Stowe, VT 17MAR2019

An image of Molly riding her snowboard in the Inspiration/Adventure Triple Chair area at Stowe Mountian Resort in Vermont after some back side snow from Winter Storm Ulmer
An image of Dylan snowboardinig in powder from the back side of Winter Storm Ulmer in the Toll House Trees at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Thanks to some fresh snow from the back side of Winter Storm Ulmer, we were able to get in some powder boarding today at Stowe during our BJAMS ski program session.

Spring made some inroads around here at the end of the week, with temperatures reaching well up into the 40s F to finally prompt some melting/softening of the snowpack.  In typical spring fashion, when the  temperature dropped back down yesterday, it apparently made for some tough conditions on the slopes.

Those sort of temperature swings are a normal part of the cycle as we get into spring, but I wasn’t really looking forward to having to get out on that snow for today’s BJAMS ski program session – especially due to the fact that I was going to be on a snowboard.  Snowboards have plenty of issues, but dealing with them on icy surfaces is one of the worst.  Thankfully, Mother Nature had one of those “Northern Greens surprise refreshers” in her pocket.  It wasn’t entirely a surprise that we were going to get a bit of snow overnight last night, but it came in more robustly that we were expecting.  I looked outside last night around 10:00 P.M. to find that we’d already picked up over an inch of snow, and in the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Discussion Forum, Powderfreak indicated that it had been snowing for about 30 to 45 minutes.  We’d picked up 1.6 inches of new snow at the house by 11:00 P.M., and a similar amount had fallen by the time I headed off to bed a bit later.

“I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up.”

This morning revealed a storm total of 3.3 inches of snow at the house, and 4 to 5 inches at the local resorts of the Northern Greens.  We were eager to find out how well the new snow had covered up the old base as we headed off to out afternoon session at Stowe, so as soon as I’d grouped up with Molly and Dylan, we took a quick run off the Meadows Quad to get a sense for the conditions.  I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up.  I could see that snow options must have been pretty nice in the morning when the trails were relatively untracked, but there was definitely enough snow for use to head over to the Toll House terrain and surf some of the new powder on the boards.

An image of Erica snowboarding in powder in the Toll House area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Erica catching some powder turns in the Toll House area this afternoon

E was potentially going to join us on her snowboard once she’d taken care of ensuring everyone was in their ski groups, so our group picked up Molly’s friend Julia on her skis and did a quick run off the Adventure Triple to take in some of the powder that remained below the lift.  We all got together with E, and immediately made our way over to the Mountain Triple Chair on Mansfield to take in what we hoped to be a nice long run full of surfy powder turns down to the base of the Toll House Lift.  I was a little leery of brining everyone into the Sunrise Glades because I wasn’t sure about their comfort level in the trees on their boards, but once we got past the Stowe Mountain Chapel and could see all the untracked powder in the various Toll House trees, everyone just dove right into the woods.  There were a good 3 to 5 inches of powder with few if any tracks, and with that amount of cushion, I had no concerns about people’s ability to make turns or experience the tumbles we would all inevitable take.  We rode the usual assortment of trees down much of the length of Toll House, and everyone had a great time surfing their way along.  The moderate pitches there were just what the doctor ordered for the amount of powder we had available, and the exploration and practice riding in the trees made the experience a huge hit.  We wouldn’t have been in there riding that fresh powder if it hadn’t been for the overnight snow.

An image of some of the trails on Mt. Mansfield from the Toll House Chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The classic view of trails wiggling their way down Mt. Mansfield as viewed from Stowe’s Toll House Chairlift

We worked our way back to the Spruce Peak Village to end the day with a food break, and another one of my old straps on my snowboard broke, so that made for an adventurous return trip.  I really do need to invest in some new bindings since mine are 20+ years old and the plastic is obviously getting brittle.  Perhaps I’ll find an end of the season deal on something.  I wouldn’t mind some of those Burton Step On® bindings – I’m so sick of dealing with those snowboard binding buckles, especially my broken ones!

Stowe, VT 12MAR2019

An image of ski tracks in powder below the Sensation Quad Chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort during Winter Storm Taylor
An image of ski tracks in powder snow beneath the Gondola from Winter Storm Taylor at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Finishing off my morning with some powder turns below the Gondola after Winter Storm Taylor dropped more than a foot of fresh powder at Stowe

We’ve known about the potential upslope snow on the back side of Winter Storm Taylor for several days, and today looked like the optimal time period to get some of those Northern Greens powder turns.  But, you never know quite how much powder you’re going to get until it happens.  Scott Braaten laid out his thoughts yesterday at Braatencast, but I’d say Mother Nature delivered even better than expected.  The first thing we heard from Scott this morning in the Northern New England thread at American Weather Forums was: “The orographic lift came through last night.  That’s for sure.”  We knew it was game on, and we sure love it when the Northern Greens do their thing.

