This was really a good day not to ski, since our recent warm spell came to an end last night and tightened up all the snow on the slopes. Many families are actually out of town because of winter break, but our BJAMS ski program was still on, so we headed to Stowe in the afternoon. We weren’t in any rush based on the anticipated conditions, so the boys and I had a good lunch up at the Great Room Grill before our session began.
The only redeeming aspect of the conditions that we found today was the couple of inches of dense new snow that fell on the back side of Winter Storm Quid. Areas with the new snow were actually pretty nice as Powderfreak showed in his pictures from this morning. I actually found some areas with even deeper accumulations than just a couple of inches, and turns were actually quite good with the density of the snow, but we didn’t spend too much time hunting down those areas with the best conditions. We joined up with another group today and just did some runs off Sunny Spruce to at least see what the main runs had to offer.
With the general conditions the way there were, the guys in my group were pretty much done after about an hour or so, and we headed to the s’mores area for a while, then up to the Great Room to hang out. Dylan brought his playing cards, and we got in a good session with various games, and of course some card tricks thrown in by Norris. The guys definitely enjoyed the indoor session, so we’ll keep it in mind the next time conditions are somewhat lackluster on the slopes.
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.
For the first time in a while, none of the family had anything else on their agenda, so we were all free to ski together today. Winter Storm Pluto wound down on Thursday night, which meant that unfortunately the resorts would have been pretty tracked up after all of Friday’s visitors. Based on my Friday morning tour at Bolton Valley though, I knew the powder from upslope portion of Pluto was really good, so that had me thinking a backcountry session was the call (not to mention it’s a holiday weekend for the resorts). But where to go? We’ve basically hit the point where lines are viable essentially all the way down into the mountain valleys, at least on the east side of the Greens, so basically everything there is on the table. The west side in general did well with Winter Storm Pluto, bit even with that boost, the base there is still lagging well behind the east side. With temperatures expected to head above freezing by midday, I was looking for a protected area with some north-facing lines, and ultimately decided on Lincoln Gap. Ty and I had visited Lincoln Gap back in February of 2015, and I was simply in awe of the massive acreage filled with steep open lines through the hardwoods. This was our chance to show the area to E and Dylan.
Knowing that we had only until around midday before temperatures might be a concern with respect to the quality of the powder, we got a relatively early morning start. We were heading out into a gorgeous day with temperatures in the mid-20s F as we passed through the Mad River Valley. One thing that stuck me during our drive was that in the bottom of the Mad River Valley there only seemed to be about half the amount of snow on the ground relative to what we’ve got at our house, so I’m guessing the valley itself didn’t make out quite as well in the recent storms as we did farther north. As usual, snowpack certainly wasn’t an issue as we headed up to closure area on Lincoln Gap Road.
When Ty and I were last at Lincoln Gap to ski, we headed to the south side of the gap road, where there are a lot of popular north-facing lines. I was hoping to try something on the north side of the road this time – the terrain looks a little bit mellower for those getting their Tele legs. With the sun out and temperatures rising though, I didn’t dare risk sticking around on those southerly-facing areas, so we ultimately decided to once again use the route to the popular north-facing terrain that Ty and I had used last time. Once we got to the base of the main terrain area, I decided to alter our ascent from what Ty and I had done. There’s a nice skin track that follows the forest road and wraps beneath some of the terrain, and while it’s got a nice gentle grade, it’s quite circuitous. With concern for the warming temperatures, my plan was to instead just break a skin track right up the main north face. It was extra work, but we were able to direct ourselves right toward areas that looked good. And boy was there a lot of terrain that looked good, really good. I’d actually forgotten what a gold mine of ski terrain the whole Lincoln Gap area is, but I was quickly reminded and spent a lot of time gawking at amazing lines as I broke trail for the skin track.
We’d covered about half the potential vertical on that north face before I decided that we’d get a good run, and we’d hopefully outrun the warming temperatures. As for the snow, my probes during the ascent generally revealed about 18 inches of powder over the subsurface. I can’t say exactly which storms the powder should be attributed to, but it was looking great. There wasn’t a single track in the various gullies and spines that we’d surveyed on our ascent, so we had the pick of whatever lines we wanted. Everyone struggled at least a bit with their Telemark turns in the deep powder, but very, or at least moderately-fat skis were certainly helping. Temperatures were pushing past the freezing mark as we finished our descent, so it was really comfortable out there. The snow wasn’t quite as outrageously deep and light as the time that Ty and I went to the area by ourselves last, but I think E and Dylan were impressed with the area, so I suspect we’ll head back at some point.
