Deep December

I can't remember any season where 10 of my first 15 days on snow were spent blasting through crisp, dry powder.  Northern New England has seen harsh temperatures and high humidity for the majority of the past two weeks; keeping many recreational skiers at the bar and lines untracked.

Thursday, last week, Sam barreled in the driveway at 4:00am after closing out a shift at Ake's, on Church Street.   Only four hours into sleep, my body shook a little to the sound of the door closing in the kitchen.  The gentle thump of footsteps on carpet crept closer until, finally my door opened and a groggy voice echoed, "John. Get up. Let's go."

4:45am, we were in the truck headed for 89 North in a whiteout.  We had heard that Jay had gotten some good snow and decided to check out a gully in the neighboring area.  Despite a catatonic co-pilot, who had all the directions, and a quick detour to the border, we stepped out of the truck at  6:50am, a 5 minute boot pack from the top of our lines.  After a short tramp through the woods, Sam pointed out the zone: below me sat a wide open, steep canal that plunged 1000 ft to the forest floor.  The only downside was the lack of snow; halfway down the snowpack proved to be too thin and begged for us to return another day.  What we could ski though, was unreal…

 (Sam Chalek, blasting through an opening, as his faithful pow pooch, Moana, looks on in envy.)

Friday and Saturday took a back seat to the professional life as things got warmed up at the Bolton Valley Ski School; which was great because all Saturday afternoon, new white blanketed the mountains in time for a fresh feast on Sunday.

Sam, Moana and I rounded out the week with a full day up at Bolton; skinning up, a lightly tracked, Wilderness and bounced the whole way down through pockets of low angle goodness.  After a solid first lap we ditched the skins and hopped on Vista.  During the ride up, I scouted some of my favorite spots, which looked like they may have been holding more snow than anyone thought.  Off the chair at the summit and before I knew it, we found ourselves shouldering our skis and making for first tracks on Maggie's, which was followed by a high speed sprint through an untracked Upper Fanny.  Overall, Sunday's snowfall was a little shy of what we had been hoping for, but the mountain was still full of surprises.

(Sam Chalek ripping turns at Bolton)

You always want to start a week of on the right foot. My first day, ever, at Mad River Glenn, on Monday, set me up for the rest of the month.  Growing up skiing in Vermont, Mad River's name has always bounced around lodge cafeteria's, darting from one conversation to the next, as the, ever intimidating, standard for hardcore freeriding on the east.  The last 5 seasons, I've only lived an hour away from the legendary Single Chair, yet I've never made the journey.  Monday was the day and surrounded by an epic crew, Mad River quickly surged to the top of my favorites with every slash, air and sprint through waist deep bumps and untracked trees.  No wonder two of the 34 guys, on this years Freeride World Tour, call that place home!  Ski the East!

Tuesday, the pow streak kept rolling as my good friend Ryan Denning, from Alpine Live Media, made the journey from the New Hampshire coast to get some shots with the boys.  Four of us and Moana climbed into Kinner's Subaru hatchback and took off for the gully Sam and I had skied on Thursday.  Up by Jay we linked up with local split boarder and part time Yeti, Taylor Luneau and headed for the boot pack.  When we first got eyes on the zone, a smile stretched across my face as our lines lay sleeping in a fresh, foot deep, blanket.  We skinned into the drop in and the boys sent it all day.  The entire gully was on and blower face shots blinded everyone's trip to the bottom.

(Ryan Denning getting the shot. Skier: Ryan Kinner)

I couldn't have asked for a better return to skiing.  My bone's feel good, my endurance is coming back and I couldn't be more stoked to be surrounded by such a solid crew of chargers this season.  Happy Holidays! Get deep in December!

Photo: Ryan Denning