Bolton Valley, VT 24MAR2010

We picked up 1.7 inches of snow at the house this morning, which was a lot considering the amount of snowfall we’ve seen this March, so I decided to stop up at Bolton to earn some turns and maybe ride the lifts if the skiing was decent enough.  The reports coming in from the local ski areas indicated that they’d picked up similar accumulations to what I’d seen at the house, but the 1.7 inches I’d measured was comprised of 0.24 inches of liquid, so it definitely had some substance to it.  The snowfall had mostly tapered off in the valley as I was heading up the Bolton Valley Access Road in the ~8:00 A.M. range, but precipitation was still falling in the higher elevations.  I was surprised to see that the precipitation was actually a bit mixed as I approached the Bolton Valley Village, but the temperature was in the mid 20s F.

I was encouraged as I stepped out of the car into about 4 inches of powder, but on the snowbank in front of me, I could see that there was just a dusting, so clearly the wind had been messing with the new snow.  The weather was actually pretty nasty, with some wind, light snow/mixed precipitation, and fog, but there was definitely some new powder to be skied.

I skinned straight up Beech Seal, which was easy with the grooming and minimal accumulations.  It quickly became apparent that I’d need to find sheltered places to hit the powder, because the wind had stripped the snow off exposed areas.  With that in mind, I headed over toward the Cobrass area, and at around 9:00 A.M. when the Vista Quad was scheduled to open, I began my descent.  The lower parts of Cobrass itself were looking somewhat windswept, but the Cobrass Run area had a fairly even coating of snow.  The turns were pretty nice, although I was touching down to the hard base on about 50% of them, and once I was down below Cobrass Run, I was into the terrain that had been groomed after the new snowfall.  That surface was not nearly as soft as the terrain that hadn’t seen a grooming.  The couple new inches of dense snow was sort of lost as it was churned into the base snow.

Once down at the base area, I checked in with the lift operators at the bottom of Vista.  With the combination of wind, some riming, and a bit of grooming still taking place, they weren’t quite ready to get underway.  They did ask for the lowdown on the conditions, and I told them what I’d found on Cobrass Run.  So, with the lift situation it was back to manpower for turns, but my initial foray had left me optimistic enough to search out some additional powder.  I ascended by the same route, seeing some nice smooth coatings in the New Sherman’s Pass/Lower Vermont 200 area, but somehow the thought of Wilderness crept into my head, so I continued on up Sherman’s Pass to about the 2,800’ level.  I hopped onto some of the low/moderate angle terrain that brought me over to Wilderness, and the skiing was OK, but nothing too fantastic as I did cross some windswept areas.

I’m not sure why it hadn’t occurred to me earlier, but as I saw the Wilderness Lift line showing signs of the wind’s effects, I just kept heading north to Lower Turnpike.  That wound up being the pick of my morning.  I started down, and there was initially a little scouring in spots due to wind, but as I headed lower and lower into more sheltered terrain, the coating of snow got smoother and smoother, and the skiing got better and better.  It wasn’t long before there was only the occasional contact with the old subsurface snow, and as much fun as the corn skiing has been this March, it was very satisfying to fell that consistent powder float again.  That definitely made the morning, and I was ready to catch a lift ride and do it all again, but the chairlifts still didn’t appear to be loading.  All the skiers I saw seemed to be congregating around the handle tow, so based on the time I decided to call it a morning and head to Burlington.

The precipitation was very light snow as I left the mountain a bit after 10:00 A.M., and the temperature in the village was 26 F.  Descending the Access Road offered up some of the snowier views of the day as I got down into elevations where the wind had been more minimal.  The temperature at the bottom of the Access Road was 32 F, and mid 30s F when I got into Burlington.

When I was leaving Burlington later in the afternoon afternoon, it was sunny and the temperature was 50 F.  Most of the valley snow had melted, but the last clouds were pulling away from Mt. Mansfield offering some nice views.  I was surprised to see that we had retained much of the new snow at our house due to the shade, and it was neat to have the yard entirely white again, since our snow at the house had almost disappeared through the course of the month.

