Dylan and I were assigned a different group today for our BJAMS ski program session at Stowe. Erica was planning to work with Viviana, our student from last week, and we were going with Meredith and Bella. They’re farther along in their skiing and they’re working on transitioning from wedge to parallel. After spending time with them today I’d say they’re about 50% of the way there. They still need their wedge to control their speed on more challenging terrain, but on beginner/green terrain they can make parallel turns most of the time.
“Off piste areas typically held a foot of powder or more, and Dylan and I frequently played around in the trees for short stretches while we were working with the girls today.”
Our group spent time on the Adventure Triple Chair, Meadows Quad, and Sunny Spruce Quad today, and conditions were essentially perfect on beginner terrain. There are some slick areas on intermediate terrain depending on traffic levels. Off piste areas typically held a foot of powder or more, and Dylan and I frequently played around in the trees for short stretches while we were working with the girls today. It seems that we may have more powder on the way as well – the Mt. Mansfield forecast is suggesting an additional 4 to 8 inches of snow tonight into tomorrow.
Today we were out for another BJAMS ski program session at Stowe. I was back with my student Viviana, who was a first-time skier I worked with during our initial session of the season back on January 12th. For this outing, Dylan was assigned to work with me on instruction. We’ve found that when the availability of instructors is sufficient, adding a second person for the real “first-timer” students that can’t yet be placed in another group is very helpful. It allows us to have a person in front for following, and then the other instructor usually takes the rear or has direct interactions with the student to refine their skills. In terms of the overall instruction dynamic, I’ve also found that it’s nice for the student to have a younger (non-adult) instructor along that they can relate to a bit more and put them at ease.
We did a few runs on the Magic Carpet where Viviana had left off at our last session, then took a break at the Great Room Grill in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge for food and drink. Having no familiarity at all with skiing, Viviana was very intimidated by the chairlifts, so it took some convincing by us, and reassurance from Erica, but we got her to try the Adventure Triple Chair. She was more than ready to move on, in part thanks to the fantastic snow conditions – she was able to easily stop herself at will, and even make turns in her wedge in the soft snow.
There was definitely some trepidation riding the lift, but once Viviana saw how easy it was, she became more and more comfortable each run. The lift riding was really the biggest hurdle, because her skiing was excellent. There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn. The pitch is Inspiration is also so consistent that students don’t have to be concerned about any spots that are over their head.
“There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn. ”
We did run after run after run, and we just kept it going until the end of the session to really let her reinforce the positive experience she was having. As long as the snow quality remains good, she’ll easily be able to move on to the Meadows Chair next. I’d say she should start out with some runs on Inspiration to reinforce today’s session, and then move on.
Based on what I heard from other groups around the mountain, the steepest trails offered decent conditions, but certainly not the same pristine packed powder we had in Inspiration. Ty mentioned some ice in steep terrain where he was working with his group today. We may have a storm coming later this week that could bring conditions up on even the steepest terrain, so we’ll be watching to see how that plays out.
We’ve had another storm system in the area this weekend. This one began fairly slowly with respect to snow production, but it’s starting to put down some dense accumulations of powder for a good freshening of the surfaces. The next round of snowfall was forecast to start later this afternoon, but it was already snowing at Stowe when we arrived before midday.
We had some time before the start of the BJAMS ski program today, so the family took a run on Sunny Spruce to check out the conditions. Even though there have only been a few inches of snow, we found that the slopes have seen a nice resurfacing because the snow is quite dense. The snow was a bit sticky below ~2,000’ however.
“We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers.”
A number of program participants were sick today, so Dylan, Ty, and I wound up being able to ski together for the session. We headed over to Mansfield and rode the Gondola to get some good elevation, hoping for some really nice snow up high on the mountain. After that first run on the Gondola I sent in an update to the New England Regional Forum at American Weather because the conditions at elevation were simply fantastic. It might have been only a few inches of new snow from this storm at that point, but we found that it was on top of a LOT of great snow below it. With no recent thaws, the snow off piste is actually quite deep where it hasn’t been touched by other skiers. We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers. Even if the 40” or so at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is below average, that still a lot of snow – we could routinely stick our poles into the snowpack right up to the handle. We typically stayed out of steep off piste areas below -2,500’ because they need just a bit more base to really be in prime form, but above that the skiing was fantastic indeed.
