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Mid-Atlantic/SE skiing (PA, NJ, DC, MD, VA, WV, NC) for 2019-20

Finally made it to Roundtop today and first time ever. The snow was soft but manageable, with some thin and brown patches. I got a late start. By the time I got to the top of Minuteman, it was a bit of a mess and bumped up with heavy piles. I am reminded of the entry to Upper Heavenly at Liberty, where it’s also a bit steeper than the rest of the run and often a mess of churned up snow. I hate this kind of terrain. I literally took minutes to get enough courage to start down. Once I got passed the mess I was fine.

I’m seeing a pattern at various resorts where the drop-in to a run is usually a little bit steeper. Is that intentional? Is there a reason for it?
 
I’m seeing a pattern at various resorts where the drop-in to a run is usually a little bit steeper. Is that intentional? Is there a reason for it?
Are you asking specifically for the Mid-Atlantic? It's probably more a function of the how many of the hills are in the region. Essentially the "steep" section near a peak is pretty short. That section is called a "headwall" even if it's only long enough for 3-4 turns.

The Massanutten black trails don't follow have the steepest section at the top. The beginning of Paradice is as flat as the long green (Southern Comfort). It's fun because the snow is often very nice because relatively few people ski it. The headwall for DJ is in the middle of the run. Upper MacAttack also has a mellow start before you get to the steepest section, which is always left ungroomed to bump up. The top of Upper Showtime, which is blue, is as steep as most of Paradice and DJ. Barely enough for three turns. The instructors use it as a way to introduce intermediates to steeper terrain. I told every child I've skied with at Massanutten that they had to make nice turns on that headwall before I would take them up Lift 6.
 
Are you asking specifically for the Mid-Atlantic? It's probably more a function of the how many of the hills are in the region. Essentially the "steep" section near a peak is pretty short. That section is called a "headwall" even if it's only long enough for 3-4 turns.

The Massanutten black trails don't follow have the steepest section at the top. The beginning of Paradice is as flat as the long green (Southern Comfort). It's fun because the snow is often very nice because relatively few people ski it. The headwall for DJ is in the middle of the run. Upper MacAttack also has a mellow start before you get to the steepest section, which is always left ungroomed to bump up. The top of Upper Showtime, which is blue, is as steep as most of Paradice and DJ. Barely enough for three turns. The instructors use it as a way to introduce intermediates to steeper terrain. I told every child I've skied with at Massanutten that they had to make nice turns on that headwall before I would take them up Lift 6.
“Headwall” - I knew there was a term for it. I saw them at various runs at Breck that I started noticing. Now that you mentioned it, I do remember steep sections at mid runs on other trails too. It makes sense it’s a function of the terrain. I was just wondering how much snow blowing & grooming can change the character of the terrain.
 
“Headwall” - I knew there was a term for it. I saw them at various runs at Breck that I started noticing. Now that you mentioned it, I do remember steep sections at mid runs on other trails too. It makes sense it’s a function of the terrain. I was just wondering how much snow blowing & grooming can change the character of the terrain.
For the most part, I would guess that out west snowmaking is designed to mimic the ground below a groomer. In that case, the goal is to create a surface that flows in a relatively natural way. Meaning the depth of the snow is about the same all over a groomer. That means if you ski a trail that is groomed during early season, mid-season, and late season the pitch is pretty much the same. However, the percentage of total terrain with 100% snowmaking is relatively low to start with. In the past, there wasn't any snowmaking after January.

At a small mountain in the mid-Altantic, there can be a lot more differences in the flow of a blue/black groomed trail because of how the grooming and snowmaking is handled. Snowmaking coverage is 100% in many ski resorts and happens up until the last week or two of the season.

Here's an example from Massanutten. When snowmaking starts, there are large "snow whales" created from snow guns that are pointed at a fixed location. Could be a stick gun or a portable that is set in place for several days. Since beginners aren't skiing blues, the snow whales are always left for a while. For that matter, the snow guns may be on if it's cold enough during the day session. So there is lots of "contour" if someone skis the whales instead of just near the side of a trail. Later on, those whales will be flattened out to spread the snow to create as deep a base as possible side-to-side for the entire trail. Fast forward to late season. Whatever extra snow exists at the location of former snow whales is used to keep the slope open. So by the last few weeks, the trail is relatively flat. Can also happen during a warm spell in Jan or early Feb.

