Ella Switzer is a five-year Blazers veteran to the core and can hit the Mall (a black diamond trail with wall-to-wall moguls) top to bottom as her last run of the day. While the boys are busy dipping their Cheetos in hot chocolate, Ella is plotting her next run through the stashes-not-to-be-named off Heaven’s Gate. Ella always sports a mountaineering backpack filled with the typical necessities (a CamelBak with water and protein snacks) – but what else is inside may surprise you. Ella has type 1 diabetes, and her backpack houses a monitor that continuously tracks her glucose level and transmits the data to her parents wherever they are across the mountain (thanks to Switzer’s innovation of using a mitten and a disposable hand warmer to protect the monitor in cold weather). She has competed in the Junior Castlerock Extreme event for three years, placing in the top three of her age category each time.
7:30 AM: Test blood sugar and calibrate monitor after Mom and Dad provide a wakeup call. Devour eggs and vegetarian bacon (which is REALLY GOOD!). Race older brother to the mountain from Snow Creek condo.
8:30 AM: Test blood sugar one more time and say goodbye to Mom and Dad before taking off up the Super Bravo lift with the Blazers. Beeline to Paradise before sneaking into the group’s secret stash favorites.
11:00 AM: Beat the crowds to lunch at Valley House and join the rest of the kids in the Blazers room. Check blood sugar and take insulin before snacking on yogurt and apples from home and peanut M&Ms for desert.
12:00 PM: Test blood sugar with Blazers coach. Quickly charge through as much woods as possible, because they are off-limits after 2:00 PM.
3:00 PM: Finish the day with a top-to-bottom Mall run. Follow Mom and Dad to the Wunderbar for the usual – root beer and chips. Make a root beer slushie with fresh snow while building jumps outside Valley House.
Thomas Sullivan, 14
Diamond Dogs Freestyle Team
Thomas Sullivan loves skiing more than anything else. He’s been known to catch first chair on powder days (think the Valentine’s Day storm of 2014) and enjoys getting inverted with the Sugarbush Diamond Dogs Freestyle Team on weekends. Thomas is one of four children and has grown up on the unadulterated terrain of Castlerock and the challenges of skinning up Lincoln Peak with his father, Mark. His habit of loading the car with the family’s gear every morning (that’s six sets of skis) is a testament of Thomas’s kindhearted and diligent spirit. If you want to catch Thomas apres ski at his ski home in Warren, you’d better watch your head on the way in. He’s been known to build big kickers over the driveway.
6:30 AM: Rise and shine to freshly waxed skis and gear laid out the night before. Get dressed, eat a bagel with cream cheese, and load the car for a special skin up Lincoln Peak with Dad. Endure a way-too-long ten-minute commute to Lincoln Peak. Feel the adrenaline rush from seeing an entire mountain covered in fresh snow with only two cars in the parking lot. Skin up Racer’s Edge to Lower Snowball just in time to catch the sunrise at the top of Mall. Power through a serving of untouched powder on the way down. Hop in line for the first chair up Super Bravo.
8:45 AM: Take the Mad Bus to Mt. Ellen and meet the Diamond Dogs at the yurt. Ride GMX to the top for a “warm-up” o the steeps of FIS. Lap Sugarbush Parks until coach says its time for lunch.
12:00 PM: Stop at the base lodge to hunt for macaroni and cheese. Assemble lunch transportation method (tin foil) for the traverse to yurt to eat with the team.
1:00 PM: Hit the biggest jumps of the day once everyone’s legs are warmed up. Ski Sugarbush Parks until close.
4:00 PM: On the Mad Bus ride home, brainstorm ideas for the new backyard jump setup. Launch over the road via kicker jump for the first time and show Dad.
Joe Foster, 26
Joe Foster, by a stroke of serendipity, was gifted a plot of land in Warren, where he and two friends built the “Sugarden,” a secret oasis featuring a sizable tipi warmed by a Vermont woodstove. Prayer flags, tiki torches, and a sled track requiring the use of a helmet adorn the site, along with two propane tanks powering a hanging lantern and a Coleman dual burner that can cook meals for twenty people. Many For20s passholders often think they are living the dream – but Joe might really be living it at the Sugarden.
1:00 AM: Arrive at Sugarden parking spot and unload beer, food and necessities onto sled. Skin fifteen minutes to the tipi with thirty pounds of supplies in tow. Cry the official “OoOoop” call to announce arrival, and hear an “OoOoop” in return, signifying that friends have already arrived. Crack a beer while catching up with Rosie and Andy, who are already nestled in their sleeping bags.
6:00 AM: Awake to light snowflakes falling and step up to make breakfast. Dubbed “Champion Badass of the Day.” Forgot water, but Andy’s brought enough for everyone. (#tipiprovides.) Cook the usual two pounds of bacon, and make coffee. Collectively devour “the mess” – peppers, onions, eggs, cheese, and crumbled bacon. Skin to the car, pop one boot off, and drive to Sugarbush.
