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Paul

Owl's Head - February 3, 2018

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The morning started out not as early as the last road trip. The destination today was Owl's Head. On the road by 7am and arrived at the mountain for 8, with a temperature of -24 and no breeze at the base. 45/52 trails announced open along with 6 chairlifts. The 5-10 cms of snow they received during the week helped out a little. The conditions were of groomed, packed powder over a hard base. There were some little powder stashes that had been tracked along the side of some trails.

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The first runs of the day were up the Main Quad to Lilly's Leap, Centennial to the Kamikaze, and then over to the Lower Standard via the Crossover. The coverage was pretty good to start. It's well known that the upper trails here can get scraped down pretty quickly depending on the crowd. Today the crowd was moderate and no waiting at any of the chairs.

Lilly's Leap:

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Centennial:

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Then it was on to a few laps on the Blue Chair and down the Lower Standard. Under the Blue on the Shady Lady, the ski team was setting up for practice. 

Going up the Blue with the Shady Lady and Lower Standard:

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There was a breeze riding up the Main Quad to go along with the already frigid temperature, so a break was in order to head in the chalet to warm up and to catch up with some old friends that I hadn't seen in awhile. People that I had worked with when I was at the mountain years ago. Then it was back out and down to the Black and Lake Quads. The conditions over there were nice, with the upper part of the Chouette that hadn't been groomed, but the loose powder was already traced out. The Upward Trail, and the Lakeview/Couloir combo was a nice choice. There was the slightest breeze on the Lakeside that made it chilly as well riding the chairs. Once you were on the ground it was fine. You still needed to be well bundled to keep warm though. 

The Chouette:

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The Upward Trail:

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The Lakeview:

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The day ended with one last ride up the Main Quad, after a second warm up, down Centennial on to the lower section of the Colorado, down the Chouette to the bottom of the Black Quad and a ride up the Quad and then back over to the chalet. 

Lower Colorado:

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Overall it was a nice outing. By noon there were some icy patches starting to appear in the usual places, and you could hear the scraping being done by the other skiers, so it gave you an idea on where they were, and take it easy to go around those spots if you were following. The day ended at 1:00 after 18 runs. I have always had a soft spot for Owl's Head over the years, but to be honest, unfortunately the mountain is showing its age and is in need of some love and updating. Hopefully she will get some of that soon.

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Conditions look quite good. Your pictures are amazing. Owl's Head never disappoints. It's great the summit is back open, but I do agree with your comments that the top portion quickly gets scrapped down, no doubt because the start of the trails are mostly narrow and there are only so many options once you are at the top.

The views never disappoint on Lilly's Leap and Upward Trail and Lakeview. Even Chouette can be quite nice for a beginner trail.

Hopefully the new ownership transfer completes successfully and good things are in the pipeline for this amazing mountain.

I remember in the past couple years they had mentioned that the Lakeview quad was getting new terminals. I can see that the grips on the chairs are the more standard Doppelmayr DS grips so the equipment in the terminals must have been switched, but the outer skins are still the same so hard to say how much actually changed. From pictures elsewhere the bottom terminal still has it's motor and drive down by the ground, and the upper seems to still have the external return bullwheel. 

Paul do you have any pics or can you tell us more of what changed? It would seem like only the changed required were done to accommodate the DS grips instead of the Breckenridge grips they replaced.

Paul, you being very familiar with the mountain, how would you see the new ownership improving things, especially on the side of trails and lifts.

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The glades I didn't touch, and there were signs indicating minimal coverage, so I didn't sacrifice my skis to them. Only a few were open. We need a good dump for them to bring them back into shape.

Now with the Lake Quad, I do have some pics from when the Breckenridge chairs were on line. I would have to dig for those. The current series of chairs with the standard Dopple DS grips were changed over I believe 2 or 3 seasons ago. From what I have been told, the chairs on the Main Quad are now the chairs that were purchased from Stowe. Once the terminals were redone, those chairs that were on the Main Quad are now on the Lake Quad. From my understanding, the mechanics of both terminals were redone to accommodate the different grip type. Being that I worked on the Main quad before the Stowe chairs were installed, I certainly recognize the chairs that were on the Main Quad at that time when I was there, now being the current series on the Lake. The towers have remained the same.

