We almost did a little skiing at Stowe on Thursday this week, but it was just starting to rain when we stopped in at the mountain around midday, and with E and the boys a bit under the weather, we decided to hold off. The weather was much better today, so we headed up to Mansfield in the afternoon to make a few turns. Temperatures were up around 50 F in the mountain valleys, and the sky was a mix of clouds and sun, so it seemed like a reasonable spring skiing day. It was only in the 40s F at the base of the mountain, but that was still more than warm enough to soften up the slopes.
One item of note today was that it was E’s first chance to try out her new Telemark ski boots that she bought a couple of weeks ago. After almost six seasons of using the $50 boots that she picked up at the South Burlington Ski Swap, it was finally time to up the fit and performance level of her Telemark footwear. Her boots had always been just a bit on the large side, and she’d just either worn some thicker socks or dealt with the minor inconvenience, but when she got some fatter Telemark skis this season (Black Diamond Element) with a width of 115 mm underfoot, the fit became a real concern. There weren’t any serious issues in untracked powder, but as firmer or more uneven surfaces were encountered, the slop in the boot was clearly making things difficult. Relative to a narrow-waisted ski, getting a wide ski like that on edge takes more pressure, and if you don’t have a snug fit in your boot, you’re potentially going to have problems when you encounter groomed or other firm surfaces. Since I have the standard, slightly stiffer version of her ski (Black Diamond AMPerage) I could feel the extra force required to get the ski up on edge when encountering groomed surfaces, but I found the inconvenience fairly trivial in a good-fitting boot. With that in mind, E got a gift certificate from Outdoor Gear Exchange for her birthday last month so the she could go and get the boot that she liked best without thinking about the price; she’s more than paid her dues the past six seasons in her current boots. E’s birthday has always been timely for ski-related gear, and as is typical, all the current boots are on sale now that we’re near the end of the ski season. After a solid boot-fitting session with one of the associates, she found the Scarpa Women’s T2 Eco to be the perfect fit. It’s a three-buckle boot with a power strap, similar to my Garmont Garas. It looks like they’ll be a great boot for the combination of lift-served and backcountry skiing that we do. It’s also interesting to note that Scarpa T2s were the Telemark boots we tried back in 2002 at Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana on our first day of Telemark skiing ever. We had no other reference at that point, but liked the boots a lot.
“As for conditions on the
hill, they were a mixture
of corn snow bordering
on loose granular at the
very top, which blended to
a softer corn snow below.”
While we were getting changed in the lodge, Ty found an Easter egg in his Telemark boots, and we realized that it’s been a few weeks since he’s been out on his Telemark skis. While Dylan had last used his Telemark skis for our trip down the Bruce Trail on March 31st, for Ty it’s been since back in mid March when the boys and I skinned over to Wilderness at Bolton for fresh tracks. That’s over a month that he’s been off his Telemark gear, so indeed it was good that he was getting out for an opportunity to keep working on his skills.
As for conditions on the hill, they were a mixture of corn snow bordering on loose granular at the very top, which blended to a softer corn snow below. I enjoyed the snow a lot, being able to really bite in and carve, although Ty and Dylan felt like they were being pushed around in the soft snow at times. The major downside I found today was that it wasn’t quite warm enough to really soften up the subsurface to where I like it, so there were occasional encounters with firm patches. Both boys were still feeling the effects of being under the weather this week and they didn’t really have their usual levels of energy. With the combination of low energy and what they found to be challenging snow, they ended up going pretty minimal on the number of Telemark turns they made. They stuck with alpine most of the time, but at least they got a bit of Tele practice and were out in the fresh air.
E immediately noticed the security and stability in her new boots. They were noticeably harder to flex than her old boots, but of course these are new, and her old ones must have seen a decade worth of ski seasons… and they had cracks in the bellows as well. The rigidity and support in her new boots must be light years ahead of what she had. E was quite impressed with the increased control she had with the new boots, she said that she could feel the soft snow wanting to push her skis around, but she could overpower that more easily and direct her skis wherever she wanted. She said that she couldn’t do that to nearly the same degree with her old boots.
By our second run, temperatures seemed like they were cooling, because the snow was beginning to tighten up near the summit of the Fourrunner Quad. By that point the boys had had enough skiing anyway, as they were feeling tired. One can always tell when Ty is tired, because he’ll take a seat or lie down when we stop on the trail. He used to do that a lot when he was much younger since he didn’t have any stamina, but if we see it frequently now, we know he’s getting tapped out. We did finish that next run on quite a high note by catching some untracked corn snow on Lower Gulch. Those were some very smooth turns. On a weather-related note, we were very surprised to find that it was actually snowing at times this afternoon, despite the fairly warm temperatures. Clearly some colder air has moved in at the higher elevations to support the snow we saw, because that’s the only type of precipitation that fell.
So E had a great experience with her new boots today, and I think it’s going to be interesting as she tries them out under different conditions, and eventually on her fat, powder skis. It seems like they’re going to give her much more control, but we’ll just have to see what the combination of boots and skis is like. I realize now that after checking them out more closely, that her old boots are actually only a two-buckle model with a power strap; they seem like they might be some Scarpa T3s, and an old well-used T3 from a decade ago is going to be a dramatically different boot than a modern T2. I’m sure we’ll have more boot updates as we move ahead in the spring skiing season.