Note that ideally the snow from a snowgun piled up in a snow whale should be allowed to sit for a few days before being groomed out. The cure process results in better conditions after grooming. Sometimes if you ski over a whale while snowmaking is in progress, the snow is very wet. Have watched more than one fairly advanced skier fall when skiing a whale on Upper Showtime because they didn't anticipate that their skis would slow down a lot on the back of a whale. Usually the whales are groomed out before the weekend.

Headwalls and snow whales are good for practicing technique at small hills. I've used the DJ and Upper Snowtime headwalls during group lessons over the past decade. The instructors kept upping the difficulty level as I improved. Hopefully I can show you some time this season.
 
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sk8ski

Certified Ski Diva
Headwalls... For me, they can be "head" walls - where my head tells me I have no business being there (though instructors usually think otherwise - apparently I tend to underestimate my skill level).
 
Headwalls... For me, they can be "head" walls - where my head tells me I have no business being there (though instructors usually think otherwise - apparently I tend to underestimate my skill level).
For me, it was an "aha" moment when I was able to ski over the top of the DJ headwall without stopping at the top to reset and make sure I wouldn't end up going too fast. The next season one of the Massanutten L3 instructors told me the next step in the progression towards becoming more comfortable on "steep" terrain. Still practicing that skill after taking a couple seasons to learn it.
 
The fact that Snowshoe was able to make a lot of snow at Silvercreek before the holidays is paying off for people who think to take the bus over there. Mike of SkiSoutheast is at Snowshoe with friends and family this week. The entire crew skied at Silvercreek on Sat, Dec. 28.

Dec. 29, 2019, SkiSoutheast
Soggy and Mild Sunday [including mini-TR about Saturday at Silver Creek]
". . .
So Friday night I made the decision for myself and (11) other souls who are hanging with us this week – to head over to Silvercreek on Saturday morning. We geared up and hit the bus stop in the Village at 8:40am and as the Silvercreek bus pulled in, it was FULL of people coming FROM Silvercreek to the main trails atop Snowshoe. I was a bit concerned that I might have made the wrong decision. However, as we reached Silvercreek and got on the slopes on that side of the mountain, a smile was evident on ALL of our faces as the snow was perfectly groomed and nearly empty – compared to the previous day on the main part of Snowshoe’s Basin Area. We made 9-10 runs down various trails and never once had to wait on a chair to ride back up.

We did lunch at The Locker Room inside the Silvercreek Lodge (which was DAMN good by the way) and then went back out for more turns down the mountain. I was surprised to see the Flying Eagle lift open which gave us access to the top of that side of the mountain and “Bear Claw” – the lone black diamond on that side of the mountain. The terrain park was probably my favorite trail on Saturday, but Fox Chase gave us a lot of good times as well.

Unlike the day before, the snow didn’t go full-on-mashed-potatoes until maybe 1pm or so. In fact, the first turns down the mountain was spot-on, firm-groomed corduroy that had my skis chattering a bit. Imagine my surprise.

Let’s just say that the Silvercreek trails at Snowshoe was hidden gem on Saturday.
. . ."
 
Headwalls... For me, they can be "head" walls - where my head tells me I have no business being there (though instructors usually think otherwise - apparently I tend to underestimate my skill level).
For me, it was an "aha" moment when I was able to ski over the top of the DJ headwall without stopping at the top to reset and make sure I wouldn't end up going too fast. The next season one of the Massanutten L3 instructors told me the next step in the progression towards becoming more comfortable on "steep" terrain. Still practicing that skill after taking a couple seasons to learn it.
Both types of skiers were in abundance at top of Minuteman. As the former, along with quite a few others, I stood at the top, once in a while sliding a little closer to the edge, trying to summon enough courage to drop in. All the while others came sliding off the lift and went right over the headwall without stopping, slarving their way down. Is this just a matter of mileage, or are there different techniques involved?
 
Both types of skiers were in abundance at top of Minuteman. As the former, along with quite a few others, I stood at the top, once in a while sliding a little closer to the edge, trying to summon enough courage to drop in. All the while others came sliding off the lift and went right over the headwall without stopping, slarving their way down. Is this just a matter of mileage, or are there different techniques involved?
To get past the "brain headwall," it's both. Improving technique in order to have more flexibility to adjust in real time to assorted snow conditions certainly helps. Mileage is part of what it takes to improve technique, regardless of how many lessons someone takes. Mileage with a patient ski buddy who is a better skier is invaluable. Repetition of a particular trail or line helps in the long run because it takes out variables so you can narrow your focus when working on technique. For me, learning how to practice to make best use of the limited terrain at Massanutten was an unexpected outcome of taking lessons there.

