A winter image of the Adam's Apple portion of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont viewed from the Gondolier trail at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort

Stowe, VT 14FEB2013

An image looking down at the top of the Angle Food run in the sidecountry ski terrain at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Taking in the view before dropping into Angel Food today

The winter storm that’s been affecting Vermont over the past couple of days is actually one that The Weather Channel name “Orko” based on its effects in the Midwest earlier in the week.  Snowfall from the system hasn’t been widespread, but it has dropped a foot and a half of snow on Jay Peak, and Stowe has done reasonably well with its own foot of fresh powderPowderfreak’s fluffy pictures from Tuesday told the story – it was another one of those midweek Mt. Mansfield powder days that fly right under the radar.  And, the snow wasn’t just fluff; it had enough substance that it represented a reasonable resurfacing of the slopes.  What made the new snow even better was that I wouldn’t say Stowe even needed it that badly based on the conditions we encountered Sunday.  With these thoughts in mind, I’d contemplated getting out to Mansfield for a few turns, but when Powderfreak commented in a post on Americanwx.com that “…it’s pretty unanimous in town here that the mountain is skiing the best of the season”, it seemed like it was time to pay the mountain a visit.  I’d been too busy to fit it in earlier in the week, but I finally found myself with enough time this morning to get out and make a few turns.

“…it’s pretty unanimous
in town here that the
mountain is skiing the
best of the season.”

The beckoning conditions were certainly enough to get me out to the hill, but I had another good reason to pay Mt. Mansfield a visit.  Our Sunday trip out to the Bench Woods with the boys during our BJAMS ski program got me thinking about bringing them out to Angel Food.  It’s been a while since I’ve been out that way though, so like I did for the Bruce Trail a few weeks back I wanted to get in some reconnaissance to ensure that the trip would go smoothly.  As of yesterday, the Mt. Mansfield Stake was showing a snowpack depth of 57 inches; it was still below average, but only by a couple of inches, and it was certainly enough to provide some decent turns even on steeper runs in the Stowe sidecountry.

An image of the sign for the Angel Food trail in the sidecountry ski terrain at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWith the combination of new snow and relatively low, midweek skier traffic, the traverse out to Angel Food was in good shape.  I stopped in a few spots along the traverse to check the depth of the powder, and found anywhere from 12 to 20 inches in the high elevations.  The main route was certainly tracked up, but there are just so many acres and acres of terrain around it that fresh lines were everywhere for the taking.  Even though it was tracked and packed, the snow in the central areas was so good that I actually spent a lot of time there working on turns.  When I did venture off the sides of the main route into other trees, the powder turns were divine, but the depth of the powder definitely started to drop as I went down in elevation.  Down near the 2,000’ elevation there was also a thin layer of crust somewhere between the layers of powder.  It was often quite subtle, so I suspect it was simply a bit of melt crust from when temperatures in the lower elevations rose above freezing on one of these past few days.  I decided to take the traverses that got me back to the base of the resort instead of venturing down to Route 108, since that’s most likely what we’ll do with the boys at first, but we’ll work our way up to some of the other stuff.  There was just glade after glade after glade off the main Angel Food route with few if any tracks, so the resort is really set up well for the coming holiday weekend.

A close-up image of powder snow on a spruce branch out in the Angel Food sidecountry area at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Out in the sidecountry – a little Champlain Powder settled on a spruce

“There was just glade after
glade after glade off the main
Angel Food route with few if
any tracks…”

After getting back to the base, I decided on one more run on Gondolier to really burn out my legs – I was on my Telemark skis so it really wasn’t going to take much.  On piste conditions were very good.  I’d still encounter the occasional firm spot, so I can’t quite put them down as top notch, but they were way up there.  As they have been much of the week, temperatures at the base were right around 30 F, and somewhere in the 20s F up top.  Between the fresh snow, midweek levels of visitors, and the perfect temperatures, people who chose this week for their vacation are really getting that quintessential Stowe experience.  I think a couple more feet of base snow would really get everything to that upper echelon of conditions, but it’s essentially powder and packed powder everywhere as far as I could tell, so it’s somewhat splitting hairs on the exact level of snow quality.  We’ve got some chances for snow going into the holiday weekend, and I’m leaning toward some backcountry turns barring a big storm, but front, side, or backcountry – the skiing is looking good in the Northern Greens right now.

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