As we drove back down the Lincoln Gap Road, it suddenly felt like the calendar had flipped to March. The gravel/dirt portion of the road was already starting to have some mud on it! For lunch we went to The Mad Taco, and low and behold, Chris was right at the bar and spotted us. We caught up on lots of stuff (including his ski trip to Idaho to see friends) and being quite the regular at The Mad Taco, he gave us the lowdown on everything. They make tons of different hot sauces all the time, and list them on various blackboards in the establishment. They’re even numbered on a 1 to 10 scale based on how hot they are, but Chris said watch out because the numbers aren’t always right. For sauces I tried “It Tingles” (2) and “Bad Hombre” (1) and both had a decent amount of spice. The food was fantastic, and so was the atmosphere. I suspected I was going to like the scene when I jump in line to place my order and Joy Division is coming through the speakers. We’ll definitely be back, and Chris said he’d be happy to grab take-out for us anytime he’s heading toward our place.
On a final note, today was my third time using my iPhone to plot my GPS data from a ski tour in place of my old handheld GPS unit. I’ve been using the MotionX-GPS app, and I’m totally sold. It only costs a few bucks, it does basically everything my old GPS unit did, and it makes it all 10 times easier. It’s so much more sensitive to picking up GPS signals as well – I can basically store it anywhere on my person or in my pack and the signal is fine. I really enjoy the feature of announcing your speed, distance and tour time at various intervals. Since it’s on my phone, which I’m carrying anyway, that means one less item I have to carry. Anyway, I’m sold, so if you’re looking for a GPS app for your phone that acts like a real GPS, check out MotionX-GPS.
Today’s ski session was great, but it really wasn’t the one I was expecting. Since E and the boys were off from school for a snow day, and I had some time in the morning, it seemed like a great chance to all get in some skiing together. My first inclination was to visit Bolton Valley, which is right on my way into Burlington and very convenient, but lifts weren’t opening until 10:00 A.M., which on the late side based on the time I had. So, we decided on Stowe, which opened at 8:00 A.M. However, what we found on the Mountain Road was traffic backed up all the way to Harvest Market. That’s miles away from the resort. I figured it had to be because of an accident, but people in touch with E indicated that it was just bumper to bumper all the way down from the resort. I’m not sure how long it would have taken to travel all those miles, but we didn’t really have the time to find out. We switched our plans to Bolton Valley, figuring we’d take at least a few runs, but winds were keeping the Vista Quad on hold, so the available terrain would be quite minimal. It was just one of those crazy days where getting us all together to ski was going to be a challenge.
So in the end, I wound up stopping at Bolton for some earned turns on my way into Burlington, just like I often do. It simply took me a lot longer than usual to get to that point. Fortunately, just as one would expect thanks to the recent visit from Winter Storm Orson, the snow is simply spectacular. I skinned up the usual Timberline route, and while there were some tracks on Twice as Nice from skiers who had visited earlier, it was still snowing big, fat, fluffy flakes, and their tracks were rapidly disappearing. Today seemed like a great day to make a run on Twice as Nice, and it delivered bottomless turns all the way. The depth of the powder I found there today was generally 8 to 10 inches at the Timberline Base elevation, with nearly a foot in may spots higher up. The density gradient of the powder was fantastic, since we’ve been getting some really light fluff on the back side of the storm. It was funny to come full circle back to what I probably would have done if E and the boys hadn’t had the day off, and while it was a crazy path getting me there, the quality of the turns was definitely worth it.
We’ve got Winter Storm Orson underway in the area this evening, and for this afternoon’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe we were able to enjoy the storm’s front end snow as it started to unload on Mt. Mansfield. Snowfall began around midday, and ramped up throughout the afternoon, so it was one of those days where the snow quality just got better and better with each run. There were already a few inches of powder down ahead of the storm, consistent with what I’d seen at Bolton Valley yesterday, but it really wasn’t enough to keep you off the crusty subsurface snow in all cases. By the end of the afternoon though, there was a good half foot of powder or more above the crust depending on elevation, and that firm subsurface was starting to become a memory. Coming into the afternoon, the snow quality was already quite good in spots where skier traffic had pulverized the thick layer underneath, so that terrain was getting really fun.
