It had been more than a decade since James and I last set skis to snow on Robbins Mountain together, and some things had certainly changed for us in that time. Our prior trip was back in the days before we had climbing skins for our skis, or even snowshoes for that matter. We accomplished all our backcountry skiing by boot-packing, kicking in steps, post-holing, wading, or even swimming through powder to get up the slopes. It wasn't necessarily pretty or efficient, but we worked with what we had and that was our legs. I still have very fond memories of that outing back in 1995. On Thursday evening, December 28th, we made a reconnaissance trip to work out the logistics. We hadn't been able find a safe or practical place to park on River Road below the power line, so we talked with some of the folks that lived in the area. They were actually pretty supportive of the whole idea, and we appreciated the Vermont hospitality. On that first trip we explored the potential route, and kicked in steps to make our eventual ski day easier. Reaching partway up the mountain that evening, we called it quits as the light faded, and we sat down to have a snack. We dug through the powder and fashioned a couple of makeshift chairs in which to sit. Then, we sat down facing north. Even more vividly than the eventual skiing, I remember sitting there in silence that evening, enjoying the calm of December's early nightfall and watching the twinkling lights of vehicles cruising along I-89 in the Winooski Valley far below. Of all the ski-related experiences I've had throughout the years, somehow that simple interlude is still one of the most memorable.
We hiked back down that evening, and the following Saturday we had our chance to get out for some turns. We headed farther up toward the summit that day, but stopped when we got into the upper areas of the line that hadn't been sufficiently cleared of brush. The skiing turned out to be quite nice and powdery, even if the entire line wasn't clear of vegetation wall to wall. I made a brief report of that trip to SkiVT-L back in the day:
Subject: Robbins Mountain Power Line 30DEC95
From: Jay Silveira
Date: Sun, 31 Dec 1995 15:50:42 -0500 (EST)
Yesterday we skied the power line on Robbins Mountain (power for the airway beacon on top). Here are the stats
Base elevation: 340'
Summit elevation: 2060'
Vertical drop: 1720'
"After kicking in steps Thursday evening (snowshoeless are we) to 1,100', we hiked up to around 1,350' yesterday with skis. Unfortunately, above this point, the line hasn't been cleared in a couple of years and it's pretty thick with brush. Below this point though, it's clear sailing, about 40 feet wide and untracked. The snow conditions were about 5 inches of powder followed by that crust, then another 2-3 feet of thick powder below. From our starting point, the first 200 feet down are a little brushy (a la Goat) then the trail funnels into a 50 foot chute with steep drops on either side. After this chute, the line opens up for about 200 feet of blue-grade boulevard untracked (one of the best parts). The next 1000' consists of a few cliffs (5-10 feet high and easily bypassed if desired) with islands of brush that leave at least half of the trail open at a all times. At this point (elevation 700') the main power line takes a dive into a stream bed, but fortunately there is a road, or riverbed or something that parallels the line and provides a nice clear route. The last 100 feet or so is a bit of a scramble out to the road. Temps were in the 20s and light snow was falling yesterday making for great conditions. 1000 continuous vertical of untracked powder at no charge; sometimes it's nice to earn turns by muscle instead of $$$$."
J. "buried to the waist" Spin
Later that season, Greg led a group back up the power line for what I thought was more skiing, although upon consulting with people that were actually there, it sounds like it was exclusively a snowshoeing trip. From what've I've heard the group consisted of Greg, Tom, James, and Andreas, but as far as I'm aware, that was the last time that any of us were up there to partake in winter activities.
Moving forward to January 2008, things came together to get James and I back up on Robbins Mountain for some skiing - this time on the east side. At roughly a couple thousand feet, the summit of Robbins Mountain isn't actually all that high by local standards. It sits in an area between the lower foothills and the higher peaks of the Green Mountain Spine. One might say it marks the first range of notable peaks as you head east from the Burlington area, but it stands alone to some degree. Along with the obvious power line cut on its north face, another interesting aspect of Robbins Mountain is a large bowl on its east side. The headwall of this bowl contains a lot of exposed rock that is visible in parts of the Winooski Valley as you head west from Waterbury, and it's that area of exposed rock that first caught my eye in terms of making the east face a spot for exploring backcountry skiing opportunities.
