Great paths for you!
This has a unique meaning for the skier. I recently thought of this on Attitash Mountain in New Hampshire when, when the sun broke through the clouds and the oh-white peak of Mount Washington showed up, I led a group of friends to a path that I just love to go there go called Snow Dancer.
On a road map, Snow Dancer does not stand out as something special, but there is just something about it that makes me smile. And giggle. And whoop. It is a sturdy path that is open enough, but surrounded by thick trees. It bulges and weaves as you continue: throwing a double trap line here and there or a shorter steeper pitch. You can get some speed, and if you want, turn left at the end and cruise straight to the seat or the basic lodge for something tasty. It’s a path that looks like that warm, hospitable friend. Simply totally inviting and entertaining in a way that makes you … happy.
I have many “happy trails” that I just have to go to when I visit a certain resort. I think it surprises people that my happy paths are so diverse. Those who do not ski or do not ski at a high level often assume that an “expert” skier or rider must take a double diamond challenge to be happy. The opposite is true. Happy paths can be gentle and meandering, fast and furious, or simply wonderful for a reason that appeals to you. I used to teach skiing a million years ago and the way I would explain how to become an experienced skier is this: “Are you happy on this trail?” And when they said yes? “Then, here and now, you are an experienced skier.”
Today I will share some of my Happy Trails and why they bring me pure joy. I hope you share yours too. I promise to look at them and tell you what I think.
Toll road and Chin Clip – Stowe, Vermont: Moira, have you gone mad? After all, those paths could no longer be different. That is precisely why I look for both of them with equal pleasure every time I visit Stowe. Toll road is a beginners’ path and that is very bad. It is gentle, slow enough to give everyone confidence, but with sufficient pitch so that you don’t have to make your way at any point. It is hidden in the trees and winds a full three miles down the entire mountain. It also yields some surprises: such as the stone chapel that seems to appear out of the blue, and the slower, relaxing elevator that brings you back up (and gives you the chance to just enjoy the tranquil beauty of the place). Chin clip? It is on the other side of the mountain and is also super long, but instead of letting you smile through picturesque places that make you smile with a kind of gentle joy, Chin Clip demands that you stay in your game with twists, knocks , steep and even some cool powder sets itself aside. It’s hard to finish that run without a smile as wide as Mount Mansfield.
The Lynx series – Wildcat, New Hampshire: I don’t think there’s a path at Wildcat that isn’t a happy path for me. On a sunny day you just can’t beat the view from every Wildcat trail (there is a reason that this smaller mountain beats all the big boys for annual top performances). But for a clear overview, a nice run that challenges you enough but doesn’t push you too hard. Upper, middle and lower Lynx brings me the most joy. Lynx is narrower than many trails (like in the Wildcat way), turns and turns the entire mountain and offers you a varied view of the presidential range (plan to stop a few times to yawn). It requires a lot of spins (my favorite!) And challenges you enough to burn your quads, but not to destroy you. It is impossible for me to ski down part of Lynx without making a joyful cheer. A happy skiing trail does that to you.
Sweepstakes – Ragged Mountain, New Hampshire: Sometimes I just want to go fast and not think too much about it, all while being super careful and aware of the rules of skiing. Trails like Sweepstakes allow me to do that exactly. From the moment you jump on the path of the Summit Six Express, it’s time to use your edges, control your speed and just flow with just steep enough to be a black diamond pitch. It is lined with trees, but gives you room to do those wide, fast GS that skiers like me just love. And what’s extra good about it is that you get right back to that fast lift, which means you can run a number of runs on this great trail – or others on this special mountain.
There are so many more Happy Trails for me in New England and around the world. The only characteristic that they all share: smiles come easily. Happy trails for me – and for you – this season.