Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby rfarren » Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:07 am

Tony Crocker wrote:Terrain quality:
Mt. Baldy blows Gore away, also Whiteface unless the Slides are open.

rfarren wrote:Baldy has a horrible track record of keeping the whole mountain open, often the best terrain is closed.

Chair 1's terrain is great, but it's not any better than Thunder's. Having chair 1/Eric's open increases the mostly advanced expert terrain at Baldy from 400 acres up to 800. The Slides are Whiteface's best terrain, and they are open once in a blue moon.

Yes, the the Slides are Whiteface's best terrain, but you are drastically underselling how steep and hard the upper part of that mountain is. The expert terrain at Whiteface is very steep and worthy of it's respect. I don't think Baldy compares to Whiteface when it has one chair open. When Whiteface only has it's gondola running it still offers 2500 ft of vert, it's over 3000ft when the summit chair runs, which is almost every day once we get to January.

Gore has some of the finest tree skiing on the EC IMHO. Tony might consider it Rabbit Warren Skiing based on the trees he cited at Baldy, which seems more like an open trail with four or five trees. At gore those tree areas are extensive and are between almost every trail, and Gore clearly gets enough snow to make those areas skiable from mid January till mid/late march.

Stratton, is flatton IMHO, but it's trees are very skiable, and Tony would probably prefer that the grade isn't too steep based on his preference for wide open "glades" as opposed to legitimate eastern tree skiing. It gets plenty of snow, and again, when it's all open it offers more variety than almost every place in SoCal except for Baldy, when Baldy is completely open.
Tony Crocker wrote:I am not buying that Okemo is a viable powder/tree skiing destination. I've never even read a report of a powder day there. I have no doubt that Summit/Bear combined are at least comparable to Okemo in terrain, and probably in the ballpark with Stratton, err.. Flatton (not my nickname there either), and Mt. Snow. I think Southern Vermont is in fact the closest analogy to Big Bear on all fronts. Upstate NY and NH/Maine are better for terrain but worse for conditions.

I do agree with you on Okemo. However, I don't with Stratton for the points I made above. I looked at your website bestsnow.net and read your description of whiteface. I think you're wrong for the reason that it gets icy. The main reason it gets icy is due to the wind not lack of snow. I honestly believe part of the reason for it's reputation as "IceFace" is due to how steep the terrain is and how wide the trails are. People don't always know where to go on days after storms when they are expecting soft snow but are surprised to be skiing down to the manmade rain treated base. The strategy with whiteface is to find where the wind deposited the snow. Certain runs are known to get blasted, while others protect it better. Generally on "icy" days you can find areas of the mountain off of Little Whiteface that hold it's snow very well and isn't too icy.
Tony Crocker wrote:SoCal tree skiing is far, far superior to those in the 4 regions under discussion. And worse than Northern Vermont due only to snow not topography.

With all due respect it most likely isn't better than Stratton, nor Gore. I also believe that Quebec has a lot of great tree skiing from the reports I've seen this year on nyskiblog.com. The whole of Gore's upper mountain trees are skiable not to mention much of it's lower mountain. With the exception of Baldy, where else do they get enough snow to make the trees skiable?
Tony Crocker wrote:
rfarren wrote:Those regions support:
a. For the most part superior terrain

Baldy's terrain is better for experts than any area in those 4 regions. Mt. High and Big Bear would be average to below average.

I refute that point with Whiteface at least.
Tony Crocker wrote:Terrain quality:
Mt. Baldy blows Gore away, also Whiteface unless the Slides are open.

rfarren wrote:Baldy has a horrible track record of keeping the whole mountain open, often the best terrain is closed.

Chair 1's terrain is great, but it's not any better than Thunder's. Having chair 1/Eric's open increases the mostly advanced expert terrain at Baldy from 400 acres up to 800. The Slides are Whiteface's best terrain, and they are open once in a blue moon.

Yes, the the Slides are Whiteface's best terrain, but you are drastically underselling how steep and hard the upper part of that mountain is. The expert terrain at Whiteface is very steep and worthy of it's respect. I don't think Baldy compares to Whiteface when it has one chair open. When Whiteface only has it's gondola running it still offers 2500 ft of vert, it's over 3000ft when the summit chair runs, which is almost every day once we get to January.