With the relatively low elevations involved in the area we'd be exploring (380' - 2,047') we knew that the depth of the snowpack was something to think about. But, the snow season in Northern Vermont was off to a great start due to a snowy December, and the valley snowpack a few miles away at our house in Waterbury (495') had passed the two-foot mark earlier in the week. The snow at our back yard stake had hit 25 inches (our deepest mark of the season up to that point) on January 2nd, and although the fluff had settled back down to 21 inches as of the morning of the 5th, temperatures had been seasonably cool and we knew the snow would be in good shape. During that week, we'd actually hit our lowest temperature of the season up to that point, bottoming out at -13.5 F on Friday morning, January 4th. The top layer of powder we were looking for in terms of skiing, had come from two moderate snowstorms that dropped about 18 inches of snow in the valley over the previous weekend. Just as important however, was the fact that below that there was a well established base of consolidated snow from various storms earlier in the season. According to my records for our house, we were approaching 100 inches of snowfall for the season at that point, having reached 97.1 inches after picking up a half inch in a small event on Friday.
James came over to our house Saturday morning, and then the two of us packed our gear and headed west on Route 2. We stopped a bit east of the Smilie Memorial Elementary School in Bolton to check out the terrain from a distance, as the areas of sparse trees at the head of the bowl could be seen from that location. With 7 x 50 binoculars we could make out some of the details of the terrain at the head of the bowl, and we formulated a rough idea of what we'd like to explore. We could see that the steep open areas at least held snow, and were able to support tree growth because there were plenty of evergreens scattered about. Also, based on the angle of the slope relative to the trees, it didn't look like the entire area was one huge cliff. But, I knew there were definitely cliffs (or something very close) in the headwall area of the bowl based on the convergence of the topographic lines on maps I'd examined, and from experience I knew that potential ski slopes aren't always what they appear to be from a distance. Above and beyond all that however, we knew that Mother Nature would have some nuances of terrain up her sleeve that we wouldn't be able to see until we got up close and personal with the area, whether they were ledges, stream crossings, steep gullies, or whatever. James pointed out that on the skier's right of the bowl, there was a wealth of open hardwood glades that would certainly offer up lines, so we decided that that area would be a good secondary spot to explore if we couldn't find practical or timely access to the visibly open areas in the center of the bowl. I snapped a few pictures of the terrain from our vantage point, and we were off to the trailhead.
In another few minutes, we reached Jonesville, crossed the Winooski and headed along the river to Honey Hollow Road. The Honey Hollow/Preston Brook Valley area is a large basin to the north and west of Camel's Hump (4,083'), drained by Preston Brook flowing north into the Winooski. Camel's Hump is certainly the figurehead peak in the area. With close to 4,000 feet of relief from the mouth of the basin (elevation 320'), it makes for some grand views. But, the valley is huge, and is a spectacle in its own right. It's about two miles wide, and three miles long, encompassing roughly 4,000 acres of terrain. Along with Camels Hump at the southeast corner, it is enclosed by smaller peaks in the 2,000' to 3,000' elevation range, such as Bald Hill (3,041') at its southern end, and our peak of interest for this outing, Robbins Mountain (2,047') to the northwest. The whole area is a practical destination for backcountry skiers because much of the valley is on public land as part of the Camel's Hump State Park, and it turns out that the summit area of the Robbins Mountain sits right on the state park boundary. The lower elevations of the valley are loaded with hardwood glades, and as we'd find out, even some evergreen glades to add a bit of variety. One could spend an entire ski season just exploring all the lines in there. In addition to it being part of Camel's Hump State Park, many skiers are familiar with the valley because the 300-mile long Catamount Nordic ski trail passes through it. A popular option is to start to the south of the valley in Huntington, access the Catamount Trail from either Camel's Hump Road or the Camel's Hump Skiers Association Nordic area, and then after climbing a bit, catch a nice long ride down through Honey Hollow to the bottom of the valley where a car has been spotted. I found an online trip report from Skimaven, who did this tour on the exact day that we were on ours, and it was very interesting to read her perspective on the day since we were in the same area.
