It was back to Stowe today for our weekly BJAMS ski program, and we were curious to see what Mother Nature was going to deliver. The forecast called for temperatures in the mid 20s F at summit elevations, around 30 F at mid mountain elevations, and in the 30s F at base elevations. While those temperatures certainly weren’t going to soften the snow at all elevations, it seemed like there was a good chance for the lower slopes of south-facing Spruce Peak to soften up into something very nice.
We certainly had brilliant sunshine when we headed to the mountain around midday, and temperatures in the low to mid 40s F in the mountain valleys gave way to a temperature of 38 F at the base of the mountain. Upper 30s F with sunshine was definitely enough to get Spruce Peak to soften right up, and even at the top of Sunny Spruce, on terrain that was in the sun, the snow was beautiful. Some of terrain not in direct sun also had good snow, but it was definitely hit or miss there. At the top of Sunny Spruce, I took the boys aside and chopped out some of the snow to show them some the crust that had developed subsequent to the mixed precipitation storm at the end of the week. I noted that it was why we wouldn’t be doing too much off piste skiing today, but you could see that there was indeed some very nice powder below the crust, so areas that had seen previous skier traffic would definitely hold promise. Indeed, most of the mountain didn’t even get above freezing during the last storm, so the snow was preserved quite well below the crust.
We had our usual group of Ty, Dylan, Luc and Jack, and Ken was able to join me today as an additional coach. I started everyone off with a look at the terrain above Meadows, and you could see that it was nicely sun softened all around, but terrain that had not been groomed or skied yet had a layer of crust on it. It actually yielded somewhat due to softening in the sun, but the snow the groomed/skied on Nastar Hill was just so good, there was no point in busting new lines through there. We ventured higher on the mountain via Sensation to see how high the soft snow had ventured. It was more varied up at the top of Spruce Peak, gradually getting better and better as we descended. They were actually just cleaning up from racing on Main Street, but we were able to ski it and found some nice smooth terrain on the side of the trail where racing hadn’t taken place. We hit one more run on Lower Smuggler’s and West Slope, which both had excellent, sun-softened snow.
After a quick break, we decided to head over to the Gondola to see if Chin Clip had softened at all. The most surprising conditions of the day were found on Upper Gondolier, where there was excellent midwinter snow, and large amounts of loose powder thrown about by all the people that had skied it during the day. Chin Clip had generally winter snow, nothing as good as the top, but as one got lower you could start to feel where the warmth had gotten to it. If it had all been as good as Upper Gondolier it would have been worth another run, bet we all decided that Spruce Peak was clearly the place to be in terms of snow consistency.
It was 3:00 P.M. when we returned to Spruce, and since Dylan was feeling a bit under the weather, I headed with him into Spruce Camp so that he could rest, and Ken took the boys out for some more runs on Spruce. We had a good time hanging out in the lodge, and it was so peaceful that I was dozing off more than Dylan was. Once E was back into the lodge from her coaching and could watch Dylan, I headed out to catch one more run. I just barely missed the boys’ last run on Sunny Spruce, but took a quiet run by myself on the Adventure Triple. I’d never really spent much time checking out the houses they have up there, and the views of the village were quite interesting from among all those buildings. Even down at that elevation, the snow was starting to firm up, so closing time was just about right for allowing people to get in on the best conditions. The base is in fine shape, even if it’s only around average, but we could use some rounds of snow to just soften things up and get the conditions bumped up in quality. It looks like we’ve got several chances for small systems this week, and any one of them could run into the mountains an unload a bit more than expected, so we’ll keep our eyes peeled for how the accumulations turn out over the next few days.