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Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Welcome to winter

Who says you can't ski on one inch of snow? Vermonters prove otherwise.

Around the country, early-season snowfall has given a jumpstart to winter. In Colorado, both Arapahoe Basin and Loveland (which opened on Tuesday) are now open for business. This week in California, three feet of snow and counting has fallen at higher elevations, and Boreal (opening Friday) and Squaw Valley (opening Thursday for a one-day fundraiser) are scheduled to open this week.

Ski resorts in Vermont plan to open in early November, but a lack of operating chairlifts doesn't stop the most eager of skiers. While October lights up the landscape of the northeastern U.S. with fall colors, for a hardy breed of skiers, this month also signals the start of the ski season.

"It always snows in October," says Vermonter Dave Bouchard, who often gets out as soon as there's a solid dusting of snow in the mountains -- many days, if not weeks, before chairlifts start spinning. Bouchard climbs for his first runs of the season, while maples, birches and beeches are still peaking in the valley. "It doesn't really matter how much snow there is, so long as there's a little something to ski on," he adds.

Utilizing rock skis -- homemade junk boards made by ripping a snowboard in half -- or something especially maneuverable and without metal edges, skiers like Bouchard might cherish these days as much the deepest powder days of mid winter. It's for a good reason. It's an especially quiet time of year in the mountains, free of crowds, the hum of chairlifts and roaring snow guns. And while the snow cover might be thin, if not simply leaves and grass at lower elevations, it's simply a joy to be out skiing again.