At this point in the tour, I am really going to be stepping into the extreme mountains. Smuggs is stop number 18 on the tour, and also my 50th day on snow this season. I could not have picked a better mountain to have my 50th day at. I knew Smugglers' Notch had a reputation for being a fairly difficult mountain, but I was not expecting something that would truly challenge my abilities. Really, I had no idea what I was about to step into, having never spent any time in this part of Vermont.
As I arrived I pulled into the village at the base of the mountain, I was quite confused by the layout of the mountain. You basically cannot see any of the mountain from the village. After getting my ticket I was informed that the 'main' mountain was located up the road. You can get there from the village, but it apparently does not make for an easy trip out or back as there are a lot of flats. Having already put all my gear on, I made the drive up the road fully booted up, making liberal use of my cruise control. When I pulled into parking lot 1, I was greeted with my favorite parking lot ever. Why? Because the only access in or out was by ski trail. A good way to start the day.
|Best parking lot ever. Ski in, ski out.|
From the top of Sterling, I snagged a few more shots, and admired the view of Stowe Resort (which I will be visiting soon, hopefully). I zigged and zagged my way down the mountain, making my way to 'The Zone' park. This was a medium to large sized park, although physically not particularly long. It looked very nice, and all the parks were well maintained.
The only other park on the mountain is another gladed park known as 'Knight's Revenge' It was very cool, and seemed like it was also most likely a mountain bike park in the summer, as I could see many of the features working well for that purpose. Up until this season, I did not realize that glade parks were really a thing that anyone put any effort into. Very cool and unique.
After making the switch to my fat skis (which was super simple due to the ski-in / ski-out nature) I headed back up. Between the slow lifts and the awesome terrain that Smuggs has, it just was not going to be a park day. The Zone featured a T-bar for easy lapping, but it was closed during my visit, and would not have allowed access to the Birch Run park which I would have wanted to lap. I made my way back to the Madonna lift through many, many glades. I frankly do not remember which were which because there are simply so many gladed runs. Smugglers blue glades are harder than most places black diamond glades. Its great!
After making back to the top of Madonna Mountain, and taking even more photos of the stunning views, I headed down along the ridge of the mountain, Frankly 'Upper Chillcoot' may just be one of the most unique trails I have been on. It was very cool.
Not too far down the ridge line I came across this, by far my new all time favorite trail sign. (Sorry Sunday River, the trail sign at the top of Whitecap was only my favorite for a few weeks.)
"It's not closed." said the Patroller.
"Its got the ropes up across it" Said I.
"Oh! Someone was going to take those down, I guess no one dropped them, follow me!"
I followed the patroller down where he dropped the ropes, giving me first tracks down the headwall at 1pm. Awesome. He pointed to to a tiny hole in the side of the trail.
"That is the entrance to Black Hole, have fun!" and he skied off.
|The entrance to Black Hole.|
The second time through I found some random guy who was wondering where the triple black was as well at the half way point. He decided to go in with me, and I spent the better part of a half hour watching him pick himself up out of the trees, as he fell on nearly every turn. Not a particularly smart move on his part. He is lucky he did not impale himself.
Do not take these trails lightly. Both the Liftline and Black hole are extremely, EXTREMELY difficult. Going into both of them alone was very clearly a bad idea on my part, but I simply could not turn down a challenge like that (I did wait around looking for a partner to ski them with, but everyone I asked scoffed at the prospect of heading down the liftline and into the trees). You need to have absolute confidence in yourself and your ability to ski, as even a millisecond of hesitation on those trails could easily mean a nasty fall down a seemingly endless slope, littered with trees and rocks. I do not even want to think of how hard it would be to do a rescue from either of those trails.
|The Presidential Range, 75 miles away.|
I had such a good time at Smugglers' Notch I did something I have not done yet this season in the GTNS. I bought a shirt from them. I was going to buy a Black Hole trail sign, but at 40 dollars, that seemed a little ridiculous. I settled on a Black Hole T-shirt, and started the long drive back home.
I wish I had not waited so long to visit Smugglers' Notch. I had an absolute blast. It jumped very, very high up on my list of favorite mountains. I will be sure to visit again as soon as I can, and next time hopefully with some deeper pow. With reasonably priced tickets, terrain for someone of every conceivable skill level from beginner to ultra-expert, and a pretty damn good set of terrain parks everyone will be happy. Despite the lifts being slow, I completely understand how it has won so many awards now.
On to some housekeeping stuff. I would love it if all of you guys would vote for me as your favorite in the NS Journalism program (click HERE). The other thing is that, with Saddleback refusing to give industry reciprocity to ski and snowboard instructors, I am in need of another mountain to visit. If I do not get any decent suggestions, I will probably default to McIntyre in Manchester NH, as it is close and quick. I was however contemplating maybe doing a mountain in CT if there is anything really worth visiting, so please give me your ideas for a mountain to replace Saddleback! Finally, with Mass vacation week approaching, I will likely be absent on several of the days when I post my regular updates. My mountain needs extra help teaching, and industry reciprocity passes are blacked out from the 15th to the 23rd. Keep an eye out though, I may be able to post one or two if I am lucky.
As always, keep on shredding!