Telemark Dave and I are very excited about ski plans for this week. On Thursday we will drive across Algonquin Park into a remote area of the Hinterland known as "The Ottawa Valley" or, if you are really hip, simply "the Valley." There we will ski at one of the most obscure areas in the eastern hemisphere, Mt. Madawaska. There is a t-bar and they claim 450' of vertical. I can't remember the last time I was on a t-bar. Edit: actually I can, it was at Jay Peak in December. But I can't recall being at a hill where the ONLY lift was a t-bar.
We are REALLY looking forward to the culinary experience. The Valley has a unique culture all its own and there are some food items I am itching to try, such as the "Derailment Donut" highlighted below. As TD says, "one of us will have to man-up and step up to what possibly is a walking sugar bomb, or even a coronary on a plate!"
If all goes well, Friday will involve some skinning and powder turns at a top-secret destination. Stay tuned.
And if the Derailment Donut isn't enough, there is always "breakfast" for $5.
This week, as promised, Telemark Dave and I visited the Radcliffe Hills Ski Area, formerly known as Mt. Madawaska. This is a ski hill struggling to save itself from NELSAP fate, compounded by the fact that is in a rural area, relatively far from a major population centre, does not have any snowmaking and is and in a region that does not get reliable natural snow. Sound familiar?
In view of the fact that we had to drive almost two hours to get there, TD and I waited until conditions were right. After a big snowfall in the Ottawa Valley, we decided that it was to time to go.
I started the day with a hearty Hinterlandian breakfast: super-duper oatmeal, maple syrup, milk in a bag and coffee.
Our first delay (and second breakfast) of the day was due to the fact that Rotten Ronnie's was offering free Breakfast Bisquits. Here, TD tries to blend in with the hungry seniors.
With breakfast #2 and a third coffee safely stored in the Snowbaru, we roared off eastward.
Eventually, we arrived. The sign and lodge exude funky-ness.
Many more signs greeted us on arrival inside the lodge. Some of these were not your typical ski area warnings. At this point we knew we were on to something special.
The next sign made me wonder: am I not supposed to build jumps, or am I not supposed to jump buildings?
After booting up, we collected our skis from the crowded racks and surveyed the hill. The picture does not do it justice, there is quite a bit more hill over the horizon (they claim 450' of vertical). By this time, we had already met Fabian Yantha, the hill manager, ski area promoter, furniture store owner and local real estate agent. Once he found out that we were from Huntsville (home of the rich and famous, apparently), he let us know that the ski hill is for sale. I've got his card if you want to make an offer. Turns out Fabian also drives the groomer and is proud of it. We wished he had left a little more ungroomed but, oh well...
The t-bar was manned by a philosopher-liftie. Here he is warning local schoolchildren about the perils of not hanging on. When we approached, he checked out our skis and said: "What are those skis for? Powder or something?" Later we learned (in one of those strange on-going conversations you can have with a liftie) that Dave's neighbour was liftie's father-in-law's sister. Or something like that.
We took many runs. The skiing was a bit rough due to to the rustic grooming (no offense to Fabian but I think he is working with very old-school equipment. That, and he is not a skier.). The terrain was fun with a number of very pleasant intermediate runs punctuated by short, steep expert runs at the top. We actually hiked to the summit and skied an ungroomed steep pitch that was relatively gnarly. Got first tracks, and that was after lunch.
Speaking of lunch, I know you are all only reading this post for one reason: just what is a Derailment Donut? As speculated, it is a heart-attack sugar bomb and neither of us were man enough to try one. Use you imagination: a large home-made donut log, rolled in sugar and cinnamon, served with whipped cream and pie filling on the side (choice of flavours). We did, however, enjoy some local cuisine. I had the "chili cheese fries" and Dave sampled the traditional poutine. Yumm!
Staggering back to the t-bar, we undertook more slayage, actually finding a few powder pockets that Fabian had missed. We ended our day around 3 pm, and having had about 72 runs, combined with t-bar rides, the legs were a bit tired.
The lone snowboarder seemed to prefer the powder to the pipe.
Any Hinterlandians within driving distance should pay a visit to Radcliffe Hills. It is laid back, inexpensive (mid-week ticket: $25), has fun terrain and needs our support. If you win the lottery, buy the place and get Fabian a new groomer and some snowmaking. Even you never anticipate skiing there, please pay a visit to their Facebook page and click "like" just to keep the stoke up.
Do they have "Men's Day" at ski hills down in the Excited States? Maybe it is a Hinterlandian phenomenon, I don't know. Anyhow, on Friday it was Men's Day at our local ski hill, Hidden Valley. I did not get invited and honestly, am quite relieved. A couple of years ago I ended up at Ladies' Day, quite accidentally, and it was highly entertaining. Well, they do say that it is the most fun you can have with your boots on.
Men's Day events included things like this (pics stolen from Facebook):
And, oh, yes, a bit of this:
MEANWHILE, a 15 minute drive away....
Some of us are checking the Hinterlandian snow depth meters:
Getting first tracks down the driveway:
Reveling in tractor stoke combined with ski stoke:
Driving overloaded Japanese vehicles down snowy side roads:
Checking the snowpack at our private powder reserve:
Skinning in a short distance on an unmaintained road:
Observing Telemark Dave's tracks from last week:
Skinning up (puff, puff, puff...):
Resting on the skin up, with the excuse of taking pictures of the snow depth:
Skiing down in the POWDAH:
(Telemark Dave agrees that he needs to lose the Johnny Cash look and get a more colourful jacket)
Sooooo much better than a GT Sno-racer or bashing gates:
OK, so next summer we'll do a little forest management:
SBR is ready to walk, this skinning thing sucks on a flat road:
One last run back at Bonk Hill, at SBRHQ:
(no dog this time, the snow is over his head)
I took the untracked line to the left. Sweet, slow motion powder turns. Not many, due to the small hill, but sweet none the less. What will the thaw bring this week?