Stratton, VT, Dec. 2-3, 2018

Liz is not as negative on Stratton as some people. She has been here when the tree skiing was good as in that NYskiblog report.

Today the rain arrived as expected, drizzling when got up about 7:30 in Manchester. The rain picked up as we approached Stratton and while we parked and booted up.

We got to the base and it was only misty. I got a trail map and noticed a top to bottom gondola, which would make the weather not such a big deal. But it was not running so we were confined to the 680 vertical American Express chair. In the office we were told there was icing up top. I thought they meant the gondola cable so they would have to get up there and knock the ice off to get it going. But that was not the issue. It was 20F up there so the rain froze when it hit the ground and the groomers could not smooth it out.

At the top of the open chair we would occasionally hit some frozen crust but overall it was like spring snow, fairly consistent and not sticky.

Easterners should be pleased to hear that rain was never very heavy so I don’t see it washing out much of the near record November snowpack. Obviously surface conditions suck on anything ungroomed and a fair number of trails with the surfaces like the top of Stratton. We do not know what will happen during the rest of this week. Trail counts tomorrow vs. Saturday will give a good idea though and will influence where we go.

What was open at Stratton was all low intermediate, about equivalent to chairs 7+9 at Snow Summit. I surmised that Stratton is a larger scale version of Snow Summit and Liz thought that was accurate except for more skiing in the trees between runs at Stratton.

We skied 10 runs, took a hot chocolate break, then 5 more to finish at Tseeb’s definition of a ski day at 10,200 vertical. This was an OK first day of the season with our Ikon Pass but I would not tell anyone it was worth buying a day ticket.
A shame that you arrived a day late for what sounded like as good as it gets, especially for this time of year. Oh well, don't argue with "free" (or "included in your Ikon pass"). As mentioned earlier, I only have two days at Stratton a while back so a very small sample size but I agree with Liz's assessment that if you can avoid the weekend hedge-fund crowds: better tree skiing than I would've expected.

For accuracy's sake, I assume that you'll break this out into its own TR. 8-[
jamesdeluxe":1p30wuvd said:
To be fair: as I understand it, this is a retiree's version of bringing your skis along on a business trip to the northeast -- i.e. not a true destination visit/they were already planning to be in the region for non-skiing reasons.

I assumed as much, but I simply lacked the self restraint to not go after the low-hanging fruit presented by Tony complaining about the forecast several days in advance because he was inflexibly committed to skiing Stratton, VT on December 2.

Tony Crocker":1p30wuvd said:
it is extremely rare IHMO that any western skier would fly to the Northeast to ski unless there was another reason for the trip.

Yes, yes, I know. Remember, I've got family in the Mad River valley. I wouldn't trade my best days at MRG for any of my of my other best resort days, but I've never headed east from Minneapolis just to ski. We'll be in VT for Christmas this year and will ski, conditions permitting. However, any skiing we do will be secondary to spending the holiday with family.

I am sorry Tony couldn't get to VT a few days sooner. I've gotten glowing reports about the skiing at the end of last week.
Monday afternoon was all planned for the weather conference but the morning was flexible. Liz wanted to do the winter driving demo from the Team O'Neill Rally School. I hoped the gondola would open so I could see more of Stratton. The gondola was on wind hold :evil: so I listened to the O'Neill orientation talk. After they went out to drive I inquired whether the still motionless gondola would open.

It would not, but the Ursa chair was serving the upper mountain. So I got over there and skied 6 runs from 10:15 -11:30: Upper Middlebrook, Black Bear, Polar Bear, Bear Bottom, Upper Tamarack and Frank's Fall Line. I made about 3 turns off the groomed, finding it heavy mashed potatoes.

Stratton is of course excellent at grooming so it was no problem doing nonstop 1,400 vertical runs from the Ursa lift. It was slightly firm at the top but not hard to hold an edge and far from being frozen granular. That may happen later as it's supposed to cool off some. Weather was overcast with light fog and some wind at the top, and perhaps mid-30's at the base.

Most of the skiing was good smooth spring snow. The blue run Black Bear was a bit clumpy in spots but all of the single blacks were consistent with corduroy marks still showing in many places. After Sunday's rain it was of course very quiet on Monday. Thus the groomers held up well, which they probably would not have with much skier traffic.

Upper mountain Stratton reminds me some of Mountain High East, the former Holiday Hill which Liz skied in college but does not remember much. I skied 9,200 vertical before bailing to get ready for the lunch and afternoon conference.

Sunday evening there was a presentation from weather recorders at Mt. Washington, who work one-week shifts and go up and down the mountain via snowcat. Monday presentations were from 3 meteorologists (both TV and online), and then from some of the resorts on their sustainability efforts. The most modern snowmaking guns use only 1% of the electricity of older designs, and 100-200 were being introduced in Vermont annually. In 2014 the state of Vermont offered a generous incentive, resulting in 3,000 new snow guns being purchased that year.
I always thought all the Southern VT resorts were quite mild - Mt Snow, Stratton, Okemo (except Magic). There are no real sustained steeps - only a couple of 100 feet.

However, that's been somewhat key to their success. Build a large snowmaking system, have flat terrain that covers easily so they can open easily and recover quickly - plus groom the hell out of it.

Truly when rain/freeze cycle happens - they can resurface most of their slopes with less perhaps less snowmaking than steeper cousins up north - and offer a much better product/surface conditions/terrain open.

I used to ski at Okemo a lot in college due to this fact - and they offered half price tickets to students.

Stratton does deserve credit for one thing - they were one of the first resorts to allow and actively support Snowboarding in the 1980s/90s. Helps that Burton was knocking on their door all the time.
ChrisC":1sp2pt68 said:
Stratton does deserve credit for one thing - they were one of the first resorts to allow and actively support Snowboarding in the 1980s/90s. Helps that Burton was knocking on their door all the time.
Ah, that explains why Stratton hosted the Burton event I attended in the link above.
While I at least got to ski the upper Ursa runs, I never even saw Kidderbrook, which Liz and all of you say is Stratton’s most interesting terrain. On Wednesday at Sunday River we were similarly restricted to blue groomers, but we could see some of the steeper and more varied terrain even though it was closed.