I’m sure somebody could sleuth it if they want, but I can’t even take a guess at the last time I wrote a trip report. Maybe 2019?
It’s a little weird not patrolling this year. For the first time in 15 years I bought a season pass for my home mountain, Sugarbush, which happens to be an Ikon Pass. I am up in northern NH (near the shuttered Balsams) visiting family for the holiday, so I decided to use one of my days on the Ikon Pass today for my first day of the season.
Since it snowed most of the night last night here, but not SR, and was a weekday, I decided to go over for an afternoon session so the roads could clear up a bit. I left about 10:50 and rolled in about 12:30. Temp was 24. The roads were clear in the tire tracks and I never saw anyone on my side of the road.
Sunday River is replacing the Barker Quad this season, which along with the Locke Triple, is their early season terrain. Subsequently, they decided on a very unique opening plan this year. Last year they replaced the Jordan Quad with New England’s only 8 person bubble chairlift, so they decided to open t2b in Jordan. It’s an interesting play because services are limited, it’s in the middle of nowhere, and the trails are long and wide, so they require a lot of snow. After they opened in Jordan, they went back to the Locke Triple, and opened Upper Sunday Punch to Cascades, making sure to avoid going under the Barker lift during construction. Since connecting those two trail pods would require going underneath the Barker Six Pack, they are operating as islands and you can’t ski/ride between the two. They have started expanding from Jordan towards South Ridge, and have some terrain open in Aurora, but they still have a long way to go.
Since I was getting there late, and wanted to maximize my runs/enjoyment, I decided to go to Jordan and lap the high speed 8. The parking lot had about 50 cars in it when I got there, and there were still an equal amount of people arriving and leaving at 12:30. I had to do some work in the car, and by the time I booted up and got on the snow it was 1 PM. I went down to the base of the lift and was immediately impressed with size and scope of the terminal. It is massive and entirely enclosed. They even had a temporary customer service area for lift ticket issues inside to the left of the terminal. I scanned through the RFID without incident, and noticed the lift used a conveyor belt system. Since I first used one at Okemo 20 years ago, they have become more prevalent. We’ve got one now at Sugarbush, so I leaned up against the gate and loaded without incident. For a standard chairlift, the chair is luxurious to say the least. All the seats are designated with dividers, there’s molded padding for each seat, and the safety bar locks and automatically lifts at the top. The bubble is heated, but despite the colder temperatures, they had the bubbles locked open and not in use. The lift ride is probably about 5 minutes and was very smooth. They even have an automated PA system that updates you when the lift unexpectedly stops.
There were four runs open off the top. Lollapalooza, Excalibur, and Rogue Angel are all separate t2b runs with no crossovers. The final trail was Kansas (connector to the rest of the mountain and very flat) to Northern Lights, to Firestar. Firestar hasn’t been groomed yet this year, and it was under snowmaking, so I opted to skip the bumps for the first day of the year. I hit Lollapalooza 5 times, Rogue Angel 3 times, and Excalibur 3 times. Lolla was by far the run of the day. It’s a couple miles long, has a nice steady pitch, and due to the pitch, wasn’t scraped off. It held a great edge all day. It is a wide trail, but since the snow guns are on skiers left, only about 60% of the trail width was covered and groomed. The snow was stellar. Rogue and Excal are steeper and straighter down to the lift. The top parts of both trails are the steep parts, so they were a little scraped off, but once it flattened out, snow conditions were very similar to Lollapalooza. Those trails were basically groomed wall to wall because they are generally less wide than Lolla. There were so few people that I never had to dodge anyone and only had to pass a single person on all 11 runs.
Since the parking lot isn’t at the base of the Jordan Bowl, the last run of the day has to be Lollapalooza so that you can take the side trail over to the parking lot and avoid hiking uphill. The only food at the Jordan Hotel is the Northern Lights Cafe (assuming it hasn’t been renamed since I worked there), so to avoid getting swamped, there were a couple food trucks they brought in just outside the hotel to feed the early season crowds, and I was told from someone on the lift (9 of my lift rides were solo), that this weekend was a madhouse. Apparently there were a lot of upset patrons because the hotel isn’t setup as a lodge, so they weren’t allowing people to boot up inside. Doesn’t affect me since I always boot up in the parking lot, but I can see the downside to starting the season in Jordan. However, I can say that the early season offering there was absolutely stellar. I don’t think I could have had much better of a first day. When I got back to the parking lot at 3 PM, there were only 6 or 7 cars left. My legs were tired and I was getting cold. I warmed up in the car and headed back towards the in-laws. The roads were clear until the last 15 minutes.
Overall, I logged 11 runs in 2 hours. That’s about 11 minutes a run round trip. Each run was about 1,250 feet of nice consistent vertical. The drive was easy and the snow was incredible. Well worth using one of my 5 Sunday River Ikon Pass days for the year. It was good to finally get out.