This years Southern Week-Long Tour was able to hit some of the best snow of the season to cover their 7 sections and 71 miles of the Catamount Trial, starting at the Massachusetts border and ending in Weston VT. In addition to coordinating this trip each year since 2003, Sam Bartlett keeps wonderful records of each trip in both daily trip reports and photos. I’d like to share with you some of my favorite selections from this years tour reports. Big thanks to Sam and everyone that participated in the tour this year!
02/11/2017 Section 1
After a little snafu in the morning due to bad driving nine of us headed toward the Massachusetts border. At our morning meeting at the border, we found that we had some veteran end-to-enders, some aspiring end-to-enders, some end-and-enders (they skied both borders but not the middle stuff) and some just-ski-for-fun-ers.
We headed over to the Bennington Gluttony Extravaganza. At Jim and Chickie’s we had appetizers, sauna, conversation and drinks. Then Kate and Rudge hosted the dinner part at their house, where we had great food, more drinks, more conversation, some music and ‘poetry’. Jim shared some of his poems and premiered his version of ‘Hard Rain’, getting us all to sing the chorus “It’s a hard, It’s a hard, It’s a hard, It’s a haaard, It’s a hard pain, when you fall.” Thanks guys!
Monday was a winter wonderland, if you didn’t have to drive or park, and even that wasn’t too bad. Twelve to sixteen inches of new light snow covered everything. In some places it was hard to find the blazes because they had been blasted with snow. It was about 25F and not too windy, except at the trailheads. We quickly learned to rotate trail-breaking duty, it seemed about 100 good fast paces was enough, then it was the next person’s turn. We managed to usually find a workable way across each stream, trying to hit them diagonally instead of straight down and back out of the hole. Folks found alternate routes in tricky spots to help break up the bottle neck that forms when one person falls in a hole and needs some time to get re-organized.
02/14/2017 Section 4
Happy Valentine’s Day! After breakfast at Dot’s of Dover, Section 4 southbound was slow going with only nine folks to take turns breaking trail. Luckily we had some fresh legs along. A beautiful sunny day along Grout Pond and Somerset Reservoir. Some things we saw along the way: otter tracks, face plants, snow-emoticons, love notes (it was Valentine’s Day), drifts (but not as many as feared), soft fresh snow out on the lake, mostly frozen stream crossings, a broken bridge (easy to ski around), ball caps, sun glasses, sun block and lots of smiles.
There had been some speculation about whether we would be breaking trail today, and hopes were raised when saw a set of tracks heading up the CT from the snomo trail, Hopes were dashed when we found the tracks went about 100 yards and turned around.This is one of my favorite sections, lots of variety in types of trail, pretty forests of all types, views of ponds and mountains, a shelter for lunch, and, of course, descending Pony Hill. With this perfect snow, fresh, not sticky, nice glide, fairly easy trail breaking, it was about as good as it ever gets. A great group of skiers helps too. Although it can be scary at times (Pony Hill), and has claimed the hip of one skier, it was perfect today. Even though it had been skied by the out-and-back couple, that made it easier to get up speed when you needed to, and there was still plenty of powder on the sides to play in, or slow you down.
02/17/2017 Section 6
The drop down to Rt 11 was good enough to do twice, the second time down was just as much fun because I could see how much fun everyone else had had. We also learned the term “body-packing”, which is a euphemism for falling and rolling around to get up, which packs down the trail for the next folks.
Each day of this tour I’ve thought “It doesn’t get any better than this”, only to be proven wrong each suceeding day. Blue sky, nice powder, easy trail-breaking, beautiful trail.We stopped at one bridge to have Paul give us a remincence of John Sterns, who had been instrumental in building all these bridges, routing the trail on Sections 6 through 12 (at least), getting permissions, helping with CTA governance, and basically being “Mr. CTA” for many years. Thanks John! It is easy to fly across a stream on a bridge in a few seconds, and not think about all the work that went in to making that bridge. Think about that also the next time you get a Annual Fund or Trails Fund request from CTA.
02/18/2017 Section 7
Conditions today were great, from the ankles up. Sunglasses, sun block, rolled up sleeves and ball caps were the order of the day. Even under foot it was nice for a short time after our 10am start. But the scrapers and wax came out pretty quickly as the temperature warmed up. It was sticking to the bottoms, to the tops, under the bindings, on our poles. Nevertheless, we persisted. We used Maxi-glide, Glop-Stopper Wax, various other waxes. No one had a treatment for pole baskets so all day long you could hear the clicking and clanking of ski poles against each other as we knocked the snow off of our baskets.As we passed between two large boulders I tried to make a snow angel on one of them. Did you know that you are supposed to do that on your back?
Wrap up and statistics Thanks to everyone (skiers, co-leaders, day-leaders, CTA staff, trail chiefs, landowners) for making this another safe, friendly, fun and memorable SWLT. Marie and I can always go out and ski just the two of us, but doing it with new friends and old makes it more fun. Here is the SWLT by the numbers:
8 days of skiing,
over 106 skier-days registered,
72 actual skier-days skied,
71 miles of Catamount Trail skied,
over 700 skier-miles skied,
17, most skiers on any day,
8, fewest skiers on any day,
1 snowplow-equipped truck used in shuttle,
22″ of new snow overall,
2 skiers who skied every part of all eight days,
5 group breakfasts,
4 group dinners at restaurants,
2 group potlucks at nearby homes,
1 skier from Florida,
3 days of new snow,
2 skiers who ‘bagged’ another CT section on the Rest Day,
13 trail chiefs who helped keep these sections of trail clear and available,
370 emails to or from the SWLT coordinator,
0 days cancelled for bad weather,
0 days cancelled for bad skiing,
0 lost skiers,
0 skiers who went away mad,
These things were all uncountable, as they should be: smiles, laughs, thank yous, tele-turns, brownies, etc., calories burned, help offered, beautiful vistas, tracks in the snow, interesting trail conversations.