Stowe, VT 18MAR2012

An image of skis poking out over the steep edge of the headwall of the National trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont, with the steep, snowy, mogul-filled trail below
Perched atop National today

It’s been too warm for any additional snow recently, even in the mountains, but according to my records this is the first weekend/holiday period without powder since way back in the middle of December.  That’s actually pretty surprising in this season of warm temperatures and low snowfall, but despite the bouts of inhospitable ski weather, the Northern Greens have managed to continuously catch timely snow to revitalize the snow surfaces and provide powder skiing.  Yesterday the boys had a good session of Telemark training at Bolton Valley, but today they were back on the alpines for our weekly ski program session at Stowe.

“according to my records
this is the first weekend/
holiday period without
powder since way back
in the middle of December.”

The resort didn’t seem to be too busy when we arrived today, as I managed a midday parking spot right in the first row near the Stowe Mountain Lodge.  The boys and I met up with Connor and did an early run on Easy Street; its fairly mellow slope was still somewhat challenging for Connor as he’s just switched over to snowboarding this season.  Snow on those low elevations, south-facing slopes near the Spruce Peak Base Area was quite soft and slushy, but at least it wasn’t overly sticky since it had long ago taken on that corn snow consistency.  When our coaching group for the day finally assembled, it was just Luke, Ty, and Dylan for students, with Luke’s Dad joining us as well since he was out on the mountain today.  As the spring temperatures continued to surge into the afternoon, with 50s and 60s F on the mountain and even some 70s F at the base area elevations, the layers of ski clothing seemed to be flying off faster than people could do laps.  We certainly weren’t immune to the warm temperatures, so as we headed toward the Over Easy we stopped in Spruce Camp and dropped some layers.  The process took a few minutes because we also had to switch our ski passes out of our parkas as we converted over to vests.

“the layers of ski
clothing seemed to be
flying off faster than
people could do laps.”

We kicked off our Mansfield turns with a trip down Cliff Trail, which we were happy to find full of bumps on its upper half.  The skiing seems much better there with some contour, and naturally the bumps were loads of fun with the spring snow.  We continued down onto Nosedive, and proceeded on our way to the Fourrunner Quad area – we’ve spent a huge amount of time on the Mansfield Gondola this season, so this was a chance to mix things up and get some time in the Front Four area.  The quad actually wasn’t running because work was being done on it, but the Lookout Double was running as the alternative.  We were happy that it was such a nice day though, because just as we were approaching to top of the lift, there was a five minute lift stoppage.  Dylan was with me, and Ty was actually with a stranger, but he said he managed a fun discussion.  Not surprisingly, the discussion included skiing.

“I straddled up to the
precipitous edge, stuck
my skis out into the air,
and enjoyed the view
beneath my feet.”

With the Front Four on our Minds, we headed right over to National, and the presence of soft spring snow meant that it was definitely time to hit the formidable headwall.  The National Headwall is so steep that it often just turns into an icy mess that’s not worth skiing if the weather isn’t good, but that was not the case today.  I was indeed excited to be atop National on a day like today.  I straddled up to the precipitous edge, stuck my skis out into the air, and enjoyed the view beneath my feet.  The pitch of the National Headwall doesn’t look like it’s quite 40 degrees, but with the way the catwalk above it is groomed, I’d say from experience that the first pitch is pretty darned close to hitting that mark.  After eschewing the headwall under nasty conditions earlier in the season, I assured the boys that they could handle the slope easily with the good snow, and indeed they did.  It was just pure fun letting the soft, steep turns just fall away with gravity on the upper headwall.  As we approached the junction with Liftline, we got an acrobatic demonstration of sorts – were able to watch a couple of lift mechanics transfer from a chair onto one of the lift towers.  It was very cool looking down at them as they were perched precariously on the chair, accented by the image behind them, which was a view of the valley far below.

An image of two lift mechanics with safety harnesses moving from a chair on Stowe's Fourrunner Quad to one of the towers to perform maintenance.
Mechanics high in the sky today on the Fourrunner Quad

We spent the rest of the afternoon on the Mountain Triple, making sure to catch a trip on Hayride, but also putting in a good dose of terrain park action at the request of the boys.  We even managed a terrain park trifecta at one point, coupling the small park on Lord to the larger parks on Tyro and North Slope in one long run.  The only downside we found to our “freestyle” terrain selection was that the resort didn’t build their huge half pipe this season, so we didn’t get to mix that in.  With the adhesive properties of the soft corn snow, we were able to really load up the tops of our skis with heaping helpings of it before getting on the lift.  Ty, Dylan and I we were able to stockpile it that allowed us to throw a lot of snowballs during our ascents, as we worked on hitting the chairs that were descending on the other side of the lift.  Hitting the skeleton-like chairlift frame, which is of course a moving target, while in a seated position on another moving object, is a fun challenge.  Although Ty had the pole position on that one, putting him closest to the target, he throws lefty, so that raised the bar for him.  We skied almost until the lifts closed, winding up at Spruce around 3:45 P.M. where we called it a day.  It was good ol’ Subway at the Alpine Mart today on the way home as the warmer season of après ski kicks into gear, and that closed the books on another fine day of Vermont spring skiing.

An image of Dylan carrying Erica's snowboard on his shoulders as he walks through the parking lot in front of the Stowe Mountain Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Top notch porter service for Mom at the end of the day

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