I was in Montreal yesterday, generally doing more eating that exercising, so I definitely wanted to fit a ski tour into the day today if possible. The weather was good much of the day, with some sun, but plenty of clouds to keep it cool as well, and I made my way up to the mountain in the midafternoon timeframe.
My initial views from the Bolton Valley Village area didn’t reveal much snow, but one I got moving up the mountainside I could see that there were some good areas of snow around. The Butterscotch Terrain Park has probably the most snow on the lower mountain, but I found Bear Run actually has some decent areas with snow as well. The biggest surprise on the upper mountain was actually Spillway, which had initially looked like it only had a strip of snow left along the skier’s right. Once I got above mid mountain I could see that there was substantial coverage on a lot of the trail.
I hiked up Spillway to where the continuous snow ran out, which was just a bit below the 3,000’ mark, and started my descent from there. Spillway held some of the best areas of corn I found today. There were some sun-cupped areas and a few spots where the snow remained coalesced like ice, but in general the turns were nice in the corn snow. I was actually able to continue all the way down to mid-mountain on snow, and then even a bit farther on Beech Seal before I had to throw the skis back on my pack and hike down.
Based on my initial sights, I was thinking this was likely the last weekend for reasonably plentiful skiing at Bolton Valley, but based on what I saw, I think there might be some snow around next weekend depending on how the temperatures run this week.
Prior to today, it had been over 20 years since I’d last skied Whiteface. It was January 30th, 1994 when Dave and I headed across the lake for a day, and I’ve still got my pictures from that trip (film, not digital of course) but I believe the text of my report was in some of the SkiVT-L archives that were lost. As of a few days ago, I never would have thought I’d end up skiing Whiteface today, but E proposed a trip to Lake Placid for the weekend, and although I couldn’t interest anyone else in the family in skiing, I brought my skis along with the hope that I could fit in some turns.
We stayed at the Courtyard Lake Placid, which has a really neat pool/hot tub complex that appealed to the boys, but our visit to Smoke Signals for dinner was definitely a highlight in town. I selected it because of all the rave reviews online and, their amazing barbeque did not disappoint. Everything we had was outstanding, but as the reviews often indicated, their brisket is especially amazing.
This morning I headed out early to Whiteface while the boys were still asleep, and as I arrived at the base of majestic Whiteface in the early morning light, I was definitely reminded of my last visit. It’s surprising how long it took me to get back to such a famous Olympic mountain with huge vertical that’s really just across Lake Champlain. Granted, we were away from the Northeast for several years during that period, but a much bigger factor was simply that we live at the foot of the Northern Green Mountains, and from a strictly skiing perspective there’s just not enough incentive for use to head over to the Adirondacks. Relative to the snow we get in the Northern Greens, it just seems that Whiteface suffers in both quantity of snowfall and quality of the ski surfaces. I have to say, my perception was only reinforced further today when I approached the mountain and my main thought was, “Where’s all the snow?”
The resort has only been closed for a week, but it was extremely slim pickings with respect to skiable snow on the lower slopes of the mountain. Even up high, while I could see that there were some better lines of manmade snow on the trails, it looked like there was very little natural snow remaining. I was astonished, after what the Whiteface website says was a season with a record-breaking 281 inches of snow, that there was so little of it left. Meanwhile, the natural snow at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is still six feet deep. It’s sometimes hard to figure out why Whiteface doesn’t get, and I guess in this case even retain, more snow. It’s an impressive peak, rising up to nearly 5,000’, and it’s certainly downwind of the Great Lakes so that they can serve as an extra supply of moisture. It’s even closer to the Great Lakes than the Green Mountains, so one would think that it would make out even better. Somehow though, the resort has an annual average snowfall of only about 180 inches according to Tony Crocker’s website. With some of the resorts in the Northern Greens reporting annual snowfall averages of nearly twice that amount, the disparity is quite dramatic.
I had to stick to the lower mountain today based on my available time, but fortunately I was able to piece together a fairly decent amount of turns using the remains of some of the terrain park snow. I’d been worried about encountering stiff snow by going early in the morning, but it had actually softened enough to make the turns quite pleasant. I just wish I’d had a bit more time to go higher and get into some of the more continuous lines of leftover snow.
