After a slow start, it suddenly snowed and winter was here, full-time, for now. Top and below, the Montpelier, VT, middle school cross-country team heads across a field on an adventure ski. Everything else is within about two miles of home during the first big snowfall of 2021.
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Category Archives: Skiing
It started snowing in early November in Vermont and kept snowing, with a few rainstorms in between, well into April. At its deepest, the snow on top of Mt. Mansfield, the highest point in the state, reached 10 feet. And the manmade snow on the ski resort slopes hung on well into May. These pictures were taken May 5 and people skied for weeks after that, skinning up the slopes on climbing skins and gliding back down on corn snow. A winter and spring to remember.
Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates her slalom win Sunday.
When bringing a weekend of women’s World Cup alpine ski racing from Europe to Killington, VT, was proposed, Eastern skiers all but guaranteed that they’d show up to cheer, and Killington guaranteed snow to race on. After all it would be the first women’s World Cup race in Vermont for 38 years. They all delivered Saturday and Sunday, when crowds estimated at up to 15,000 flooded the base of Killington’s Superstar trail. American Mikaela Shiffrin, who learned ski racing at Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy, also delivered, by winning Sunday’s slalom. Spectators included her 95-year-old grandmother. Stories here, and here. And here.
I know it was 70 last week, but the first snow has arrived on Vermont’s Mount Mansfield, and skiers and boarders have been walking up to ride down. Right on schedule. These are from yesterday. Rocky and grassy in places, but skiable.
People in Bend, Oregon, are pretty insistent about Bend being sunny, as in more than 300 days a year that are either sunny or mostly sunny. I was there last week and there was only one sunny day out of seven (above, at Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort). The rest of the time was taken up with rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain in varying amounts, coating the sage and juniper of the high desert. It was November though.
Mt. Bachelor is at the end of a roughly 20-mile road that climbs the long, easy grade from Bend into the mountains. Easy by Vermont standards, but an interesting Oregon folkway is that they do not apply salt to the roads. A good idea, no doubt, but it makes for some cautious and interesting driving, even when the snow is light. Highway crews dump red lava rock on everything that looks like a road, and that helps.
The population of Bend in 1990 was about 20,500. Today it is more than 80,000. As soon as you get out of the relatively small core of the downtown, you can see the explosion of growth on both sides of the Deschutes River: acres and acres of apartment and condo complexes, malls, mini malls, and new houses perched on the hills, all connected by newish roads and a lot of nice roundabouts. Plus 19 breweries (Count ’em by clicking here.) Bend has grown so fast in the last few decades that it has its own Growth Management Department. And the city council just approved a $28 million sewer expansion.
If you climb the roughly 500 feet to the top of Pilot Butte, you can see not only highways and the roofs of relatively new buildings in all directions, but also the sage, the juniper and the ring of volcanoes and volcanic debris that surround the town. Pilot Butte itself is an extinct volcano, a cinder cone — unlike the Newberry volcano, about 20 miles away, which is considered “potentially active.”
Everybody in Bend is active too. It’s an outdoor town, full of cyclists, runners, snowboarders, skiers, kayakers, climbers. Interesting place. Don’t know whether it’s done growing or not.
Hard to beat Smugglers Notch in Stowe for drama in early winter. It’s not Buffalo, but it is winter. This was Friday, temperatures in the low 20s and a gusty wind. Frigid, with lots of blue light. Of course, today it’s in the 40s and rainy, and heading for the 60s tomorrow.
Ok, it’s a little early in the season to be obsessed with snow, but it’s still interesting that the valleys remain their tawny, gray and purple November colors while much of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, had enough snow to ski on yesterday. Some of it was shot out of snow guns, but most of it was real. By the way, snow guns are loud and at relatively warm temperatures the manmade snow is wet, so skiing by them is like walking through a cold shower and past a running jet. Alpine skiers and snowboarders seemed to be on almost every trail, hiking up to get their first turns of the year.
Spring always creeps slowly into the winter-brown Vermont hills and then explodes. This, the other foliage season, a riot of green, seems to arrive in the space of three days. And in the space of two weeks we go from skiing (bottom photo, Mt. Mansfield on April 22nd), to plowing (top, East Montpelier), to bicycling, paddling and mowing the lawn. Summer’s so short it’s a good thing that when spring finally gets here it pounces.
Nordic skiing World Cup races are rarely held outside of Europe’s skiing nations, where almost every winter weekend they are watched by the kind crowds North America can only manage to turn out for events like professional football. But last weekend the World Cup sprints came to an 800-meter hairpin-turn course of manmade snow in front of the provincial parliament building in Quebec City. Americans and Canadians from across the continent, especially from northern New England, Ontario and Quebec, showed up to cheer for the teams and skiers they never get to see — not just the North Americans but a total of 150 skiers from 15 nations, from Russia, Sweden and Finland to Australia. American Kikkan Randall (Alaska), top two photos, in black, combined with teammate Jessie Diggins (Minnesota), photos below, with her game face on before the individual race and taking one of the many corners, to win the team sprint event Friday, a first for the US. In that same cornering picture, in the third black suit in the pack, is Barton and Craftsbury Vermont’s Ida Sargent.
Quebec’s local hero Alex Harvey, third photo below, leading the pack, and Devon Kershaw (Ontario), had the potential to win the team sprint, but failed after Harvey got tangled up with another skier on the tight course. Randall won the individual sprint on Saturday. Scroll down for more, including the tiny helicopter/camera drone that swooped over the course. You can watch the men’s and women’s team sprints from Quebec here. Link to some of the mini-copter footage is here.
By the way, there was not a flake of natural snow in Quebec until it snowed lightly on Saturday. Organizers hauled in an estimated 20,000 cubic meters of manmade snow to build the race course. Racers glided next to the city’s ancient stone walls and each heat started below the Porte St. Louis, built in the 1600s and rebuilt in the nineteenth century, and then followed the Grand Allée — the main street — for the first 100 yards.