Gore has some of the finest tree skiing on the EC IMHO. Tony might consider it Rabbit Warren Skiing based on the trees he cited at Baldy, which seems more like an open trail with four or five trees. At gore those tree areas are extensive and are between almost every trail, and Gore clearly gets enough snow to make those areas skiable from mid January till mid/late march.

Stratton, is flatton IMHO, but it's trees are very skiable, and Tony would probably prefer that the grade isn't too steep based on his preference for wide open "glades" as opposed to legitimate eastern tree skiing. It gets plenty of snow, and again, when it's all open it offers more variety than almost every place in SoCal except for Baldy, when Baldy is completely open.
Tony Crocker wrote:I am not buying that Okemo is a viable powder/tree skiing destination. I've never even read a report of a powder day there. I have no doubt that Summit/Bear combined are at least comparable to Okemo in terrain, and probably in the ballpark with Stratton, err.. Flatton (not my nickname there either), and Mt. Snow. I think Southern Vermont is in fact the closest analogy to Big Bear on all fronts. Upstate NY and NH/Maine are better for terrain but worse for conditions.

I do agree with you on Okemo. However, I don't with Stratton for the points I made above. I looked at your website bestsnow.net and read your description of whiteface. I think you're wrong for the reason that it gets icy. The main reason it gets icy is due to the wind not lack of snow. I honestly believe part of the reason for it's reputation as "IceFace" is due to how steep the terrain is and how wide the trails are. People don't always know where to go on days after storms when they are expecting soft snow but are surprised to be skiing down to the manmade rain treated base. The strategy with whiteface is to find where the wind deposited the snow. Certain runs are known to get blasted, while others protect it better. Generally on "icy" days you can find areas of the mountain off of Little Whiteface that hold it's snow very well and isn't too icy.
Tony Crocker wrote:SoCal tree skiing is far, far superior to those in the 4 regions under discussion. And worse than Northern Vermont due only to snow not topography.

With all due respect it most likely isn't better than Stratton, nor Gore. I also believe that Quebec has a lot of great tree skiing from the reports I've seen this year on nyskiblog.com. The whole of Gore's upper mountain trees are skiable not to mention much of it's lower mountain. With the exception of Baldy, where else do they get enough snow to make the trees skiable?
Tony Crocker wrote:
b. More natural snow

I deliberately picked ~175 averages in the East to make that comparison.

Baldy is the only mountain that averages that amount and:
a. it doesn't even open some years
b. has major exposure issue which result in half the mountain being closed for half a season.

Tony Crocker wrote:
E. Consistent storms, less season to season variability

The SoCal snow volatility is a positive for powder and the occasional extended spring, otherwise negative. The East's temperature volatility (read rain) can be more damaging than SoCal's precipitation volatility.

The difference here is that the rain can be mitigated by a few snow storms, which is more likely to happen than not. The same can't be said for SoCal, which:
a. Tends to get its snow in large burst, followed by long periods of inactivity.
b. also does get its share of liquid precipitation... it seems it happens at least once a winter based on the reports I've read (I could be wrong though...Tony you know the stats and you should put it up here.)
Tony Crocker wrote:One point I will concede before someone brings it up, is that SoCal has basically 3 ski areas that are relevant to discussion. I view Waterman as 99% overshadowed by Baldy and similarly Snow Valley vs. Big Bear. Each of the 4 regions in the East I've mentioned has multiple areas, and the 4 regions themselves are quite far apart. Thus there are situations where one of the 4 regions might be good when the others are not, and having the multiple areas give skiers good options for crowd avoidance on peak days that we do not have in SoCal. Riverc0il best articulated this argument in one of the East/West threads, and I think it has much validity.

That point can be shown when last year there was a storm that dropped 55 inches all snow in the Catskills, but regions to the North and East got either all rain or no precipitation.
Tony Crocker wrote:The point I am making here is that the natural attributes of the SoCal mountains are at least as good as those in the 4 eastern regions mentioned. Another point rfarren touched upon in the East's favor is that only one SoCal area has the snowmaking water resources that numerous eastern areas do. That area can put out a more consistent ski product due to altitude/climate advantages, but again it's one area vs. many in the East.