An image of the day's snow report with a foot of snow from Winter Storm Taylor at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontI was planning to head to Bolton Valley for a bit of touring this morning, but when I saw they were reporting about 4 inches overnight, whereas Stowe had early reports of 8 or 9 inches, I switched up my plans and decided to do a few lift-served runs at Stowe instead.  My snow analyses from the morning indicated that the new snow had come in around 5% H2O, which was a setup for some great powder turns.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the West Slope are of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some powder and views as I run one of my laps on the Sunny Spruce terrain today.

I had a bit of interesting serendipity on this morning’s outing.  I parked in the upper Gondi lot, planning to do most of my skiing there, but I had a pass issue that required me to head over to Spruce.  Once I’d gotten things straightened out with my pass, I decided to just roll with it and catch some runs while I was over there.  I headed out to the lifts and noticed something surprising – the Sensation Quad was running, but the Sunny Spruce Quad was down.  The reverse is common if there are wind issues, but certainly not the combination they had today (it turns out it wasn’t a wind issue, it was mechanical I guess).  Anyway, with Sunny Spruce down, it was pretty much country club powder skiing on that terrain for the few folks that felt like accessing it.  I did an initial run on Sensation, which was pretty quiet aside from the NorAm races, and got some of the first tracks down Spruce Line.  After that I did a couple of laps on the vacant Sunny Spruce terrain, running a circuit with the Meadows Quad and Sensation Quad, and of course including a hike to the top of Spruce Peak each time to get in that extra powder and make up for the fact that I was riding lifts instead of skinning.

An image of a snowboarder riding in powder snow near the sumit of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
One of the snowboarders I encountered surfing the powder as we hit the snowfields near the summit of Spruce Peak today

“It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22 to 24 inches.”

It was snowing nice fat flakes all morning, and the increases in snowfall intensity were often quite notable as you headed up in elevation.  It typically wasn’t an intense pounding snow, but often nice and steady, and sometimes you’d have that fairly decent snowfall with sunshine at the same time.  There were a couple of times with the perfect simultaneous combinations of flakes and sun that I had to stand there in awe and soak in the mountain scene.  And it was all gorgeous upslope flakes – the 5% H2O I’d found in my morning snow analyses was probably about what we had where the snow wasn’t affected by any wind.  It was simply great snow quality with some good right-side-up nature to it thanks to some dense snow that had fallen at the beginning of the storm cycle.

An image of the "Bob's Rash" sign in the Bench Woods are at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontMost off piste (and even some on piste) terrain I encountered was definitely delivering that 48-hour total of 13” that I’d seen in Stowe’s snow report.  My first depth check of the day was in the Meadows East Glades, and my measurement came right in at 12 inches.  I checked in spots off Upper Sterling and was typically getting 12-14”.  I eventually got back over to the Gondola terrain and was really impressed with the skiing in the Bench Woods.  It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22-24”.  I did push through some sort of slightly thicker layer in those measurements, but it must not have been too sturdy because I was definitely skiing a lot of lines where the snow had that “up to the thighs” feeling.  That’s typically in the two-foot realm vs. the one-foot realm.  I found a sign I’d never seen in that area that said “Bob’s Rash”, and I have no idea how much of the terrain that sign was meant to cover, but the lines below it were beautifully steep and loaded with the kind of powder that billows up above your waist.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow in the Bench Woods area of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Exploring the awesome powder in the Bench Woods area this morning during my ski session at Stowe

Today’s temperatures were cold enough to keep things light and dry, but certainly not January frigid, so it was an all-around great morning.  It was another world once I got back down into the valley – it was mostly sunny down low while it was still snowing away at the mountain.  We’ve had some nice storms over the past couple of Marches, with Winter Storm Skylar last March, and Winter Stowe Stella the March before that.  This year’s Winter Storm Taylor wasn’t quite as big as those, but it was an awesome sleeper storm that brought the goods without as much hypeThe snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is now sitting at around 120 inches, and the skiing is great at all elevations.  Who knows how many other big storms we’ll be getting this season, but we’ve got the rest of March and April to find out!

