Tag Archives: Chin Clip

Stowe, VT 03DEC2016

An image if a ski track in powder snow on the Chin Clip trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Over the past couple of days, a storm has dropped over 20 inches of dense snow on Mt. Mansfield and Stowe Mountain Resort. This storm is both building base and delivering plenty of powder.

There really wasn’t much lead up discussion on the American Weather Forum about the winter storm we’ve been having in the Northern Greens the past couple of days.  That’s because, while it looked like the mountains would muster up some snow accumulation, the models hadn’t really suggested that we’d be getting TWO FEET of accumulation.  But, once the snow levels dropped into the mountains, Mother Nature just continued to drive that moisture into the spine of the Greens, and it kept snowing.  It’s been snowing continuously now for two straight days.

While our last winter storm (Argos) hit Bolton Valley hard with over two feet of snow, the initial reports from Powderfreak indicated that Mt. Mansfield and Stowe Mountain Resort were really doing well with this one.  Stowe had picked up a half foot by Friday morning, and by early this morning Powderfreak was reporting a 16” storm total.  And, the snow just wasn’t letting up.  I had a number of great Bolton Valley ski days last week, and with the way the storm was going it looked like a perfect opportunity to mix things up a bit and head for the slopes of mighty Mt. Mansfield.

An image of the sign for Maxi's restaurant in Waterbury, VT
Snow filled the air down to the lowest mountain valleys today.

Temperatures were a degree or two above the freezing mark around in the lower mountain valleys at mid-morning when I was heading out today, and the precipitation was all snow, but accumulations were quite variable with the borderline freezing temperatures.  We had about an inch on the ground here at the house on the Waterbury/Bolton line, and that tapered off to much more patchy accumulations in Waterbury and Waterbury Center.  The accumulations picked back up again once I was into the Stowe Village area, fairly similar to what we had at the house.  At The Matterhorn around the 1,000’ mark I’d say the snow depth was roughly 2 inches.

“…and then there was that snow. There’s so… much… snow. Oh man, talk about a thorough resurfacing.”

Just making that jump up to ~1,500’ at the base of the resort resulted in a huge increase in accumulations.  My depth checks revealed ~10” of new snow at the base of the Gondola, and that measurement was fairly easy, since the old base had generally melted out down at that elevation.  I skinned up Chin Clip Runout, since I like the grade, seclusion, and protection from any wind more than heading right up Gondolier.  Actually though, winds today were pretty minimal in the lower mountain elevations, and with the temperature just a bit below freezing, it was really pleasant.

An image of icicles below the deck of the Cliff House at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontAbove mid mountain I started to get into the snow guns, and I meandered here and there from Switchback to Gondolier to Perry Merrill following various skin tracks to see if there were any quiet areas.  But aside from Chin Clip, they had guns running all over the place.  It’s noisy and ruins the natural snow in spots, but of course the resort has to blow snow when it’s time.  I actually only headed above the 3,000’ mark for the exercise and to see what was up at that elevation, because I knew the skiing was going to be much better below that point.  The winds were howling on that last section of Upper Gondolier, and pounding snow from the storm combined with snow guns every 50 feet or so blasting out their little ice particles made it a virtual whiteout.  It was absolutely miserable.  If you’ve ever wondered why people are willing to pay a premium for really high quality alpine/backcountry/ski outerwear, there’s an example.  It’s not as if it was even midwinter cold (somewhere in the 20s F), but with the snow guns added in, there was just so much liquid being blasted at you on the strong winds.  Gear was thoroughly put to the test today.  The skin track from the guy who was just a few minutes in front of me had absolutely vanished in that short amount of time.  All I could think as I struggled up that final pitch was that if I was ever going to Tweet something at that point it would have been #itsbrutaloutthere.  It was a major relief to be able to get out of the wind, snow, and the roar of the guns under the deck of the Cliff House.

Above the base elevations where the old snowpack had melted out, I did my best to try to measure on top of the old base snow/crust, and here’s the summary of my best estimates for settled accumulations from this event from the valley and up into the Gondi area below The Chin:

1,000’: 2”
1,500’: 10”
2,000’: 14”
2,500’: 17”
3,000’: 20”
3,600’: 20”+

That last number there from the Cliff House is just an estimate because as is often the case, the wind made it really tough to find a representative spot for measurement.

