Everyone deserves a second chance. At work, in relationships, in life.
The saying goes; fool me once, shame on me , fool me twice, I’m an @sshole. But in this case the second chance happens to be a ski house. And that house happens to be a sanctuary to call home.
When I was growing up my family had a house on Mt. Cranmore in New Hampshire. In the summertime we would head up there and catch tree frogs in the pool. Hike up to Diana’s Bath, and catch lightning bugs at night. When my grandparents passed away we were already living in Ohio and just couldn’t keep it. I never realized how much I missed, or took it for granted, until this season.
My one goal when I walked off the beach after Labor Day was to make this winter ski season better than summer. I was single, Ski Till I Die was starting to get big, and life was about as wonderful as it gets. What better way to perpetuate that than by getting a ski house with 10 friends for 6 months.
Things suck at work? Your significant other isn’t what you had hoped? Life in general, wherever you are, just sucks huh? Well… on the mountain, everything is alright. It’s your getaway. Time to think. Time to relax.
The skiing has been awful this season. Really. terrible. I can’t even tell you about a memorable dump so far this season. Oh, there has been some? Yea, not anywhere I’ve been so far. Don’t let that disappoint you. Find yourself a mountain cabin somewhere – someplace – because what’s made it alright has been this house.
Everyone gives me a lot of flack; and deservingly so. I own a ski company and I don’t ski. So what?! I ski when it means something. When there is a foot of fresh pow on the ground, believe I make first tracks. But right now? I’ve been to the house… Le Bon Apres as we call it… probably 10 times since November. And I’ve been on snow 3 days. That’s right, 3. And I’ll still ski circles around you. I find that when I get up to the cabin I am just as happy lounging in the hot tub, Apres-ing it at the bar, and relaxing by the fire as I am on the mountain.
Ski Till I Die is an idea. It’s a lifestyle. So if you cant live the life, then what’s the point? The point is… enjoy yourself. You have a chance to get away? Do it. You have an opportunity to relax and forget about all the bullsh*t that’s waiting for you back in Manhattan? Then do it! You want to shred some gnar in the meantime… then click in and put down those tracks.
Every single time I’m up there I think about my family house in Conway. It brings me back to the glory days with Grandma and Grandpa “O”. It helps me forget about anything that matters besides how many snowflakes are gonna fall through the ski and land on my face and get me cold again. Then I dunk in the hot tub and come back up with the smile on my face that says – yea, this is my home… I’ll be here until the snow melts and nothing else matters.
Getting away is important. Enjoying what you do is even more relevant. But doing both? Now that’s finding paradise. Away from anything else that matters. Because on the mountain, everything’s alright.
I’ll shred the gnar this season… but getting away to Le Bon Apres is just as important.
They call it The Beast. A very fitting name considering Killington is the baddest game in town. If you have never skied Killington, you have surely heard about it and I am certain there is no need to read up on mountain reviews outlining what to expect when you get there. 7 peaks (including Pico), 140 trails, 3,000+ feet of vertical devistation, a network of lifts & gondolas that get you up and out all day long, and an Apres Ski scene that can make even the most prolific partier blush. Killington is a behemoth.
But I am going to do my best to give you a different take this overwhelming ski destination. One that localizes the experience and provides anyone with endless options to indulge in the glory that is skiing. You really can find great skiing anywhere. What separates Killington from anywhere else are the limitless options that appeal to groups of friends like mine where everyone wants to do something different.
As far as the skiing goes there truly is something for everyone. You want bumps, head to Bar Mountain and ski their signature run, Outer Limits. If this is your first time strapping on the sticks, Snowshed has the slow rollers that will help even the beginner get up and down like a pro. The double black tree runs off the top are some of the best around. If you want to avoid the crowds, duck off into the woods for your own enjoyment and you won’t have to see another skier for the rest of the day. Speaking of the woods, you get the best of both worlds in The Stash – their new all natural terrain park. If you want to try showing off with a yard sale under one of the lift line runs, you can do that too. There are options abound.
