in the fifties. The end is near. . . .

B

 

3/23 — P—ney: D—ty R—ge trails

I’m not sure that I’m allowed to say anything much about this trail system, which is on private land in the county of W—ham in the state of V—mont, not so very far from B—boro. Miles & miles of superbly maintained trails, groomed flat for skate-skiing, up & down some moderately serious hillsides through a gorgeous sugar bush, complete with taps, tubes, & buckets. Central casting, send up a classic Northern New England hardwood forest still under deep snow in early spring. Ski-topia.

Except that I blew it — I should have gotten there at about noontime, not late afternoon. As I’ve mentioned umpteen times below, with spring skiing, timing is everything. By the time I hit the trails at about 4:30, the shadows were getting long & the air temp was down around freezing or below; the last of the skate-skiers (or was it a very low-flying jet aircraft?) streaked past me, & I had the mountain to myself. Unfortunately, earlier in the day one skate-skier in particular had lived the dream right when the snow was at its softest, & now his (or her . . .) day on the slopes was memorialized hard & deep into the trail, helping to make the uphills tricky (herringbone herringbone herringbone . . .) & the downhills treacherous. Kicked my ass. Damn, if only . . .

B–

 

3/22 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Just a good, basic, plain ol’ day of spring skiing — sunny, warm, & windy. When I arrived in the middle of the afternoon, Hank had groomed down a nice corduroy in the soft, wet surface of a little loop of Freedom, down to Dogtrot & back to the hut. What a privilege to be the first to use a freshly groomed trail! But I wanted to go uphill, not down, so I found good, perfectly skiable, snow-coney crust all the way up to Dipsy Doo, & from there on, the trails were okay, pretty much like the crust. I earned about a buck seventy-five of my volunteer-time credit clearing branches (& one whole dead tree) that had blown down onto the trail up on Curvy Wurvy. From there, the Cardiac Arrest hill was nicely doable, not too soft or too iced up, & then home on Lower Heart Throb. There’s still plenty of snow, guys, for getting around the ponds & the bare spots — & plenty of great skiing if you time it right!

B+

 

3/21 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

A warm-but-not-too-warm afternoon, perfect for spring skiing, & the snow mostly obligued. The trails were best — mashed potatoes on a firm base. The crust is starting to collapse, so today it was somewhat treacherous. Imagine that you’re skiing down a moderate slope & you’re accelerating & your skis are sinking deeper & deeper into mooshy, snow-coney granules & at first your ankles are cutting through the iced-up crust & then your knees & you’re accelerating & . . . then, suddenly, totally, you stop accelerating. That kind of crust. Stick to the trails!

Meanwhile, the weatherfolk are talking nor’easter next week. . . .

B+

 

3/20— Brattleboro: BOC trails

Ah, but last night’s snowfall never did turn to rain, & this morning — the first day of spring! — came with a wonderful parting gift from the God of Winter: two or three inches of fresh snow. It was supposed to warm up today, so — since I, uh, happened to be in the neighborhood — I got to BOC at the uncharacteristic hour of 9:30 a.m. The snow was nice & wet & heavy, about the consistency of mashed potatoes to make for slowish skiing, but perfectly suitable pretty much everywhere for the ol’ stride-’n’-glide classic skiing. (The only other skier was Brett doing his Mighty Viking thing, evidently finding the conditions great for skate-skiing, too.) The morning was misty & still & lovely, more Mordor than golf course, magical. . . . Whoda thunk we’d get another “A” day of skiing after going more than a month since the last real snowfall? Thank you, oh God of Winter!

A

 

3/19 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Surprisingly nice spring skiing — by late afternoon, after a day of warmish temps (thirties), mostly cloudy from noon on, there was a nice, even inch or two of sno-cone on top of a firm base (on the trails) . . . or on most of the trails, anyhow — some stretches of trail have become little hockey rinks, & others have melted right down to golf course. The crust is still mainly intact — today it was a nice, even three inches or so of sno-cone, & in many places provided a good way to get around problem spots on the trails. And just to make everything nicer, a very, very light corn snow began to fall as I was nearing the end of my day’s ski, & by the time I had my skis stowed in the car this had turned into a light, delicate snowfall. The prediction, unfortunately, is that this will turn to freezing rain or something equally gross, which may put an end to our reindeer games altogether for this season.