Stowe, VT 10MAR2019

An image of snowfall from Winter Storm Taylor at the skating rink in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of some of the trails of Mt. Mansfield taken from the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today it was Winter Storm Taylor that greeted us with some snowfall to freshen up our afternoon for the BJAMS ski program at Stowe.

We’ve got Winter Storm Taylor currently affecting the area, and this morning it brought a burst of snow that delivered a few inches to ski resorts around the state.  The snow is expected to continue on and off through Tuesday, and I’d on and off is what we experienced today at our BJAMS ski program at Stowe.  Around midday when we were arriving we had some nice flakes coming down in the Spruce Peak Village to help freshen the snow surfaces, and there were also some winds keeping the upper mountain lifts on wind hold.

My ski group today was exactly the same as I had at last Sunday’s session: Adrian, Sienna, and Sienna’s mom Jessica.  To get a sense for how the new snow had settled in, we warmed up with a run on the Meadows Quad.  There were at least a couple fresh inches of dense snow around on the lower traffic areas of the trails, and there was an especially deep area along the Meadows Catwalk as it wrapped back around below the lift.  It almost seemed as if half the trail there hadn’t been groomed, because there were several inches of dense snow there.  I urged everyone to check out that snow, especially since I know Jessica had been looking to get a feel for what it was like to ski in powder.  She took quite well to the soft snow, and enjoyed the fact that turns were easy without worrying about firm spots, so I continued to search out the powder for her throughout the afternoon.  Eventually I didn’t have to find the snow for her though, she was really seeking it out herself.

We’ve got Winter Storm Taylor currently affecting the area, and this morning it brought a burst of snow that delivered a few inches to ski resorts around the state.

Adrian dressed in his ski gear and smiling at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontConditions were overall much improved from last weekend, and with Adrian’s persistent inquiries I eventually decided that the group could try the steep face of West Slope.  It’s marked as intermediate, but it could easily pass for a modest black diamond as well.  We listened to the sounds of skiers making turns down West Slope while we rode the Sunny Spruce Quad, and hearing no noise from their skis, I knew conditions would be amenable to a run for the group.  I also knew that even with the nice snow, it was going to be quite a challenge for everyone.  Ultimately it was a very good push for Sienna, who needed to figure out how to engage her edges to hold her skis in place.  Getting on that steeper slope was just what she needed though.  Everyone had a successful run, and I’d say that was the most challenging slope that any of them had faced up to that point.  One great aspect of tackling West Slope is that they now get to easily view their accomplishment right from the Spruce Peak Base Area and every time they ride the Sunny Spruce Quad.

Stowe, VT 03MAR2019

An image of the Over Easy Gondola from the Mansfield Parking Lot at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the macaroni and cheese from the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ahhh that mac and cheese from the Great Room Grill. Dylan finally got to have it at lunch today after missing his chance when last week’s ski session was cut a bit short.

Today was our weekly BJAMS ski day at Stowe, but before our program in the afternoon, we got together with our friend Weston, who I know from back in graduate school.  Weston had to head back to Connecticut by midday to stay ahead of incoming Winter Storm Scott, but we got to ski a couple of early runs with him off the Fourrunner Quad.  We haven’t had much new snow this week, so conditions were fairly firm and unpleasant in general, but we did find a few areas with decent groomed snow on Sunrise and T-Line.

After Weston departed, we took an early lunch in the Great Room Grill, and Dylan got to have the mac-n-cheese that he unfortunately missed out on a week ago when Ty got injured and our afternoon got cut short.  It was good, and very hearty – enough so that he had to store half of it in a takeaway box for later.

“He said his legs were definitely cooked, but that’s an excellent way to be after a good ski session.”

Dylan wasn’t part of my group today, but after our morning session on alpine skis, he switched to Telemark skiing for his afternoon session.  E and I warned him that it can be quite a workout on Stowe’s long trails, but he said he’d just alpine as needed if he had to rest his legs.  I find that still requires a lot more work than regular alpine skis, but it sounds like he made it work.  He said his legs were definitely cooked, but that’s an excellent way to be after a good ski session.

My ski group for the afternoon included Sienna and her mom Jessica, and Adrian.  E’s student didn’t show up, so she was with us as well.  We had some great runs off the Meadows Quad, and everyone was doing so well that they all moved up to a run off Sunny Spruce.  That was a huge step up for everyone, and I pointed out to Jessica that what she skied today would be even easier and far more fun on better conditions.  She’s eagerly awaiting a powder day to see what the skiing will be like, so hopefully she’ll get a chance at one of those soon!

