I’ve always been of the mindset that any ski days prior to the new year are generally the bonus of good fortune.
But the flurry of angst that comes with chasing early-season rewards has seemed more a bit more vocal this winter.
It’s understandable that skiers and riders have this pent-up need every fall to get on the slopes as soon as they can, yet sometimes they can lose perspective of both the natural and human buildup necessary.
Hence, any ski area’s “opening day” has never been a day when I found I absolutely needed to go.
It’s exciting, a sign that ski season has arrived in New England for another year. But why am I rushing to the hills just to be one of dozens trying to navigate a WROD?
Even so, some considered this to be a later start to the season in these parts. A moderate autumn meant that Killington Mountain Resort, usually the first to open in the East, couldn’t run its lifts until Nov. 5. (The resort has managed to open in October three of the last eight seasons.) Vail frustrated some of its customers by pushing back its properties’ opening dates until later in the month.
I wasn’t even planning on skiing last month when I was in Killington covering the women’s World Cup. With much of the resort’s focus on pumping Superstar full of snow, there were only a handful of routes open on the mountain prior to Thanksgiving. That was an experience I could just shrug off, knowing the best of the season was yet to come.
But what should have greeted us upon our arrival in Vermont but 19 inches of snow. Of course I skied.
All told, they were probably the best early-season turns I’ve had since late November, 2018, when more than a foot of snow fell on New Hampshire. But trust me when I say that I don’t believe they will be the best ones I take this season. At least, they better not be.
Maybe it’s the inherent need to make the most of a season pass, but I still find it wild that there are those among us who would rather ski in November than they would during March or April. So many skiers and riders want to get to the slopes as soon as they can every season, but too many bail just when conditions are at their best. Why are we rushing to ski the white ribbon of death, but shutting it down when snow is plentiful, the sun is shining, and the vibe is unbeatable?
There’s only so much that can be humanly controlled at a ski area. Snowmaking helps fill in a lot of holes, and has given us skiing vastly improved from that of a generation ago. But skiing is at its best when the machines are used as an enhancement, finishing off what Mother Nature was nice enough to drop off.
So, when we’re greeted by warm, wet conditions, as much of New England was this past weekend, I can’t manage to over-react. I can hold off and get my holiday shopping done rather than race north to find out where I can ski somewhat manageable conditions. Just getting the day in doesn’t necessarily contribute to a more robust season.
Give me the same sort of weekend come the annual January thaw, or even lingering into February, and that’s when my angst will show. I’ll gladly swap a wet, overcast day on the groomers in December for a sunny day filled with spring bumps. See you in May.
Of course, any resort’s “closing day” is always bittersweet. But darn it if the skiing isn’t so much better than the day it opened.
Eric Wilbur can be reached at [email protected].