Bolton Valley, VT 20MAR2010

This afternoon up at Bolton was very much like last Saturday: generally overcast, but warm enough to keep the spring corn soft and enjoyable.  Temperatures were again in the 40s F and there was some breeze in the higher elevations.  The biggest changes I saw from last week were in snow coverage.  After yet another week with warm temperatures and no snow, significant bare spots are starting to show up at the Timberline elevations.  From what I saw in my daily Bolton Valley email snow report from today, the mountain is still 100% open in terms of on piste terrain.  But, if we have another week like the past three, it would be very likely that they would have to start closing some terrain heading into next weekend.  It still may not be possible to keep everything open, but fortunately, this week doesn’t look as though it will continue the recent weather trends.  We actually could have some snow down at the house by tomorrow morning, which would be the first time in three weeks.  That’s a sign that something is changing.  Also, the NWS point forecasts for the higher elevations of the Green Mountains around here have some sort of snow in them almost every day this week.  We haven’t seen anything remotely like that since back in February.  There’s still a lot of questions as to where the moisture will go and where the freezing levels will be, but at least the mountains have got the chance to accumulate some snow this week.  Also, much cooler temperatures are going to slow down the melting we’ve seen so far this month.

In terms of skiing, after focusing on his Telemark skiing last weekend, Ty wanted to get back in the bumps today.  So, with warm temperatures I said we’d hit some of the steep bump runs off Vista, and E and the boys would get a good workout.  With a puzzled look, E initially asked me what bump runs I was talking about, because she had no clue.  I was sort of surprised, but what I did was simply run upstairs and grab my laptop to show her my current desktop background.  It’s a shot I picked up from the Bolton Valley Facebook Page a couple of weeks back:

After three weeks with nothing in terms of snowfall, the snowpack isn’t quite as bounteous as in the picture, but the coverage is still great aside from a few isolated pockets, and the bumps are still there – except I think on Hard Luck.  We didn’t ski it, but it looked like it had been groomed.  I laughed at the fact that I had to show E and the boys that picture.  In almost four seasons at Bolton, I’ve yet to bring her and the boys down any of the runs like Spillway, Show Off, Hard Luck etc.  I know that we’ve touched on a few edges of the runs in our travels through the off piste, but we certainly haven’t hit the runs together or hit the bumps.  I know that Ty has skied Hard Luck before, but that was in powder back in the middle of April 2007 when we earned turns with Dave, and there were no bumps to be seen.  Up to this point when the whole family has been together, there hasn’t been an occasion to ski any of those trails, since Dylan hasn’t been quite ready to tackle them.  Also, I don’t recall those trails developing bumps like that every spring, probably due to the combination of too much snowfall/too little traffic, etc.

Anyway, Dylan has progressed this season to the point that he’s got the skills and stamina to tackle just about any bump run, so tackle them we did.  We started off down at Timberline, but quickly made our way over to the main mountain and up to the top of Spillway.  Having not skied Spillway with bumps in I don’t know how long, I’d forgotten how steep some of those pitches are.  The bumps were huge at times; it felt like you were dropping several feet in the air per turn.  Ty was definitely challenged; with the combination of very steep pitch and huge bumps, he had plenty of crashes as he tried to take them aggressively and find out what worked for him.  Dylan was more conservative, but very smooth and he didn’t even seem to be phased by the pitch at all.  Although it’s not as long as Chin Clip, Ty definitely found the steep pitches and huge bumps on Spillway more challenging than when we’d skied Chin Clip a couple weeks back.

We moved over to Show Off for more bumps on the next run, and compared to Spillway it was easier skiing judging by the way Ty handled it.  We also hit the Vista Glades, which the boys consider a playground because of all the terrain features.  Vista Glades had some good sections of bumps, and then we added more by skiing Schuss below it.  On the lower mountain we teamed each our upper mountain runs with the bumps on the Vista Quad lift line, and then a run through the smaller terrain park below it.  With just Spillway, Show Off, and Schuss, E and the boys got a good sampling of bumps off Vista, and they had a lot of fun.  Now that Dylan is ready to handle them, I’m sure we’ll visit those runs more frequently when conditions warrant.  Dylan’s stamina has grown by leaps and bounds this season, and is certainly one of the hallmarks of his improvements this spring.  Ultimately that’s going to enable longer days with more varied terrain as we move forward.