An image of an ice sculpture in the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
It’s that time of year again – checking out one of the ice sculptures in the Spruce Peak Village today

Stowe, VT 03FEB2019

An image of participants grouping up for our weekly BJAMS ski program at the base of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of participants grouping up for our weekly BJAMS ski program at the base of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Grouping up today for our BJAMS ski program at the base of Spruce Peak

Today was a chance for Ty and I to have the session we’d expected last week and work with Harrison during our BJAMS ski program day.  Harrison has had some ski time, but we started right off from scratch at the magic carpet.  The afternoon began with skis off as we worked with Harrison in his ski boots, showing him angulation, walking around, and getting him familiar with some of the positions his feet would be in.  From there it was skis on and we used the magic carpet slope to have him work on engaging and disengaging his edges with side slipping.

With those first exercises under his belt, Harrison decided that a break was in order, so we headed to the Great Room Grill where he ordered up some mac and cheese that he loved.  It really seemed to hit the spot because when we headed back to the Magic Carpet after the break, he began to work on his wedging and wedge stops with great success.  When we felt he was comfortable enough to make smooth stops, we said that he could move on to the Adventure Triple and the Inspiration Slope, which had him very excited.  We spent the rest of the afternoon there, and Harrison worked on speed control using his wedge, and finally began to get the idea of how to even turn in his wedge.  He’s ready to really take off at his next session, providing it’s not too long before he gets back out there.

One of the things that really help Harrison progress today was the excellent soft, surface conditions.  There weren’t any signs of scratchiness of Inspiration, and we even had some snowfall at times during the afternoon to freshen things up.  Eventually a bit of mixed precipitation appeared at the very end of the day, so we’ll have to see how that affects the surface conditions.

Stowe – Spruce Peak & Smuggler’s Notch Sidecountry, VT 27JAN2019

An image showing very heavy snowfall in the Mansfield parking lot at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Sunny Spruce Quad at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Snowfall was the name of the game today at Stowe, with the flakes intensifying throughout the afternoon and freshening up the slopes on every run.

While the snowy weather at Stowe today was just what we’d all expected, the makeup of my ski day turned out to be dramatically different.  I was scheduled to work on the Magic Carpet with Harrison this afternoon, but he ended up being a bit under the weather and we were informed that he wouldn’t be coming to the BJAMS ski program.  Ty was supposed to be working with another group, but two out of the four student there didn’t show, and one of the remaining students was the son of the chaperone, so they were all set without Ty.  When all was said and done, and we’d waited for any late arrivals, Erica said that Ty and I should just head off and ski together.

Wind holds were rampant today, with the Fourrunner Quad, the Gondola, and the Sensation Quad down at a minimum.  Winds actually weren’t bad at all down low, but the Sunny Spruce had quite a lift queue with so many other lifts on hold.  After a warm up run on the Meadows Quad, Ty and I decided to wait in the Sunny Spruce queue once, then go adventuring and take an exorbitantly long run to avoid dealing with any lift lines.

“As we finished up and headed back toward our car in the Mansfield Parking Lot, snowfall was in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range and slowed traffic leaving the resort, but it sure was impressive and will no doubt be freshening the slopes even further.”

Since we had all afternoon, my plan was to explore the lines that dive off toward the notch from the top of Sunny Spruce.  I’d seen the obvious lines many times before, but I’d never take my group down there without some reconnaissance first.  With just Ty and I, today was the perfect day to get that done.  The route starts off steeply, with some obvious trimmed lines through mixed evergreens and hardwoods.  The pitch then moderates a bit, and you get into hardwoods where natural lines abound everywhere.  The new powder was only about 6 inches deep, so Ty and I sought out some of the shallower lines, but there are countless steep lines in there that would support powder of any depth.

An image of the Barnes Camp building near Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching a view of the Barnes Camp area as we return from our adventures in Smuggler’s Notch

We generally kept to skier’s left, shallowing out our lines and knowing that we had to head that way eventually.  There were several sets of tracks in there, so it was clearly a traveled area, but I was bit surprised as we approached the bottom and saw a river instead of Route 108.  It turns out that we were on the near side of the valley away from the road, but we were easily able to cross the frozen river, then hook up with the boardwalks coming from near Barnes Camp, and get back to the resort.  We headed to the Midway Lodge for a break and a snack, and with the wind holds the Lodge was nearly deserted.

A Google Earth map tracing a ski tour from Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort down into the Smuggler's Notch sidecountry in Vermont
A map of today’s ski tour from Spruce Peak down into the Smuggler’s Notch sidecountry along the West Branch of the Little River and back to Barnes Camp

We finished off the day with a few more runs on Spruce Peak, and any lift queues had essentially evaporated by that point.  The snowfall continued to intensify though, and the skiing just kept improving every run.  As we finished up and headed back toward our car in the Mansfield Parking Lot, snowfall was in the 1 to 2 inch per hour range and slowed traffic leaving the resort, but it sure was impressive and will no doubt be freshening the slopes even further.

Stowe & Mt. Mansfield Chin, VT 25MAR2018

An image of Jonah skiing Mt. Mansfield below the Hourglass Chute with the Mt. Mansfield Adam's Apple in the background
An image of Robbie, Dylan, Wiley, and Ty getting set to descend the Hourglass Chute above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Robbie, Dylan, Wiley, and Ty are poised in the steep upper section of Mt. Mansfield’s Hourglass Chute as they get set to drop in on their first descents of this famed run in the alpine terrain above Stowe Mountain Resort.

Thanks to Winter Storm Skylar, the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake hit the 100-inch mark around the middle of the month.  When the snowpack starts getting that deep up there, it’s time to really think about heading above tree line into the alpine, because everything is filled in and the skiing really gets good.  While last Sunday’s weather in the higher elevations was frigid, with wind chills well below zero F at the summits, today’s forecast with minimal winds and temperatures in the 20s F was looking perfect for some above tree line adventures on Mt. Mansfield.  With the weather looking good, my only remaining concern was how much spring cycling the alpine snow had seen in the recent stretch of sunny days we’ve had around here.  Either way though, that wasn’t going to be a deal breaker, so I had E inform any interested students and coaches from our BJAMS ski program that we’d plan to hike up above Stowe’s terrain into Mt. Mansfield’s alpine for our Sunday afternoon session.

An image of Dylan ascending the Climbing Gully in Mt. Mansfield's alpine terrain above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan heads up toward the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline and The Chin under sunny skies as he ascends the boot ladder in the Climbing Gully.

We ultimately had a crew of eight for today’s alpine adventures, with our usual suspects from my group along with Jonah and his brother and dad, who was willing to make the trip with the boys even though he’s got one injured arm in a sling!  As soon as program started in the afternoon, we headed right up to the Climbing Gully and found an excellent boot pack in place.  With some pretty decent southern exposure, the snow in the Climbing Gully had softened in the sun and sat somewhere between winter and spring consistency.  Once we hit the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline though, the consistency of snow was all winter, and that allayed at least some of my fears about the consistency of the snow above tree line.  You could feel the nice cool breeze along the ridgeline doing its job to keep the snow from baking in the late March sun, and I knew that any terrain without strong southern exposure up in the alpine was going to be in fine midwinter form.  The views were stupendous, so we took a few minutes to enjoy the scene and fuel up.  Ty had been silly and not eaten much in the morning, so he’d been bonking on the climb up the Climbing Gully.  I made him quickly have a couple packets of GU around the middle of the ascent, and then I told him to get at least one granola bar into him on the ridge to make sure he’d have enough in the tank for the rest of the tour.

An image of Josh taking a photo of Agi and Jonah on the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline during an ascent to the Chin of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont
Josh snaps a photo of Agi and Jonah as today’s ski groups takes a break on our ascent to the Chin to enjoy the views from the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline.

“Profanity was loaded with snow, and up at those elevations, even south-facing terrain had a surface that was a chalky midwinter consistency.”

After our ridgeline break, we headed up to The Chin, and I first checked out the condition of Profanity Chute, which was my initial plan for today’s descent.  Profanity was loaded with snow, and up at those elevations, even south-facing terrain had a surface that was a chalky midwinter consistency.  I knew from Powderfreak’s pictures and comments that Winter Storm Skylar had really dropped a ton of liquid equivalent on the mountain and filled everything in, but it’s still most impressive to see it firsthand.  Even more impressive to me than how filled in Profanity was, was just how plastered all the usual windswept areas of the summit were.  The Chin is so exposed to the wind that it’s more typical to see a mix of rocks and snow vs., the area being covered wall-to-wall in white, but that’s how it’s been since Winter Storm Skylar.  People were even skinning all the way to the summit, which you’ll only see when you get a storm of plentiful, dense snow that really covers all the rocks.

“From what I can find in the SkiVT-L archives, where Stephanie McConaughy reported measuring the slope of Hourglass, the pitch tops out around 50 degrees at the throat.”

While the group congregated at the summit, I also took a look down at Hourglass Chute, and I was very impressed with what I saw.  The snow quality and coverage looked excellent.  Hourglass is narrower and steeper than Profanity, and I’ve never brought to boys down it, but it was starting to look like today might be the day.  It was hard to pass up the great aesthetic look of Profanity with the current snowpack, but the boys have now skied it a number of times, and after surveying everyone to see who was interested, the boys were definitely game to give Hourglass a shot.  Looking down on Hourglass from above, it’s a pretty intimidating view with plenty of exposure.  From what I can find in the SkiVT-L archives, where Stephanie McConaughy reported measuring the slope of Hourglass, the pitch tops out around 50 degrees at the throat.  That’s a pretty impressive pitch wherever you are, and with the apparent exposure of the chute from above, I was sort of dumbfounded that none of the boys even gave it a second thought.  Jonah, Wiley, Robbie, Ty, and Dylan were all simply ready to jump right in, and they seemed confused as to why I was even making a big point to thoroughly confirm that everyone was on board.  I was worried that it might just be ignorance on their part, but they stood there right atop the chute with a clear view of everything and didn’t even blink, so it is what it is I guess.

An image looking down Hourglass Chute at the top of Mt. Mansfield above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A look down Hourglass Chute from above as Robbie just finishes passing through the throat onto the apron below

I dropped down above the throat of the chute (Hourglass is so named because of the relatively open upper headwall and apron areas, with a tight, rock-lined middle section) and set up for some photography of the boys.  I had the wide-angle Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM on my camera body at that point, and the spot I was in was a bit too steep to comfortably change it out, so I ended up sticking with it.  Even at 22 mm it was too wide to really get nice shots of the boys going through the throat of the chute, but I did give a nice side-angle shot of everyone above the chute as they waited, and you can get a good idea of the pitch of the slope.  Everyone ultimately did fine skiing the chute, although Dylan did take a tumble at the end of the throat as he was doing a jump turn, and I heard that Jonah also had a tumble down there.  Fortunately, even with that steep pitch, it’s still not “No Fall Zone” terrain with the decent snow conditions we had.  I saw Dylan slide headfirst for a time after his fall, and Ty was below ready to help him arrest, but he’d stopped before that point.  Anyway, everyone seemed to have a great time skiing Hourglass, and all the snow was a fantastic midwinter consistency.  Even after skiing it, none of them seemed to feel that it was a very big deal, so I guess I was much more impressed with how they did than any of them.

“…they stood there right atop the chute with a clear view of everything and didn’t even blink…”

We caught some steeps along the apron, managing our descent as much as possible to make for an easy cruise over toward and around the Adam’s Apple to catch the Hell Brook Trail.  The Hell Brook Trail was in its usual state for this time of year, with terrain exposed to the south/sun getting crunchier and crunchier as one descended in altitude, but the sheltered snow on the skier’s right of the gully was continually fantastic.  The whole area is really loaded with snow now, and in conversations with Ty and Dylan during the descent, we all really loved those steep, open faces on the south side of the gully that held the protected winter snow.  Although he’d skied Hourglass beautifully, Ty was feeling off his game and heavy on his feet in the tighter sections of the Hell Brook gully (probably because of not initially fueling up properly), so he was really enjoying those more open areas that didn’t have any moguls.

An image of Robbie on a snow-covered Route 108 near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont as he returns to the ski area after descending the Hell Brook Trail from the Chin of Mt. Mansfield
You’re not going to break any speed limits returning to the resort from the bottom of the Hell Brook Trail on a snowboard, but we saw plenty of people like Robbie making it work.

The ski out was relatively quick because the snow wasn’t sticky at all, although I hadn’t noticed that Wiley and Robbie had chosen a route without a good bridge across the final stream, so they had to take some time working their way through the lower woods to find a good crossing.  Robbie was of course a trooper doing the whole thing on his snowboard, both above and below the Hell Brook Trail there are plenty of spots that are no big deal on skis, but can be a headache on a board.  Down there on Route 108 it totally felt like spring, with lots of sunshine, and winter recreationalists out enjoying any manner of snow and ice travel.  I’d had a lot of fun on today’s outing because I guess it’s been about 20 years since I last skied Hourglass Chute.  Hopefully it won’t be so long before I get to do that again!