“The turns certainly weren’t bubbly champagne today of course, but they were like being out in one of those freshly-fallen Sierra storms without any excess moisture in the snow, where the flakes are just small and the accumulations are dense, but the powder is great.”

Anyway, as much as that last, wind-exposed stretch of Upper Gondolier was brutal on the ascent, the skiing was actually fine.  But, just below that on Chin Clip was heavenly.  The air was calm, the noise of the snow guns was gone, the plentiful flakes falling form the sky were friendly… and then there was that snow.  There’s so… much… snow.  Oh man, talk about a thorough resurfacing.  I actually felt bad on the ascent for anyone that wasn’t skinning up because if you were trying to boot pack through this storm’s bounty, you were doing a lot of work.  There’s no walking though airy dendrites out there right now, this is hard-workin’, blue-collar stuff that’s just been put down.  Powderfreak is estimating this storm’s likely going to leave a couple inches of liquid equivalent all together.  That’s a season starter right there.  On my ascent I’d chatted with another guy near the bottom on Chin Clip Runout who was just coming down, and he said he never touched a thing below the snow… and he wasn’t kidding.  On 115 mm boards I’d say I was sinking in about 8 to 10 inches on hard pressured turns on steep terrain.  So you can imagine up high where there’s 20 inches of new stuff plus an old base below that, you aren’t touching anything.  Even back down near the base elevations though, where the snowpack was dropping below a foot, there were no issues.  The turns certainly weren’t bubbly champagne today of course, but they were like being out in one of those freshly-fallen Sierra storms without any excess moisture in the snow, where the flakes are just small and the accumulations are dense, but the powder is great.  I actually found a bit of upside-down snow at times on my descent, no doubt due to some changing densities throughout the storm, but even for Tele turns it wasn’t too notable within the scope of the overall snow that was available.

An image of a snowy mountain in Waterbury, VT
Snowy views of the mountains on the drive home.

On the way back down into the valley on my drive home, I’d say that in general a bit more snow had accumulated during the morning/midday, but you could tell that the snow was struggling to accumulate too quickly with temperatures right around or slightly above the freezing mark.  Surprisingly, back in Waterbury Center and Waterbury, there were very sparse accumulations if any, but then accumulations picked back up again once I head toward the house and into the mountains.

The weather pattern is actually looking active and potentially snowy going forward, so we’ll see what Mother Nature wants to give us.  It would be really nice to get in even an average December after the past three running in the range of 50% of normal snowfall.  Even normal would feel quite snowy with the way things have been the past few seasons.

Stowe, VT 20NOV2014

An image showing ski tracks in powder below the Chin Clip trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Getting out this morning to experience some of the powder at Stowe

Areas downwind of the Great Lakes such as Buffalo have been making headlines due to feet upon feet of lake-effect snow falling in rather short order, and in Northern Vermont we’ve picked up an inch or two of snow here and there thanks to being downwind of Lake Ontario. On Tuesday evening though, we got into the action a bit more as things aligned correctly to drop roughly a foot of snow on Mt. Mansfield. We only picked up about an inch and a half of snow at our house in Waterbury, in association with that event, so I didn’t even suspect that Mansfield had been lit up with that kind of snowfall. However, mountain valleys farther to the east of the Green Mountain spine picked up a few inches, and that was a bit of a tip off that something was up. When Powderfreak started sending in powdery pictures to the American Weather Forum noting the substantial accumulations at Stowe, it was becoming clear that there was some nice powder skiing out there.

I didn’t have time to check out the snow yesterday, so this morning I headed out for an early ski tour on Mansfield, and found 3 to 4 inches of snow at the Midway Lot near the base of the Gondola. I followed a well established skin track that headed up Chin Clip Runout, and then diverged to follow Switchback for the next part of the ascent. When I reached Gondolier I decided to just finish out the ascent to the base of the big Gondola waterfall on the skin track I saw there. I didn’t have time to travel any higher, but up at that ~3,200′ elevation there was roughly 6 to 7 inches of powder, which sat atop a few inches of dense base snow.

