The skiing yesterday was capped off with some dinner, water park time, and then movie watching back in the room to make for a pretty full day. Some of us were up pretty late last night, so fortunately there was no pressing need to get up early this morning. E hadn’t been one of those up late, and she got to sleep in, so that combination was a good way to head into Mother’s Day. Aside from Ty roaming around a bit in the room, there was little activity this morning until a knock at the door signaled the arrival of the pastries and juice. We hung out in the room most of the morning until the Pump House Waterpark opened up, and then E and the boys headed off for one more water session while I took advantage of the quiet room to get some work done.
Once everyone was back from the water park, we checked out of the Tram Haus Lodge and headed over to Jay Peak’sStateside area for some skiing. The weather was a bit cooler today, and the air had definitely dried out as well. With a breeze at times it felt almost chilly, even though it was in the 60s F. Once we got over to Stateside, it took a little while to orient ourselves due to the massive changes that have taken place. The removal of the old Stateside Lodge and the addition of the new Stateside Hotel and Base Lodge as well as the Mountain Kids Adventure Center have transformed the area. We actually visited the new hotel during our Jay Peak trip in December to eat at Howie’s, but we came by shuttle and it was a dark, frigid, December night with snow and wind; there was no way we were seeing anything. We had to do a bit of walking up and around the hotel via the big staircase on the side, and found some skiers enjoying the deck area. Below that there’s a lot of landscaping in progress so there isn’t currently much in the way of convenient access to the slopes right above the lodge, but eventually we found our way over to the base of the Jet Triple Chair. It’s a couple-minute walk back and forth between the hotel and the base of the chair, but the pathway has crushed rock to mitigate potential issues with mud. We also found that there were a number of cars parked right at the base of the Jet Triple Chair; there appears to be a small parking lot there, and some folks had set up for tailgating festivities.
The options for skiing today at Stateside were The Jet and Haynes/Mont L’Entrepide as the steeper routes back down to the base of the Jet Triple Chair, and then another route down Montrealer and Angel’s Wiggle that would bring you right back to near the base of the Stateside Hotel. Snow on the steeper runs was decent, a little thick in spots and a little scratchy in others, but classic, soft spring snow overall. Dylan really fired up some wild skiing for the camera on one of our runs, and was having a blast catching air along the edge of The Jet. It was fun watching from the chair as everyone skied The Jet, and at first we didn’t see any Telemark skiers, but then we started to spot them and some of them were really rippin’ it up. E and I got in a great workout navigating the steep bumps with Telemark turns, and E was happy to get a chance to work on her turns on steeper terrain – she’s often frustrated if we head into steep trees when she’s on her Tele gear, and it’s just too much at once to really get in much practice, but today’s snow and pitch was nice, and she commented on having some great sections where the turns flowed. I found one of the most challenging spots was at the very top of The Jet, where the trail is a bit narrower because it’s constrained by the ropes closing off the top of the lift line so skier’s don’t collide with the chair. There are a couple of huge bump lines, but if you want to ski those while deviating from the obvious troughs, it’s tricky.
We finished a final run back down Montrealer and Angel’s Wiggle, which were a bit sloppier and softer when it came to the snow, so my legs were definitely cooked by the time we reached the bottom. I burned them as hard as I could holding Tele turns until that last stretch to the lodge. We poked around the Stateside Hotel for a bit until we found a drop box for our room keys/ski passes, and then headed out.
We stopped down in the Village of Jay for some food, and although it was mid afternoon, we were happy to find that the Jay Village Inn & Restaurant was serving all day. It’s great to have places like inns that are serving food all day, because even in Stowe we’ve had trouble finding mid afternoon options for dining. For those days when you finish up skiing in the mid afternoon, or don’t want to try waiting around until 5:00 P.M. to stop in for a bite, inns with restaurants seem to be just the ticket. The Whip at the Green Mountain Inn has come to the rescue for us a number of times in that regard. It was our first time at the Jay Village Inn & Restaurant, and it’s got a nice homey feel being a combination inn/restaurant. There’s a huge couch and table in one of the main dining rooms, and the boys were quickly sucked in and passing out while we were waiting for our order. We knew they weren’t likely to be awake in the car too long on the ride home. The food was great and the portions were huge, which is pretty much the general theme you’ll see if check out the reviews for the restaurant on tripadvisor®. I had the unique “Atlantic Sea Dog”, which turned out to be a piece of cod that was about a foot long, and shaped sort of like a hot dog, on a huge bun. I didn’t quite get the name before it came out, but it was all too obvious once I saw it!
After this weekend, it’s just Killington running their lifts for skiers in Vermont, and it will be interesting to see how long they’ll keep going. In an event, there’s still a lot of snow out there for earning turns.