Personally, I prefer the consistency of snow that tends to fall. At least I know that in any given year there will be good snow. Also, having the choice of many areas from which I can cherry pick for powder and trees like I did this past weekend skiing at Hickory:
Hickory tree powder.JPG
Sorry for the sideways picture.
Hickory tree powder.JPG (114.98 KiB) Viewed 1797 times

The terrain may not be the steepest terrain, but the tight trees make it hard enough. The biggest difference is I can score powder in the trees like that with some consistency.
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby Mike Bernstein » Tue Feb 08, 2011 3:29 pm

This is an interesting debate, and while none of this can be proven empirically, it's at least fun to discuss the appropriate comps. Having skied in the Northeast my entire life before the last two seasons out here, I would break it down as follows.

For my money, the skiing in the San Bernadinos (Snow Summit, Bear Mtn, Snow Valley) and Mt High most clearly resembles the Catskills (exluding Plattekille), the Berkshires and perhaps Southern NH. Both sets of resorts have modest verticals (1000-1500'), modest snowfalls (100-150"), generally tame terrain, and are heavily reliant upon snowmaking. They also happen to be a roughly 90-120 minute drive from the heart of the closest major metro area. All of these resorts provide generally reliable conditions throughout the season due to snowmaking firepower. The one major difference to me is when the SoCal areas ar blessed with a top 20-30% year. In those cases, the easily accessible sidecountry at all of those resorts absolutely blows away anything you'll find lift-served in the Cats, Berks or SoNH. After last year's big January storm cycle, I spent a fantastic day yo-yoing back and forth in the canyon between MH East and West. I've read/heard similar stories about the canyon skiing at Bear Mtn. and the Snow Valley slackcountry when the snow is good. Otherwise, they are great comps.

To my mind, Baldy and Waterman are much more analagous to SoVt due to both higher snowfall and more challenging terrain. The obvious problem with that comp on a region wide basis is that we are talking about 1.5 areas (Waterman only counts as a half due to its operating schedule) with total skier visits of under 100K vs. the 5 in SoVT (Bromley, Mt Snow, Stratton, Magic, Okemo) who total something closer to 2MM. Moreover, 4 of the 5 have massive snowmaking firepower, rendering it difficult to make a reasonable comparison. The best comp, and the reason why I think SoVt is in fact appropriate, is Magic Mtn. As with Waterman and Baldy, it has much less expansive snowmaking resources than its neighbors, much better terrain quality, and (perhaps as a result) is run on a shoestring budget. Also as with Baldy and Waterman, you see far less impressive open terrain % lasting well into the season at Magic than you do its closest competitors.

Absent mountains with great terrain and minimal snowmaking, it's difficult to make this comparison for other regions in the northeast. The one possibility would be Hickory Hill in the Dacks - possibly a good comp for Waterman in a number of ways. All the other areas - NNH, the ADKs, ME, and QC - generally feature resorts with vastly more snowmaking and somewhat more reliable natural snow.

Baldy is such a unique bird that it's difficult to compare it to anything. It's large variety of aspects at such a low latitude creates unique issues. Also, they have chosen to focus their snowmaking infrastructure onthe one part of the mountain that least needs the help - Thunder. If they made a substantial investment in snowmaking on the lower mountain, covering perhaps Sugar Pine and one of the steeper runs (eg Bentley's) on lookers' right, you'd likely see Ch 1 open for skiing a far larger % of the time. I mean, how often is it that a ski area installs snowmaking for the north facing upper mountain but not the lower mountain? There may be good reasons for that, but it makes the comp to the NE difficult in a world in which you could have a few WROD snaking amongst the brown surroundings well into December or January (or early in March) but the terrain % remains superficially impressive. Baldy doesn't have that capability.
Last edited by Mike Bernstein on Wed Feb 09, 2011 2:14 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby rfarren » Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:55 pm

I think Mike Bernstein makes a very measured approach on this argument. Of course, he has the advantage of having lived in both places. I'm glad he jumped in. I wonder what he will say 4 or 5 years down the road after he's experienced some banner years but also the duds.

