Stowe, VT 17MAR2019

An image of Molly riding her snowboard in the Inspiration/Adventure Triple Chair area at Stowe Mountian Resort in Vermont after some back side snow from Winter Storm Ulmer
An image of Dylan snowboardinig in powder from the back side of Winter Storm Ulmer in the Toll House Trees at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Thanks to some fresh snow from the back side of Winter Storm Ulmer, we were able to get in some powder boarding today at Stowe during our BJAMS ski program session.

Spring made some inroads around here at the end of the week, with temperatures reaching well up into the 40s F to finally prompt some melting/softening of the snowpack.  In typical spring fashion, when the  temperature dropped back down yesterday, it apparently made for some tough conditions on the slopes.

Those sort of temperature swings are a normal part of the cycle as we get into spring, but I wasn’t really looking forward to having to get out on that snow for today’s BJAMS ski program session – especially due to the fact that I was going to be on a snowboard.  Snowboards have plenty of issues, but dealing with them on icy surfaces is one of the worst.  Thankfully, Mother Nature had one of those “Northern Greens surprise refreshers” in her pocket.  It wasn’t entirely a surprise that we were going to get a bit of snow overnight last night, but it came in more robustly that we were expecting.  I looked outside last night around 10:00 P.M. to find that we’d already picked up over an inch of snow, and in the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Discussion Forum, Powderfreak indicated that it had been snowing for about 30 to 45 minutes.  We’d picked up 1.6 inches of new snow at the house by 11:00 P.M., and a similar amount had fallen by the time I headed off to bed a bit later.

“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.

An image of Erica snowboarding in powder in the Toll House area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Erica catching some powder turns in the Toll House area this afternoon

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.

An image of some of the trails on Mt. Mansfield from the Toll House Chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The classic view of trails wiggling their way down Mt. Mansfield as viewed from Stowe’s Toll House Chairlift

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!

Stowe, VT 12MAR2019

An image of ski tracks in powder below the Sensation Quad Chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort during Winter Storm Taylor
An image of ski tracks in powder snow beneath the Gondola from Winter Storm Taylor at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Finishing off my morning with some powder turns below the Gondola after Winter Storm Taylor dropped more than a foot of fresh powder at Stowe

We’ve known about the potential upslope snow on the back side of Winter Storm Taylor for several days, and today looked like the optimal time period to get some of those Northern Greens powder turns.  But, you never know quite how much powder you’re going to get until it happens.  Scott Braaten laid out his thoughts yesterday at Braatencast, but I’d say Mother Nature delivered even better than expected.  The first thing we heard from Scott this morning in the Northern New England thread at American Weather Forums was: “The orographic lift came through last night.  That’s for sure.”  We knew it was game on, and we sure love it when the Northern Greens do their thing.

An image of the day's snow report with a foot of snow from Winter Storm Taylor at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontI 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.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the West Slope are of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some powder and views as I run one of my laps on the Sunny Spruce terrain today.

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.

An image of a snowboarder riding in powder snow near the sumit of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
One of the snowboarders I encountered surfing the powder as we hit the snowfields near the summit of Spruce Peak today

“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.

An image of the "Bob's Rash" sign in the Bench Woods are at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontMost 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.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow in the Bench Woods area of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Exploring the awesome powder in the Bench Woods area this morning during my ski session at Stowe

Today’s temperatures were cold enough to keep things light and dry, but certainly not January frigid, so it was an all-around great morning.  It was another world once I got back down into the valley – it was mostly sunny down low while it was still snowing away at the mountain.  We’ve had some nice storms over the past couple of Marches, with Winter Storm Skylar last March, and Winter Stowe Stella the March before that.  This year’s Winter Storm Taylor wasn’t quite as big as those, but it was an awesome sleeper storm that brought the goods without as much hypeThe snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is not sitting at around 120 inches, and the skiing is great at all elevations.  Who knows how many other big storms we’ll be getting this season, but we’ve got the rest of March and April to find out!

