12/18/17 Whaleback! Weekend! Woody!

Plenty to talk about after a busy weekend of openings in the east, some familiar names on the World Cup tour, and a troublesome lack of snow in parts of Colorado.

But first we get a terrific report from New England correspondent Sam Shirley, who was at a small throwback area in central New Hampshire called Whaleback. Actually it’s sort of near Sunapee, across the Connecticut River from White River Junction VT. Anyway, Whaleback was one of those areas that provided an affordable alternative to the long lines at the better known New England resorts about 40 years ago, then got left on the wayside when high speed lifts and high power snowmaking gained a foothold. Well we’re glad to say that some locals have bootstrapped the operation and are keeping it going on a modest budget. Sam is avid about skiing and supporting the Whaleback type places, and he was on hand for their season opening this weekend…

Sam reports: They were only running the new T-bar because they didn’t have the staff and weren’t prepared to open the chair this early, even though there was enough natural snow…

…There was over a foot of powder still on the mountain which wasn’t tracked out. Everything, including glades, was open off the T-bar and I also skied powder on Face, Jawbone, & Dorsal by hiking. They were still dialing in the T-bar and it deroped twice during the day, but this downtime was the perfect opportunity for lunch and a hike up to the summit.

…for more of Whaleback, Sam added a quick fun video to Youtube that gives you a good feel for the place — clicks in at under a minute.

Tough news elsewhere in New England, venerable Bromley VT suffered a catastrophic pump house fire Saturday night. This is the heart of their snowmaking system, and it’s definitely destroyed. They’re gonna attempt to rehabilitate an old system until it can be replaced, and fortunately have enough natural snow right now that they’ll be serving up a pretty good product for Christmas vacation week. Looks like they’ll have 60% of the mountain open, which is probably average for this time of year.

Whither Colorado? Conditions are not ideal in most places, sorry to say. Arapahoe Basin is about 10% open, Steamboat has yet to move up the main mountain. But there is one well kept secret — my personal Colorado fave — fabulous Ski Cooper near Leadville, opened this weekend on all-natural snow with 100% of terrain. That includes powder skiing and trees; don’t knock it til you try it. Not Copper…Cooper.

And now on to the racing news, a pair of completely unexpected victors emerged from the women’s competition in Val d’Isere this weekend: Lindsey Vonn and Anna Veith, both past overall champions, both banged and battered but battled to the top in a pair of Super G races. Vonn looked dominant in the first, but opted out of day two with a sore knee. Quite a change from last weekend, when Lindz was lying in pain in the finish area and last seen hobbling to her getaway car. Same deal with Veith; she’s on the mend from a vicious knee injury over two years ago and hasn’t looked comfortable on the snow — until yesterday. Great to see this from both these great racers.

And finally, Woody Bousquet weighs in from the Mid-Atlantic with a few short but sweet comments, notably “My skiing professor friends and I were at Snowshoe this past Tuesday-Wednesday for our first turns on incredibly good snow.” Which hopefully bodes well for a better season in the region!

Back soon with more news…until then, here’s another run at Whaleback:

All photos courtesy Sam Shirley • Used by permission