It’s March, and the snowpack is deep here in Northern Vermont, so we planned to take a trip down the Bruce Trail today during our BJAMS ski session. E had recently been chatting with Brian and Joe in the program, and they were both interested in taking their kids on the Bruce, so we all joined together as a group for the run.
Knowing the round trip would take most of the afternoon, we started right off heading over to Mansfield and up the Fourrunner Quad. I brought everyone up for the requisite visit to Old Nosedive to enjoy the views and add a bit of bonus vertical to the run. Old Nosedive was packed with snow from our recent storm. It was dense powder similar to what we experienced yesterday at Bolton, but it skied quite nicely.
“The Bruce is in simply fantastic shape. That’s not surprising with over 10 feet of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, so even the Bruce’s steep, south-facing slopes that lose coverage first are covered with literally feet of snow.”
The Bruce is in simply fantastic shape. That’s not surprising with over 10 feet of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, so even the Bruce’s steep, south-facing slopes that lose coverage first are covered with literally feet of snow. The snow consistency varied from dense powder and skier-packed powder up high, to thick creamy snow in the middle elevation trees, to more spring-like snow in the lower elevations. The powder in the lower-elevation hardwoods was definitely getting a bit sticky with sun and warming temperatures, but it still skied quite well in all but the very sunniest spots. Even in the lowest elevations down near 1,000’ on the Nordic area terrain, the snowpack is substantial. Crossing over the bridges along the Nordic trails we found the snowpack to be at or above the level of the bridges’ railings – which are four to five feet tall! You can literally stand on the railings simply by moving to the edges of the snowpack.
The spring snow made the final part of the Bruce descent through the Nordic areas a bit slower than when the snow is more winter-like, but we all simply took our time and enjoyed the casual pace along the meanderings of the Ranch Brook on such a glorious late winter/early spring day. We had plenty of time for snacks while we waited for the Mountain Road Shuttle, so we made ourselves some seats in the snowbanks near the Notchbrook General Store and soaked in some rays as we waited for the bus and discussed our day’s adventure.
Well ahead of our current winter storm, the weather models were predicting it to be quite a whopper of a system. Multiple upper-level lows were expected to consolidate over the area, then a low pressure center would move up the coast and into Northern Maine before finally departing. Low pressure systems in that area are in a very sweet spot for our local mountains, since it’s excellent positioning to allow Atlantic moisture to be grabbed and wrapped around to the north until it slams into the Green Mountain Spine. It wasn’t surprising that storm totals were expected to approach 30 inches in the mountains. Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.
Our plan was to head up to Bolton for some turns today, but all the lifts were initially on wind hold except the Mighty Mite, so we packed Tele and alpine gear and were all set to skin at Timberline until they started running things. By midmorning though, the resort was announcing openings of the Mid Mountain Chair and the Timberline Quad, so we’d be able to start lift-served skiing once we got there. Unfortunately, they were still plowing out the Timberline parking lot and asking people to park up at the main base. This meant connecting over from the main base to ski Timberline, however the Snowflake Chair, which is the best way to connect over, was down for maintenance. This made for a big line at the Mid Mountain Chair, and that connection still requires a short hike anyway, so we made the hike up Villager to get over to Timberline. We chatted with a patroller coming down Villager, and he wasn’t thrilled about our hike because it wasn’t a designated uphill route, but he understood under the circumstances. He just reminded us to stay to side, well out of the way of any resort vehicles that might be using the trail. It’s not really a long hike, but it did have the benefit that we got in some of our cardio today even though we didn’t end up skinning.
“Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.”
In terms of the skiing, I’d say that the quantity of the new snow was absolutely there – it was a fantastic resurfacing and the groomed slopes were skiing as beautifully as one could imagine. The powder skiing definitely left something to be desired relative to our typical off piste conditions from a storm though. The snow was quite dense, and often windblown. We found that the trees offered some protection from the winds, so we typically got our highest quality turns there, but it was still Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete type stuff and it would toss you around easily if you weren’t on your game or as it became more chopped up. It actually looked like a nice day to be on a snowboard with the dense snow. The skiing was still awesome of course, but it was just surprising that the backside champagne never developed enough to set the impressively right-side-up turns we’d anticipated. Presumably the parameters for optimal snow growth didn’t come together everywhere as the storm was finishing up
“I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up.”
This morning revealed a storm total of 3.3 inches of snow at the house, and 4 to 5 inches at the local resorts of the Northern Greens. We were eager to find out how well the new snow had covered up the old base as we headed off to out afternoon session at Stowe, so as soon as I’d grouped up with Molly and Dylan, we took a quick run off the Meadows Quad to get a sense for the conditions. I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up. I could see that snow options must have been pretty nice in the morning when the trails were relatively untracked, but there was definitely enough snow for use to head over to the Toll House terrain and surf some of the new powder on the boards.
