Coup de Grace – Waterville Valley, NH

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A view from the base lodge at Waterville Valley. Yay, Waffle Cabin!

This past Saturday was our final ski trip of the 2017-8 crazy freaking ski season in New England. What is crazy is that there is no perfect day on a New England mountain that I have ever ever EVER experienced. I have a new ad campaign for East Coast Skiing: “Suck it Up, It Won’t Ever Get Better!” We’ll make millions.

We decided to go for a day trip as it is in fact our very last free Saturday until November. Wait, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. October. Basically summer starts whether or not it actually is summer. One son has a soccer tournament this weekend at turf fields that they had to shovel out last weekend. We have March for Our Lives, birthday parties, baseball clinics, actual summer, etc.

We wanted to go because in case you are the only Floridian who didn’t know to make fun of us for the last two weeks: we have gotten A LOT OF SNOW in the last week. 23 inches in my driveway. Yes, my snowplow guy charges by inch of snow plowed. I am bankrupt. On the good side, a friend gave us free passes to Waterville Valley, a mountain two hours from home, one of the ones that is termed as “family friendly.” That translates to a lack of banshees dive-bombing the bunny slopes which is sadly where we often find ourselves with one of my sons–firmly a low intermediate skier but embued with an even firmer sense of panic when anything like a blue square appears on a sign.

But I digress from my point. Waterville Valley was two hours exactly from home, and quite pleasantly in the middle of the White Mountain Forest. I shall be back in summertime, for sure. We will have summertime, right? I will say something for WV: everyone suddenly turns Italian when parking in their “parking lots”. I have never seen so many cars piled up, shoehorned and double-parked in spots around a ski hill. It was punk. Fortunately, BH dropped us off at the equipment dropoff which was quite easy to get into (and hard to get out of at the end of the day–people again worked their Italianissimo-ness and lined up for miles–we walked to our double parked car).

One thing I now notice since visiting Loon Mountain is that no other mountain staffs up like Loon does. Check out that blog here. Not a helper in sight and we needed to trade vouchers for tickets, rent snowboarding boots for the kid who still is in love with Red what-s-his-face 16 year old who snowsloped to gold in the Winter Olympics (I shall not attempt to spell that South Korean town), and adjust the skis of the other. Lots of work. Ricochet rabbit.

Trading in the vouchers for the new RFID passes is wacky. Yes WV is one of the mountains that no longer issues ski passes that you tie to your body with metal doo-hickeys or plastic hangers (yay, environmentally friendly) which is great but how do I show off for the next X weeks that I went skiing somewhere cool? Oh wait, the mountain with Bruce the Moose as mascot is probably not cool. Debatable.  Anyway, you trade in the vouchers and give $5 per card that you can get back at the end of the day (they encourage heading to their restaurant and spending it back) or get cash. When I turned in the cards at the end of the day, I got $20 in ones. Not a credit back to my card. Ones. Weird.

So you put the card in one of your pockets above the waist and apparently some machine somewhere reads them and makes sure you’ve paid up. I never saw the card reader and no one waved a wand of any kind over me. I am not a unicorn. I do not know how that works.

After the donning of 500 layers, of course one kid has to pee and the other one is hungry. So a bathroom trip and some Lucky Charms later, we are ready to rumble. Clumpity clump down the stairs to get the skis, mountain climb to get to the lifts, then what? What is this? Powder? Real powder? Where am I? As we swooshed down to the bunny hill, I reveled in not a single sound of crrrrrrrrrasfdadssdfasdfasdf or whatever makes an icy noise. Ahhhh.

Bunny slopes are a total check plus. No expert trail coming in from the top with eager little snowboarders attempting to knock down as many pins (people)  as possible. Nice lovely snow, a terrain park with a fun “s” curve for one and a jump for the other. Sweet old lift lady telling us when to stand up at the end of the chairlift.

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We had some lovely runs until we (I) made a mistake. I read the map wrong. In my defense, the wind was high and things were getting colder by the minute. I think it was around 17 degrees F. We decided to go try some beginner trails off the bigger lift–all of us except for my worried son Nico. He took one look at the slopes and said no way. And I am glad he did because he was right–I had put us on the big lift. The one to the top of the mountain and all intermediate or expert slopes.

When we got to the top, I realized my mistake. The wind was howling, powder was flying and the slopes were steep. Like a beacon out of the storm was one yellow sign that read *Easiest Way Down* with an arrow towards *Oblivion* which is perhaps not what I would name a trail that was the easiest way down. Fortunately this turned us away from Sun Run…which seemed like it would be easy and fun, but apparently led to death as it went straight into a black diamond trail called *Ciao*. That is not funny; actually just kidding, that is extremely funny…here you are on Sun Run intermediate, then all of a sudden someone yells Ciao!!! And you die. Told you this place was Italian.

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It was a beautiful snow run. Beautiful views, beautiful everything except for the -20 windchill. My snowboarding son survived a triple flip, a backscratcher and various other Olympic style moves all of which were totally unintentional. When we finally got to the beginner slopes at mid-mountain we were all frozen, but loving the snow. Since I could no longer feel my fingers, we decided to go in for lunch (mac and cheese is pretty good, as are the burgers) and warm up. Also they let me have a beer. I love all ski mountains that give me beer. Yeah, the nice bars were all full up but you can get beer and it’s Sierra Nevada!!!! in the cafeteria.

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Why go back outside? I cannot think of a single reason. None.

We skied a few more runs in the afternoon until snowboarder got too much snow down his pants (sigh) and we all couldn’t feel our hands any more. It was glorious, it was dang cold and it was 100% New England: never perfect but just close enough. See you next year, Alpine skiing!

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