IMO the issue with SoCal based on what I've read is that the skiing is predicated on a choice between terrain or snow. The areas with better preservation don't have the snow(and thus the terrain), and the place with the terrain and snow doesn't preserve as well due to exposure. The other issue is the volatility of the SoCal weather pattern. It is my fervent belief that if SoCal averaged just 200 inches a year with an eastern variability of give or take 30 inches a year, SoCal would be one of the better ski regions.
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Postby ShiftyRider » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:09 am

With Mammoth for early and late season? Dang...

I've skied Stratton, Killington, and Stowe FWIW.
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:27 am

I finally got around the other eastern comparison, Cannon:
Dec. 15 34%
Jan. 1 54%
Jan. 15 65%
Feb. 1 79%
Feb. 15 81%
Mar. 1 92%
Mar.15 73%
Apr. 1 70%
This is essentially the same as Sugarloaf until March 1, then it falls behind and usually closes before April 15 when Sugarloaf is still going strong.

rfarren wrote:The areas with better preservation don't have the snow(and thus the terrain), and the place with the terrain and snow doesn't preserve as well due to exposure.

This is true in the East also. The more intermediate areas like Okemo and Big Bear keep a large percent of terrain open all winter. It's significantly more difficult to do that at the more challenging places like Cannon, Sugarloaf and Whiteface. I suspect their overall numbers are better than Baldy's mostly due to more snowmaking. And the Baldy-like terrain (Sugarloaf Snowfields, Whiteface Slides, under the tram at Cannon) are open with equal or less frequency than Baldy's chair 1.

I too welcome Mike Bernstein's comments, as he is the only one here with direct experience in the regions being compared. I figure Magic would be a good comparison, but of course I have no clue how consistent its operation is.

I will once again disagree with Mike about Baldy's snowmaking. With the snowmaking on the most reliable part of the mountain, Thunder, they have still lost a lot of ground during the past dry month. Garry Klassen stopped going there after MLK due to the quantity of rocks showing by then. It would have been a complete exercise in futility to use that snowmaking on Sugarpine or perhaps even the chair 4 runs. IMHO Baldy must demonstrate that it can keep Bonanza, Robin's and Skyline fully covered during a month of drought before expanding snowmaking to any other runs.

Mike Bernstein wrote:The one major difference to me is when the SoCal areas ar blessed with a top 20-30% year. In those cases, the easily accessible sidecountry at all of those resorts absolutely blows away anything you'll find lift-served in the Cats, Berks or SoNH.

Thus my comment about the tree skiing, and note he's talking about Mt. High and Snow Valley sidecountry. Baldy and Waterman are on a completely different level.

ShiftyRider wrote:With Mammoth for early and late season? Dang...

This is a completely different issue, discussed at length in at least one of the East-West threads. I recall stating at the time that the value of eastern skiing to a Boston or NYC resident was probably about double that of the SoCal locals to an L.A. resident. Bringing Mammoth into the discussion is necessary to tip the "quality of skiing" balance into L.A.'s favor.
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby Mike Bernstein » Wed Feb 09, 2011 2:25 am

rfarren wrote:I think Mike Bernstein makes a very measured approach on this argument. Of course, he has the advantage of having lived in both places. I'm glad he jumped in. I wonder what he will say 4 or 5 years down the road after he's experienced some banner years but also the duds.

This year is edging into "dud" zone these days. Might be some snow in a week or two, but it's been clear skies for over a month. Not the bottom 10% or anything, but definitely below avg judging from Tony's (among others) quantitative and qualitative descriptions.

IMO the issue with SoCal based on what I've read is that the skiing is predicated on a choice between terrain or snow. The areas with better preservation don't have the snow(and thus the terrain), and the place with the terrain and snow doesn't preserve as well due to exposure. The other issue is the volatility of the SoCal weather pattern. It is my fervent belief that if SoCal averaged just 200 inches a year with an eastern variability of give or take 30 inches a year, SoCal would be one of the better ski regions.