Stowe, VT 10MAR2019

An image of snowfall from Winter Storm Taylor at the skating rink in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of some of the trails of Mt. Mansfield taken from the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today it was Winter Storm Taylor that greeted us with some snowfall to freshen up our afternoon for the BJAMS ski program at Stowe.

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.  The snow is expected to continue on and off through Tuesday, and I’d on and off is what we experienced today at our BJAMS ski program at Stowe.  Around midday when we were arriving we had some nice flakes coming down in the Spruce Peak Village to help freshen the snow surfaces, and there were also some winds keeping the upper mountain lifts on wind hold.

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.

Adrian dressed in his ski gear and smiling at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontConditions 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.

Stowe, VT 03MAR2019

An image of the Over Easy Gondola from the Mansfield Parking Lot at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the macaroni and cheese from the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ahhh that mac and cheese from the Great Room Grill. Dylan finally got to have it at lunch today after missing his chance when last week’s ski session was cut a bit short.

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!

An image of an ice sculpture in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
It’s that time of year again – checking out one of the ice sculptures in the Spruce Peak Village today

Stowe, VT 24FEB2019

Ty and Dylan lying down on the snow with their snowboards on at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Gondola buidling with snow falling at Stowe Mountian Ski Resort in Vermont
We had been worried about the potential for mixed precipitation today with ongoing Winter Storm Quiana, so we were happy to find it snowing when we arrived at Stowe for our BJAMS ski program today.

With Winter Storm Quiana brining the potential for mixed precipitation into the area today, we were a bit concerned about conditions for this afternoon’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe.  Fortunately, we arrived at the resort around midday to find it snowing, and the overall conditions looked pretty sweet with the trails being topped off with some new dense snow.  Ty and Dylan took an early run on Sunny Spruce, and came back with very positive comments about the conditions.

Today was a snowboarding day for me, and since it was the start of school vacation week, our number of participants in the program was lower than usual.  My snowboard group was small to begin with, but when all was said and done it ended up being just me, Ty, and Dylan left.  That was actually pretty convenient, so the three of us were excited for a fairly casual afternoon of riding.

We took an initial run off the Meadows Chair, and indeed the snow was quite good as the boys had said.  The groomed slopes had plentiful packed powder, as well as some new loose snow on top from the snow that’s been falling today.  We were a little worried about the winds, but we took a run on the Gondola and had some great turns on Switchback.  Off piste we found plenty of deep snow, although it was pretty dense with a thick layer a few inches down in some spots.

An image of Ty and Dylan on snowboards along the edge of the Switchback trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty and Dylan pause along the edge of the Switchback trail today as we enjoy an afternoon on the snowboards.

We headed back to Spruce Peak for another run, and it turned out to be quite eventful.  We were coming down from Sunny Spruce where West Run joins into East Run, and Ty caught the front edge of his snowboard and went down pretty hard.  He hurt his shoulder bad enough that he took a ride down to first aid in a ski patrol sled, and after an X-ray at Copley Hospital we discovered that he’d broken his clavicle.  It was a fairly gentle slope where it happened, but it was one of those cases where the collision was just right to cause the injury.  Ty will certainly have a few weeks of healing to go through, but at least he’s got a positive attitude about it!

Stowe, VT 03FEB2019

An image of participants grouping up for our weekly BJAMS ski program at the base of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of participants grouping up for our weekly BJAMS ski program at the base of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Grouping up today for our BJAMS ski program at the base of Spruce Peak

Today was a chance for Ty and I to have the session we’d expected last week and work with Harrison during our BJAMS ski program day.  Harrison has had some ski time, but we started right off from scratch at the magic carpet.  The afternoon began with skis off as we worked with Harrison in his ski boots, showing him angulation, walking around, and getting him familiar with some of the positions his feet would be in.  From there it was skis on and we used the magic carpet slope to have him work on engaging and disengaging his edges with side slipping.

With those first exercises under his belt, Harrison decided that a break was in order, so we headed to the Great Room Grill where he ordered up some mac and cheese that he loved.  It really seemed to hit the spot because when we headed back to the Magic Carpet after the break, he began to work on his wedging and wedge stops with great success.  When we felt he was comfortable enough to make smooth stops, we said that he could move on to the Adventure Triple and the Inspiration Slope, which had him very excited.  We spent the rest of the afternoon there, and Harrison worked on speed control using his wedge, and finally began to get the idea of how to even turn in his wedge.  He’s ready to really take off at his next session, providing it’s not too long before he gets back out there.

One of the things that really help Harrison progress today was the excellent soft, surface conditions.  There weren’t any signs of scratchiness of Inspiration, and we even had some snowfall at times during the afternoon to freshen things up.  Eventually a bit of mixed precipitation appeared at the very end of the day, so we’ll have to see how that affects the surface conditions.

Stowe – Spruce Peak & Smuggler’s Notch Sidecountry, VT 27JAN2019

An image showing very heavy snowfall in the Mansfield parking lot at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Sunny Spruce Quad at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Snowfall was the name of the game today at Stowe, with the flakes intensifying throughout the afternoon and freshening up the slopes on every run.

While the snowy weather at Stowe today was just what we’d all expected, the makeup of my ski day turned out to be dramatically different.  I was scheduled to work on the Magic Carpet with Harrison this afternoon, but he ended up being a bit under the weather and we were informed that he wouldn’t be coming to the BJAMS ski program.  Ty was supposed to be working with another group, but two out of the four student there didn’t show, and one of the remaining students was the son of the chaperone, so they were all set without Ty.  When all was said and done, and we’d waited for any late arrivals, Erica said that Ty and I should just head off and ski together.

Wind holds were rampant today, with the Fourrunner Quad, the Gondola, and the Sensation Quad down at a minimum.  Winds actually weren’t bad at all down low, but the Sunny Spruce had quite a lift queue with so many other lifts on hold.  After a warm up run on the Meadows Quad, Ty and I decided to wait in the Sunny Spruce queue once, then go adventuring and take an exorbitantly long run to avoid dealing with any lift lines.

“As we finished up and headed back toward our car in the Mansfield Parking Lot, snowfall was in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range and slowed traffic leaving the resort, but it sure was impressive and will no doubt be freshening the slopes even further.”

Since we had all afternoon, my plan was to explore the lines that dive off toward the notch from the top of Sunny Spruce.  I’d seen the obvious lines many times before, but I’d never take my group down there without some reconnaissance first.  With just Ty and I, today was the perfect day to get that done.  The route starts off steeply, with some obvious trimmed lines through mixed evergreens and hardwoods.  The pitch then moderates a bit, and you get into hardwoods where natural lines abound everywhere.  The new powder was only about 6 inches deep, so Ty and I sought out some of the shallower lines, but there are countless steep lines in there that would support powder of any depth.

An image of the Barnes Camp building near Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching a view of the Barnes Camp area as we return from our adventures in Smuggler’s Notch

We generally kept to skier’s left, shallowing out our lines and knowing that we had to head that way eventually.  There were several sets of tracks in there, so it was clearly a traveled area, but I was bit surprised as we approached the bottom and saw a river instead of Route 108.  It turns out that we were on the near side of the valley away from the road, but we were easily able to cross the frozen river, then hook up with the boardwalks coming from near Barnes Camp, and get back to the resort.  We headed to the Midway Lodge for a break and a snack, and with the wind holds the Lodge was nearly deserted.

