Four Hundred Feet of Heaven
I am sure that by this time of the season many of you are sick of hearing about my skiing exploits. Judging by the recent guest post, I know one person who is. Lucky for everyone that it seems as though the recent warm weather, in combination with the rain we received over the past two days, has all but destroyed the snow at Mount Wachusett. While this is good for my biking and climbing friends (as I will soon start to join them on their adventures), and good for my neglected girlfriend (as we can start spending more time together), it is sad for me; I was beginning to really enjoy my ritual of skinning and skiing the often deserted resort.
Nervous about snow conditions, but excited by the prospect of skiing hero snow in sixty degree temperatures, I headed to Mount Wachusett Thursday afternoon hopeful of finding the same great conditions I had discovered there earlier in the week. Upon arrival, I rolled down the windows to let the warm fresh air circulate throughout my car, and hopefully chase out the ski boot funk that has been lingering since early December.
Starting to look like Spring
As I enjoyed the fresh air, I unwrapped a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and began to assess the current snow conditions…or in today’s case, the lack of snow conditions. I knew that skiing the summit to the base was impossible due to the road being recently plowed, but I was shocked to see the upper snowfields on Smith Walton, Tenth Mountain, and Conifer decimated by the recent weather. Turning my gaze to the mid-mountain, I was disappointed to see Ralph’s run filled with large patches of bare ground, many of which would be passable only by removing my skis and walking. It was hard to believe that a mere four days ago I was enjoying some of the season’s finest skiing there.
The only two trails that looked like they had any potential were Hitchcock and Challenger. The problem with Hitchcock was that while the upper trail looked good the base had melted out, leaving the first two hundred or so vertical feet totally bare. Opting to avoid the muddy hike up Hitchcock, I chose to test my luck on Challenger. The skin up Challenger was enjoyable with the lower snowfields looking both full and wide, almost maintaining their normal mid-winter width. The snow was soft on my way up, and any trace of previous tracks had been erased, leaving me a fresh canvas to paint with my skis.
I enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my bare skin as I ascended up the ski run toward the top of the mid-mountain lift. Sadly, my upward progress was brought to a halt by a football field sized bare patch at the beginning of the Nastar hut in the middle of Challenger. I searched for ways to ski past this unforeseen barrier, but no option other than removing my skis presented itself. Checking my altimeter, it was roughly four hundred feet of vertical from the base to my current position, leaving two hundred more feet to the beginning of the run.
Choosing not to test my luck, I settled on making the best of what was there and proceeded to lap my four hundred feet of heaven as many times as my legs would allow. I found the snow soft and was encouraged to make big swoopy turns kicking up huge plumes of wet snow with each turn. I used as much of the trail as possible, going from far side to far side making the most of the skiing that was offered to me. I would periodically stop to look back and admire the tracks I had laid in the snow behind me, and as I ascended I took my time to admire some of the final turns of the season.
From this angle it looks wintry (I don’t know how many days are left)