We have certain areas on the mountain where we can't take students without two coaches. Mostly, this includes steep, tight tree runs, which are some of the most fun skiing terrain we have, in my opinion. Some of the girls in my group love this terrain, while some others are a bit more apprehensive. But, they can all ski it.
Last week, I had requested a second coach for the day, and luckily, my request was granted. I asked the girls to be at the mountain a bit early, so we could catch an early bus to Mt. Ellen, Sugarbush's "secondary" area. Mt. Ellen was previously a separate ski area named Glen Ellen.
In 1979, Sugarbush's owner purchased Glen Ellen with the idea of creating one much larger resort. After ski conglomerate American Skiing Company (now defunct) purchased Sugarbush in 1995, they built a mountain-interconnect chair that allowed people to ride over two miles across the Slide Brook Basin to get from one mountain to the other.
Despite the interconnect, the Lincoln Peak base area is still the main part of Sugarbush, and the site of most new resort improvements. But, Mt. Ellen has some amazing terrain and some amazing tree skiing. So, I headed there on Saturday with six students and a second coach.
Our first run was in a gladed bowl that is fairly easy to ski. It's tougher for coaches, who sometimes have to stand at the top of the bowl and watch as children spread out far from each other. Two coaches are essential here if the kids get too far apart and two different kids go down. This was a nice easy warm-up.
Next we headed to Brambles Woods, a route I hadn't skied in a while. Somehow, the students ended up on the other side of a creek bed, but I could see them them the whole time, and I watched them from a distance. I stayed uphill of them and I could have skied through the creek bed if necessary. Luckily, with an all-girl group of students, most of them ages 11-13, they are very concerned about looking good on the slopes. So, they all wear brightly colored ski outfits that are easy to see from a distance.
From Brambles, I wanted to increase the difficulty. We headed to Tumbler Woods and Moose Run Woods. Tumbler is steep and the snow wasn't quite deep enough there, but we got through OK. Moose Run is not very steep, but the snow was denser lower on the mountain and a lot of it was untracked. My lightest student struggled a bit, but we all got out safely.
At this point, the girls were screaming for lunch and I obliged.
After lunch, we headed up high. First, we skied FIS - Sugarbush's steepest trail, a moguled double-black diamond run. It was in great shape and skied fairly easily. Then a short tree run and back to the summit. The plan now was to ski "Exterminator Woods" - sounds ominous, doesn't it? One of the girls was a bit nervous about this run, and I was pretty sure she was going to use a standard ploy that she uses to avoid a run - get off the lift and suddenly announce an emergency need for a trip to the bathroom. But, I'd anticipated this in my timing of the day, so we skied some bumps and trees back to a lodge for a quick bathroom break. And then, we headed back up.
Six students and two coaches proved to be the perfect ratio in this very difficult tree line. It's easy to get separated there, and we took our time, staying in visual contact the entire time. It took us about 40 minutes to carefully navigate this steep tree run, but the snow was amazing.
After that, we went to the base and waited for bus back to where the parents would meet us at the end of the day - all in all a tiring and exhilarating day.
Saturday night, we had a winter storm warning and some strange weather occurred. At my house, we got about four inches of light fluffy snow. And then, it changed to sleet, falling at a rate I'd never seen before. Then, the thunder and lightning started. Very unusual.
On Sunday morning, I was a bit tired from Saturday, we had an inch of frozen sleet on our cars, and I was expecting the mountain to be a mess. For the first time all year, I wasn't there for first chair, which turned out to be a mistake. The mountain had gotten 10" of new snow and very little mixed precip. The snow was a bit heavy, but very navigable.
So, we spent the day in the trees again, but much easier trees than the day before. We also tackled Rumble for the first time this year. Rumble is widely regarded as the toughest trail on the mountain. Two of the girls had never skied it before, and they were amazed at its difficulty, but they enjoyed it.
And then, the day was over. The coach's locker room was amusing. Everyone was exhausted from the weekend.
I was in bed by halftime of the football game and probably should have gone to bed earlier. I now wish I had a rest day before going back to my day job, but no such luck.