Stowe, VT 14MAR2010

Today we were back at Stowe for our weekly program, and the afternoon began with similar conditions to what we’d experienced at Bolton yesterday.  There wasn’t any significant precipitation; it was just mostly cloudy with a couple holes of blue sky and temperatures in the 40s F.  My group stayed on Spruce Peak for the entire afternoon, where surfaces were spring corn and the skiing was excellent.  There were certainly a few spots of ground opening up on steep, south-facing trails with natural snow.  One example would be Freddie’s Chute, which had essentially complete coverage when we’d skied it last week.  The ledges there on the skier’s left showed a lot of exposed spots today, although the right side still had full coverage and skiable lines.  We weren’t actually going to be skiing it with the group we had today, but I noticed that patrol had roped off the entrance corral anyway.  We didn’t head to the upper parts of Spruce, although it sounded like some ground was showing through up there as well.  We skied all the usual terrain on the lower half of Spruce, and there were no coverage concerns on any of that.  Toward the end of the afternoon it started spitting rain showers, and then for the final few runs the precipitation intensified over in the Spruce Peak area.  Fortunately, the skiing was winding down by that point.  It’s going to be sunny and warm for the coming week, so I’m sure that some of the more sensitive south-facing terrain on Spruce will lose additional coverage.  But, it should be clear with most nights going below freezing, so the corn cycling should go well.  Mansfield looked great in terms of coverage when we were there, although I’d imagine a few of the lower-elevation spots in the sun could start having some open spots and the snowpack at the stake will probably drop some this week.  The big storm that brought inches of rain to southern parts of New England didn’t seem to be much of an event in this area, as I only recorded 0.15 inches of liquid in my rain gauge for the entire system.

I had an intermediate group today, with a couple of students that were working on transitioning fully over to parallel, so we did a lot of drills to get them on their way.  After yesterday’s experience, Ty decided to ride his Telemark skis again to work on his Tele turns, so instead of going with one of the more advanced groups, he came with us and tried to focus on that.  I was on my Telemark skis to enable working with Ty, but it was nice to be able to use that Telemark versatility and work just as smoothly on alpine turns with the other students.

I’ve attached a couple of scenic shots below that I captured around noontime today:

Bolton Valley, VT 13MAR2010

We headed up to Bolton this afternoon for a bit if skiing, unsure if the conditions were going to warrant much of a stay.  Weather wise, there was neither fresh powder nor bright sun, so it was looking like our first lackluster sort of day up there in a while.  We hit the Timberline area at around 1:30 P.M., where the temperature at the 1,500’ elevation was probably in the low 40s F.  Fortunately, the snow was nicely softened into spring corn and the skiing was fantastic.  As soon as we’d started our first run down Twice as Nice we knew we were going to stick around.  A quick check in the trees revealed that the off piste hadn’t really softened to the perfection that we’d found on the trails, whether due to the shelter of the trees or lack of traffic.  Basically though, it was a great day of on piste spring skiing, just without the sunshine.  As of the end of the day, coverage was wall to wall all the way down to the lowest elevations of Timberline (~1,500’) so that was nice to see.  We didn’t venture to the main mountain, but with its additional elevation, coverage should only be enhanced over Timberline.  I could tell that a couple of the more sensitive spots on Timberline were close to opening up to ground, so without any new snow over the next few days I’m sure there will be a few areas to watch out for unless the groomers did some patch work.  It sounds like the big coastal storm was bringing some precipitation to parts of southern New England, but it was simply dry and overcast while we were up at Bolton.