Off the mountain there is also plenty to keep the non-skiers in your group happy while you’re busy shredding. Between the brewerys, ice skating, and snowmobile tours – if they can’t find anything to occupy their time then it has to be because they are still asleep and haven’t left the cabin yet. (I like brewery tours http://www.vtliving.com/breweries/)
Finally when all is said and done, Killington has THE BEST apres ski I have found anywhere on the Eastern seaboard. You have your pick of about a dozen different local spots to indulge. If you stay on the mountain, I like the Snowshed lodge – plus Duane Carleton plays there quite a bit which is always a treat. You can go to Casey’s Caboose for wings, The Wobbly for nachos, or the Garlic for peel & eat shrimp. At night some of the best bands around are playing live at The Pickle Barrel or you can grab a keg from Green Mountain Boys and relax by the fire burning up in your cabin.
I have been skiing Killington for the last decade & I do not see that trend changing over the next 10 years. As we usher in another year I want to say Happy New Year to everyone and thank God ski season is officially here.
Happy trails 2010 and even happier shredding in 2011.
So as I am sitting in the Memphis International (really) Airport… it got me wondering, what do powder hounds do who don’t live anywhere near a mountain??
I am in the process of trying to get to Killington VT for the annual New Years Eve ski trip that I plan and I am stranded. All flights to NYC are out 2 days – not to mention that the adjacent airports are subsequently backed up as well. So there is no hope of me making it ‘home’ to get a ride to Vermont to join me fellow shredders for the NYE of a lifetime. Thank God I was able to connect in Cleveland where my brother can pick me up. He himself decided the drive was worth the trouble in order to join in the festivities.
But this got me to thinking… what do people have to go through in order to actually get to a mountain to ski?? They don’t have the same options, or privileges, or dilemmas that we do. They have nothing. They are the individuals who are on the beck of the airline & the weather. They are the brave souls – not the ones who trek through the blizzards to make first tracks – but the ones who brave the societal elements in order to do what they love.
This should make everyone who has relative easy access to a mountain grateful for what they have. Don’t disregard your hour drive, or your on mountain access. Do NOT be ungrateful for the 5 mountain buffet you have at your finger tips. No.
Remember.. there are people (just like me) who come from all walks of life, infinite backgrounds, and even more diverse locations, who love to ski – and go to great lengths to enjoy it. If skiing is your calling, nothing is going to stop you. Even if it means diverting your flight to Cleveland Ohio for a drive that is twice as long, only if it means you get to enjoy the mountain with all your friends.
Sometimes sacrifice is necessary. This, is one of those circumstances. And when a defining moment comes along, define the moment or the moment defines you.
I was out moving the car this morning, complaining to myself about the frigid weather in the greater New York City area… and then I realized, I had not posted a gripe yet this week!
Well this weeks gripe: lift ticket prices.
Thanks to a Mammoth Mountain forum I was able to track down, they outline ticket pricing and highlight top end resorts on both coasts: http://forums.mammothmountain.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=8301&start=45 )
I knew Killington (tied with Sugarbush for 3rd on the list) was $82 last year… they jacked it up to $84 this year but for comparative purposes we will focus on last years pricing and it is no surprise the resort is in the top 10. Then there us Stowe at $89 for a one day pass. Are you kidding me?! So after the $30 on gas, $15 spent on lunch, and $20 spent at the bar – your conservative total for the day is $154 for 6 hours of skiing.
I just don’t understand it, aren’t we in a recession?? Shouldn’t ticket pricing be diluted??
My buddy suggested organizing some ‘funemployment’ trips to local mountains this season. Maybe if we go midweek, get a group discount, and get fake ids that say we’re only 16 we can make it affordable for everyone to go. We’ll see.
Or you can try a different strategy. This is how I beat the system at Mount Snow ($79 – #8 on the list) my freshman year of college.
This was college for most people; you were poor, you used to try and sneak into the mess hall without a mean plan, and you would only go to happy hours if they served free food (see: Noah’s in Poughkeepsie, NY for free wings and ziti on Thursday & Friday HH). So an $80 lift pass was out of the question. Sorry Mount Snow, I can pay for it now – but as a broke college kid it wasn’t gonna happen.
To their credit they do have a *Our Snow Guarantee* that I like – basically if you don’t like the snow within an hour of skiing you can get your money back.
But we aren’t talking about guarantees, we are talking about shredding the gnar. Not only was the ticket way too rich for my blood, but they didnt have any student pricing… I had to figure out a way to beat the system.
As I remember it, 8 years ag0 (Jesus I’m old) Mount Snow had a 3 tier pricing system. Youth, Teen, and Adult. Well the youth pass was $20 cheaper than the Adult and fifty something sounds a lot better than seventy something doesn’t it? So I pretended I was 13 years old – on my 19th birthday.