I think you're right for the wrong reasons. It is generally a choice between terrain and snow, but don't mix preservation into the story. Thunder at Baldy and Waterman probably have the best snow preservation chracteristics of anywhere in SoCal. They face almost due north, at relatively high elevation, and have enough trees to block the sun for a portion of the day. It's not better preservation that keeps snow on the slopes of Big Bear or MH - it's a massive disparity in snowmaking firepower.
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby Mike Bernstein » Wed Feb 09, 2011 2:38 am

Tony Crocker wrote:I finally got around the other eastern comparison, Cannon:
Dec. 15 34%
Jan. 1 54%
Jan. 15 65%
Feb. 1 79%
Feb. 15 81%
Mar. 1 92%
Mar.15 73%
Apr. 1 70%

Tony - how many years is this data set? I wonder if Cannon has generated a higher open terrain % in recent years due to the investments afforded by the Sunapee lease payments?

This is essentially the same as Sugarloaf until March 1, then it falls behind and usually closes before April 15 when Sugarloaf is still going strong.

I wonder if Saddleback would be an even better example due to their much lower % of snowmaking terrain historically.

I too welcome Mike Bernstein's comments, as he is the only one here with direct experience in the regions being compared. I figure Magic would be a good comparison, but of course I have no clue how consistent its operation is.

It's a very good match, Tony. Small but passionate and loyal fanbases. Magic has been through several ownership groups in the last decade and has a lot of deferred maintenance. By far the best terrain and vibe in SoVt though - the place has soul. Simple operation with a nice day lodge and old fixed grip lifts. Seem to have a better plan and better ownership now than in the past, but are trying to sell shares in a difficult environment, to say the least. Good news is they are up 20-30% from last year.

I will once again disagree with Mike about Baldy's snowmaking. With the snowmaking on the most reliable part of the mountain, Thunder, they have still lost a lot of ground during the past dry month. Garry Klassen stopped going there after MLK due to the quantity of rocks showing by then. It would have been a complete exercise in futility to use that snowmaking on Sugarpine or perhaps even the chair 4 runs. IMHO Baldy must demonstrate that it can keep Bonanza, Robin's and Skyline fully covered during a month of drought before expanding snowmaking to any other runs.

I actually agree with you here. If anything, this winter has proven the wisdom of having snowmaking on Ch 3. That is their premier terrain pod. I think that once they are satisfied with their capability there, they should give serious consideration to adding coverage to keep Ch 1 open longer. Your previous idea of adding coverage to at least one of the runs on Ch 4 is also logical.

Thus my comment about the tree skiing, and note he's talking about Mt. High and Snow Valley sidecountry. Baldy and Waterman are on a completely different level.

Truth. I was comparing the Cats/Berks sidecountry to the resorts in SoCal I had used as a comp. Baldy and Waterman are fairly close to world class when they go off.
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby rfarren » Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:04 am

Mike Bernstein wrote:
Tony Crocker wrote:Thus my comment about the tree skiing, and note he's talking about Mt. High and Snow Valley sidecountry. Baldy and Waterman are on a completely different level.

Truth. I was comparing the Cats/Berks sidecountry to the resorts in SoCal I had used as a comp. Baldy and Waterman are fairly close to world class when they go off.


Either way Mike Bernstein also mentioned that those areas become skiable only the top 20% or 30% of years. That means 70%-80% of years that terrain isn't even touchable. I don't see what all the fuss is over, when you can only ski it twice or three times out of 10 years.

Tony Crocker wrote:
rfarren wrote:The areas with better preservation don't have the snow(and thus the terrain), and the place with the terrain and snow doesn't preserve as well due to exposure.

This is true in the East also. The more intermediate areas like Okemo and Big Bear keep a large percent of terrain open all winter. It's significantly more difficult to do that at the more challenging places like Cannon, Sugarloaf and Whiteface. I suspect their overall numbers are better than Baldy's mostly due to more snowmaking. And the Baldy-like terrain (Sugarloaf Snowfields, Whiteface Slides, under the tram at Cannon) are open with equal or less frequency than Baldy's chair 1.

