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  1. News out of the Eastern Townships, Owl's Head is to be changing hands. There is an intent to purchase the mountain from the Korman Family who have been at the helm since the mountain's founding 50 years ago, by Sommet Memphrémagog lead by Gilles Bélanger. The story details on the future of the mountain and the investments to be made by the group to improve the infrastructure and renovations to the chalet. The link is from a local French newspaper La Tribune with all the details. I will keep a look out for an English link should there be one available. http://www.lapresse.ca/la-tribune/actualites/201708/08/01-5123027-owls-head-change-de-main.php?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook
  2. With a sunny bluebird sky in the forecast for today, the place to go was Owl's Head. This would make my second visit of the season here. I arrived at the mountain at 9:00 with a beautiful sky and a temperature of -10 degrees. The main parking lot was already half full by then which was a sign that everyone else was going to take advantage of a nice day like this. With getting ready, and recharging my RFID card, I was on the lift by 9:30. There was a bit of a line up to start, no more than a couple of minutes. The Main, Baby, and Black Quads along with the learning zone's Magic Carpet were in operation. 49/50 trails were open. The conditions were fantastic! Groomed packed powder over a firm base was what was waiting for you. The grooming team did a wonderful job in making the conditions what they were. The first runs were on the Main Quad on the Centennial and Lower Colorado as a combo, and then a run on Lilly's Leap. The coverage was excellent! I love it now that you don't have to make the long hike up to get to Centennial anymore. The work that was done here during the off season last summer was well worth it. You will notice as well that the trees were cut to make a the trail wider that improves the view of Jay Peak immensely. Lilly's Leap was a treat as well. With the improved snowmaking system, you can instantly tell the difference in the quality of the snow that was made. Another big change you will notice is the opening of Lilly's Leap has been widened which improves the traffic flow quite a bit. If you ski the left side of this new opening, it is graded as a single black diamond, and if you ski the right side, where the original chute was, this is graded as Intermediate as it had been in the past. The opening of Lilly's Leap: The Centennial with the view of Jay Peak: The Lower Colorado: As I was skiing Lilly's Leap, I decided to cross over to the Upward Trail and Lake Quad. Now being that the Lake Quad has been down for the winter you can still access the Lakeside section even though the Quad is not running. Two options: Ski down to where the Lakeview trail exits, veer to your left and take the crossover on to the Black Quad, or if you are adventurous, ski down to the flat before the last pitch and crossover to the Black from there. Only thing about this route is that you need to get enough speed to make the rise on to the Chouette as this trail was originally the crossover to the bottom of the Lake Quad from the Black. The line you take to make this rise can make or break your success in getting over it. You may still have to climb a bit to get there. It all depends on your speed. The Upward trail was in great shape and not a lot of people skied here, and you practically had the trail to yourself. It is also noted that as of this spring the Lake Quad will be removed and replaced with a new Quad to be ready for the 2019-2020 ski season. The Upward trail: From here I spent sometime on the Black Quad and a few rides up the Baby Quad. Then it was back over to the Main Quad for a couple of more runs. By 11:00-11:30 both the Black Quad and Main Quad were getting quite busy. Using the singles line did shorten the wait time. At one point though the wait in the singles line got to be 10 minutes at the Main Quad. It was actually great to see how busy it was and everyone taking advantage of a beautiful day. The last run up the Main Quad was to ski a trail I had not skied in almost 20 years, the Upper Colorado with the infamous Wall section. The trail had been groomed so there were no bumps, however the Wall can be intimidating as this trail is classified as double black diamond. By the time I skied this trail, it was early afternoon and the coverage was still great with no ice anywhere to be found! It made for a great run down. It is a bit strange to see that the old Green Chair is no longer standing, but now there is more room to turn, and at the bottom of the pitch that connects with the Centennial has been smoothed out and the line of sight at the junction has been improved. The Chouette under the Black Quad: The crowd at the bottom of the Main Quad at 11:30: The Colorado looking up from the Centennial after skiing the pitches: From here it was time to cool down and made a few more laps on the Black and Baby Quad. There was a trip made earlier in the day down the Panorama trail where the old Mueller double is located and is scheduled to be removed as well sometime in the near future. By 2:30 and after 20 runs made, it was time to call it, and get a cold refreshment. In front of what would be the old part of the chalet, there is a terrace now with chairs to sit in to soak up the sun, and to observe the action going on around. I took advantage of these chairs and had a seat. As I was sitting there watching everyone, I had the pleasant thought of "yeah this is the way it ought to be" and enjoyed just chilling out in the sun. I got pretty comfy sitting there and almost fell asleep in the sun. Both parking lots ended up being full. The outside of the chalet is almost complete as there is just a little section now that needs siding to be put on. The overall look of the chalet now is amazing. All the changes that had been made this past off season have made a difference already, and there are more to come. A great crowd, and super conditions made for another awesome ski day. Probably in the top 2 ski days of the season this winter for me! Here are a few more scenes from the day: The Lower Standard: The Chalet from the Baby Quad: Watching the action going on from the terrace:
  3. *** Just in on Facebook *** It's safe to assume that the Green Chair will be retired and removed. Now you can win one of these historic chairs for your home. INHERIT PART OF THE OWL'S HEAD STORY! A chance to win a green chair Until May 15th, purchase your season pass for the 2018-2019 season, save on your subscription price and have a chance to win one of the chairs of our famous Green Chairs ski lift. Symbol and emblem of Owl's Head, the green chairs have been part of the history of the mountain since 1978. It offers a breathtaking panorama and overlooks the majestic Lake Memphremagog. Take advantage of this unique chance to buy some of Owl's Head's heritage! For registration for the 2018-2019 season pass: http://owlshead.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/2019_Ski_PasseSaison.pdf For more information : info@owlshead.com or 1 800 363-3342
  4. This was a trip that I was going to make a bit later in the season, but curiosity got the better of me, so I headed to Owl's Head to see what had been happening lately with all the changes over the past off season. There is a long term plan in place for Owl's Head for improvements, and if they are anything like what saw today, it's going to be awesome! First off I arrived at the mountain for 8 am, and the first change noticed was the main parking lot configuration. No longer are you parking with the width of the lot, you are now parked nose to nose for the full length of the lot row by row. This would allow for more vehicles to be parked. The next obvious change is the chalet outside and inside. The outside is not quite finished yet with siding left to be installed, but what was done looks amazing. Same building but looks a lot more modern now. The inside is amazing! The ticket counter is roughly in the same place as it was before, with the ski shop now located where the bar was before. The stairs redone and much easier to go up to the second level. You arrive at roughly the same point as before. The cafeteria has been totally redone. In the old section of the chalet where the dining room was, is now the bar and seating area. There is a bar menu for food now, or you can get something quick in the cafeteria. There is no going back and forth with bar drinks and food nor anything from the cafeteria is brought into the bar. It is kept separate from one another in this aspect. Ok! Now on with the ski report! When I arrived the temperature was -5 degrees under a partly sunny sky. Today the Main Quad, Baby Quad, Black Quad, and Learning Zone carpet were in operation serving 13 trails. The conditions were excellent with groomed packed powder over a firm base. The ops crew, the snowmakers and groomers, did a fantastic job of covering up any evidence of the past few weeks of nastiness. This year another change is the ticketing system. It is now an RFID system. Being that they are main ports of access to the mountain, both the Main Quad and Baby Quad have scanners with the operators having mobile devices to confirm validity of your RFID card should the main scanner not catch it. The Black Quad does not have the main scanner, however the operators have the mobile devices for random verifications. The first runs were up the Main Quad to ski Lilly's Leap and Centennial. The first change on the mountain that was noticed was that the upper section of the Kamikaze has been widened. Before in this section Korman's Dive was not that visible, and now it is. Upper section of the Kamikaze with Korman's Dive to your right. When I arrived at the summit, another change that you will notice right away is the entrance into Lilly's Leap. This also has been opened up and you no longer have to navigate the narrow chute into the first corner. New entry onto Lilly's Leap: The coverage on Lilly's was fantastic. There is also a new snowmaking system with a ton of new guns this season and right away you will notice a difference with the quality of the snow being made that you are skiing on. The next trip was Centennial. This is another change you will notice as you no longer have to make that hard climb up around the corner. Also there is a new view of Jay Peak to take in, as the long tree island that separated the former Peak trail and the original Centennial trail has been removed. The improved Centennial and the view of Jay Peak: Then it was on down to the Black Quad for some easy laps. The Nice and Easy along with the Chouette were the options. Again this sector was well covered with machine groomed packed powder. No major changes here to the terrain, but the upper and lower terminals of the lift have been cleaned up quite a bit. Oh yes, the Green Chair is no longer running down the Nice and Easy. To me it looks a bit odd to not see it there anymore. There is a bit more room now not having towers in the middle of the trail. The Nice & Easy along with the Chouette and bottom of the Black Quad: After a few laps here, it was then down Cindy's slip from the Black for a ride up the Baby Quad before heading back up the Main Quad to tackle Korman's Dive and the upper section of the Kamikaze. One last ride up the Main Quad for another Lilly's Leap run. By 11:30 with the traffic today, it started to get a bit scrapey in places, so the finish to the day was on the Baby Quad for a couple of runs to cool off. Then it was time for a brew at a little after 12:00 in the bar. The line up at the Main Quad did get up to about 5 minutes max, whereas the Baby and Black Quad was non existent. 16 runs total. There are many changes that have been done so far as detailed here, with a lot more to be done over the next few years to come. The floors in the chalet are now rubberized to limit slips and falls. Stairs have been reconfigured for easier navigation. No more big climb up to the Main Quad. All of these changes so far have already made a big difference in my opinion with more to come. While sitting in the bar, music is now played at an ambient level, a lot of new staff members that I don't know, along with some that I do bustling about. The vibe today at Owl's Head was something that I had not seen in quite awhile. It was upbeat and the place was full of buzz. The place is starting to come alive again and it was quite nice to see. Here are some more scenes from the day:
  5. What most likely would be my season finale for the 2017-18 ski season, Owl's Head was the destination today. I left Sherbrooke at 7am with a temperature of -4 and partly cloudy skies. That didn't last long though as on the way there it quickly clouded over and started snowing along the autoroute by Mont Orford. It started snowing pretty hard at times, but the travelling was good. Arrival at the mountain for 8am with a light snow falling and a temperature of -4. The conditions were more mid winter than spring today. The trails were groomed packed powder over a firm base. 5-7 cms of snow fell overnight which made for a nice coating over the corduroy laid out by the groomers. There were the typical spring season ice patches but nothing to large. The Main, Baby, Black, and Lake Quad chairs were spinning. 27/52 trails at your disposal. Zero wait time at any of the lifts. The first runs were up the Main Quad to ski a couple of runs on Lilly's Leap and Centennial to Lower Standard. There was a gusty wind riding up to the summit blowing some of the loose powder around. Lilly"s Leap: Centennial: Lower Standard: It was then on to the Black and Lake Quads. More groomed packed powder was on the menu here as well. With the low traffic today the conditions held up really well. Lift lines were non existant. You pretty much had the mountain to yourself today. There were a couple of practice race courses set up on the Kamikaze and the edge of the Lower Standard for the race team. There was plenty of space to ski by these practice areas. The Chouette under the Black Quad: Upward Trail under the Lake Quad: The Lakeview: The conditions today were pretty fantastic for this time of year. It was mid-season skiing in April, when normally you would be skiing on soft wet corn snow. There is still quite a bit of snow remaining out there and if you didn't get out there today, you are missing some pretty decent skiing. I skied until 12:30. This visit today had a bit of a different feeling for me. With the news of the new group taking over the reigns, there were a lot of memories that popped in and out of my mind while riding the lifts and skiing these trails today more so than the other times I have been here. I did get to have a lovely chat with Mrs. Lillian Korman while I was there, along with some of my old colleagues and ski patrol friends that are still there after all these years. I took my time looking around the place as there are probably going to be some big plans and changes that will come to Owl's Head in the next little while. You could definitely feel the vibe that change is in the air. I am sure that it will be for the best. Owl's Head was like a second home to me from 1989-2001 while I was employed here. Thank you to Fred and Lillian Korman for all the years of hard work and dedication to providing a beautiful place to ski for all of us to enjoy. Here are some other scenes from the day:
  6. The morning started out not as early as the last road trip. The destination today was Owl's Head. On the road by 7am and arrived at the mountain for 8, with a temperature of -24 and no breeze at the base. 45/52 trails announced open along with 6 chairlifts. The 5-10 cms of snow they received during the week helped out a little. The conditions were of groomed, packed powder over a hard base. There were some little powder stashes that had been tracked along the side of some trails. The first runs of the day were up the Main Quad to Lilly's Leap, Centennial to the Kamikaze, and then over to the Lower Standard via the Crossover. The coverage was pretty good to start. It's well known that the upper trails here can get scraped down pretty quickly depending on the crowd. Today the crowd was moderate and no waiting at any of the chairs. Lilly's Leap: Centennial: Then it was on to a few laps on the Blue Chair and down the Lower Standard. Under the Blue on the Shady Lady, the ski team was setting up for practice. Going up the Blue with the Shady Lady and Lower Standard: There was a breeze riding up the Main Quad to go along with the already frigid temperature, so a break was in order to head in the chalet to warm up and to catch up with some old friends that I hadn't seen in awhile. People that I had worked with when I was at the mountain years ago. Then it was back out and down to the Black and Lake Quads. The conditions over there were nice, with the upper part of the Chouette that hadn't been groomed, but the loose powder was already traced out. The Upward Trail, and the Lakeview/Couloir combo was a nice choice. There was the slightest breeze on the Lakeside that made it chilly as well riding the chairs. Once you were on the ground it was fine. You still needed to be well bundled to keep warm though. The Chouette: The Upward Trail: The Lakeview: The day ended with one last ride up the Main Quad, after a second warm up, down Centennial on to the lower section of the Colorado, down the Chouette to the bottom of the Black Quad and a ride up the Quad and then back over to the chalet. Lower Colorado: Overall it was a nice outing. By noon there were some icy patches starting to appear in the usual places, and you could hear the scraping being done by the other skiers, so it gave you an idea on where they were, and take it easy to go around those spots if you were following. The day ended at 1:00 after 18 runs. I have always had a soft spot for Owl's Head over the years, but to be honest, unfortunately the mountain is showing its age and is in need of some love and updating. Hopefully she will get some of that soon.
