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:
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.