Our biggest storm cycle of the season to date finished up last night, with snow totals in the Northern Greens of 40” at Jay Peak, 36” at Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch, and 24” at Bolton Valley. With additional snowfall from the two preceding storms of close to a foot, that put Jay Peak at over 50” of snow for the past few days, with the other mountains falling in line accordingly. Large storms are often great at enhancing the ski conditions, but this storm was especially beneficial with the low snowfall and snowpack we’ve been dealing with so far this season; we hadn’t had a single one of these multi-foot storm cycles, and there’s no better way to catch up on the low season snowfall than getting those big mountain storms. Even down at the house, we picked up close to two feet of snow from the storm; it was by far our largest snowfall of the season in the valley, and it pushed the total season snowfall to just shy of the 100” mark.
Yesterday we headed up to Bolton Valley during the meat of the storm, with snow falling at rates of 1-3”/hr. We didn’t do a tremendous amount of skiing since all the major lifts were on wind hold, but we did get in some fun powder turns off the Mid Mountain Lift, and got to be out in the storm while it buried the resort. The snowfall had continued until around midnight, but clearing skies quickly followed. The sunshine this morning spoke of the crisp, clear weather that was forecast for today, and with three feet of new snow at Stowe, we headed off to the mountain fairly early to get the most of what were likely to be fantastic ski conditions. It was one of those days where choice of ski was easy… everybody went fat. E and I even got off our Telemark skis and took the opportunity to pull out our alpine CMH fatties for the day.
We arrived at Spruce Peak around 9:00 A.M., and could see that people were already laying down some tracks in the powder fields above Meadows. The snow looked absolutely glorious in the sun, and the temperatures were in the teens, so there certainly wasn’t going to be any melting. Since the open slopes above Meadows are some of our favorite runs, E and the boys and I hopped on the Sunny Spruce Quad and headed right that way. I skied down first to set up for some pictures, and found roughly two feet of dry, bottomless powder over a base of even more soft snow – it was just what one would expect to find after multiple feet of snowfall in the past few days. I’m sure the snow settled a little overnight, but my density analyses from yesterday at the house revealed six hour accumulations of 7.1 inches of 3.8% H2O snow during the day, followed up by 8.4 inches of 2.1% H2O snow during the evening. Simply put, that’s some serious world class powder for skiing, and coupled with the amounts that fell in the higher elevations, that’s some snow quality that is certainly well up there even in the realm of our local Champlain Powder™ standards. Once I pulled out the camera, E and the boys followed my lead with some awesome turns; there were some previous tracks on the slope, but it was pretty hard to make a bad choice of line.
For our next round of turns we decided to check out the top of Spruce Peak, so we made our way over to the Sensation Quad. We headed down in the Main Street area, and eventually started exploring novel regions of trees since it was the kind of day where you could hit terrain of almost any pitch or tree density. We descended into some steep trees that led down to one of the on-mountain maintenance buildings along Main Street, with little idea of what it would be like, and not surprisingly there were some great lines down through the center of the steep streambed that drained the area. Seeing the snow on Spruce Line as we rode the lift had us venture there on the next run, and the traffic had been so minimal in many areas that we got some really long shots of untracked snow. The entirety of the line was open for skiing, and indeed there are some very steep shots in there that we’d never skied before. They really kept us on our toes, and I was sent for quite a ride when I unknowingly came into one of the steep sections at high speed. We shared the run with a small group of Telemark skiers, who were having a hoot watching Ty and Dylan play around in the deep snow. Next time up it was Upper Smuggler’s, catching the steep terrain on its bottom section, where we connected to Ridge Run and some of the precipitous lines in the nearby trees that Mike Cannon had shown us in the past. People had certainly skied those main shots by then, but just a little venturing afield revealed the acres of untracked snow that lay in the trees. And boy that powder was deep – it was a very good idea to try catching the traverses set up by others, because wading through the snow on your own took a good deal more time and effort.
We’d burned through the morning at that point, and it was time to get fueled up for the boy’s afternoon school program session. We ate at the Great Room Grill, and were joined by some of the other BJAMS families. I got myself an order of the fish tacos, which were again quite good, and I noticed that Molly had some sushi. It turns out that they have sushi available at the Great Room Grill in a refrigerated case, so I am definitely going to have to check that out as an option when we’re there. It would be amazing if they started offering it freshly prepared at one of the stations (I bet it would be a hit if it the quality was decent) but I can’t wait to try what they’ve got anyway.
During lunch, E had swapped her alpine gear for her snowboard gear, as she’d be instructing snowboarding for the rest of the day, but Ty and Dylan and I kept our fat skis on and got ready for the afternoon with a warm up run on West Smuggler’s and West Slope. Back up at the base we met up with Claire, Luke, and Jack to fill out our group, and we took everyone back to Sensation so could hit the great powder on Spruce Line. There were a few more tracks since the morning, but it really hadn’t seen that much additional traffic. We tackled Upper Smuggler’s on the next run, enjoying the way that the bountiful fresh snow had resurfaced even the steepest terrain. Even with the three feet of snow it was still possible to occasionally encounter the subsurface though, showing just how much snow it takes to cover some of the high angle terrain. We cut across to Ridge Run, where some of the boys dropped into the steep slopes of the Ridge Run trees. I dove into the trees as well, and ski cutting across steep pitches easily set off big sloughs of the deep snow – I wasn’t surprised to hear that avalanche warnings had been put out for the Mt. Mansfield/Smuggler’s Notch area.
We finished off the afternoon over on Mansfield, where I introduced everyone to the Chin Clip Streambed. In terms of their abilities, everyone in the group is more than ready for what it has to offer, but I’ve been waiting for the base depths to build to the point where they could enjoy it thoroughly without concern about rocks and the frozen waterfalls. With this big storm and the couple smaller ones that came before it bumping the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake from roughly four feet midweek to almost seven feet now, it was time. I guided everyone to the entrance, and we dove in. Even for Claire it was a fairly novel experience, as she recalled skiing it once, but it must have been a decade ago. The boys ripped it up, launching jumps off the terrain features and half pipe-like walls of the drainage. Even Luke, who’s probably the most novice in terms of off piste skiing, was looking really good and handling the steep drops smoothly. Claire was definitely challenged by some of the waterfalls and steep, tight areas, but she had a blast. I can’t recall the last time I’d been in that streambed, but the skiing was as amazing as always. There are definitely some advantages to coaching the young advanced group in terms of terrain selection. Most folks are aware of Stowe’s long, continuous vertical drop, and it was obvious today when at one point in the streambed run Ty asked, “Does this thing ever end?” All the boys seemed to be of similar mind, and there was no question that they were getting their fill of turns and challenge; indeed it does seem like that streambed simply goes on forever – in a good way.
After the romp through the streambed, we hit the gondola again and did a run on Chin Clip proper. The bump lines were delicious and soft, and the boys got worked hard for another descent. With the early afternoon runs on Spruce topped off with a few thousand vertical feet of steep bumps and off piste in the afternoon, all the boys were cooked. Ty and Dylan, with the additional morning full of powder runs, were especially spent and when we headed back to the Spruce Peak Village they called an afternoon and hit the s’mores at the fire pit. Jack and Luke were game for one more run, so I joined them for a run on West Run/West Slope. It was a good mellow finish to an exciting day enjoying what has clearly been the storm of the season up to this point.