Category Archives: Stowe

Stowe, VT 13JAN2013

An image of interesting clouds from Mt. Mansfield and Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The clouds put on quite a show today throughout the mountains.

With a generally cloudy forecast, I wasn’t sure if today’s skiing at Stowe was going to match up to the quality we experienced yesterday at Bolton, but boy did Mt. Mansfield deliver.  Temperatures did get down to the freezing point overnight, but the morning clouds in the valley were an undercast that meant sunny skies in the mountains.  Any snow that might have cooled down and tightened up was certainly soft by the time we arrived around midday.  There was some exciting weather out there as well.  Higher clouds had built in from the south, and screaming winds in the higher elevations of the atmosphere had them cruising along at impressive speeds not to far above the summits.  Temperatures were schizophrenic too, with hot and cold pockets all over the place.  On my first run of the day on the Sunny Spruce Quad, after we’d risen about 1,000’ vertical or so, we suddenly got to a warm layer of the atmosphere – the temperature felt like it changed 10 F instantaneously.

“You could attack anything,
as steep as you wanted, and
that snow would just peel
away beautifully and let
you hold those turns.”

We kicked off the day on Spruce Peak, and Luke had a little trouble with the RFID on his season’s pass that required the lift operator to call in some technical help.  That gave us time to meet up with Claire though, once she’d taken care of her duties and gotten the program coordinators their passes.  Conditions on Spruce Peak were generally nice, but there were certainly some bare spots opening up on natural snow terrain since it’s generally south-facing.  Everything was soft, with the best surfaces being those that had seen various combinations grooming, skier traffic, or manmade snow.  Natural snow terrain that hadn’t seen any packing was skiable, but typically mushy or sticky.  I found turns down West Slope this afternoon particularly invigorating, as you could lay your skis over as far as you wanted on that steep pitch and have that snow just peel away as you carved it up.

An image of Ty with a handkerchief mask outside the Octagon at the top of the Fourrunner Quad at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
“Hanky style”

After a few runs on Spruce, we took a quick pit stop at Spruce Camp where Claire and Luke gabbed some bagels that they hadn’t had a chance to eat earlier, folks got drinks if they needed them, and then we shifted over to Mt. Mansfield.  With back to back gondola rides to get up to the Cliff House, there was plenty of time to take in snacks, but since not everyone had food, we decided that we’d also go for some food at the Octagon.  From the top of the Gondola we headed down toward the Fourrunner Quad via Cliff Trail, and with all natural snow, there were some sticky spots, especially where traffic was lowest.  You could really feel the difference in the snow surfaces when we arrived at Nosedive though, since it has a good amount of manmade snow and sees a lot more traffic; there were no issues with sticky snow there.  At the Octagon we got some food, hung out for while, and everyone had a good recharge.  As it turned out, we were all going to need that recharge, because we were going to work ourselves hard for the rest of the afternoon.

An image of Dylan skiing the Hayride trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Working on those poles today on Hayride

Luke had originally requested a trip to Nosedive Bypass, since it’s one of the mountain’s areas that he’d yet to ski, but we were unsure of how much traffic it had seen, and how easy the skiing would be.  Instead, Claire and I decided that it would be a perfect time for the boys to work on their bump skiing.  The snow was just so good on that type of terrain that we didn’t want to pass up the chance, so we headed to the top of Hayride and Centerline.  We could see that both were loaded with tons of soft, fantastic looking bump lines, so it was a difficult decision, but we ultimately went with Hayride.  It turned out to be a good choice because there were also those extra steep pitches that let the boys work on steep skiing technique.  The bumps were excellent, and the snow quality was fantastic even on the steepest pitches.  You could attack anything, as steep as you wanted, and that snow would just peel away beautifully and let you hold those turns.

Although the boys were all ripping up the terrain, and it was hard to nitpick on instruction, I could see that they needed some pole work.  The combination of bumps and steeps was perfect ground for demonstrating how proper pole technique can really bring you to that next level of skiing in that terrain.  Reaching for those pole plants on steep terrain can really keep that upper body facing downhill, so we kept pushing that upper/lower body disconnect because I could see that some of the boys couldn’t manage turns in the tighter lines like they’d want to.  It’s really difficult to make rapid transitions back and forth and perform those especially tight turns if you upper body is constantly turning out of the fall line.  I’d say Ty has got that down the smoothest of all the boys, and for some reason it’s just something he picked up when he was very young, but as a group I think it’s a process that will really reap rewards for the boys this season.  They’ve all definitely reached a level of skiing where they can handle whatever terrain you throw at them, and it’s time to work on the finer points of body positioning.

