The storm that came through the area over the past few days was a real mixed bag; we certainly got some snow, but there was also a lot of sleet, and that was the preponderant precipitation down at our house. By the time the storm wound down this morning, we’d picked up roughly eight tenths of an inch of liquid equivalent in our sleet and snow, and I suspected that would translate into more than an inch of liquid up in the higher elevations. Although the new snow accumulations reported this morning were only in the 3 to 5-inch range in the Northern Greens, the snow had all that liquid in it, so there was a good chance of a decent resurfacing of the slopes.
“…a healthy layer of smooth,
dense snow that offered up
some great turns and did
a nice job of covering the
E and Dylan had midday communion practice, but Ty and I planned to ski, and I’d alerted Ty about the potential for some fresh snow earlier in the week. He was definitely ready for some skiing, but I was still torn about whether or not to head out first thing in the morning. Either the snow was going to be good and wintry from the get go because it was soft and sufficient to cover up the old subsurface, or we’d have to wait for it to soften up. We told E and Dylan that we might just end up doing a run or two if the snow wasn’t good, and Ty was definitely prepared for the worst. I brought both fat and mid-fat Telemark skis for me, and fat alpines and Telemark skis for Ty – we also brought out skins and ski packs in case we got ambitious and wanted to earn some untracked powder over on the upper part of the Gondola area.
Ultimately we went with a mid morning start, finding temperatures in the mid 30s F at the base of Mansfield. The snow on the lowest slopes of the mountain had clearly softened into something nice based on the sounds (or lack of them) we heard from the lift, but up in the higher elevations, the temperature was below freezing and the quality of the skiing was still a mystery. The top half of the mountain remained in the clouds, and appeared to be well protected from any warming effects of the sun. We started off the day’s explorations near Ridgeview, and with a few quick samplings off piste it was quickly evident that the high-elevation snow was not some hard, refrozen amalgam of immovable ice, but a healthy layer of smooth, dense, sugary powder that offered up some great turns and did a nice job of covering the subsurface. Discovering this, we quickly dove into the trees toward Toll Road, and Ty was immediately captivated by the quality of the turns. He confirmed that we wouldn’t be going home after just one run. We found ourselves certainly more “on” than “in” the powder, based on the density, but the turns were silky smooth and skiing the trees was like mid winter. We worked our way down through a series of gladed areas on the various tiers of Upper Toll Road, before reaching Sunrise. Ty is always talking about how much he likes Toll Road, more for the glades that cut the switchbacks than anything else, and with the discovery of all these new lines it’s becoming even more attractive. We’ll have to find a way to get in there more often; perhaps I’ll have to capitalize on Ty’s requests. We dove back into the Sunrise Trees, and continued into the Chapel Glades, with good snow all the way to the Chapel. The snow really started to transition to a wetter, spring-style consistency below that point, and going was slowed on Lower Tyro. We did catch some nice, albeit somewhat sloppy and wet, fresh tracks down there though. After the experience of that first run, I was ever so close to grabbing my fat skis off the car and switching to them, but the mid-fats were getting the job done and I decided to save the time.
On the next run I decided it was time to introduce Ty to the Bypass Chutes. He’d never been in there before that I can recall, but I told him that it was like doing the Kitchen Wall traverse in the opposite direction. We traversed high, and saw a lot of good lines. The snow was definitely the deepest of the day out there, and when we finally hit an area where my depth checks revealed 11 inches of new snow, it was time to ride. I couldn’t believe how deep the snow was in that area, but you could see that it was likely spillover from the ice cliffs above. Mt. Mansfield always seems to find a way to deliver the goods. Ty hiked up a bit higher than me to get a good starting point, and then let it rip down a beautiful line, while I shots some photos. Some other skiers who were on the traverse below us stopped to watch the show, and gave him props for his turns. Ty was definitely loving his first experience in the Bypass Chutes; it’s totally his kind of terrain. The trip through various steep cutes continued, until we reached Rimrock. We worked our way over to check out the Gondola area next, and eventually got back into that springtime snow as we dropped in elevation. One nice aspect of this recent storm made itself apparent though – the sleet that fell really isn’t all that different than corn snow, so it really made a quick transition to something other than mush. There were still sticky areas due to the recent snow, but overall that snow was transitioning to a nice spring snow much quicker than dry, fine-grained powder would.
“…the turns were
silky smooth and
skiing the trees
was like mid
We had a good lunch in the Mansfield Base Lodge, and by the time we got back out, the clouds had risen up to near the peaks, and it was really starting to warm up. There were even some breaks in the clouds off to the east and it was starting to turn into a partly sunny day. The freezing level had climbed all the way to the top of the Fourrunner Quad. We did get back into the Upper Toll Road Glades, but the snow was much wetter than it had been, and we spent most of the run back on the trails. Although not quite up to the level it was before, the skiing was still decent, but Ty was pretty tired and we called it a day. We’ve got more precipitation falling this evening though, and with temperatures in the 30s F down here in the valley, it’s going to be frozen up high. The snowpack at the stake continues to sit in that 70-80 inch range, and coverage remains excellent at Stowe all the way down to the lowest elevations. I suspect the mountain could be sitting at roughly 100% open if they really had the traffic to warrant it.