So . . . where is everybody?

A–

 

3/18 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Got the timing pretty much right today, maybe just a little past peak — fourish to about fivish. The snow (trails or crust) is soft to the point of slushy in the sunshine, then firm to point of icy in the shadows (& better to stick to the trails then — the crust becomes the worst of all worlds: icy on the very top but soft & deep below that). Good day to have sharp edges on your skis — you’ll need ’em.

B

 

3/17 — Brattleboro: Fort Dummer

Since it’s another mostly cold day during what is undeniably the early phase of the spring thaw (we can’t kid ourselves that we’re just once nice snowstorm away from another February, guys), it’s another day to stay off the ski trails, & don the ol’ grippers & hike the Sunset Trail & — for the first time this year — the Sunrise Trail too. A day, in other words, to daydream about spring skiing . . .

     . . . The skiing can be great in springtime, day after lengthening day, but as the temperature extremes widen this time of year — though most days are sunny & getting up into the thirties & even the forties, it’s still getting well below freezing at night — the optimal time-window for skiing can be short, maybe just an hour or two, & hard to predict exactly, & therefore hard to fit into even my admittedly über-flexible freelancer’s workday schedule. And as springtime progresses, then you get into the two-window per day season: too icy in the morning, then softening nicely for an hour sometime noonish, then getting altogether too warm & goopy for a while (forgive the technical terminology), then firming up again for another window of skiable conditions, then getting too damn icy as the shadows fall in the late afternoon. If I’m pretty much sure that I’ve missed either the early- or the late-afternoon window, then it’s just as well to pull the grippers on & take a walk up at Ft. Dummer. So there’s the daily calculus in springtime: when is skiing likely to be fun, & when will it be no fun at all?

 

3/16 — Dummerson: Black Mountain

Couldn’t talk Marti into skiing today — she was sure it would be icy & unsafe & unfun, & we kept this discussion going for hours & by mid- to late afternoon she was certainly right. So we went up Black Mountain with grippers on & the trail was fine for that — it would have been suicide on skis.

 

3/15 — Brattleboro: BOC Trails

What a difference a day makes! By afternoon it had warmed up into the forties & gotten overcast, so all the snow was being baked evenly, which made it uniformly soft & snowconey on top, but still firm below — very skiable. In a number of places the rock-ice base is exposed, but there’s plenty of room to get around.

B+

 

3/14 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

How desperately fanatical am I about skiing? I actually gave it a go today, on an even colder afternoon after even more sun & wind, & the ice was even icier & the sandy stuff was even sandier, & I got around Stadium, just off the parking lot, & up a hundred yards or so onto Lower Heartthrob . . . & I thought: This isn’t fun. There’s every chance that I’ll slip on the rock ice & fall onto all this rock ice, & that will be even less fun than trying to ski on the stuff. So I turned around & went home.

F

 

3/13 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Okay, the temp began to fall like a rock sometime early this morning, & as it was petering out the rain turned to a light, fluffy snow that was beautiful & delicate . . . & only about a quarter-inch “deep.” By late afternoon, unfortunately, a very cold, very sunny, & very windy day had created near-unskiable conditions on trails & crust alike: either frozen rock-hard or, in unpredictable patches, little drifts of the morning’s snow now blown to the consistency of sand. So you’re skittering along half out of control over the ice when suddenly you hit the sandy stuff — it’s like you’re a jet fighter swooping down & catching its tailhook on the deck cable of an aircraft carrier — whoa!

D

 

3/12 — Brattleboro: Fort Dummer

Ach, much warmer & raining, forget skiing today — in these conditions, it’s just as well to put on a trenchcoat & a wide-brimmed hat & a pair of good, waterproof boots, & slog your way around the Sunset Trail up at Ft. Dummer — at least you’re in the forest, right? Slogging & plodding through the moosh . . . “Slog, Plodd, & Mouche” — the world’s dreariest law firm.