Whiteface doesn't have a problem staying open once it has the snow down. I would guess that after mid January most seasons they are running above 80%. That being said I feel that percentage of terrain open doesn't tell the whole story. Especially when you consider that many EC areas close lifts by the end of march due to expense even if there is plenty of snow. I've always felt Whiteface is most prime from mid march on as the snow will be pretty soft. It's normally at this time they open the slides. I'm not entirely convinced that the slides are much steeper than upper cloudspin. However, the slides have a certain wildness to them that is unmatched practically across the EC.

Tony Crocker wrote:
ShiftyRider wrote:With Mammoth for early and late season? Dang...

This is a completely different issue, discussed at length in at least one of the East-West threads. I recall stating at the time that the value of eastern skiing to a Boston or NYC resident was probably about double that of the SoCal locals to an L.A. resident. Bringing Mammoth into the discussion is necessary to tip the "quality of skiing" balance into L.A.'s favor.


I would think it certainly tips it over against NYC, but not entirely sure about cities like Boston or Albany.

From NYC a 5 hour drive (the distance to Mammoth from parts of LA) would get you to Burlington. Stowe and Sugarbush are great, they can offer good to great conditions, and have pretty good terrain, but not the quality of terrain that Mammoth offers, nor the consistency of snow and season length. Normally, once the drive gets past the 4 1/2 hour mark I'm pretty much set on flying out west. For me a trip to NoVT is more about being in NoVT than about skiing.

From Albany/Boston I think it's much easier to get to the NoVT area (for that matter almost any region in the NE). From those places powder chasing becomes very doable without too much work. Mammoth is a world class mountain and is better than any single mountain in the NE, however, with that said, the sum of all the areas in NE add up. When your talking about 3 hour, if not less, drive to most EC regions your talking about day trip ability to powder chase. To me that tips the balance of "quality of skiing" to places like Albany/Boston.

One note of interest is: the drive to Mammoth is easy desert driving, whereas the drive to any region in the EC can be scary snow/ice driving.
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby SoCal Rider » Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:42 am

While the window might not always be large, the slackcountry is available more often than 2 or 3 out of 10 years.
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:30 am

rfarren wrote: One note of interest is: the drive to Mammoth is easy desert driving, whereas the drive to any region in the EC can be scary snow/ice driving.

Never been there, but according to several threads in TGR over the years, getting nailed in a speed trap near Mammoth seems to be an ongoing issue.

"Scary ice/snow driving" is in the eye of the beholder. If you didn't grow up in a place with constant winter snow -- I'm assuming rfarren didn't -- it'll frighten you far more than someone who's accustomed to it. IMHO, it's the carpenter, not the tools.
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby rfarren » Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:54 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:
"Scary ice/snow driving" is in the eye of the beholder. If you didn't grow up in a place with constant winter snow -- I'm assuming rfarren didn't -- it'll frighten you far more than someone who's accustomed to it. IMHO, it's the carpenter, not the tools.


It's less the fact that I didn't grow up with it, than I drive a 99' Honda Civic. It's about the crappiest winter car ever.
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:11 am

rfarren wrote:It's less the fact that I didn't grow up with it, than I drive a 99' Honda Civic. It's about the crappiest winter car ever.

I have you beat. I drive a 1990 Honda Civic as my winter beatermobile.
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby rfarren » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:59 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:
rfarren wrote:It's less the fact that I didn't grow up with it, than I drive a 99' Honda Civic. It's about the crappiest winter car ever.

I have you beat. I drive a 1990 Honda Civic as my winter beatermobile.

Then you know: a 5 hour drive can easily become a 8 hour feat of strength!
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby SoCal Rider » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:10 pm

I had a 2000 Civic for years. Wouldn't most rear-wheeled cars/pickups be worse?
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Re: Mountain High: Saving $ or Drought Survival Mode?

Postby Mike Bernstein » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:17 pm

rfarren wrote:
Mike Bernstein wrote:Truth. I was comparing the Cats/Berks sidecountry to the resorts in SoCal I had used as a comp. Baldy and Waterman are fairly close to world class when they go off.


Either way Mike Bernstein also mentioned that those areas become skiable only the top 20% or 30% of years. That means 70%-80% of years that terrain isn't even touchable. I don't see what all the fuss is over, when you can only ski it twice or three times out of 10 years.