It was already obvious from my outing on Thursday at Bolton Valley that the snow from Winter Storm Vulcan had fallen in a fairly dense state in this area. It hadn’t been warm during the storm, but snow growth just hadn’t been all that great around here, and the small flakes packed together to produce snow in the 10-11% H2O range. When combined with some wind, the snow had definitely been settled, and that was already evident even though I was skiing while the storm was still finishing up. And of course, snow generally just gets denser over time, so with temperatures predicted to be in the 30s F today, we weren’t expecting light and dry powder everywhere.
“…Vulcan dropped what was likely close to two inches of liquid equivalent in the mountains in the form of snow, so we knew that the mountain had received a full resurfacing.”
Although we weren’t expecting feathery, “Champagne Powder®” on the slopes today, Vulcan dropped what was likely close to two inches of liquid equivalent in the mountains in the form of snow, so we knew that the mountain had received a full resurfacing. That meant it was a perfect time to hit all the steep terrain that just hasn’t been well covered yet this season. Because we’re still waiting on Dylan’s physician to give him the go ahead for doing the most vigorous activities, such as skiing, Dylan and E planned to go swimming in the Bolton Valley Sports Center, while Ty and I planned to ski.
E dropped Ty and I off over at the base of Wilderness, and for me, it was quite a treat to get the chauffeur service that the rest of the family usually has. We found out that the Wilderness Double Chair was still on wind hold though, so we headed up to the Vista Quad for a run. Our first stop on the steep terrain tour was the Preacher Woods. The coverage there is definitely sufficient now, even up in the big open areas with multiple ledges. There are still some aspects of the ledges that one needs to dodge here and there, but when the terrain is small cliffs, that’s often the way it’s going to be. The snow was packed, and the untracked powder was sort of thick and dense, but the skiing up there was really pretty decent. There just wasn’t any fluff factor to speak of, so things felt very “settled”. It was really just fun to take virtually any line and not worry about coverage around the next corner; we’ve been waiting for a while to get to that stage this season. Our run brought us down through the Cobrass Woods, and then Deer Path, and finally the Bear Run Woods. The lower half of the mountain had warmer temperatures and snow that was somewhat wet, so that made it a bit more challenging. I’d brought my fat skis, and while I liked them a lot in the dense powder and chowder up high, I was less than thrilled with them on the more packed snow in the lower elevations.
When we arrived back at the base, we found a big lift queue at the Vista Quad, and a similar queue at the Snowflake Chair. The Wilderness Chair was still on wind hold, so we decided to go for a run off the Mid Mountain Lift to get ourselves over to Timberline. We used Deer Run to get there, and Ty had an excellent crash in some of the powder that appeared to be to the amusement of some of the little kids in one of the ski programs. As we headed lower and lower in elevation over toward Timberline, the snow got wetter and wetter, and we could tell that it was really getting warm down in those lowest elevations. We encountered a huge queue at Timberline, probably because of other people that had left the main mountain to find shorter lift queues, but after seeing the drop in snow quality down low, I bet many of them headed back to the relative cool of the main mountain. I took Ty down the steep terrain of Lost Girlz, followed by Thundergoat Pass. We generally skipped the untracked powder down at Timberline, as it was just getting too dense and challenging. The partially tracked up snow was much easier to ski.
We made our way back to the main mountain after that, and finding that Wilderness still wasn’t open and there were substantial queues at the other lifts, we decided it was time for lunch. I called down to E and Dylan, and we met them for lunch at the Deli. I suspected that with all the patrons the resort had today, the lodge would be quite packed, and even the usually very quiet deli was hopping, so it was definitely a busy one out there. I actually think it’s interesting that so many people would come out after President’s Day, but Vulcan was a big storm and it caught a lot of people’s attention. After lunch, Ty headed down for some swimming with E and Dylan, and I contemplated another run or two. Finding the lift queues still fairly substantial, I decided to just call it a day. The skiing certainly wasn’t phenomenal enough that it warranted waiting in lift queues, especially since the snowfall was picking up and the possibilities for tomorrow were looking decent with cooler temperatures. I toured around the Village a bit and got some pictures, returned the pizza pans that Fireside Flatbread had lent us when we ordered pizza last Saturday, and finally worked my way down to the Sports Center. I worked on a jigsaw puzzle that was out in the recreation room while I waited for the others to finish swimming, and when they arrived, the battle was joined in a game of foosball. I forget how much fun stuff there is to do down at the Sports Center – we don’t visit to often because we’re usually headed home after skiing, but we’ll have to remember that there’s a lot more than just swimming.
Stick season can be a tough time to get out for exercise; there are often those cold, dreary days in the 30s or 40s F that don’t really inspire one to jump on the bike or into the kayak. Instead of hitting the trail, it’s much easier to hunker down at home in the warmth. Fortunately in Northern New England, when the weather reaches such a cold and dreary level, there’s often fresh snow falling in the mountains. That wasn’t the case this weekend though, as the current storm affecting that area is fairly warm, and the precipitation isn’t expected to change over to snow until tomorrow night. With the weather at hand, there wasn’t much calling us out onto the slopes. However, since Stowe prepared some of their terrain and ran the Fourrunner Quad for season’s pass appreciation day yesterday, it meant that there would be some rather unutilized groomed snow out there today. That realization hadn’t even occurred to me until late morning when I was thinking about what we might do to get in some outdoor activity today. I brought up the idea to E and the boys, and once the house and homework were generally in order, we decided that we could spend a couple of hours getting in some turns.
“What I encountered was an inch or two of dense powder, it had seen some contamination by manmade snow, but that was enough to keep me riding on a smooth, supportive base.”
We headed out in the mid afternoon under cloudy skies and occasional spits of drizzle, finding temperatures in the mid 40s F in the mountain valleys. We’ve only got a couple patches of snow left at the house, and in general there’s really nothing to speak of for snow up the Mountain Road until you get around the 900-1,000 foot elevation. From there the snow builds until there’s decent cover at 1,200’ and above, but south-facing areas exposed to heavy sun are still partially melted out even up at those elevations. We parked at 1,500’ near the Mansfield Base Lodge, where, we saw a few other vehicles and one skier just starting to skin up toward the quad on their ascent. Temperatures were in the low 40s F and the snowpack looked quite respectable – there was a consistent covering of several inches or more, and the consolidated snow was only slightly softened by the above freezing temperatures. In fact, we were thinking it would have been nicer if it was softened even more with regard to making turns.
We skinned up to the base of the Fourrunner Quad and continued past it toward the bottom of Lower North Slope, which with its prodigious manmade snow was the obvious route that every other skier we saw was taking. There was really no skin track, nor was there need for one – the whole expanse of the slope was essentially a smooth mass of consolidated snow that you could walk through like a giant field of white. We spread out and often walked side by side, enjoying what was definitely a leisurely pace. We really didn’t have any goal for the ascent, we figured we’d just go as far as the quality of the snow and the availability of daylight suggested. We stopped for a quick break at the intersection with Crossover (~1,850’) – we were just starting to enter the clouds at that point and combined with the late afternoon light, visibility was very low. We continued on up Crossover to where it met Standard at around 2,000’ and decided to end the ascent there.
“I’ve been quite impressed with their sushi so far, and it was great again tonight.”
For the descent, we began our way down Crossover, finding the snow pretty much as we expected based on what we’d felt beneath our feet on the ascent and heard from the descents of other skiers. It was soft enough to get a nice bite with the edges, but not as soft as you’d really like it to be for spring skiing. Temperatures around 40 F just weren’t enough to get it to soften that far. Crossover has some irregularities in the surface from snowcat, snowmobile, and skier traffic, so it also wasn’t as smooth as if it had been freshly groomed. The snow had enough issues that it had me looking elsewhere, such as the natural snow on Lower Lord that I’d seen on my way up. As Powderfreak mentioned with regard to yesterday’s opening at the resort, even some natural terrain trails were open, and there was clearly enough coverage even down below the 2,000’ level to make that a reality. I decided to make a few turns down Lower Lord, just to check it out, and then I could shuffle back up to Crossover if the skiing was horrible. Well, those first few turns had me sold. What I encountered was an inch or two of dense powder, it had seen some contamination by manmade snow, but that was enough to keep me riding on a smooth, supportive base. I told E and the boys to dive in and check it out, and if they didn’t like it we could head back up. Everyone enjoyed the snow – the only thing was the after a few more turns, the extra density that had been imparted by the manmade snow disappeared. The powder became much wetter and the base less supportive. We made a few more turns before deciding to cut through the trees onto Lower North Slope because it was just going to be too difficult for the boys to be trying Telemark turns in that challenging snow. Snow depths were certainly sufficient on the natural terrain; Dylan and I both checked the snow depths and found 7-10 inches in that 1,800-2,000’ elevation range. It was a tough call switching over to the groomed snow though, I could have gone either way personally – it was a choice between slightly too firm manmade, or slightly too soft natural snow. Lower North Slope ended up delivering some decent turns, and the boys got to make some Telemark turns on the more supportive surfaces. There was still plenty of uneven terrain since the snow hadn’t seen a re-grooming, but it was smooth enough for some good flowing turns.
Rain was starting to pick up as we returned to the car, and we quickly put the skis on the rack and tossed the rest of the gear in the back to get out of the rain and on our way. With the temperature around 40 F, it was certainly a raw rain as well. This outing was decent, but we’re certainly watching the forecast for the potential to get back into the powder by next weekend. The computer models suggest that the possibility of snow is out there, but they’re definitely not all in agreement yet so we’ll have to wait a few more cycles to see where things settle out. More cold air is definitely on the horizon though.
We stopped off to grab some take-out from Sushi Yoshi on the Mountain Road, they’ve only been there a few months, and this will be their first ski season. While ordering, I was talking to the hostess about the anticipation of the business during the ski season, and she said that they’re actually planning on running their own shuttle bus to allow people to go to and from the restaurant without having to worry about driving. It will be interesting to see how people like that feature, but in any event, I expect business will be picking up greatly in the next few weeks as visitors start to hit the resort. I’ve been quite impressed with their sushi so far, and it was great again tonight. We also got some of their hot dishes tonight as well, and they were fine, although they didn’t seem to stand out the way the sushi has. They also have hibachi-style dining options as well, so one of these days we’ll have to bring the boys and try that out. I’ll definitely be getting more sushi though whenever I go, from what I’ve experienced I think they’ll be getting plenty of patronage from sushi lovers this ski season.
E has been at a teacher’s conference in Boston for the past couple of days, and with the boys on spring break, I’ve been mostly out of the office to watch them. With the recent snow we’ve had, today was an obvious day for us to get out for some skiing, but based on my experience with the snow quality on Mt. Mansfield on Tuesday, skinning for turns wasn’t going to cut it with the boys. Depending on elevation, the dense Sierra Cement-style snow had been quite challenging to ski, and in order to get to the best snow, one really has to make the long trek above the 2,500’ – 3,000’ elevation range. That’s a big ascent to ask of the boys, only to deliver challenging snow conditions that would probably frustrate them anyway, so lift-served skiing with the potential for some groomed runs seemed to be the way to go. Killington and Jay Peak were running lifts today, and since both were reporting about a foot and a half of new snow, deciding between them was a toss-up in that regard. I decided on Jay Peak, being a touch closer and hopefully a touch colder; I was also hoping to check out all the expansion that has gone on at the resort since my last visit.
Even with all the snow that the mountains have received over the past few days, there’s literally no snow in the lower valleys, and it wasn’t until fairly high elevations along Route 118 south of Montgomery that we saw any snow along the road during our trip to Jay Peak. What we saw were just a couple of old north-facing snowbanks along the side of the road, but snow cover did build steadily once we got up high enough up on Route 242, and it carried through right to the base of the resort. We parked on the tram side, and the changes in the area’s development were obvious. The last time I’d visited Jay Peak was during the Mother’s Day snowstorm in 2010, and while the Tram Haus Lodge was there and we got to eat at Alice’s Table, the new Hotel Jay and the massive Pump House Indoor Water Park were not. I could see that the new Hotel Jay was quite a step up in size from the old one, and while I couldn’t see any sign of the water park that everyone has been talking about, I figured we’d have some time for exploring the area after we gotten in some skiing.
The weather in the late morning was a mixture of clouds and blue sky, and we were presented with some impressive views of the snowy slopes. I’m not sure what the slopes had looked like before the storm, but they were totally covered today. I’d told the boys about the tram, and let them know that while it was closed for the season for skiing, they’d at least get to have a look at it. The tram was in action though, apparently running in association with some maintenance, and the boys just had to watch it dock at the Tramside Base Lodge. We booted up inside the lodge, and there was literally nobody there but employees. We could see that there were about a dozen ski bags hung in various spots along the walls, but it was obvious that we weren’t going to see too many others out on the slopes. It’s easy to see how dicey the prospects for making a profit must be on these midweek days in April, but we were thankful that the mountain was open and they were definitely getting our business. Tickets were reasonable at $45 for me and $25 apiece for the boys, and from what I’d heard, they had about two thirds of their terrain open. The resort now employs an RFID ticket system like we’re used to using at Stowe. In fact, when we bought our tickets, the associate recommended removing our StoweRFID passes just in case they interfered with the signal on our Jay Peak tickets.
We kicked things off with a ride on the Flyer Express Quad, which whisked us right up toward the peak. We did see some skiers down below us on Exhibition, and the snow looked fantastic. Coverage was deep and soft thanks to the storm, so the only concern was whether or not the snow was sticky; unfortunately it’s not easy to tell that from just watching a skier make turns, since you can’t see the subtle corrections being made by their muscles as they adjust their balance, but the folks we saw sure seemed to be enjoying themselves as they silently cut arcs into the groomed snow. The air temperature was definitely cooler when we reached the summit of the Flyer, and we found that the snow itself was actually pretty cold and wintry. It was very dense like one would expect, and in untracked areas you only sunk into the snow an inch or two, so it certainly wasn’t mush. In fact, the mountain had a sign up about how the off piste snow was going to be difficult for the first part of the day until the temperatures warmed up a bit, since areas that had seen skier traffic were going to have relatively stiff, uneven snow surfaces.
On our first decent we set off alongside the lift on Northway, and the snow was indeed in good shape – it was somewhere between winter and spring in consistency, but stickiness wasn’t an issue. We worked our way back toward the lift line of the quad on Upper Goat Run, which was our first taste of something steeper. The snow was holding up well in consistency, even as we descended in elevation. As we merged back toward the lift line, Dylan seemed hesitant for us to drop into the steepest terrain because ski patrol had placed some poles at the top of the “slow skiing area”, but it was just serving as the warning about speed control, and there were no coverage issues. You could just sink your edges in and let the skis ride. We’d soon reached the top pitch of Upper Exhibition, something we’d seen from the lift that was steep, groomed, and looked like it was a lot of fun for the skiers that were on it. We opted to save it for after a little more warming up, and instead veered to the right down Upper Goat Run and over toward Lower River Quai. Lower River Quai is actually a bit steep, and while there, we met a family that was picking their way down it. The snow was starting to get a little tricky at that elevation, and by the time we hit the Interstate trail below, the snow had indeed taken on that stickiness that made it a challenge. I was excited about the conditions though, our sampling of the terrain suggested that we’d only have to deal with sticky snow in the low elevation runout trails, and if that was the case then we were in for some great runs.
The boys had been quite intrigued by the resort’s covered magic carpet lift, and since it was running, they just had to check it out. It feels a bit like one of those informational rides at a theme park, or maybe like the Light Tunnel in the McNamara Terminal of the Detroit Metro Airport, without the lights. Stowe has a small cover that they place over their magic carpet at night to keep off the snow; it’s only a couple feet high and the boys got a kick out of imagining what it would be like to ride with that in place. Having a full cover probably means less hassle dealing with snowfall during storms. We immediately headed to the Flyer again, and took a similar descent route with the change to Upper Exhibition this time. Exhibition delivered some nice steep turns, and was above the elevation of the sticky snow issues, but of course the flats of Harmony Lane were a slow return to the base.
With all the new snow, the mountain did indeed have quite a bit of its terrain open, so I definitely wanted to get the boys out for some farther-reaching explorations over toward the Stateside area. From the top of the Flyer we followed the usual Northway Route, and on the way noticed a skier come down from one of the untracked trails above us. He was skiing some of the dense powder up there, and although he only sunk into the snow a few inches, it looked pretty fun. We’d been playing around in the powder off to the sides of the trails a bit, but with it still being somewhat dense and stiff, you really wanted some reasonably large untracked areas to have the best experience. We were eventually lured off Northway to our right, into some terrain in the Catwalk area that hadn’t been groomed; the snow was decent, so we just sort of kept going. We found ourselves above some steep tree lines there, and I was leery of the snow conditions, but Ty really wanted to jump in… so we did. The lines were generally tracked, and we were low enough in elevation that the compaction of the snow was probably for the best, as the untracked snow was getting wet and difficult to ski. Ty and Dylan ripped up the lines though, and we found ourselves continuing on non-groomed terrain all the way to Stateside. There seemed to be just enough snow to cover the natural terrain down to the base with a couple of careful water bar navigations. That last part was a lot of fun, as I knew our general location, but had no clue of exact where we were until we popped out at the base of the Jet Triple Chair. I’ve got a reasonably good knowledge of Jay Peak, and there was definitely enough semi-obscure terrain open to keep us exploring.
The weather had continued to be a mix of clouds and sun through midday, and all around us we’d continually see these huge billowing cumulus clouds that made if feel like spring or summer. At times, we’d be able to watch snow crash out of these clouds atop various surrounding peaks. This was going on all over the place, but we had some gorgeous views of it from the summit of the Jet Triple Chair, and of course being Jay Peak, we knew that it was only a matter of time before we were going to get blasted with snow. The Jet trail itself looked really enticing, so we hit that up, and indeed the carving was fantastic. We watched a really accomplished Telemark skier crank some amazing turns down The Jet, and he seemed to be doing lap after lap. He really liked the boys’ alpine skiing though, and made a comment to me about them. If they can get their Telemark turns to be half as graceful as that guy, they’ll be well on their way to some great Telemark skiing. They had a lot of fun with the turns on The Jet, but probably just as much fun with the snowballs they were carrying and tossing at each other. Because the snow was so good, I wasn’t sure that we wanted to pull away after just one run on The Jet, but I knew the boys were soon going to request a mid afternoon snack, so we started to work our way back toward the tram side. We found ourselves in the same Catwalk trees that we’d hit on the way over, so we skied those again. After a few more pitches, the rest of the trip back was rather flat and sticky though, so I’d often help Dylan along with some pushes to keep him up at Ty’s pace.
I’d hoped to introduce the boys to some poutine in the lodge, but the cafeteria had already closed; apparently they were only keeping it open for the immediate lunchtime period on weekdays. Fortunately we’d brought a collection of our own food, and it was enough to hold us until dinner. It was still quite quiet in the lodge, but a few skiers were around, those that had apparently skied the morning and were calling it a day.
When we headed back out onto the slopes, we gave Dylan the choice of lift and descent route, and he decided on the Metro Quad. Both Ty and I told him that it only serviced the bottom flat area of the mountain (which had the stickiest snow) but he was keen on giving it a try, and it would mean we’d ridden every open lift on the mountain. The partly sunny conditions of the morning had been gradually giving way to a few more clouds, and this was actually cooling the air down enough to let the stickier snow tighten up a bit. It was a subtle change, but definitely there, and much appreciated when we were in the lower elevations.
