The superstition is this: The later your snow season begins the worse it will be. There have been some stinker seasons the past 10 years. In my 27 years of being on the slopes nothing was worse than 2001 - 2002. I wound up skating an empty pool on Rte 123 in Virginia because it was 85 degrees in February. However there have been some exceptional ones. The previous winter I found myself in Killington Vermont during the second week of October riding out two slopes with my old friend Hans. We wound up receiving an incredible snowfall that year and all was well. When the opportunity arose this weekend to ride at the tail end of November on the slopes of Stratton, VT it was game on to get the season started off right.
Now, in my years of snowboarding( 17 I think) I've learned to ride alone because my work schedule tends to deviate from those I ride with. As the trek to riding this weekend became a reality I linked up with my newly acquired shred friend Frank. Frank had commented on this blog awhile back and we ended up e-mailing only to find out we are from the original hometown in Vestal, NY. On the random scale of 1-10 that rates about an 11. Long story short, Stratton was open and Frank would be there so it became clear I'd have somebody to ride with.
After leaving Vestal, NY at 5 am I finally pulled into lot 1 at Stratton. With over 30% of the mountain open I was excited to get on the hill. One minor boot malfunction, a quick pit stop and $69 for a ticket later I was walking towards the Gondola. The conditions were primarily overcast usually this means you'll have a lovely mixture of flat light and missed cues on the slopes. This was the first noticeable positive thing about Stratton. The slopes were pitched to keep you moving but never obstruct your vision. That's a fancy way of saying the rollers and pitch was spread out enough so that even in lousy conditions you had good visibility. While the famed Stratton groomers were long gone by the time I got on the hill the snow was still solid.
I eventually caught up with Frank and after a few warm up runs I demo'd a Burton Hero with V-rocker. That review can be found right here but I will say it boosted up the fun level several notches. Riding with Frank was great because he's the type of rider I like to ride with: Somebody who is much better than me. Being my inaugural trip to Stratton, I took cues from his lines and linked into his turns. I found a few of my own lines, little rollers and jibs but like any good first time session having a person to follow really helped out.
Stratton as a resort, even in this early season, left me with some very positive thoughts. The lines kept moving, the slopes were excellent and overall everybody had a great vibe. I can only assume that a strong early season opening left everybody smiling. I would easily recommend Stratton for a trip if you are on the East Coast, Plan on attending an on-snow or ever want to see a big comp ala the US Open. A two big thumbs up and I'm looking forward to the on-snow in early 2009. While riding up the Gondola at the end of the day a few snowmakers began talking about the other parts of the mountain yet to open. Juding by the look in their eye I've only scratched the surface of good things at Stratton.
So, the season is off with a bang. Skating is now relegated to the occasional indoor and night session. Snowboarding is a go and I'll be back out once more before we get in December. Here's to some cold days, Colder nights and plenty of snow falling from the sky.
Photo 1. Frank
Photo 2. Jonny in his best "homer" pose