I’m sorry it’s taken me more than a week to tell you about my recent trip to Sugarbush. It took that long for my underwear to dry out. Last week during our littler dumperoo of snow, I was invited to Sugarbush to check out their newest attraction, the 12-passenger Pisten Bully snowcat. JJ Toland, the PR whiz up at Sugarbush called me up and said “You wanna catch some first tracks tomorrow?” At first I thought he was talking about heroin or possibly the record industry, but I quickly realized he meant skiing in luscious powder before any of the poor paying slobs got a crack at it. I said I’d go, knowing full well that I don’t know the first thing about snowboarding in powder. I learned how to ski on the ice flows that double as ski slopes in Western Pennsylvania so powder is as foreign to me as indoor plumbing is to Africans. Needless to say I was a little nervous.
The GF and me got up at 5 a.m. so that we could leave by 5:30 a.m. to get to Sugarbush by 6:30 a.m. We didn’t want to miss the first cat run up the mountain. But that’s exactly what happened. For some reason, dragging my sad bones out of bed at that unchristly hour was harder than I anticipated. We left later than we expected and once on I-89 drove about 40 miles an hour due to the snow squalls created by the 18-wheelers doing mach- a billion past me. By the time we finally got to Sugarbush, my nerves were frayed and we hadn’t even gone up the mountain. And of course we were late.
The snowcat had left without us. I suppose the old adage “No friends on a powder day” is right. So much for the whole day. Ruined. Until we saw the honkin’ huge snowcat bomb down Spring Fling and come to a skid stop right in front of us. Mississippi, the driver, hopped out, clearly a little bit proud of his tactical maneuver and loaded up the skis. We were hustled into the cat quickly so the paying guests didn’t miss any precious powder.
This is a snowcat.
At the top of Snowball, the cat dropped us off and John Egan, Sugarbush’s resident brah, pointed us in the direction of Stein’s Run, a double black diamond. Egan says to me “So you’re looking for some steep untracked powder runs, eh?” Uh, what gave him that impression. I never said that. I was just along for the ride. I happened to bring my snowboard along so I would look legit. I said to him “If by steep you mean a one percent grade, then yes, gimme some steep sh*t.” Hahaha, hilarious. No really, don’t take me on that double black was all I could think of. I had visions of cartwheeling down the mountain, my motionless body, minus my arms and legs, which no doubt would have been ripped off during the tumble, coming to rest in front of the Superbravo lift just as people were starting to line up. No thanks, pal.
Egan offered me a different route, right in front of all these other sick powderhounds. I could see their thought bubbles calling me out for being a ridiculous wimp. In fact, I am, but that’s beside the point. I couldn’t go down a wimpy run, so Stein’s it would be. At least if I fell, it wouldn’t hurt. That’s how I rationalized my decision to try a run I was woefully underprepared for.
“You know the best way to ski powder,” Egan bellowed. “First!”
Uh, yeah right dude. I’m all about bringing up the rear.
The first few turns I made were quasi-successful, meaning I didn’t eat it. Then just as I was getting into some sort of rhythm, I lost my balance and went tumbling. My pants filled with snow, as did the airholes in my helmet. I spent the rest of the morning trying to recover. We did three more runs like that and gradually I got used to riding in powder. I get why people love it. I also get why people don’t wear parkas when they’re skiing. I basically had sweatmarks on the pits of my polyfill jacket from all the work it took to dig myself out of snow mounds. But it was worth it.
The next day I felt like I had been bludgeoned with a sockful of quarters. My virtually non-existent oblique and abdominal muscles did not appreciate being awoken from their 10+ year hibernation. But no doubt if I could do it again I would.
If you want to know the details of snowcat skiing at Sugarbush, check out my story in Saturday’s Free Press. Also check out the video. Word.