Clouds continued to build as we made another lap on Exhibition and enjoyed the good snow, and meanwhile, the skies began to darken around us with the promise of snowfall. During the day we’d already encountered various snow showers on the mountain; we’d seen rounds of regular snow, graupel, and even these pyramidal-shaped (or miniature Hershey’s kisses as Dylan described them) flakes falling from the sky. Our next ride on the Flyer was when things really started to get exciting though. On our previous ascent we’ seen heavy precipitation in the peaks just off to our north like Jay Peak West, Middle Jay and North Jay Peak. Those peaks had soon disappeared in a maelstrom of white, and that snow clearly seemed to be building in our direction. A few minutes later it moved in on us, and it meant business. The snowfall was so intense that at a couple of points we could see a wall of flakes in front of us, and we had only a few moments to batten down the hatches (i.e. hoods and parka collars) before the lift carried us right into it. We got hit with some very heavy snowfall comprised of huge, wet snowflakes . The gargantuan flakes were at times falling so intensely that they rapidly accumulated on our goggles to the point that we could barely see, and we had to keep wiping them off almost continuously during the height of the squall; I’d say we picked up about a half inch of snow in just 10-15 minutes in that episode. The clouds and precipitation associated with that blast of snow even gave an additional shot of cooling to the air. The huge flakes also put down a fresh, stippled coating of snow on everything that was very picturesque. That whole squall cycle was a fun experience, and the same thing appeared to be going on throughout the high peaks of the Northern Greens, because Powderfreak sent in a very cool report to the American Weather Forum entitled “Photos of the passing of a convective snow squall”, in which he documented the whole progression of one of these convective snowstorms today from Stowe. He photographed the scene on Mt. Mansfield from blue skies with white, billowy cumulous clouds, to dark clouds building in, to getting hit hard with massive snowflakes, just like us. The report was very nicely done with the usual quality pictures that Powderfreak produces, and folks on the weather board seemed to enjoy it a lot.
The boys started picking areas of the mountain that they wanted to explore, and one area that we’d not yet visited was the slot between Exhibition and Northway. We eventually found ourselves approaching to top of Upper Can Am, and I was definitely concerned about what we’d find down there. I was expecting deep snow that hadn’t seen any grooming, and indeed that’s just what we found. Dylan definitely had some trepidation about dropping in, but Ty was so eager that his enthusiasm won out. There had been some skier traffic since the storm, so we found 16” of partially tracked, dense snow. Ty was flying down like a madman, but Dylan was struggling, and started to get upset because he seemed to be falling every time he made a few turns. We gave him some reassurance, and I let him know that I was battling the slope on Telemark gear, so he could definitely do it on alpine gear. As before, the fact that there had been some skier traffic was good, because the bottomless cement was the most difficult part to ski, and the partially compacted areas were better. Dylan eventually got himself into a better rhythm, and soon I found that both boys has already descended through the steepest terrain and were waiting for me. As difficult as the turns were on my Teles, the challenge was worth it. We had all this steep terrain to ourselves that had just seen a major resurfacing with 2+ inches of liquid equivalent. Coverage wasn’t an issue, and if you got your groove going you could just let the turns fall away. There was definitely a part of me that wanted to have my alpine fat skis to really crank things up, but it was a heck of a lot of fun convincing the Teles to do their job.
The traverse back to the tram base was still somewhat slow and sticky, so any cooling of the air hadn’t helped out down that low. The boys amused themselves with another ride on the magic carpet, and then we thought about finishing out the day. The snow up top was so good that we couldn’t pull away without at least one more run, even though the boys were getting anxious for some après ski food (which they knew was going to be pizza). I convinced them that we needed to do at least one more run, and said that we’d check out something new.
I wasn’t sure exactly what that something new was going to be, but we got ourselves to the big intersection below Upper Goat Run and had to make a choice. The top of Green Mountain Boys was in view, and it was only then that I realized just how good it looked. It had been groomed, and then it had seen some traffic, but it looked smooth, soft, and fast. I had the boys read the trail sign at the top of the stack… “Green… Mountain… Boys”, Ty said at a reading pace. The boys were excited to try it out, and I got a picture of them pointing to the sign with their poles. The different generations of intermediate trail signs left Dylan intrigued by the fact that Green Mountain Boys seemed to be not a blue square trail, but a purple square trail. He started to discuss what that might mean before I eventually suggested that it was likely just a different shade of blue from a different batch of signs. The boys didn’t want to wait around long though; they wanted to get at it, and quickly dropped in. Within moments they both moved into big, fast, swooping arcs down the trail, because they immediately felt how perfect the surface conditions were, and they knew that their edges were going to hold whatever g-forces were thrown at them. It was deep snow that had been freshly groomed and softened to perfection for carving, and matched with the fairly steep terrain, it was just beautiful. Dylan was especially invigorated by how fast he could go – when he’d make his big, fast arcs, he said it was his “gliding” technique. The end result was that they flew down the trail in a state at high speed, somewhere shy of reckless abandon, and I had my work cut out for me keeping up. Indeed they skied it like you’d expect from a couple of Green Mountain Boys, and I suspect Ethan and Ira Allen would have agreed.