An image of Claire skiing the Hayride trial at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Claire showing the boys how it’s done

After a couple of trips on Hayride, we finally mixed it up and visited Centerline, which of course yielded more fantastic bump lines.  That let us head south to pick up the rail park, since Dylan was really looking to get into some park terrain.  They had some long rails and boxes in there, and the funniest moment by far was when Dylan was skiing along a double box, and near the end of the second one, which was probably a couple feet wide, he ended up with a ski on the ground on each side.  He continued to ride it, in classic “crotch grind” fashion, and held on right through.  It was as impressive as it was funny, and the “crotch grind” definitely hung with us for the rest of the day.  We met up with Connor’s group right at the end of the park, and we had a good collective run down Tyro.  We didn’t want to do it, but the boys convinced us to drop below the Crossover back to the Gondola to catch a trip through the Half Pipe.  It was a heck of a lot of fun though, and those massive vertical walls felt bigger than ever, so it was worth the extra work to get back to the Over Easy.  We had really cooked ourselves pretty good with all those bumps, and I know that most everyone was enjoying that well earned tiredness at the end of the day.

South winds were screaming along at the top of the Fourrunner Quad at the end of the day, and we’re rapidly approaching the end of the warm weather as a cold front nears the area.  Snow is expected by overnight tonight in the higher elevations, and by midday tomorrow in the valleys.  The biggest question going forward is about how much snow Mother Nature will put down by the upcoming MLK weekend.  It doesn’t look like there’s a big enough storm coming this week to put down a real resurfacing to support lift-served skiing, so it may be time to hit the sidecountry/backcountry.  But, there are a number of snow chances in the upcoming pattern, and you never know when the Northern Greens will pull 6 to 12 inches out of small passing systems.  I was talking with E on the ride home about how, even though we had tons of good powder skiing days in the previous couple of weeks, it’s hard to think back to it when you’re out there on spring snow.  It was a good break, but it will be nice to get the fat skis back out soon.

Stowe, VT 06JAN2013

An image of Dylan skiing some powder at the Bottom of the Upper Smugglers trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan swishes through some of that Spruce Peak powder today.

Ski program started up today at Stowe, and it was our first time back since our training day on December 15th.  With all the snowfall over the past three weeks, and about a foot and a half in the past seven days, we were expecting great conditions.  I found a couple inches of new snow on the snowboard at the house this morning, and light snow was continuing, so that was going to add an extra freshening to the surfaces.  With temperatures in the 20s F, the mountain was set up for an excellent day for the kids. As we approached the mountain we got a special view as among the clouds we saw the slopes of Spruce Peak lit up with sunshine.

Dylan initially forgot his ski jacket, so after dropping E off to take care of her coordinator duties, we popped back to the house to get it.  On the drive we could see that there were all sorts of folks coming and going throughout the Stowe area, and it had the feel of a busy ski weekend.  Our timing on the return was good though, as I grabbed a parking spot right near the drop off area.  I think there’s something about arriving closer to that 1:00 P.M. period where you can catch those earliest skiers leaving, because another car was leaving from a great spot just a few spots down. From the parking lot I could see lots of fresh tracks in the area above Meadows, a classic sign of good snow at the resort.

“…the fact that the snowpack depth
at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is at
50 inches, and the way the Chin
Clip Streambed is skiing well, can
attest to the sufficient base depths.”

I had our usual group of boys today, and it was great to be back together for the season.  Also helping out as a second coach was Ken, another BJAMS benefactor – it turns out that he enjoys bumps and trees and powder and all that, so we knew he’d fit right in with our young advanced group.  We let the boys take turns choosing the runs, and Luke was fine taking ownership of the first warm up run off Sunny Spruce.  For the rest of the Spruce Side, Jack took Whirlaway, and Ty took Green Acres and Spruce Line.  There are still areas on the Green Acres headwall that should be avoided due to coverage, but down below in the glades and on Spruce Line there are no issues.  Few people seemed to want to negotiate that headwall, so we essentially had all the terrain below to ourselves and there was plenty of fantastic untracked snow for us to ski.  Over on Mansfield, Ty somehow got another one in the form of the Chin Clip Streambed, and then Dylan finished things off with some Nosedive Glades, or as the boys like to call it, “the middle of nowhere”.  We started working on steep turns with the boys as we dropped into Green Acres, and I let them know that they could vary their turns anywhere from a continuous carve to a full blown jump turn.  On the jump turn theme, we also worked on airs as we navigated the various icefalls in the Chin Clip Streambed.  We talked about how one can take the airs straight if they feel that there is enough room to bleed that speed, or vary their landing angle with jump turns to the point where they have cut down the speed to where it’s reasonable.  In line with the jump turns, pole work and timing were also a focus since we had a chance to get into plenty of mogul terrain – Dylan still needs to get his timing down on steeper terrain, but he was working on poles on lower angle terrain to get there.  We had a really good group for après ski at the Spruce Camp Bar, and it was a really busy après session there because it actually wasn’t easy to find tables to get everyone together.