I certainly hope that new management has taken notice of the absolute needs of the mountain from renovating the chalet right down to the lift infrastructure. It's obvious that all the lifts need replacement or at least a major refurbishing. If it were me, I would definitely replace the Lake Quad, Main Quad, Green chair and Baby Quad. Refurbish the Blue, as it is used on weekends and holidays mostly by the racers. Refurbish the Black Quad to a point only to keep it going for a few more years and then replace it. The Panorama double, keep up the standard maintenance on it as it is now used only as a back up for the Black Quad when it gets busy. Do not replace it. Baby Quad, well I would replace it for something a little more recent and a touch quicker. This is the slowest chair on the mountain. I know this chair is for beginners but the chair is so slow that the old baby chair double was faster. The Green, well this chair is the back up to the main quad. A replacement would be in order to keep this line reliable. The replacement would have to be another double or triple. The reason for this is that if it ever got busy, you would have too much traffic and congestion at the top with 2 quads running at once. There is limited space at the summit. The Lake Quad, full out replacement just because of what it is, old. 1981 and this lift has seen the end of it's usefulness, even with the makeover. The mechanics of a detachable I would believe have more wear and tear in comparison to a fixed grip over time. 

A lot of money is needed to do any of these changes and renovations. Sure it will take time, but in the end I think it should be beneficial to the future of Owl's Head and to bring it back to its former glory.

 

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Very interesting choices Paul. It's common for mountains to acquire older lifts that were replaced elsewhere to save money over buying new ones, but maybe Owl's Head is taking it a bit too far. I read in the media that the new owners announced some money to improve the mountain and lifts. Let's hope the money is spent on new lifts and modernizing the infrastructure. Thanks for the 'aperçu' on the situation.

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I think I previously read somewhere that the Black Chair was bought from Blue Mountain in Collingwood. Is this true?

To me this is the most recent lift and the best kept one. The main summit lift the last time I was there was in good condition as well. 

In my opinion the first to be replaced should be both the Baby and the Lake. The Baby due to it being a Borvig and the recent issues surrounding those lifts. 

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I honestly do not know where the Black Quad originated from, nor the Baby Quad as they were installed after I had left OH in 2001. The two "in best condition" chairs there would be the Main Quad and the Black Quad in that order. The Main Quad would benefit from a fresh coat of paint. The two terminals are in decent shape but a couple of the plexiglass glass windows on the motor station at the bottom needs replacing. That is cosmetic. They just redid the electrical on the Main Quad as we all know so that hopefully should be good for awhile. It still runs fairly smoothly and the ride is decent.

The Black Quad, both stations have dings and and can benefit from a make over. They look their age. The towers could use a fresh coat of paint as well to spruce it up as it is located right in front of the Apartment Hotel. I did notice that a couple of tower heads do not match in style as maybe the lift did not have the required amount of towers for the line. A couple of heads resemble the Lake Quad's tower heads, so they may have had more Breckenridge towers than needed for the lake, or maybe they just needed outright replacement from the original tower heads. The ride on the Black Quad is pretty decent as well.

The Baby Quad looks to be in okay shape but I am sure this lift must have operated in the past at a higher speed that it is currently. Maybe this is why it is at a slower speed because of its age and that is what made it the perfect candidate to replace the old Baby Double. It is very uncomfortable to ride, and slow. Being that it is a Borvig, an older one, as long as it is maintained and inspected maybe a little more often than needed, it should be okay. I wouldn't want to ride the 2 Partek lifts at Balsams since they have been sitting idle since 2011. I believe that in the US if a lift that has been sitting idle for 5+ years without any maintenance have to be scrapped. Partek were the remains of Borvig. 

The only New lifts and not second hand lifts are the Main Quad installed in 1986-87 and the Panorama Double Mueller (1965) that was the Main Lift before it was transferred to its current location when the Quad was installed. All the other lifts had lives at other mountains. 

I don't have any problems with an area that installs lifts from other areas. The practice is common, but if it were I to do this I would want the lift refurbished from A-Z like what Bromont did for their Poma quad purchases from Gray Rocks and Mont Joye to blend both lifts into one as they were twin lifts. Don't install it as is and hope that you'll get another 20 years out of it like the Lake Quad.

 

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