Tag Archives: BJAMS

Stowe, VT 09DEC2017

An image of the Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
A view of the Spruce Camp Base Lodge today with the sun disappearing as clouds approach from Winter Storm Benji.

Today was our annual training day for the local ski programs at Stowe, and since Ty has now graduated from BJAMS and is out of the age range for being a student in the program, he’s actually going volunteer as a chaperone.  So, Ty joined E and I for the training today, which added a nice new dimension to the annual session.

“ There was one section where Ty and I decided that our midfats were definitely the tools for the job vs. our groomer skis…”

We certainly had a decent November with respect to snow in the Northern Greens, and while the snowfall slowed down a bit for the first week of December, a big change in the overall weather pattern this past week brought a large trough to the eastern U.S. and the snowfall is ramping back up.  Lake-effect snows from Lake Ontario drifted into the northern parts of Vermont in the midweek timeframe, bringing several inches of fresh snow to the resorts.  The recent snows were very obvious today at the resort, with 6 to 8 inches or more of powder available off piste at elevation, and several inches visible even near the base elevations.  The base depths aren’t quite there to do too much exploring the off piste yet, but it was easy to get into plenty of powder simply by sampling the edges of many trails.

An image showing ski tracks in powder snow in the Meadows area of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Tracks in powder showing some of the recent snow picked up by the local ski resorts

Those samplings aside, our main focus today was definitely on piste with our instructor Steve that we’ve had a few of these sessions now.  E, Ty, and I had the rare treat of checking out some fresh corduroy as we kicked off the day at Spruce Peak, and the recent snows have been mixed into the snowpack quite nicely to produce some pretty decent groomed surfaces.  We did a lot of fairly “free” skiing with Steve as he focused heavily on safety, and the minimal crowds at Spruce Peak kept the snow in really good shape.  Some terrain off the Gondola is available, so we skied Perry Merrill as a group.  Unfortunately, with only part of Gondolier open, the skier density on Perry Merrill was really too high to keep the snow in good shape.  The good part about the number of skiers on Perry Merrill was that they had already pushed a good amount of snow to the edges of the trail, which combined with the available powder, made for some really soft skiing.  There was one section where Ty and I decided that our midfats were definitely the tools for the job vs. our groomer skis, but overall, the skinnier carving skis were the right call for today’s outing.

That one run on Perry Merrill was enough to show us how good we’d had it over at Spruce Peak, so we headed back there for the rest of our session.  The main training drill that we practiced with Steve was a double pole plant drill that will aid students in getting their weight forward.  Lunch at the Great Room Grill was great as always.  The Taqueria was open, so Ty and I each got a burrito – they had three kinds of meat and we massive.  Two people could easily split a single order if they wanted.

Early morning sun today was pretty quickly obscured by Winter Storm Benji, which was approaching the area from the south.  The more notable accumulations have certainly been off to the south and east of our area, although we have picked up almost an inch of snow from the storm at our house.  The forecast suggests that we’ve got more snow coming this week, and with wintry temperatures in place, the ski conditions should make a nice increase in quality with surfaces softening even more.

Bolton Valley, VT 18NOV2017

An image of a skin track on the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Ski touring up at Bolton Valley this morning, I found some great turns and more snow than I’d expected.

I was attending the BJAMS Thanksgiving lunch with Dylan on Thursday, and that gave me a chance to check out how the snow was doing in some of the local mountains.  From what I saw at both Stowe and Bolton Valley, the natural snow was just a bit too thin for skiing, but it was getting close.  As of Friday morning though, the mountains had picked up a few more inches, and today I had a chance to head back up to Bolton Valley to see if the slopes were ready for some turns.

“…with the snowpack I found, I just kept going right on up to 3,000’.”

I headed up for a ski tour at the mountain this morning because it seemed the best part of the day to catch some winter snow before warming temperatures affected it.  At the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road (340’) the snow depth is similar to what we’ve got here at the house – generally 1 to 2 inches.  As the recent snow reports from the local ski resorts suggested, there wasn’t a massive increase in snowfall amounts with elevation from our storm earlier this week.  Snow depths increased slowly as I headed up the access road, with about 2” at the Bolton Valley Welcome Sign (1,000’), 2-3” at the Timberline Base (1,500’), and then 3-4” around 2,000’ in the Bolton Valley Village.

An image of a Bolton Valley shuttle bus with a coating of snow in the Bolton Valley Village

There were a few other skiers in the Village who were coming and going on tours, so that seemed like a good sign that the snow was decent.  Indeed, as I headed up Lower Turnpike, the snow depth increased to a half foot at the 2,500’ level.  I had actually planned for a quick tour up to ~2,500’ if the snow wasn’t that good, but with the snowpack I found, I just kept going right on up to 3,000’. 