This was my first trip up into Honey Hollow, so at the time I was planning it, I didn't know exactly how parking would work for the area in winter. It turns out that the Honey Hollow Road is actually plowed for a distance of about 300 feet, whereupon the plowing terminates in an ample parking area with room for several vehicles. When James and I arrived at the Honey Hollow parking area that morning, we found that the plowing was in decent order. Part of the parking area had been fully plowed, and the remainder had 6 to 12 inches of Vermont fluff that wouldn't have hampered parking for most vehicles. It was still a bit chilly at that point (our low temperature at the house in Waterbury that morning had been 12.2 F), but the sun was shining brightly and the forecast called for a high of around 30 F. The only wrinkle in the forecast was that the sun would gradually be fading throughout the day as high clouds built in ahead of an approaching storm.
We set to preparing our equipment in the parking lot, and after a few minutes, a couple more cars showed up. Four women emerged from the vehicles, and began to prepare their skis and gear. Within a couple of minutes, one of the women came over to us because she had recognized me. It was Steve Sharp's wife Karen. I knew Steve and Karen from our college years at UVM, and now we see them occasionally when we bring our children to the evening concerts in Waterbury. She said that Steve was over at Cochran's being a good ski dad, and that she and her friends were heading up for a tour on the Honey Hollow Road. She asked if we were doing the same, and I said that we were going to start on the road, and then eventually head west to explore the bowl on the east side of Robbins Mountain. Karen mentioned that we should keep an eye out for Steve as he might be heading up into Honey Hollow for a tour after he was done at Cochran's.
James and I finished our preparation and set out on the trail. The skinning was very easy, as the slope of the road is gentle at its start and there was an established skin/snowshoe track right up the middle. To our right, the land was generally elevated and rose up to the west wall of the valley, while to our left, the land fell away off the side of the road and down to the Preston Brook somewhere below. The drop down to the brook was at times quite steep, and in places we could see decent ski lines descending through the trees. Before long, we began to get impressive views of the peaks forming the east wall of the valley. As we continued up, we climbed a couple of steeper sections of the road that looked like they could provide some nice powder turns on the descent, and after about a mile, we began to scout for established routes up to Robbins Mountain. My initial inclination for an ascent route had been the northern ridge of the bowl. It appeared to be a relatively gradual route of ascent that might work well for skinning. I'd added a few waypoints for us to follow on my GPS, including a rough indicator or where we might turn off of Honey Hollow Road. We were in that range at that point, looking for any obvious tracks or trails through the woods. An interesting option soon presented itself. It was what appeared to be an old logging road, and it had a snowshoe track on it. It was close to where we wanted to be, and since we didn't want to make our route any more difficult than possible in terms of breaking trail, we took it.
For several minutes we moved briskly along the snowshoe track in the direction of Robbins Mountain. The terrain was flat in that area, although we could see that we'd soon be heading upward again. The road began to bend a bit to the north, away from the direction of the Robbins Mountain summit area, and after about 150 yards it had turned sharply enough in that direction that we had to make a decision about breaking away from it. James and I surveyed the area, and from what we could see with respect to the way the road was heading, there was no way to tell if was ever going to recurve in a favorable direction. We somewhat reluctantly broke away from the openness of the road and its associated snowshoe track, and began to break trail through the forest. The powder we encountered at that elevation was about a foot deep, but it was light and fluffy so sliding through it was easy. Our first obstacle soon presented itself in the form of a small stream that was roughly a few feet across. Snowfall in the area hadn't been so prodigious as to completely fill it in, and we weren't interested in getting any of our equipment wet, especially in the early stages of the tour. Fortunately, we quickly found an appropriate bridge-like spot a few yards upstream and made our way across.
The section of forest we were in was nothing especially thick, but it wasn't showing us any available ski lines, nor was there any pitch for downhill skiing anyway. Perhaps that enhanced the appeal of what we saw next. Just a couple minutes after crossing the stream, we found ourselves at the bottom of a beautiful open glade of hardwoods. The glade only rose about a couple hundred vertical feet before it seemed to level off, but it had a nice consistent pitch of perhaps 20 degrees or so, and the fact that we hit at essentially the start of our climb along the bowl's northern ridge had us very enthused about what might lie ahead. Skinning our way up through the fluffy powder in the glade revealed that the snow cover was more than sufficient for the terrain. I doubted that we'd actually be descending by a route in that area, but once we'd reached the top of the glade I marked a waypoint on my GPS because it was certainly terrain worth visiting again someday.