Best person to ask in terms of what would help you the most is your Inside Ski/Liberty instructor. She knows both your technique and personality.

One advantage I had even as an adult intermediate who wasn't skiing much is that I learned as a teen how to side-slip (straight skis). Only really good on one side, but that's enough. During the first multi-day clinic ten years ago, I discovered that I also knew how to do Falling Leaf, even though I didn't know the name of that skill. What that means is that I'm not particularly worried when on a trail that feels challenging because of a steep pitch for a short section.
 
A tip I was given years ago that has always helped me with the head game of head walls was once you’ve been down it once and kind of know the terrain, if it is still intimidating, don’t stop at the top and look down, ski right over and make two turns, then stop. Once I get past those first 2 turns, I always feel like what was the big deal, I can do this. When I stop at the top, and look over, my head says “oh sh*t, wtf am I doing here” and the longer I wait, the steeper and scarier it looks!
 
A tip I was given years ago that has always helped me with the head game of head walls was once you’ve been down it once and kind of know the terrain, if it is still intimidating, don’t stop at the top and look down, ski right over and make two turns, then stop. Once I get past those first 2 turns, I always feel like what was the big deal, I can do this. When I stop at the top, and look over, my head says “oh sh*t, wtf am I doing here” and the longer I wait, the steeper and scarier it looks!
:thumbsup:

That reminds me of the Pre-Ride, Re-Ride, Free Ride concept that was used during my one and only day on a mountain bike when I did a SheJumps clinic Massanutten a few years ago. It was the same approach an Alta instructor (JW) did for a short, steep, tree run with deep powder (off Supreme) with perhaps ten turns. The third time we followed the instructor was the fastest I'd ever done that sort of terrain. I had a blast! After that semi-private lesson, my ski buddy Bill never complained about doing the same trail a second or third time in a row on the same day.

For skiing a mid-Atlantic slope with a short headwall, that would mean stopping at the top the first time on a given day, then side slipping the steep section, stopping as needed. Go as far down as necessary to get to a point where side slipping into the first turn feels okay. Stop at the bottom and look back, then have fun (without doing any drills) on the way to the base of the lift. During the mountain bike lesson, we even stopped and got off our bikes to walk to look at a couple features.

After the first run, immediately return for the second run. Stop at the top, but once you start going down slowly try not to stop until done with the headwall. Side slip or make the few turns necessary to get to the flatter section. On the third run, approach the headwall slowly but don't stop. Either plan to do the idea above of making 2 turns immediately after going over the top or just making the 3-5 turns needed to complete the headwall.

Obviously working up to skiing a headwall without stopping is a lot easier when it's not crowded.

These days I use the 3-time approach to challenging terrain at new mountains, as well as on terrain I'm familiar with. Snow conditions change, even day-to-day. A groomer can get skied off by the afternoon. For more familiar terrain, may only need a few careful slow turns to check out snow conditions before just going for it. Pretty much used the idea when I checked out Bryce for the first time on opening day mid-Nov. The only blue open wasn't that steep, but first thing in the morning it was frozen and a bit slick. I didn't ski non-stop at speed until the third run (1-2 min run).
 
They definitely have the headwalls at Snowshoe. Most times I stop to assess what's beyond the ledge, mostly looking for people who may be ahead and fallen. It's also helpful to see how they are skiing, if there are any scraped off sections I should avoid. If it's not crowded I'll drop in slowly and not stop but I've been surprised too many times to find someone fallen just after the top. Always have to remind myself that I have the skills to get down them and use what I know (keep shoulders facing downhill, get that pole planted downhill so I'm out over the skis, and don't lean into the hill otherwise I risk the skis skidding out from under me). The headwall at the top of Gandy Dancer is just 3-4 turns long but quite steep. I realized on our last trip it may have been the first time I've gone down it and not taken the side entry below it. I have a love/hate relationship with Gandy. I had a bad fall on it the first time I was at Snowshoe back in 2007. I was really a beginner back then, but still that run is always a challenge, more so psychologically than physically. Funny it is one of my DH's fav runs!
 