An image of tracks on powder snow from a November storm on the Gondolier trail at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the powdery view today at Stowe up around the 3,000′ elevation mark

The snow depths I observed for the powder above the base today were as follows with respect to elevation:

1,600′: 3-4″
2,000′: 4-5″
2,500′: 4-6″
3,000′: 5-6″
3,200′: 6-7″

I dropped in for the descent on Perry Merrill, and there were just a couple of additional tracks there, so plenty of fresh powder was available. I’d pulled out the fat skis, and they were the perfect tool for the occasion – they kept me floating and gave me some really great stability. I did have to watch out for a few rocks here and there, and at times I switched to alpine turns when it seemed like the base was a bit thinner or the rocks a bit bigger. I found that alpine stance kept me floating a bit higher, and today I really noticed how the AMPerages actually seemed to make it easier to ski alpine style in Telemark bindings. It’s not always easy to ski alpine with a loose heel, but I was very surprised at how stable it felt in today’s conditions. I think the stability and rocker of the fat skis were really playing their part. I eventually made my way back over toward Switchback and connected to Chin Clip Runout to finish off my run, and the grassy slopes down there were perfect for where the powder and base was a bit shallower. It was still fantastic skiing though, and some of my favorite turns of the outing were down there below the 2,100′ elevation. That terrain is so grassy with few rocks that it was easier to just let it ride without worrying about rocks. Rock skis would give you a bit more ease of line selection out there and more peace of mind, but you can certainly get by and have some fantastic turns with regular skis as well.

Stowe, VT 02MAR2012

An image shot from above of Ty slashing a ski turn in the Chin Clip Streambed at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Looking down on Ty in the Chin Clip Streambed today as he slashes a turn in the snow

Since midweek, a moderate winter storm has been affecting the state of VermontSnow began to fall Wednesday evening and accumulated slowly through to this morning, at which point we’d received 4.8 inches of snow at the house.  The ski resorts in the northern half of the state picked up a general 9 to 10 inches from the storm, with the Southern Vermont Resorts faring a bit better and topping out with accumulations around a foot and a half.

I went in to work to take care of some things in the morning, then met up with E and the boys back at the house and we headed off to Stowe.  Although only a Friday, the resort was certainly hopping with visitors today; the main Spruce Peak lots were pretty full, so we ended up parking a bit farther down at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center.  By happenstance, we parked right next to Marlene, who like me had done some work in the morning and was coming to the resort for some afternoon turns with the family.  Jeff and the kids had been out on the slopes early, and we were all hoping to get together for some fun runs in the new snow.  Although it’s a bit farther away from the Spruce Camp Base Lodge, parking out where we did is a nice option, since the route to the lodge is fairly flat and takes you on easy, paved walkways past the Performing Arts Center itself and the various wings of the Stowe Mountain Lodge.

After getting everyone into their ski gear and gathering outside the lodge, we split up into two parties.  Marlene, Liana, and Isabella stuck around on Spruce Peak, and the rest of us headed over to Mt. Mansfield.  After Sunday’s successful visit to the Chin Clip Streambed, we were eager to get back in there again.  Being a veteran of many snowboard-bumming seasons at Stowe, Jeff is quite familiar with the streambed, but Kenny had never skied it before, and he was going to be the big question mark.  Kenny only started skiing last season, and advanced intermediate runs (or as E describes them, “intermediate runs with an edge”) are really the terrain in his wheelhouse.  Skiing powder isn’t an issue for him; he just skis it like he skis groomed snow, so he’s probably going to be another one of those kids like Ty and Dylan that never spends a lot of time “learning” to ski powder, they just ski it.  So with his ability to handle unconsolidated snow, and his impressive natural athletic ability, we figured he’d be able to rise to today’s challenge.  The streambed is easily handled by an intermediate in some areas, which are wide and of modest pitch, but the 5 to 10 foot waterfalls and steep, narrow sections really elevate it to the level of an expert run.  It was also going to be E’s first time ever in the streambed, and since she was on her Telemark gear, it wasn’t a given that she’d just be able to stroll her way down through the terrain.  We were about to find out how both Kenny and E handled the challenge.