It’s cold, I’m wearing a mask… I can DEFINITELY get away with this. Well, it actually worked out pretty well until the last few runs of the day. The new liftie started giving me a hard time in line but we got through. I was skiing with my freshman year roommate & best buddy Jay and we both decided 2 more runs and we’re done for the day. We should have known we were testing our luck.
We get to the bottom… we were dumb as could be for going right back to the same liftie. Of course he was on his little walkie talkie, “uhh, I got em, yea… they’re right there”. And then he made us wait for his boss. The entire time I’m formulating a what to say to the next wave of mountain management that was about to yell at me. So then this guy showed up on a snowmobile – looked JUST LIKE Santa Clause, I kid you not – and then started grilling me. So here is the exchange:
Santa: I’ve never seen a 12 year old with a beard
Bearded 12 year old: It’s not really a beard, it’s pretty patchy.
Santa: (Pointing at Jay) Who’s this guy and how old is he?
Bearded 12 year old: Oh, thats my cousin Jay and he is 19. He’s watching me while our parents are at the bar catching up (Jay is Puerto Rican btw)
Santa: Do you have any identification?
Bearded 12 year old: Oh course not, my middle school ID is in my wallet at the house and are you looking for a drivers license or something sir??
So he finally let us go. I mean, honestly, what is he going to hold us for? I told an impeccable story and he had NOTHING. That last run we took was bitter sweet and I have never had a grin quite like that written across my face since I was 12 years old.
So anyway… the moral of the story is the best way to avoid the high lift ticket prices is to pretend you are still in 7th grade. If that is not a viable option other alternatives include; finding online discounts (http://www.onthesnow.com/lifttickets_guide.html?gclid=CIubsf3686UCFU1-5QodBBm2nw), joining community ski clubs (Hoboken Ski Club for example), or find your local ski shop and buy some before you get to the mountain. Any of those options will probably save you 15% or so – and when you’re paying $80 / day to ski anything helps.
Happy shredding fellow coupon clippers! Cheers,
Sometimes, the best ski days you have are the ones where you end up on the hill by yourself. No one at the mountain so the chairlift is all yours, nobody bothering you in lift lines, no traffic on the trail… and all you hear is the sound of edges on the hard pack and the snow hitting the ground. Silence. Its peaceful, tranquil, and a place where anyone is able to think. That is a true skiers dream… to get lost in themselves.
Then there are the days where you actually DO get lost, and it sucks. I just happen to remember one such day!
It was a few seasons ago, skiing Killington once again, with myself, Sean, Joe T, and few other out-of-bounds hounds. Per usual the snow was great and we ducked off into the woods somewhere to go ‘find ourselves’. Yea… find ourselves lost in the middle of no where.
In another story I wrote, I spoke about how Sean was the greatest guide ever, blah, how he will have you back to happy hour 5 minutes early, blah blah… abyss, blah blah blah… well not this day.
Started off normal. We were carving our way through powder stashes, popping off boulders, finding lines through the trees… just another great day to be on the mountain. Then it started to get a little late. We knew this was going to be our last run anyway but the mountain was getting close to shutting down and we needed to head back.
So of course we look to Sean, “hey buddy, which way?!”. And then his expression is one of just dumbfounded confusion… “uhhh, uhhhh, I dunno!”. F@$%!
So we start moving in the direction we think is the main lodge, or at least something that resembles a groomer of some kind, only to find ourselves on the other side of some ravine. Where did this thing come from?! It looked like we were about to cross the Mississippi. So after some careful consideration and a mini debate we opted not to Oregon Trail it and keep heading downhill.
So let me break down the situation for you… If you have ever seen the movie, Alive – this was like that 86 the plane crash. I had 1 granola bar and a beer tucked away in my jacket and I wasn’t going to share with ANYONE. Its getting dark, none of us had cell phone service because we were so far off the grid we have no idea where we were, and I was going to eat Joe if I had to and light Sean on fire to keep warm for the night. Oh, and not a soul had any idea where we were.
Unfortunately it never came to that. After a minute or 2 heading off into God knows where, we ended up finding what resembled a trail. There was green paint on the trees and we could see footprints heading down the mountain – how bad could that be, right?! Yeaaa!