It would be nice to say that the next 1,000 feet of ascent toward the summit was marked by gentle skinning through glade after glade with perfect pitch, but that certainly wasn't the case. We came to a small ledge at the top of that first glade, and that turned out to be a harbinger of things to come. As usual, what looked like a nice continuous ridge on even the highest resolution topographic maps, actually had a lot more subtlety to it. The middle elevations of our ascent of the ridge, roughly the 1,000' to 1,600' range, were marked by ledges and streams slashing their way across our path and down into the bowl. I don't want to speak too ill of that section, because it was actually a fun hour of route finding and puzzle solving, but it slowed our progress somewhat. I really only recall having to cross a couple of streams, which were generally well-covered with snow throughout, and easy bridges were prevalent. We went through several bands of ledges, and except for the last big one, they each offered up an easy option for ascent, whether it was around on one side or up through a broad chute. I recall the final ledge being the most challenging, as there were no obvious options around it without going significantly out of our way. But, after a little inspection, we found a decent way up and made our way across a steep snowy face. All in all, the trip through the ledges went quite well because we never had to even remove our skins or backtrack at all. The difficult aspects of that section were more mental; we were constantly wondering if we'd made the best choice between holding in a drainage or making the cross to the other side. Had we chosen the best side of a ledge to bypass? Were we staying on target to hit the summit, yet staying far enough away from the steep headwall of the bowl to avoid a potentially tough ascent in that area? Having the GPS marked with a few key waypoints certainly helped as a backup to ease any concerns that we were taking an inefficient track toward our goal. Fortunately, both of us have spent a good amount of time doing this sort of thing in the past, so with two minds constantly assessing and correcting the route, the process went fairly smoothly. We knew that we wouldn't be descending in that area however. There was certainly good skiing to be had, but the constant ledges and streams would have made for a very broken up descent. On their own though, I think the individual gullies could make nice routes into the bowl. There were some steep descents there, and certainly some avenues for additional exploration.
After ascending the final big ledge, we rose into an area of steep and fairly open trees. It's probably a nice place for some turns, except that the pitch is interrupted by a rather uninviting ledge at the bottom of it. We began to traverse southward along this pitch, in the direction of the Robbins Mountain summit, and we finally began to see the light at the end of the tunnel... or so we thought. We soon pulled up to a plateau that sits at an elevation of roughly 1,700 feet off to the northeast of the summit, so we stopped, had a snack, and enjoyed the views which included a nice look down into the Winooski Valley. Even once we got moving again, it was a refreshing feeling to cruise along through the extended area of flat terrain. We soon reassessed our progress toward the summit. James was just getting over a bout of some winter sickness he'd had, and was still feeling a bit drained after our ascent of the ledges. We could see that the last few hundred vertical feet to summit were going to be a bit steep, so we took a few additional moments to recharge. We couldn't quite make out the open headwall of the bowl from where we were, but we could see some of the evergreens on its fringe. We were getting very close. We considered the option of dropping into the bowl from where we were, but the ledgy terrain we'd encountered on that side of the bowl didn't seem optimal for skiing, there was no obvious route to the headwall from where we were, and the terrain we'd considered as backup was actually on the other side of the bowl. We decided to make for the summit.
There are several words to describe the terrain involved in that last push to the summit: steep, deep, tight, and slow all come to mind. The final ascent began in some beautiful open areas of trees that donned the north face of the peak. The powder was notably deeper now that we were approaching the 2,000' level; there were a couple feet of fluff around our feet, and a slope angle that was probably in the range of 25 degrees or more. It was very tempting for us to stop and make some turns right there, but we decided to continue with our original plan to check out the summit and potentially the other side of the bowl. The terrain that we were in wasn't going anywhere, and we could always visit it on another trip once we had the lay of the land. Our ascent slowed dramatically in the final ascent due to the combination of increased pitch and deeper snow, and just to pile it on a little more, we were gradually funneling into a chute that made our switchbacks both numerous and difficult. The pace was excruciatingly slow as we pressed our way up the chute, which was down to about 10 feet wide for the last 50- 100 feet. In actuality, it would make a nice starting point for a run on the north face of the mountain, although one would want to ascend by a different route if they were looking for fresh tracks in there; there's only about enough width for a couple of skiers to get a fresh line, and by ascending it with the number of switchbacks that we'd needed, James and I had beaten that snow up pretty thoroughly.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the slope of the chute began to mellow, and we knew that we were going to make it to the top. We were actually just to the east of the summit tower and about 40 feet below it. Heading up the additional distance to the tower would only have been useful in terms of checking it out, because the bit of terrain between it and our position was just filled with some brushy vegetation that didn't offer up any good skiing. Now that we had reached the top of the bowl, we had a new perspective on the topography of the area. The best analogy I can use to describe the east side of the summit area is believe it or not a taco... or better yet something like a Taco Bell-style chalupa with a little girth to its sides instead of a knife edge. The analogy isn't perfect, but it works for much of the description. It turns out that the chute we'd just ascended on the north side of the mountain maintained its walls to some degree as it reached the summit area, and it leveled out into a flat gully. Then, without missing a beat, it rolled over on the south side of the peak into the start of another chute. Imagine this depressed area made up of the two chutes tumbling off the north and south areas of the peak, along with the gully connecting them, as the inner part of the chalupa with the fillings. Whoever was building the chalupa didn't go hog wild on the ingredients however, so the fillings don't quite reach the height of the shell. On the east side you have one side of the shell, which is actually the headwall of the bowl falling steeply away. For the other side of the shell (west) you've got the tower area, which is maybe 40 feet higher than the east side - sort of the like the way hard taco shells will often have one side that is higher than the other. I'm sure this analogy breaks down to some degree as you incorporate more of the summit area, but for the limited part of the peak we explored, the chalupa description fits pretty well.
