White powder brings excitement, plain and simple.
We’re not talking Henry Hill here, though, we’re talking that nice 8-10 inch blanketing Old Man Winter delivered towards the end of a rainy, dreary week.
Can you feel it?
Everyone I’ve spoken to this week is psyched, aside from the wife who bit it on the front stoop of our new house before throwing down enough rocksalt to dry up the freshly-dug reservoir atop Jiminy Peak.
The Nordic coaches who spoke with our new sports department member Jake Mendel this week were ecstatic to get their skiers on snow this early in the preseason.
The Taconic alpine team members fundraising outside Guido’s, a PatrickMahomes’ stone’s throw from where they’ll compete this winter at Bousquet were amped.
All the folks I shared chairlift rides with at Jiminy on Friday sported giant smiles under their multiclavas and goggles.
I spent much of the week tracking down sources and writing a backcountry skiing story for UpCountry magazine, which you’ll get an excerpt of shortly. I pulled up to Berkshire Outfitters to chat with Josh Chittenden during the early part of the week’s snowfall. I spun around in it after closing my car door and was greeted by a wise-looking white husky named Schyler, who was just about as happy as any dog I’ve seen in the snow this side of Bousquet’s samoyed Nico.
Speaking of Bousquet, that is where this week’s travels take us in the brilliant white-coated Berkshires.
While the local Pittsfield joint isn’t quite ready for opening day celebrations, there’s a lot to get excited about. Right, Sherry Roberts?
“We’re very excited. It reminds me of winters back when I was a kid, to see all the natural snow, and to see the snowmen in yards,” said Bousquet’s owner. “Certainly the cold weather and natural snow has been a surprise and it’s gotten a lot of customers very excited. It’s great that kids have a chance to get out and do winter activities this early in the year.”
Bousquet is welcoming in Jeff McCumber this season to join its team of coaches. He’ll be specializing in the older, high-school age athletes looking to improve racing skills.
“As far as our race program, we feel that is a very important part of Bousquet’s winter business. We’re regularly told by other areas that we hold great races,” said Roberts. “We’ve had many successful racers come out of our program.
“Add Jeff to our coaches, with Marc Latimer and Mike Vecchia, it takes pressure off them as well.”
McCumber, who resides in Stephentown, N.Y., was most recently the race director at Jiminy Peak, a position he held for five years. He has coached ski racing at Jiminy in some form since 2003 and was the head alpine coach at Mount Greylock until 2012.
“It was a great opportunity that kind of came about by happenstance,” McCumber said. “I’m really excited. Bousquet has a huge history of ski racing and it’s such a cool little place.”
Interested parties can reach Roberts at Bousquet seven days a week, or visit their website for applications. He’ll run a six-week, Saturday-only race-training initiative.
“We’re going to keep it fun. The best thing I’ll say is that we’ll ski a lot, get fundamentals down and gauge the talent level,” said McCumber. “They’re going to get a lot out of it in a short time.”
Latimer, the long-time Taconic alpine coach is quoted in a press release as saying, “Bousquet is lucky to have such a trained individual join the program. Jeff brings excellence in coaching to Bousquet and I’ll look forward to working with him this winter season.”
As for Bousquet as a ski area, Roberts and her team made the decision earlier in the summer to stick with their regularly-scheduled opening of the week before Christmas. So while the public can’t yet come carve up the local hill, things are moving in that direction rapidly with the natural snowfall providing some proverbial wind in the sail.
Snow-making equipment is set to arrive on Monday and then it’s full-steam ahead over on Dan Fox Drive.
Customers can also expect an improvement in the popular yellow lift on the mountain’s right face.
“We’ve been very fortunate to take part in Eversource’s programs to improve equipment, making things more efficient,” said Roberts. “So we put a multi-speed motor in the blue chair lift last year. This year we’ve done the same to the yellow chair.
“Along with some other work on the yellow, it’s just going to improve the experience for years to come”
Elsewhere, Jiminy Peak reopened for weekend action, and this time with the left face available. While the black diamond off-shoots of Left Bank are still in need of the TLC from Mother Nature, the fresh snow on Left Bank was choice, along with some solid groomed hardpack on the windy right face. The run of the day for Friday was a West Way cruise, hook in and crank up some speed on North Glade, and then take Upper Slingshot on the freshly-opened cut-through to an almost untouched Lower Exhibition.
Get out your calendars and mark down Dec. 7 for opening day at Ski Butternut, and make a South County weekend out of it with opening day at Catamount on Dec. 8, featuring some huge new renovations. Looking forward to getting down there for a review ASAP.
“Cold air should be coming in Tuesday, so we’ll be able to make even more snow for the upcoming weekend,” said Catamount co-owner Rich Edwards. “New this year, which people are really excited about, is a renovated base lodge. We’ve also added 100 new snow guns, two additional grooming machines, a new triple chair lift on the novice area, and two new trails.”
The lodge could be fully ready by mid-winter. They’ve also had rental shop equipment upgrades and snow-making capacity upgrades.