Friday, December 21, 2012

Uphill Report from Pico: 38 Degree POW

I may be a GED legal-beagle when it comes to public land use lawyering, but I make up for it by being a semi-professional weatherman when it comes to picking amazing ski tours to do on apocalyptic end-of-Mayan-calendar days like today.

In a world of climatic uncertainty, at least one thing was guaranteed. There was no way I was going to let the end of days pass me by without skiing one last time, low pressure front and 38 degree air be damned.

When I was in grad school I once took a survey asking 1.) Was I Roman Catholic? and 2.) Had I ever spit in anyone's face? As a "lifelong" Roman Catholic I was shocked to learn, at the end of the psych survey, that nearly 90% of Catholics have at one point or another spit in someone's face. Thinking back to a heated game of Dungeons and Dragons played long, long before I ever learned to ski, it dawned on me that I was in fact part of that 90%. While this might seem a vulgar and off topic analogy, I was thinking about it a lot today while I pontificated on the existence of God, and how Mother Nature could give us such a shitty day to ski such amazing POW on the slopes of Pico Mountain.

You see, today was the kind of day where you roll the dice and either Mother Nature gives you a powder day, or spits in your face. When I awoke, I knew in my heart there was a 100% chance of rain from Marcy to Mount St. Anne. Yet I still said a little prayer and checked in with the live weather radar, hoping there'd be POW somewhere out there. Mother Nature will spit in your face in mysterious ways, if you know how to read the signs.

I like my weather to do what it's told and stay predictably warm or cold. This morning, as I watched little white and green blobs of warm and cold fight it out west of the Greens and high above Rutland, VT, their sickening pink battle line looked like it might hold. Extrapolating from the time code on the weather radar, I guessed right that Pico Mountain would remain in the white long enough to lap a few runs and get home in time to pretend like I have a real day job.

Seeing as things might not go according to MY plan, I grabbed both my prepacked day tour pack along with a beach towel, PFD and more than a little GoreTex on my way out the door. A bowl of oatmeal, 4 cups of coffee, one hour with pit stop in Woodstock to retrieve my new unnamed ski buddy* later, and we were knocking on Pico's door.

Pico is one of those classic Vermont ski areas that most Vermonters see for the first time on their way to or from their freshemn semester at some mid-Atlantic college. I must have seen it a 100 times on my way too and from Colgate, and every time I wondered "How does that place stay open? Who in their right mind would ski that? You can't even see all the way to the top!??"

Although it is most definitely an unimpressive mountain, and almost never open (closed Tue/Wed) I have heard time and again that Pico is THE place to  earn some private turns. Pico has an unimposing approach (based on my tour today, I'd recommend Exhibition - C Slope - Sunset Schuss - 49er - Sunset Glades - see maple leafs on map), lots of really neat features and more than a few harrowing steeps to keep even the fittest ski bum on their toes. 

Today was unique. Think about where you were at 9 am this morning, riding desk jockey at some dead end job. Maybe at a some Boston law firm... or venture capital company. Now imagine where I was, standing in Pico parking in 38 degree rain getting decked out in Tex and wondering if things would get any better on your way to the top. 

I'm always impressed by what a few hundred feet of elevation gain can do for your ski boner. Pico base lodge sits at about 2,000 feet, making it one of the highest starts of any of Vermont's ski areas. By the time we reached the top of Exhibition all that rain was a distant memory and snowflakes the size of luna moths were slapping us sideways. The top of Sunset Schuss had us breaking trail through ice cold shin deep powder. Climbing into 70-80 mph wind gusts, Sunset Glades gave way to a summit approach that was a little much for this 139 pound cyclist. But the reward lapping 49er in some of the best POW of 2012 (YES, 2012 started 12 months ago) made my numerous blowdowns, tumbles, and biffed kick turns that much more rewarding.

After any night with higher elevation snow in the forecast, Pico may become my go-to dawn patrol before work. With it's impressive starting elevation it may also become my go-to skin on days it's just too nasty to risk a drive elsewhere. As an unexpected bonus, those 80 mph wind gusts (not uncommon on the western edge of the Greens) make it impossible for Pico to run it's summit chair. On a day like today, this will leave you and your noname* friend all alone to enjoy free refills on a private POW buffet. And all while the rest of the world is sitting at work, watching the rain, praying for death or a better life.

This is what rain looks like at 2200 feet and 32 degrees.

*Seeing as the Friday before Christmas is still a workday for all but 7.7% of America, it seems unwise to mention gainfully employed ski buddies in a blog post.

1 comment:

  1. Kerry and I have always had good skinning and earned turns at Pico............first skioed it
    in 1952......

    Hugh Herman
    Suicide 6 ski patrol