Mike Walsh | Powder Report: Bousquet opens to eager patrons

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Growing up, my dad always had a no-pets policy.

"Only humans poop in our house," he would joke.

Thus, I was never a dog or cat person. I never saw the appeal, and maintain some of those feelings, though my wife — who grew up with several dogs and brought a rabbit with her when she moved in — has slowly worn me down.

However, up until Thursday night, I just couldn't see myself dealing with a pet.

Then I met potentially the only other living creature more excited than I that Bousquet was finally able to open.

I was in line for the second chair at Bousquet's first $10 Thursday Night Owl Special, and just in front of me was a young pair of urchins with a golden retriever named Rossi (inspired by Rossignol).

Rossi, who belongs to ski school director Cindy Bartlett, was psyched to be out in the snow, jumping and barking all over the place. I assumed when they got on the lift, the dog would stay at the base with someone, but then Rossi followed them through the loading area, and began galloping after them up the blue chair lift line. She made it all the way to the end of the lift, met back up with the snowboarding couple and the trio departed down the green Drifter trail.

I think I found what my nerdier friends call a Patronus. I think I'm starting to understand dogs.

"We, along with our pass holders and regulars have been chomping-at-the-bit super eager to get on our local mountain," writes Bousquet's Marki Lee Roberts-Blackwell, who spent Thursday with her two and four-year old sons on the beginner slope. "They've been holding out and ecstatic to finally be out gliding and making turns on our family mountain."

I wished Rossi and friends silent luck, and scooted myself over to the other open slope at Bousquet, Beeline, an intermediate that follows the blue lift line.

I was only there from 3-5 p.m. before heading back to the office, but even turning onto North Street downtown and seeing that white blanket in the distance got me going. It hasn't felt like winter without the mountain open. The local winter sports community needs Bousquet, and Bousquet needs us.

"Although we've taken quite a hit, missing out on holiday vacation week and having to divert much of our typical groups and clubs to other mountains, we are hopeful to regain those patrons, clubs and school groups now that we are operating," Roberts-Blackwell wrote. "Community support is vital for our small mountain."

With the weather finally starting to turn, Bousquet is blowing up a storm of snow whenever possible, and growing closer and closer to opening more of the mountain. The hard-pack cords on Beeline were nice and stiff. Drifter was left a bit more untamed and benefit from the heavy midweek dusting Old Man Winter gifted the Berkshires.

Speaking of gifts, Austin Esposito scored himself a pretty sweet one this holiday season.

The New Lebanon, N.Y. native stomped out a first place finish in the open division at a Burton Qualifiers rail jam event at Loon Mountain on Dec. 29. The top podium spot came with a chill $1,000 check and a spot in the Burton Qualifiers tour finals. There, he'll compete for a share of $10,000 in prizes.

"Last winter I went to the same contest and got sixth, which is the last qualifying spot," said Esposito from his spot up in Stratton, Vt. "This year, going in I thought the same thing, get top six.

"It was a big surprise when I won, I was hyped."

Esposito, who rides as a member of the Garden Gang out of The Garden shop in Pittsfield, couldn't make it to the finals last winter, instead hitting The Launch event put on by Snowboarder Mag which conflicted with Burton. This year, though, he knows he's got to represent New England's diggers against the best young riders in the world. The other five qualifiers stop in Wisconsin, China, Japan, California and Ontario, before the finals are held on March 23 at Seven Springs in Pennsylvania.

Loon shrugged off iffy conditions to nail a slopestyle plaza Burton claims was "built around a 'chasm of doom' gap that demanded commitment." Riders had a full hour to hike up and jam.

Esposito, though, was focused on one rail in particular that played to the young grinder's strengths as a pretzel master.

"It wasn't so much any one trick, I was just really consistent the whole time," Esposito told me over the phone. "I think I fell maybe once or twice. I really liked that set up because there was a normal downrail. Sometimes they'll have a bunch of different rails, which limits the riders. I prefer having that one long stock rail, because I could do all the tricks that I have."

It was Esposito's first win at a competitive event, but one that many saw coming after runner-up spots at the likes of Johnny O'Connor's event and Chris Grenier's rail jam at Nashoba.

Esposito grew up in New Lebanon and learned to ride in the Berkshires with his cousins.

"Jiminy Peak was my local mountain from the time I was 10 until I was 15," he said. "That was the first real winter I moved up to Vermont and started riding here. Jiminy is a really cool spot."

He spent the last few years of high school splitting time between New Lebanon and Vermont where he attended the American Snowboard Training Center from November through April the last three winters before graduating last year.

"[New Lebanon] did ski club through the school and my cousins were always big into snowboarding, so I immediately joined that at Jiminy Peak, and they taught me to ride and I fell in love with it," said Esposito. "I got right into [terrain parks], which is different than most who ride the mountain for a year or two before trying it.

"I think it because I had such an influence from my older cousins hitting the park, I immediately wanted to do the jumps and rails."

Currently, he's taking a gap year, living in Stratton and helping out around the school, while riding out of Mount Snow.

This week, he's heading back to New Hampshire for a Revolution Spur slopestyle event. Then, Esposito will be back on the lookout for local events to help him stay frosty before the big day at Seven Springs.

Mike Walsh is an urchin snowboarder who can be reached in the local lift line or at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com.


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