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The Land of Misfit Poles

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RIP silver Rossi pole

Matt McCawley for Hugh. Instead of trying to spin a somewhat depressing day here in ALL of Northern Vermont and the entire East Coast in general, I thought I would take a different route and give a satirical tribute to an often overlooked and under-appreciated piece of skiing equipment… The Ski Pole. I decided to pay homage to the ski pole as I was riding up the Mogul Mouse Magic Learning Chair and noticed an amazing assortment of mismatched, single, or broken poles scattered under the lift. This area, and past mid-station on Madonna, are both well known as ski pole graveyards.

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Only part that made it past mid-station

Many people forget to lift their ski poles above the foot rest on the chair as they go over and past mid-station. This leads to a dramatic interaction between the unloading ramp and the ski poles, with a brief moment of grinding and scraping with a giant lurch in the chair, followed by a heavy bending or snapping of the ski pole. People then decided that the best plan is to throw the disfigured pole off the lift, probably to avoid a reprimand or replacement fee, and then that poor pole sits on or under the snow for close to forever.

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Misfit ski poles

Before we go into depth about ski pole usage, let’s take one second for a moment of silence to remember all the ski poles we have lost this winter, and all winters…

 

 

 

 

I want to start by looking at the very basic and most known ways that a ski pole is used. The ski pole can be used for propulsion, we push ourselves all over the place, to and from lodges, lifts, parking lots, greeting areas, on flat trails, and on traverses. We use our ski poles for balance and to make plants before each turn. By reaching for a pole plant or touch, we get our bodies over our skis, and moving into the next turn. This then keeps us out of the backseat and allows us to drive our skis in control down the hill. It is an indicator and initiator of turning, and must be used with rhythm and timing. The plant can be a simple flick or touch on mellow terrain, it can also be more forceful as you are about to make a jump turn on steeps or in the woods. The plant can set you up for a spin in the park, or can keep you balanced while ripping a zipper line in the bumps. Anyway you cut it they are always there and should always be used.

The ski pole is also a very versatile tool with countless everyday uses on and off the mountain. I’m sure some of these will be things you have never done, and I’m sure there are many more that I fail to mention today. For the ease of reading and writing, I’m going to lay this out in a listed fashion and in no particular order:

-Banging snow off ski boots before stepping into bindings (better than wearing out toe piece of bindings by scraping bottom of boots, and not everyone has a personal snow scraper like racers do)

-Releasing heel piece of binding (better than stepping on with other ski, and less likely to make you fall while standing still)

-On snow writing utensil for ski instructors (or spot pointer outer, or to hold across with both hands in front of you, or to look through as window going down, so many pole related tasks)

-Unclipping lower boot buckles to avoid bending over (lazy)

-Ice/Snow scraper on frozen or snow covered chairlifts (cold and wet = uncomfortable)

-When placed under your butt on a chairlift they act as barrier between ski pants and chair surface (see above)

-To de-tune tips and tails of skis (over-tuned skis that hook and or catch edges are scary, hold pole perpendicular to ski edge and run it up and down edge on top and bottom 12 or so inches of ski)

-Polish Horseshoes (it’s a game with a Frisbee, water filled beer bottles, and two short distance spaced ski poles)

-To grab something that is just out of reach (like your other ski pole when you drop it)

-To block gates or tree branches from hitting you (whippets and branches to the face are no fun)

-Form of communication between two or more people to indicate if a jump or drop is clear to hit (both poles straight up in air “ I I “means good to go, poles crossed in an “ X ” means not clear)

-To bang the edge of cornice to see if it will slide (happens out west and sometimes on upper Sir Henry’s)

-To drag alongside you as you ride any surface lift to draw pretend turns (there are always fresh pole turns on the side of the T-Bar)

-To knock snow off tree branches onto unsuspecting people underneath (nothing is as endearing as knocking some snow off of a branch and having it land into your friends jacket collar)

-To wave aggressively at out of control people who buzz by you (DARN KIDS! SLOW DOWN! Shake arm and say in an older and grumpyish tone)

-Letting your snowboarder friend borrow to get across flats (and with this act of kindness all sour relations between skiing and snowboarding have been abdicated)

-Sword fights (win your game of thrones with the coveted aluminum lance of power)

-Wind Chime (check out the one at the bottom of the Headwall, lookers left side below last cliff band)

-Garden Stakes (Not only will poles penetrate snow, but soft organic dirt too)

-To stick straight up in the air in a Jerry tuck to reach maximum velocity (just learn how to tuck properly so you avoid looking foolish)

In all seriousness though, remember that all equipment is important. We must take care of all the parts and pieces that will make our skiing and snowboarding experience better. Also, throwing out broken ski poles because you couldn’t remember to lift them at mid-station is still littering, and is very much frowned upon at any ski area. Carry in, Carry out.

