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:
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: