Stowe, VT 13MAR2016

An image of Elisabeth skiing on the Gondolier Trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Elisabeth enjoying today’s spring snow at Stowe Mountain Resort

The sunny weather and soft spring skiing from yesterday carried right into the second half of the weekend as we visited Stowe this afternoon for the BJAMS ski program.  Ken’s tweaked knee from last Sunday was diagnosed as a sprained MCL, so I’ve heard he’ll be off skis for four weeks while it heals.  Erica had to do a bunch of shuffling around of today’s groups due to various absences this week, and I actually wound up with a group of 10 students.  That’s a substantial group even with both Ken and I to manage it together, but fortunately Big Luke was able to step in for his dad and give us a reasonable ratio of coaches to students.  All told then with students and coaches, our group was a dozen strong, and I suspected that anywhere we went with our crazy crew… people were definitely going to know that we were around.

“There’s not too much else to say about today’s skiing – the snow is in spring mode and so are the students, so it’s simply bumps, and jumps… and more jumps.”

There was no question about the softness of the snow today at any elevation, and with my group ready promptly and raring to go at startup time, we headed right over to the Gondi for a sampling of its terrain.  I could see that there were plenty of bumps on Gondolier, so we tackled that first with a quick photo session in one of the first bump lines.  From there were moved over to the Fourrunner Quad and it was lap after lap with spring snow and visits to the terrain parks due to very high demand within the group.  By around 3:00 P.M. it was time to head back to Spruce for the s’mores session, and everyone finished the day off with what appears to be becoming the customary “post s’mores free skiing session” off the Sunny Spruce Quad.  I think almost all the skiers in the group, even Big Luke, dropped their poles for their final runs.  And with our snowboarders Cole and Ryan as part of the crew, I may have been the only person left with poles at the end of the day.  Those huge snow whales on West Slope are still going strong, and as you can imagine it was quite a raucous time out there on that terrain with the afternoon sun and continued soft snow.

An image of Ty skiing the Gondolier trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontI finished up a bit early and was able to hike up for a bunch of extra photos on West Slope, and man what a treat it was to be able to photograph with so… much… light!  I had the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM out for the first time in a while, and was able to run at a shutter speed of 1/8000 sec and still stay down around ISO 100.  The bright March sun on glaring snow was almost too much, and I nearly had to stop down a bit to avoid overexposing the images.  For now though, it worked out at F/2.8 once I got all my settings tweaked, so hopefully folks will enjoy the sampling of action shots I’ve put with the report.  One of my favorite images from the day was definitely Big Luke in the Tyro Terrain Park – he actually requested the shot, so I had plenty of time to set it up just the way I wanted.  He aired it out and I think he’ll be pleased with the result.

An image of Dylan, Ryan, and Cole on the Mountain Triple Chair Lift at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Chairlift Games!

There’s not too much else to say about today’s skiing – the snow is in spring mode and so are the students, so it’s simply bumps, and jumps… and more jumps.  We’ll see what next weekend brings, but the weather models are certainly showing murmurings of a potential winter storm about a week out.  We’ll have to see if we can finally get one of these to take a decent track or whether we’ll get another one of the many raw deals we’ve had this season, but I suspect the winter weather enthusiasts are going to have an interesting week of model watching to see what this potential storm does.

Bolton Valley, VT 12MAR2016

An image of Cole riding his snowboard in soft spring snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Cole shredding some of the soft spring snow that we found today at Bolton Valley

Today was a sunny, spring-like day in Northern Vermont, with temperatures in the 50s F in the valleys and snow corning up nicely on the mountain slopes.  Dylan’s friend Cole was coming over in the mid to late afternoon to stay for the night, and since he had his snowboard for tomorrow’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe, we headed up to Bolton Valley for a few sunset runs.

There was still probably an hour of daylight left when we arrived, and after a quick warmup run on Beech Seal off the Mid Mountain Chair, we headed up to the Vista Summit.  We just missed our chance to catch Hard Luck before patrol closed it for the night, but it looked quite nice with the soft spring snow.  On our next run we did get to hit Alta Vista, and the skier’s left that often holds powder was again delivering the goods in the form of beautiful spring corn snow.  I’d say that was my favorite area of the day, and I heard Cole mention how he liked it as well.  I was worried that the snow would start to tighten up as the sun went down, but it stayed quite soft at least up to the point we left at around 6:00 P.M.

An image of Dylan skiing the Beech Seal trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan enjoying some spring turns today at Bolton Valley

Aside from the skiing, one of the most fun parts of the day was playing with the spring snow while we rode the chair, tossing snowballs from one side of the chair, up and over the tow cable, to be caught by the person at the other end.  Our record was 8 in a row before that snowball finally disintegrated, but the boys are already excited to try it some more tomorrow at Stowe – it looks like we’ve got another find spring day on the way tomorrow based on the forecast.

Stowe, VT 06MAR2016

An image of Ken skiing the Green Acres area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ken dropping into a line in Green Acres, where we found some of the best snow today at Stowe.

Based on my tour of the Bolton Valley backcountry yesterday, I didn’t anticipate skiing much powder today with our BJAMS ski group today at Stowe, and therefore I packed narrower skis for me and the boys. I’d say it was the right call, because we spent most of our time on piste, and aside from our initial runs on the softened slopes of lower Spruce Peak, the snow we found was roughly 20% decent and 80% crap.

Fortunately for us, we did start out on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak for the beginning of this afternoon’s session, and off the Sunny Spruce Quad the snow had softened in the sun from top to bottom. The boys had taken some earlier runs, and announced that we should head for Freddie’s Chute. I couldn’t believe that they were serious, because Freddie’s has all natural snow, faces south, and is loaded with ledges and rocks that quickly catch the sun and burn out the snow. Low and behold though, the coverage was there, so even though we haven’t had any really great winter storm cycles in the past few weeks (or at all this season for that matter) the storms of mixed precipitation that we have had are substantiating the snowpack in the mountains to some degree.

