I had enough extra time today, so I headed back out to Stowe for a hike and some more turns. Based on what I’d seen on Spruce on my last outing, as well as the views across to Mansfield at that point, I decided it was time to check out something by the Mountain Triple. There’s some easy access snow right down to the base over there, and that fit the time I had.
As I walked along past the Triple, I surveyed the snow situation and headed toward Lower Standard, which seemed to have the best coverage. That area makes for a pleasant stroll because it’s generally quite grassy with modest pitches. Somebody had built the shape of a heart out of rocks on the ground near the ropes course, so that was kind of a nice accent to the area. The snow on Lower Standard is definitely more broken up than what it was a week earlier, and there are a couple of gaps near the bottom that are really best walked vs. trying to skip across on your skis.
That afternoon we had thunderstorms in the area, and as usual, there were some great views surrounding the resort and toward the Notch as the peaks worked their magic and forced the clouds around. While I was hiking I started to hear thunder to the east and northeast, off past Spruce Peak and over toward Madonna and Sterling. Eventually I started to see some tendrils of virga over there, and the thunder was becoming more expansive. I was just getting up toward the Crossover elevation, which was about where I was going to stop anyway because the snow petered out there, but the timing seemed good with the thunder building. I started seeing the first visible flashes from lightning just as I was getting back to the car, and the first drops of rain began to fall, so that timing really did work out well. I would have stayed around for some lightning photography over toward the Notch, but none if was producing visible bolts, it all seemed to be well up in the clouds or too distant.
I haven’t been following the state of the snowpack at Stowe too closely over the past couple of weeks, but Powderfreak’s recent post on American Weather forum definitely provided a nice look at some of the snow on the slopes of Spruce Peak. I probably wouldn’t have even had Spruce Peak in the mix of top spots to head for turns if I hadn’t seen how much snow was still there, but it was obvious from the post that there was plenty.
Today I had time to get out for exercise, so I chose to enjoy a hike and ski in the Main Street area. The snowpack is certainly not continuous top-to-bottom of course, but there’s several hundred vertical feet worth of nice turns with deep base as Powderfreak’s image showed. The snowpack there is starting to get a bit sun cupped, but it’s nothing that really hurts the experience yet at this point, unless perhaps you were to stray the extreme edges where the snow has taken a bigger hit and there’s been no skier traffic.
Even if natural snowpack on Mansfield is still below average for this time of year, I have to think the coverage there on south-facing Spruce had got be at least typical for this far into May. From the view across the resort, I could see that the usual spots like Nosedive and some of those areas around the Mountain Triple still have some decent coverage, so it would be fun to mix it up with something over there next. That Main Street snow has some very deep areas, but it’s just getting a bit too broken up into segments that one eventually has to make the call to go with something with a bit more continuity for efficiency and longer flow of turns on the descent.
It is always fun this time of year getting to see which parts of the resort are holding the snow best for those late season turns. It’s different each season depending on the combination of where Mother Nature deposited snow and where the guns were blowing when temperatures were optimal as has been noted in some of Powderfreak’s comments in ski-related discussions at American Weather.
Today our plan was to play Tennis with Dylan in the afternoon, but that plan fell through once he realized that he had to work. So, moving on from that option I decided to get some exercise by heading back up to Bolton to catch that run on Hard Luck that I’d missed on Friday.
Temperatures were definitely a bit cooler today than yesterday, with more clouds around, but it was still plenty warm to keep the snow soft. Hard Luck is nearly continuous except for a small area near the top, but from there on down it has solid coverage that runs right into Sherman’s. There’s still top-to-bottom coverage on the main mountain via the usual Sherman’s route to Beech Seal, but it’s getting close to a gap near the middle of Beech Seal. So, I don’t think coverage on the main mountain will be continuous through next weekend with these reasonably warm temperatures in the forecast over the next few days, unless we get a substantial spring snowstorm down the road to cover up the bare areas.
On a whim, I put in a call to The Mad Taco Bolton to place an order when I was done with my tour. I figured they would be closed, since lift-service at the resort ended last weekend, but they were open! I talked with the associate for a while when I placed my order, and this was their last day of business for a few weeks while they do some remodeling, but they’ll be opening back up in May for the summer season. So, it looks like they’re planning to run year-round up in the Village supplying great Mexican food for the area!
Today I headed to Stowe to go for a tour on Spruce Peak, and again the weather was simply sunny and fabulous. I hadn’t been to the resort in a while since we didn’t have our school’s ski program this season due to COVID-19, so I poked around the Spruce Peak Village for a bit first. There’s a huge new building going up where the ski patrol building was at the base of the Sunny Spruce Quad, so that’s another substantial addition to the village area. I’m not sure what’s going to be going in there, or if it’s more lodging? As usual, the crowd of folks earning turns was in the MMSC lot, and I found about a dozen cars or so there and ran into Shalagh, who was there skiing with some of her friends. You almost can’t help but run into someone you know on these days.
All I can say is that Main Street delivered what were unquestionably the best turns of the weekend, and probably the best corn snow I’ve skied the entire spring season so far. I’m not sure what it is about Main Street, but year after year after year, it just seems to deliver superior corn snow. Maybe it’s because it faces south and really starts its corn snow cycling early, or maybe it’s because they blow that massive amount of dense snow for the racers, or maybe it’s because it gets so much less traffic than the trails on Mansfield. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these factors, but it just delivered ridiculously smooth, perfect peel-away corn snow turns when I was there.
In terms of the ascent route, Main Street is really the best option with respect to continuous coverage for skinning, but those steep pitches are rough. Despite the tough ascent, my legs felt great making Telemark turns on the way down. Everything just seemed to flow, and I’m sure a lot of it was the quality of the snow. The snowpack there seems quite deep, and it’s definitely worth more trips while that snow is around.
