Stowe, VT 16MAR2014

An image of Joe skiing Profanity Chute in the alpine terrain above treeline at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
After a Northern Greens fluff bomb visited the area last night, we got some incredibly great snow above treeline on Mt. Mansfield today.

Overnight we had one of those classic Northern Greens mini upslope snow events – the kind that almost seem to come out of nowhere and drop localized fluff bombs of Champlain Powder™.  We’d been up at Bolton Valley yesterday from mid morning to mid afternoon, and by the time we left, it was really dumping up there – snow accumulation on the road was down to ~1,500’, and snow/mix was down to ~1,000’.  It was still just rain down at our house in the bottom of the Winooski Valley at the 500’ elevation, and that was essentially all I’d noted about the weather before we went on with our evening indoors.  We’d watched the second Hunger Games movie, which kept us pretty enthralled for a good couple of hours, and it was a while before I checked in on my computer to see what weather discussion was going on in the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Forum.  I noticed eyewall in Burlington reporting some snow accumulation, and it prompted me to take a look out back.  Low and behold, it was dumping snow out there, easily 1” an hour type snowfall, and there was already a couple fresh inches of snow down.  By the wee hours of the morning, we’d picked up half a foot of snow at the house, and of course that got me thinking about what was going on in the mountains.

“The snow in the
chute looked so
good it was
almost spooky.”

My thoughts of a very early departure to Stowe for me and Ty were stymied by the fact that I had to get some work done and send it off to Stephen, but we managed to get going by around 9:30 A.M.  I hadn’t eaten by that point, and we stopped in at the DD on Route 100 to really calorie up with some hearty food.  Although he’d had some breakfast, Ty followed suit with at least a cream cheese bagel; it was a good idea, because I suspected we’d need those calories, and as we’d find out later in the day… they were going to be burned.  We got to the mountain by mid morning, and the slopes were looking very good.  The resort was reporting a fresh 9 inches overnight, and they appeared to be in the sweet spot for accumulations.  We were of course really happy that the surprise dump of snow coincided with our usual Sunday visit to the mountain.  We’d dressed warmly since temperatures were around 10 F, but truth be told, the temperature just didn’t have the bite that it seems to in January.  It’s mid March, and either we’re acclimated, or the March sun just helps to fight off the cold.

An image of Ty skiing powder snow on the Lower Smugglers trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Warmin’ up for the day

Ty and I kicked things off with a run on the Sunny Spruce, featuring some Lower Smugglers Trees just like we’d done a couple of weeks ago, followed by a visit to the terrain above Meadows.  The new snow was indeed light and dry, and the skiing in the trees was awesome, although the base was stiff in low elevation areas that were unprotected from the sun.  I’d suspected that as a possibility based on the dense snow we’d found in the lower elevations at Bolton Valley yesterday, so after that warm up run our plan was to head right up into the higher elevations of Mt. Mansfield, where we knew the snow would be very well preserved.

We started off with a trip along the Kitchen Wall traverse, and hit some of the deep powder there.  There had really been minimal traffic through the area at that point, so we just picked an untracked area in one of the first snowfields and had at it.  That essentially led us on a long and meandering trip through various areas of tree skiing that brought us to the Fourrunner Quad.  From the top of the quad I took Ty down Pipeline, which I probably haven’t skied in 20 years.  I was happy that I was able to find it, but less enthused about how narrow it was.  My skis have only gotten shorter since 20 years ago, so I have no idea how I skied it back then.  It was already well packed out, which probably doesn’t take much, since in general people are going to side slip a lot of it anyway.  It was just as steep as I remembered though, and the fall away views were spectacular.  We eventually found ourselves dropping into the Hazelton Zone from the south side, and that resulted in a great run with tons of untracked snow.  Somehow we even managed to get into some of the same lines we’d hit back on the 2nd, and I think our noses naturally lead us in certain directions.  Knowing more about some of the big, north-facing gullies though, we managed to get ourselves into one of those, and that was pretty sweet.  We’ve still got several of those to explore however, the trick is just finding exactly where to enter the zone to get there.

An image of Ty spraying powder while skiing in the trees on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty sending up a huge spray of powder out there in some of the trees on the lower elevations of Mt. Mansfield

By the time we traversed out of the Hazelton Zone, it was time to head over to Spruce Peak for some lunch, and to meet up with Dylan, E, and all the other folks for the afternoon BJAMS ski program.  After climbing and skiing the Cliff Trail Gully last Sunday as a refresher, today the plan was to kick things up a notch and visit Profanity Chute.  Skiing Profanity is a bit of a larger endeavor, since it involves going all the way to the top of The Chin, with a longer hike and a longer descent.  This was a great day for it though, with a couple feet of snow midweek from winter storm Vulcan, topped off with another 9 inches of fluff from the overnight snows, the odds were favoring some really nice snow in the alpine.  Joe had heard about our plans, and since he was interested in bringing his group up as well, we joined together with him, Ethan, and Julia to make a nice gondola-sized group of eight.