With neither off piste nor major bump skiing in mind for the day, E and Ty decided to ride their Telemark skis.  For Ty, it was his first day on his Teles in quite a while, probably over a month, so he was excited to get back on them.  A few weeks back I’d picked up a couple of binding wedges at OGE, and this was his first chance to try his skis with them.  I guess it can be common to have too much forward lean in kids’ Telemark setups, with “rocker launch” being a potential issue, and although it didn’t seem to be a major problem with Ty’s rig when I checked the resting height of his boot’s heel, it seemed like it was worth picking some up wedges for a few bucks since they’ve been recommended and he might benefit.  Ty didn’t indicate that he could feel any major differences in his skiing with the wedges in place, but they certainly weren’t a problem.  I’ll have to check the heel of his boots and see where they rest now.  Even though Ty couldn’t discern any major changes with the wedges installed, potentially through progression alone, E and I agreed that he had his best day yet on his Telemark gear.  He’s still working on being able to hold a lower stance through turns, and I can see that that’s going to challenge him for a while.  He’s able to hold his lower Telemark stances longer and longer however.  Ty noted that he’s got a weaker side with regard to his Telemark stance/turn, and like E, he worked on that during the afternoon.  The most obvious advancement for Ty was his ability to come into airs in one Telemark stance, switch it up in the air, and land in the opposite Telemark stance.  I enjoy playing around with that a lot, and whether because Ty had reached that stage of progression, or he had enjoyed seeing the ski jumpers doing their Telemark landings in the Olympics a couple of weeks back, he really got into it today.  Finding that he was able to land his jumps in a Telemark stance kept Ty pretty invigorated all afternoon, so he may go with his Telemark skis again tomorrow at Stowe.

Since it was pretty gray and overcast, I didn’t get anything in the way of scenery shots, but I did grab a few shots of the boys in action in the corn snow:

Stowe, VT 07MAR2010

Like yesterday, today was another warm, sunny day, and we headed off to Stowe in the afternoon for our weekly program.  I was very curious to see if spring conditions would develop to a greater extent than the spotty softening we’d found at Bolton yesterday, but with Spruce Peak’s southern exposure, I was confident that we could at least find a decent amount of corn snow over there.  During our drive up to Stowe, the midday views of all the snow-covered alpine areas in the surrounding peaks were very impressive.  There’s a nice-looking snowfield atop Hunger Mountain, and obvious lines were popping out in various spots up and down the Worcester Range.  Hopefully people are getting out and hitting these spots.

I was supposed to have two snowboarders in my group for the day, so I started off the afternoon on my board in preparation for riding with them.  Before group began, I went off with Ty and Dylan for a run off the Sunny Spruce Quad, and we hit Fredie’s Chute.  The snow was already plenty soft, so the turns were great.  With its southern exposure and ledgy areas though, there are already a few bare spots starting to open up on.  Seeing that the snow conditions were already excellent in terms of softening, I was planning to work on bumps for the afternoon with the kids.  So, when my snowboarders didn’t show up and I was left with a group of exclusively skiers, I quickly switched to skis.  A couple of fantastic carves on West Slope had me enjoying my board, but I find skis far superior in the bumps.

With just three skiers in tow, two of them being Ty and Dylan, we were off to find ourselves some soft bumps.  We worked our way over toward the Sensation Quad and did a run on Whirlaway.  Whirlaway is a favorite of James, one of our other students, but since he was out for the day, the other guys ripped it up in his honor.  We next took on Upper Smuggler’s, and for the first time this spring they got to hit the final, very steep section of Upper Smuggler’s that has often been closed this season due to low snow depths.  It’s another southern exposure trail, so a couple of bare spots were appearing, but coverage was almost perfect and the boys had a lot of fun.  As it turned out, they hadn’t had their butts kicked quite hard enough, so I decided that we should do a run on Chin Clip.

We headed down Chin Clip just as the sun was leaving it and things were starting to tighten up, but we still caught good snow.  Coverage was perfect as far as I saw, and the endless bumps were huge; it was classic Chin Clip.  We ran into a group of three Telemark skiers during our descent, and they were very impressed with how the boys were playing in the bumps.  When they asked how I was able to keep up, I told them that I spend a lot of time on my Telemark skis; then, when I get on my alpines I feel like a super hero.  At least that’s what my quads tell me, and they seem to know what they’re talking about.

A few pictures from the day have been added below:

Bolton Valley, VT 06MAR2010

With temperatures at the house closing in on the mid 40s F by midday today, we were expecting corn snow up on the mountain, but as it turns out, that wasn’t quite what we found.  We started off at Timberline, and if anywhere on the mountain was going to feature spring snow, the lower half of Timberline was going to be it.  We joined up with Stephen and Helena, and once we got off at the Timberline mid station, we headed over to Spell Binder based on a request from Dylan.  The Spell Binder headwall was far from spring snow, it was mid winter snow, but pretty firm since there had obviously been some temperature fluctuations down there.  It may have been due to the cool west or northwest breeze that was blowing, but only the lower elevation spots in direct sunlight featured corn snow.  Those spots were good, but you had to stick to the skier’s right of the runs, and even then you were looking at partial runs.