  7. On Monday, Jan 15th, a major power outage caused electrical damage to the main summit detachable quad chairlift at Owl's Head. Replacement parts and repairs are currently still in progress but no return to service date has been given. Since Thursday until today, the old Green Chair (Heron) double chairlift was opened up restoring access to the summit. Today (Saturday, Jan 20th) an incident occurred in the morning on the Green Chair, in which a chair slid down into another. The lift was evacuated and is now closed pending inspection by the Quebec government. www.facebook.com/owlsheadresort/posts/10155616691922639 The Green chair is now taking out of service, and summit access is again no longer possible. While lift incidents seem to be more commonly published in the news recently (Sugarloaf as an example), how do you feel about lift security? Are the mountains and regulatory bodies doing enough to ensure reliable lift operations? With aging lifts in Quebec, the fear is reliability could become a large issue. I do hope everything gets sorted out in quick order at Owl's Head as these incidents do affect visitor flow and perception of a mountain and can affect revenue. I sincerely hope that the event today does not tarnish the amazing experience we all enjoy when visiting Owl's Head.
  8. Today's Destination was Owl's Head. My second home from 1989-2001. The temperature was around -10 degrees and cloudy upon arrival at 8:15 this morning, and to a few cars in the parking lot. The weatherman had announced for a mostly sunny day. It did clear out later on during the morning. Being that it is school break this week, I was expecting a lot more cars than what I saw. With the weather we had this past 7-10 days and everything being practically brown, people may have the wrong perception on what is out there. There is snow still to be had on the mountain. The conditions today were pretty good considering what we've had. Just had to watch where you ski in some areas, other wise pretty good. The conditions today were groomed granular over a hard base. Skiing was fast! There were ice patches to be had, no denying that. Approximately 40 trails were announced as being open today. The first runs of the day were up the Main Quad: Lilly`s, Leap and Centennial/Peak and Lower Standard. Patrol had the first chair of the day and I had third. In all the times skiing there I have never had third chair, there has always been a bit of a line up, but today nothing. No line ups at any of the lifts at all today. All 4 quads were in operation. Coverage was pretty decent up top with a few ice patches, but nothing we couldn't handle. Plenty of space to avoid them. Middle section of Lilly's Leap: Centennial: The wash out on the Lower Standard: It was a bit chilly with the small breeze blowing at the summit which prompted a move down to the Black Quad and Lake Quad. Conditions down in this sector were again pretty good with the odd ice patch to look out for. There were a little more people skiing down here but again zero wait for the lifts. The Chouette, Upward Trail, Lakeview and Couloir trails ended up being my favorites today. Not saying the others weren't any good, it's just that it was a bit warmer in the sun and no breeze. The clouds lifted mid morning and with the sun beating down, it was comfortable. The Chouette and Black Quad: The Lake Quad and Upward Trail: Lakeview and Couloir: I skied from 8:30 to 12:45 with one 10 minute break to warm up, 18 runs total. The overall day was really nice and the conditions ended up being better than expected. The parking lot was only about a quarter full when I left. I got to see and visit some old friends that I had worked with years ago which was pretty good. A lot has changed since my time there, new buildings and residences, but on the other hand, other things remain the same. Here are a few other photos of the day: The Kamikaze: The now unused Baby Chair: Upper Standard: What is left of the old Orange Double Chair:
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