Starting on 12/15/17, I did a little ski safari driving between North Carolina and Boston. Spent a day at Belleayre on Sunday, 12/17. (Other stops were Massanutten in VA, Montage in PA, Berkshire East in MA, and Wachusett after I got to Boston.) It was my second time checking out Belle. The first time was during late season a few years ago when I spent most of the time on Tomahawk and stayed on the upper mountain.
I met up with friends from CT around 8:30am at Outlook. The wife is a cautious intermediate who learned to ski as an adult. The husband was an advanced skier who switched to snowboarding when his wife started learning. He’s comfortable on northeast blacks on his board. They wanted to check out Belleayre because they are experimenting with the MAX Pass. They left after lunch since it was their first day on snow for the season.
We had a great time together in the morning. I was in tourist mode so skiing greens and blues was fine. Temps were mostly in the 20s all day. Good conditions mostly due to snowmaking but some natural snow mixed in, no lift lines, pretty empty trails. A couple of the steeper trails got skied off by 11:00 or so, but it was easy to find soft snow. Horseshoe Pass probably was the slickest and most crowded trail in the morning. I spent the afternoon having my first experience on tele skis. Worked with a very experienced instructor for 2 hours and had a ball.
We had to stop in Discovery Lodge after the first run and ride up Lift 1 because MAX Pass holders have to get a day ticket from Guest Services. There wasn't a sign at Guest Services so my friends didn't know. The more experienced liftie knew that it's fine for MAX Pass holders to take one lift ride if they don't have a lift ticket yet. We started on a green, which worked out since I wanted to stop by the ski school desk to ask about a tele lesson for the afternoon.
I think the addition of a bottom-to-summit gondola will make Belleayre more interesting for mixed ability groups that include beginner/intermediate skiers.
New fancy trail map and status sign, 13º at 8:30am. It was 30º when I left Shawnee in the Poconos early that morning.
Discovery Lodge from Lift 1, gondola cars not on the cable quite yet (base on right of lodge)
View from Outlook Lodge, Lift 7 triple started running mid-morning
The husband and I moved to Superchief to check out the upper mountain after a couple greens runs. We checked out Roaring Brook, which was empty and had very good snow. We managed to convince the cautious intermediate wife to ride up Superchief for a last run before lunch down Roaring Brook. Her husband made it clear that Roaring Brook was easier than the two greens she'd been skiing all morning.
On Roaring Brook near a scenic view spot, we learned that it pays to keep up speed after unloading the lift
Looking down Roaring Brook from the scenic view spot, just before lunch time
Don't remember the names of the blues/blacks I took off Superchief and the triple. A little slick at the top, but really nice surface on the trails between the trees. One of these days I want to get to Belle when there is enough cover in the trees to go exploring a bit.
No pics from the telemark lesson. Too busy trying to pay attention to the instructor. Bottom line is that I started with zero experience and had fun for two hours getting introduced to tele skiing by a very experienced instructor. Would recommend Laval Johnson for a lesson on any type of gear. He is PSIA certified for alpine, snowboarding, and nordic.
I was using my daughter's tele gear. Luckily her boots fit better than I expected. Her tele skis are Blizzard Black Pearls @152cm (2016, 88 underfoot) with 22 Design Vice Telemark bindings. I have the BPs @159 (2012) for alpine. Used my adjustable poles at a slightly longer length than I've been using for alpine skiing.
I set up the tele lesson that morning. Laval Johnson has been a PSIA Level 3 Alpine instructor for decades. Also L3 for snowboarding and L2 for nordic. Telemark certification came last so by then he had so many private clients, he didn't bother going for L3 in Telemark. What's unusual is that Laval grew up skiing at Belleayre because he was and is a local. Spent about a decade being an instructor at Arapahoe Basin in the 1990s before moving back home to Fleishmanns, a village a few miles from Belleayre. Very friendly guy.
Since I'd never even put on tele gear before, after lunch I drove down to Discovery Lodge. Luckily there was an empty space in the small lot that's walking distance because I was a little late. Met up with Laval at 1:00 and asked him to help get the boots on. Good thing because the boots have Boa lacing, which I’d never seen before. Even more important that he could help me get into the bindings. Very different process since my daughter has the older style of boot/binding, not the NTN style that are step in.
We started with basic movement on flat terrain near the Discovery Lodge and the base of Lift 1. By the time we unloaded Lift 1, I was comfortable enough to make standard parallel turns to where it was wide enough to start learning more. I’ve seen my daughter ski on her tele gear not making any tele turns on blue and black terrain, including at Alta, so knew that I could get around without worry while my heels down.
By the time we got down the green, I’d made a few tele turns. Just starting in a tele lunge position and going across and turning in one direction. Helped that I've been working with assorted L3 alpine instructors in recent years. So I've learned something about giving feedback to an instructor. Plus I know that I'm a visual learner. We spent the second hour using the magic carpet. I’ve always had a lazy left left/foot. Laval came up with it a drill that not only helped with the tele turns to the left, it’s going to help a lot in the long run for my alpine turns. His first idea didn’t work that well. So he tried a different idea that was perfect.
By the end of the lesson, I’d managed to link together a few tele turns. Just enough to know that I could play around on my own in the future. I did a few runs on the greens at Wachusett a couple days later. Managed to link together 6-7 tele turns by the second run. I'm not about to switch away from alpine, but now I have a better sense of what my daughter says about tele.
During my tele lesson, all of a sudden everyone was looking up. There was a test happening with one gondola hung on the cable. Goes right over the teaching area with the magic carpet.
What did you think of tele? More tele in your future?
I did a few tele runs on the greens at Wachusett a couple days after the lesson. Managed to link a few tele turns. Probably going to take my daughter's tele gear with me when I spend a week at Massanutten. I'll be on my own for several days so playing around with tele turns will be fun. One reason to keep experimenting is that the experience made a weakness in my left turns very obvious. Have known about that for a while. But working to make tele turns to the left work is probably going to help my alpine left turns. For alpine turns, the difference isn't as noticeable.
My daughter is too busy with school to use her tele gear. So for this season she doesn't need it until spring break when we are headed to Alta.