The forecast for this morning was sunny, and mountain highs were predicted to be in the 40s and 50s F, so the whole family headed off to Stowe for a few runs before lunch. Lift operations at thre resort are down to just the Fourrunner Quad and the Mountain Triple Chair, but with roughly 90 inches of snow still at the stake, base depths are in good shape and almost all the terrain on Mansfield is available.
We’ve certainly had some good cycling of the snow over the past few days with night freezes and daytime thaws, so the surfaces were generally corn, but there were still some sticky surfaces out there in some spots. We got some steep turns on Nosedive, hit the bumps of Centerline, and even jumped into some of the terrain parks. We got to watch one crew of what must have been a couple dozen guys running the parks together and performing lots of tricks.
As usual for this time of year, folks were out in force with their spring tail-gaiting setups in the Mansfield Parking Lot, and the smells of various food being barbequed was definitely enticing when we headed back to the car. For our lunch we headed to Doc Ponds on the way home to use a gift certificate we had, and the food was great. Most of their offerings are done with some sort of unique flair. I really enjoyed my falafel, which was incredibly filling and I’d recommend it if you’re a falafel fan.
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.
It was quite a gorgeous day out there today, with valley temperatures up around 60 F. That’s certainly well above average for February, but with such nice weather on a Saturday, Ty and I decided to head up to Bolton Valley to catch a few runs in the warm sun. We got up to the mountain in the mid-afternoon timeframe, and our timing was perfect, because just as we were about to load the Vista Quad, Jack caught us and we were able to spend the rest of the afternoon together.
We started off with a couple of runs on Spillway, which is always one of my favorites when we get soft spring snow like today. It’s got that nice steep pitch, and as usual there was that ridge of snow along the skier’s right that provides some especially nice turns. We rode the Snowflake Chair to go for a run in the Butterscotch Terrain Park, but for some reason the rope was up and the park was closed. We still got in some nice cruising on Sprig O’ Pine, and then headed back up for some steep turns on Hard Luck. Turns were also great there, very similar to what we found on Spillway.
The wind was really picking up at the end of the day when we headed back to the car, and we’ve had a storm come through with some rain that changed to snow this evening. Temperatures are going to drop back to more seasonable levels tomorrow, so it will probably be a day for the groomed terrain unless the mountains pick up substantial snow tonight.
On our drive to the mountain we noticed that there’s not actually a ton of snow down in the center of Stowe Village, but the snowpack builds as one heads up the mountain road, and it’s quite hearty once you get up to The Matterhorn around the 1,000’ elevation. The snow depths simply skyrocket after that, and Mansfield’s snowpack is quite impressive. This shouldn’t be too surprising with 52” at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, but it’s still great to get out there and experience it firsthand.
Today in our group we had many of the usual crew, like Jack, Dylan, Jonah, and Norris. Ken is still taking it easy due to his injury, so our new additions were Nolan and his kids Sophie and Evan. They fit right in with the group, so I suspect we’ll have a lot of fun whenever we’re together. After an initial run on Sunny Spruce, we quickly headed over to Mansfield to check out some steeper terrain. We skied the Bypass Chutes, as well as Goat and Starr from the top. While coverage isn’t yet perfect on those routes, it’s pretty darned good, and that says a lot if those steep pitches are reasonably covered. I was concerned about what the snow surfaces were going to be like with the cloudy conditions today, but the snow was beautifully soft at all elevations with temperatures in the 30s F. The Nosedive Glades were fantastic – and they’ve definitely done some additional clearing in there to enhance some of the lines. Overall, today was actually like being out there on one of those awesome soft days in April with the hefty snowpack. I’d say the main drawback on the hill today was the visibility, since we were in the clouds the whole time. In some elevation bands it was pea soup, but it was more reasonable than at many elevations.
We’ve actually got a storm coming into the area tomorrow evening that should bolster the snow pack even more. The storm is expected to have some mixed precipitation with it, but plenty of liquid equivalent, so it should really be a good shot to add to the season’s base.
Today was probably 20 degrees cooler than last Sunday, but it was still looking warm enough to offer some spring snow for Stowe’s final lift-served ski day of the season. We headed to the mountain in the mid-afternoon timeframe and found that the tail-gaiters were out again in full force in the Mansfield Parking Lot like last week. There was even a band playing off the deck of the Mountain Operations building. E forgot her coat, which had her pass in it, but she decided to just hang out in the car and get some work done since the boys and I only planned to do a few runs.
