Stowe, VT 08NOV2014

An image of ski tracks in powder at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a November snowfall
Out for some early season turns at Stowe on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield

With the recent snow I headed up to Stowe this morning to check out the conditions and make some turns. The weather had cleared out since yesterday’s storminess, but it was still fairly cool, and much of the snow that had accumulated in the valleys was hanging around. There were skiffs of it on the shady rooftops in Stowe Village, but it wasn’t until up around the 1,000′ elevation that it really began to appear in traces on the ground.

Up at the resort there was an inch or two at the base of Mansfield, and there were a few dozen cars in the Mansfield Parking Lot from other folks who were out for some activity on the snow. The snow guns were blazing on the usual North Slope route, so when I saw a skin track heading up a much quieter Hayride, I decided to give it a shot. Right from the base there was plenty of snow for skinning, and as the depth increased with elevation, it held up fine even on Hayride’s steeper pitches. Whoever set that skin track was right on the money; they kept the pitch fairly consistent and made appropriate switchbacks instead of trying to scramble their way up those steep shots. There were even some nice alternative tracks to fit your preference – some a bit steeper and some a bit shallower.

An image of a frosty "Stop Gate" sign at the top of the Lookout Double Chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontAt the top of Hayride I finally ran into the snow guns on Upper Lord, so I cut across to the top terminal of the Lookout Chair (3,325′) to get out of the noisy fray of spray. Looking upward toward Ridge View and Upper Lord, I could see that they were both being blasted by the guns, so I decided that it wasn’t worth pushing on through that and called it an ascent. Temperatures were somewhere in the mid to upper 20s F at that elevation, and I spent a few minutes during the ascent changeover poking around, getting some wintry photos, and checking out the snow quality. My depth checks along the my ascent were made challenging by the lack of base and plenty of fluffy grass beneath the new snow, but my best estimates for natural snow would be the following with respect to elevation:

1,500′: 1-2″
2,000′: 2-4″
2,500′: 3-4″
3,000′: 3-5″

There was some drifting, and I found depths of up to 15″ at some of the water bars.

I began my descent on some of the lesser used trails up there around the top of the Lookout Chair that weren’t getting hit by the guns, and managed some early season powder turns. In a few spots some of the overspray of snow from the main trails messed with the consistency of the powder, but in general there was plenty of space for good turns in natural snow. Once back onto the snowmaking terrain I found that the untracked snow from the guns was unfortunately a sticky mess, but decent turns could be had where other skiers had done a bit of their own grooming and churning up of the snow. It was a bit tough to resist the usual urge to go for the least tracked snow, but the turns were often quite good in those places with skier traffic. The very worst turns were on the periphery of the snowmaking where soft natural snow was covered with a layer of dense, artificial snow. That was almost like putting a manmade crust over the snow, and it was definitely Tele hell. I learned quickly to not even go near that stuff.

The snow stayed wintry all the way back to the base, although the temperatures were just starting to crack the freezing mark when I got down there. The snow along the Mountain Road was still hanging on though as I got back down around that 1,000′ mark. I did stop in to check on the construction in the Spruce Peak Base Area on my way home, and boy is that another big project. Parking is really going to be at a premium this season, as there’s essentially nothing for day parking over at Spruce with the construction taking place. The month of November looks like it’s going to be reasonably cool, so hopefully we’ll get some additional snow, but at least the snow guns should be able to keep running to put down base.

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