An image taken while skiing the Chin Clip Streambed at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the good coverage in the Chin Clip Streambed today
An image of children and adults enjoying some apres ski time at the Spruce Camp Bar at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Après today at the Spruce Camp Bar

Conditions on the slopes are very good overall; the fact that the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is at 50 inches (roughly a foot above average), and the way the Chin Clip Streambed is skiing well, can attest to the sufficient base depths.  There are still a few spots on most steep trails we visited that could use a bit more cover, whether due to the fact that they need a slightly deeper base, or traffic has worn them down.  A notable spot would be the Green Acres Headwall, where some of those nasty, jagged rocks are almost covered, but not quite there.  Also, those tough to cover spots such as the south-facing terrain on the steep, lower spots of Spruce Line could use more snow.  Another foot or two of base would take care of those issues, but the mountain must be close to 100% open from what we saw.  Likewise we found some slick spots, typically in areas where snow was made, but the surfaces were almost exclusively packed powder and powder – we cut over to the area above Meadows whenever we could on our runs on Spruce Peak and there were still plenty of lines with powder in them for the boys to enjoy.  It looks like temperatures are going to be a bit warmer over the next week, but we seem to be staying in the storm track so the snowpack in the mountains should continue to build.

Stowe, VT 15DEC2012

An image of balconies of the Stowe Mountain Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont, with the Nose area of Mt. Mansfield in the background under blue skies
The weather today at Stowe was crystal clear with long views.

Today was our annual school program training day at Stowe, so we were out at the mountain very early to allow E to take care of her coordinator responsibilities.  Our instructor for the day was Arturo, who hails from Portillo, Chile.  Since our group indicated that we’d be instructing all levels of students, we kicked things off on Spruce Peak at the Magic Carpet, then advanced fairly methodically to the Adventure Triple, Easy Street Double, Alpine Double, and Sunny Spruce Quad before breaking for lunch.  The sky was crystal clear, the temperatures fairly chilly in the 20s F, and at Spruce Peak in the lower elevations where we skied, I’d call the snow conditions generally loose and frozen granular.  That wasn’t too surprising with the terrain there getting the most sun and warmth.  It was an excellent morning with Arturo though; he’s lots of fun and passed on numerous pearls of wisdom from his many years of instructing.

After the usual midday paperwork and season pass picture session, we had lunch at the Great Room Grill and headed over to Mt. Mansfield to continue the progression into higher level teaching.  At the top of the Gondola we found the best snow of the day, which included plenty of packed powder that had been preserved thanks to cooler temperatures.  I really enjoyed the snow and turns on that first steep pitch of Perry Merrill, which coincidentally was where I had my best turns exactly two weeks ago when I skinned up to the top of the Gondola.  Below that we stopped just around the corner past the junction with Cliff Trail, and everyone commented on how good the soft, packed powder snow was in that area.  The snow continued to be pretty decent (although still firm in lots of spots due to skier traffic) until about halfway down Perry Merrill, where it got notably harder.  Presumably, temperature fluctuations had deteriorated the snow quality down there, similar to what we’d experienced over on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak

We finished the day off with a run from the Fourrunner Quad.  Although basically just as high in elevation, the snow off the top of the quad didn’t seem up to the quality we’d seen at the top of the Gondola.  Perhaps that’s due to the fact that the quad terrain has seen more traffic in general – I heard that today was actually just the first day for Gondola lift service.  After a comment from Joe about wanting to get better at bumps, Arturo decided that we should make a run down Hayride.    Frankly, it seemed like it was going to be pretty scary with the firm conditions – with the way the top of Hayride drops away, revealing nothing of the slope but just a view of the sunlit valley below, one had to cringe at the thought of an icy slope hiding behind the drop.  Indeed there was plenty of firm snow, but Arturo had us work on turning on the tops of the bumps where the soft snow remained, and that was good practice and a surprising amount of fun at the relaxed pace at which we skied it.

I had several favorite new drills/techniques from the day; the first was a technique for kids turning in the wedge stance.  Arturo puts his hands out to the side like an airplane, and then drops his hand down to a knee.  This puts pressure on that ski and creates the turn.  At the more advanced level, Arturo gets folks to put more aggressive angulation into their skis on steeper terrain by having them punch their hips in toward the slope with their downhill fist.  I also like the way Arturo puts his ski poles on his shoulders to show how they are always pointing downhill, and uses the term “Shin-Tongue” (a.k.a. a new Asian dish) to remind students’ to keep their shins against the front of their boots to ensure that their weight is forward.

Since there’s been minimal new snow over the past couple of weeks, today was definitely a ski day worthy of edges, and not one in which I would typically venture out.  But, that’s one of the benefits of these scheduled training days, they get you out on a day you might otherwise not hit the slopes.  The temperatures were plenty cold, and the mountain continues to crank out lots of manmade snow and expand terrain, so there should be a lot available for the holidays, regardless of how much natural snow we get in the next couple of weeks.  Fortunately, we’re looking at a much more active weather pattern starting up tomorrow.  While the sun from the past few days has been nice, and it was fun being out on the slopes in it today, I’m definitely looking forward to the next week of wintry weather.  Things kick off with snow tomorrow, and while we’re expecting some mixed precipitation in there as we head into the beginning/middle of next week, it sure seems like we’ll start adding to the natural snowpack in the mountains again.  Right now the natural snow line is actually pretty low, down to around 1,000’ at the Matterhorn, but it’s still quite thin in general, so we need some storms to get the natural snow terrain rolling again like it was at the beginning of the month.

