Temperatures started out quite cold this morning, way down around -10 F at the house. Fortunately, it was warmer in the mountains, and the forecast called for temperatures topping out around 20 F today with clear skies. Like many areas, Stowe had seen some warmth earlier in the week, and some crust had formed on the powder. However, with 7 inches from the Thursday/Friday storm, and then another couple of inches yesterday, there were significant amounts of snow above that layer, and any firm snow was already starting to disappear into the snowpack. Powderfreak indicated that the groomed terrain at Stowe was fun, but we were anxious to see just how good the snow was getting off piste.
Indeed it was sunny this afternoon at Stowe, and temperatures were warming right up as expected. I had Ty, Dylan, and Jack skiing in my coaching group, with the additional of Alexia on her snowboard. It always constrains things a bit when we have a snowboarder in the group, not because of ability, since Alexia can rip down just about anything, but snowboarder mobility for traversing and side-stepping is so much more limiting that I really have to think through our routes well ahead of time, or forego certain areas that might be difficult to deal with on a board. My goal was to get the kids into the upper elevation terrain of Spruce Peak to see if we could make use of the new powder the mountain had picked up over the past few days, so we jumped right on the Sunny Spruce Quad and got ourselves over to Sensation. There was a giant slalom race taking place on Main Street, so we got to watch some of the impressive racers carrying speed through the course. Seeing all of the maintenance workers involved in the race really gave us an appreciation for how much time and effort it takes to maintain a good race course. We could also see that there was plenty of fresh snow available below us in the Spruce Line area, so we put that on our hit list. From the Sensation summit we dropped right into Green Acres, finding plenty of powder for the kids, and that continued with even more untouched snow as we dropped into Spruce Line. These days with substantial racing on Main Street are a somewhat mixed blessing – terrain is a little more limited, but with so many people focused on the race, and some staying away from the area because of terrain limitations, there is the chance for some great powder to hang around untouched. And the powder absolutely delivered today; despite the crust somewhere below, the higher elevations had plenty of new snow to give it a good covering and make for some excellent bottomless turns.
With the superb snow we’d found, we opted for another run on Sensation, and this time we headed over to the steep terrain of Upper Smuggler’s. The kids were able to rip it up, and Dylan got a great compliment about his skiing from a stranger we met along the way. Dylan really has stepped up his game this season on all sorts of terrain, and we expect that it’s only going to continue. I worked the kids down onto the open terrain above Meadows, and they had fun letting loose with their turns. Even down at that low elevation the snow was really good, and it seems that once again, despite these warm episodes that keep popping up this season, the Northern Greens keep reeling in enough snow to make great skiing for the weekend. We took the Alpine Double Chair, went through the Catwalk tunnel, and skied that terrain again because it was so good.
I wasn’t sure if we wanted to leave the nice conditions we’d found on Spruce Peak, but eventually we decided that we needed to explore more terrain, so we headed to Mt. Mansfield and did some runs off the Gondola. We worked in some Perry Merrill, Gondolier, and Switchback, and conditions were good enough that I brought the kids into the far skier’s right of the Tombo Woods. It’s a bit tight in there, but not a problem for folks with skis and snowboards their size. That’s steep, tight terrain there, and all the kids handled it well. We topped the afternoon off with another Gondolier/Perry Merrill/Switchback assortment, and then finally had to pull away so that kids could get some hot chocolate and s’mores.
I’m glad we made it for the hot chocolate/s’mores session in the Spruce Peak Village this afternoon, because along with the food, we got to browse around and view all the ice sculptures from the recent competition. The theme was obviously circus-related, and we got to see an impressive array of work – some of the artists must be professionals. What was also inspirational was the level of creativity that was shown; although all the sculptures were based on the circus, everything was so diverse that we never saw the same thing twice. We’ve seen ice sculptures in the village square before, but it almost seemed like this year’s contest was the biggest yet. We’re already looking forward to what we’ll get to see next season!