Tomorrow expect mixed precipitation with temperatures starting close to 40 degrees, but falling throughout the day. We plan to have 6 lifts turning, including MI, with 41 trails open, 39 of which are scheduled to be groomed, that’s 133 acres or 5,793,480 square feet. The Zone terrain park is under reconstruction for the Molly Rowlee Rail Jam which takes place this Saturday the 11th this special rail jam benefits the Molly Rowlee Fund, which supports families with children undergoing treatment for cancer. This is the fifth year at Smuggs for this event, and it promises to again be awesome – come out and have some fun and support this great cause! The good times include music, giveaways, and a raffle. Registration starts at 9:00 am at the Yurt in the Parking Lot 1, the Jam starts in the Zone Terrain Park at 11:00 am! Also this weekend is the Extreme Ski Challenge, the Smugglers’ Notch Ski and Snowboard Club hosts this fun event — an opportunity for junior and adult freeskiers to show their stuff on some of the most difficult terrain Smugglers’ Notch has to offer! Competitors will be judged on line, control, fluidity, technique, and style.

Latest forecast says 4 inches of snow by Thursday, let’s all hope that Northwest Flow delivers even more. Do the dance, think snow!

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Another great day

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Father Winter tells a story in his teepee

It was a little warm today, but the spring conditions sure were fun. I had a great time helping out Snow Sport University by shuttling little ones up the Mogul Mouse’s Magic Lift. Every ride was different and entertaining at the same time. I made a quick stop to see Father Winter in his teepee on one of my runs. His teepee was full of kids listening to another one of his great stories. I want to thank the employees of 3 Mountain Outfitters, especially Jessica and Adrienne. They were very helpful with picking out the right goggles for me and my wife. They also went the extra mile when it can to dealing with some older gift cards that I had. It was great to be wearing my new goggles with the bright sunshine today.

 

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Snowmaker Justin Thoelke does some air boarding at the Mogul Mouse’s Magic Lift

Tomorrow we plan to have top to bottom skiing and riding on all 3 mountains with all 8 lifts operating and 77 out of 78 trails open. Tomorrow’s forecast is partly sunny skies early becoming mostly cloudy skies in the afternoon a chance of a shower with temperatures between 40 and 49 degrees.

 

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New goggles

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Morse Mountain

 

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Happy birthday to long time employee of Smugglers’ Notch Howard Wells who turned 70 years young yesterday!

Today started off with some flurries and then the sun came out for the rest of the day. Everyone seemed to love the nice sunshine. I was riding Mogul Mouse’s Magic Lift today. It was pretty cool to watch the Snow Sport University Instructors work their magic with their beginner students.  Having fun with their class while they teach them how to turn and stop. The best part is when someone has a break through and they link a few turns or make a parallel turn for the first time.

 

Tomorrow we plan to have top to bottom skiing and riding on all 3 mountains with all 8 lifts operating and all 78 trails open. Some trails will have a delayed opening until they soften up. 49 trails will be groomed for tomorrow, including skier’s right on Upper FIS, Smugglers’ Alley, and Snow Snake for a grand total of 161 acres of freshly groomed terrain. Tomorrow’s forecast is mostly sunny skies early with increasing clouds later in the day and temperatures between 29 and 39 degrees. We should have some nice spring skiing and riding tomorrow.

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Snow Sport University lesson on the Magic Learning Trail

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Snow Sport University Instructor Princess Pam with her class on Wanderer

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This hat is designed to look like the Scottish Highlands Muckle Coo Cow. I think it goes great with his beard!

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Freshly groomed

groom-light30 trails were groomed for today, that’s 145 acres of freshly groomed terrain. We have 69 skiable trails and 42 lift accessible trails open today. The Madonna I, Madonna II, and Village Lift are presently on wind hold. We have 4 lifts operating Sterling, Mogul Mouse Magic Lift, Morse Highlands, and Sir Henry’s Wonder Carpet. Snow and colder temperatures are in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow with 1 to 2 inches of accumulation possible. Today’s forecast is occasional rain likely with temperatures between 38 and 45 degrees.

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Another member of the Smuggs Family

 

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Jane at mid station on the Mogul Mouse Lift

This is Jane Van Landingham; she is originally from North Carolina and now lives on a Shetland Sheep Farm in Richmond, Vermont. Jane is a member of the Smugglers’ Notch 55+ Club. Jane said that she really enjoys the 55+ Club because of the skiing, but also the interaction with other 55+ Club members out having fun on the mountain. She is also a retired social worker, mother, and grandmother.  She started skiing back in 1959 at the age of 15. She took a break from skiing for many years, but at the age of 40 she decided that she really wanted to start skiing again. She took some ski lessons to refresh her skiing skills and to boost her confidence. The lessons worked, she has been skiing ever since and absolutely loves it.