(C)

 

3/11 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Cold & icy, very tough skiing, whether on the trails with their deep, fossilized ruts, from one skate-skier in particular (you know who you are . . . but I don’t blame you for skiing the last time it was warm).

C+

 

3/9 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Even though the air temp never got much above freezing today, it was brilliantly sunny, enough to soften up the top several inches of snow . . . but also windy enough to put a hard glaze on top of the mashed potatoes, making for a very difficult surface in places. This would have been a great day to get out there at about 11:00 a.m. . . . so when I started out, at 4:15 p.m., the snow had gotten very soft — too soft — but that top glaze of ice kept getting more & more treacherous: on the crust, the skis were breaking through the glaze & getting caught under it (when I tried coming downhill on the crust — bad idea); on the trails, the warm day’s ruts were very deep & firming up solid & unyielding, making it impossible to manoeuver. There was simply no way to come down the Cardiac Arrest hill safely & in control, nothing to do but pick the least lethal-looking line down on the crust & try not to die. Pray for fresh snow, everybody!

B–

 

3/8 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Ah, finally hit the spring-skiing bull’s-eye — excellent, consistent inch of moosh over that still-hard base. A bit on the slow side, but very skiable. The air was so warm — forty-ish, I imagine — that I figured even the tough forest trails would be softened up enough to be passable, so Trooper & I went up Labland, which was .   . passable . . . but no way was I going to come down Labland & break my neck, so we came down Freedom, where the grooming is holding up well. Thanks, Gomers.

A–

 

3/7 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Still trying to game the spring skiing, still missing it. A little too cold today, especially if you’re trying to hit the softened-up trails at the end of the afternoon . . . when they’re no longer softened up (today they probably never were). After a circuit around Dogtrot with Trooper, during which I kept trying to think of just the right word for the good parts (a nice half inch of mashed-potatoes-consistency snow over the frozen base, & just the right word of the bad parts (“bumply”?), a woman came off the trail with just the word: “rubbly.” Yes, perfect: frozen rubble. You don’t ski those parts; you negotiate them, either very, very gingerly, or by going around.

B–

 

3/6 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Lucky me — just as Trooper & I arrived for what I was hoping would be late-afternoon spring skiing (wrong — still too cold), the Heroic Gomer had just finished scratching a new surface onto Dogtrot, at long last. Whoopee! For the most part, it was really like skiing, not just skating, with the worst of the ruts scraped down passably & the best sections a nice, skiable corduroy. When I’m confined to Dogtrot (Trooper insists), I like to go around counter-clockwise first, then clockwise — twice the topography that way. Not warm enough today to soften up the snow for spring conditions, but not cold & arctic like earlier this week. I’m amazed (& a little dismayed) at how few people, to judge from the sign-in sheet, are getting out to enjoy the trails, which are better than we have any right to expect. . . .

A–

 

3/5 — Brattleboro: Fort Dummer

You know the skiing’s lousy when it seems just as well to walk. There are no groomed trails in Fort Dummer, of course, but people have beaten a path that is icy but smooth, perfectly walkable if you have grippers on. Always nice to get out in the woods, even if you’re not on skis. And thank God for grippers — remember that awful winter a couple of years back when all the trails (at Fort Dummer, & up Wantastiquet & Black Mountain & pretty much everywhere) were covered with a thick hard coat of rock ice, all that was left of the December snow? Grippers were the only way to go — if I were a celebrity, I’d happily do a celebrity endorsement: “Try grippers on all your icy trails — they bite!”

B

 

3/4 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The temp is going up a bit, so I hoped to game it for spring skiing — catch just the right moment in the afternoon. Unfortunately, it’s still too damn cold for spring skiing, it’s still winter skiing on old, rutted, frozen, rained-on, refrozen trails, or else striking out across the crust, which makes me feel like Robert Scott on his ill-fated Antarctic expedition, struggling along over the ice & fissures, eyeing the dogs hungrily. . . . (Just kidding, Trooper).

B–

 

3/3 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Okay, after that brief Green Mountain Orchard interlude, it’s back to reality at BOC, with Dogtrot frozen up harder & scarier than ever, no stride-&-glide at all today, just navigating the petrified ruts still left over from that one wonderful afternoon a couple of weeks ago, just after the rain & just before the cold came back. Another day not for the faint of heart — but Trooper insisted on going out, so go out we did, & got a good workout.