Below I’ve got a summary of what I saw for snow depths today with respect to elevation:

340’: 1-2”
1,000’: 2”
1,500’: 2-3”
2,000’: 3-4”
2,500’: 6-7”
3,000’: 7”

An image of the snow depth at 2,500' elevation at Bolton ValleyThere was a crust on the snow in places, and I couldn’t figure out the trend in its distribution for a while, but I eventually figured out that areas with the most northwest exposure has the most crust.  The crust wasn’t actually too thick, so it was still fairly easy to ski the snow there, but there’s no doubt that the very best turns were in the crust-free zones – the snow was smooth, mid-weight powder in those areas.  I had some really nice turns on parts of Sherman’s Pass, and probably the day’s best on Work Road, but Lower Turnpike offered the longest consistent lines.

Stowe, VT 02APR2017

An image of Ty skiing some powder in terrain above the Nosedive trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
High elevations were still holding onto some dry powder at Stowe today, but lower elevations were affected by warming temperatures.

Today was our final BJAMS ski program session of the season, and it took place right on the heels of Winter Storm Theseus, which dropped anywhere from 10 to 18 inches of snow up and down the spine of the Green Mountains.  The powder was in pretty nice shape when Dylan and I visited Bolton Valley yesterday, but temperatures were expected to warm up today, and that had us worried about the state of the snow – without some freeze-thaw cycles to turn it to corn, it could just become mushy or sticky.

Initial reports from Spruce Peak as we began our ski program in the afternoon suggested that indeed the snow was getting quite sticky in the sun, so we took our group over to Mt. Mansfield to get to higher elevations and find north-facing terrain that would see the best protection from the warming temperatures.  From our experience on trails like Nosedive and even Cliff Trail, we found that snow quality was quite nice on roughly the top half of the mountain, but the bottom half was certainly sticky enough to be a nuisance.  It was one of those days where you wish Stowe had some upper mountain lifts.

With the sticky snow, the group was happy to take an extended break for some s’mores and a visit to the Great Room Grill before we went out for a few more runs on Spruce Peak to close out the day.  A highlight of those last runs was hitting the ruts of the race course on Competition Hill.  They had been well traveled, so the snow was plenty fast and lots of fun.  Ty and I raced for the gold on our final run, and I won, but it was because he let me choose the track and I opted for the faster one on the left.  While that’s it for official ski program days this season, there’s still lots of snow left in the mountains, so we’ll see what the rest of April brings us for skiing.

Stowe Sidecountry & Bruce Trail, VT 26MAR2017

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing on the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today’s BJAMS ski program featured a great run on the Bruce Trail.

It’s March, the season for deep snowpack and long days in Northern Vermont.  That also means that it’s prime time to make use of that ample snowpack and enjoy some of our legendary sidecountry and backcountry ski routes.  For last week’s BJAMS ski session we focused on The Chin and put together a nice tour featuring Profanity Chute and the Hell Brook Trail.  Today it was time to switch action to The Nose for a combination of Old Nosedive and the Bruce Trail.  We’ve had a great run of storms and wintry weather during this second half of March, and it’s definitely time to make hay.

An image of Joe and Gianni out on the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontA number of students were unable to attend ski program today, so there were some small groups, and any of them that were interested in a trip down the Bruce joined up with us.  From the top of the Fourrunner Quad, those that wanted to ascend joined me for a trip up Old Nosedive, which I find is a nice way to get in a bit of hiking and extra turns before diving into the Bruce.  The condition of the snow was really excellent today – all the way from around 4,000’ to down at roughly 1,000’ at the bottom of the tour.  It was quite wintry up top, but even in the lowest elevations the snow was dense enough to hold up well for fresh turns, just like Dylan and I had experienced yesterday at Bolton Valley.  There was still ample untracked powder available off the sides of the Bruce, and as usual once we were down into the open hardwood areas there were lots of great lines to explore in the trees.

“The condition of the snow was really excellent today – all the way from around 4,000’ to down at roughly 1,000’ at the bottom of the tour.”

This morning, Dylan said that we should go with Telemark skis for today’s session if our focus was going to be the Bruce Trail, and while I’d planned to go alpine, I agreed and ended up going Tele.  It was totally the right choice, especially since the coverage and snow conditions were so optimal.  I was happy because I felt really dialed in and my transitions felt incredibly quick, and Dylan was also really psyched because he skied so well today.  He says that he always wants to run the Bruce on Telemark gear now.  Of course he got to experience it on a great day.  I’d put today in the top 25% of conditions for the Bruce – there was so much soft snow and powder around, and even those most difficult to cover, south-facing shots were virtually blemish free.

