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1/18-19/2020 -- 2 Faces of Wildcat

abc

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Last minute lucked out with a berth at the AMC Joe Dodge Lodge at Pinkham Notch. Thanks for whoever that cancelled.

Having followed the ebbs and flows of the forecast leading up to it, it's pretty certain we were to have a storm Sunday night. So the only remaining question was whether to drive up on Saturday to ski Sunday+, vs. drive up on Friday and ski Saturday as well.

The storm on Thursday dumped 8" on Wildcat. And they were closed on Friday, which basically means the 8" from Thursday were "un-skied". So drive up on Friday it is. Early start on Saturday.

1/18/2020:
Weather: clear and calm, temperature in the single digit to start the day (warming as the day progress)
Condition: slick groomers, rock peppered ungroomed natural trails.

Forecast was for frigid temperature early Saturday. Well, I didn't pay $400 for a jacket to avoid ski on single digit days! Still, I added a mid-layer and a long-john under my insulated ski pants. Skull cap and mittens as usual.

9 o'clock. There's almost nobody at the Summit quad. Single line was totally empty. Little wind, so it's actually pretty comfortable. My toes were a little unhappy. But it might be because it's still relatively new and a bit on the tight side. I keep conscious mind on that to make sure my toes don't get frostbitten...

The groomers was HARD! My skis felt every little ripple of the grooming groove!

I didn't quite expect that. Not after the 8" on Thursday. Oh well. Let's tried some ungroomed, perhaps there's still some leftover powder?

"Click, click, clickkkkkkk". Ouch! Rocks? Or maybe just ice underneath? Who knows. Just not what I was after.

Next ride up, my toes starting to hurt. I need to go in after this run to let the blood flow into my toes.

Now the groomer grooves had been skied off, the groomers got slick fast! That's disappointing.

On the other hand, on the lower mountain, the surface started to soften up as the temperature was fast rising. I could feel my ski edges biting, and it started to feel like a good carving surface in the next 30 min or so...

So, going in to warm up my toes while waiting for the surface to warm up just a tad...

It's about 10 or a little after. What with the holiday crowd, the lift line had suddenly grown to beyond the corral, with the single's line double that! Hmmm... It was a 10 minute wait. My toes got cold again standing around.

The snow surface certainly gotten more enjoyable. But the lift line? Not so much.

The beauty of having a season pass is, if I don't like the skiing after one or two or three runs, I don't have to stay.

So I didn't stay. I went cross country skiing (mind you, wasn't too fun either. snow too cold and too soft. All in all, a short day).

Might as well save my legs for Sunday.

View of Mt Washington across the valley:
 

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abc

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1/19/2020: POWDER DAY! (Plus, free refill in the afternoon, courtesy of the wind)

We all know the score. Another 8" overnight!

This was a day of ups and downs:

I didn't get out as early as I had planed. (Had minor upset stomach overnight). So 1st "down" moment. :(

Fortunately, the snow was super dry and light. So digging the car out from under that 8" of snow consist of waving my brush about a few times. The snow flew away. Took a lot less time than I had planned for. First "up" moment. I pulled out of the lot not too much behind schedule. And Wildcat is only 1/4 mile down the road from Joe Dodge. :grin:

Well, not exactly. I may have pull "out of" the lot, but merging into traffic proved to be next to impossible! There's a line of cars stretch as long as I could see. They were going around 20-30mph. Just too fast for me to "force" my way in. Powder day or not, it's not worth having a fender bender. That would have delay my skiing far longer. So wait and wait and wait some more. Eventually, there's a gap I could make the left turn into traffic. I could probably have WALK that 1/4 mile in the time I waited... "Down" moment. :(

All those cars on the road were, of course, turning into the Wildcat parking lot. I ended up parking next to the road!

By the time I gathered my stuff together and walked towards the base lodge, I could see the lift already spinning. So much for 1st chair! :(

Inside the lodge, it's a "sea of humanity". Bodies everywhere. Lines to get lift tickets, lines to the bathroom, bags all over the floors...

But I was able to find a spot near the door, booted up and out of there!

No lines at the lift??? Everybody got there early just to hang out at the lodge or something?

Well. No time to ponder. Left off the lift and the first trail that looks to have some gradient. Yeehaa! Powder!!! Light and fluffy, flew away as I came by! How deep? Can't tell. The snow flew away too quickly :grin:

Further down, I spied another short section with what looks to be deep fluffy powder, already disturbed but not yet trashed. This one was definitely deep. All the way to my knees. One turn, two turn, surfy, bouncy turns, three turns... What the f***! As my skis parted the 10" fluff, there emerged a 9.5" tall rock!