Stowe, VT 01DEC2012

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Perrill Merrill trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today on Perry Merrill

The powder at Stowe yesterday was so good, that I had to head out today for some more.  E and the boys had some things to do at school in the morning, but for me it was a very casual Saturday today; with light snow falling to the tune of about an inch at the house, and powder in the mountains, it was just the sort of way you’d want to usher in the month of December.  I took care of some things around the house this morning, and then headed off to Stowe in the early afternoon.

Temperatures have warmed considerably today relative to yesterday, and the temperature at the house was around 28 F when I left.  That was pleasant though – much more comfortable than the teens, but not so warm that one would worry about melting the snow or affecting the powder.  The temperature dropped to 24 F as I approached the resort base, and as has been the case for the past couple of weeks, numerous snow guns were cranking away on the slopes.  On the American Weather Forum, Powderfreak sent in some impressive pictures of what Stowe has been doing in terms of snowmaking – those modern guns can really crank out the white stuff.

With the Fourrunner Quad area open with lift service, I decided to head over to the Gondola side of the resort to earn some turns.  It was my first visit to that area of the resort this season, but if the snow depths were anything like what I’d experience on National yesterday, I knew that there would be plenty of natural snow for turns.  There were just a couple of cars in the Midway lot, and as I began my ascent on Chin Clip Runout I saw that there had been a surprising amount of skier traffic on the trails.  Several people skied down past me as I climbed, and it had me wondering where they were all coming from.  I was still plagued with the lack of uphill traction that I had to deal with yesterday because of the narrow skins on my skis, so I stuck to a moderately pitched route that took me up Switchback.

“Even though it was only
a couple hours past midday,
the clouds were thick and
low, and the world had that
close, dark, quiet feeling of
December with deep snow.”

It was an incredible afternoon to be out on an ascent though.  Even though it was only a couple hours past midday, the clouds were thick and low, and the world had that close, dark, quiet feeling of December with deep snow.  Sounds were so muffled with all the powder around, that as I was ascending Switchback, two guys making their descent along the edge of Gondolier almost went unnoticed even though they were probably only 20 feet away from me.  The only reason I knew they were there was because I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye.  Within another second they were gone, gliding downward in the fluffy silence.

When I hit eventually hit Gondolier, I had to make my own switchbacks because the pitch was just too steep for my skins, but things got a bit better when I reached Perry Merrill.  Soon after that, I realized where all the people were coming from – they were coming out of the exit of Lower Rimrock, so people were making their way over from the quad to hit the lower terrain of the Gondola area.  Above that point I found that the amount of fresh powder on the trail increased dramatically, because traffic really was down to people who were hiking for turns.  I continued on up and wrapped around to finish my ascent on Upper Gondolier.  In the 3,000’ elevation range it became a bit difficult to estimate the natural snow depth because of the effects of wind, but my depth checks along the ascent had revealed the following numbers:

1,600’:  9”
2,000’:  12”
2,500’:  14”
3,000’+:  14”+

I had a snack and a drink at the Cliff House picnic tables, and it was definitely colder up there than at the base elevations; I put away my wet hat and got on my balaclava and helmet pretty quickly.  The south side of the lodge had a nice area of drifted snow in excess of two feet, so I stowed my skis there while I recharged and enjoyed the quiet scene.  Based on what I’d seen of Upper Gondolier (very windswept), and the terrain leading toward Chin Clip (pretty tracked up), I decided to descend on Perry Merrill.  The best parts there were that very first steep pitch that drops toward Cliff Trail, and then the section near the big Gondola waterfall on down to where the traffic entered from Lower Rimrock.  Between those stretches, the terrain was pretty windswept like I’d seen in other areas.  Those Perry Merrill turns were awesome in general, with plenty of untracked powder, but I think that first steep pitch was the very best.  There were only a few tracks, and the pitch, snow depth, and fat skis combined for quite a ride.

An image of my Black Diamond AMPerage powder skis sitting in snow while I get ready for a descent at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The AMPerages ready for action

The snow became more tracked with plenty of chowder below Lower Rimrock where all the skier traffic was entering, and it was my first chance to see how the AMPerages handled those conditions.  I was able to tell pretty quickly that powder was really where they were the most at home.  They were fine in the chowder or partially packed areas, they just didn’t have that feeling of amazing superiority that they do in the powder.  Their slower edge to edge speed due to the width, which doesn’t really become apparent in untracked powder, was more evident in packed areas.  It’s interesting to hear Black Diamond speak to the potential of the AMPerage as “the closest thing you’ll find to the mythical one-ski quiver”, because while it does have camber underfoot to go with the tip and tail rocker and make it more versatile on packed snow, it’s still a ski with a 115 mm waist.  Based on impressions so far, I suspect one could pull it off as an all around ski here in the Northern Greens and various places in the mountains of Western North America, depending on their penchant for powder, but it still seems wide for everyday use.  It’s definitely not something I’d consider an all-around ski for many locales.  I got the AMPerages (and E the women’s Element version) as our powder Telemark skis, and although I don’t think we’ll refer to them as our all-around skis, they will probably see fairly heavy use.  There’s almost always some powder out there to ski, even if it’s not a deep day, but the beauty of fat skis is that they can help float you even on those smaller days.  I’m sure we’ll both have more to say about these new fatties as we work our way through the season, but up to this point I can only reiterate that I’m extremely impressed with how they ski in powder – if you haven’t yet tried a pair of fat, rockered skis for powder – do it.

