Mike Walsh | Powder Report: Taking time to shred through local mountains

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Found myself in between column ideas for this week, but found that was the perfect opportunity to dip my edge back into the local snow and carve up some turns in Berkshire County as the weather starts to warm.

As they say: when the layers shed, it's time to shred.

Or, as I say, I suppose.

By whittling out some free time against our wild postseason high school schedule, I was able to lay down tracks at Bousquet, Butternut, Berkshire East and Catamount over the past couple weeks. Though your front yard may be barren — and as I've come to find out as a new dog owner, covered in decomposing surprises — the local slopes still have a solid base down and plenty of good gnar waiting to be gobbled up.

And the return of spring brings countless great events, which we'll get to in a bit.

But first, I had been waiting all season to get down south and check out some of the improvements at Catamount, which we detailed last winter with marketing director Rich Edwards.

In addition to opening up the biggest zip line park in the country, Catamount bushwacked itself some fly new trails, a couple of which truly slap.

My sojourn to south county opened with a couple test runs off the right of the Ridge Chair, where rookie routes Marty's Run and Shawenon waited. It's a little tricky to find the new duo, but taking it easy and following along with trail markers leads you to Shawenon, a blue intermediate, easily enough. I hit that first, and it's a solid addition to Catamount's quiver, a bendy and bouncy off-shoot of Upper Sidewinder. The trouble was, finding Marty's Run. I thought I saw a sign for it as I was starting my descent of Shawenon, but then got fouled up on my next couple of attempts to land on the black diamond addition. On the trail map it appears to begin with the same mouth as Shawenon, but after a couple runs I opted to switch it up and re-angle my shred sextant toward the monster from my Thursday nightmares, Ripper.

When I arrived at Catamount, I inquired the woman at the ticket booth if she could point out the new trails. When she got to Ripper, a double-black diamond cleaved alongside Catapult off of Ridge Run, all she could say was "this one is super steep," as if a warning.

The warning is warranted, though almost unneeded as you can tell gliding up to the Ripper trail sign this slope is no joke.

It's a bit of the feeling at the crest of a Six Flags roller coaster, or that moment when that teenager with crappy stunner shades and a whistle tells you it's your turn to stand in the Geronimo slide at Water Country.

The drop is quick and the vertical is on par with the steepest I've seen in southern New England.

It's an ab-clenching, stomach-in-your-throat kind of run that truly does rip.

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Up next was an extended shuffle down Ridge Run to the lower mountain section, where I maneuvered down Walter's Way and suddenly, out of the corner of my goggles, I spotted Spencer's Way, a new cutoff that darts in through a treed opening. It's a pretty flat beginner slope, but zipping around a bend like that was definitely fun.

Unfortunately due to lack of snow recently and it being a week day, the Promenade Triple was closed so I was unable to test run Echo's Run from the top. I opted instead to bushwack my way to try and find the elusive Marty's Run.

It turns out, the shred was worth the wait. Marty's Run is just as fun and bendy as Shawenon, only with a bunch more zip. After taking it relatively safely on Ripper, Marty's was my top speed of the day, around 39.4 miles per hour on my Garmin watch.

The trail additions were solid, and only add to the well-rounded offerings at Catamount, but what is really drawing me in is the new lodge, which just looks flat-out sexy. Straight matte black throughout with beautifully stained wood. The outdoor fireplace, built into the face of the lodge is a touch worthy of Bobby Berk. The inside feels more like a chalet or night club in the Swiss Alps than a lodge in the Hudson Valley.

Catamount still has a pretty solid base down on most of its trails and some sloshiness that only increases the fun. They've got $17 lift tickets coming up for St. Patrick's Day next week, along with drink specials at the Fall Line Tavern.

Jiminy Peak is getting in on the luck of the Irish with $17 tickets on March 17 as well.

Unfortunately, the STRIDE Great Race has been canceled at Jiminy this weekend. "We have made the hard decision to CANCEL the 2020 Great Race in order to maintain a safe environment, due to the large number of families who are traveling from a variety of regions where the outbreak is known. We are truly sorry for any inconvenience this may cause," reads the release. Visit STRIDE.org for more information.

The mountain will open an hour early on Sunday for pass holders to get some first tracks from 8 to 11 a.m. Jiminy's Spring Fling will run next weekend with a cardboard derby, race series, bikini slalom and pond skimming contest on Saturday, followed by more fun on Sunday.

Ski Butternut was closed on Friday to preserve snow for a big weekend, which was set to include the return of the Gettin' Sendy Rail Jam on Sunday. That event, unfortunately, has been canceled amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Butternut's Spring Fling in scheduled for March 21 with cardboard races, a big air contest and the pond skim.

Bousquet announced Friday that it had to cancel this weekend's Irish Olympics, and instead will close down for the season today. If you want to get one last run in, the mountain will be open from 9 a.m. until dusk.

If you're participating or getting your apres on on the sidelines, keep your tips up and stay spoice.

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


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