Mike Walsh | Powder Report: It's December and time to get back on the mountain

HANCOCK — In some recent years I haven't been able to get on a mountain until late December or even after New Year's. The brains behind Jiminy Peak have smiled upon us this season, though, and the hatchback switch-over day where I pull out the golf clubs and toss in the snowboard came early.

A bittersweet day for some, I know, and that isn't the only downer in a column that I promise will be about shredding some serious gnar on the first day of December.

Things started early last week. In the wondrous New England season that is late autumn, I somehow managed to throw on shorts and a hoodie and walk my board down to Plaine's in Pittsfield and drop it off for a tuning. My stickered-up ride is about 15 years old and not kept in the best condition with early and late season boarding in northeast conditions. But, Plaine's does such a boss job every time I bring it by. Scored the $10 coupon through their email newsletter and after dropping it by Wednesday afternoon it was good to go by closing time Thursday, and boy was she a beauty.

Do watch out, though, Plaine's closes at 6 p.m. and doesn't open until 10 a.m. With mountains like Jiminy opening at 9 a.m. or earlier, that's an hour of quality first tracks and cord time you're missing.

Anyway, my morning Jiminy routine involves packing up early and hitting Route 7 from North Street as quickly as possible. Then, the monkey wrench got tossed in.

A moment of silence, if you will, for the Donut Man. Back on Oct. 3, The Berkshire Eagle's Tony Dobrowolski reported that the Donut Man shop had closed down and was purchased to change into another Dunkin' Donuts. Now, Dunkin' is fine, but the only way to start a day of gnar at Jiminy is with an egg sandwich on a Portuguese roll. It's simply a revelation to the basic egg sandwich and deserved better. Luckily, a folding sign outside Wheeler's Market across the street caught my eye and I went in for a fire warm-up sandwich, served nicely with chipotle mayo and a coffee.

Early-season skiing and riding is an underrated time of year. The past couple falls I've made sure to keep an eye out for mountain deals on Cyber Monday to save some cabbage for the Apres sessions. You can get an anytime ticket for the majors up in Vermont for under $80, or a specific day at a spot like Mount Snow for as low as 12 bucks. Local spots have jumped in as well, with Bousquet running some deals and I picked up a Jiminy pass for Friday, Dec. 1 for less than $40.

Even with that low price point I had concerns, as Thursday night brought a decent amount of rain to Pittsfield. However, my concerns were wildly unwarranted. Mad props to Jiminy, which did a great job last weekend of getting a respectable amount of artificial on the mountain. The entire left face was available and had some really choice hard pack. Obviously it was all man-made, but the stuff above boilerplate provided some really nice carving and speed even as the day wore on to chowdery patches with some brown spots.

The benefits of an early-season shred are bountiful. The mountain on Friday was a step above empty. I didn't wait once for the Berkshire Express sixer and was often riding up alone and kicking back with the boots up. I blew through eight runs without even thinking about it and still had some cutaway trails I hadn't hit. Also, the somewhat warmer temperatures let your steez show. I rocked a simple base layer and fleece-lined flannel up top with no need for bulky jackets or facemasks.

At the base, things were mostly still in preparation mode. A couple guys came by to paint up the pig roaster and a lot of staff was still training. It didn't look like Christiansen's Tavern was quite popping and the summit lodge wasn't available yet, so any Apres action may be put on hold for another week.

Elsewhere; Ski Butternut, Bousquet, Catamount and Blandford are still planning their opening days. Berkshire East, like Jiminy will reopen for the weekend.

Until next time, keep your tips up and stay spoice!

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.


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