I’d checked on some of the boys packs down in the lodge, so once we got to the top of the gondola, the preparation for the hike went fairly smoothly.  The ascent of the Climbing Gully was a little slow at first, simply because of all the fresh snow.  The boot ladder was just not consolidated enough.  That issue gradually waned as we got up into terrain that had been brushed by the wind a bit more.  About 1/3 of the way up the gully, we stopped for a break and to let Jack and Kenny catch up with the group.  In order to give them a rest, we waited a bit longer, and with temperatures in the single digits, we had to worry about getting too cold.  In the upper half of the hike, I eventually had to put Kenny’s and Jack’s skis on my pack to allow them to keep pace with the rest of the group.  That worked well though, and we eventually got everyone up to the Chin and the area atop Profanity Chute.  Winds were probably 30-35 MPH up along the ridgeline near The Chin, but fortunately we were able to quickly get on the leeward side of the mountain by the chute.

The snow in the chute looked so good it was almost spooky.  There was just one obvious ski track over on the skier’s left, but the right side was a huge field of what appeared to be powder.  Just to be safe and to check on wind loading, I ski cut through that area to make sure it wasn’t going to release.  It passed that test, and we let the kids just rip it up.  I didn’t even have time to get my camera out because they were so quickly enamored with what lay beneath their feet.  Indeed that was some mighty fine snow we hit, two to three feet of soft powder, with the denser accumulations from Vulcan topped off with last night’s fluff.  I was at least able to shoot some images of Joe in the chute, since he’d waited for all the kids to go.  The kids were treated to some fantastic conditions up there, with almost no tracks all the way down the second part of the chute toward Taft Lodge.  There’s not much to say other than that the snow was deep, bottomless, and everywhere; that leeward side of Mansfield just really knows how to do snow right.

After following the mazes of tracks and bobsled runs through the subalpine area, getting down to Chin Clip, and then skiing all the way to the base, it was time to head back to Spruce Peak and call it a day.  The kids really earned high marks today, and I was amazed at how comfortable with the exposure of the chute up in the alpine.  I think that the amazing snow helped with that of course, because even when people did fall, they just immediately stopped thanks to the deep powder.  The temperatures were doing a great job of preserving the snow, even when the March sun came out, and it looks like those temperatures will continue to keep preserving the snow as we head into the coming week.

A Google Earth GPS map of a ski tour in the Mt. Mansfield alpine area above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont  including Profanity Chute
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of today’s ski tour to Profanity Chute in the Mt. Mansfield Alpine area – Click to view the full size image.

6 thoughts on “Stowe, VT 16MAR2014”

  1. I must have just barely missed you and your crew up high on the ridge. There were about half a dozen tracks down Profanity when I got in there. My goodness, that snow was amazing. I caught the traverse to Hell Brook which was also amazing. But it was tough peeling off at the traverse!

    1. That really was a great day up there in the alpine; you picked a nice one to head up. I was surprised that the traffic up there had been so light though; it was great to see just the one track in Profanity, but on the downside, the boot pack up the climbing gully was often invisible because of the new snow/low traffic, and the poor footing at times made things a little slower for the kids. They certainly earned their turns though, and got to get that first run of Profanity under their belts. The snowpack is still in great shape, and with the potential for more April storms, it should last a while.

      1. Yea, the boot pack was a pain, especially with the wind. The kids did a great job making it up there! That was my first time down Profanity, I’ve always taken Hourglass to get to Hellbrook. I might never ski Profanity with better snow than that first time! Should be back up once more before the Gondola closes, hopefully.

  2. First, I want to thank you for your amazing blog. It’s an amazing “guide” for a VT first timer. Yesterday I did camel hump. Today I was going to do Mansfield peak ans ski the chutes. Unfortunately it was too foggy for me to head to the top, but as a bonus I had a good resort day. I was looking for the bootpack that goes up from the gondola. I noticed a trail going up from the unloading area(right side of your picture). Looking at your picture again it seems like the bootpack to the top is to the left of the gondola. I did not look there, but is the trail easy to spot?

    Here is your pic I am talking about. http://jandeproductions.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/06APR13B.jpg

    1. Hi Paul, there are ascent routes to the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline on both sides of the Cliff House/Gondola complex. If you’re outside in front of the complex, off to the right is access to what’s known as the “Climbing Gully”. There’s a sign there right at the entrance to the forest warning that it’s backcountry terrain etc. That’s the most popular route up to the top of the Chin from the Gondola area. Off to the left of the complex, and the one I used in the picture that you referenced, is what we call the “Cliff Trail Gully”. That one follows the route of the actual hiking trail known as “Cliff Trail”, and it drops one off on the ridge line farther south than the Climbing Gully. The Cliff Trail Gully is good for ascending to ski that gully itself, but also provides good access to the Rock Garden area a bit to the south of it. I’ve now updated this report and added a Google Earth map with GPS tracking data so that you can get a general idea of where the Climbing Gully is located. In combination with the map you referenced, it should provide a sense for both routes.

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