We are headed to Snowshoe tomorrow. So glad the weather has gotten colder overnight so they can fix up some of the areas that had exposed ground. They really took a hit the last week. Rain expected Fri/Sat so we will see how many runs we get in. So looking forward to giving my new Kores a go! I demoed them in soft spring like conditions I'll find on the warm and rainy days common to the Mid-Atlantic. Very interested to see how they do on the hard snow early in the morning. Love me some early morning railroad tracks!
 
Obviously working up to skiing a headwall without stopping is a lot easier when it's not crowded
Along with the crowd can be a mess of snow piles churned and bumped up. I think that is messing with my head more than the steepness. One or the other I can deal with up to a point. Put them together and it’s like I don’t know how to ski anymore. Both the entries to Upper Heavenly at Liberty and Minuteman at Roundtop are like that. I think I just found my goal this season. Get my head around headwalls.
They definitely have the headwalls at Snowshoe.
Great ... I’m supposed to ski Snowshoe for the first time in a few weeks. Just stick me on the greens and be done with it.:bag:
 
Great ... I’m supposed to ski Snowshoe for the first time in a few weeks. Just stick me on the greens and be done with it.:bag:
Hope it won't be too busy when you visit. As soon as you can get off the greens, the less crowded the runs will be. Also, the greens tend to get crazy chopped up and potatoey if it's been warm. Then you're dodging fallen newbies who don't know how to ski the stuff. The blues tend to be more consistent throughout the run because they see fewer people. I've never skied Liberty or Roundtop, but I find the blues at Whitetail to be more difficult due to length and sustained steepness. Snowshoe's blues tend to have the short wall and then flatten out into a green and they are over quickly. We ski the sides of the terrain parks for some nice roller blues. Evolution Park is a lot of fun in the morning when you can put down some nice tracks due to the wideness of the run. If you can get over to Silver Creek, I recommend checking it out. It tends to be less crowded and the green runs aren't as chopped up. We prefer the blues at SC vs the village area as they feel longer and have some nice variability.
 
Great ... I’m supposed to ski Snowshoe for the first time in a few weeks. Just stick me on the greens and be done with it.:bag:
You'll be fine with any trails at Silvercreek. Often has better snow conditions than at the Main Basin because fewer people ski there. So the trails don't get skied off by 11:30am. The blacks are relatively short and usually quite empty. For an aspiring intermediate who is interested in working on technique, short is better than long in my opinion. One reason I much preferred Alta over Snowbird when I started skiing more challenging ungroomed terrain.
 
Happy to read that Massanutten was able to do a little snowmaking last night, early this morning. But Lift 3 by Geronimo (green) is down because they are waiting for a part to be delivered. Doesn't make that much difference because Geronimo melted too much to be able right now any way. It gets a lot of sun.

All of the southeast needs cold weather for snowmaking. Hopefully will get enough before MLK weekend.
 
Finished up three days here at Snowshoe. New Years was cold with nice conditions, a few scraped off spots but plenty of granular “powder” to play in. Yesterday softened up a bit in the sun so by end of the day more brown snow was appearing and you had to watch for small rocks. Runs were also getting bumped up with some areas deep with dense snow, a problem for many newbies to handle. Saw many yard sales. Today was drizzle with fog and low 40s. We hadn’t planned on skiing today because they had called for rain all day. Fortunately it never really came so I was out by 10am to get in some soft spring like turns. I headed over to Western Territory little after noon as the greens were too crowded, some of the blue runs were getting really bad spots or not accessible via too thin cover on some cross trails. Had a blast on Cupp with three great runs. Nice soft controllable snow and not crazy bumped up which is pretty typical of Cupp by late afternoon. The resort really got hit these two days with warm weather and rain as well as last weeks warm temps. Snowmaking earlier this week saved them but they really need some good snow storms and consistent cold temps. Many runs have no snow on them at all and there are a lot of bad patches and bare areas. Some snow is expected tomorrow night with cold temps returning Sunday.

Had fun on my new Kore 93s! I really got to test them on all but fresh powder this week. Was fun to really find how they perform in the different snow and to learn to trust them to grip, motor through the piles, and surf the light stuff. I found myself skiing much faster and more confidently than ever before. DH got to demo for the first time yesterday. He agreed after a few runs on some longer Kanjos (his current daily driver) that’s yes, he does need longer skis now that he has progressed so much the last few years. He demoed the Kendo 88, Kore 93, and QST 92. He really liked the Kendos. I could see his skiing improve immediately. So looks like a new pair of skis are in his future! :thumbsup::ski:
 

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