Pointed and ready to slice my calf! My left ski went left of the pointed rock and my right one went right of it... By pure luck, both skis brushed against the rock but wasn't enough to deviate their path. So I past the rock unscathed. Wow!

Totally worth it though. :grin:

Second lift ride, I was the 2nd in line on the single's line. Needless to say, I was back up in no time.

By run 3, the line grew a little. A bit after 10, it was outside of the corral again. But by then, I had already gotten a few runs in. The temperature wasn't as cold as Saturday. So standing in line for 10 minutes was't half as agonizing as on Saturday. By then, the fresh powder were gone too. But what's left were soft piles, and soft underneath. Still very pleasant skiing. So I endured the lines. Also, more and more trails were opened. (that's not to say people didn't duck under the ropes everywhere)

Then I witnessed the first injuries of the day. Fellow must have coming in hot and fast, lost it in the slick patches between the piles, then slammed into the hard icy mounts underneath. He was holding his shoulder and not able to get up. His got a buddy standing next to him trying to help him up, and another standing on the side of trail shouting to ask if he's alright. (it's pretty clear he was NOT "alright"!) All the while, there's this constant stream of barely in control skiers slip-sliding pass him in high speed. I didn't feel comfortable to cross all that uncontrolled traffic to get to him. I waited a while, till there's a little gap of the stream of skiers, and quickly went over to him to ask if he think he might need a sled. He nodded very firmly, and off I went. (my jack is bright red, sometimes got mistaken as ski patrol).

I wasn't sure what the trail name was. So I looked for signs and landmarks as I went down. When I got to the bottom, it wasn't too obvious where the patrol shed is. So I stopped one of the ski host. She pulled out a map so I could point out approximately where the injury was. She said she would contact the ski patrol.

And I went in for my early lunch. It was 11:35.

People were still streaming out of the lodge in waves. So I easily found a table where a family was just about finish booting up (at 11:40!). The line for soup was like 10 people and was moving rather slowly. I decided I didn't need the soup that badly. I ate my sandwich, apple, hot chocolate and drank tons of water (what's the deal with Wildcat water? It's rusty color out of the hot water!)

Another family came in to share the table. They reported the lower mountain had the best condition as the wind had deposited the loose powder on Bobcat, Cheetah and lower Wildcat.

Sure enough! Found good condition there. Also, more ropes were dropped so I tried those too. Though in general, the natural trails were really only barely covered. Lots of rocks underneath.

In the mean time, the wind seriously picked up, blasting snow around the mountain. Removing snow from some trail and filling it in on others (or even different side of the same trail). Witnessed my 2nd injury of the day. A young girl was holding her wrist next to a pile of snow, obviously she didn't see it and slid right into it. A whole family was with her. And passing skiers were asking if they could help. I suggest someone ski down to tell ski patrol to come take a look. Several volunteered. So I figure I can just go on my own way too.

A few runs later, coming off Bobcat, I saw the line for the summit quad was beyond the corral again. But there's no one at the Bobcat triple. A quick sharp right, I went up the triple instead. It's a slower lift, took 10 minute to get to top of Bobcat/Cheetah/Lower Wildcat. But it's 10 minutes sitting on a chair going up vs 10 minutes standing in line for the summit quad. So I lapped the triple a few times.

Except by then, the cloud came in, making it hard to see the snow from slick ice. :(

I contemplated calling it a day. It's past 2. I've had good many runs.

But then, seeing the summit quad now almost empty of lines, I thought I'd go check out a couple other trails to see what the wind might have done to help or hurt those. Sure enough, I found newly refilled powder on a couple of them. OK, so much for calling it a day early. :grin:

Better still, the sun came back out! Now I could see the snow from the slick ice. I can hop from one patch of snow to the next. The "hunting" is almost as much fun as the actual surfing of powder! :grin:

I can see it'll be a day till the last chair. As the clock approaches 3, I started to "plan" my last run. Back on the summit quad, I found myself coming back near the base with around 3:15. If I take the quad again, I may or may not be able to be back down by 3:30. But if I take the triple, it's 10 min up and I knew I could come back down Bobcat in less than 5. That's what I did. Blasting from the bottom of Bobcat straight to the Summit quad with like 2 minutes to spare! :grin:

Getting off the chair, I was very much alone on the mountain. There were only a few more chairs behind me. And everyone went off to their own favorite trail to end their excellent day. Suddenly, no crowd, no traffic on the trail. It was like skiing on my own private mountain! I made wide arc turns taking up the whole freaking trail, surfing on wind deposited powder!