A Google Earth map tracing a ski tour from Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort down into the Smuggler's Notch sidecountry in Vermont
A map of today’s ski tour from Spruce Peak down into the Smuggler’s Notch sidecountry along the West Branch of the Little River and back to Barnes Camp

We finished off the day with a few more runs on Spruce Peak, and any lift queues had essentially evaporated by that point.  The snowfall continued to intensify though, and the skiing just kept improving every run.  As we finished up and headed back toward our car in the Mansfield Parking Lot, snowfall was in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range and slowed traffic leaving the resort, but it sure was impressive and will no doubt be freshening the slopes even further.

Stowe, VT 06JAN2019

An image of Dylan and Molly getting ready to ride their snowboards in some powder on the Competition Hill area of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan snowboarding in powder on Upper Meadows at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan charging through some of this afternoon’s powder on his new snowboard as we kick off the BJAMS ski program for the season at Stowe.

Today was our first BJAMS ski program day of the season at Stowe, and I was assigned a snowboarding group consisting of Dylan and Molly.  Molly has been riding for a couple of seasons, and Dylan has been snowboarding before, but it looks like the plan is to have him work on it more this year.  He’s used Erica’s snowboard in the past, but this fall at the Waitsfield ski swap we got him his own brand new board, a Rome Mini Agent Rocker.  It’s a bit smaller and lighter than E’s board, it’s got a softer flex, and it has some rocker as well, so we expected it to be a much better fit for him.  He could already feel the differences when we were installing the bindings yesterday and he put on the board – he could flex it easily and said it felt great.

He confirmed those impressions today after his first run on Spruce Peak.  I was still getting on my gear in the lodge, but he took an early run with Ty in the Meadows area and said he loved the feel of the board.  He also indicated that the overall riding was fantastic with all the new powder out there, and that can’t help but make any appropriate board feel sweet.

“Indeed we had a small weather system in the area that started dropping snow overnight, and there was easily 4 to 6 inches of fresh powder out there for today’s session.”

Indeed we had a small weather system in the area that started dropping snow overnight, and there was easily 4 to 6 inches of fresh powder out there for today’s session.  There have been some rounds of fluffy snow with this system, but overall I’d say the snow settled in to produce some medium-weight powder, and it did a great job of resurfacing the slopes from what we experienced in the Meadows area.  We stuck to the Meadows Quad all afternoon because there really wasn’t a need to go anywhere else.  There’s a top-to-bottom continuous fall line with no significant flat areas to deal with on the boards, there’s a gradient of pitches to use across the big open face, and we were essentially getting free refills on powder each run.

An image of Molly snowboarding on the Upper Meadows trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Molly dropping in for another round of powder thanks to Mother Nature’s refills

“The riding was simply glorious, and you could see how much fun Molly and Dylan were having as they surfed the powder.”

The riding was simply glorious, and you could see how much fun Molly and Dylan were having as they surfed the powder.  Most of Dylan’s previous snowboard experience was in rather marginal/firmer conditions, so he really hadn’t experienced a day like this.  Today he was on a new board with appropriate size and flex, and he was floating on powder.  So as you can imagine, the snowboarding experiences of the past compared to today were like night and day for him.  He was blow away by how much fun it was, and said he would love to snowboard a lot more if the experience was like today.  I let both the kids know that this was the kind of riding that snowboards were initially designed for, so these are indeed great days to pull out the board.

An image of Dylan snowboarding in soft snow at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontMolly and Dylan are very competent making turns in both directions on their boards, and they can handle slopes up to black diamond pitch – especially with quality snow like we had today.  You could see the confidence in their turns knowing that they wouldn’t have to deal with the hard subsurface.  They’re at the stage where they’re just trying to smooth out their transitions and remove any jerky movements, so I discussed that with them and simply let them ride.  Smoothing out those transitions will come with time on snow, and there’s no better time to enjoy that than with some good powder.

An image of Molly snowboarding in powder on the Upper Meadows trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Molly jumps into some of the powder on Upper Meadows today as the group worked on their turns with the great snow conditions.

