Mike Walsh | Powder Report: Terrain parks at local mountains feature plenty to shred
Oh, and a big smile.
That smile isn't just because the Powder Report snagged a crunchy bronze at last weekend's New England Newspaper and Press Association awards banquet in the sports column category. It's because I finally sucked it up and hit the terrain park again. I finally tried out those snowshoes that were a wedding gift last April. I wore snowpants for each of the first four days of February school vacation. The NENPA recognition didn't hurt, either.
Now, with full realization that ski stories can carry the same weight as an over-embellished fishing story, here's the tale of my worst wipeout.
I was at Berkshire East two seasons ago, snagging some weekday pow before scooting up to Greenfield to cover a Miss Hall's girls basketball game. I've normally been more of an all-mountain snowboarder, and in general prefer bombing some groomers over the terrain park scene. But, as my great aunt Mary always told a young and unable-to-keep-a-girlfriend Mike Walsh: Variety is the spice of life. So I was tackling some rails and jumps that day, and eventually gathered up the guts to try some spins.
On an attempted backside 360 Indy grab, I didn't even come close to a full rotation. The result was a full-on, face-plant wipeout. When I managed to fight back my breath and sit up on my knees, I assumed I was concussed, because I couldn't see anything. It was all blurry. So I removed my helmet, (always wear a helmet, don't be a selfish jerk) and pulled off my goggles. That's when I realized the reason I couldn't see was because I slammed my face into the snow so hard, my contact lenses popped right out of my eyes and were stuck to the inside of my goggles. The damage was altogether not that bad; cracked ribs and a limited ability to laugh heartily or sleep on my stomach for six weeks. I stayed off my board for a while, but the true lasting damage was mental. A season later I promised my fianc I wouldn't do anything risky on the mountain, for fear of showing up at the the end of the aisle on April 21, and in wedding photos for eternity, in a cast or worse. As I turned 30 earlier this month and things like health insurance and home-ownership are more readily on the front burner of life, fear kept me out of the park and doing the same old safe carving.
But for this week's column I wanted to try and combat that fear by trying some new things, or old things again. So, with news last week that Bousquet was able to open some features in its park, I headed over there on a relatively-empty before-school-break Friday and shredded my way into the terrain park for the first time in more than two years.
Bousquet's park is coming along, and some features still sat unused off to the side, but there were four solid rails and a sizable, yet weather-hardened jump toward the bottom.
After a pass-through or two to examine everything, and I managed to hop on and 50:50 the two beginner-level rails. It was the perfect, low-pressure and witness-free reintroduction to the jib life. From my understanding, Bousquet has been hard at work integrating more features and benefited from the President's Day conditions, so if you're looking to test out your skills and build up your courage, that's the spot.
During that choice-timed President's Day snowfall, I had made plans to hit Jiminy Peak with a skier buddy who lives back east. Like me, he's always been more of a free skier than a park rat, so we hammered out 17 runs on Monday, gunning for speed and powder more than anything. I did sneak through the beginner park for a brief box hit. The main rail jam section was back-logged a bit by boarders sitting in wait, so I skipped over that, but it looked really sweet, a great variety of features packing into a small park. Jimmy has a third terrain section, tucked up on the left bank that was a little more free-flowing and less line up and wait. There were some great rollers and pipes I was able to keep building on there.
After a snowshoe interlude on Tuesday, stretching out the legs at Hilltop Orchard in Richmond, it was time for Ski Butternut.
I debated pretty heavily driving down to Butternut on Wednesday. But, the hand-wringing about lift-ticket pricing and school vacation crowds was just more of my mind saying don't hurt yourself. You're too old for this, you've got work later and travel plans tomorrow, how will you write the award-winning Powder Report column with a broken hand?
But, I yanked my bright red ski pants on for the third straight day and pointed my car southeast.
Like Jiminy on Monday, Butternut had all its lifts humming and handled the holiday week crowds superbly. At Jiminy, the lines were kept moving and mid-mountain lifts were ride right on. At Butternut, despite a full parking lot, things motored right along, which kept the park moving as well.
Butternut really brings it in the terrain category. They've got a nearly full-mountain length trail dedicated to rails, boxes, barrels, spines, quarters, jumps and even a wooden feature. Another test run through to check things out and snap a couple photos, and I took a deep breath and dove in.
After some straight jumps and 50:50s, I started mixing it up. No spins or switch, but landed some straight, aired out mutes, melons, Indys and a nose grab or two. While there's no proof, I may have even gotten sendy* once or twice off a big kicker.
I took what my mind thought was a nasty tumble, while exiting a board slide on a buried fat pipe, but popped right back up truly no worse for wear.
As my abundantly-British high school physics teacher would say in a delightful accent, "heavy things are heavy, hard things are hard." And snow is soft. I'll never be a skateboarder, more power to you guys at the park on East Street, but we don't have to fear snow. It's forgiving, and a couple bumps and bruises and the occasional cracked rib is the price to pay for the freedom of the shred.
Until next time, keep your tips up and stay spoice.
Gettin' Sendy — Kind of a mid-air version of the shred term we discussed a few weeks back. Think of the word send in a real-world context. It's awesome. "Send it." Whether you're Tom Brady chucking a deep ball, or hastily pounding out a harshly-worded email to the cable company for interrupting your service, "send it" is an empowering phrase to go for it.
Hitting that rail, get sendy. Flying off that kicker, don't rip it gently. Like the lovable father in Nickelodeon's Rocket Power; Raymundo, used to say: "Go big or go home."
Power off that jump and get sendy.
Think of Herb Brooks in the Miracle film (happy anniversary) yelling for his assistant coach to "send `em, again."
Think of your favorite Apr s spot, bellying up to the bar and telling the bartender to send it, and slide a beer down the glistening wood into your thirsty hands.
What beer are you drinking? Why not make it a Gettin' Sendy?
Gettin' Sendy is a new collaboration brew between Shire Breu-Hous in Dalton and The Garden in Pittsfield.
"The beer will appear hazy, have a creamy mouthfeel and strong notes of tropical fruit from the hops," Shire's Nick Whalen told me. "We wanted to do something fun and unique with a local business."
Shire reached out to The Garden in the fall, and the idea was born.
"Nick and Andrew approached us about doing a collaboration beer and of course, we said yes. It's a New England style IPA," adds The Garden's Bill Whitaker.
The beer will be available for purchase in cans that have label artwork featuring a boarder gettin' sendy with Bousquet's yellow chairlift and lodge in the background. There is a release party scheduled for Saturday, March 2 at 9 p.m. at Shire Breu-Hous. That'll feature two DJs and an 80's ski themed party with prizes for best-dressed, plus T-shirts and hoodies (also available at the North Street shop) with the label artwork and, of course, four-packs.
The Garden will also host a rail jam competition
Mike Walsh is an urchin snowboarder who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or in the local lift line.
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