An image shot from above of Kenny skiing the Chin Clip Streambed at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Kenny takes on the Chin Clip Streambed

One thing that everyone had going for them was the quality of the snow; it’s been fantastic since last weekend’s big storm, and we generally found the trails loaded with plenty of soft, medium weight snow that had been packed from skier traffic.  Upper Gondolier had some scoured areas, but those faded once we got down out of the exposed upper section, and then it was quickly into the bumps of Switchback and Chin Clip.  E worked on her Telemark turns in the steep bumps, and semi-jokingly lamented that fact that her legs were already cooked by the time we’d reached the entrance to the streambed.  We all gave Kenny some encouragement that he’d be able to handle it, and then dove in.  After the steep entrance, we were into some of the intermediate-style terrain, but it wasn’t too long before we began to run into frozen waterfalls and steep, half pipe-style environments.  Ty and Dylan were having a blast as usual on the steep walls of the streambed, finding powder pockets and jumps that provided lots of fun.  There was so much snow that I was even able to slip down through the big roped off cliff area, which was steep, but well covered and quite skiable.  Kenny took his time throughout the whole descent, and really did a nice job negotiating some of the waterfall drops.  The Chin Clip Streambed is relentless though, and since Kenny had to work so hard, we could see him tiring on the bottom half of the run.  E had to work hard on her Telemark skis as well, but years and years of experience on skis allowed her to descend efficiently and conserve energy when needed.  She did a great job of coaching Kenny down through the last steep drop where the terrain fans out away from the streambed into steep trees.  Kenny was just about tapped out at that point, but he made it – his first run down the famous Chin Clip Streambed.

An image of Dylan, Ty, and Jeff standing in the Chin Clip Streambed during a run at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Boys 'n the Streambed - Dylan, Ty, and Jeff

We stayed at the gondola for a couple more runs, hitting Perry Merrill and working in a run down through the Tombo Waterfall.  Ty, Dylan, and I joined Jeff for the waterfall run, while the others looped around on Upper Perry Merrill to watch.  Coverage was great, and it’s getting to the point where enough snow has sloughed down the chute that the waterfall is getting smaller.  Ty sliced and diced the whole chute and waterfall jump with ease; Dylan struggled a bit and opted to take the cut around the skier’s left of the waterfall, but he had some nice turns in there.  Ty’s got a couple years of skiing experience on Dylan of course, but when Dylan is on, he’s pretty fearless, so it’s going to be fun to work on that line with him in the future.

An image of Jeff jumping off the Tombo Waterfall on his snowboard at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Jeff launching the Tombo Waterfall today at Stowe

For the last part of the day, we were back over at Spruce, where we met up with the girls for some big runs as a group.  We took the traditional Sunny Spruce to Side Street route to get us over to the Sensation Quad, and it was fun having everyone together.  From the summit, most of us took Whirlaway, although Liana took it a bit easier and E brought her down Sterling.  That was probably a good idea, because everyone was pretty cooked by that point.  Even though we’d only been out for the afternoon, long Telemark runs with Stowe’s high speed lifts definitely work me, and E said that she was feeling it.  She headed in with most of the kids, but it was too hard to pull away from all the great snow, so I ended up staying out with Jeff and Liana for another run down Main Street.  My legs were quite cooked after that one, but it was very satisfying.

A winter image of the snow-covered exterior of Piecasso restaurant in Stowe, Vermont
Apres ski today was at Piecasso

Not surprisingly, everyone was famished from a fun day of battling Stowe’s terrain, so we all headed to Piecasso for dinner.  Things can get pretty crazy having all five kids together, but they were pretty well behaved and did a decent job of replenishing their fuel reserves with pizza, salad, and even some calamari.  It does look like we’re going to need plenty of energy in our legs though, since there’s more snow on the way and we’ve still got the rest of the weekend to ski.  The next storm is already on our doorstep (flakes were flying here as of ~10:15 P.M. or so), and Winter Weather Advisories are up for most of the state.  Snow possibilities will be around through the rest of the weekend, so we’ll be on the lookout for more fresh turns.

