Hitting the 'super trail'

Get ready, skiers! A new kind of ski trail may be coming to the East. Stratton Mountain in southern Vermont developed the Eastern prototype almost in secret last summer on the far reaches of its area. It is an Eastern prototype because it is modeled after the great wide slopes found in the Rockies and Sierras. Slopes so wide open they contain islands of trees in the middle! Remember, the Big Burn slope? It helped to put Colorado's Snowmass resort on the map.

In the East, however, there was the problem of weather - high winds that denude slopes of snow; rain and moisture that can turn excellent conditions overnight into icy, rough terrain. Stig Albertsson, former president of Stratton , and ski area consultant Ted Farwell thought the weather problems could be licked with the help of a new snowmaking gun Albertsson invented. Powered not solely by compressed air but in part by the water used in snowmaking itself, the gun supposedly puts out an awesome amount of snow relatively efficiently - just what would be needed with such an expanse of Eastern ski slope to fill.

But drainage problems also had to be solved with many water bars and careful contouring. Even after the trail was cut and seeded with grass it wasn't known whether it would really work in winter.

Well, I skied it this season, and like most everybody else who has, I can report it's terrific. Skiers from novice to expert enjoy the ''super trail.'' Its success is such that Stratton is considering six ''super trails'' in its development plans besides some at sister area Bromley. My guess is that other Eastern areas will follow suit.

Contrast is one of the most striking effects of skiing the ''super trail.'' One access is via Stratton's old novice trail, the Wanderer - a narrow, switch-back vintage New England run if ever there was one. It's like Alice going through the looking glass. One minute you're in this snowclad alley in Vermont; the next you're at ''Keystone'' or ''Snowmass'' or ''Steamboat'' in Colorado.

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