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a backcountry ski tour at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont and the Mt. Mansfield Chin featuring Hourglass Chute and the Hell Brook Trail
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for today’s ski tour at Stowe Mountain Resort and the Mt. Mansfield Chin featuring Hourglass Chute and the Hell Brook Trail

Both Dylan and I got to try out our new Anon M2 Goggles, the same model of goggles that Ty got at Christmas with the magnetic interchangeable lenses.  Dylan and I were both in need of new goggle for various reasons, and it seemed like a no brainer to get the same model that Ty has to be able to quickly share all the lenses between us.  We even got a few extra lenses for various conditions – we’ll just have to be good about not fighting over them! 

an image of Ty, Jay, and Dylan wearing Anon M2 goggles with various lenses with the trails of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in the background
Dad and Dylan joining Ty as they try out their new Anon M2 goggles today!

By the time we got back to Spruce Camp, the program session was just about over.  I do like that a typical hike to The Chin with a Hell Brook run is just about perfect for one of our afternoon program sessions, since everyone is pretty cooked by the end anyway between the hike in and the traverse out.  Ty was famished, so we headed up to the Great Room Grill for some food with Mom, and Ty got one of their huge burgers.  He devoured it, not surprisingly, and E and had time to remind him not to try pulling ski outings like that on a nearly empty stomach.  There’s nothing quite like a hearty meal after being famished from a good winter tour, but you have to know your metabolism and where the empty line is on your tank or you can easily get into trouble before you get to that next feast.

Stowe, VT 11MAR2018

An image of Dylan jumping into powder at Stowe Mountain Resort
An image of Wiley skiing powder in the Hazelton Zone at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Wiley rips down a line in the Hazelton Zone today at Stowe as we finally had the conditions to get our BJAMS ski group out into some exciting off piste terrain.

We’ve really been waiting all season to get some quality midwinter base depths and top notch surface snow conditions to line up for our BJAMS Sunday ski program at StoweWe had a decent stretch back in the first half of February, but it didn’t quite hit the level of quality that we got today.  Conditions are stellar because we recently picked up more than a foot of snow from Winter Storm Quinn, and then overnight the mountain upslope snow event brought close to another foot to the resort.

An image of Robbie snowboarding at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Robbie blasts through a line during our day’s adventures at Stowe

We actually had most of our regular ski group today, and with the conditions on hand I decided that we should head for some of that exciting terrain that we just haven’t been able to visit yet this season.  We kicked things off with a run on Ravine, although Bob’s foot was acting up so he had to bow out at that point.  The conditions on Ravine are great, and base depths are more than sufficient, although you can tell the base isn’t quite up at normal levels for this time of year based on the look of some of the bigger obstacles.

“Conditions are stellar because we recently picked up more than a foot of snow from Winter Storm Quinn, and then overnight the mountain upslope snow event brought close to another foot to the resort.”

An image of Dylan covered in snow at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe had a fantastic run starting on the Kitchen Wall, with some very powdery lines in the trees below, and we just kept diving into every section of woods that presented itself until we finally would up in the Hazelton Zone.  We had to be a little cautious in there with only 50 inches or so at the stake, but there’s definitely enough base.  The traverses are in place and looking good.  That run was quite a doozy, so everyone requested a break at the Midway Lodge after that for food and drink.  On our final run of the day, Wiley and Robbie switched to each other’s snowboard and skis, and we took a run through the terrain park.  Wiley had plenty of falls, but really hung in there for taking his first even snowboard run right off the Fourrunner Quad.

An image of Ty skiing powder in the Kitchen Wall area of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty out in fields of powder below the Kitchen Wall

It was really great to finally be able to get out there with the boys into the some of the exciting terrain we’ve been missing all season.  It actually looks like we could have yet another winter storm affecting the area this week.  This one has the potential to bring upslope snow as well, so we’ll just have watch for where this one tracks over the next few days, but ski conditions should continue to improve going forward.

Stowe, VT 04MAR2018

An image from the deck of a Hooger snowboard looking out toward the Inspiration area of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of Dylan snowboard in the Meadows are at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan out on the slopes of the Meadows area at Stowe today as he worked on learning to snowboard

I haven’t been on my snowboard for a while, but it was definitely fun being back on it for today’s BJAMS ski program session at Stowe.  Dylan was planning on his first real day of snowboarding, and with Molly snowboarding in my group as well, riding today seemed to be the obvious choice.

“I’m not sure if we had the groomers or the skiers to thank for all that loose snow, but it was more than a foot deep in spots, which provided a nice surfy feeling on the boards.”