If we weren’t going to get much in the way of spring snow, we decided that we’d head to the top of the main mountain and see where we could find the best winter snow.  I didn’t know how high the freezing levels had gone during the week, but once we got to the top of Wilderness, I could see that they had certainly gone above 3,000’ in areas exposed to the sun.  We skied Bolton Outlaw, and the snow was OK for presumably going above freezing at some point, but certainly not like last Saturday.  I checked out some of the snow in the trees, and it turned out that up around the 3,000’ mark, snow that had not seen any sun was still dry and powdery.  Based on what I saw up there, it looked like north-facing terrain from about 2,500’ on up likely held onto some good powder.  While sunny and at times warm, the weather was pretty dry last week, so that may have helped with the preservation.  I bet some of the north-facing lines below Paradise Pass or off the peak of Ricker Mountain would deliver some great turns.

One note of interest that I observed from the Wilderness area was the state of the snowpack in the higher reaches of Ricker Mountain.  There’s a lot of snow up there.  You can actually see snowfields starting to form in some areas due to the big storms that came through at the end of February.  Also, I saw that the big trail map at the top of the Wilderness Lift was starting to get buried, and as I recall it’s pretty high off the ground.  I can see new lines forming all over the place high up on Ricker Mountain now, so I’m sure there are plenty of good turns up top for those that have time to hike above the lifts.  If the boys had the stamina and inclination at this point, that would be a fun way to spend some days.

Lower down on Wilderness we took some turns in some of the trees off Old Turnpike, and the untracked snow wasn’t half bad.  There was some nice settled powder in spots, but it was highly variably because if you got to a spot where the sun had hit (which was most places), there would be a sun/melt crust.  Lower Turnpike itself featured great snow as usual.  There was good packed powder on the shaded side of the trail, which transitioned right over to corn on the sunny side with little if any hybrid in between.  You could almost alternate winter and spring skiing with each turn if you wanted to.

Although there was the slight breeze and the air temperature was probably just in the 30s F, the bright sun made things quite comfortable so the base area had that spring feel in the afternoon.  We hung outside with the kids for a bit and got some waffles from the hut before making a last run back down to Timberline.  By the time we headed back down, the Timberline area was already closed, so it had that spooky, private ski area feel.  A few images from today are attached below:

Stowe, VT 28FEB2010

We’d skied at Stowe Thursday in the midst of the big storm cycle, but today was our first chance to see how things had shaken out for the snow surfaces once things had settled down.  The slopes looked gorgeous as we approached the mountain, with lots of sun among some fair weather clouds.  I was initially encouraged by the snow surfaces when we took an early run on Spruce Peak a bit before 1:00 P.M; the sun had warmed up the snow and there had seen enough cycling to produce some corn.  Gone was the wet surface that had persisted in the lower elevations during the storms, and it was really fun slicing smooth arcs into the open terrain of the NASTAR Hill area.

I was hoping that the skiing would be soft like that all around, but that certainly wasn’t the case over on Mt. Mansfield.  Unlike Thursday, where the middle elevations of Mansfield seemed to offer the best skiing in terms of balancing visibility with reasonably dry snow, the middle elevations had some of the most difficult snow today.  The top third to perhaps half of the mountain had fairly nice mid winter snow, but below that there had been enough warming that the surfaces had become hard.  Off piste was also pretty messy around there.  The saving grace in the very lowest elevations was that they had started to corn up a bit, but the middle elevations just stayed hard and high traffic areas on piste were well on their way to the icy disposition they’d had before the big resurfacing.  Our final run of the day down North Slope was a great example of that phenomenon, and I’m not sure I can say that the surface was actually any better than what one would have seen back during the snow drought before the big storms.