Some of our best turns were up high in the Kitchen Wall area, but surfaces were excellent all the way down to ~2,000’. That was the line where you hit some of that Pacific Northwest-style wet pack on the groomed surfaces. I’ve experienced it most intensely at Whistler Blackcomb with their relatively low base elevation, but it was kind of fun today using that snow at the end of runs to work with the boys and discuss ski technique for how to manage those turns.
It continued to snow all afternoon, and the forecast suggests it’s going to keep going right through tomorrow before tapering off on Tuesday. The conditions will likely be amazing tomorrow with the continued snowfall.
Today we were at Stowe for our first BJAMS ski program day of the season. In terms of weather, this was one of those days where we probably wouldn’t have ventured out to the slopes if it weren’t for the program. We’ve been in the midst of Winter Storm Isaiah over the past couple of days, and it’s been a warm storm that has switched last week’s wintry conditions over to spring conditions. That actually wouldn’t be a deterrent for skiing, but the anticipated strong winds and temperatures dropping into the 20s F through the afternoon were concerning.
We were at the mountain early enough that I took a couple of runs with E and the boys, and we found conditions to be spring-like and decent. We had a touch of rain, which quickly changed over to snow in the higher elevations and made its way down to the base.
“It looks like the mountain picked up about an inch of snow from that back side precipitation of the storm, and we’ve got a potentially good week of additional snow coming. ”
During my instruction session today I was working with a student named Viviana, an absolute first-time, never-ever skier. We worked on the magic carpet all afternoon, with one break in the middle where we got to hang out with E and the boys, their ski groups, and a number of other people from the program while we had some good food at the Great Room Grill. Viviana spent her ski time figuring out how to pressure her wedge to slow herself down and make turns, and she had progressed quite a bit by the end of the day in having the strength to stop herself. That actually says a lot, because the soft conditions we had at midday gradually changed to very hard conditions by the end of the afternoon. The cold air moved in, the groomed surfaces became much slicker, and the ungroomed surfaces became a frozen moonscape.
Strong winds put the Over Easy Gondola on hold at the end of the day, so we had to take one of the shuttles back to our car at Mansfield, and the wait for the shuttle felt like forever because of the frigid winds. It was only about five minutes of course, but many of us had dressed for the gondola vs. being out in the open. We found our car was encased in quite a layer of refrozen material from the wet snow that had fallen, so it took a bit of time to warm it up and melt that off.
“I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up.”
This morning revealed a storm total of 3.3 inches of snow at the house, and 4 to 5 inches at the local resorts of the Northern Greens. We were eager to find out how well the new snow had covered up the old base as we headed off to out afternoon session at Stowe, so as soon as I’d grouped up with Molly and Dylan, we took a quick run off the Meadows Quad to get a sense for the conditions. I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up. I could see that snow options must have been pretty nice in the morning when the trails were relatively untracked, but there was definitely enough snow for use to head over to the Toll House terrain and surf some of the new powder on the boards.
E was potentially going to join us on her snowboard once she’d taken care of ensuring everyone was in their ski groups, so our group picked up Molly’s friend Julia on her skis and did a quick run off the Adventure Triple to take in some of the powder that remained below the lift. We all got together with E, and immediately made our way over to the Mountain Triple Chair on Mansfield to take in what we hoped to be a nice long run full of surfy powder turns down to the base of the Toll House Lift. I was a little leery of brining everyone into the Sunrise Glades because I wasn’t sure about their comfort level in the trees on their boards, but once we got past the Stowe Mountain Chapel and could see all the untracked powder in the various Toll House trees, everyone just dove right into the woods. There were a good 3 to 5 inches of powder with few if any tracks, and with that amount of cushion, I had no concerns about people’s ability to make turns or experience the tumbles we would all inevitable take. We rode the usual assortment of trees down much of the length of Toll House, and everyone had a great time surfing their way along. The moderate pitches there were just what the doctor ordered for the amount of powder we had available, and the exploration and practice riding in the trees made the experience a huge hit. We wouldn’t have been in there riding that fresh powder if it hadn’t been for the overnight snow.
We worked our way back to the Spruce Peak Village to end the day with a food break, and another one of my old straps on my snowboard broke, so that made for an adventurous return trip. I really do need to invest in some new bindings since mine are 20+ years old and the plastic is obviously getting brittle. Perhaps I’ll find an end of the season deal on something. I wouldn’t mind some of those Burton Step On® bindings – I’m so sick of dealing with those snowboard binding buckles, especially my broken ones!