It was well on to dusk as I was finishing my run, and when I saw the lights of the base area laid out below me, I stopped alongside the bottom race shack on Gondolier and took some pictures of the scene.  The darkness really reinforced that December feeling.  I actually think the powder may have settled a bit more in the higher elevations (probably due to wind) relative to some of the lower elevations, but the skiing was still excellent.  It was absolutely a good start to the month.

Stowe, VT 30NOV2012

An image of skiers making their way up the Liftline trail at Stowe Mountain Resort to catch some early morning powder turns
Today’s dawn patrol on Liftline

A cold front came through the area last night, and while it was expected to drop a few inches of snow, the Northern Greens did their usual thing and ultimately managed to pull a foot of beautiful fluff out of the event.  Even though I didn’t quite know what the totals were going to be last night, Winter Weather Advisories had to be posted by the National Weather Service Office in Burlington, we’d picked up over 4 inches of snow down at the house by~9:30 P.M., and it was obvious that the local mountains were getting something worthy of dawn patrol.

I awoke this morning to our coldest temperatures of the season – we bottomed out at 7.2 F and there was no doubt that the snow was going to be light and dry.  Since the snow had shut off by roughly midnight, there had been plenty of time to clean up the roads, and the trip over to Stowe was quick.  There were a good 20+ vehicles present as I parked in the Mansfield lot, and although it was still fairly dark, I could see a few skiers making their way up the slope leading to the trails.  They seemed to be heading off in the direction of Nosedive, so I opted to head that way and hopefully make use of an established skin track.

“I’ve often wondered if it
was worth going the slightly
narrower route on skins to
reduce weight and enhance
glide. After today’s experience,
I can tell you to forget about it
for typical alpine ascents.”

The track headed up Lower National through a few lower elevation snow guns, and the areas of firm, manmade snow quickly made me aware that my ascension setup wasn’t going to be perfect.  I was using my AMPerages (139-115-123) to see how they fared in the powder, but since I don’t have skins for them yet, I was using my RT-86 skins (127-86-113).  That width differential left a good deal of base exposed, and on occasion I had to use a heaping helping of arm strength with my poles to avoid slipping.  Although I’ve always cut my skins to the full width of my skis, I’ve often wondered if it was worth going the slightly narrower route on skins to reduce weight and enhance glide.  After today’s experience, I can tell you to forget about it for typical alpine ascents.  Unless you’re going to be touring on very low angle terrain, it’s just not worth it based on what I experienced today – any benefit from the weight/glide could easily be lost by the constant slipping.  Thank goodness the skin track didn’t have any post holes in it this morning or it would have been a huge pain to hold traction.  Up through Lower National I was getting by reasonably well with the occasional small slip of my skins, but the challenge wasn’t quite over.  After reaching the top of Lower National, the skin track shot up Midway, which has quite a steep pitch, and maintaining skin traction became a lot harder.  The pitch eased a bit as the track made its way onto Nosedive, but by the time I’d reached the Liftline/National junction, time was getting short and I was more than happy avoid any more slipping.  It was time for a descent.

I’d been checking on snow depth during my ascent, but due to all the snow this week, there was a lot of unconsolidated stuff under the current storm’s bounty and it was difficult to assess just what came down overnight.  I’d been getting measurements of roughly a foot or more since I’d started at the base area (~1,500’), but when I stuck my measurement pole into the snow at that ~2,800’ mark, I got an overall depth of 18 inches.  Combined with what I was seeing around me from other skiers (check out the pictures from adk and from Powderfreak at the American Weather Forum), who were having little if any issues touching down on obstacles below the snow, the potential turns were looking really good.  National is quite steep and while it wouldn’t typically be my first choice for early season skiing, Mother Nature has really been dishing out the snow on Stowe this week.  It looked ready and I was about to test it out.

“These new fat, rockered skis
are absolutely the real deal.
I continued to bound my way
down the steep slope, just
amazed at how easy the
turns were.”

I switched to descent mode and decided to see what the AMPerages could do.  I dropped in for the first few turns, tentatively, still wondering in the back of my mind if I was going to hit something below, but it was immediately obvious that there was plenty of snow.  The powder was light and dry, and I quickly found myself just giddy with how well the AMPerages performed.  This was my first time on such fat, rockered skis, and although I figured that there might be some modest, incremental increase in ease of powder skiing over my regular Telemark setup, it was far more than that.  These new fat, rockered skis are absolutely the real deal.  I continued to bound my way down the steep slope, just amazed at how easy the turns were.  At the bottom of National I decided to avoid heading back down toward the snow guns where I’d ascended, and instead took Houghton’s over toward the Lookout Double.  It was very quiet over there, since it was well away from any snow guns, and I finished off my run turning my way through fluffy silence.  It’s not even December 1st and there’s not just passable, but really good natural snow skiing from top to bottom on Mt. Mansfield, so indeed that’s a great end to November on the slopes.