C+

 

3/2 — Putney: Green Mountain Orchard

A rare treat: Green Mountain Orchard teamed up with the West Hill bike shop to sponsor a free ski day open to the whole community, with the Putney School groomers setting trails through the orchards. Tons of fun! The groomers found nice snow under the icy crust, providing a fine skiing surface up & down the hills between the apple trees. A festive atmosphere, with lots of people bringing their kids & trying out the equipment provided by the West Hill shop & enjoying hot cider afterwards. Please send the good folks at GMO (& the West Hill shop & Putney School) your thanks & kudos in the hope that they’ll do it again next year!

A

 

3/1 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Marti took Trooper for a walk, so I was able to make good use of the newly regroomed trails in the upper part of the course — Faithful, Fortitude, Upper Hearthrob, Cardiac Arrest, Lower Hearthrob. The Gomers have done a masterful job of putting a very flat, even, skiable corduroy surface onto the underlying iciness. Fast & fun — I’ll bet that I was skating at least a third of the time, striding-&-gliding a third of the time, & just plain old double-pole schussing a third of the time. Fairly hard work mixed with no work at all, & well worth it.

A–

 

2/28 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Marginally better than last time on the still-ungroomed Dogtrot: a very light snow yesterday, falling on the hard-frozen surface, has now been blown around into a fine powder about the consistency of, say, fine-ground salt, & this has been deposited in most of the ruts, so that, if you’re really paying attention, you can keep steering yourself onto surfaces that allow for as much skiing as skating. But it’s very uneven & constantly changing, so you’ve got to bring your whole game, as they say, & be prepared to change technique every few seconds — very challenging, but a good, honest workout.

B–

 

2/26 — Brattleboro: Fort Dummer

Snowshoeing again, waiting for decent ski conditions. Snowshoeing gives you a chance to contemplate, in isolation, some of the side factors that make skiing so great: the beauty & solitude of the forest, the pine-scented air, the brave little chirps, squawks, & melodic scraps of wintering birds, etc. etc. etc. Okay, now pray for more snow to ski on!

B

 

2/25 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Karmic payback time: just as predicted, that great spring skiing on Sunday came at the price of ruts in the trail that are now frozen hard, making for such challenging conditions that it just ain’t all that fun — too damn icy. And even the crust beside the trail is frozen rock-hard, too. I imagine that skiing to the North Pole, over barren, wind-swept, icy wastes, must be something like this. Zero traction, so lots of herringbone on even the slightest uphills, & lots of shoulder work-out with the poles. Fast, scary downhills. For fanatics only!

C

 

2/23 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Warm & sunny after two days of rain. I was amazed at how much snow is left — nice, soft, snow-cone kind of snow, just like spring skiing at its best. Real guilty-pleasure kind of snow, because we’re wrecking the trails today — even as you’re cruising right along, you hear & feel the crunch of the base collapsing under your skis, & you know that the ruts you’re leaving behind will be fossilized by the cold weather that’s supposed to be coming back tomorrow. Oh well.

A

 

2/21 — Brattleboro: Fort Dummer

Ugh — rain. Warm rain. All that perfect snow turning to moosh. The BOC trails are closed to prevent the certain damage that will result if people ski today (but who would want to?), so with the greatest reluctance I went instead to Fort Dummer & strapped on my snowshoes to plod, slog, & trudge around the Sunset Trail in a light rain. (Sounds like a really bad law firm: “Plod, Slog, & Trudge, how may I direct your call?”) Snowshoeing is a great way to remind yourself how fun skiing is.

C

 

2/19 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Yet another fresh snowfall — we’re so blessed! Another couple of inches of nice, soft, pillowy snow, perfect for, say, skiing on. No new grooming today, but skiing in the tracks of yesterday’s skiers seems like real cross-country skiing anyhow. Machine-groomed trails are great, to be sure . . . but let’s face it: our favorite sport grew up in the wilderness, in the northern forests. Speaking of which — the conditions were perfect today for going down the Forest trail, which can be pretty intimidating in fast &/or icy conditions. In soft, fresh snow, though . . . well, ahhh . . .