The weather over the past several days has been great, and I guess we sort of lose perspective in how we can often be battling marginal temperatures and cloud cover to even get these nice warm spring days in April. We’ll certainly take them when we can get them.
With this continued run of pleasant weather, I headed up to Bolton this afternoon to check out the spring snow and get in a few turns. I wanted to take a run on Hard Luck since I knew the snow there was fairly deep and probably just about continuous to make for a nice steep run. It’s funny, but Spillway, which is a usual the big spring holdout with snow in terms of steep terrain on the main mountain, isn’t really an option at this point. Mother Nature covered it up enough on her own this season that I guess the resort decided to save the money and skip the snowmaking there. Hard Luck did look good as I passed by on my way up Sherman’s Pass, but I was a little too tight on time to fit it in my tour, so I ended up skiing a moderate descent on Sherman’s and Bear Run.
It was a nice run, but I’ll have to see if I can get up for another trip to try out Hard Luck!
Today was Bolton Valley’s last scheduled day of lift-served skiing for the 2020-2021 season, so with some nice spring weather and a bit of time, I stopped up for some turns this afternoon.
Today we’ve definitely transitioned from the wintry, powder conditions of Friday and Saturday, back to spring snow conditions. On untouched terrain, the snow from our recent storm was a bit sticky, but on terrain that had seen skier traffic, I actually found some of the best corn snow of the season. I had good turns on Hard Luck and Beech Seal, and there seemed to be some additional trails opened up today after ski patrol had assessed the combination of new snow and softening that came together. I did traverse out to the Snowflake area to see what opportunities it held, and ended up taking Sprig O’ Pine back toward the main base – it had seen some grooming and seemed to offer the best turns.
In the parking lots, the warm weather meant that spring tailgating was in full effect, and folks seemed to be trying to practice their social distancing and stay with their specific groups. Around the base area, you could hear lots of conversations related to the final day of lift-served skiing, and I’m sure the employees are ready for a nice break after the extra stress of dealing with COVID-19 restrictions and precautions all winter.
We popped back up to the mountain for another sunny ski session at Timberline on Sunday, and the boys were both off work so they were able to join us. Temperatures were about 10 F warmer than Saturday, but I didn’t notice too much change in the variety of ski surfaces that we’d seen – the direct, west-facing trails were decent corn snow, but there were still some sticky spots on other aspects, and some firmer snow on terrain well out of the sun.
We sampled most of the available terrain off Timberline, and folks had some different favorite runs. E liked Twice as Nice the most, while I liked Spell Binder the best because it seemed to have seen less traffic and offered some of the smoothest corn snow surfaces below the headwall. All in all it was yet another great day of spring skiing though, topped off with a little takeout from Mad Taco Bolton for dinner.
It was a fantastic out there today for some spring skiing. E and I headed up for an afternoon session at Timberline with its classic western-facing afternoon sun.
The temperatures were quite pleasant, but despite the decent warmth with temperatures in the 40s to around 50 F, there were still different types of ski surfaces out there. Terrain right in the sun on the main part of Timberline was mostly good corn snow, but up around 2,500’ or so, snow that was not in the sun was still in a more frozen, winter-like state. In some lower elevation areas that were only partially in the sun, there were also some areas of mushy/sticky snow because it had not been cycled enough yet for complete corn.
I think we’re planning to head out for another afternoon session tomorrow – it’s supposed to be even warmer, and we should get another freeze-thaw cycle overnight, so that might change the dynamics of which areas have which types of snow surfaces.
Today was even a bit warmer than yesterday, with temperatures in the valley this afternoon topping out around 60 F. So, I decided to get in another round of exercise with a Bolton Valley ski tour.
The strip of snow just to the climber’s right of the Timberline Quad base station had broken up even a bit more than yesterday, but I still traversed the gap with skins to start my tour. To mix things up today, I headed up Timberline Run and over toward Brandywine for my ascent. That area is more shaded from the sun, but with the warmer temperatures I figured it might be softened up enough for some smooth turns.
“The slightly warmer temperatures today made the snow quality even better, so the trend has just been one of increasing snow quality of these last few sessions.”
The snow there was fine, but once I got back into the snow below the Timberline Quad near the top, I could see that the exposure to the sun had made the snow just so much better there. I couldn’t resist that snow, so I ultimately ended up descending via Showtime as we’ve done on the past couple of outings. The slightly warmer temperatures today made the snow quality even better, so the trend has just been one of increasing snow quality of these last few sessions.
It’s beginning to look more and more likely that we’re going to get a winter storm toward the end of the week with the possibility of substantial snow for the mountains, so hopefully we’ll be able to get back into some powder skiing. The spring skiing has been very nice, but a change of pace with powder skiing would of course be welcomed as well.
We had another nice day of weather today with some sun and temperatures in the 50s F, so I headed up to Bolton Valley for another ski tour at Timberline. The strip of snow just to the climber’s right of the Timberline Quad base station that we used for skinning during our ski tour on Saturday, was slightly broken up now with a small gap. It was just a few feet of dry grass in the break though, so I easily continued right across it, and coverage was great from there on up.
On Saturday, we stopped our tour at the Timberline Mid Station because it was our first outing in a little while and I figured it was good to take it easy, but today I headed right up to the Timberline Summit. The views were nice with some late day clouds to the west over Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks. The snow on Showtime was even a notch better than Saturday, I think thanks to a bit more sun to soften it up and create a smoother, more even surface today.
It looks like we’ll have more spring weather in the first part of this week before it becomes wintrier in the latter part of the week.