OK, so they called him a rumormonger. Whispers came from certain circles that he was being irresponsible in posting conjecture out there as a done deal. OK, OK, The Scribe pleads guilty on all counts.
You have to admit, though, it did make for a pretty good story as excerpts from his column went viral on ski websites from coast to coast.
Oh, yes, one other thing. He was right: Vail did buy Stowe. The depth at the WCAX snowstake reaching 102 inches pales by comparison to that little nugget of news that hit the press everywhere thanks to a short, terse press release coming from Vail corporate on Tuesday a.m.
So it is pretty early to assess what all this means. It would appear that the ultra-popular Epic Pass, priced to sell this past winter at $809, is going to make that traditional Stowe season pass — which for many costs far in excess of that amount — a thing of the past. More than a few longtime skiers in Stowe and these parts have not skied that much in recent years because of the cost of a pass. Some of those are likely to return.
Of much greater import is the reality that a large number of former Stowe skiers and riders have migrated to Sugarbush in no small part because it has been much more affordable on many family budgets. Your Scribe suspects that many of those folk, particularly those based in Chittenden County may find this new wrinkle highly appealing — duh!
Stowe is a lot of mountain with a pretty sweet chair, snowmaking and grooming setup, to say nothing of possessing some great terrain. How about all those folks in Boston, New York and other parts of the Eastern Seaboard who may find their once-every-couple-of-years journey to Stowe will become a more frequent undertaking.
Could one deduce that Stowe is about to get a whole lot busier on a fairly regular basis? The Scribe is all in on that one. Weekday skiing will never look better than after the Epic Pass takes off. Except on powder days, when it is always crazy—– more on that in a moment.
But there is going to be a silver lining here, at least in the humble view of your Scribe. There is a strong livelihood that Vail is going to spend some money here. Think about a few possibilities.
Start with the Lookout Chair. Old fixed-grip double could be replaced by at least a quad — maybe high-speed, maybe not. The wonderful old Toll House Slopes — heart of the teaching terrain in the 1950s and ’60s. Think high-speed lift access from the Toll House to a point mid-mountain. (Notice how they started running the lift there at 7:15 during those busy days of this past week.)
For sure, more parking is coming to that part of the world. Sorry, Scott Dorwart — not liking the long-term prospects of the Teaching Meadow.
Think snowmaking at Toll House. Think about the new pond that would be required to provide the necessary water. One is already conjectured in the master plan that has governed this 15 years of development that led to Vail being interested in the first place. More water could lead to snowmaking on Sterling, new short trails and glading that will bring far more skiers and riders across the way. Think about more blue and green runs being added in that nice area that exists adjacent to Lullaby Lane, Easy Mile and Tyro. It is all doable.
So far Vail has not shown itself to be faint of heart when it comes to making necessary infrastructure investments, particularly if it will ultimately help the bottom line.
And oh, yes, one last thing — why does The Scribe continue to believe that the Stowe-Smugglers’ marriage will happen? Because it makes a lot of sense! Vail-Beaver, Park City-Canyons, Whistler-Blackcomb, somehow Stowe-Smugglers’ as the mega-resort of the East with unmatchable terrain certainly fits right in there.
OK, back to reality! The Scribe went west and it snowed in Stowe for six straight days, 44 inches fell, the depth at the stake topped out at 102 inches in mid-February and reports trickling in from friends and Facebook referenced some of the absolutely best conditions in recent memory.
Some said the best in 20 years but skier memory is selective. Remember the Valentine Day’s storm? That was not that long ago. But good is good, and great is great. By all measure, last week produced mega-great.
All was not lost for The Scribe, however. Next week will bring a more in-depth report but his three resorts — Yellowstone Club, Fernie and RED Mountain yielded up five very good days.
By far the best stretch was at RED Mountain. It was snowing when he arrived and it was still snowing when he left. OK, it was only a little over a foot but that is a very big complex with a very small number of skiers and riders. It was not all tracked out after the first chair. In fact, the final run of the trip produced 20 sweet, totally untracked turns deep in the trees at 4 in the afternoon.
One last thing: There was that face-to-face meeting with a moose in the middle of a trail no wider than Toll Road. Your Scribe did the only thing he could do — skied by 5 feet away and hoped she wouldn’t take offense. From a safe distance a bit further down, The Scribe paused and took photos. Nice moose, stay….
Kim Brown, a ski bum by winter and a hacker by summer, lives in Waterbury Center with his very understanding family. Email letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.