A+

 

2/18 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Ahhh . . . a couple of inches of fresh powder, some fresh grooming but not much but who cares? Great just to float along in the tracks of a few good citizens who have passed this way an hour or two before — thank you, Good Citizens.

A+

 

2/17 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The trails are getting very well used & so are a bit chopped up; by late afternoon (my usual ski time) it had gotten cold & the snow on the trails had set up hard — time for regrooming! I have to note, though, what a luxury it is to be able to ski later & later in the day, now well after 5:00. So civilized!

A–

 

2/16 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Even with a lot of people using the trails today (or so I infer from looking at the sign-up sheet), I seemed to have the place pretty much to myself — superb snow conditions, even though only a few of the trails have been groomed.

A

 

2/14 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Just time for a quick loop around the Dogtrot field with Trooper (the actual trail hasn’t been groomed yet). Have I mentioned that I love skiing on fresh snow?

A

 

2/13 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Moonlight magic with Hank & a doughty band of skiers & dogs. Mighty cold — incentive enough to keep moving. There is nothing like seeing the moonlight sparkling on a field of freshly fallen snow. Ahh . . .

A+

 

2/11 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

More or less the same as yesterday — all that careful grooming & regrooming keeps paying off for the true winter sports enthusiast, out there in the snow enjoying winter sports rather than watching other people (the Olympians at Sochi) do pretty much the same stuff on TV. Well, maybe what we do here on the BOC trails ain’t quite up to Olympic caliber . . . but the thing is, we’re actually doing it, not just watching it. (Mostly I’m not at all competitive when it comes to skiing, but I suppose that the Olympics have me revved up.) At Hank’s suggestion, I gave the Lab Land trail a go today — as a narrow, winding track on a steep slope through the trees, it’s definitely one for skiing up, not down, on a cold day like this . . . although Trooper says that he likes Lab Land any way he can get it, since it’s named after him.

A

 

2/10 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

I’m very sorry to have missed the last several days out in the snow, due to a nasty cold, but today I managed one gingerly loop around Dogtrot with Trooper, who can never get enough. The Gomers have more than kept up with the weekend ski traffic, & the trails are still in superb condition. Yay!

A

 

2/6 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

And today the tracks were laid down, making for exceptionally fine skiing on Dogtrot, which I enjoyed with Trooper — first around the loop this way, then around that way . . . amazingly enough, it comes out exactly the same. The word to describe the snow condition today, I finally decided, is pillowy.

A

 

2/5 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

A good (make that great) 10 inches or so of medium-dense snow. Wonderful conditions! Not perfect, but somehow better than perfect because of how fresh & lovely everything is, snowfall tapering off in antique-silver late-afternoon light. Some trails have had a preliminary grooming, no tracks yet & no time for the new snow to bond with the ice beneath, making for a fine stride-&-glide surface. Trooper & I also went all the way up the Dunham Loop trail alongside the freeway, which was all fresh powder, almost like being up on Casper Mountain. This is the kind of day that has me singing: I Love Vermont! I Love Vermont!

A

 

2/4 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Same conditions as yesterday, but even icier & faster, & considerably scarier because it must have warmed up earlier in the day, a few people skied & left deep ruts, & by late afternoon those ruts were frozen hard. All in all, for fanatics only. Supposedly we’ll finally be getting some fresh snow tonight, & maybe a lot by this time tomorrow.

C+

 

2/3 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Cold again after several warm days — super icy & scary fast. Even the crust between trails is icy, hard, & fast. Trooper didn’t even leave pawprints. More & more bare patches opening up on both trails & fairways.

B–

 

2/2 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Despite the warm, gray day & a forecast of rain, I, um, happened to be driving past Upper Dummerston Road anyway, & all my XC gear happened to be in the car, so . . . I happened to pop by BOC for a quick ski. Hardly anybody there, of course — too bad for everybody else, because the conditions were surprisingly good. (That’s another one of the rubber stamps I can use this winter, so far: “Surprisingly Good.”) The crust is quite skiable everywhere that isn’t bare; the trails are actually holding up for the most part, with a nice, thin layer of slush over the icy parts, & it’s no trouble getting around the bare spots. The past couple of weeks have been pretty hard on my skis, though — they’re turning from My Nice New Skis to My Trusty Old Rock Skis . . . & if we don’t get some fresh snow soon, they’ll be My Shitty Old Beaters. But if that’s the cost of skiing . . .