A map showing the GPS track overlayed onto Google Earth from a ski tour on the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The GPS track of today’s tour down the Bruce trail overlayed onto Google Earth

We capped off the run with a trip to the Notchbrook General Store for snacks, and a ride on the Mountain Road Shuttle back to the Spruce Peak Village.  Greg said that the last time he skied the Bruce Trail was about 35 years ago, so it was really neat that he got the chance to do it again after such a long hiatus.  We had time for a few more runs on Spruce once we got back, and found that the quality of the snow was still really nice.  This was just the way a March ski day should be!

Bolton Valley, VT 25MAR2017

An image of Jay skiing in the Villager Trees area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Friday’s new snow was still yielding some great turns this afternoon at Bolton Valley.

Temperatures edged up into the mid-30s F down in the mountain valleys today, and that had me curious about how much warmth there was in the higher elevations.  Ty and I had some great turns in the fresh snow last night at Bolton Valley, and if that snow was holding its consistency it would definitely be worth getting out for more skiing.  We were attending a bridge-breaking competition at Lyndon Institute in support of some of the BJAMS students in the morning, but while I was there, I checked on the Village temperatures at Bolton Valley and saw that they were holding below freezing even down at 2,000’.  That meant the powder would probably be staying in great shape.

“We found that the condition of the snow did deteriorate a bit as we got down toward the freezing line, but with the density of this snow it actually holds up quite well even at those temperatures.”

Ty had some work to do at home with E, but Dylan and I headed up to the mountain in the afternoon for a few runs.  Temperatures were just above freezing at the Timberline Base (~1,500’), but we hit the freezing line somewhere between 1,500’ and 2,000’.  Up at the Vista Summit (3,150’) it was actually pretty chilly, and it was amazing how much of difference there was in air temperature between the base and summit elevations.

An image of Dylan skiing powder snow in the Villager Trees area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Dylan starting in on another line in the Villager Trees

We found that the dense powder from yesterday had indeed held up quite well, especially in the elevations above the freezing level, so Dylan and I had a great time exploring lines in the Villager Trees.  I’d been thinking that my fat skis would have been great in that type of snow, so I brought them today and they really did the trick.  We found that the condition of the snow did deteriorate a bit as we got down toward the freezing line, but with the density of this snow it actually holds up quite well even at those temperatures.   This latest snow should be a nice addition to the snowpack as we head into April.

Stowe & Mt. Mansfield Chin, VT 19MAR2017

An iimage of Dylan descending Profanity Chute above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan makes his way down Profanity Chute today

With the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake back around the 100-inch mark, it was finally time to bring my BJAMS ski group up into the Mansfield alpine for our weekly Sunday session.  My initial plan was a run down Profanity Chute with a return toward Chin Clip, followed by a trip to the Outer Planets.  Nolan wasn’t going to be with me since he was still in the process of returning from Montreal, but fortunately Rick was going to join us and that gave me a second adult.  With Rick’s added knowledge of the area, I felt comfortable enough to kick things up a notch and bring the boys to the Hell Brook Trail for the bottom part of the run.

An image of Dylan skiing Profanity Chute above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
More Dylan action in Profanity Chute

The weather forecast was also a big part of opting for the alpine today – highs up around 4,000’ were expected to be in the 20s F and wind was supposed to be minimal.  The Climbing Gully was in great shape, with lots of snow and one of the best boot ladders I’ve seen.  The March sun had done some work on slopes with southern aspects, but up high the effects seemed to be pretty minimal – the packed snow in Profanity Chute was quite wintry, and there was some nice powder still available in the open area on the right side of the chute.  I wish I’d had the camera out for when Rick skied that because the powdery turns looked fantastic.

We cut left following the normal Profanity route, and then traversed below the east face of The Chin containing the Hourglass Chute and connected to the Hell Brook Trail.  The north-facing aspects in the Hell Brook area held some fantastic snow, but surface conditions deteriorated the more southerly the aspect.  At times we had to ski some of those more southerly-oriented aspects, so that made for some very challenging turns on either crusty snow or powder with a sun crust on it.  But the boys all did quite well on what is a very challenging run that simply goes on, and on, and on.  By the time we traversed back to Gondola and headed over to Spruce Camp we’d covered over 5.5 miles and 2,900’ of vertical.