An image of the Lookout Double Chairlift with fresh powder below it at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A peaceful Lookout this morning

Sure today featured the best snow I’ve encountered this season, but I can already tell that the powder skiing is going to be just that much more fun this season with the new boards in the quiver.  I’ve now tested the AMPerages in some legitimate Champlain Powder™ – they handled the fluff with aplomb and they are clearly NVT worthy in that regard.  Presumably the whole season won’t be just a fluff fest, so I’m also eager to see how they handle thicker snow and crud, but we’ll have time for that.

Stowe, VT 15NOV2012

An image of snow on evergreens near the summit of the Fourrunner Quad at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Blue skies today with a combination of natural and manmade snow coating the trees at the summit of Stowe’s Fourrunner Quad

I was in Morrisville today, so on the way home to Waterbury I stopped in at Stowe to make some turns.  From the Stowe Village area, the view is quite nice with all the trails covered in white from the snow at the beginning of the week.  Even at midday, the temperature was just a bit above freezing at the base (~1,500’) and the resort was cranking out snow from top to bottom.  The bulk of the snowmaking was taking place on the main routes in the Lord/North Slope area, although snow was also being blow over on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak in the same places that we’d seen it on Sunday.  To avoid the roar of the guns, I decided to make my ascent up Nosedive.  Hiking was in order at the start of the ascent, since natural snow doesn’t appear until roughly the 1,800’ elevation.  The air was generally calm and the temperatures pleasantly cool as I hiked, and finally when I reached the 3,000’ elevation it seemed that the snowpack was sufficiently deep and consistent enough to strap on the skis and start skinning.  There were a couple of descent tracks from people who had skied the upper parts of Nosedive, and while the snow was actually quite nice with some powder and sugary surface hoar, you’d certainly want to use your rock skis based on the coverage.  I topped out at the Fourrunner Quad summit area, and switched over for the descent on the plateau above Nosedive away from the snow guns.  Estimates of the natural snow depth at various elevations on the ascent are as follows:

1,500’: 0”
1,800’: T
2,000’: 0.5”
2,500’: 2”
3,000’: 3-4”
3,600’: 4”

“The descent featured all sorts
of conditions, such as bottomless
manmade snow, sticky manmade sludge,
refrozen moonscape, and thankfully,
some areas of packed powder and
partially groomed manmade snow.”

The descent featured all sorts of conditions, such as bottomless manmade snow, sticky manmade sludge, refrozen moonscape, and thankfully, some areas of packed powder and partially groomed manmade snow.  I started the descent on Upper Lord, and that was where I found the bottomless manmade that had recently been blown.  After my experience with the snow on my November 4th tour, I have to say that I find that unconsolidated manmade stuff even more horrific to ski than Sierra Cement or Cascade Concrete, at least on Telemark gear.  The turns often feel like an accident waiting to happen as you glide across the top and then suddenly cut into the paste with random frequency as you pressure the turn.  Fortunately that ended by the time I reached the top of the Lookout Double.  Snow was still being made, but the guns weren’t as densely packed and you could get around so that you were riding on older snow.  Those middle elevations offered some of the best turns, with some nice packed powder to be found.  The manmade snow that had had some time to dry out and/or had been packed by other traffic skied quite nicely.  I did get into trouble in one spot where a gun was blowing fresh snow that turned out to be on the wet side – as soon as I stopped, several inches of it glommed onto the bottom of my skis and I had to slowly work it off while I got moving.  I did my best to avoid any of the snow being blown by the lower mountain guns after that point, but it seemed like that one was just especially bad because of the mixture it was putting out.  On the bottom half of the mountain there were still some areas of nice snow, but also refrozen and slick areas where one had to be careful to avoid a sliding out.  At the bottom of my run, the guns were blowing in the North Slope Terrain Park, and I was dreading the thought of what the snow would be like down at that elevation.  I watched a snow cat head right up through the gut of the trail, so I waited for him to make it above me in order to stay out of his way.  That turned out to be very beneficial, because the best snow was actually in the track that had been churned up by the treads.  It hadn’t been fully smoothed out, but by breaking up the top skin of the manmade snowpack, it produced some really nice packed powder.  Those turns were actually great as I made my way back and forth in the swatch of the snowcat, and it gives me confidence that once Stowe’s snow is appropriately groomed, it’s going to ski quite nicely.

An image of the summit area of the Fourrunner Quad at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont with a couple of snow guns making snow
Today at the summit of the Fourrunner Quad

So, I definitely found some nice turns out there today.  Today’s skiing scores well above what was available when I went out for a tour back on November 4th, but it wasn’t quite up to the consistency we found in the corn snow on Sunday’s outing, so today will fall in the middle of the pack for this November’s turns.  It looks like we’re going to continue with this stretch of generally clear weather into next week, so while we can’t expect much natural snow during that time, at least the temperatures are such that plenty of snowmaking can take place.

Stowe, VT 11NOV2012

An image of Erica skiing the North Slope trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont near dusk
Today’s descent of Mt. Mansfield was at dusk.