As Ty, Dylan and I rode the Fourrunner Quad, we could see that shaded locations on the upper mountain were really holding winter-like snow – or in this case icy frozen granular since we’ve had many a freeze-thaw cycle by this point. The air temperature was just a bit above the freezing mark at the top of the Fourrunner Quad, but with the strong April sun, only fully shaded areas were of any concern with respect to being to firm to hold a good edge. Everything else was soft corn snow like you’d expect to find in late April.
We took a trip down Nosedive and found coverage to be in great shape – there should be plenty of earned turns there well into May as usual. I’d say the same is generally true for the typical Lord/North Slope route as well. On our last run, the boys ski technique really degraded… on purpose as it turned out. They had loads of fun goofing around with poor technique and were incredibly impressed with how much more work it took to ski that way – especially in areas of soft snow.
It was a nice way to close out the lift-served season on Mansfield, and we topped it off with an après ski stop at Sushi Yoshi. We had time to go for some hibachi, which was a good show as always! We’ve actually got some cooler weather coming into the area this week with a chance for a bit of snow in the mountains over the next couple of days. It should be fun to see exactly what happens with respect to snow, as it’s always an interesting piece of weather if it falls in any of the lower elevations when we get close to May.
The nice forecasts had been out there for a while, and folks knew that we had a fantastic weekend of weather on the way – one that would bring back the spring skiing after our winter-like interlude over that past couple of weeks. I was pretty busy with work in general since we’re near the end of the spring semester, but the whole family took some time this afternoon to catch a few runs at Stowe and enjoy the spring snow.
Temperatures were in the 60s F even at the mountain, so all the snow was well corned up, and of course the usual tail-gaiters were out in force in the Mansfield Parking Lot. The Fourrunner Quad is the only option for lift-service now, so we spent our time there with a couple of great trips down the bumps of Centerline to really get that spring groove going. One of the big highlights of the day was Dylan getting down in the corn snow so that he could be intentionally whitewashed – and of course the rest of the family all took advantage of that opportunity. Dylan just loved it, probably because he was overheating with the warm weather, which would be typical for the boy who’d be happy to wear shorts all year round if we’d let him.
That’s it for the lift-served season at Stowe, but there’s plenty of snow left on the trails, so hopefully we’ll have a chance to get out for some skinning if the weather cooperates. From what I can see it’s going to get a bit more active with respect to precipitation, but it looks like we’ll generally be seeing warm days and cool nights to keep the corn harvest in full swing.
Although the lowest elevations were softening in the April sun, Stowe’s terrain in the upper elevations of Mt. Mansfield appeared to hold onto winter snow all through the day yesterday. That got me thinking about taking a couple more runs in the powder today, and although Ty was a bit under the weather and E planned to stay home with him, Dylan was happy to go with me to see what we could find.
We couldn’t get out early, but we were able to head out to the mountain around midday. Even in the valleys, temperatures were holding at or below freezing despite lots of April sun, so we knew that at least the air temperature wasn’t going to be affecting the snow. Today was even sunnier than yesterday, and the high peaks like Mt. Mansfield were standing out brilliantly above the lower elevations. It was quite a sight to behold as we traveled along Route 100 east of the Green Mountain Spine.
Dylan and I followed my procedure from yesterday, parking in the Midway Lot and heading right up the Gondola. Since I knew coverage was fine in the Kitchen Wall area, we headed right there to see how the powder was faring in the highest lift-served elevations. I hadn’t actually taken the main Kitchen Wall Traverse yesterday, but I have to say it was one of the most challenging trips I’ve had through there. The snow pack is just that bit on the low side that keeps some extra stumps sticking out in a few places, so you really have to keep your eyes open for the best routes to use.
We were quickly able to tell that even up in those elevations, any snow in direct sunshine was turning mushy, so we picked a partially shaded line for Dylan and he dropped into one of the snowfields. He had some nice turns, but as we got down lower, even though we were predominantly in the trees, we encountered a lot of challenging, sticky snow wherever light was sneaking into the forest. Down in the Nosedive Glades we generally stuck to the main routes to avoid that type of snow, but we found plenty of good turns on lightly tracked or skier packed snow. We finished off with Nosedive, which had conditions similar to yesterday, with the snow quality being better the higher you were in elevation.