Stowe, VT 26FEB2012

An image of Erica skiing deep powder on Spruce Line at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
E finding deep powder today on Spruce Line at Stowe

Our biggest storm cycle of the season to date finished up last night, with snow totals in the Northern Greens of 40” at Jay Peak, 36” at Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch, and 24” at Bolton Valley.  With additional snowfall from the two preceding storms of close to a foot, that put Jay Peak at over 50” of snow for the past few days, with the other mountains falling in line accordingly.  Large storms are often great at enhancing the ski conditions, but this storm was especially beneficial with the low snowfall and snowpack we’ve been dealing with so far this season; we hadn’t had a single one of these multi-foot storm cycles, and there’s no better way to catch up on the low season snowfall than getting those big mountain storms.  Even down at the house, we picked up close to two feet of snow from the storm; it was by far our largest snowfall of the season in the valley, and it pushed the total season snowfall to just shy of the 100” mark.

An image of our mailbox in Waterbury, Vermont in the morning with a fresh stack of snow from overnight snowfall
Snow stacking up in the valley from this storm

Yesterday we headed up to Bolton Valley during the meat of the storm, with snow falling at rates of 1-3”/hr.  We didn’t do a tremendous amount of skiing since all the major lifts were on wind hold, but we did get in some fun powder turns off the Mid Mountain Lift, and got to be out in the storm while it buried the resort.  The snowfall had continued until around midnight, but clearing skies quickly followed.  The sunshine this morning spoke of the crisp, clear weather that was forecast for today, and with three feet of new snow at Stowe, we headed off to the mountain fairly early to get the most of what were likely to be fantastic ski conditions.  It was one of those days where choice of ski was easy… everybody went fat.  E and I even got off our Telemark skis and took the opportunity to pull out our alpine CMH fatties for the day.

An image of Mt. Mansfield and some of Stowe Mountain Resort's snowy ski trails as we approach on the Mountain Road
The glorious view as we approached Mt. Mansfield this morning
An image of Dylan skiing some deep powder in the sunshine above the Meadows Trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan, going waist deep above Meadows this morning

We arrived at Spruce Peak around 9:00 A.M., and could see that people were already laying down some tracks in the powder fields above Meadows.  The snow looked absolutely glorious in the sun, and the temperatures were in the teens, so there certainly wasn’t going to be any melting.  Since the open slopes above Meadows are some of our favorite runs, E and the boys and I hopped on the Sunny Spruce Quad and headed right that way.  I skied down first to set up for some pictures, and found roughly two feet of dry, bottomless powder over a base of even more soft snow – it was just what one would expect to find after multiple feet of snowfall in the past few days.  I’m sure the snow settled a little overnight, but my density analyses from yesterday at the house revealed six hour accumulations of 7.1 inches of 3.8% H2O snow during the day, followed up by 8.4 inches of 2.1% H2O snow during the evening.  Simply put, that’s some serious world class powder for skiing, and coupled with the amounts that fell in the higher elevations, that’s some snow quality that is certainly well up there even in the realm of our local Champlain Powder™ standards.  Once I pulled out the camera, E and the boys followed my lead with some awesome turns; there were some previous tracks on the slope, but it was pretty hard to make a bad choice of line.

An image of Jay skiing deep powder in the Ridge Run trees on Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Catching deep turns in the Ridge Run trees

For our next round of turns we decided to check out the top of Spruce Peak, so we made our way over to the Sensation Quad.  We headed down in the Main Street area, and eventually started exploring novel regions of trees since it was the kind of day where you could hit terrain of almost any pitch or tree density.  We descended into some steep trees that led down to one of the on-mountain maintenance buildings along Main Street, with little idea of what it would be like, and not surprisingly there were some great lines down through the center of the steep streambed that drained the area.  Seeing the snow on Spruce Line as we rode the lift had us venture there on the next run, and the traffic had been so minimal in many areas that we got some really long shots of untracked snow.  The entirety of the line was open for skiing, and indeed there are some very steep shots in there that we’d never skied before.  They really kept us on our toes, and I was sent for quite a ride when I unknowingly came into one of the steep sections at high speed.  We shared the run with a small group of Telemark skiers, who were having a hoot watching Ty and Dylan play around in the deep snow.  Next time up it was Upper Smuggler’s, catching the steep terrain on its bottom section, where we connected to Ridge Run and some of the precipitous lines in the nearby trees that Mike Cannon had shown us in the past.  People had certainly skied those main shots by then, but just a little venturing afield revealed the acres of untracked snow that lay in the trees.  And boy that powder was deep – it was a very good idea to try catching the traverses set up by others, because wading through the snow on your own took a good deal more time and effort.

