|This is a big place and with the expansion Intrawest is beginning it’s
about to get a lot bigger. It takes time to work your way back and forth
along the ridge by skiing down, taking the next lift up, skiing down, and
catching the next lift. Snowshoe is the only single resort in the region
that requires two days to ski fully. (Petoskey, remember, is really three
One of the reasons Snowshoe is so popular with families is that it offers a great package of green runs. Many of these are marginal blues, however, so true beginners need to be careful.
Snowshoe does not offer that classic cruising run which wanders around the backside of the mountain and comes out down at the lodge. But it provides a fine alternative in Flume, which starts at the far southern trailhead and just keeps descending along the face of the ridge until it ends up at the far northern base of Powder Ridge Lift, a run of about a mile and a half. This represents a 1500 foot vertical drop through dense spruce forest. There’s enough variety for Flume to challenge most first year skiers.
|The next longest Green is Powder Ridge – Powder Monkey, which is
really one trail even though Snowshoe claims it as two. This is no cruiser.
It drops down from Powder Ridge Lift at a steady pace, enough that controlling
speed will be a chore for all but the best novices. Whether youngsters are
carving or snowplowing, a few runs down this trail will wear their legs
out and send them up to the lodge for hot chocolate.
Hootenanny is another long run, gradually heading southward from Ball Hooter Lift until it reaches Widowmaker, where it turns and drops sharply down to the base. These three runs alone would take a novice from one side of the ridge to the other and back on great terrain.
Three shorter greens back toward Powder Ridge Lift are relentlessly downhill but the pitch is moderate and the trails are mostly straight. Yew Pine, Skidway and Log Slide all end up at the base of Powder Ridge Lift. Up along the top, Heisler Way, Camp 4 and Gangway are basic connectors with only enough elevation loss to avoid poling.
Over at Silver Creek, the cruiser is Cubb Run, one of those traditional out the ridge and back trails.
|By taking Cascade Lift back up, novices can make continuous
loops. Greenhorn, Timberjack and Robertson’s Run are all straight drops off
the ridge to the bottom which shortcut the cruising route and give beginners
some variety. Snowshoe does not offer much for intermediates. Ball Hooter is the only top to bottom Blue run, and basically parallels
Ball Hooter Lift all the way down. Aside from steady steep, there’s
not much here. Grab Hook is a quick drop through the trees, and Skip Jack is a longer,
faster run, but they’re both connectors between Greens and Blacks. Skip Jack descends only half of the ridge, and Grab Hook maybe a third.
Silver Creek offers Fox Chase, a winding sprint down a narrow channel, with
Laurel Run branching off toward Flying Eagle Lift. Buck Saw and Little Spruce are top of the ridge connectors. Cascade dashes down under the chair lift,
and Slaymaker-Spur parallels it with a few twists and turns to slow the
pace. But that’s it. Perhaps intermediates can
claim some of the Blacks as their own, since many of them are marginal anyway,
and, as we’ll see, expert skiers are probably across the road.
|Widowmaker is a good Black during its top half, dropping very straight and
fast down through the trees. But it eases off considerably in the lower
half as J Hook and Hootenanny merge with it. Grab Hammer and Choker are steeps which extend less than half of the ridge,
and Glades and Knee Bumper are really one trail which combined drops only
a fourth. Spruce was the best Blue on the ridge, but several years ago suddenly
was redefined as a Black, and last year became the Terrain Park. It’s
still a good Blue. Silver Creek offers Flying Eagle and Bear Claw, probably the best true blacks
on the Eastern Face. So what is a top skiier to do at the region’s largest resort? Fear
Not. Ever watch the Winter Olympics and wish you could visit one of those incredible
downhill trails? The ones they use for speed runs and slaloms, the ones
some of the world’s greatest athletes can’t get down without
crashing through fences and hay bales? Like to put your skills against one of those runs? Pack your bags. Snowshow calls it the Western Territory. It’s
across the road. There is one lift and two double black diamond runs. They
are called Cupps Run and Shay’s Revenge. You might scoff at a two-trail mountainside. But remember these are Olympic
runs. They are long, steep, narrow, winding and include such extra frills
as moguls, banks, and drops.
You can’t always see what’s coming and you’re moving fast enough that you’d better be reacting pretty quick. There are some pretty good skiers in the region who cannot get down these slopes consistently. Shay’s Revenge is especially treacherous. The magnificence of Snowshoe’s Western Territory is accented by the sorry state of Black runs in general. Most Blacks in the period are steep. Period. Designers seem to think that a steeper a run is, the more difficult it is, so very short and very steep is the ideal. The notion of variety, creative design, and a run long enough to include numerous challenges seems to have escaped ski slope planners.
But these two runs are a wake up call. Even hiking up and down this hill to take photographs is precarious. Keeping a Flexible Flyer sled on one of these runs would be extremely difficult. Early word is, Snowshoe will address its shortage of good Blue and Black runs in its expansion to the opposite face. Perhaps. Or it could just redefine all of its current Blacks as Blues and add a few more hairy monsters over on the Western Territory.