 

 

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Jane skiing the Magic Learning Trail on Morse Mountain

 

I asked Jane what her favorite trail at Smuggs was and she told me that she use to ski all 3 mountains at Smuggs. She said that she has a knee that bothers her sometimes so what she really enjoys now is skiing on Morse Mountain. “Skiing for me is about fun and if you are out on the mountain at 72 years old, you don’t have anything to prove.” She then added, “I don’t have to ski from the summit of Madonna Mountain to feel good about what I’m doing, because I love what I’m doing!” I then asked Jane what she liked the most about Smuggs. “Smuggs is wonderful to its seniors, it’s wonderful to all family members, and I can’t say enough good things about Smuggs!”

 

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Soft conditions today

Hayleigh and SnowsnakeThis is Harley Johnson filling in for Hugh Johnson.  Today was Hayleigh’s day to lead us around the mountain.  I love riding the Mogul Mouse lift with the kids.  We talk about all of the different characters as we ride up the chair.  After we said hello to Snowsnake on tower 5 we decided we should ski the trail Snowsnake.  We all followed Hayleigh down the trail.  The snow coverage was great and soft, making for easy turns for the kids and me.  Tomorrow’s forecast is for partly sunny skies.  We are expecting some snow showers on Tuesday night starting around midnight.

Hannah and Hayleigh on Snow Snake

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Fun on Morse Mountain

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Photo with Mogul Mouse

I was at the Mogul Mouse’s Magic Lift today. I was riding with students of Snow Sport University who are too young to ride the lift by themselves. I got to ride the lift multiple times with Pam and Tamara’s purple group. The lift conversation was entertaining every time. We had fun finding the characters Sam the Snow Snake, Billy Bob Bear, and Mogul Mouse on the lift towers. We were also able to find Father Winter’s Tee Pee in the woods between Lower Morse Liftline and Magic Learning Trail. It was great to see some soldiers from the US Army learning how to ski today on Morse Mountain. They skied the Magic Learning Trail and it worked! I want to thank Head Snowmaker Justin Thoelke for introducing me to Ally. Ally is a 6th grader from Pennsylvania, who is here at Smuggs with her family. She was a little nervous about riding the lift and was looking for someone to ride with. We had a great lift ride with no problems getting on or off the lift.  We unloaded at mid-station and Ally snowboarded over to her Dad and gave him a high five. Ally’s family thanked me for riding with the lift with her, but I should thank them. Watching Alley overcome her fear and celebrate with giving her Dad a high five really made me feel good.  The Mogul Mouse’s Magic Lift worked again.

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Snow Sport University Instructor Pam and her class

We have top to bottom skiing and riding on all 3 mountains with all 8 lifts operating and 51 trails open. 32 trails will be groomed for tomorrow, that’s 156 acres of freshly groomed terrain. Tonight’s forecast is 2 to 4 inches of snow. Tomorrow’s forecast is a chance of freezing rain early then rain with temperatures between 38 and 42 degrees and windy.

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Top to bottom skiing and riding on all 3 mountains

tony and snow ghostsWe now have 5 lifts operating and 34 trails open. The Madonna I Lift is now operating with Upper Chilcoot, Link, and Lower Madonna Liftline open.  The Village Lift and Mogul Mouse’s Magic Lift are now both open to the top. Last night we made snow on Upper Chilcoot, Waterfall, Midway, Sam’s Run, and Meadowlark.  16 trails will be groomed tonight for a grand total of 91 acres of freshly groomed terrain.

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The Village Lift is now open to mid – station.

villageWe now have 4 lifts operating and 16 trails open. Lower Morse Liftline opened today also.  The 6 to 9 inches new snow that we received in the past 3 days has really made a difference. We have some natural snow trails open on Sterling Mountain.

 

 

father winterI was riding the Mogul Mouse Magic Lift with my daughter Hannah and we were talking about Father Winter. She spotted the Tee Pee and we could hear some people inside. The Tee Pee is located between Magic Learning Trail and Lower Morse Liftline.  We skied down and stopped by to say hello.  Father Winter has a new Tee Pee this year and it looks great. Father Winter is in his Tee Pee on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

 

signThe forecast is calling for colder temperatures and snow showers right through the weekend. Our snowmakers are ready to fire up the system as soon as we get the temperatures.  The lines are charged on Madonna and the upper half of Morse Mountain.

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Sterling and Morse

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Riding the Alley

Smugglers’ Alley was skiing great today with soft moguls covering the snowmaking whales.  The whales make it interesting and fun.  The back sides are steep and fun to play on.

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Camper

 

 

We opened more beginner terrain yesterday on Morse Mountain.  This afternoon I rode the Mogul Mouse Magic lift to mid station and skied Wanderer and the Magic Learning Trail.

 

 

 

 

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Smugglers’ Notch Adaptive Program

 

 

Talking about magic it was great to watch the Smugglers’ Notch Adaptive Program and Snow Sport University Instructors doing what they do best.

 

Colder temperatures are in the forecast for this weekend and some natural snow on Tuesday.