A map showing the ski route taken on a tour of Profanity Chute and the Hell Brook Trail above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The GPS track of our ski tour today mapped onto Google Earth

Although there are roughly 100 inches of snow at the Mt. Mansfield Stake right now, I don’t think coverage on Profanity was quite where it was on our last visit with the kids a couple of seasons ago.  With Winter Storm Stella we really just made back the snow that had settled or melted during the previous couple of weeks, so the snowpack doesn’t seem to have quite the coverage of a 100-inch pack that grew throughout the full season.  In any event, there’s a lot of snow up in the high elevations and things look good for the slopes heading into spring.

Stowe, VT 26FEB2017

An image of some BJAMS students playing cards in the Great Room at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Our group kept its ski session fairly short today with the firm conditions, and finished off the afternoon with some fun rounds of cards in the Great Room.

This was really a good day not to ski, since our recent warm spell came to an end last night and tightened up all the snow on the slopes.  Many families are actually out of town because of winter break, but our BJAMS ski program was still on, so we headed to Stowe in the afternoon.  We weren’t in any rush based on the anticipated conditions, so the boys and I had a good lunch up at the Great Room Grill before our session began.

The only redeeming aspect of the conditions that we found today was the couple of inches of dense new snow that fell on the back side of Winter Storm Quid.  Areas with the new snow were actually pretty nice as Powderfreak showed in his pictures from this morning.  I actually found some areas with even deeper accumulations than just a couple of inches, and turns were actually quite good with the density of the snow, but we didn’t spend too much time hunting down those areas with the best conditions.  We joined up with another group today and just did some runs off Sunny Spruce to at least see what the main runs had to offer.

An image of a curly french fry from the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWith the general conditions the way there were, the guys in my group were pretty much done after about an hour or so, and we headed to the s’mores area for a while, then up to the Great Room to hang out.  Dylan brought his playing cards, and we got in a good session with various games, and of course some card tricks thrown in by Norris.  The guys definitely enjoyed the indoor session, so we’ll keep it in mind the next time conditions are somewhat lackluster on the slopes.

Stowe, VT 12FEB2017

An image of some BJAMS students in the Whitewater area of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Our group of BJAMS boys pausing in the Whitewater area on Mt. Mansfield today as they enjoy their adventures in the fresh snow of Winter Storm Orson

We’ve got Winter Storm Orson underway in the area this evening, and for this afternoon’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe we were able to enjoy the storm’s front end snow as it started to unload on Mt. Mansfield.  Snowfall began around midday, and ramped up throughout the afternoon, so it was one of those days where the snow quality just got better and better with each run.  There were already a few inches of powder down ahead of the storm, consistent with what I’d seen at Bolton Valley yesterday, but it really wasn’t enough to keep you off the crusty subsurface snow in all cases.  By the end of the afternoon though, there was a good half foot of powder or more above the crust depending on elevation, and that firm subsurface was starting to become a memory.  Coming into the afternoon, the snow quality was already quite good in spots where skier traffic had pulverized the thick layer underneath, so that terrain was getting really fun.

An image of a sign indicating Wifi availability at the Octagon restaurant atop Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontFor our tour of the mountain today we headed right over to Mt. Mansfield and kicked things off with a trip down Ravine.  Some of the ice falls are hardly noticeable right now, which says a lot about the snowpack in mid-February.  We headed to the Kitchen Wall, and then down through the Nosedive Glades to Nosedive, where we discovered that the microburst zone was actually open!  No doubt that the deep snowpack is allowing that, but it’s the first time I’ve skied there extensively since it was closed.  It’s really fun in there though, naturally it’s a bit more open than it was before, but it offers up some novel lines.  One of my initial plans for today was to visit the Sunrise Glades, Chapel Glades, and Birch Glades in case lower-angle terrain was going to allow us to stay off the crusty subsurface snow.  Even with conditions much better than I’d expected, that was still on the hit list, so we had an excellent trip through all those zones.  We’d caught up with Nolan just before that during an Octagon break, and he joined us on his Telemark gear.  We finished off the day back at Spruce Peak with some Sensation Quad runs, and had Spruce Line all to ourselves.  The wind and snow were ripping up at the Spruce Peak Summit area, but down out of the wind in places like Green Acres, there was some excellent powder.

“…it was one of those days where the snow quality just got better and better with each run.”

As of this evening, we’ve picked up at least 8 to 9 inches down here at the house from Winter Storm Orson, and I expect tomorrow’s turns to be excellent.  We’ve actually got the potential for another storm in just a couple of days, so we’ll be watching that one to see what it might deliver.  The snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake was already at roughly 80 inches today, and it should continue to climb this week.