B

 

2/1 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Very warm — well above freezing, maybe pushing 40. So it was slow for my waxless skis, but everyplace was skiable — crust, trails — except where there’s no snow at all (a growing fraction). The Gomers have been out, touching up the trails here & there where it’s worth the trouble. It’s so nice being out . . . where the hell is everybody?

B–

 

1/31 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

A fine day for skiing: high 20s, maybe even up above freezing, with the surface continuing to soften up to a nice sno-cone consistency on top of the sheet-ice base. Nice to take Trooper up Faithful on a weekday. No forgetting that this is a golf course, not a wilderness.

B

 

1/30 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Trooper’s back, so we headed over to Dogtrot . . . where there’s almost nothing to ski on, though the spaces between rows of hay stubble are surprisingly skiable. Always fun to get out there, especially with Trooper.

B–

 

1/29 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

See rubber stamp, below. Inevitably, the conditions can only deteriorate gradually if there’s no new snow, even if it stays cold (and today it’s warming up a bit, into the 20s, enough to soften up the surface & make it a little less icy). But the crust is so nicely skiable that it’s just as well to stay off the trails in the many places where the trails are just plain worn out.

B

 

1/28 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

I could just as well have a rubber stamp made: “No fresh snow, cold & fast again today, trails in amazingly good shape, considering.” Right near the car park area a woman was leading a group of kids (about six, seven, eight years old, I think) in what was obviously their first time on skis — comical & heartwarming & sometimes a little bit painful to watch. Boom — down would go one of them on his ass, & then — boom — another. When I’d done my run (up Whoa Nelly, over to Upper Heartthrob, down Moxie, back on Lower Heartthrob) the kids hadn’t gotten much farther, just around to the other side of the parking lot, really. I heard a lot of giggles & shrieks — fun being had! — but also saw little clusters of three: two exasperated adults with a poor little kid, cold, sometimes crying. I heard one dad say, “No! We came here to have fun!” I heard another dad say to a kid who was stalled on a slight incline & struggling not to fall, “I told you to sidestep here! Why won’t you stop moving & listen to me!” Poor kids. . . . But most were having fun, I think, & I made a point of telling one of the moms about being sure to have the kids wear the straps on their poles correctly, around the wrist from below so that they can use the poles to push, not just to avoid falling. (This is just about the only evangelizing I do, ever, but I do it with a great sense of mission. Skiing for the People!)

B+

 

1/27 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

With no fresh snow in sight, the ski conditions are literally frozen in place — the trails are getting a little more worn out every day, but not much. A lot of ice patches, & a lot more where there’s ice just under the surface; it’s disconcerting when the poles glance off rather than sticking. The wind made me miss the big bushy beard I had last winter.

B+

 

1/26 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The much-hoped-for snow “storm” delivered only about an inch of new snow, barely enough to refresh the surface of the trails . . . but once again the brilliant Gomers have made a lot of a little, putting down a new corduroy surface (still not enough snow for tracks). Cold & fast again today.

B+

 

1/25 — New Ipswich, New Hampshire: Windblown XC

So nice to be back at Windblown after a five-year hiatus! Minimal snow cover, ice &/or rocks just beneath, & only a fraction of the trails open . . . but nice 25-degree weather made for a nice day’s skiing anyhow. Can’t wait to get back here once they’ve had some real snow.

B

 

1/23 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Still quite cold, around 10°F. I started with a very good idea: stick mainly to the fairways, where an inch or two of powder on top of a very hard crust makes for a fine ski surface . . . so far , so good. And then I got to the top & was seized with a very bad idea: ski down Forest, narrow trails through the trees that haven’t been groomed in weeks, rather than my old reliables like Moxie & Faithful. But I started down Forest & should have turned around as soon as it got sucky, which was pretty much right away — ice, rocks, bare dirt — but after having to sidestep down the first steep bit, I was stuck with it, & soon found myself sidestepping more than I was skiing. Not so fun, but without sharp edges it would have been much, much less fun. A relief to get back down to the fairways.

