Friday, November 22, 2013

Loon Mountain - Early Season Visit

Time to knock another mountain off the list, early season style!

Golden snow showers, facing east, late afternoon at Loon Mountain. 
Surprise update! I got another day of early season runs in on Tuesday (11/19/13). I was not exactly planning on hitting up any other mountains until after Gunstock opens (on Dec 6th, if anyone is wondering), but Loon Mountain was offering 29 dollar lift tickets, and I just so happened to have nothing to do, so I figured what the hell. Again, I do feel like I am cheating a little bit, but I have been to Loon many times, and I know that its one of Newschoolers favorite locations, so it will get plenty of coverage anyway from other people later on in the season

Summit of Loon Mountain (11/19/13)

I showed up just after the lifts opened, to an extremely empty parking lot. There had to have been a total of 12 cars there including me (and I think at peak hours there were maybe 50 people on the mountain total). It was odd being at such a popular resort, and having it feel completely empty. I wearily geared up in the very empty lodge, with a handful of other die hard skiers and snowboarders, eager to work on my form and hit the park early season, so I would look better on opening day when I would be training with fellow instructors at my home mountain. It is amazing what 6+ months off and occasionally skiing on a dry slope in your backyard will do to your fine motor skills (hint: it's nothing good).  The conditions were textbook early season. It started out cold and super hard, with most of the trails having some pretty big bare spots. The snowguns were roaring all day long, which, although made it a little more miserable in spots, managed to cover up the bare spots by the end of the day on most of the trails. Not only that but one of the trails (which no one seemed to realize was open) was downright nice by the end of the day. I was really enjoying getting a nice (man-made) powdery surface to cut some terms.

You don't say? I had no idea.

After getting warmed up and trying all 4 available ways down the mountain, I decided it was time to hit the park. I was told there were two open, with four total features available(from both the snow report, and the clerk at the front desk who sold me my ticket). I know its not much, but hey, its mid-November. I had passed the more advanced park earlier, so I headed there first. This one consisted of a side entry, fairly steep down rail, and a Rail with two ledges on either side of it. I quickly decided the down rail was a bit above my ability for the time being, and figured I would try some ski slides on the ledges. After several failed attempts (I will blame it on the ledges being sticky, that was clearly the issue), I decided to head for the beginners park. I was told by the guy selling tickets that it was open, but over at the Governors base area, a few hundred yards away. With the little train out of service, I hoofed it across the lot. 200 yards in ski boots across a paved lot is neither fun, nor good for my boots, so you can imagine my anger when I found that the beginners park was closed. It looked perfect, there was a nice low, long flat bar, and a similar box, with perfectly shaped run ins, made completely of ice and crossed off. These are the kinds of things I want to work on right now. I asked a couple of snowmaking guys walking by if I could open them up, but alas they just yelled at me, 'informing' me that the park had not been groomed and it was too icy. As someone who skis a dry slope, I have no issues with ice, as it is certainly better than skiing on astro-turf. I trudged back across the parking lot, super annoyed, ditched most of my park gear and spent the rest of the day working on my switch form and nosebutter 3s(one of which resulted in a binding releasing, and a wonderfully sore shoulder). Unfortunately I did not find any Newschoolers around to ride with, the park was filled with snowboarders sessioning the two features, and one skier who seemed like he knew what he was doing.

I have never particularly liked Loon, outside of its absolutely stellar parks, but this visit did not help my opinion. Being told beforehand that something is open, only to arrive to find it closed for the entire day, is a major no-no in public relations. My main issue with it (other than it generally being packed to the brim with people every day) is that I find most of the trails un-interesting. A groomer is a groomer, and Loon is filled with them. They really don't have too much to challenge an expert skier outside of their parks, even with the new expansion to the mountain west of them. Again, their parks are absolutely stellar, but I find the rest of the mountain lacking. This combined with the gondola they have pretty much guarantees that the only time you will find me there, is if I am in their parks the entire day. (Side note - I really hate gondolas in general, not just the one here.) I do hope, if I have time to return mid-late season to check out their parks when they are fully up and running

I hope you enjoyed reading this early season report out of Loon Mountain. The pace of the blog will really start picking up within the next month. I have a couple of posts planned out for the gap between now and the true start of the season (that are not all ski related, so we will get to cover some non-skiing stuff, for anyone interested). As soon as Gunstock opens, my Instructor reciprocity privileges will kick in, and I will be able to start knocking mountains off the list, and getting 'real' reviews in, not just early season stuff where the mountain has less than 5 trails open. Apologies for the lack of any video to go with this post, there simply was not anything worth filming going on.

 I am still open for additional ideas for what to cover at any given mountain, so please, let me know what you, the reader, want to see! No idea is a bad idea! Also, if you have not followed me on Instagram and Twitter, you are missing out on being up to date with wherever I am! I try and post lots of picture from to Instagram from the mountain when I have service (Loon + Verizon Wireless = No service and an unhappy Charlie).

Now go out there and get some early season runs in Internet!

Copyright Charles Boulanger and Skiing, Gaming and Guns, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Charles Boulanger and Skiing, Gaming and Guns with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. 

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