E was potentially going to join us on her snowboard once she’d taken care of ensuring everyone was in their ski groups, so our group picked up Molly’s friend Julia on her skis and did a quick run off the Adventure Triple to take in some of the powder that remained below the lift. We all got together with E, and immediately made our way over to the Mountain Triple Chair on Mansfield to take in what we hoped to be a nice long run full of surfy powder turns down to the base of the Toll House Lift. I was a little leery of brining everyone into the Sunrise Glades because I wasn’t sure about their comfort level in the trees on their boards, but once we got past the Stowe Mountain Chapel and could see all the untracked powder in the various Toll House trees, everyone just dove right into the woods. There were a good 3 to 5 inches of powder with few if any tracks, and with that amount of cushion, I had no concerns about people’s ability to make turns or experience the tumbles we would all inevitable take. We rode the usual assortment of trees down much of the length of Toll House, and everyone had a great time surfing their way along. The moderate pitches there were just what the doctor ordered for the amount of powder we had available, and the exploration and practice riding in the trees made the experience a huge hit. We wouldn’t have been in there riding that fresh powder if it hadn’t been for the overnight snow.
We worked our way back to the Spruce Peak Village to end the day with a food break, and another one of my old straps on my snowboard broke, so that made for an adventurous return trip. I really do need to invest in some new bindings since mine are 20+ years old and the plastic is obviously getting brittle. Perhaps I’ll find an end of the season deal on something. I wouldn’t mind some of those Burton Step On® bindings – I’m so sick of dealing with those snowboard binding buckles, especially my broken ones!
I was planning to head to Bolton Valley for a bit of touring this morning, but when I saw they were reporting about 4 inches overnight, whereas Stowe had early reports of 8 or 9 inches, I switched up my plans and decided to do a few lift-served runs at Stowe instead. My snow analyses from the morning indicated that the new snow had come in around 5% H2O, which was a setup for some great powder turns.
I had a bit of interesting serendipity on this morning’s outing. I parked in the upper Gondi lot, planning to do most of my skiing there, but I had a pass issue that required me to head over to Spruce. Once I’d gotten things straightened out with my pass, I decided to just roll with it and catch some runs while I was over there. I headed out to the lifts and noticed something surprising – the Sensation Quad was running, but the Sunny Spruce Quad was down. The reverse is common if there are wind issues, but certainly not the combination they had today (it turns out it wasn’t a wind issue, it was mechanical I guess). Anyway, with Sunny Spruce down, it was pretty much country club powder skiing on that terrain for the few folks that felt like accessing it. I did an initial run on Sensation, which was pretty quiet aside from the NorAm races, and got some of the first tracks down Spruce Line. After that I did a couple of laps on the vacant Sunny Spruce terrain, running a circuit with the Meadows Quad and Sensation Quad, and of course including a hike to the top of Spruce Peak each time to get in that extra powder and make up for the fact that I was riding lifts instead of skinning.
“It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22 to 24 inches.”
It was snowing nice fat flakes all morning, and the increases in snowfall intensity were often quite notable as you headed up in elevation. It typically wasn’t an intense pounding snow, but often nice and steady, and sometimes you’d have that fairly decent snowfall with sunshine at the same time. There were a couple of times with the perfect simultaneous combinations of flakes and sun that I had to stand there in awe and soak in the mountain scene. And it was all gorgeous upslope flakes – the 5% H2O I’d found in my morning snow analyses was probably about what we had where the snow wasn’t affected by any wind. It was simply great snow quality with some good right-side-up nature to it thanks to some dense snow that had fallen at the beginning of the storm cycle.
Most off piste (and even some on piste) terrain I encountered was definitely delivering that 48-hour total of 13” that I’d seen in Stowe’s snow report. My first depth check of the day was in the Meadows East Glades, and my measurement came right in at 12 inches. I checked in spots off Upper Sterling and was typically getting 12-14”. I eventually got back over to the Gondola terrain and was really impressed with the skiing in the Bench Woods. It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22-24”. I did push through some sort of slightly thicker layer in those measurements, but it must not have been too sturdy because I was definitely skiing a lot of lines where the snow had that “up to the thighs” feeling. That’s typically in the two-foot realm vs. the one-foot realm. I found a sign I’d never seen in that area that said “Bob’s Rash”, and I have no idea how much of the terrain that sign was meant to cover, but the lines below it were beautifully steep and loaded with the kind of powder that billows up above your waist.
