State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.

beast

by Natalia

Snowstorm dumps a foot or two of white goodness. You are getting ready to snowboard the next morning when overnight warm wind turns powder to slush. Then the temperature drops converting the man-made snow to ice. As soon as you give up on riding in the near future, it starts snowing again. You cross your fingers and hope it'll last this time. But you know it won't.

Vermont winter is a big tease. And it rarely grants the holy grail of snowstorm followed by a perfect sunny day coinciding with your ability to hit the slopes. Last season I was adamant not to miss it. I moved us to Killington and I was ready to ride everyday. And I had gotten lucky precisely once. The monster snowstorm came, brought so much snow that for a day I forgot what ice is and rode calmly in the eerie silence offered by powder. Sun was glorious and I was in bliss. And then it was over. Back to ice - hard-packed powder in marketing speak - for the rest of the winter.

I enjoy snowboarding in any conditions but I ran out of patience. And while Killington does outstanding job making snow, grooming trails and landscaping terrain parks there is still this one thing money can't buy: fresh powder in abundance.

Killington has been open for five decades: I've witnessed the last one first-hand. When I started riding here shortly after purchase by American Skiing Company, there was a hopeful mood and expectations of big improvements. Instead we've experienced the resort perennially short on cash with multitude of late season offers to raise funds to survive another season. In short 10 years they run themselves out of business.

This is the third season after Killington has been sold to Powdr Corporation and mood is again full of expectations. Despite coining a silly moniker for the resort and an initial spate over life long passes, this time it seems different.

There are in fact changes and they are more to my liking. The management clearly caters to advanced skiers and snowboarders. The mountain opens more difficult trails early in the season, which makes sense since only diehards come here before Christmas. Last season saw the opening the new express quad lift from Bear Mountain base to Skye Peak. That made possible to open more advanced terrain. One of two long easy trails - Great Estern - was rerouted. It used to intersect more difficult Skyburst and Dream Maker trails forcing advanced skiers to slow down and navigate around the crowd of terrified novices. It now takes people above the top of Sky Peak lift. The upper parts of former Great Eastern was renamed Bear Trax and joined with Bear Cub (previously Wanderer and Falls Brook) emphasizing their Bear Mountain base destination. Colors of some trails had been changed to reflect the difficulty of the trail, not the terrain around it: Launch Pad, a flat connecting trail was degraded from black to blue.

There are more terrain parks. They switch locations as the season progresses and more trails are opened. My favorite is the Stash that uses wood instead of steel for its obstacles and winds around the forrest. It opens later in the season.

All those changes are probably because the new company, differently from the previous owner, focuses on ski area operations rather than real estate development, according to the Wikipedia. Which is fine by me: companies should concentrate on one product and do it well. And for the company that manages skiing resort this product is the slopes, not the scary imitations of apres-ski alpine villages.

My only gripe is that they are yet to open the Canyon Lift and the double diamond trails around it. And when Canyons do open, the resort doesn't run the lift on week days. One has to slide back all the way to the K-1 Gondola to do Cascades or Double Dipper again. Gondola lines are rarely a problem midweek, but flatness of the connecting trail is resented by my fellow snowboarders. Not everyone has a benefit of a designated skier, who can offer a helping pole when things get too slow.

So it boils down to this: fewer special deals, but more skiable trails. I like it this way and if you gave up on Killington couple of years ago, give it another chance this year. As for me and Damian, we are off to Colorado. If powder does not come to you, you have no choice but to go and find it.

wire

At one point in our lives we have been diligently watching The Wire for entire five seasons. We followed police tracking a gang of drug dealers turned real estate investors. We watched unionized stevedores of Polish descent dabble in smuggling to make ends meet. We cheered a rogue police commander attempts to emulate Amsterdam drug policies. We were drawn into struggle to improve failed and debt ridden school system. All that exciting activities took place in Baltimore. In run down neighborhoods. In underfunded police stations. In local newspaper offices. In a corrupt City Hall.

conversation

Parties can be tough. Especially for a mildly antisocial person like myself. Sure I like to talk. Or at least I can appreciate being listened to. And alcohol does improve one's outlook. But I am getting quite upset by the lack of verbal intercourse. Risking a possibility of not being invited to an American home ever again, I am going to make a sweeping generalization: conversation is a quickly disappearing form of a social interaction. When you corner an American, or two, you can have a talk, exchange interesting ideas, trade arguments. More than that though and it quickly deteriorates into one way recital of baseball statistics or appearances of notable celebrities on reality shows.