Well, not exactly. What I was referring to in my original statement was the years when the Big Bear resorts and MH go off. My guess is that you can get into their respective areas of slackcountry 9 out of 10 years for some period of time. In lean years, it could be for no more than a week or two. In average years maybe a month, and in good years, several months. But keep in mind that those were the areas I was comparing to the Berks, Cats and SNH. When you are talking about Baldy and Waterman, with their better natural snow (175-180" compared to 100-140" at the others) and superior preservation, you generally have a much longer window of slackcountry access. And then on top of that you have the top 20-30% of years where they really go off and you are approaching world class quality for terrain and conditions. Again, Tony and others with more experience in SoCal could likely provide more color on this point than I could.


rfarren wrote:Whiteface doesn't have a problem staying open once it has the snow down. I would guess that after mid January most seasons they are running above 80%. That being said I feel that percentage of terrain open doesn't tell the whole story. Especially when you consider that many EC areas close lifts by the end of march due to expense even if there is plenty of snow. I've always felt Whiteface is most prime from mid march on as the snow will be pretty soft. It's normally at this time they open the slides. I'm not entirely convinced that the slides are much steeper than upper cloudspin. However, the slides have a certain wildness to them that is unmatched practically across the EC.

Hellbrook and its environs say hi.

rfarren wrote:I would think it certainly tips it over against NYC, but not entirely sure about cities like Boston or Albany.

From NYC a 5 hour drive (the distance to Mammoth from parts of LA) would get you to Burlington. Stowe and Sugarbush are great, they can offer good to great conditions, and have pretty good terrain, but not the quality of terrain that Mammoth offers, nor the consistency of snow and season length. Normally, once the drive gets past the 4 1/2 hour mark I'm pretty much set on flying out west. For me a trip to NoVT is more about being in NoVT than about skiing.

From Albany/Boston I think it's much easier to get to the NoVT area (for that matter almost any region in the NE). From those places powder chasing becomes very doable without too much work. Mammoth is a world class mountain and is better than any single mountain in the NE, however, with that said, the sum of all the areas in NE add up. When your talking about 3 hour, if not less, drive to most EC regions your talking about day trip ability to powder chase. To me that tips the balance of "quality of skiing" to places like Albany/Boston.

I actually agree with this, with the caveat that it becomes MUCH easier to pull it off in the NE, and consequently to maximize your chances of fresh snow, when you invest in a home or share up in the NE ski country. With a place like Mammoth, even in a variable La Nina year, I can book a month or two ahead and be reasonably confident of having good conditions in one form or another. Might not be powder, but could have some wind buff, or corn, or mashed potatoes, but rarely rain and/or boilerplate. As we all know, that's not the case in the NE. When I was living in NYC, I had a share just south of SB from which I could access SB, K-Mart, Middlebury, MRG, Bolton and Stowe all within an hour drive. That made it SO much easier to make a call on a Wednesday or Thursday based on the latest weather forecast or specific mtn conditions. When you are able to do that, I would hold the NE up there with any ski region in the world. While that may be a bold statement, a powder day in the NE is just as good as one anywhere else. The difference is that between rain/warmth, wind, and generally higher skier density, those conditions don't typically stick around for very long as compares the Rockies etc.. In my last few years in NYC, once I learned to properly follow the weather and knew a lot more of the slackcountry secrets of NoVT, I was able to achieve a ~75% hit rate of powder days as a % of total ski days while getting 20-30 days/year. And that from from NYC with a 5 hr drive. From Boston with a 3 hr drive, it's even easier.

One note of interest is: the drive to Mammoth is easy desert driving, whereas the drive to any region in the EC can be scary snow/ice driving.


True, but SoCal drivers suck and I actually prefer the run up 91. At least there you have several distinct stages (out of NYC, up through Hartford to the MA border, MA border to VT border, VT border to WRJ, WRJ to the mtn), along with turns and rolling hills that keep you engaged and alert. Driving up to Mammoth, once you're past Lancaster, things just slow down b/c there's NOTHING out there and the road is dead straight with minimal traffic compared to 91/93/89 on a typical Friday/Sunday night. For me, the drive to NoVT always went by quicker than the one to Mammoth does today.
Mike Bernstein
 
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