My ski group today was exactly the same as I had at last Sunday’s session: Adrian, Sienna, and Sienna’s mom Jessica. To get a sense for how the new snow had settled in, we warmed up with a run on the Meadows Quad. There were at least a couple fresh inches of dense snow around on the lower traffic areas of the trails, and there was an especially deep area along the Meadows Catwalk as it wrapped back around below the lift. It almost seemed as if half the trail there hadn’t been groomed, because there were several inches of dense snow there. I urged everyone to check out that snow, especially since I know Jessica had been looking to get a feel for what it was like to ski in powder. She took quite well to the soft snow, and enjoyed the fact that turns were easy without worrying about firm spots, so I continued to search out the powder for her throughout the afternoon. Eventually I didn’t have to find the snow for her though, she was really seeking it out herself.
We’ve got Winter Storm Taylor currently affecting the area, and this morning it brought a burst of snow that delivered a few inches to ski resorts around the state.
Conditions were overall much improved from last weekend, and with Adrian’s persistent inquiries I eventually decided that the group could try the steep face of West Slope. It’s marked as intermediate, but it could easily pass for a modest black diamond as well. We listened to the sounds of skiers making turns down West Slope while we rode the Sunny Spruce Quad, and hearing no noise from their skis, I knew conditions would be amenable to a run for the group. I also knew that even with the nice snow, it was going to be quite a challenge for everyone. Ultimately it was a very good push for Sienna, who needed to figure out how to engage her edges to hold her skis in place. Getting on that steeper slope was just what she needed though. Everyone had a successful run, and I’d say that was the most challenging slope that any of them had faced up to that point. One great aspect of tackling West Slope is that they now get to easily view their accomplishment right from the Spruce Peak Base Area and every time they ride the Sunny Spruce Quad.
It’s been quite a cold week with low temperatures in the single digits above and below zero F, but as of today the weather is warming up to be a bit more in tune with March. Like yesterday, the forecast for today was absolutely clear, and with temperatures expected to edge into the 30s F, Dylan, E, and I headed up to Bolton Valley to catch a few afternoon runs. The temperature was in the mid-30s F at our house in the valley, and right around the freezing mark when we arrived up at 1,500’ at the Timberline Base.
The mountain has picked up 8 inches of new snow in the past three days, but I was unsure about how well it would cover up the old base. It turned out to be fine, and the powder was in great shape at all elevations aside from the sunniest spots where it had been affected a bit by the warmth. My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.
“My depth checks on the upper mountain typically revealed about 8 inches of powder, so the mountain probably picked up a bit more than that before settling.”
The lower elevations of Timberline were nicely warming in the afternoon sun to produce some beautifully soft surfaces on the groomed runs, but we didn’t really find any snow that had lost its winter consistency. We ventured all the way over to Wilderness and in those high elevations we found some nice powder on White Rabbit and Snow Hole. Even down in the Timberline elevations we found that the KP Glades held a multitude of fresh lines through dry powder.
Starting tonight we’ve got Winter Storm Taylor moving into the area, which should bring some fresh snow to the slopes for tomorrow. The forecast indicates that the upslope snow on the back side of the storm cycle should continue right through Tuesday.
Today was our weekly BJAMS ski day at Stowe, but before our program in the afternoon, we got together with our friend Weston, who I know from back in graduate school. Weston had to head back to Connecticut by midday to stay ahead of incoming Winter Storm Scott, but we got to ski a couple of early runs with him off the Fourrunner Quad. We haven’t had much new snow this week, so conditions were fairly firm and unpleasant in general, but we did find a few areas with decent groomed snow on Sunrise and T-Line.
After Weston departed, we took an early lunch in the Great Room Grill, and Dylan got to have the mac-n-cheese that he unfortunately missed out on a week ago when Ty got injured and our afternoon got cut short. It was good, and very hearty – enough so that he had to store half of it in a takeaway box for later.
“He said his legs were definitely cooked, but that’s an excellent way to be after a good ski session.”
Dylan wasn’t part of my group today, but after our morning session on alpine skis, he switched to Telemark skiing for his afternoon session. E and I warned him that it can be quite a workout on Stowe’s long trails, but he said he’d just alpine as needed if he had to rest his legs. I find that still requires a lot more work than regular alpine skis, but it sounds like he made it work. He said his legs were definitely cooked, but that’s an excellent way to be after a good ski session.
My ski group for the afternoon included Sienna and her mom Jessica, and Adrian. E’s student didn’t show up, so she was with us as well. We had some great runs off the Meadows Quad, and everyone was doing so well that they all moved up to a run off Sunny Spruce. That was a huge step up for everyone, and I pointed out to Jessica that what she skied today would be even easier and far more fun on better conditions. She’s eagerly awaiting a powder day to see what the skiing will be like, so hopefully she’ll get a chance at one of those soon!