The skiing yesterday was so good, that it was definitely worth going back for some more today. Snow continued to fall last night, and even down at the house it was still snowing under partly cloudy skies during the first part of the morning. It was only accumulating minimally in our yard, but the radar showed the moisture continuing to crash into the Northern Greens, so the mountains were getting at least of bit of additional accumulation. Down at the house, the mix of clouds, sun, and snowfall eventually gave way to full sunshine. Ideally, it would have been nice to head out really early to catch the powder before it was potentially affected by the late April sun, but the boys were enjoying a leisurely start to a day off from school, and we didn’t head to Stowe until late morning.
With the clear skies, it was a chance to finally see how the snowfall had played out in the mountains on our drive to the resort. The first thing I could see was that accumulations of white were just painting the tops of the ~2,000’ peaks across the Winooski Valley from our house. Our next view was of the Worcester Range, which was white for about the top 1,000’. The real dramatic views came when we finally saw Mt. Mansfield though, where the alpine regions were just blazing white above the touches of green foliage in the valley. Everyone in the car was stunned by how white the mountain looked, and E pulled over so I could get a few pictures from a good viewpoint.
Unlike yesterday, we found the gate to the Mansfield parking lot fully locked, so we parked right near it along with the cars of a few other people who were doing the same thing. We geared up, and walked over to the area above the Mansfield Base Lodge. The morning sun was already warming the snow in the lowest elevations, and I could see that there was less snow down near the lodge than when I’d been there yesterday. The temperature was still 34 F at the base though, so the freezing line wasn’t going to be too far above us.
We put on our skins right on the flats above the lodge. We were able to piece together a skin route up to Crossover fairly easily, but some gaps in the snow cover were starting to form. The strong April sun was also starting to make the snow sticky, but there was a nice stiff, cold breeze that seemed to be fighting against that. E and the boys weren’t too psyched by the look of the snow coverage, but I assured them it was going to get much better above 2,000’, and indeed it did. Not only did the coverage get better, but the snow was much drier above the 1,800’ Crossover level, and it looked like turns were going to be quite good. We encountered a few groups making ascents and descents, and a lot of dogs, but they were all quite well behaved. Actually, one of the coolest dog encounters of the day, or perhaps lack of encounter, was with what we’re guessing was a Samoyed. He appeared way above us, and came bounding down toward us with fur so incredibly thick that the look was that of an abominable snowman. We’d seen a few people around, but there was no obvious owner in sight, and when the dog came by he didn’t hassle us at all, he just passed along with a friendly look and went on his merry way. He definitely had the bearing of a dog that was built for snow and was having fun in his environment. We were able to continue our ascent up to around the 2,800’ elevation just above the top of the Mountain Triple before the boys really decided that they’d had enough. E was also unsure about the quality of the snow, and didn’t want to continue on a long ascent just to get more snow of marginal quality. Based on my impressions of the snow, which had continued to dry out more and more as we ascended, along with the body language of the skier’s we’d seen descending, I felt that the conditions were going to be great. But, you never really know how it’s going to ski until you try it, so I offered to skin up a little farther and ski down to check the snow before we made our final decision about the descent. Dylan was full of energy and made the ascent with me. After removing our skins, Dylan made the first descent, and once I saw him rip off a beautiful Telemark turn, I knew we were going to be in great shape. Indeed the snow was fairly nice packed powder up at that elevation; the cool temperatures and breeze were doing their job well.
We still descended at that point, and went by the same route we climbed, knowing that the coverage was decent and there would be a lot of good turns. The boys had several days of fairly intense Telemark training toward the end of the lift-served ski season at Stowe, but it’s been a few weeks since they did all that work, and E was wondering if they would retain all the progress they’d made. It was also the first time since those sessions that they’d been in powder, chowder, or any type of winter snow. We were happy to see that those first turns that Dylan made weren’t a fluke, and the boys really made a lot of excellent Telemark turns, even some in steep terrain in the chopped up powder. Various groups of skiers and riders had used the North Slope route by this afternoon, so most of the terrain was tracked up, but we still found some nice areas of untracked snow, and those were some of the best turns of the day. The last pitch of North Slope had a few tricky spots because it’s steep and has some areas of rock instead of grass, and then below Crossover in the terrain park area it was a game of connecting the dots among sticky snow, but it was a pretty minor part of the run compared to the bulk that had good snow. The fun part about that last section was the team route finding, and playing in the pockets of powder that had settled in among the vestiges of the some of the terrain park features.
Overall I think E was pleasantly surprised by just how good the snow turned out to be; it certainly wasn’t up to the quality of yesterday by time we got out, but there was definitely some midwinter snow above that 1,800-2,000’ level. I was intrigued by the interesting interplay between the strong sun and the cold and wind; I’m still amazed at how well the snow avoided getting sticky in the higher elevations. It was definitely a really good outing for Dylan. First off, it was his birthday, but he also go to use his new Anon goggles for the first time and he was very excited about that. On top of that though, he really had good energy on the ascent and made some really nice Telemark turns on parts of the descent. I’d say he kicked off his seventh birthday with some style.