I was planning to head to Bolton Valley for a bit of touring this morning, but when I saw they were reporting about 4 inches overnight, whereas Stowe had early reports of 8 or 9 inches, I switched up my plans and decided to do a few lift-served runs at Stowe instead. My snow analyses from the morning indicated that the new snow had come in around 5% H2O, which was a setup for some great powder turns.
I had a bit of interesting serendipity on this morning’s outing. I parked in the upper Gondi lot, planning to do most of my skiing there, but I had a pass issue that required me to head over to Spruce. Once I’d gotten things straightened out with my pass, I decided to just roll with it and catch some runs while I was over there. I headed out to the lifts and noticed something surprising – the Sensation Quad was running, but the Sunny Spruce Quad was down. The reverse is common if there are wind issues, but certainly not the combination they had today (it turns out it wasn’t a wind issue, it was mechanical I guess). Anyway, with Sunny Spruce down, it was pretty much country club powder skiing on that terrain for the few folks that felt like accessing it. I did an initial run on Sensation, which was pretty quiet aside from the NorAm races, and got some of the first tracks down Spruce Line. After that I did a couple of laps on the vacant Sunny Spruce terrain, running a circuit with the Meadows Quad and Sensation Quad, and of course including a hike to the top of Spruce Peak each time to get in that extra powder and make up for the fact that I was riding lifts instead of skinning.
“It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22 to 24 inches.”
It was snowing nice fat flakes all morning, and the increases in snowfall intensity were often quite notable as you headed up in elevation. It typically wasn’t an intense pounding snow, but often nice and steady, and sometimes you’d have that fairly decent snowfall with sunshine at the same time. There were a couple of times with the perfect simultaneous combinations of flakes and sun that I had to stand there in awe and soak in the mountain scene. And it was all gorgeous upslope flakes – the 5% H2O I’d found in my morning snow analyses was probably about what we had where the snow wasn’t affected by any wind. It was simply great snow quality with some good right-side-up nature to it thanks to some dense snow that had fallen at the beginning of the storm cycle.
Most off piste (and even some on piste) terrain I encountered was definitely delivering that 48-hour total of 13” that I’d seen in Stowe’s snow report. My first depth check of the day was in the Meadows East Glades, and my measurement came right in at 12 inches. I checked in spots off Upper Sterling and was typically getting 12-14”. I eventually got back over to the Gondola terrain and was really impressed with the skiing in the Bench Woods. It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22-24”. I did push through some sort of slightly thicker layer in those measurements, but it must not have been too sturdy because I was definitely skiing a lot of lines where the snow had that “up to the thighs” feeling. That’s typically in the two-foot realm vs. the one-foot realm. I found a sign I’d never seen in that area that said “Bob’s Rash”, and I have no idea how much of the terrain that sign was meant to cover, but the lines below it were beautifully steep and loaded with the kind of powder that billows up above your waist.
My ski group today was exactly the same as I had at last Sunday’s session: Adrian, Sienna, and Sienna’s mom Jessica. To get a sense for how the new snow had settled in, we warmed up with a run on the Meadows Quad. There were at least a couple fresh inches of dense snow around on the lower traffic areas of the trails, and there was an especially deep area along the Meadows Catwalk as it wrapped back around below the lift. It almost seemed as if half the trail there hadn’t been groomed, because there were several inches of dense snow there. I urged everyone to check out that snow, especially since I know Jessica had been looking to get a feel for what it was like to ski in powder. She took quite well to the soft snow, and enjoyed the fact that turns were easy without worrying about firm spots, so I continued to search out the powder for her throughout the afternoon. Eventually I didn’t have to find the snow for her though, she was really seeking it out herself.
We’ve got Winter Storm Taylor currently affecting the area, and this morning it brought a burst of snow that delivered a few inches to ski resorts around the state.
Conditions were overall much improved from last weekend, and with Adrian’s persistent inquiries I eventually decided that the group could try the steep face of West Slope. It’s marked as intermediate, but it could easily pass for a modest black diamond as well. We listened to the sounds of skiers making turns down West Slope while we rode the Sunny Spruce Quad, and hearing no noise from their skis, I knew conditions would be amenable to a run for the group. I also knew that even with the nice snow, it was going to be quite a challenge for everyone. Ultimately it was a very good push for Sienna, who needed to figure out how to engage her edges to hold her skis in place. Getting on that steeper slope was just what she needed though. Everyone had a successful run, and I’d say that was the most challenging slope that any of them had faced up to that point. One great aspect of tackling West Slope is that they now get to easily view their accomplishment right from the Spruce Peak Base Area and every time they ride the Sunny Spruce Quad.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.