So I didn't make first chair. Does making last chair count as a great day?
 
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Edd

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Nice report. Yeah, the water at Wildcat sucks, and they don’t deny it. Is this your first year skiing there? It’s my personal fave, for many reasons, but in spring it’s close to the best, along with Sugarloaf.


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abc

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Yeah, my first year really SKI it.

I've skied it once or twice before, but didn't get the best conditions. This is the first year I actually storm chase there!

I bought a cross country season pass at Great Glen, learning to skate ski there. The two complement each other condition-wise. Storm/powder days are hard to xc ski anyway. So downhill at Wildcat on powder days, "packed" (I mean, really PACKED) powder days are excellent for xc, especially skating.
 

Edd

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The Glen House , a mile away, is great for drinks/snacks after skiing if that’s your thing. Wildcat is an amazing place to me. I think Vail is bringing many new eyeballs to it, which worries me, but, likely a necessary evil.


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Tonyr

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1/19/2020: POWDER DAY! (Plus, free refill in the afternoon, courtesy of the wind)

We all know the score. Another 8" overnight!

This was a day of ups and downs:

I didn't get out as early as I had planed. (Had minor upset stomach overnight). So 1st "down" moment. :(

Fortunately, the snow was super dry and light. So digging the car out from under that 8" of snow consist of waving my brush about a few times. The snow flew away. Took a lot less time than I had planned for. First "up" moment. I pulled out of the lot not too much behind schedule. And Wildcat is only 1/4 mile down the road from Joe Dodge. :grin:

Well, not exactly. I may have pull "out of" the lot, but merging into traffic proved to be next to impossible! There's a line of cars stretch as long as I could see. They were going around 20-30mph. Just too fast for me to "force" my way in. Powder day or not, it's not worth having a fender bender. That would have delay my skiing far longer. So wait and wait and wait some more. Eventually, there's a gap I could make the left turn into traffic. I could probably have WALK that 1/4 mile in the time I waited... "Down" moment. :(

All those cars on the road were, of course, turning into the Wildcat parking lot. I ended up parking next to the road!

By the time I gathered my stuff together and walked towards the base lodge, I could see the lift already spinning. So much for 1st chair! :(

Inside the lodge, it's a "sea of humanity". Bodies everywhere. Lines to get lift tickets, lines to the bathroom, bags all over the floors...

But I was able to find a spot near the door, booted up and out of there!

No lines at the lift??? Everybody got there early just to hang out at the lodge or something?

Well. No time to ponder. Left off the lift and the first trail that looks to have some gradient. Yeehaa! Powder!!! Light and fluffy, flew away as I came by! How deep? Can't tell. The snow flew away too quickly :grin:

Further down, I spied another short section with what looks to be deep fluffy powder, already disturbed but not yet trashed. This one was definitely deep. All the way to my knees. One turn, two turn, surfy, bouncy turns, three turns... What the f***! As my skis parted the 10" fluff, there emerged a 9.5" tall rock!

Pointed and ready to slice my calf! My left ski went left of the pointed rock and my right one went right of it... By pure luck, both skis brushed against the rock but wasn't enough to deviate their path. So I past the rock unscathed. Wow!

Totally worth it though. :grin:

Second lift ride, I was the 2nd in line on the single's line. Needless to say, I was back up in no time.

By run 3, the line grew a little. A bit after 10, it was outside of the corral again. But by then, I had already gotten a few runs in. The temperature wasn't as cold as Saturday. So standing in line for 10 minutes was't half as agonizing as on Saturday. By then, the fresh powder were gone too. But what's left were soft piles, and soft underneath. Still very pleasant skiing. So I endured the lines. Also, more and more trails were opened. (that's not to say people didn't duck under the ropes everywhere)

Then I witnessed the first injuries of the day. Fellow must have coming in hot and fast, lost it in the slick patches between the piles, then slammed into the hard icy mounts underneath. He was holding his shoulder and not able to get up. His got a buddy standing next to him trying to help him up, and another standing on the side of trail shouting to ask if he's alright. (it's pretty clear he was NOT "alright"!) All the while, there's this constant stream of barely in control skiers slip-sliding pass him in high speed. I didn't feel comfortable to cross all that uncontrolled traffic to get to him. I waited a while, till there's a little gap of the stream of skiers, and quickly went over to him to ask if he think he might need a sled. He nodded very firmly, and off I went. (my jack is bright red, sometimes got mistaken as ski patrol).