We knew the window for ample off piste skiing was just about closed with the way the powder was getting sticky, so we decided to stick with an on piste run down Gondolier. We debated going to Cliff Trail, but Dylan said we would be too tempted to head off piste and we’d end up paying for it if we got into mushy snow. We still managed to get sucked off piste below the switchback of Perry Merrill, and that was our most exciting adventure of the day. The snow was actually pretty well preserved because of the shady nature of the area, and we came upon a nice cliff band with an ice fall that will no doubt be a lot of fun when we have ample midwinter powder. Dylan and I were already planning to take our BJAMS ski group to the area next season. We had to sift our way through some denser evergreen areas to get back to Perry Merrill, but our navigation was good and we quickly got back on piste. We ran that run out with a combination of Perry Merrill and Gondolier, and that was enough to consider ourselves satiated for the day. We did get into a bit of corn snow near the bottom of Gondolier, and Dylan commented on how that was his favorite snow on the trail, so he’s definitely ready for full on spring conditions vs. the transitionary snow that appears on some of these spring days.
The sunny weather and soft spring skiing from yesterday carried right into the second half of the weekend as we visited Stowe this afternoon for the BJAMS ski program. Ken’s tweaked knee from last Sunday was diagnosed as a sprained MCL, so I’ve heard he’ll be off skis for four weeks while it heals. Erica had to do a bunch of shuffling around of today’s groups due to various absences this week, and I actually wound up with a group of 10 students. That’s a substantial group even with both Ken and I to manage it together, but fortunately Big Luke was able to step in for his dad and give us a reasonable ratio of coaches to students. All told then with students and coaches, our group was a dozen strong, and I suspected that anywhere we went with our crazy crew… people were definitely going to know that we were around.
“There’s not too much else to say about today’s skiing – the snow is in spring mode and so are the students, so it’s simply bumps, and jumps… and more jumps.”
There was no question about the softness of the snow today at any elevation, and with my group ready promptly and raring to go at startup time, we headed right over to the Gondi for a sampling of its terrain. I could see that there were plenty of bumps on Gondolier, so we tackled that first with a quick photo session in one of the first bump lines. From there were moved over to the Fourrunner Quad and it was lap after lap with spring snow and visits to the terrain parks due to very high demand within the group. By around 3:00 P.M. it was time to head back to Spruce for the s’mores session, and everyone finished the day off with what appears to be becoming the customary “post s’mores free skiing session” off the Sunny Spruce Quad. I think almost all the skiers in the group, even Big Luke, dropped their poles for their final runs. And with our snowboarders Cole and Ryan as part of the crew, I may have been the only person left with poles at the end of the day. Those huge snow whales on West Slope are still going strong, and as you can imagine it was quite a raucous time out there on that terrain with the afternoon sun and continued soft snow.
I finished up a bit early and was able to hike up for a bunch of extra photos on West Slope, and man what a treat it was to be able to photograph with so… much… light! I had the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM out for the first time in a while, and was able to run at a shutter speed of 1/8000 sec and still stay down around ISO 100. The bright March sun on glaring snow was almost too much, and I nearly had to stop down a bit to avoid overexposing the images. For now though, it worked out at F/2.8 once I got all my settings tweaked, so hopefully folks will enjoy the sampling of action shots I’ve put with the report. One of my favorite images from the day was definitely Big Luke in the Tyro Terrain Park – he actually requested the shot, so I had plenty of time to set it up just the way I wanted. He aired it out and I think he’ll be pleased with the result.
There’s not too much else to say about today’s skiing – the snow is in spring mode and so are the students, so it’s simply bumps, and jumps… and more jumps. We’ll see what next weekend brings, but the weather models are certainly showing murmurings of a potential winter storm about a week out. We’ll have to see if we can finally get one of these to take a decent track or whether we’ll get another one of the many raw deals we’ve had this season, but I suspect the winter weather enthusiasts are going to have an interesting week of model watching to see what this potential storm does.