WEST DOVER -- The A.M. Express chair lift rides are Mount Snow season pass holders' best chance of getting the freshest tracks of the season.
"I don't mind getting up early for the short lines and better snow," said snowboarder Keith Brigley, who comes up almost every weekend from New Jersey and has been coming to Mount Snow for over a decade.
On scheduled Saturdays throughout the winter, the mountain allows season pass holders to get on the Bluebird Express chair lift earlier than all other ticket holders. The Bluebird Express is the newest lift on Mount Snow and is known for its blue, transparent cover that blocks out wind and other variables. A.M. Express starts at 7:30 a.m., a half hour before the mountain regularly opens on weekends. This past Saturday the wind was brutal, making the air colder than it's been this winter. A frost bite warning was definitely in effect. I had all my skin covered, except for a tiny bit of my nose, which got a little burnt from the cold wind.
When reaching the top, my brother decided that snowboarding in the trees would be the best idea on a day when the mountain reported 36 inches of new snow. The woods were still bare because snow had been melting and with little to no snowfall in the past few weeks, snow from Nemo was the only covering some spots had.
I hit a few rocks, but I floated on powder for most of that ride. On regular trails, there were groomed sections. The left and right sides of trails still had untouched powder -- a glorious find for many weekend thrill seekers.
"This is the second big storm of the year," said Pete Ripley, owner of Invasion Board Shop in West Dover. "The wind gets this bad about four or five times a year."
The steepest and most difficult terrain of the mountain, the North Face, was only open for part of the day.
People were getting stuck in the inches of snow that had gone without grooming. It wasn't easy for beginners in some spots on Saturday. There were skiers and snowboarders taking off their equipment because they were either stuck in deep snow or moguls had formed on many trails, making the terrain even harder to ride down.
"Nitro was moving really slow," said Ripley, of the chair lift at Carinthia, where the terrain parks are located. "But at least it got people up there."
Ripley joked that when he got to work, he was surprised his shop was still standing with all the wind.
Even with the harsh winds, people swarmed the mountain looking for the best skiing and riding of the season. A lot of people had taken off from work on Friday when they heard that Nemo was coming. Others took off the minute they heard that school had been canceled for children all over Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.
After an hour of the bitter cold and strong winds, I went inside to warm up with a cup of coffee. It just so happened that Mount Snow Communications Manager Dave Meeker was standing in front of the cafeteria. He had taken a few runs already and was stoked about all the people visiting.
"It's great," he said, with a big smile on his face.
He said people were coming from all over trying to get fresh tracks and ride the new powder that landed on the mountain.
The Cupola is a ski and snowboard shop owned by Mount Snow that sells lift tickets to people who visit on Friday nights, who want to avoid lines at the ticket windows on Saturday morning.
Employees said that business had been great on Friday. There were big lines and it was really crowded. People were buying lift tickets and lessons until the shop closed at midnight on Friday. On Saturday night, a lot of visitors were still filling the store.
On the first chair of the day, we rode up with some rescue crew members, employed by the mountain. From the chair, they saw some skiers poaching the trail, which means they ducked the rope that said the trail was closed.
When asked about it, the rescue crew members said that if they saw people doing such acts, they would be taking their tickets away. It is just part of their job.
On a day like that, there was enough snow on the open terrain and in the trees, I thought.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or email@example.com.