We started off in the late morning, a bit earlier than usual, so that E could work Dylan on his board a bit and get him as far as possible ahead of our session.  When I caught up with the family after parking and getting changed, Dylan had just finished his third run on Inspiration and was moving on to the Meadows Quad.  I joined everyone for that run and we helped him work on his heel side transitions and turns, which were definitely his weaker side.

Stowe had picked up a couple of inches from Winter Storm Riley, but the subsurfaces were generally frozen granular in the Meadows area.  Fortunately, there was tons of loose granular on top of the base in many areas.  I’m not sure if we had the groomers or the skiers to thank for all that loose snow, but it was more than a foot deep in spots, which provided a nice surfy feeling on the boards.  It was great stuff for cushioning falls, which as anyone knows, are common when you’re learning to snowboard.  Dylan certainly had his share of tumbles today, but his improvements were obvious on his last couple of runs. I was quite wary of his tumbles, as my friend recently broke his wrist after catching an edge and falling backwards. He thankfully found https://handsurgeonsnyc.com online so consulted with them about his wrist. I’m defintiely buying Dylan wrist guards for next time we get the boards out.

An image of Shrimp Pho from the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontPrecipitation in association with a minor system affecting the area had already started falling by the time we got to the mountain in the morning.  It began out as light graupel, transitioned to some granular flakes as time went on, and had graduated to much fluffier flakes by the end of the day.  There were some bursts of fairly heavy precipitation as well.  With Dylan’s hard work learning to maneuver his snowboard around, we took plenty of breaks in the lodge.  Lunch with the family was definitely a fun break – I visited the Noodle Bowl area at the Great Room Grill and got the shrimp pho… definitely delicious!

Stowe, VT 11FEB2018

An image of Dylan skiing the trees of the Green Acres area of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Meadows Quad Chair from the Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Looking out from the Spruce Camp Base Lodge toward the Meadows Chair at the start of a great midwinter afternoon of skiing at Stowe

February snowfall has been off to a roaring start here in Northern Vermont, with Stowe just coming out of a stretch that dropped 30 inches in 8 days.  The quality of the skiing both on and off piste has naturally taken a huge jump, and unlike the great snow we had back around the holidays, this snow didn’t come with subzero arctic temperatures.  Everyone seemed quite excited to get out for our first BJAMS ski program of the season where the mountain was really delivering in quality and quantity of terrain.

We had most of our usual group today, along with Johannes, since he and Stephen were at the mountain to watch some of the Bolton Valley Freeride Team take part in the 2018 Stowe Freeride Challenge.  Ty was also with us, since he wasn’t needed for any other coaching responsibilities today.

“February snowfall has been off to a roaring start here in Northern Vermont, with Stowe just coming out of a stretch that dropped 30 inches in 8 days.”

I wanted to make the most of the great conditions and get our crew into some fun terrain, so I set my sights on getting them over to Lookout.  Coming over from Spruce Peak, we took the Gondola to Cliff Trail, and I’ve got to say, Cliff Trail had some of the best conditions I’ve seen there in a long time.  You could just lay those edges over and dig in, and there was nothing there but packed powder.  Lookout was closed from the top, so I brought the group around via Hayride and we wound up skiing through much of Tres Amigos Glades.  There are still some icy sections in there on the heavily used lines, but there were a lot of great soft lines present as well if you just ventured out to the sides a bit.  I hadn’t been in Tres Amigos for quite a while, and I’d forgotten how steep and fun it is in there.

As we neared the end of the day we’d whittled down the group to just Wiley, Ty, Dylan, and I, and we finished things off back at Spruce Peak with some runs off the Sensation QuadGreen Acres yielded what was definitely the most consistently great snow of the day, with deep bottomless powder that had us stunned with the fact that it was still untouched after the whole weekend.

“You could just lay those edges over and dig in, and there was nothing there but packed powder.”

Temperatures were great today, running in the range of probably 25 to 32 F, so comfort wasn’t at all an issue there.  What was an issue though was the low clouds that were thick on the upper half of the mountain, making visibility really tough in open areas.  There was also some light mixed precipitation in the afternoon that compounded visibility issues by leaving droplets on people’s googles and causing fogging.  We had to ski with goggles up at times because the visibility was so tough, but fortunately temperatures were warm enough to make that feasible.  The snow surfaces stayed nice at just about all elevations though, since the mixed precipitation we were picking up was fairly light.

Base depths are great right now, with five feet of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, so as long as we can keep refresher storms coming we should be in great shape heading into the rest of February.