The Mountain Times

°F Thu, April 17, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

The Mountain Journal - Eastern skiing: Honing our Eastern Edge

First tracks, whether in fresh powder or on groomed corduroy is enticing. Soft powder is the best. Fresh corduroy is a close second. But neither comes with a guarantee, especially in the East. A few weeks ago it was soft, then groomed, then, well, it turned to slush, then froze into hardpack.

Diversity, though, can hone our skill set.

Here at the Mountain Times we love Eastern skiing. Our editor, Polly, grew up in the East. Lived in the West (in the Rockies,) coached at Vail, and then she returned East. And she's not alone. Talk to pros in the ski school, at Killington, Pico or Okemo Mountain and you will hear similar tales. It's true, in fact, I'll confess, I too have lived in the West. But I choose to live in the East. And to ski in the East.

Years ago, sitting in a high alpine restaurant, I listened as Kim Reichhelm, a two-time US Extreme Champion and former US Ski Team Racer, spoke about the challenge of mastering steep terrain. Understand, Reichhelm is a native of Southern New England who honed her skills at the elite Stratton Mountain School before moving West. And while she now lives in the Rockies, I knew that her foundation was made here in the East.

Eastern skiers can stand tall. Snowmaking was invented in the East. The National Ski Patrol was founded in the East. Snowboarding was invented in the East. We'll stop. Eastern contributions are legendary.

Yes, mother nature is fickle in the East. Snow changes rapidly. Temperatures change dramatically. Sunny days on the mountain are rare. But, at the same time, its that diversity which builds our skills. It makes us tough. It makes us appreciate powder. And sun.
Here, at The Mountain Times, we savor Eastern skiing from the first run of each day to our last run. We believe that we can be proud of our Eastern heritage, and of those Eastern skiers who have shaped the very contours of the sport. It's not surprising, actually, that so many elite racers have come from the East. Truly, Killington and Pico have produced a number of elite champions. Some, such as Gold Medal Mogul Champion Donna Weinbrecht are well known. Others are not.

So, as you head out to the mountain take satisfaction in the fact that many top skiers learned to slice and carve solid, clean, turns on Eastern snow. Eastern experts know how to ride a high edge because Eastern racers need clean edging skills to win Eastern races. Top Eastern skiers know how to slice steep terrain, because Eastern expert terrain is often more challenging then Western terrain which can be "softened" by Western snow. We'll stop.

But the next time you are on the mountain, watch the best skiers you see. Watch them race. Watch them free-ski. Look at how they slice and dice ice. Look at how they carve clean fast giant slalom turns. Watch them dance in powder. Observe their skills in crud or frozen granular. Eastern skiers, the best skiers at least, are marked by a range in skill often unmatched by skiers from other parts of the country.

Maybe, just maybe, the East Coast is the Right Coast. 

Here in the mountains, if you have the right attitude, there is no bad day of skiing. Afterall, a bad day on the mountain is better than not being on the mountain. That's part of the difference. It's part of what makes us different. My wife and I love New England. In fact, today, I'd rather live in my least favorite part of New England than outside New England. I mean it. Sure, we travel. And we have delighted in traveling to Western resorts. But, honestly, we still grin, smile, and even laugh virtually every day we ski. It may sound sentimental, but it's true.

Welcome to mid-winter. In the coming weeks we hope that you will also delight in Eastern skiing. Okay. Dress appropriately. It IS a winter sport! Keep your edges sharp. The snow can get hard. Keep your boards waxed. And smile. Know, too, it will snow again, and the conditions will change again and again. It's part of the fun! And if you are very lucky, you'll be there to catch great powder. Until then, savor each day. From your first run. To your last run.

Tagged: The Mountain Journal, Honing East Edges