C

 

1/22 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Icy, fast, & cold — under 10°F. And windy, which is both a good thing (it blew a little “fresh” snow off the crust & onto the trails) & a less-good thing (in that it turned cold into really, really cold). The Gomers are making valiant efforts to save most of the main trails, despite the lack of any substantial new snow since last week. In many cases, though, it’s better to get off the trails: the crust is very skiable (probably not very skatable — those guys are stuck with the trails, which is why skating isn’t exactly “cross-country skiing”).

B–

 

1/21 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Interesting complement to yesterday — today, the skiing should have been lousy because of how cold it was, low teens, somehow the groommeisters have managed to fuse the two piddly snowfalls of last week to a rock-hard base, so it really can be called skiing on snow, not quite directly on the rock ice (or just rocks) beneath. A bit tricky — the poles glanced off in some places, so thin was the snow cover over the ice. Still, overall it was fast & fun.

B

 

1/20 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

The skiing should have been lousy — the snow is still very thin & the temp was a bit too warm, mid- to upper thirties. But there was a light, almost faint snowfall all day long, just enough to put a newish surface on the trails, & with fresh wax on my skis to keep them from sticking, I was able to zip right along.

B

 

1/18 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Pretty much like yesterday, but 10°F warmer & a little more fresh snow — wet, sticky stuff that would cake onto my skis unless I kept moving. This made for relatively easy uphills, with no backsliding at all . . . but slow downhills even with lots of double-poling. Very pretty with the light snow falling. Still, when the snow is this thin, you can’t pretend that the place is anything other than a golf course, not when you can easily see the outlines of the sandtraps & greens. An undisturbed forest, this ain’t.

B–

 

1/17 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

A quarter inch of fresh powder over the hard crust of what’s left after last week’s rain & warm temps — not a promising formula for a great ski, but I was pleasantly surprised. The remains of the groomed trails from last week were surprisingly skiable — powder over rock ice in some (many) spots, but thank God for sharp metal edges. Not a day for the faint of heart or the dull of edge.

B

 

1/10 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

There was just a dusting of new snow, but that was enough to freshen up the surface, which was mostly excellent, despite some icy patches in low spots & the general thinness of the snow cover. Trooper had a scary run-in with a rather phlegmatic Husky (Trooper’s a total coward, bless his heart), but otherwise we had a great time . . . maybe all the greater, knowing that rain & warm weather are on the way — the dreaded January Thaw.

A–

 

1/9 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Just like yesterday — fast & fun. In fact, a tad better than yesterday, because a little bit warmer, making for a better surface. Trooper loved it, as always.

B+

 

1/8 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Wow — super fast, super fun. After a couple of way-too-warm days with lots of rain, followed by a couple of the coldest days of the season, it’s amazing that the trails can be this good — very hard, with cocktail-grade icy patches (beware!), but nice & even, not too badly pitted or grooved (that is, not too much fossilized slush). Great footing for Trooper — he didn’t even leave prints. Hardluck Herringbone on uphills, lots of double-poling & skating on flats (& I don’t even have skate-skis), Morituri Te Salutant on the downhills. Not for the faith of heart, this stuff! A great day to have sharp metal edges & know how to use ’em!

B

 

1/5 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

With Trooper on Dogtrot. The snow is holding up beautifully, tracks have been added to an already great grooming job (thanks, Gomers!). A number of other dogs for Trooper to meet & play with. Nice temp, upper 20s, but supposedly the temp will rise & bring first sleet, then freezing rain, then rain, then . . . I don’t want to think about it. Frogs? Locusts? Sleet I can live with — like little ball bearings. Bring on the sleet!

A

 

1/4 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Skiing with Trooper on Dogtrot. Fabulous, ample snow, well groomed (no tracks, but no matter). Coldish but not too (~20°F), end of a gorgeous clear, sunny day, with a nice whiff of Colorado in the air.