It really would have been nice to have some upper mountain lifts to use under those conditions, or if I wasn’t with the kids in our group it probably would have been fun to do some laps up in the Alpine.  When the stake is in the 100” range as it is now, the top of Mansfield does start to turn into one huge snowfield.  With these recent sunny days I’ve been staring at the east side of Mansfield from UVM and seeing how white it is in the alpine areas.  Some more substantial clouds did come in later in the day today, and at about 3:00 P.M. when we were up at the Octagon, it started to flurry a bit.  Nothing seemed to come of that however.  We’re planning to be up at Stowe again next Sunday afternoon, so we’ll see how the conditions are.  There doesn’t appear to be any significant snowfall coming this week though, so with additional traffic and some spring temperature cycling in the lower elevations I’d be surprised if snow surfaces were improved at all.  I’m sure the coverage will be outstanding though.  I bet surfaces will still be nice in the highest elevations, but we might spend a good deal of time over at Spruce if the sun gets things corned up there.

I did get one picture from today as we approached the mountain; it really was a gorgeous day for the most part, even if snow surfaces weren’t great at all elevations, and you can see where some parts of the Mansfield alpine are really loaded with snow:

Bolton Valley, VT 27FEB2010

Today was our first chance to see how Bolton had fared from the big midweek storm.  Numbers wise, they’d picked up almost four feet of snow from the initial round of precipitation, but as we’d seen at Stowe on Thursday, the snow was fairly dense and more difficult to ski in the lower elevations.  The mountain had reported another 5 inches overnight to top of the previous snow, so that was quite encouraging in terms of setting up some fresh powder skiing.

We parked at Timberline (~1,500’), but immediately worked our way up toward the Vista Summit (~3,150’) to see how the snow was skiing in the highest elevations.  Up at the Timberline Summit (~2,500’) the snow was skiing well and the new powder was fairly dry, but it quickly began to get thicker as we descended to the village area (~2,150’).  Once we reached the Vista Summit, we certainly found the best conditions of the morning – even the headwall of Cobrass was skiing pretty well.  There were some clouds around, but we’d broken out into the sun at the top of Vista and it was quite a sight.  The cumulus clouds off in the distance looked much more like something one would see in summer vs. winter, and presumably spoke to the interesting weather pattern that had recently brought about the big snows.  We made a long descent back to the Timberline Base to have an early lunch, and skied some of the Villager Trees along the way.  We hiked for some extra turns in there with the boys, and the powder was OK at first, but after a few hundred vertical we were getting down into the elevations where the new powder wasn’t as dry, and the subsurface became harder since it was derived from wetter snow.

We had a good lunch down at Timberline, which was rather deserted at first due to the early hour, then headed back up toward the main mountain.  Based on what we’d found in our travels up to that point, there was no need to ski anything at Timberline since the snow on the upper mountain was so clearly superior.  We got a call from Stephen that he was cycling the Vista Glades, and with the huge amounts of snow and colder temperatures up there, that seemed like a perfect choice.  The Vista Glades were in excellent shape, with all the ledgy areas well covered thanks to the copious dense snow.  E and the boys weren’t all that familiar with the Vista Glades since we don’t often ski them, but once they were in there and saw how much fun the skiing was, they agreed that it had been a great choice.

With upper elevation terrain in mind, we headed over to the Wilderness are next so we could check out Bolton Outlaw.  As a testament to just how much snow, or likely how much dense snow and liquid equivalent had fallen, the top pitch of the Wilderness Lift Line actually had pretty decent coverage.  That’s saying a lot.  I’m not sure if it was actually open at that point, but it had been well traveled by plenty of skiers.  Bolton Outlaw was excellent, and there wasn’t even a need to venture off into the powder on the sides because the trail itself was just so soft.  We were definitely up in the elevations where the drier snow had fallen and the temperatures had never gone above freezing.  Below Bolton Outlaw, we skied the steep pitch of Cougar, which provided one of the best scenes from the day.  Ty was skiing very fast due to the extra reliability of the snow surface, and he dropped into Cougar and skied the bumps at full tilt, followed by a huge hand in the air at the bottom.  E said he’d clearly been watching plenty of Olympic ski action.

Below the level of the Wilderness mid station, we played around in the various glades and found good powder down to a point.  It was a gradual change in snow quality with elevation of course, but once we got down to around the 2,300’ elevation, the untracked snow had reached a stage of density/wetness that it was getting tough to ski.  Fortunately, in the Wilderness area we were just about down to the base elevations and back on piste by that point, so it worked out pretty well.  The snow quality and skier traffic were so good over at Wilderness that I would have been happy to simply stay there for the rest of the afternoon.  However, Ty eventually started to get tired (probably because he had been skiing pretty hard) and wanted to head home.