I hadn’t held out much hope for interest another run, since the boys had already had pizza on their minds before the last one, but something about the experience that Green Mountain Boys had offered them lit a fire under their ski enthusiasm. When I said that we had time for another, and that we could do Green Mountain Boys again, they jumped at the opportunity. If the skiing can pull Dylan back to the slopes and away from potential pizza, you know it’s got to be good. The descent was just like the previous run, and whether it was the extra round of cooling from our earlier snow squall, or just the correct timing of the day, something had left the trail in a state that really impressed the boys. Had the lifts still been running, I think I could have kept them going, and at that stage of the day that’s not easy to do. To say that they finished the day on the highest of notes would still be an understatement.
The boys’ transcendent vibe continued as we headed into the lodge and changed out of our gear. The lodge was essentially deserted at that point, so they had the run of the place. Once they’d taken off their ski boots, they played hide and seek upstairs and downstairs in the various nooks and crannies of the Tramside Base Lodge, while I packed up the rest of the gear. We dropped everything off at the car and then went to check out Mountain Dick’s Pizza on the ground level of the new Hotel Jay. It’s got one of those modern, part wood, part metallic decors, along with some funky accessories like coat racks made of wooden spoons, and it seats about 30 to 40 people. I ordered a pie for each of us (to ensure that there would be plenty of leftovers of course, since Mom was out of town) and the boys picked out some funky looking drinks from the cooler. The pizza is good; I wouldn’t put it up quite at the level of Jimmz Pizza in Waterbury Center, but we all liked it and everyone ate their fill.
While we’d waited for our pizza to come out, I searched around and discovered that Mountain Dick’s is connected right to the interior of the hotel; eventually I realized that some of the people we’d seen picking up pizza had called from their hotel rooms. When we’d finished up our meal and boxed up our extra slices, we decided to head right through the hotel so that the boys could show me the water park. We wound our way through some halls, headed up an elevator, and came out at an elevated area at the water park entrance, overlooking all the features. It was even bigger than what I’d surmised based on all the pictures I’d seen, and the boys gave me a quick visual tour from the overlook, and they were quickly spotted by their schoolmate Connor, who was there with his family. We all got to chat a bit and catch up on the day as we headed back to our cars. While E and the boys have already been to the Pump House, it’s definitely on my list to join them next time as I’m sure we’ll have a blast.
I’ve got to say it was really nice being back at Jay Peak, having not been to the mountain for a couple of seasons. With so many great ski areas like Bolton Valley, Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch, Sugarbush, and Mad River Glen notably closer to our location in Waterbury, we don’t frequent Jay Peak all that much right now. Along with the slightly longer distance though, there are also some aspects of Jay Peak that knock it down on my list: the cold, the wind, some of the long flat areas on the Tram Side, and the way the glades and trees can get tracked out (and indeed even bumped up) so quickly (relative to what I’ve experienced at places like Bolton Valley and Sugarbush where lines can sit untracked for days after a storm). Jay Peak has always touted its glades, so of course people go there for that type of skiing and those areas get a lot of traffic. I love Jay Peak’s snowfall of course, but after scrutinizing and documenting the snowfall patterns in Northern Vermont’s mountains very carefully over the past several seasons since we’ve been back from Montana, I’ve noticed how marginal the difference is between the snowfall at Jay Peak and that at Mt. Mansfield. I think the weather patterns over the past few seasons have exacerbated that, as they really haven’t favored Jay Peak as much as they have traditionally, but I’ve paid more attention to just how much snow Mt. Mansfield gets, and it’s impressive.
The above is really just nitpicking for the sake of comparison though, because Jay Peak is a fantastic resort that offers some excellent terrain and amazing powder – there are numerous resorts even out in the Western U.S. that would probably love to receive the amount of snowfall that Jay Peak gets. And, the whole Jay Peak experience seems to be getting better with the developments going on around the resort, at least based on what we saw on this trip. While the host of resort enhancements that have been added at Jay Peak over the past few seasons may be a turn off to some hard core skiers, they are definitely a plus in my book; not from just the family perspective, but a personal perspective as well. The developments are things that if anything will lure us up there more. One aspect is simply knowing that the resort will be active year-round, and that whenever we go we can anticipate that some dining options will be available. In the days leading up to our trip, I knew about the upcoming spring snowstorm and was very close to getting a package of a room along with ski and water park tickets. I didn’t quite find the level of discount I was looking for this time, especially since the pricing per person wasn’t as efficient without Mom along, but it was absolutely a factor luring us toward the resort. They had a really good ski and stay package going at the Tram Haus Lodge a couple of seasons back, and I’m sure that there will be some similar April deals out there in the future, since it can be a slow time of year for skiing. We’re certainly excited to check out all the new terrain when the resort expands into the West Bowl area with lift service; the feel of the mountain is really going to be different when that happens, and I’m eager to see what it’s like. Perhaps it will spread out the visitors and keep the glades and trees from getting tracked out so quickly. The sidecountry, backcountry, and in-bounds opportunities that would be provided by the new trails and lifts look really impressive. Now that the boys are older and day-ticket style skiing is becoming more practical, Jay Peak will certainly be high on our list for visits, especially if they keep staying open longer than other resorts in the state.