Stowe, VT 05FEB2017

An image of Dylan skiing some powder along the boundary of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan on Spruce Peak at Stowe today finishing off with a nice powder run.

It’s been two days since Stowe’s “Big Friday” powder extravaganza, but we were definitely excited for the BJAMS ski program this afternoon knowing that the snow quality would be great and there would be plenty of untracked lines left in the lesser-used areas.  The overall setup for the day looked quite comfortable, with temperatures around 30 F depending on elevation, and some snow from our next Alberta Clipper coming in near the end of the day.

An image of fluffy upslope snow from a recent storm on the branches of trees in the Nosedive Glades area of Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe were with Nolan, Evan and Sophie again today, and with the snowpack now up to 76 inches at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, I knew I could continue to introduce them to more of Stowe’s many off piste areas with no constraints.  With that in mind, two areas that I had on my hit list were Angel Food and the Hazelton Zone.  I started everyone off with Angel Food just in case folks were interested in going all the way down to Route 108, but the general consensus was to head back via the main traverse, so that’s as low as we went.  We followed that up with a run on Chin Clip where Nolan and I worked on bump technique with all the kids.  Chin Clip is in classic top-to-bottom bump mode right now and serves as a great spot for bump practice.  After a Midway Lodge break we hit a combination of Nosedive Glades and Hazelton Zone.  The streams down in the Hazelton Zone are generally well covered, but perhaps a bit less filled in than some seasons due to some stronger melt flows back in December and January.

An image of a house being constructed along Route 108 near Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe headed back to Spruce as the end of the day approached, and folks generally got on their way a bit early with the Super Bowl coming up in the evening, but Dylan and I decided to head off together and catch another powder run.  We explored from the Spruce side down to Route 108 and found some really fun lines.  We didn’t run into any other skiers, but we did find a group of ice climbers working on a small section of ice not far from the resort.  We made our way back on one of the access roads to the houses they’re building right along Route 108, and got to see an up-close view of one of the huge ones that’s got some massive retaining walls built to accommodate the steep slopes down to the road.  It can’t really have much of a yard with the way the terrain is so steep, but it’s got some amazing landscaping, architecture, and fantastic views of Mansfield.

Light snow began to hit the resort in the last hour or two of the day, and we’ve got snow accumulating here at the house this evening, so I’m sure they’ll have a bit of fresh to report from the resort in the morning.

Stowe, VT 29JAN2017

An image of Ty skiing powder with heavy snowfall at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty cranking out some powder turns during some of the heavy snowfall this afternoon at Stowe

Ty and I had an appointment in Burlington this morning, which mean that we’d be arriving a bit late to our BJAMS ski program at Stowe in the afternoon.  We were arriving just in time for the afternoon snows however.  The first encounter was when we driving to the resort during the noontime hour.  We could see snow moving in to our north as we headed through Waterbury, and it finally hit us as were rising up to the Waterbury/Stowe line near Chutesville Hill.  Some fairly intense graupel was a big feature of the precipitation at that point.

There were on and off periods of snow throughout the afternoon at the mountain, and Ty and I worked our way over from the Gondola to the Fourrunner Quad trails around Tyro with a dip into the Chapel Glades.  The snow surfaces were excellent in there, and there were plenty of spots with fresh tracks to be had.  We continued all the way down into the Toll House terrain because we were looking for something mellow, and I’d say there has certainly been plenty of visitation to the mountain over the past couple of days based on some of the areas I saw with tracks in them.  You typically don’t find too many people spending much time in the trees around the Toll House Lift, since the terrain is very low angle and the return to the rest of the resort exceedingly long on the slow double.  I’ve never seen as many tracks in there as I did today though, and we’re not talking a week after a storm, we’re talking a day or two after a storm.  It was unusual, but hopefully a lot of beginners got their chance to check out the awesome powder in the trees!

An image of macarrons at The Beanery at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe made our way back to Spruce Peak for a final couple of runs of visiting some of our favorite powder stashes, and that last hour before closing definitely featured some of the heaviest snowfall of the day.  I’m sure rates were an inch per hour or more at that point, and the photography was difficult during the heavy stuff, but we still fired away.  Images captured successfully during intense snowfall are always fun anyway.  In general I’d say we found about a foot of powder around the mountain in untracked areas, and the skiing was great.  The quality of the powder was definitely very high, and it looks like it will stay that way with the upcoming forecast for the next week or so.