So off we went. This little trail was so narrow you couldn’t even turn and we were picking up speed as it was perpetually getting steeper. Were we headed down Niagara Falls?? Then we turned a corner and out of NO WHERE was this woolly mammoth of a golden retriever and these 2 snowshoers. I put on the brakes as best I could and crashed into a bush, and everyone else behind me followed suit. The puppy loved it, I didn’t. I guess it made sense, the tracks not being from a Sasquach after all.
As it turns out we were headed down the Appalachian Trail. Had we not bumped into those 2 girls we would have stayed on the Appalachian Train and ended up 7 miles off the mountain on some access road, with all our gear, in the dark, somewhere in God’s country.
They pointed us back in the right direction (the opposite was of which we were heading of course) and just made it out of the woods as the last chair was closing. That was special… everyone sitting in the lodge waiting for us, each with their own set of questions and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. After feeling like the main character from Call Of The Wild, I wanted to go Jack London myself up to the bar alone and go get lost again. This time by myself, with a beer and my thoughts.
When the U.S. Govt. assigned Martin Luther King Day & Presidents Day to be celebrated on Mondays, mid-month in January and February, they were saying to themselves… these holidays will turn into some great ski weekends. And thanks to their undeniable foresight and omnipresent talents, they would happen to be absolutely correct.
A day at the mountain is wonderful, staying over for a night is great, but making a long weekend out of it is heaven on earth – it’s the whipped cream and cherry on the sundae, it’s the free car wash you get for being a platinum booster club member, it’s not having to wait around in purgatory. You are setting yourself up for 3 nights and 3 days of festive, glorious, one-of-a-kind bliss that can only be found where chairlifts, trees and snow unite.
There are a few reoccurring, always present elements, that make a ski trip a ski trip. Without them, you are left with a vacation. What is the difference you ask? That, my friend, is what we will be exploring in this article.
1.) The house is everything.
Don’t stay in a hotel, hotels are for vacations. You want a house. A prerequisite for any ski house is a hot tub. Without it you might as well stay home. You will also need to locate a place that has a wood burning fireplace. There are 2 things in life that bring a sense of euphoria over you: soaking in 100 degree bubbling water after a day on the slopes and the smell of a wood burning fire. Just don’t let your friends lock you out of the house, and don’t let said house burn down.
Some extras that are always nice to include but do not limit yourself to are : a game room, big kitchen (it’s nice to eat in), large living room (important to have room for activities – twister, jenga, etc), close proximity to the mountain (AKA on the shuttle route), log cabin status, plethora of bedrooms / bathrooms, sauna, mountain views, and a driveway you can actually get in and out of.
2.) You need a very eclectic mix of people on your trip.
You don’t want the same group of people that you hang out with all the time to come on your trip, those are the people you bring on vacation. No, you want every person in your group to invite at least 2 friends to bring along who no one knows. This is an element you won’t find on vacation.
Each person is coming in blindly & hopefully is bringing something to the table. It is important to stress to your core friends that you do not want any lampshades on the trip. Lampshades sit in the corner and bring nothing additional to the group; no lampshades.
A few years ago during one of our NYE trips I had a few open spots in the house with a week to go before departure. We had exhausted anyone else who wanted to come so I went on CraigsList and found 6 strangers to join us. It truly made for one of the most interesting ski trips I have ever been on. Recommendation: if you are still looking to fill rooms in the house post it on CraigsList. Try to arrange a meetup prior to in order to prevent any crazy ax-murders from staying in your quarters, but other than that you won’t be disappointed.
3.) It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.
No one is going to lose an eye, just make sure you hide the darts before you start to break out the adult beverages. Really though, you don’t need to go out when you have a ski house. The most fun nights we usually have are the ones we stay in and play charades (stop laughing, charades is awesome). Plus, if you stay in the house no one loses out by having to take on the responsibility of being the designated driver.
You can also bring as much supplies as you want. Your’e paying for the house, so take advantage of it – just don’t break anything (keep Gorilla glue and/or duct tape handy just-in-case). You have an outdoor freezer for overflow of beverages so fridge space is never a concern. I suggest bringing some interesting concoction that will take everyone by surprise. When you go on vacation you drink Pina Coladas; 2 of my favorites for ski trips:
Waffle Shot: equal parts butterscotch schnapps and Captain Morgan rum. Shake it over ice & pour. You will be delightfully surprised with the outcome.
Coco Puff Shot: vodka (Svedka is a great brand for this – inexpensive quality) and chocolate syrup. Think of it as your’e making yourself a glass of chocolate milk… pour in the vodka, pour in the syrup and shake vigorously over ice. Pour and enjoy this festive beverage.