The past week has seen some excellent cold temperatures for November snowmaking in the Northeastern U.S., and Stowe took full advantage, running close to 200 snow guns at times.  I witnessed some of the high elevation guns being fired up when I was out on the mountain last Sunday, but since that point it’s been an all out assault reaching all the way down to the base.  The resort did such a thorough job covering the slopes that they were able to go ahead with an early opening for seasons pass holders yesterday.  The conditions looked fantastic based on Powderfreak’s pictures from the day, but just as exciting was the fact that the lifts wouldn’t be running today, opening up the chance for earned turns.  The forecast called for sun and temperatures in the 50s F, so it looked like we’d have some nice soft snow for carving.

We had house guests over in the morning, and then stopped by the Nordic Barn to pick up some new poles and Telemark boots for Ty, so it was mid afternoon before we got to the mountain.  This meant that we were already in the shadow of mighty Mansfield as we began our ascent, but the sun was still shining brightly on the east wall of the valley.  There’s still a good deal of natural snow around on Mt. Mansfield, with a half foot of snow at the stake as of this evening, but the snowmaking terrain in the North Slope area was the obvious choice in terms of coverage.  The ascent was very easy, since the surface was predominantly dense, manmade snow, which had consolidated with today’s warm temperatures and become spring-like.  We saw a couple of people heading up just ahead of us, but we appeared to be the last group ascending for the day.

The boys had a good ascent in terms of their energy levels, and we got to enjoy numerous views of the Spruce Peak area as we made our way up out of the base elevations.  It turns out that Stowe even turned on some of their snowmaking firepower on the sunny slopes of Spruce, and we could see large expanses of white that had been laid down in the Easy Street and Slalom Hill areas.  We topped out on North Slope in the area of the Lord junction, with dusk dictating that we just had to descend.  Beneath the darkening sky, we descended with the trails to ourselves toward the glowing lights of the Stowe Mountain Lodge.  We had just enough light to see the terrain, so it made for one of those surreal on-slope experiences.  Even at the late hour, the snow remained soft, and it supported great carving thanks to the warm air that’s moving into the region.  Dylan was the hero of the descent, actually finding a tail clip from Ty’s skin that had been lost on the way up.  It was amazing that he was able to find the small piece of metal it in such low light, but he’s going to be inheriting those skis soon once we get Ty’s new ones mounted, so perhaps it was destiny.

After getting in some skiing last weekend, and now this one, November 2012 is turning out much more typical than the previous couple we’ve seen.  Both of those featured above average temperatures, so I only got out for one day in November 2011, and not even a single day on November 2010.  I’m definitely enjoying the return to normalcy this year, and although we’ve got a couple of warm days on tap, snow is already back in the forecast for the mountains and valleys on Tuesday.

Stowe, VT 04NOV2012

An image showing ski tracks on the Sunrise trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after an early November snowfall
Catching a few early season turns on Sunrise today

It’s been snowing in the Green Mountains since Friday, and accumulating down to the 1,500’ to 2,000’ level.  We’ve even had some flakes reach down to the mountain valleys, and although the lower elevations have generally seen rain and we haven’t had any accumulation at the house, we’ve picked up 0.39” of liquid over the past couple of days.  Even as early as yesterday, snow depths had reached the point where it looked like it was worth making a few turns, so I headed to Stowe today to check it out for myself.

I left the house near midday under cloudy skies and a temperature of 39 F, but a few minutes into the drive, the temperature dropped to 37 F in the Waterbury Center area, and snow began to fall.  It snowed lightly all the way to the mountain, and accumulations began to appear just as I hit the resort base at ~1,500’ in elevation.  The temperature had really dropped as I ascended the last stretch to the resort, and as I parked in the Midway lot, the temperature was right around the freezing mark.

Accumulations in the Midway area were generally a trace to an inch, so I stowed my skis on my pack and headed over toward Nosedive to use that standard route of ascent.  As I approached the 2,000’ mark, the snow depth became a bit more consistent, generally in the 1”-2” range, and I switched to skins.  I was probably a touch early on putting on my skins since I encountered a few more spots of mud, but that’s what rock skins are for, and it made for a lot less slipping than hiking in my boots.  The precipitation that had been snow at the start of my ascent turned into more of a freezing mist as I headed into the clouds around 3,000’.  Up around 3,600’ at the Stone Hut it was windy, well below freezing, and quite chaotic with Stowe’s snow gun firing off what seemed like a 21 gun salute.  I sheltered behind the hut to keep out of the wind and the roar of the snow guns as I switched to descent mode and had a much needed snack.  The wind made for plenty of drifting during my ascent, but I’d sum up the snow depths with respect to elevation as follows:

1,600’: T-1”
2,000’: 1”-2”
2,500’: 2”-4”
3,000’: 4”-6”
3,600’: 6”+

I’d only encountered a couple of groups descending on Nosedive while on my ascent, but there were plenty of tracks from previous visitors and the snow was quite packed out, so I decided to descend some other terrain off to the south.  The combination of wind, freezing mist, low visibility, and manmade snow made for a really challenging descent, especially on my skinny Telemark skis, so I generally just took it easy and stuck to mellow terrain.  In general I didn’t find much in the way of decent turns until I got down onto Sunrise below the snowmaking, and pretty quickly after that the snow depth was getting a bit meager.  I did manage some nice turns here and there, but eventually it was more gorilla-style survival turns until I finally decided to call it at the elevation of Crossover.  I strapped the skis back on my pack and had a nice stroll back to the car.  I’d say at this point the skiing isn’t worth putting in a ton of effort, but it’s definitely fun to get out for a few turns if you’re close by.  We’ll have to see if anything comes from the Nor’easter that’s expected this week though, because the current snow could serve as a decent base for another round of accumulations.

