An hour’s struggle for five minutes of pure joy

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An hour’s struggle for five minutes of pure joy

Pre-season Jay Peak powder

Pre-season Jay Peak powder

Andrew Lanoue

Pre-season Jay Peak powder

Andrew Lanoue

Andrew Lanoue

Pre-season Jay Peak powder

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Most skiers, watching the light snowfalls of late October, are anxiously waiting for word that the lifts have opened. Some people just can’t wait.

 
Skiers and riders took to the hills following the first measurable snowfall for some of Vermont’s mountains, taking place from the evening of Saturday, Oct. 22 to mid-day Oct. 23.

 
Either hiking by foot or skinning up the mountain with backcountry equipment, many eager beavers always try to make sure they get the most out of every flake before their resorts open for the season.

 
The statement “earning your turns” by hiking to the top of a mountain with your gear has always been a pre-season local tradition at resorts across northern New England.

 
When winter is in full swing, the “earning turns” is more associated with a backcountry oriented meaning, but until then it is the first stage of winter for everyone who is trying to get their first taste of the seasons changing as early as possible.

 
For everyone that took advantage of this first snowfall, resorts located near JSC like Jay Peak, Smugglers Notch and Stowe greeted everyone with the occasional, rare powder day offering for some first turns.

 
Jay Peak received a significant amount of snow that appeared to total up just under a foot of accumulation when all was said and done following their first snow.

 
Avid Jay Peak rider Matt Logan might have been one of the first individuals to make turns in all of New England when he decided to set out on an unplanned hike in the middle of the storm at night. “What drove me to go hike wasn’t to be the first one to take a run, it was the passion I have for snowboarding,” said Logan. “A lot of skiers and snowboarders will agree that during the off season there isn’t a day that goes by when they don’t think about it in some form or another.”

 
By daybreak on Sunday, Oct. 23, the lower mountain trails at Jay Peak had six to eight inches of accumulation. This proved to be enough to prevent the majority of the grass and weeds that were recently brush hogged from popping out of the snow.

 
At higher elevations, the accumulation was abundant in certain areas. The well-known heavy winds that surround Jay created consistent windblown snow areas piling up at two feet, as well as bare dirt and grass areas.

 
Sterling College student and Jay Peak Resort Snowboard Coach Gina Basiliere also made the hike up Jay Peak for her first turns. “It’s hard to sit and wait while the flakes slowly accumulate,” said Basiliere. “It is more joyful than Christmas when you wake in the morning to find a soft blanket of fresh snow. The anticipation balls up in your throat as you pack your gear and fill your water bottle.”

 
Basiliere noted that hiking up a mountain isn’t the easiest thing, and that hiking up a mountain in fresh snow makes it harder. “There can be drifts up to your knees as you break trail up a steep slope,” said Basiliere. “Once you reach the top, you can hardly strap in fast enough, an hour and a half of struggle ends with what seems like a run that is five minutes of pure joy.”

 
Fellow Jay Peak Snowboard Coach, Olivia Miller took to the trails as well on Oct. 23. She noted that she hadn’t really experienced a pre-season hike before and that it was an exciting experience and something she is planning to continue. “As I was hiking through the snow in my gear, I realized that I was not in as great of shape as I had hoped I was,” said Miller. “Getting to ride through the unseasonable October powder from top to bottom made the strenuous hike completely worth it.”

 
With the obvious variable trail conditions in mind, skiers and riders always have to be cautious when getting after it this early. Even though this year’s first snow provided a consistent stretch of wind-blown deep snow, there were definitely those dangerous and deceiving non-deep areas present.

 
Taking note of this, many people will often decide to bring along their old snowboards and skis, to avoid damaging new or in good condition equipment. After all, no one wants to break the edge or give a nice core shot to their good equipment on the first day out.

 
For any hike, regardless of whether it’s pre-season or not, it is always a good idea to bring food or snacks, water, some form of first aid kit, a cell phone that is properly charged, a tool that will work with your equipment’s hardware, and ideally a few friends just in case something might go wrong.

 
Logan noted that hiking during the early morning hours probably wasn’t the best idea, and that he should have taken a few more safety precautions, but that it was a unique experience. “Being in the dark is definitely another ballgame,” said Logan. “With the winds, and anonymousness of everything, it felt like I was going to be attacked by a bear or something.”

 
Altogether, when thinking about it, you can never be too cautious. Considering that the ski and ride season hasn’t even begun yet, and with a long winter season that is soon to come, it sure would suck to have your season entirely ruined, or even partially ruined, in October due to carelessness or unpreparedness.

 
Take advantage of it all, but do whatever you can to avoid preventable situations that could take away from the real season once it is officially underway. Simply being patient and waiting for official openings is usually not the worst thing in the world either.