An image of Dylan cruising through the powder below the Sensation Quad Chairlift at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Dylan cruising though the fresh fluff below the Sensation Quad

We’d burned through the morning at that point, and it was time to get fueled up for the boy’s afternoon school program session.  We ate at the Great Room Grill, and were joined by some of the other BJAMS families.  I got myself an order of the fish tacos, which were again quite good, and I noticed that Molly had some sushi.  It turns out that they have sushi available at the Great Room Grill in a refrigerated case, so I am definitely going to have to check that out as an option when we’re there.  It would be amazing if they started offering it freshly prepared at one of the stations (I bet it would be a hit if it the quality was decent) but I can’t wait to try what they’ve got anyway.

During lunch, E had swapped her alpine gear for her snowboard gear, as she’d be instructing snowboarding for the rest of the day, but Ty and Dylan and I kept our fat skis on and got ready for the afternoon with a warm up run on West Smuggler’s and West Slope.  Back up at the base we met up with Claire, Luke, and Jack to fill out our group, and we took everyone back to Sensation so could hit the great powder on Spruce Line.  There were a few more tracks since the morning, but it really hadn’t seen that much additional traffic.  We tackled Upper Smuggler’s on the next run, enjoying the way that the bountiful fresh snow had resurfaced even the steepest terrain.  Even with the three feet of snow it was still possible to occasionally encounter the subsurface though, showing just how much snow it takes to cover some of the high angle terrain.  We cut across to Ridge Run, where some of the boys dropped into the steep slopes of the Ridge Run trees.  I dove into the trees as well, and ski cutting across steep pitches easily set off big sloughs of the deep snow – I wasn’t surprised to hear that avalanche warnings had been put out for the Mt. Mansfield/Smuggler’s Notch area.

We finished off the afternoon over on Mansfield, where I introduced everyone to the Chin Clip Streambed.  In terms of their abilities, everyone in the group is more than ready for what it has to offer, but I’ve been waiting for the base depths to build to the point where they could enjoy it thoroughly without concern about rocks and the frozen waterfalls.  With this big storm and the couple smaller ones that came before it bumping the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake from roughly four feet midweek to almost seven feet now, it was time.  I guided everyone to the entrance, and we dove in.  Even for Claire it was a fairly novel experience, as she recalled skiing it once, but it must have been a decade ago.  The boys ripped it up, launching jumps off the terrain features and half pipe-like walls of the drainage.  Even Luke, who’s probably the most novice in terms of off piste skiing, was looking really good and handling the steep drops smoothly.  Claire was definitely challenged by some of the waterfalls and steep, tight areas, but she had a blast.  I can’t recall the last time I’d been in that streambed, but the skiing was as amazing as always.  There are definitely some advantages to coaching the young advanced group in terms of terrain selection.  Most folks are aware of Stowe’s long, continuous vertical drop, and it was obvious today when at one point in the streambed run Ty asked, “Does this thing ever end?”  All the boys seemed to be of similar mind, and there was no question that they were getting their fill of turns and challenge; indeed it does seem like that streambed simply goes on forever – in a good way.

An image of Claire atop one of the waterfalls in the Chin Clip Streambed at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Claire atop one of the frozen waterfalls in the Chin Clip Streambed today

After the romp through the streambed, we hit the gondola again and did a run on Chin Clip proper.  The bump lines were delicious and soft, and the boys got worked hard for another descent.  With the early afternoon runs on Spruce topped off with a few thousand vertical feet of steep bumps and off piste in the afternoon, all the boys were cooked.  Ty and Dylan, with the additional morning full of powder runs, were especially spent and when we headed back to the Spruce Peak Village they called an afternoon and hit the s’mores at the fire pit.  Jack and Luke were game for one more run, so I joined them for a run on West Run/West Slope.  It was a good mellow finish to an exciting day enjoying what has clearly been the storm of the season up to this point.