The long awaited day has finally arrived, exactly five months to the day that we rode L'Etoile for the last runs of the season. Saint-Sauveur had been teasing an opening for days now, and with Killington's Rime and Reason already in full force as of last Sunday, it was a pretty safe bet that Friday would be the day: TGIF, amirite?
The opening was announced for 2PM, however work was a bit too busy for me to get to the mountain until late afternoon. I was finally able to load up the car with my two sets of Kastle James XX90s and my Ride Crush board around 5pm, run a few quick errands and then hit the (very slow) road to get to Saint-Sauveur, arriving around 7pm.
Every year at the end of the season I find a home for my GoPasse where I'll be sure to remember it at the start of the next season, so I can reload it online instead of having to go get a new one at customer service. Every year I somehow fail to recall where I stashed it. All of my other passes were in my ski wallet, but not the elusive GoPasse. So on arriving to the mountain, off I went to guest services to procure a new one. I didn't get too far before running into Patrick Corcoran (insta @madpatski), who I had also skied with on closing day, June 8th. He had just finished his turns for the day and we spent some time catching up before another friend turned up who I'd last seen at AKAMP back in July. He too, had just finished for the day but like me, will be back Saturday! After these impromptu catch-ups, I made it to guest services, replaced my GoPasse, and took a moment to browse the Boutique for on-theme gear. Poppin' orange Descente jacket and fuschia Smith Optics goggles, I see you!
Next up was to drive over to the Atelier mise au point and drop my board and the end of season James XX90s for a tune and some much-needed Ptex. The team at the mise au point always does excellent work. Finally, I was ready to get ready to ski! I parked near the l'Etoile lift, spent some time getting ready and selecting tunes for my evening ride, and then headed over to the lift. By now, it was about 8:30, and I was ready to fly. And oh did I fly!
Unlike 2018 where we had wet fluffy flakes falling from the sky opening weekend, nearly everything on the ground this year is from snowmaking. I figured the conditions would be pretty slick with thin coverage, and I was dead on. Having edges in these conditions is essential and some hot wax doesn't hurt either. I flew pretty quickly down my first run of the 70 Ouest, experiencing the benefits of all the skiing in icy conditions I'd done in the spring. I toned it down a bit during my next few runs, and then decided to check out Nordique, where they were actively blowing snow. This may not have been the best move, as this snow has a rather unique stick to it, like skiing over duct tape if you haven't recently waxed. The last tune for these skis was late February, however they'd only been skied on a few times after that and were still reasonably slick. The edges were good, but not perfect - I still managed to catch an edge and bail. Oops! I crossed back over to 70 Ouest and moments later, somehow managed to catch the same edge and had to bail again. After that, I figured I shouldn't push my luck and called it a day. Skiing tomorrow on freshly tuned skis will definitely improve the situation considerably.
I headed back into the city, picked up my partner and we headed to Brasserie Harricana for Day 1 Après-ski. While I usually end up at Helm for après-ski , Harricana and its late night menu make it easy to roll in at 11pm for a delicious dinner: I got the last of the Triple-aux-cerises alongside their delicious caesar salad, choux de bruxelles and spag sauce maman. Did I mention it was delicious? It's certain we'll be spending a lot of time there this winter!
As I write this it's a snowy Saturday afternoon and I'm just about to start getting ready for Day 2! May this be the next of many good days this season! Here are some pics from the last days of last season and the first day of this season!
Riding l'Etoile exactly five months ago on June 8, 2019: skiing AND waterpark in effect!
The mirage that is AKAMP: so magical it even has a rainbow!
Stoked to run into coach Patrick Corcoran on arrival!
The moon rises over the gun show on Nordique.
Nordique gun show from the base.
On my way to après-ski!
RIP my favourite ski socks ever. I've been looking for a new pair of these for a while now and haven't turned them up anywhere
It barely feels like a month has passed since Sommet Saint-Sauveur's skison ended....because really it's only been 21 days! And yet the AKAMP hype is real! AKAMP, now in its 12th year, is a mirage of a snow park in the heat of the summer. This year for the first time, the snow park is located next to the Babalou chairlift on Mont Avila right in front of the main lodge. The new terrain offers some advantages, the first being a more gentle profile, making the park a bit more accessible to novice freestyle skiers and riders, and the second being a lift serviced snow park! AKAMP runs 9AM to 9PM daily with options for a daytime pass (9AM-5PM) or an evening pass from 5PM-9PM.
I spend the day at the office before heading out around 4:30, figuring I'd be stuck in traffic on the 15 but it turned out to be fluid until the 440, and then stop and go through to Saint-Jerome - still, not bad for a long weekend Friday. A few drops of rain hit my windshield on the drive up, but since AKAMP runs rain or shine, I was prepared for the forecast either way - cloudy, with threats of 1-4 mm of rain after 7pm. I arrived on site around 6:30 and sipped a cider while getting ready, registered, and then prepared to catch my first chair of the day!
The Babalou lift, for the uninitiated, is a cute, slow moving, two-seater, and provides an excellent view of the park on the ride up. There weren't a whole lot of people out this evening, but definitely a steady flow. The park was set up with several features, rails, pipes, ramps, and the run is groomed such that you can ski on and off without having to upload, skis in hand. The lift, however, doesn't go all the way to the top of the park, so a bit of hiking, or skating, or hopping, depending on your situation, is needed to get to the top, where there are a few more features installed. I arrived a bit on the late side so am saving the hike for tomorrow.
I spent the next two hours cruising down the fast and hard brown sugar, probably sun-baked from the afternoon as just beneath the surface, it was still fluffy. I don't do park but it's relatively easy to ski around the features and respect the space and timing of the freestylers who are using the features. With an assortment of music being played at the sk8 park below, it's a super chill vibe (and not just because it is at least ten degrees cooler than the city on the AKAMP glacier!). Best trick I saw today - freestyle kid jumps end to end over every single jump in succession on his ride down and lands it every single time.
At the end of the evening I headed back to Montreal to the company of my partner and our cats, and a delicious dinner of teriyaki bbq skewers and sake.
Here are a couple of snaps from today!
First ride up the Babalou chair, so great to watch everyone in the park from this perspective!!
Riding up the Babalou!
Full view of the park while riding up - the pano makes it look a lot flatter than it is.
The snowcat runs through the park at the end of each day, and AKAMP participants rebuild the park in a different configuration each day starting at 7AM.
Bottom of the run leading right into the chair.