In terms of the overall weather for the day, it was quite an eclectic mix:  one minute we’d have bright sunshine, and then ten minutes later it would be snowing at a decent clip.  As the afternoon wore on, the snowfall won out, and in the middle afternoon it was snowing at about an inch per hour for a while; I’d say it put down a quick half inch or so.  The temperatures were excellent, being a few degrees above freezing down at the Timberline base elevations, and several degrees below freezing up at the summit areas.  Even though I didn’t have a chance to get many pictures from that part of the day, the time spent over at Wilderness today was so good that it will probably end up being one of the highlights of the season.

Stowe, VT 25FEB2010

Today Stephen and Johannes joined us for some turns at “Stowequalmie” as it seemed.  Down at the base elevations (~1,500’), the temperature was a couple of degrees above freezing, and the precipitation was mixed rain and snow, but not too far up in elevation it was all snow falling.  The uppermost elevations were in the clouds, so visibility was low up there, but those areas also had the driest snow.  The middle elevations were sort of that sweet spot where visibility was up, and the snow was still nice.  The lower ½ to ¼ of the mountain had great visibility, but the snow was fairly wet, so off piste skiing wasn’t quite as easy as it is with our more typical Vermont fluff.  Some groomed areas on piste on the lower mountain had that wet pack snow that I’ve experienced on the lower elevations of Whistler Blackcomb.

In terms of the powder in the middle and upper elevations, it was fairly dense, and boy was it deep!  As others have mentioned, there were feet of it.  The snowpack up there also seemed a bit upside down however.  I think some denser snow had fallen on top of some drier snow from Wednesday, so it created that phenomenon.  Off piste, it reminded me very much of a trip E and I had to Schweitzer back in 2001, where four feet of Cascade Concrete had fallen on the mountain and many people simply found themselves drowning in it because it was so difficult to ski.

With our crew and the conditions, we didn’t spend much time off piste aside from playing in the snow off the edges of the trails, but we had a good time on the trials.  Any issues of iciness or coverage were long buried, and it was great to see the mountain looking better as we approach March.  Freddie’s Chute under the Sunny Spruce Quad is finally all covered, so we had a fun run down there.  Ty really loved blasting the moguls on West Smuggler’s, since with the weather pattern we’d been in previously, it had probably been a couple of months since he’d skied moguls without at least some concern for hard snow or low coverage.  Stephen spied all the untracked snow sitting in the meadows area and wanted to try a run there.  He didn’t initially know why E decline the chance to check it out, but she know what the untracked snow would be like down at that elevation.  I brought them over and we had a lot of fun, but I think they learned how difficult it can be to ski deep, wet snow.

As the afternoon wore on, the mix of precipitation at the base elevations changed over to mostly wet snow and picked up in intensity.  We hung out for some après ski in the Great Room Grill and it was a bit tough to pull ourselves away as we watched the snow continue to fall.  A few pictures from today are available below:

Stowe, VT 21FEB2010

We were up at Stowe this afternoon, and thanks to the foot or so of snow that they’d received in the previous few days, on piste conditions were certainly improved over what we’d experienced the prior couple of Sundays.  I wouldn’t say it was a huge improvement though.  I had a combined group of students with another parent, and we split for one run where I took the more advanced guys down the lower part of Hayride.  It was a great challenge for them, steep with big bumps, but it was also still horribly icy.  I had one student who is thinking of bumping up to the young advanced group, and based on his eagerness and ability to manage that nastiness with nice control, it looks like he should move up.  The quad was still down, so the line at the gondola was very long, but lines were minimal at the double and triple.  When we rode the Lookout Double, the Lookout trail seemed like it had decent snow quality, although there were still some areas of low coverage.  I haven’t been on the double in a long time and I’d forgotten just how awesome the Lookout Trail actually is.

Tuesday, 2/23/2012 Update:  E and the boys were up at Stowe yesterday and conditions sounded similar, although they did enjoy the lack of weekend crowds.  Perhaps this current system will really be the one to get the conditions back on track for those heavily used trials, since it sounds like there could be a good shot of liquid equivalent in it.