What a difference a day makes. I think that’s an old song title, but last week it was really true.

Tuesday as I set out to work on my resolution to ski more, part of which was to ski at least one midweek day every week, I invited my brother in-law to join me for a day at Bretton Woods. The reason for that area was how it fit in with what I wanted to achieve. I planned on testing some new boots, and I wanted to switch skis easily. From past experience I knew that arriving early, I could park a short walk from the lifts, allowing me to leave the extra skis locked in the ski box on top of the car. I also knew that I would find a variety of intermediate runs, which I prefer for testing.

After many years of wearing race boots, I have finally dropped from a 120 flex to a 100 flex. The new boots are the Tecnica Phoenix, Air Shell. The fit can be adjusted by pumping air into bladders that line the shell by pushing buttons at the top of the boot in the back. With today’s shorter skis we don’t need the stiff racing boots that we used to maneuver 205s and 210s. I started the day on a 165 slalom ski and later switched to a 180 GS.

I had worked on the boots at home, swapping my custom foot beds from the old boots to the new models and adding air to the shells around the ankle. The only adjustment I made during the day was to take the buckle over the instep up a notch. I will add a little air to the forefoot before my next outing, but that should be the only adjustment.

The boot was plenty for the 165 SL’s. Thanks to my brother-in-law having the same size boot, we were able to swap on the mountain. He was skiing a 173 race carver, a ski with a slalom side cut and a GS flex. It provided a good transition and I found the boot ski combination worked fine. At the same time I wanted to see how Pete felt on a race stock SL, a ski that most recreational skiers would shy away from and would certainly not be recommended by most ski shops. To sum it up, he wanted to keep them.

When we went to the car to swap for the 180 GS models, it was his skis that stayed in the box, as he skied the SL’s the rest of the day, while I enjoyed the GS skis. I can report that the Tecnica Air Shells work very well and they will be my boots the rest of the season. The lessons here are two. First, with the new shorter skis, we can ski with a softer boot with two benefits — they cost less than the race boots and they are easier to get on and off. Second, good recreational skiers don’t have to avoid race skis.

On  the ride up from Westbrook, all the way through North Conway and up through Crawford Notch, we drove past bare fields. In the notch we found some small snow banks but at the top of the Notch it was winter. Having a 2,000-foot base elevation behind Mount Washington is a real benefit when it comes to snowmaking and natural snow. Natural cover was thin and skiing off the man-made base was not advised, but that changed in a day. Wednesday’s storm dumped 17-19 inches at Bretton Woods and their report is now close to 100 percent operation.

That’s now the story at most areas in Maine and New Hampshire. I talked with Connie King, Lost Valley president, who was delighted with the 12-14 inches they received. “It couldn’t have come at a better time”, she told me as she related some events for the big holiday weekend. The JP Parisien race is Monday and the area has been busy with the big January Learn to Ski Month. For the first time, Lost Valley is giving an all-day lift ticket and rentals with any lesson. It’s basically getting a free lesson. She also said the lift-lesson package they offer with Sunday River and Sugarloaf is very popular.

I checked a bunch of ski reports Friday and, without exception, every area was at or close to full operation. The snowmakers can produce incredible amounts of good snow when conditions are right, but this winter hasn’t been as cold as normal. The newer guns can produce snow at much higher temperatures than the older guns, but temperatures in the teens and single numbers are needed for peak production. No matter how much snow is made it can’t match a big dump such as what we had this past week just in time for one of the biggest ski weekends of the season.

My other outing was last weekend when I stopped by Mount Abram to watch the Friday racing. When I stood by the finish with a large contingent of parents I was impressed that two racers were on the course at once requiring sophisticated timing. And they ran over 100 racers in less than an hour.

I asked Mt.Abram owner Matt Hancock about the investment in the timing equipment and preparing the run for this kind of racing. The answer was pretty simple for someone whose entire life has been about competition. Basketball fans are familiar with Matt’s background, captain of his Lake Region High School, three time All-American at Colby, and NCAA Division III National Player of the Year in 1990. He told me, “I just love competition and saw this as an opportunity to provide these kids with a high level that could be a route to college”.

Programs such as this cannot thrive without that kind of dedication from management. See you on the slopes.

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