As noted, the snow conditions really were fantastic at the mountain, so the only weather-related issue we really had to combat today was the wind.  It was strong, and blowing right at us as we rode the Meadows Quad.  Dylan and I had brought our new Anon MFI balaclavas today to use with our M2 goggles, and I simply can’t overemphasize how great they were during each lift ride.  Having that magnetic seal between the balaclava and the bottom of the goggles seemed like the greatest thing since sliced bread as the wind washed over us.  If you hate having to fiddle with your facemask or neck gaiter on every lift ride as you try to seal up those crevices where the biting wind gets in, definitely check out one the MFI-type magnetic systems.

An image of Dylan slashing through some powder on his snowboard at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Slash that pow Dylan!

We’ve got what looks like a snowy week coming for the mountains, so barring some drastic changes to the forecast, we should be looking at some great skiing and riding in the coming days.

Stowe, VT 27OCT2018

An image of snow sliding off a roof in front of the Mansfield Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont as an October nor'easter affects New England
An image the Crossover trail and mountains in the background at Stowe Mountain Resort during an October snowstorm
Views on my ascent of the Crossover trail with the mountains in the background obscured by snowfall

It’s been quite a while since I last used my “rock skis”.  Although I’ve certainly gotten out for many early- and late-season turns over the past several seasons, I just haven’t had to worry much about conditions that were going to damage my skis.  Late-season snow is dense, for the most part covering rocks where it’s present, and our early-season storms of late have generally been substantial enough that I wasn’t concerned about rocks on the terrain I was skiing.  This year has been a bit different here in the Northern Greens though, and rock skis turned out to be just the right choice for today’s outing.  We’ve had numerous rounds of snow in the mountains over the past couple of weeks, but none of the storms have been the type that really put down a big dump of 6 to 12 inches or more at once.  New Hampshire did get a big shot of snow from the last storm that hit, but over here in the Greens we’ve just been adding an inch or two here and there.  Those smaller bouts of snow have added up over the past couple of weeks though, and with the nor’easter affecting the area today, it finally seemed like it would reach that threshold of base depths to lure me out to the slopes.

“Up by the Mountain Chapel, the 3 to 4 inches of dense snow on the smooth surface of the Toll Road really produced some excellent floaty turns.”

There wasn’t a lot of cold air around ahead of this nor’easter, so the forecasts called for at best a few inches of snow in the higher elevations.  Based on Powderfreak’s Stowe reports however, there were 3 to 5 inches of snow already on the slopes at Stowe, and even a couple more would be enough to get me interested in checking out the potential for some turns.

As the nor’easter approached, snowfall at our house in Waterbury began mid-morning, and then in the midafternoon Mother Nature really turned on the spigot and we got into a period of heavy snowfall composed of big wet flakes up to 2 inches in diameter.  With the heavy snow falling it seemed like as good a time as any with respect to catching any new accumulations on the slopes before any potential mixed precipitation.  I was planning to take an initial look at Bolton Valley to see how the snow was up there, but the Bolton Valley Access Road still hadn’t been plowed as I started up, so I didn’t go very high before I decided it was best to turn around.  There was no way I wanted to try heading all the way up to the Village above 2,000’ on an unplowed road.

An image of the Mansfield Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont with snowfall during an October storm
Mansfield Base Lodge

In line with my plans, I next headed off to Stowe for some skiing, and I was fairly confident that the driving would be fine with the route at mostly low elevation.  Indeed the driving was fine, and unlike Waterbury, the town of Stowe really hadn’t picked up any snow, so that made the drive very easy. Rain through the valley switched to mixed precipitation as I approached the base elevations of the resort at 1,500’, and I found a solid covering of 1 to 2 inches of snow on the ground at the Mansfield Base Lodge where I parked.  I’d brought two pairs of skis and skins, and after surveilling the area I decided that the rock skis were the way to go for a more enjoyable descent because I wouldn’t have to work too hard trying to avoid any rocks.