Please enjoy responsibly… and also remember that you have an early morning to get to the mountain tomorrow.
4.) Bring some non-skiers / boarders.
Every year there are always a few. They are perfectly content with staying inside all day, sitting in the hot tub, drinking champagne. These are the individuals who you are also depending on you keep the fire going while you are shredding the gnar on the mountain. Furthermore, based on the prior evenings events the house may need a once over. These folks also happen to be the saints who will recycle the empties and prepare the house for a second round of fun.
5.) Music is very importante.
My favorite for this time of year is Mariah Carey’s Christmas album. But either way… no music, no party. Most houses you rent will have some form of speaker system already set up. But do not leave it to chance. Find yourself a portable set of speakers that hook up to an ipod and you are all set.
6.) Apres Ski + afternoon nap.
Before I mentioned that with a house there is no need to go out. And although this is a very true statement, that by no means implies you have to miss out on apres ski! Most bars will have free food with their happy hour. This is important: see Wobbly Barn in Killington – free nachos & Casey’s Caboose in Killington – free hot wings. There is nothing wrong with stopping in while still in your snow pants to enjoy a plate of wings and a frosty beer.
What you need to consider, however, is afternoon nap. You have been skiing all day. You probably were up until 2 and putting your gear on at 8. Take advantage of your post skiing down time and take a nap. Trust me when I tell you this will come in handy later on in the evening. You don’t want to be the one passing out on the couch while everyone else is busy making fools of themselves playing charades.
There you have it. Speakers, hot tubbing, CraigsList, Waffle Shots, afternoon nap, and non-skiers tending to the fire… it is a wonderful mix for your perfect ski weekend. Now all you need to do is find a mountain, find a house, and find some friends with friends who are in for something other than a vacation.
Enjoy & as always – cheers!
I know Killington VT well. I should, I have been skiing there for the past 10 years. For the latter part of that tenure I have generally stayed (and make a point to make at least 1 pilgrimage there a season) at a place called the Clear River Inn and Tavern. Never stayed there?
You are probably saying to yourself, yea OK, another run of the mill lodge that lines the access road – costs $50 / night – has free coffee in the morning and gives you a questionable amount of hot water in the shower. And if that is what your thinking… you would be half right. I love the Clear quite honestly. The people who work it have become my surrogate VT family on weekends I find myself sharing the mountain with the local folks.
But something that really separates the Clear River from every other lodge up that way is the gentleman who sets up his speakers and plugs in his guitar every Saturday night while there is snow on the ground. His name is Duane Carleton.
Duane has been playing there for as long as I have been a patron. He has the same, long, curly black hair and the coke bottle glasses now that he did when I was too young to get served at the bar. His smile hasn’t, nor his demeanor, or his raspy undertone style of singing that will have you rocking for hours – changed a bit. I think the only thing that’s different is the list of songs he knows grows exponentially each year.
He really is an encyclopedia of musical knowledge. We would run up to him after every song, “do you know this, can you play this, what about this?”. And usually that would just annoy the guy with the mic. Not Duane, he would sit there unfazed, big grin, and he would always say, “suuuure”.
Now, if you were looking to hear the recorded version of your song, you came to the wrong place. Duane has a way of turning the song into his own, all the while keeping the core in tact that you love so much. He would spin it like a pizza, doing it his own way, and it would always taste better than the last guy who made it. When Duane plays you never want to leave the bar. Holding true to that Ski Till I Die mentality, you will probably keep the bartender busy until close. But thats why, at the end of the night, Duane would always have a once empty guitar case filled with dollars you were happy to give away.
Had I not stayed at the Clear River over the last decade I probably would have no idea who Duane Carleton is. But I can assure you, if you have found yourself at a bar for some apres ski engagement in Killington, youve heard him before. If you have turned around asking yourself – who is that guy, with the long, curly black hair and the coke bottle glasses, singing the most unbelievable version of your favorite classic rock jam – thats Duane Carleton.
So next time you find yourself up at Killington, ask the locals if they have ever heard of Duane. I promise you, whether it be bartender, liftie, or the cop that just pulled you over for speeding… they’ll smile and nod…and be able to tell you where he is playing that night. So make sure you find yourself there because that is a show you wont want to miss. And if you luck out and it happens to be Saturday night, look up the Clear River. Its off the beaten path, but you can be damn sure Duane will be there.