Stowe & Mt. Mansfield – Rock Garden, VT 21APR2019

An image from Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont showing a view of the Gondola and the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline with the Rock Garden area visible in the upper left
A view of the Rock Garden area near the treeline on Mt. Mansfield above Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
A view from up in the Rock Garden today near the start of my descent from the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline

Temperatures have been warming up over the past several days, and snow has just about melted out in most of the lower valleys, but there’s still feet upon feet of snow in the mountains.  After a fairly dreary Saturday, today was looking warm and pleasant, so the whole family headed off to Stowe in the afternoon for some spring turns.

The tailgating scene was in full force in the Mansfield Parking Lot, and the smell of burgers cooking on portable grills seemed to be everywhere.  Today was definitely the day to be out there with the glorious spring weather, and as the last official day of lift-served skiing, I’m sure the Stowe faithful were all happy to be going out on a high note.

An image of Tailgaters in the Mansfield parking lot at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Stowe Tailgaters

The four of us had our ski packs with us as we boarded the Fourrunner Quad, since one goal I’d had today was to check out the Rock Garden.  With the ample snowfall and overall pattern of storm cycles the Northern Greens have seen this season, it just seemed to fill in even better than usual, so this was certainly a spring to pay the area a visit.  As we’ve done before on other tours, the plan was to use the Fourrunner Quad for lift access, ski across through the Nosedive Glades, and then hike up Cliff Trail to get to the Gondola/Chin area.  We’d initially been excited to see that the Gondola was running when we arrived, which would make for even easier access to the alpine terrain near The Chin, but we soon saw that they were just clearing off the cabins from the Easter sunrise service.  As we took in the views of the Rock Garden from the Fourrunner Quad, I could see that it was no longer the large continuous snowfield that it had been just a few of weeks ago.  There were still plenty of skiable lines, but I wasn’t sure if the effort was going to be worth it for E and the boys.  So after an initial run all together, I split off to check it out on my own while they skied the Fourrunner terrain together.

My trip over toward the Gondola/Cliff House went smoothly, and I caught a good traverse through the Nosedive Glades over to Cliff Trail, even if the snow was a bit sticky in there at times.  I’d initially planned to hike up the Cliff Trail Gully and take the Mansfield ridgeline across to the top of the Rock Garden, but as I approached the last pitch of Perry Merrill, I could see that the Rock Garden was right above me after just a short jaunt through some trees.  It seemed silly to head up another route with such easy access.

The toughest part of ascending the Rock Garden was catching the occasional post hole in the snow.  For the most part, the snow was consolidated, but every so often I’d hit that spot where my foot would punch through and I’d be up to my thigh.  Thankfully, once I got into the open areas of the Rock Garden, I found a boot pack that someone had made, and that made things substantially easier.  There was still the occasional post hole, but having pre-made, consolidated footholds really took care of most of it.

Gaining the Mansfield ridgeline at the top of the Rock Garden, I found three other skiers who were just getting ready for their descent.  As they headed down, I recharged myself with a snack, and took in the views.  Although it’s not as obvious as some of the others, the Rock Garden really is a lot like the various other southeastern-facing gullies on this part of Mt. Mansfield.  Similar to those, it gets filled by the prevailing northwesterly winds, and it’s protected from the late day sun, so it preserves snow well.  The west face of the gully isn’t quite as sheer as some of the others though, so it’s able to hold snow and take on that snowfield appearance that’s different that the narrower gullies.

“The lines were certainly more limited than they were a few weeks ago, but there were still a variety of choices through the buried and emerging trees… and of course rocks as well.”

For my descent through the Rock Garden, I started out in the main throat of the gully, and then cut right as the snowpack would allow, to take in some steeper turns along the headwall below the Mansfield ridgeline.  The lines were certainly more limited than they were a few weeks ago, but there were still a variety of choices through the buried and emerging trees… and of course rocks as well.  The snow was definitely corn, and I didn’t have to worry about any post-holing on my skis, but the surface was irregular due to the natural melting patterns up there.  The best snow surfaces and smoothest turns of my descent were actually once I got down into the upper parts of Perry Merrill.  The snow was evenly packed and there’s been little skier traffic of late.  I was able to open it up and use the entire trail to arc some big wide turns as I often like to do in those wide sections of Perry Merrill when I have it to myself.

I’d kept in touch with E and the boys by updating them on my progress with a few text messages indicating my tour mileage and location.  And, just as I was reaching Perry Merrill on my descent they let me know that they were at the car, so I gave them an update and told them that I’d be down soon.

A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from a ski tour of the Rock Garden in the Mt. Mansfield alpine above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour involving the Rock Garden in the Mt. Mansfield alpine near Stowe Mountain Resort

The tailgating was rolling right along as I got back to the car, and I took in more of the sights while packing up my gear.  That’s a wrap on the lift-served ski season at Stowe, but there’s still a ton of snow left, so now it’s time to move on to 100% human-powered ascents of Mt. Mansfield.  There even appear to be some snow chances coming up over the next week or so, and we’ll be watching to see if Mother Nature decides to send along any more April powder for us.

Stowe Sidecountry & Bruce Trail, VT 24MAR2019

An image showing the area near the Notchbrook Convenience Store near the end of the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of a group of skiers by the Notchbrook Convenience Store having just completed a run of the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Snack Time! A good trip up to the Nose of Mt. Mansfield and down the Bruce Trail deserves a good snack, and here we’ve got most of today’s hearty crew enjoying a snack in the sun by the Notchbrook Convenience Store.

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.

An image of Brian showing the four to five foot snowpack that is level with the railings of a bridge along the Ranch Brook in the Mt. Mansfield sidecountry near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The snowpack is level with the bridge railings!

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.

A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from a ski tour on the Bruce Trail in the Mt. Mansfield sidecountry near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A Google Earth map with GPS Tracking data from today’s ski tour on the Bruce Trail in the Mt. Mansfield sidecountry near Stowe Mountain Resort

With the deep spring snowpack we’ve currently got around here, the possibilities for skiing in Mansfield’s alpine terrain above the resort are essentially limitless, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to check out some of those options in the coming weeks.

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 now 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.