An image of a small evergreen with snow on its boughs during an October snowstorm at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontI wanted some mellow, grassy slopes for my tour, so I headed up in the area of the Mountain Triple Chair toward the Stowe Mountain Chapel.  The mixed precipitation that I’d found when I first arrived changed over to all snow as I began my ascent, and I really needed the hood of my coat at times due to the intensity of the precipitation.  I quickly found 3 to 4 inches of snow on the grassy slopes, which is about where the depth stayed up to the Mountain Chapel at ~2,300’.  Although I could have used my skins, I never really needed them because once I got up to the Crossover road I was able to simply walk in my Tele boots easily.

An image of the Mountain Chapel in an October snowstorm at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Stowe Mountain Chapel along the Toll Road

I really thought that the grassy slopes would offer the best skiing, but it turned out that the service roads were the best.  Up by the Mountain Chapel, the 3 to 4 inches of dense snow on the smooth surface of the Toll Road really produced some excellent floaty turns.  The Crossover Road isn’t nearly as smooth, and the snow depths did drop a bit on the descent, so nothing compared to the turns up on the Toll Road.  On the grassy slopes, the depth of the cut grass relative to the few inches of snow, combined with my fairly skinny rock Tele skis, made turns much more challenging.  I was low enough down in the grass that there was substantial resistance to making any short-radius turns.

An image of a plow spraying some very slushy snow at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after an October nor'easter snowstorm
Plowing some snow so slushy it looked like water in the Stowe parking lot

The snowfall had let up for the most part by the time I’d descended back to the base, but the weather show wasn’t quite over.  I got to see some plowing of the parking lot, and the slushy snow was so wet that it was almost as if the plow was simply plowing water!  This was the 4th storm with accumulating snow at our house this October, and based on my count, it was the 6th storm with snow for the mountains, so we’ve really had quite a run.  It might not be the last of our October snow though; we may get a couple of chances through midweek before we get into a slightly warmer pattern heading into November.

Stowe, VT 19MAY2018

An image of a sprig of evergreen melting a hole in spring snow on a May ski tour at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of leftover spring snow on the Liftline Trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont on a ski tour in May
On today’s ski tour I was able to get to some of the snow higher up on Stowe’s Liftline trail

My time was limited for yesterday’s ski tour on Mt. Mansfield, so I only got to try out a portion of the skiing that Stowe’s Liftline trail had to offer.  Based on the intel I’d received from Jumpin’ Jimmy though, it sounded like some of the best skiing was in that big upper section of snow on the trail, suggesting that another visit was in order.  I had some time today ahead of the rain that was expected to move in during the afternoon, so off to the mountain I went.

Yesterday gave me a great sense for the available snow at the resort, so I parked right near the mountain operations building below Sepp’s Run, knowing that I’d be finishing my tour there.  I ascended Liftline yesterday through a combination of skinning and hiking, but the skinning was pretty challenging on some of the steeper, narrower pitches, so I wanted to try a different ascent route today. I took a gradual ascent toward the North Slope route via Lower Starr and Crossover, enjoying nice dry grass and easy walking.  Using various combinations of trails in the North Slope area, I was able to put on my skins around 2,800’, and had to take them off a couple more times before reaching the top of the Fourrunner Quad.

“All told you’re probably looking at around 85% snow for a trip down from the top of the Fourrunner Quad, so it’s certainly still worth it if you’re looking for some good spring turns.”

For the descent, the main breaks in the snowpack are right at the Liftline headwall, and then about halfway down the trail before you get to the terrain I skied yesterday.  Indeed the turns on the upper parts of Liftline were great – there’s a lot of snow up there on skier’s left, and plenty of terrain variety.  All told you’re probably looking at around 85% snow for a trip down from the top of the Fourrunner Quad, so it’s certainly still worth it if you’re looking for some good spring turns.

An image of spring flowers and some houses in the town of Stowe, VT in May
The sights of spring were in full force as showers approached and I made my way back through the town of Stowe.