I LOVE my Subaru Crosstrek. It’s got a 2” lift kit, all weather tires, 2 LED light bars, and a Thule basket on the roof. It kicks ass, but the truth is, most of the year when all I’m doing is driving to and from Pavement Coffeehouse in Boston, all of these things are wholly unnecessary.
As an Ikon pass holder, once winter rolls around and it’s time to get up to Loon, Sunday River, Sugarloaf, or Sugarbush, everyone knows that I’ll be the one behind the wheel. It’s time to finally let my car do what it’s meant to do, so we strap a pile of boards to the roof, cram our boots and helmets and weekend bags up to the ceiling in the rear cargo space, then flip a coin for who gets the front seat and who crams in the back.
I’m psyched to finally get to blast through some snow in my battle wagon, but it didn’t take long to realize that no one else was as excited about this particular transportation situation.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for taking a half day at work then zipping over to Wachusett for a couple runs when you get the itch. The Crosstrek will still be my ride or die for those days, but getting up to New Hampshire, Vermont, or Maine for a full weekend of riding on some of the best parks and trails in New England is a bit more of a production.
I quickly came to the point where I needed to look for a better travel option for our weekend snowboarding trips.
ALL YOUR GEAR WITH SPACE TO SPARE
To be honest, the amount of snowboard gear we carry was the only thing that made me start looking into renting a 15 passenger van for this drive in the first place.
The last time we took my Subaru, we had 5 boards strapped to the roof. Four of them pressed together with the bindings out, sandwiched in the ski rack like they’re supposed to be, and one horizontally across the top two boards, almost like we wanted a set of wings just in case we finally decided to take this thing off a jump. It worked… I guess… but I couldn’t go over 60mph without feeling like we were going to show up at the mountain with all of our boards somewhere back in New Hampshire.
Sure, not having to try to fit 5 snowboards in the car left plenty of room to stuff our other gear in, but that’s before you remember that there’s really no good way to organize 10 snowboard boots and leave yourself room to breathe.
Knowing we had the extra space in our big rental van, I brought my United Shapes rig with me just in case. I almost never get to use it on the east coast, but since I didn’t HAVE to choose between bringing it OR my freestyle set up, it was nice to have around just in case Maine was blessed with a blanket of fresh powder overnight.
With the back two rows removed from our brand new Ford Transit passenger van, we set all of our boards in their soft bags long ways in the back and then wondered for a second if we might actually have too much room. But then we loaded in the boots, the helmets, the backpacks, the camera gear, the cooler, the snacks and wondered how the hell this stuff ever even fit in my car.
MORNING RUNS DOWN THE MOUNTAIN ARE *USUALLY* WORTH THE LONG DRIVE UP
The early morning drive up to the mountains from Boston is the part of the adventure where you suck it up and make it through. Everyone is too cramped and too hot or too cold but we just have to ride it out for a few hours and it’ll all be worth it when we get there.
To my surprise (but maybe less surprising to the other guys who already knew EXACTLY how miserable it was to make this trip in my car) it actually makes a huge difference to be able to stretch out and move around (or maybe just turn your head without your nose touching someone else’s face.)
After leaving the city at 4am to catch the first chair, it turns out you have a lot more juice in the tank if you’re not stuck sitting like a pretzel for 4 hours beforehand, go figure!
OUR OWN PERSONAL BASE CAMP LODGE
I truly never would have thought of this before we did it, but this has become the number one reason that we’ll never make this trip without our own private lunch lounge again. If you’re not forking out $750 a night for a ski in / ski out suite at the mountain resort, you’re either bundling up in all your winter gear and driving to the mountain in a mobile sauna with the windows open to let in a nice 20 degree breeze, or you’re standing in the parking lot in long underwear trying to beat your personal best time for getting all 14 layers on before the frostbite takes hold.
YMMV but I am 5’ 9 so I can stand straight up in a mid roof transit van without touching the ceiling. So when we parked at the base of the mountain, I didn’t even have to open the front door. I turned around and WALKED into the back of the van, and geared up in my own personal base camp lodge. When we decided to splurge on a van rental for our trip, none of us realized that it came with a private locker room, but here we are.
While having our own personal locker room to lace our boots up comfortably that also doubles as a heated lodge for our afternoon lunch break was all once a bonus luxury, in the 2021 season it’s now a necessity as mountains work to keep hordes of outdoor adventurers safe from COVID this winter.
So yeah, the LED light bars are cool, but until my Crosstrek can accommodate 5 grown men preparing for blizzard conditions without having to open a door, I think we’ll stick with the van.