I wasn't sure what the trail name was. So I looked for signs and landmarks as I went down. When I got to the bottom, it wasn't too obvious where the patrol shed is. So I stopped one of the ski host. She pulled out a map so I could point out approximately where the injury was. She said she would contact the ski patrol.

And I went in for my early lunch. It was 11:35.

People were still streaming out of the lodge in waves. So I easily found a table where a family was just about finish booting up (at 11:40!). The line for soup was like 10 people and was moving rather slowly. I decided I didn't need the soup that badly. I ate my sandwich, apple, hot chocolate and drank tons of water (what's the deal with Wildcat water? It's rusty color out of the hot water!)

Another family came in to share the table. They reported the lower mountain had the best condition as the wind had deposited the loose powder on Bobcat, Cheetah and lower Wildcat.

Sure enough! Found good condition there. Also, more ropes were dropped so I tried those too. Though in general, the natural trails were really only barely covered. Lots of rocks underneath.

In the mean time, the wind seriously picked up, blasting snow around the mountain. Removing snow from some trail and filling it in on others (or even different side of the same trail). Witnessed my 2nd injury of the day. A young girl was holding her wrist next to a pile of snow, obviously she didn't see it and slid right into it. A whole family was with her. And passing skiers were asking if they could help. I suggest someone ski down to tell ski patrol to come take a look. Several volunteered. So I figure I can just go on my own way too.

A few runs later, coming off Bobcat, I saw the line for the summit quad was beyond the corral again. But there's no one at the Bobcat triple. A quick sharp right, I went up the triple instead. It's a slower lift, took 10 minute to get to top of Bobcat/Cheetah/Lower Wildcat. But it's 10 minutes sitting on a chair going up vs 10 minutes standing in line for the summit quad. So I lapped the triple a few times.

Except by then, the cloud came in, making it hard to see the snow from slick ice. :(

I contemplated calling it a day. It's past 2. I've had good many runs.

But then, seeing the summit quad now almost empty of lines, I thought I'd go check out a couple other trails to see what the wind might have done to help or hurt those. Sure enough, I found newly refilled powder on a couple of them. OK, so much for calling it a day early. :grin:

Better still, the sun came back out! Now I could see the snow from the slick ice. I can hop from one patch of snow to the next. The "hunting" is almost as much fun as the actual surfing of powder! :grin:

I can see it'll be a day till the last chair. As the clock approaches 3, I started to "plan" my last run. Back on the summit quad, I found myself coming back near the base with around 3:15. If I take the quad again, I may or may not be able to be back down by 3:30. But if I take the triple, it's 10 min up and I knew I could come back down Bobcat in less than 5. That's what I did. Blasting from the bottom of Bobcat straight to the Summit quad with like 2 minutes to spare! :grin:

Getting off the chair, I was very much alone on the mountain. There were only a few more chairs behind me. And everyone went off to their own favorite trail to end their excellent day. Suddenly, no crowd, no traffic on the trail. It was like skiing on my own private mountain! I made wide arc turns taking up the whole freaking trail, surfing on wind deposited powder!

So I didn't make first chair. Does making last chair count as a great day?
Nice report, I'd love to try Wildcat some day, my problem is that it takes 6 hrs to get there from NYC so I detour to Northern VT instead. Is it worth that drive?

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abc

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Glen house is the trail head for my xc skiing.

I’m not the drink kind of person. But I could see myself stopping for snack. I’ll pop in next time I’m up there.

I quite like Wildcat. Primary due to the lack of crowds. You locals or old timers may think it’s crowded now. But its way less crowded than anything in southern VT.
 

abc

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Nice report, I'd love to try Wildcat some day, my problem is that it takes 6 hrs to get there from NYC so I detour to Northern VT instead. Is it worth that drive?
It depends on the individual perspective.

For me, it's worth the extra hour of driving (compare to northern VT), when the condition warrants it.

I used to go to Stowe for the best combination of snow, terrain and quietness.

But the quietness is no more. People had discovered it.

Skiing solo, I'm less bothered by the lines. I can cut it a bit by using the single's line.

But I'm quite bothered by the crowds on the slope. They just scrape the snow away. And once the surface become slick, a good portion of the crowd then become unguided missile or cannon balls. I don't enjoy skiing in the mist of that!

So, I'll drive longer to avoid the crowd.

Wildcat is far away from just about anyone. So the crowd situation is significantly reduced. (same goes for my "backyard favorite" Plattekill, which is an extra 1/2 hr from Bell, but I figure I got that 1/2 back by NOT waiting in line throughout the course of the day).

