Stowe, VT 30NOV2012

An image of skiers making their way up the Liftline trail at Stowe Mountain Resort to catch some early morning powder turns
Today’s dawn patrol on Liftline

A cold front came through the area last night, and while it was expected to drop a few inches of snow, the Northern Greens did their usual thing and ultimately managed to pull a foot of beautiful fluff out of the event.  Even though I didn’t quite know what the totals were going to be last night, Winter Weather Advisories had to be posted by the National Weather Service Office in Burlington, we’d picked up over 4 inches of snow down at the house by~9:30 P.M., and it was obvious that the local mountains were getting something worthy of dawn patrol.

I awoke this morning to our coldest temperatures of the season – we bottomed out at 7.2 F and there was no doubt that the snow was going to be light and dry.  Since the snow had shut off by roughly midnight, there had been plenty of time to clean up the roads, and the trip over to Stowe was quick.  There were a good 20+ vehicles present as I parked in the Mansfield lot, and although it was still fairly dark, I could see a few skiers making their way up the slope leading to the trails.  They seemed to be heading off in the direction of Nosedive, so I opted to head that way and hopefully make use of an established skin track.

“I’ve often wondered if it
was worth going the slightly
narrower route on skins to
reduce weight and enhance
glide. After today’s experience,
I can tell you to forget about it
for typical alpine ascents.”

The track headed up Lower National through a few lower elevation snow guns, and the areas of firm, manmade snow quickly made me aware that my ascension setup wasn’t going to be perfect.  I was using my AMPerages (139-115-123) to see how they fared in the powder, but since I don’t have skins for them yet, I was using my RT-86 skins (127-86-113).  That width differential left a good deal of base exposed, and on occasion I had to use a heaping helping of arm strength with my poles to avoid slipping.  Although I’ve always cut my skins to the full width of my skis, I’ve often wondered if it was worth going the slightly narrower route on skins to reduce weight and enhance glide.  After today’s experience, I can tell you to forget about it for typical alpine ascents.  Unless you’re going to be touring on very low angle terrain, it’s just not worth it based on what I experienced today – any benefit from the weight/glide could easily be lost by the constant slipping.  Thank goodness the skin track didn’t have any post holes in it this morning or it would have been a huge pain to hold traction.  Up through Lower National I was getting by reasonably well with the occasional small slip of my skins, but the challenge wasn’t quite over.  After reaching the top of Lower National, the skin track shot up Midway, which has quite a steep pitch, and maintaining skin traction became a lot harder.  The pitch eased a bit as the track made its way onto Nosedive, but by the time I’d reached the Liftline/National junction, time was getting short and I was more than happy avoid any more slipping.  It was time for a descent.

I’d been checking on snow depth during my ascent, but due to all the snow this week, there was a lot of unconsolidated stuff under the current storm’s bounty and it was difficult to assess just what came down overnight.  I’d been getting measurements of roughly a foot or more since I’d started at the base area (~1,500’), but when I stuck my measurement pole into the snow at that ~2,800’ mark, I got an overall depth of 18 inches.  Combined with what I was seeing around me from other skiers (check out the pictures from adk and from Powderfreak at the American Weather Forum), who were having little if any issues touching down on obstacles below the snow, the potential turns were looking really good.  National is quite steep and while it wouldn’t typically be my first choice for early season skiing, Mother Nature has really been dishing out the snow on Stowe this week.  It looked ready and I was about to test it out.

“These new fat, rockered skis
are absolutely the real deal.
I continued to bound my way
down the steep slope, just
amazed at how easy the
turns were.”

I switched to descent mode and decided to see what the AMPerages could do.  I dropped in for the first few turns, tentatively, still wondering in the back of my mind if I was going to hit something below, but it was immediately obvious that there was plenty of snow.  The powder was light and dry, and I quickly found myself just giddy with how well the AMPerages performed.  This was my first time on such fat, rockered skis, and although I figured that there might be some modest, incremental increase in ease of powder skiing over my regular Telemark setup, it was far more than that.  These new fat, rockered skis are absolutely the real deal.  I continued to bound my way down the steep slope, just amazed at how easy the turns were.  At the bottom of National I decided to avoid heading back down toward the snow guns where I’d ascended, and instead took Houghton’s over toward the Lookout Double.  It was very quiet over there, since it was well away from any snow guns, and I finished off my run turning my way through fluffy silence.  It’s not even December 1st and there’s not just passable, but really good natural snow skiing from top to bottom on Mt. Mansfield, so indeed that’s a great end to November on the slopes.

An image of the Lookout Double Chairlift with fresh powder below it at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A peaceful Lookout this morning

Sure today featured the best snow I’ve encountered this season, but I can already tell that the powder skiing is going to be just that much more fun this season with the new boards in the quiver.  I’ve now tested the AMPerages in some legitimate Champlain Powder™ – they handled the fluff with aplomb and they are clearly NVT worthy in that regard.  Presumably the whole season won’t be just a fluff fest, so I’m also eager to see how they handle thicker snow and crud, but we’ll have time for that.

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