After some good turns on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak, we decided to do a few runs off the Sensation Quad. I hadn’t taken the group there at all this season, so it seemed like a good day to do it with no plans for our typical Mansfield powder explorations. I was actually surprised to see all of Spruce Line open for business aside from the initial headwall, and that’s amazing because patrol never seems to open that even when we have a ton of snow. We decided to make our way there by dropping into Green Acres, and that was where we undeniably found some of the best snow of the day. The high elevation and evergreen protection kept the snow soft and powdery in there, and it was deep enough that it was one of the few times today that I wished I’d brought wider skis. Spruce Line had some good shots, but the snow was generally dense or wind-packed, so while good, there wasn’t any of the powdery snow that we’d found in Green Acres. We did some additional runs off Sensation, hitting Sterling, Upper Smugglers, and Main Street Headwall, but they were all generally a mess of ice and firm snow with decent surfaces few and far between. Ken’s description of the worst areas was “plate ice”, which is that glare ice that’s got no redeeming qualities aside from the novelty of seeing the treads of the groomers carved into it. It’s just hideous stuff that really nobody in their right mind should have to ski.

Clouds were moving in at times, and with afternoon temperatures cooling down, snow that had softened in the sun was starting to firm up, so we headed back down to the lower slopes to finish off the day. We did a few more laps off the Sunny Spruce Quad, and even down there the snow wasn’t as soft as it was earlier, so it was changing from corn to frozen granular and becoming much less inspiring. We found that a number of us have similar boot sized and we started to switch around skis – I got to try Jack’s 163 cm Nordica Bad Mind skis (120-84-109), and that was a lot of fun because unlike my Salomon Scream 10 Pilot Hots, they’ve got some edge. I stayed on them for the rest of the day, and I thank Jack for the demo. Not only did his skis have edges, but they’ve only got a half season on them, so they’ve still got plenty of pop in them unlike my Salomons that are over a decade old.

An image of a Maple Latte from The Beanery at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontAs the boys finished off the last few runs on their own, Ken and I took a run through the Ridge Glades and down in the glades below along the right of East Run. Some of that terrain off to the side of East Run is really steep, probably 35 degrees, and in horrible shape. Ken came into one of those steep lines very aggressively and had a pretty big tumble where his equipment went everywhere. He was generally OK, although he did say he tweaked his knee a bit and something popped, so he’s going to have to assess how things go over the next few days to see if it’s anything serious. That area of trees definitely fit in with the general 20% decent/80% crap, where there was probably 20% decent snow on the whole slope, and the rest was a combination of ice, roots, stumps, dirt, and whatever else isn’t snow – it’s just hideous. We do appear to have some snow coming into the area tomorrow, so hopefully that will add a bit more to the snowpack in areas that need it.

Bolton Valley Nordic & Backcountry, VT 05MAR2016

An image of a ski track in powder off to the side of a Nordic trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching a little powder off to the side of World Cup on Bolton’s Nordic trails.

It’s not too often in Northern Vermont that we have winter temperatures and no access to powder, but today was pretty close. Generally, even for winter weather systems with mixed precipitation, there’s at least some snow on the back side of the storm to provide a bit of powder for skiing. As usual, that was the case with Winter Storm Quo that came through earlier this week. The storm dropped 4 to 5 inches on the resorts in the Northern Greens, and the precipitation even remained frozen throughout the event. After the dense accumulation in the middle of the storm, there was some lighter powder, but it was fluffy, and based on the way it has really settled down over the past couple of days here at the house, I suspected things would be similar up in the mountains.

With that in mind, I inquired with E and the boys to see if any of them wanted to go for a ski tour up at the mountain, but didn’t push too hard because I didn’t suspect the conditions would be quite up to the level of what we found last Saturday on the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network. It was a nice sunny day though, with temperatures around the freezing mark down in the valley, so whatever the conditions, it was going to be nice to get out in the fresh air.

Temperatures were in the mid to upper 20s F up at the resort, and it looked like business was good based on the number of cars in the Village lots. Although Winter Storm Quo didn’t deliver a ton of powder, it did substantiate the base depths at the resort, and the open trail count was as high as it’s been in a while. I hopped onto Broadway and headed right up toward Bryant Cabin. The powder had settled to about a half inch at Village level, and I was hoping that it would build with elevation the way it had last weekend, but it never really did. Even up at the cabin I only found about an inch or so of fluff above the base. The overall minimal availability of the powder skiing was pretty evident due to the fact that I saw more people out on the trails today on snowshoes vs. skis.

Noting the minimal powder, I decided that I ski some of the mellow trees between the Bryant Trail and Gardiner’s Lane. The skiing was surprisingly good because thanks to little if any liquid precipitation, the base below wasn’t really icy, it was mostly just dense. The turns there got me interested enough that I headed off toward North Slope to check out some of the glades there. I tried out a new area back down to Gardiner’s Lane, and then poked around in the trees and found some new glades in the A1A area that I don’t think I’d skied before. They brought me right down to the junction of Bryant and Coyote, where I skied Coyote out to World Cup and connected over to the base area. I had some good turns here and there, with some nice ones off in the untouched snow off to the sides of the groomed Nordic trails.

A map of the Nordic and backcountry terrain network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A map of Bolton Valley’s Nordic and Backcountry Network with more than two dozen glades listed.

Back in the Village I grabbed some food for E and the boys and called it a day. Over the next week it looks like we’ll have some spring warmth and sun moving into the area, but the weather models do show the potential for some storms, so we’ll have to see if they bring some snow to the mountains.