Temperatures have been fairly seasonable over the past week, with a couple rounds of light snow in the mountains to produce some small powder days on Monday and Friday. Today dawned sort of gray with a snowstorm passing to our south, but the clouds gradually dissipated, the temperatures rose to around 50 F at the house, and we decided to head off to Stowe for some afternoon runs. We’d been eyeing the forecast in the morning and it had seemed really iffy in terms of getting warm enough to soften the slopes, but eventually it became obvious that even the mountains were going to get there.
En route to the resort we caught some views of Mt. Mansfield, and you could still see the signs of yesterday’s snow in the alpine. Indeed, even in some shady spots down below 1,000’ in elevation, vestiges of the recent snow were still hanging around. We opted for the Mansfield Base Lodge again as we’d done last Sunday, but the parking lot was nothing like what we’d seen then; it was obvious that it was a Saturday and the weather was nice, because the main lot was packed. Temperatures were in the 40s F, and the sun was out, so folks were all around the mountain and parking lots having a good time.
We worked with the boys on their Telemark Skiing using the same Ridge View/Sunrise/Tyro/Crossover combination that we’d skied last weekend. With the beautiful weather, the skier traffic was much higher today than what we’d encountered on Sunday, and that changed a couple of things. The terrain got a little more bumped up, which gave the boys some opportunities to try some Telemark turns through the moguls. Dialing in Telemark turns through the moguls requires quick footwork and good transitions, but the boys are at least getting to the stage in their progression that they can piece together some good segments. Dylan had a fall at one point that actually cracked his goggles a bit, so it looks like he’ll be able to get some fancy new ones like his brother. We even discovered that yesterday’s powder was around in areas off the edges of the trails. It had often thickened (and become good for building snowballs as we tested) but it was pretty nice in spots and it was refreshing to get a few floaty turns.
The downside of the nice weather was the increase in skier traffic to Stowe-like levels, which was unfortunately exacerbated by the reduced terrain options. Even sticking to the moderately-pitched routes, there were way too many people skiing way too fast for comfort. Ty and Dylan are definitely well into that intermediate stage with their Telemark turns, and while the terrain was perfect for them, the number of people straight-lining the slopes is really incompatible with kids trying to work on the larger radius turns that are common at their stage of learning. We had a few close calls, but fortunately no collisions.
Eventually the Quad shut down for the day and we had to call it an afternoon. Back in the Mansfield Base Lodge we got to listen to the après ski band they had playing. It’s been kind of nice visiting the scene there; it’s really the old school alternative to the Spruce Camp Base Lodge. On the way home we checked in at some of the ski shops on the Mountain Road for a new pair of goggles for Dylan, and stopped for dinner at the Crop Bistro & Brewery, which is the new restaurant where The Shed used to be located. The caliber of the food appears to be a bump up from The Shed’s offerings, and not surprisingly, the prices have increased to match. As anyone who has been up the mountain road in the past several months has seen, the exterior of the building has been changed from the red of The Shed to a more yellowish color, and the interior has been all redesigned as well. They’ve gone with that “contemporary rustic” style, and have included several impressive (and large) photographs of the Vermont countryside from one of the local photographers. The overall feel of the Crop actually reminds me a lot of the Farmhouse Tap & Grill in Burlington, featuring high-quality food that is locally sourced as much as possible and really showcases what the local agriculture has to offer.
I had an amazing pasta special with nuts, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, and a spectacular sauce. E had a cheeseburger, which was accompanied by some of their homemade sauces, and we all shared an appetizer of bread, honey, nuts, and an assortment of local Vermont cheeses. The boys got the grilled cheese, which was made with Cabot Cheddar. Price wise, the Crop doesn’t seem like it’s quite going to be the place that The Shed was for popping in for meals off the bike path, but the locavore approach is nice to see, and the food we had was really good, so it’s a nice addition to the dining options in Stowe.
Stowe is planning to make tomorrow their last day running the lifts, and it seems to be mostly due to the lack of interest from skiers. There’s supposed to be some additional snow coming in later in the day tomorrow, but we’ll have to see what the clouds and potentially cooler temperatures do to the snow surfaces, and whether it’s worth heading out for the resort’s last lift-served day this season.