8:30 AM: Ski straight to the goods off of Heaven’s Gate. Rip a few runs on Castlerock and adventure into the woods.
12:00 PM: Pull out a smashed PB&J from backpack and eat lunch on the lift. Send work e-mails between runs.
3:30 PM: Catch North Lynx in time for a final Slide Brook run, then take the Mad Bus back to the base. Go to the Wunderbar for drinks until late-night music starts at Castlerock Pub.
Liz Harris, 38
Mt. Ellen Passholder
Twenty-nine Sugarbush season passes (twenty for Mt. Ellen only), sixteen years of motherhood, and five energetic children: if you were to quantify Liz Harris’s life experiences, these stats would just scratch the surface. Nesting locally in Moretown as a family of seven – including Liz’s husband, Dan, and kids, Isabella (16), Mary (15), Eloise (11), Hazel (9), and Peter (7) – this family calls Mt. Ellen their true home. Also known as “North,” Mt. Ellen is the Harrises’ playground, where the kids can roam free, the lifties know them all by name, and the snow is, well … better, according to Liz. When she’s not chasing her own family, Liz chases the powder as a coach with the Green Mountain Valley School ski team, along with her other career, painting colorfully creative animal portraits (ehfreshie.com).
6:30 AM: Wake up first. Pack the youngest kids’ ski bags. Prepare five egg burritos for the kids and wrap them up to go. Walk Georgia (the pup), wake up the kids, and sort out who’s coming to the mountain.
7:40 AM: Yell, “I’M LEAVING AT 8! IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE CAR DAD WILL TAKE YOU LATER!”
8:30 AM: Drop the kids and skis off at the Mt. Ellen base lodge loop. Park the car, and run back up the hill to meet GMVS team.
12:00 PM: Remind team that “there’s still fresh powder somewhere and we gotta find it.”
1:00 PM: Meet oldest daughter, Izzy (who also coaches for GMVS), after classes wrap up and drive home for lunch. Work on latest chicken portrait painting until kids return.
4:00 PM: Remind the kids to wear an extra jacket as they run in and out the door to build jumps; kids refuse because they’re playing too hard to be cold.
Robert Forenza, 60
All Mountain 7 Passholder
Robert Forenza captures the heart and soul of Sugarbush, knows (and probably first discovered) the best secret stashes, cliffs, and woods lines on the mountain, and believes in the power of powder to bring a diverse group of people together. He first set foot at Sugarbush in 1958 when he was three years old and grew up skiing it with the liked of Stein Eriksen, the Murphy family and John Egan. Since then, Robert and his friends have adjusted the phrase “No friends on a powder day” to “Np Forenzas on a powder day” and christened the large face near Castlerock “The Church.”
6:00 AM: Wake up with a full pot of coffee and thoughts of powder.
7:30 AM: Congregate with eight friends in Gate House Lodge before setting out for Super Bravo. Ski Heaven’s Gate to Paradise and woods stashes.
11:00 AM: Break for water in Gate House for ten minutes, then bundle up for more runs.
1:00 PM: Dig into pockets for a lunch on the go of dried fruit and granola. Stop inside Gate House for a water break; some stragglers stay behind.
3:34 PM: Run into original eight at the top of Snowball and finish the day with a run in Race Course Woods.
4:00 PM: Ski straight to Castlerock Pub for apres beers. Meet friends in town for a hearty homemade dinner and share stories of the day.
Richard Jones, 79
Ski & Ride School Instructor
Chances are, seventy-nine-year-old Richard Jones skis more days a season than almost anyone else on the mountain, capping the 2014-15 season with 146 days on snow. When he’s not conquering his favorite trail under the Castlerock Double, he’s testing out the terrain on Push Over for his beginner-level ski class. In his forty-five years at Sugarbush, Richard has worked as an events ambassador, a media guide, and, for the past nine years, a ski instructor. Richard is one of the famous few responsible for making Slide Brook accessible through the trails he helped cut.
6:00 AM: Wake up with an egg, english muffin, and a cup of coffee. Sit down for morning stretches in the living room. Drive to the mountain via Rolston Road (arguably the most treacherous road in the Mad River Valley).
8:00 AM: Catch the Gate House chair. Ski down Push Over and make a note to warn students about rough section on the right.
9:45 AM: Greet two beginner women at lesson lineup and ease them onto Push Over for the first run of the day. Ensure that the group is comfortable before taking on the challenge of Sleeper for the first time.
12:00 PM: Order a salad in Valley House for lunch. Return to the Gate House lift for afternoon lineup.
3:45 PM: Drive home and take a hot shower. Cook a special fish recipe from Martha’s Vineyard for dinner with wife, Kate.