I was in Morrisville today, so on the way home to Waterbury I stopped in at Stowe to make some turns. From the Stowe Village area, the view is quite nice with all the trails covered in white from the snow at the beginning of the week. Even at midday, the temperature was just a bit above freezing at the base (~1,500’) and the resort was cranking out snow from top to bottom. The bulk of the snowmaking was taking place on the main routes in the Lord/North Slope area, although snow was also being blow over on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak in the same places that we’d seen it on Sunday. To avoid the roar of the guns, I decided to make my ascent up Nosedive. Hiking was in order at the start of the ascent, since natural snow doesn’t appear until roughly the 1,800’ elevation. The air was generally calm and the temperatures pleasantly cool as I hiked, and finally when I reached the 3,000’ elevation it seemed that the snowpack was sufficiently deep and consistent enough to strap on the skis and start skinning. There were a couple of descent tracks from people who had skied the upper parts of Nosedive, and while the snow was actually quite nice with some powder and sugary surface hoar, you’d certainly want to use your rock skis based on the coverage. I topped out at the Fourrunner Quad summit area, and switched over for the descent on the plateau above Nosedive away from the snow guns. Estimates of the natural snow depth at various elevations on the ascent are as follows:
“The descent featured all sorts
of conditions, such as bottomless
manmade snow, sticky manmade sludge,
refrozen moonscape, and thankfully,
some areas of packed powder and
partially groomed manmade snow.”
The descent featured all sorts of conditions, such as bottomless manmade snow, sticky manmade sludge, refrozen moonscape, and thankfully, some areas of packed powder and partially groomed manmade snow. I started the descent on Upper Lord, and that was where I found the bottomless manmade that had recently been blown. After my experience with the snow on my November 4th tour, I have to say that I find that unconsolidated manmade stuff even more horrific to ski than Sierra Cement or Cascade Concrete, at least on Telemark gear. The turns often feel like an accident waiting to happen as you glide across the top and then suddenly cut into the paste with random frequency as you pressure the turn. Fortunately that ended by the time I reached the top of the Lookout Double. Snow was still being made, but the guns weren’t as densely packed and you could get around so that you were riding on older snow. Those middle elevations offered some of the best turns, with some nice packed powder to be found. The manmade snow that had had some time to dry out and/or had been packed by other traffic skied quite nicely. I did get into trouble in one spot where a gun was blowing fresh snow that turned out to be on the wet side – as soon as I stopped, several inches of it glommed onto the bottom of my skis and I had to slowly work it off while I got moving. I did my best to avoid any of the snow being blown by the lower mountain guns after that point, but it seemed like that one was just especially bad because of the mixture it was putting out. On the bottom half of the mountain there were still some areas of nice snow, but also refrozen and slick areas where one had to be careful to avoid a sliding out. At the bottom of my run, the guns were blowing in the North Slope Terrain Park, and I was dreading the thought of what the snow would be like down at that elevation. I watched a snow cat head right up through the gut of the trail, so I waited for him to make it above me in order to stay out of his way. That turned out to be very beneficial, because the best snow was actually in the track that had been churned up by the treads. It hadn’t been fully smoothed out, but by breaking up the top skin of the manmade snowpack, it produced some really nice packed powder. Those turns were actually great as I made my way back and forth in the swatch of the snowcat, and it gives me confidence that once Stowe’s snow is appropriately groomed, it’s going to ski quite nicely.
So, I definitely found some nice turns out there today. Today’s skiing scores well above what was available when I went out for a tour back on November 4th, but it wasn’t quite up to the consistency we found in the corn snow on Sunday’s outing, so today will fall in the middle of the pack for this November’s turns. It looks like we’re going to continue with this stretch of generally clear weather into next week, so while we can’t expect much natural snow during that time, at least the temperatures are such that plenty of snowmaking can take place.