Today was a continuation of riding Nemo’s bounty, and we got to check out how things went down at Stowe. Like most of the Vermont ski areas, Stowe fell in that 1 to 1 ½ foot range for storm accumulation, reporting 14 inches from the event. Yesterday’s cold had also cleared out today, with the forecast calling for sunshine and temperatures in the 20s F.
We kicked things off before program started, with a warm up run off the Sunny Spruce Quad. Conditions last Sunday were certainly decent, but it was easy to see that they’d taken a significant step upward today. On piste, the snow from Nemo had been worked into the groomed surfaces to make them quite soft, and off piste there was a good foot of fairly fresh powder everywhere. The boys requested a descent along the Sunny Spruce lift line on Lower Smuggler’s and it was some fine cruising. We had time for a second quick run since people were still assembling, so we checked out Nastar Hill and the open terrain above Meadows. When we’d initially arrived at the resort today I hadn’t seen many tracks up in that area, so I figured it might be crusty or tough to ski, but it was anything but tough. It was partially skier-packed snow that was gloriously soft. After ripping his way down that face Ty proclaimed, presumably with some hyperbole, that it was his “best run ever”. I get where he was going with that though, in that it was almost effortless. That’s low elevation, south-facing terrain, and the conditions were extremely impressive. After experiencing that, and having skied west-facing terrain at similar elevations at Bolton Valley yesterday, I’d say that Stowe currently has the edge in terms of conditions.
We finally met up with Ken and Jack and made our way over to Mt. Mansfield. With the new snow that has fallen thanks to Nemo, I decided that a Kitchen Wall run was in order, and the boys were fired up for that. The snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake has jumped to 55 inches with the addition of the recent snow, so that’s getting it up not too far below average. The Kitchen Wall traverse is in decent shape, although certainly not as soft and filled in as it could be. The snow in there was nice, with plenty of areas of untracked powder remaining if you were willing to poke around. Down below we found Nosedive a bit firm in the middle at times due to the manmade snow, but the edges were great and we worked those all the way back down to the Gondola.
“It was partially
that was gloriously
Another big plan for the day was to bring the boys out to the Bench Woods, since only Dylan has been in there with me. The first chutes bypassing Upper Gondolier were simply heinous – they’re cut overly tight for their very steep pitch to begin with, and with the traffic that has been in there, the coverage is worn down way too low. Another couple feet of base are needed in there to make them respectable. Even before we went in, I told the boys that I usually skip those chutes because they hardly ever ski well, but I wanted them to at least experience what they were like. Well, one trip was enough for them to realize why those chutes just aren’t that great. Down in the Bench Woods the powder was actually quite plentiful. Ken and I had a blast gliding our way down the center of a small streambed that just kept going and going. Luke and Jack definitely struggled in there though, since there are a lot of saplings that make many lines feel tight, and they don’t have a ton of experience in that terrain. Ty and Dylan handled it well, although they did get a bit bored waiting for the other boys if they were getting stuck in the powder or having trouble navigating. It’s a long run as it is, but between the struggles and boredom, Ken and I were probably the only ones really having an all out blast. However, we had a lot of good teaching moments dealing with the nuances of skiing that sort of terrain. The past couple of times I’ve been in there, it’s seemed like there’s a lot more underbrush compared to what I remember back in the 90s – I just think the whole place needs a good pruning and it will ski many, many times better.
Coming back out of the Bench Woods felt like a never ending saga for the boys, so when we finally arrived, I decided that they’d earned a good snack break in the Midway Lodge, just like Dylan and I had done that last time we’d skied in there. And, just like Dylan and I had done, we kicked back near the Fireplace in the near solitude of Midway in the late afternoon. For a snack I grabbed what looked like some maple granola made by Mitzi’s, a local Stowe company also known as Fresh Mountain Foods. That granola is fantastic, and when I shared it around among the group everyone was impressed. I suspect they carry it in other parts of the resort, but it’s going to be an excuse to get me back to the Midway Lodge.
“Ken and I had a blast
gliding our way down
the center of a small
streambed that just
kept going and going.”
After the extended break to recover from our Bench Woods adventure, we had time for one more run. We decided to keep it simple due to the late hour, so we just did a Perry Merrill to Gondolier run. The snow was again quite good, and excellent along the edges. About halfway down I heard the boys yelling about something they could see off in the distance, and the best we could tell, since it was way down in the base area, it looked like a car was on fire. Black smoke was billowing hundreds of feet in the air, but it was hard to imagine that it could actually be a car on fire. We rushed down to the base, and low and behold there was indeed an SUV on fire. It was the weirdest thing, and not something you’d expect to see at the base of a ski resort (or I guess most places for that matter). I’m not sure what caused it, but perhaps we’ll hear about it in the paper.
The boys wanted to hang around for some food, so we had a mellow meal by one of the south windows in the mostly deserted Great Room Grill. Claire is off to Africa for a couple of weeks, so she and Luke weren’t there, and Jack and his family were with some other folks over by the Spruce Camp Bar. Jack and the boys played some sort of hide and go seek around the lodge though, and kept themselves amused until we finally had to reel them in. At least E got them to eat most of their food – they often forget to eat and then they want more food when we get home.
We’ve got another winter storm coming into the area tomorrow. It’s a low pressure system that will be working in nearly overhead out of the Midwest, and in The Weather Channel naming scheme this one is called “Orko”. Down here in the valley it sounds like we’ll have a bit of rain with snow on the front and back ends of the storm, but it sounds like the higher elevations are going to be mostly snow with perhaps a little sleet. You folks better get your space heaters in order, no one wants frozen toes. The current forecast calls for 5 to 9 inches in the Mt. Mansfield area, although the models are showing some good potential for upslope snow on the back side lingering into Tuesday night, so totals could ultimately be higher than that if the upslope really kicks in.