There’s still snow on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield, and since today’s weather was absolutely beautiful, we decided to get in some turns while we still could. After some rain on Friday night, the weather cleared out and dried out yesterday, and today was just a continuation of that trend with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s F. We headed up to Mt. Mansfield in the early afternoon, and a quick survey of the slopes revealed that the substantial snow on Nosedive was quite a distance up in elevation, but North Slope has decent coverage all the way to the base. That seemed like the best option for turns, especially for the boys. The Mansfield Parking Lot was closed, and accessing North Slope from the Gondola lots was a bit of a hike, so we found a nice parking spot near the exit from the Mansfield Lot that gave us some quick access to the snow, and even allowed us to use the big staircase behind the Mansfield Base Lodge.
“The snow was excellent corn, from which the top couple of inches would be shaved off to produce some very nice turns.”
The snow on Lower North Slope was discontinuous, but there were large areas of coverage left over from parts of the terrain park that would allow most of the descent there to be on snow. We hiked up to Crossover with our skis on our packs, and then decided to switch over to skinning above that point, since our earlier observations from afar suggested that the snow cover would be becoming fairly continuous in that area. The boys had us going at their usual leisurely pace, which included stopping at various times to either play on one of the massive snow piles, slide downhill in the snow on their knees as members of a rock band playing guitars, attach old beer cans to the bottom of their ski poles, or pick up the odds and ends that appear at ski resorts as the snow disappears. They were also quite engrossed in discussing their latest exploits on Minecraft, which helped to keep things upbeat during the ascent vs. having them constantly ask about how much higher we were going to hike. As we were putting on our skins above Crossover, a skier was just descending to us, and he told us that there was some excellent coverage and smooth snow up on Sunrise. The skin up North Slope was fun, with a couple spots having fairly narrow passageways of snow that took some careful navigation. Also of note were the occasional mini crevasses that formed where the snowpack was separating; those were an immediate source of fun for the boys as they strove to cross in wide areas without touching the ground below. The snow was just about continuous up to near the summit of the Mountain Triple Chair, where we finally had to stop our ascent due to time. I really would have liked to go a bit farther and check out Sunrise, but if I take a trip up by myself I may do that at some point. In any event, the coverage on the upper parts of North Slope was generally wall to wall and a couple feet deep.
We only paused at the top of the ascent long enough to switch the gear over for the descent, and there was definitely a bit of chill in the air up there whenever the occasional cloud would pass in front of the sun. The snow was excellent corn, from which the top couple of inches would be shaved off to produce some very nice turns. There were occasional areas of sun cups around, but for the most part they were either minimal in size, or there was a side of the trail with very few of them, so we got in lots of smooth turns. The boys had used Alpine Trekkers today so that they could ski on their alpine skis, and they had a blast ripping through all the nuances of the terrain. Along with the smooth turns on the upper half of North Slope, one of my favorite parts was lower down on the trail where the snow was down to just a few feet wide in a couple of sections – holding a Telemark drift in those areas was a lot of fun, and we even got E doing it with some great control.
Below Crossover we had to take off our skis a few times, but the walking was easy on the grassy slopes, so the descent was very quick. Everyone got up atop one of the big mounds of snow left from a huge terrain park feature and enjoyed some turns down the steep back side. It was definitely a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, although unfortunately it doesn’t look like there will be too many opportunities left for these types of outings this season – the skiing return is going to start getting more and more marginal for the hiking investment. We all lamented that these may be our last turns at Stowe for this season. I read today that the Mt. Washington Auto Road opened to the summit, so I suspect our next family outing will be a trip to Mt. Washington to ski the snowfields if an appropriate window of weather is available.