Stowe, Hourglass Chute, & Hell Brook Trail, VT 22MAR1997

Well, the weather setup leading into this weekend was a 4 to 6 inch snowfall yesterday; so it came just in time for weekend turns.  Somehow, there came to be a bit of a crust on top, but unlike last weekend, it was paper thin and didn’t really affect the non-groomed terrain.

Today I caught up with Shawshank at Stowe sometime between 7:30 and 8:00 A.M. and we hit the usual stashes with other folks that we knew.  The big event came in the afternoon with a 1:00 P.M. meeting at the top of the Gondi and a hike into the swirling mists of The Chin.  Let’s just say, without the guidance of Shawshank, there would have been no way to find anything up there in the near zero visibility.  The wind was probably gusting to 40 mph at times, but it wasn’t bad for the top of a mountain, and by the time we reached the Hourglass Chute, we were protected altogether.  Hourglass was fun, although it seemed to be over so quickly.  I remember reaching this one point about as wide as the length of my skis (the narrow part of the hourglass) and four turns later we had to bang a left to make the connection to Hell Brook.  We traversed for about 50 feet, took a quick step up a short incline, then dropped a nice little section into the low point between the Adam’s Apple And The Chin (so I was told; still socked in).  After a bit more of a traverse, we found ourselves at the top of Hell Brook.  I thought that it was going to be a singletrack adventure down into the Notch; I was definitely wrong there.  As it turns out (at least at this time of year) it is much like an interconnected patchwork of trails, snowfields, and gullies which gradually narrows into a single gully towards the end.  Actually, a lot of it reminded me of the gullies at Alta or Snowbird, except that it was a lot longer and there were hardwoods about.  One could take this thing 20 times and still not know the whole maze; it makes for some very fun exploration.  A word of caution:  there were numerous spots where a wrong turn would mean a big drop or other hazards that could ruin your run so take it easy.  Shawshank lost his goggles in a little open water spot and before anyone knew what was up, they were down the brook and under the snow.  Damn.  We finally wound up on Route 108 for a mostly (one bit of uphill) downhill traverse back to the Gondola and nearly 3000′ of vertical in one run.  By the time we got back to the quad it was about 3:30 P.M. and we were kaput.

I stopped in at the Stowehof where my friend Chris was staying.  It’s a real quaint place with great views.  I think that the bar and restaurant are open to the public, but just walking around in there is a lot of fun.

Stowe, VT 10DEC1995

Shawshank tells me that the lifts at Stowe will start running at an incredible 7:00 A.M for Sunday. OK, I’ll be there bright and early. Recording a possible record arrival, I get myself to the quad before 7:30 and find it humming right along with people returning from runs. After a warm-up attempt to get some freshies on Liftline/National, I ran into Andor & co. right in line. The rest of the morning consisted of Goat, Queebs, traverse, learn, Chin Clip, Goat?, Starr, Starr or something like that. I found myself happily buried more than once. At lunch we met up with Shawshank, ate some food and went back at it. Shawshank reported a multitude of freshies on hayride earlier in the day, so awaaaaaaaaaay we go. In my head and body I’m thinkin’ “Gawd I’m tired, a couple more runs should do it for me, I mean 7 something A.M was a long time ago.” Whoops look what we found, more fresh woods. Any thoughts of leaving were gone as we plowed our way through virtually untracked freshies on “Oh Shit”, “Major Jones”, and others. By connecting everything right, we had found top to bottom fresh woods off the quad “Who could leave?” The stake near “Oh shit” read 3 feet, 6 inches of snow and I whole heartedly believe it. When it finally became too dangerous to ski anymore, we called it. Through the magic of powder, I had managed to reel in over 30,000 vertical without ever realizing it. Now that’s a drug.

OK, back to reality. There was a harsh wind blowing up top, 0 degrees air temp + wind = -38 degree w.c.  The wind was also blowing some of the snow off the trails and exposing the ice underneath (more reason to stay off-trail). Lines were a bit long in the noonish hours, even the gondola had a line. I don’t know about the big streambed, but a lot of little ones are still visibly flowing, maybe from all the insulating snow. More poachers getting nabbed on lower lift line, Lookout wasn’t open (100%?) and the Tollhouse lift wasn’t running.

(A friend of mine ended up there on his first day of snowboarding, apparently crossing no ropes, and had to get a ride back. The guy who gave him the ride said “Yeah, that’s been happening a lot today” ?What’s up with that?)

But I’m certainly not complaining.

Next weekend I’m skiing in NH “yikes” and I’ll send in one of those “out of state” reports

J. “There’s skiing in other states too” Spin