Stowe, VT 07FEB2016

An image of a snowy evergreen by the Cliff House on Mt. Mansfield at the top of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Although it hasn’t been especially wintry by any stretch of the imagination in Northern Vermont this week – the area below The Chin of Mt. Mansfield still seems to produce when it comes to snow.

I typically start off my daily ski trip reports with some discussion of the recent winter storms and how they played out with respect to the local powder and snowpack. This week though, there’s really not much to cover in that regard. Our most recent storm of note was last Saturday, which definitely offered up some powder for my visit to Bolton Valley, and then Sunday featured slightly milder temperatures that produced some nice soft snow on piste at Spruce Peak. Since then though, snowfall has really been flat.

We’ve cooled down somewhat since earlier last week, but that’s not a great recipe for good conditions without some new snow to soften things up. Nonetheless, today was a BJAMS ski program day at Stowe, so we headed off for our usual Sunday afternoon session. Today E decided to promote “service with a smile”, one of the themes from Catholic Schools Week, by assembling the student groups according to grade level instead of ability. The goal was to let the more advanced students in each group help the others work on their skiing. I was with Dave today coaching the fifth graders, which included Dylan, Molly, Calvin, and Ryan. I went with my Telemark skis since I figured I’d be able to handle everything at Molly’s pace, and it was my only outing for the weekend so I wanted to maximize my workout.

An image of the ice rink in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Checking out some of the facilities surrounding the new ice rink in the Spruce Peak Village while the kids take an early run before our ski program

There’s really not much one can do to sugarcoat a description of the general on-piste conditions though; although not quite at the level of “we just had a massive rainstorm and moonscape-generating flash freeze”, 80-90% of the trails were still heinously icy. I’d say some of the worst culprits we visited were Cliff Trail, Upper Nosedive, and Perry Merrill. Cliff Trail was insanely bad, simply due to its narrowness combined with the fact that its snow settles in like a half pipe and there are very few spots along the edges of trail to actually ski – in most spots trying to ski the edge means attempting to ride a huge double fall line.

An image showing four inches of snow near the Cliff House on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont.Fortunately there were some bright spots out there with decent, and at times even excellent, snow. The lower half of Spruce Peak had some nice spots, presumably due to being low enough in elevation and south facing to get the snow softening a bit. I’d say the very best snow of the day was from 3,000’ on up at the Gondola. Roughly 4 inches of recent snow had accumulated up there, and the powder along the edges of the trails and even the snow that people had pushed there was just so superior to most of what was available on the mountain. I will say that even in the worst of weather patterns, it’s hard to keep those upper elevations below The Chin down when it comes to snow. That area is an absolute snow magnet and skiing there definitely reminds one of what good snow is like. There were also plenty of areas with excellent snow along the edges of trails that had built up over the course of the day. In some cases you could go for dozens and dozens of turns and not even have to think about hitting any ice, but those accumulations along the trail edges can be hit or miss – sometimes they just disappear and you’re left dealing with the regular trail surface

“I’d say the very best snow of the day was from 3,000’ on up at the Gondola. Roughly 4 inches of recent snow had accumulated up there, and the powder along the edges of the trails and even the snow that people had pushed there was just so superior to most of what was available on the mountain.”

In any event, the kids did really well in terms of working on their short radius turns to ride the trail edges and stay in the good snow. Ryan had an especially good section on Lower Nosedive that left me very impressed. One goal was for the students who were more advanced in their skiing to help their peers by simply serving as models for those who were learning. Dylan did a great job in that regard by showing everyone just how tight turns can be when skiing those trail edges.

Fortunately we don’t have to ski next weekend because there’s no ski program due to the holiday, so perhaps Mother Nature will get her act together over the next couple of weeks to bring the conditions up to par for the second half of February. We do have some days of snow coming this week based on the forecast. There aren’t any big storms on the horizon, so we’ll have to see what the mountains do with the more modest events that are currently in the pipeline.

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