by Paul Maraschiello


When I made arrangements to be picked up at the Albany airport, I was told that they were expecting freezing rain. I mused that it might be freezing rain in the flat lands but it would be SNOW in the mountains. How could it not be snow? I was coming up to do a little skiing. The gods could not be so cruel as to disappoint me. Unfortunately, I forgot to sacrifice a virgin before I left. When I got off the plane, I noticed that there was kind of a shine to the snow. I thought nothing more about it. The roads were clear and we had a pleasant drive to where we were staying.

In the morning, we headed up to Sugarbush. It was a pleasant drive and I enjoyed the crisp morning air and the sun glistening off the snow. We made good time and were there early ... for me, arriving at 9 A.M.

We were told that there had been some freezing rain but that they had groomed over 60 trails and the groomed trails should be fine. After booting up in the Sugarbush Base Lodge, we hopped on the chair and headed to the top of the mountain. We took a warm up run and found some interesting snow conditions. There was only one choice, to ski on the groomed trails...unless you brought your ice skates. All the other trails were closed and it was insanity to try to go down them. Where Sugarbush had groomed, the ice was broken up but instead of skiing on snow we were skiing on a frozen granular surface made up of small particles of ice with the consistency of sand. After the ice storm, the temperature had dropped 40 degrees and it was 10 above zero at the top of the mountain. The cold had zapped all the moisture from the snow.

We made a few more runs down the slopes on the main mountain. You could hold an edge in this granular snow and control your direction BUT controlling your speed was another matter. I had no problem skiing on this stuff but I was constantly skiing beyond my comfort zone. Most of the trails were skiable but just barely. To make matters worse, the trails that were open were crowded with skiers. Many of whom were having a hard time staying in control. A super-fast surface, crowded trails and barely under-control skiers had put a little damper on our enjoyment of the main Sugarbush trail complex at Sugarbush South.

We had heard that there were a lot more trails open at Sugarbush North, so we decided to drive over to the Mt. Ellen and check out the trails there. When we arrived, we noticed that there were a lot fewer people in this part of the resort. We headed up the mountain and started to ski. Because there had been a lot fewer skiers, the snow had not been skied very much and the surface was covered in "Death Cookies", those big chunks of frozen snow that look like huge cookies made of ice, hence the name. We spent the day exploring all the trails in Mt. Ellen. We had a nice lunch in the lodge and went back out after lunch for a few more runs. Skiing that day was less than the greatest ski experience I had ever had. We bagged it early and headed back home.

The next day, I had to do some talking to convince the Western skier I was with to even go skiing that day. I assured her that the conditions would be MUCH better. Sugarbush did not let me down. They had spent the night blowing snow and grooming the slopes and the conditions were much improved. Gone were the "Death Cookies" of the day before and the granular snow had been buried under tons of man-made snow. Instantly the attitude of my companion changed and we both began to have a really good time skiing everything that Sugarbush had to offer. We skied a lot of cruisers and even skied a few mogul runs. By the end of the day we both had happy smiles on our faces. We had logged a lot of vertical miles and had skied most of the interesting trails at Sugarbush. We didn't make it over to Mt. Ellen that day but it didn't matter. We had a great time.

Sugarbush has grown into a really fine resort. It has skiing on 6 mountains areas
with a total of over 4000 skiable acres. There are over 54 miles of trails. The mountain has a 2,650' vertical drop with a 4,135' peak elevation and 1,,485' base elevation. There are a total of 18 lifts that include 7 Quads, 3 Triples, 4 Doubles and 4 Surface. There are 43 expert trails, 39 intermediate trails and 18 novice trails.

Skiing is always a challenge. Ideally, the weather will be warm and sunny with plenty of soft snow. When Mother Nature doesn't cooperate, you have to "make due" with the conditions that exist. I have skied on bullet-proof ice, groomed snow, deep powder, below zero temperatures, and sunny days, in the rain and in the fog. I'm hard-core. I believe that any day you can be outside on a pair of skis is a good day. I've never had a day on the snow that I didn't enjoy.

Sugarbush is a ski area that I really like to visit. The changes I have seen over the years make it one of my favorites. Now that it is owned by a small group of locals, I am looking forward to seeing what happens. Sugarbush has the potential of becoming one of the best ski areas in New England. So, if you are interested in planning a ski vacation, put Sugarbush on your list. Even if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate, I know that the staff at Sugarbush will do everything humanly possible to make your ski experience a good one.