The (Bitter) Sweet Season

If last season taught us one thing,  it was to savor every turn. Photographer Jeb Walllace-Brodeur did and here’s the evidence.

The stoke was high on December 7 as Mad River Glen had its earliest opening in its 70-year history.  Storm after storm had been punching the Green Mountains. As early as Nov. 10, forecasters were calling for 6 to 10 inches in the northern Greens. By Thanksgiving, slopes were looking more like they do at Christmas and on Dec. 7 when photographer Jeb Wallace-Brodeur captured Brooks Curran kicking off the lift-served season at Mad River Glen, there was deep powder and wide smiles.

Brooks Curran kicks off his season at Mad River Glen on opening day, Dec. 7.

It looked as if MRG might see a repeat of its record-breaking 136-day season of 2018/19, the longest in the co-op owned ski area’s 70 year history. Bitter cold hit in mid-December. The usual thaw/rain cycle held off…until rain crushed the early snowpack leaving “pond ice” conditions in some spots.

By early February, though, snowdepth at the stake on Mt. Mansfield (a measurement of snowpack at elevation) had crept over 50 inches—the threshold many experienced skiers wait for before venturing into the backcountry.

Jeb made it a point to savor every storm. Based in Calais, he grew up in Montpelier, went to Middlebury College and has been a staff photographer for newspapers The Times Argus and SevenDays “seemingly forever,” he says. His work has also appeared in national magazines such as Powder, Mens Journal, EatingWell and Audubon.

In December, Jeb captured his son Aidan, (a downhill mountain biker who’s raced at the World Cup level) blasting the windswept at MRG. A month later, Jeb caught up with another World Cup mountain bike racer, Alex McAndrew, on his home turf at Burke Mountain.

Photographer Jeb Wallace-Brodeur captures his son, Aidan Casner, dropping into Quacky at Mad River Glen on Dec. 21. After losing much of the early-season snow that made for the earliest season-opening ever at MRG, a couple of small storms rolled through and reopened a bunch of terrain.

By mid-February though reports were coming in from Europe on the spread of Covid-19. On March 4, the Icelandic government warned the Austrian ski town of Ischgl that a group had contracted the coronavirus there.

Here in Vermont, skiing was still going strong. Few cases had been reported here though in Colorado it was starting to spread.

Then, on March 15 the governor of Colorado announced ski areas there were to close. By March 16, every ski area in Vermont had shut down as well.

It took a while for what happened to sink in.

“On March 24 I did a socially-distanced hike up Stowe with  Tucker Beatty for what would be the last turns of the season,” Jeb recalls. “As you can see,” says Jeb, “there was plenty of winter left when things came to a screeching halt.” — Lisa Lynn

“My first day of lift-served skiing last year was Nov. 17, at Killington” writes photographer Jeb Wallace-Brodeur. In addition to the massive snowpack the resort laid down on Superstar for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Killington had opened many of its trails and its new tunnels well before Thanksgiving. Above, on Nov. 17, a snowboarder enters the new Killington tunnel where Great Northern passes beneath Bunny Buster.
On Jan. 8 Jeb shot this photo (above) of Marc Angelillo surfing some fresh on Paradise, at Sugarbush. “A series of storms had laid down some heavy snow by then,” writes Jeb.
Two months later, the snowpack was so deep University of Vermont student Brianna Caitlin found herself getting pitted as she skied off Stowe’s The Nose (below) and  (bellow) Forrest Conrad, of Burlington, found plenty of soft landings off Mt. Mansfield’s rocky profile.

 

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.

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