So we found ourselves in the apex of the chalupa gully, and as the wind was picking up a little ahead of our next storm system, it turned out to be a convenient place to relax and assess our plans. I could see that we were atop the open face of the headwall, so I left my skis on to facilitate getting through the deep snow and went out to take a look. I wanted to take in the view of Camel's Hump and the expanse of the Honey Hollow Valley, but hopefully I would also be able to assess the slope and coverage on the terrain below us. I could see a relatively flat and open area of fluffy snow in front of me, with at least a few smaller trees to provide a level of protection should the underlying surface be icy. I cautiously checked the surface with my poles, and took a few steps. After a few more steps, I heard the unfriendly sound of metal edges on rock. I probed father ahead with my poles and found that beyond where I was, the surface was just 6 to 12 inches of powder on rock. This wasn't looking good for a descent route. I removed my skis and walked out onto the ledge among some trees. The surface conditions didn't change, and the terrain in front of me dropped quickly out of sight. We definitely weren't descending that way. It would have taken a rappel to safely check out what was below us, and we weren't prepared to do that. In addition, it was now 2:00 P.M., and with the daylight schedule of early January, we didn't have time to be messing around very much anyway. Any descent of that area, if practical, would have to wait for another time.
With the time of day, we decided that we would go with our secondary route option, which meant continuing on around the top of the bowl and exploring the trees we'd seen on the south side. I hung out on the ledge for a bit to get some pictures, had a snack, and then made a phone call to E back at the house. I let her know that we'd soon be starting our descent and that she could go ahead and call James' wife Kim. The plan was for the families to get together that evening for dinner, and the timing of when Kim was going to come over to our house was based on how things went for James and me on the mountain. If things went according to plan, Kim could make the drive from Waltham while James and I made our descent. It wasn't long after I'd hung up that my phone rang - it was Ty. Somehow he'd gotten E's phone and made a call. He had a lot to say, not all of which I understood. I didn't want to cut him off too soon, but James and I really wanted to get our descent underway. If things went smoothly, we'd easily be down in an hour with time for a little exploration and photography, but if things didn't go as planned, we wanted to have some buffer. Neither of us knew the terrain here, and we didn't want to be coming out in the dark. I eventually told Ty that we'd see him soon, and we managed to end the conversation. I packed up my gear and we were on our way.
It was about 2:20 P.M. when we began our descent, and our first challenge was to traverse out toward the south side of the bowl, hopefully without losing too much vertical or getting cliffed out in the process. We took a very shallow traverse, one that didn't bleed off too much vertical yet kept us moving at a good clip with some shuffling. This process quickly elevated us away from the chute that comprised the south side of the "chalupa". We kept our eyes open and didn't run into any cliffs that would have hampered our progress across the bowl, but the terrain was still quite steep. I'd say we were on slopes in the range of 30 degrees or so as we initially set out toward the south side of the bowl. This part of the bowl has the potential to offer up some very nice steep turns, but unfortunately there is currently a lot of new growth in that area and the lines are just too tight for the pitch. Often we'd find ourselves among young trees with trunk diameters of perhaps 2 to 4 inches, and spacing of just a foot or two. We'd found that most spots along our tour looked quite skiable in their "natural" state, but that area definitely wasn't one of them. We continued our traverse out to the south side of the bowl, and gradually the vegetation thinned to reveal some pleasant lines for skiing. We were heading through about a foot or two of untracked powder in that area, and the pitch was steep enough such that you could easily make turns with even three feet of unconsolidated snow if it presented itself.