A

 

1/3 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Skiing with Trooper. Plenty of fresh snow after the New Year’s storm has passed, great grooming job (trails, no tracks) but very cold (~8°F) & windy, with lots of drifting over exposed portions of trails on Dogtrot.

A–

 

1/2/14 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Skiing with Trooper. Champagne snow falling on nicely groomed trails, soft afternoon light — magical. (Skied up Lab Land but it wasn’t groomed at all, not even a single snowmobile track, so I lost the trail & had to do some bushwhacking, always a challenge on skis.)

A+

 

12/29/13 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Rain about to start — trails closed to skiing. Hank & I worked on the Lab Land trail, which I plan to frequent whenever I’m skiing with Trooper. Very weird to tear across fields on the back of a snowmobile piloted by Hank. . . .

 

12/28 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Let’s not say the glass is nearly empty, let’s say it’s a little bit full. We have no right to be skiing today, but there’s just barely enough snow left to ski on (though I had my first spill of the season when my ski hit a rock — ow).

C

 

12/27 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Very little snow on the ground but the Gomers have done a lot with a little — quite skiable. When the snow is so very thin the place looks like what it is — a golf course with a bit of snow on it.

B+

 

12/26 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Very light snow falling all day long, lovely feathery downy soft snow which, unfortunately, added up to almost nothing; the trails had been groomed by PM (but not grooved w/ tracks — not even enough snow for that), skiable despite v. thin new snow on top of what was left of last week’s base (now either frozen to glare ice, or gone entirely); some gut-churning moments of feeling schmutz grinding under my skis on especially thin spots; after getting to the top of the hill on trails, the fairway crust looked inviting & was perfectly skiable, so nice that I wondered why I hadn’t stayed off the trails on the way up as well.

B

 

12/25 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Trails reopen after air turns cold again . . . but the trails themselves must all be wrecked after all that rain & 2 days in the 50s; somebody sent Marti a little video of a good local skate-skier finding decent enough crust on the fairways to skate on in the lower part of the course — he did a gorgeous 180-degree aerial turnaround, v. impressive . . . but I wasn’t there.

(B? C?)

 

12/21 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Very warm, rainy, ugly day for skiing; in the AM went out (on foot) with Hank & other BOC’ers for “training” as ad hoc trail maintenance crew, began “constructing” a berm on the trail along the first fairway to help steer the trail up & around a little hill; came back in the PM (& in the rain) after Hank had closed the trails, skied to my berm with poles in one hand & shovel in the other, built berm up to about 2 feet by 15 feet or so, carefully patted it down with my skis but otherwise didn’t try to ski the trails at all — they were all turning to moosh anyhow.

D–

 

12/20 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Much too warm, well over 40, with the threat of rain all day, luckily just a drizzle as I was starting out, & even that stopped after 20 mins., trails getting mushy, gotta get our licks in quick because heavy rain is predicted for the next couple of days.

C

 

12/19 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Trails getting a too soft & worn in the too-warm air (well above freezing, in the high 30s), still great to be outside, as always.

B

 

12/18 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Conditions holding up even as trails are getting well used, nice trail touch-up work by the Gomers, smooth run down Honeysuckle Gulch.

A–

 

12/17 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Still very good snow & grooming, a bit warmer (~15–20°F), trails getting used & just a bit of icing up in the tracks, but mostly still nice powdery quality to snow.

A

 

12/16 — Brattleboro: BOC trails

Magical snow, nice & cold (~10°F — incentive to keep moving), groomed trails still little used.

A+

 

12/15/13 — Dummerston: Black Mountain Road; Brattleboro: BOC trails

AM in Dummerston: still lightly snowing all day, nice & cold, great to ski the tracks I made yesterday on my Black Mountain trail; afternoon in Brat: fabulous grooming job by the BOC Gomers, perfect tracks, pristine, still snowing ever so slightly, lovely run down Honeysuckle Gulch.

A+

 

12/14/13 — Dummerston: Black Mountain Road

First snowfall of season, surprisingly good conditions — cold air, 8–10 inches of champagne powder snow, well worth the extra effort of trail breaking.

A

 

© Michael Fleming

Brattleboro, Vermont

 

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