Another Winter Woolly is in the books! And what a Winter Woolly it was.
Conditions this year were probably best described as “variable”— certainly they presented much more of a challenge than last year, when we were treated to a deep freeze overnight that kept the terrain firm and crusty. This year Mother Nature was in much more of a “mashed potato fest” mood, and we were all feeling it by the end of the day. (And all day Sunday. No shame.) But variable conditions are all part of the Winter Woolly game, and they never get us down—figuratively, that is. All day long the mountain echoed with the kind of laughter, joking, and sudden expletives that have come to characterize the Winter Woolly soundtrack.
Trail Crew stayed out grooming late into the evening on Friday and were back early Saturday morning to put finishing touches on the trails. At the last minute, Trail Crew Director James Patterson carved out a looped track over McCaul’s Pond. This provided a fun respite from the physically demanding downhill trails, as well as a novel bit of terrain to explore: it’s not often you get to take in a view of the park from the middle of the water! Those beavers really do enjoy some prime estate.
Starting at one o’clock, the hill was alive with the sound of heckling as racers sped, slipped, and tumbled their way down Upper NE Style to Lower Happy Hour. The Winter Woolly race is always a guaranteed good time, as much about speed as it is about savvy, instinct, and a bit of blind luck. Race times couldn’t possibly compare to the fast and dusty tracks of the summer’s Friday Night Race League, but good times were off the charts. AJ Pratt, Tucker Nugent, and Brody Flachbart walked away with this year’s trophies and some goods from Goodales Bike Shop; more racers than we could count walked away with a jacket newly padded with a fresh layer of snow.
In the backyard, Patrick and Calvin stayed busy at Exit 19 cranking out beers and enticing the lift line with the smell of grilled sausages, peppers, and onions. Our friends from Citizen Cider, Founders Brewing, Henniker Brewing, and Kettlehead kept the good times rolling with plenty of samples. Later in the afternoon, as the snow got softer and the descents more challenging, a handful of people broke out the skates for a few pond hockey scrimmages on the lower pond. Highland staff roved the backyard, handing out prizes to the folks who were rocking the most impressive beards. Felt beards hidden around the trails were discovered and brought to the Welcome Center to trade in for fresh new beanies, stickers, and socks. As the parking lot slowly emptied out in the evening, the mountain air was once again charged with the kind of energy we all feel at the end of a great day of riding.
The Winter Woolly is well-loved for being a rare opportunity to load your fat bike onto a chairlift and spend the day tearing up your favorite trails under totally new conditions. But it’s also a chance for the Highland Family to come together almost precisely in the middle of the off season: something to bridge the gap between November and April and remind us, in the drag of those long winter months, of what it’s all about. Seeing so many familiar foreheads has left us even more excited for opening day, which looks a lot closer from this side of the Woolly. Only eleven more weeks until we’re back on the mountain!
Thanks again for another epic Winter Woolly. Until next time!