We dove in for some steep powder turns, and after a couple hundred vertical feet of descent, we were into the gut of the bowl and the pitch began to mellow out a bit. We could see that there was even more open terrain farther off to our right, but we couldn't get to it without another round of skinning as we were just too low in the bowl at that point. Fortunately there were still plenty of ski lines in the more central area where we found ourselves. I think next time, barring more exploration of the central headwall of the bowl, the skier's right side is the place to check out, as it looked like several skiers could easily spend a day enjoying all the lines in the hardwoods over there.
The pitch gradually decreased as we continued our descent, and tapered off to what I'd call intermediate to lower intermediate for much of the bottom half of the bowl. That section was a lot of fun though. With the decrease of the depth of the powder down to the 6-12 inch range, it was just right for cruising through the trees at that pitch. There were a few streambeds in there, but they were generally frozen over and covered with snow so the choice was to either play around in them a bit as you descended, or pick a good spot to cross depending on where you wanted to go. I can recall James commenting on how he really enjoyed that section because he got into the groove, really let his skis ride, and things just kept flowing for turn after turn. A fun treat that we discovered in the lower reaches of the bowl was that in addition to the hardwood glades, there were also substantial softwood/evergreen glades to be found. The evergreens really suppressed any undergrowth, which was probably good because they also suppressed the depth of the powder due to the way they caught so much snow on their boughs. The unconsolidated snow in the evergreens was probably about six inches deep, but the base below was still consistent and you could let your skis ride without having to worry about rocks. I'm not actually sure if there are many rocks in there anyway, as the impression was that below the base layer of snow there was mostly soft forest floor with the only major obstacles to pay attention to being a few logs and stumps.
The final part of the bowl's runout to Honey Hollow Road had flattened out to a mild green pitch, but there was just enough slope to give us a little momentum through the powder. We had already set ourselves downhill of the major streambed we'd been following, and the return to the road was seamless. The major item of note in the area where we returned to the road was an old wooden structure hidden among the trees, which may have been a camp at one point. We'd returned to the road slightly farther along to the south than the point at which we'd left it, and it turned out to be a bit north of the position indicated as the base of the bowl's drainage on my GPS map. We didn't explore the point at which the major stream from the bowl intersects with the road, but I'd imagine there's a bridge of some sort to let the stream pass through, and the entry to the road there might not be as smooth as where we'd done it.
Back on Honey Hollow Road, we shuffled along in the flatter sections, but the going was easy thanks to the established tracks. There's really isn't any notable uphill to face on the road out, so it's generally an easy glide back to the base of the road depending on the presence of established tracks or sticky snow. As a bonus however, the steeper sections of the road offer plenty of pitch for powder turns, so James and I were able to take advantage of that option on our final descent. The pitch of those areas ranges up to what I'd call mild blue, so it was sufficient for making turns in the roughly six inches of fluff that we found there. We shot a few final powder skiing sequences with the camera, although it was a bit difficult because the light was fading with the quick approach of early January dusk.
When we arrived back at the parking area a bit before 4:00 P.M., ours was the only car left. I was surprised to find out that our tour had only been 3.87 miles according to the GPS trip computer, but it felt more difficult due to navigating through the ledgy areas and ascending the tight confines and deep snow of the final chute. The GPS data does go out to 5.3 miles of distance as seen in the final data plot, so there is some discrepancy between the two measurements. Some of the discrepancy may have arisen from losing the signal a few times in the trees, but obviously somewhere in the 4 to 5 mile area is a good bet for the length of the tour. For vertical, the GPS revealed a difference of 1,725 feet between its highest and lowest points, and in terms of total descent recorded by my altimeters, the Avocet recorded 1,780' and the Suunto recorded 1,798' for a difference of 1.0%. Not too long after we got home, Kim and the kids arrived so we were all able to have an enjoyable dinner and all the kids got to play together. I'd call it was a classic midwinter day in Vermont.