Also, the snow advantage of Stowe is reduced the last couple years. A lot of the coastal storm means there's snow in my backyard and NOT in northern VT. This year for example, Stowe was open 50% open until this last storm. So not a whole lot of point to drive 4 1/2 hr when I can day trip in southern VT or the Catskill.

Wildcat has interesting terrain for my preference with some of its natural trails. But it's not a big mountain, not a lot of trails, particularly not a whole lot of groomers. So, on a holiday weekend like this past one, the groomers got skied off pretty quickly. Plus, they can get crowded with families. But with the 2 storms, the natural trails open up and it spread the traffic around. Not to mention a lot of fun dodging rocks! (I mean it!)

Still, Wildcat will never be my one-and-only mountain. I'd at best mix it up with VT and the Cats.
 

abc

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Non-skiing consideration for the Whites.

Lodging is more reasonable around Whildcat. You can have luxury and comfort at North Conway (and still less than a basic room at souther/central VT). Or basic and comfort at Gorham. Or go really cheapskate at the AMC Joe Dodge Lodge (bunk bed, share bath).

Other things to do when waiting for snow: There's a lot of hiking (more likely snowshoeing) in the area. Cross country skiing at Bretton Woods and Jackson are unmatched in the northeast. Shopping at North Conway's outlet mall (no sales tax).

And of course, if there's no storm, and the sun is out, you can gawk at the majestic sight of Mount Washington endlessly!
 

deadheadskier

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It depends on the individual perspective.

For me, it's worth the extra hour of driving (compare to northern VT), when the condition warrants it.

I used to go to Stowe for the best combination of snow, terrain and quietness.

But the quietness is no more. People had discovered it.

Skiing solo, I'm less bothered by the lines. I can cut it a bit by using the single's line.

But I'm quite bothered by the crowds on the slope. They just scrape the snow away. And once the surface become slick, a good portion of the crowd then become unguided missile or cannon balls. I don't enjoy skiing in the mist of that!

So, I'll drive longer to avoid the crowd.

Wildcat is far away from just about anyone. So the crowd situation is significantly reduced. (same goes for my "backyard favorite" Plattekill, which is an extra 1/2 hr from Bell, but I figure I got that 1/2 back by NOT waiting in line throughout the course of the day).

Also, the snow advantage of Stowe is reduced the last couple years. A lot of the coastal storm means there's snow in my backyard and NOT in northern VT. This year for example, Stowe was open 50% open until this last storm. So not a whole lot of point to drive 4 1/2 hr when I can day trip in southern VT or the Catskill.

Wildcat has interesting terrain for my preference with some of its natural trails. But it's not a big mountain, not a lot of trails, particularly not a whole lot of groomers. So, on a holiday weekend like this past one, the groomers got skied off pretty quickly. Plus, they can get crowded with families. But with the 2 storms, the natural trails open up and it spread the traffic around. Not to mention a lot of fun dodging rocks! (I mean it!)

Still, Wildcat will never be my one-and-only mountain. I'd at best mix it up with VT and the Cats.
Good points and ones I share a similar opinion, especially in regards to Stowe, which used to be home.

When the natural terrain is in and skiing well (about half the season typically) I'm fully pleased skiing Wildcat day after day and really never get bored. There's just a tremendous amount of variety that you can ski over the course of its 2100 vertical. Start on a groomer, hit some bumps in the middle of the mountain, finish up the bottom in the trees. The off the map options are pretty extensive too.

I definitely agree however that when it's only groomer skiing, the options shrink up quite a bit and those limited options can get pretty crowded and skied off fast. I suspect that Vail will unfortunately add more snowmaking and grooming over time. All of the Wildcat trails, Catenary, Tomcat Schuss and maybe even Lift Lion > Black Cat gets regraded so it get be groomed when snow is made on it. My preference is that none of that happens. I don't think it's needed because you have Attitash right down the street, which does offer considerable variety of groomed terrain. Attitash is a great compliment to Wildcat in that regard. When you combine the two together there's about 600 acres of terrain. That's plenty enough for me to mostly not get bored with. Next winter I'll likely be doing a seasonal rental in the Valley and 95% of my skiing will be at Cattitash.

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abc

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Good point about Attitash for groomer lovers, and complement of Wildcat.

Also, while not on the EPIC pass, Bretton Woods in the same "neighborhood" has some of the same advantage of relatively low crowd and interesting natural terrain (glades). It's like a combination of Attitash and Wildcat in one package, albeit at half the size and variety.

Add Cannon, when the condition is right, I think the area has enough good skiing without the same crowding level of VT. (again, the old timers will probably say it's getting a lot more crowded for their taste, but it compares favorably against VT)
 
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