For our tour of the mountain today we headed right over to Mt. Mansfield and kicked things off with a trip down Ravine. Some of the ice falls are hardly noticeable right now, which says a lot about the snowpack in mid-February. We headed to the Kitchen Wall, and then down through the Nosedive Glades to Nosedive, where we discovered that the microburst zone was actually open! No doubt that the deep snowpack is allowing that, but it’s the first time I’ve skied there extensively since it was closed. It’s really fun in there though, naturally it’s a bit more open than it was before, but it offers up some novel lines. One of my initial plans for today was to visit the Sunrise Glades, Chapel Glades, and Birch Glades in case lower-angle terrain was going to allow us to stay off the crusty subsurface snow. Even with conditions much better than I’d expected, that was still on the hit list, so we had an excellent trip through all those zones. We’d caught up with Nolan just before that during an Octagon break, and he joined us on his Telemark gear. We finished off the day back at Spruce Peak with some Sensation Quad runs, and had Spruce Line all to ourselves. The wind and snow were ripping up at the Spruce Peak Summit area, but down out of the wind in places like Green Acres, there was some excellent powder.
“…it was one of those days where the snow quality just got better and better with each run.”
As of this evening, we’ve picked up at least 8 to 9 inches down here at the house from Winter Storm Orson, and I expect tomorrow’s turns to be excellent. We’ve actually got the potential for another storm in just a couple of days, so we’ll be watching that one to see what it might deliver. The snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake was already at roughly 80 inches today, and it should continue to climb this week.
In any event, I decided to head up to the mountain for a couple of runs to see just where conditions sit ahead of our next potential large winter storm (Winter Storm Orson) that is expected to start up tomorrow. Temperatures were down in the single digits F in the morning, so I waited until later in the afternoon to head up to Bolton Valley’s Timberline area. By then, the temperature was around the 20 F mark and it felt quite comfortable outside.
Watching the skiers below me as I rode the Timberline Quad, the groomed terrain seemed pretty nice, although I could certainly hear their turns, so that wasn’t a great sign. I dropped into Showtime myself and found some decent groomed snow along the skier’s left. My mid-fat Tele skis don’t have much for edges at this point, and I noticed it when I’d get to the occasional firmer spot. I could see that there was some nice powder in the Twice as Nice Woods, so I dropped off the edge of the trail and into the trees. Even though that terrain is roughly intermediate pitch, it was still a bit too steep for the amount of powder available. I was touching down on the dense layer below, and occasionally slipping out on it or breaking through. It was just too inconsistent to make for good skiing so I headed back to the groomed terrain of Showtime to finish my run.
On my next run I took Sure Shot and made my way to the lower angle slopes of the KP Glades. I was able to get some decent powder turns at times, but even there it was possible to bust through the dense layer and the skiing was still just too inconsistent. I finished out my run, and Timberline was closing anyway, but a couple of runs were enough to reveal that there really wasn’t much going on today with regard to off piste skiing. It’s good that we’ve got Winter Storm Orson coming into the area tomorrow because it should be able to get the off piste conditions back to something more consistent and typical for midwinter around here.
It’s been two days since Stowe’s “Big Friday” powder extravaganza, but we were definitely excited for the BJAMS ski program this afternoon knowing that the snow quality would be great and there would be plenty of untracked lines left in the lesser-used areas. The overall setup for the day looked quite comfortable, with temperatures around 30 F depending on elevation, and some snow from our next Alberta Clipper coming in near the end of the day.
We were with Nolan, Evan and Sophie again today, and with the snowpack now up to 76 inches at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, I knew I could continue to introduce them to more of Stowe’s many off piste areas with no constraints. With that in mind, two areas that I had on my hit list were Angel Food and the Hazelton Zone. I started everyone off with Angel Food just in case folks were interested in going all the way down to Route 108, but the general consensus was to head back via the main traverse, so that’s as low as we went. We followed that up with a run on Chin Clip where Nolan and I worked on bump technique with all the kids. Chin Clip is in classic top-to-bottom bump mode right now and serves as a great spot for bump practice. After a Midway Lodge break we hit a combination of Nosedive Glades and Hazelton Zone. The streams down in the Hazelton Zone are generally well covered, but perhaps a bit less filled in than some seasons due to some stronger melt flows back in December and January.
We headed back to Spruce as the end of the day approached, and folks generally got on their way a bit early with the Super Bowl coming up in the evening, but Dylan and I decided to head off together and catch another powder run. We explored from the Spruce side down to Route 108 and found some really fun lines. We didn’t run into any other skiers, but we did find a group of ice climbers working on a small section of ice not far from the resort. We made our way back on one of the access roads to the houses they’re building right along Route 108, and got to see an up-close view of one of the huge ones that’s got some massive retaining walls built to accommodate the steep slopes down to the road. It can’t really have much of a yard with the way the terrain is so steep, but it’s got some amazing landscaping, architecture, and fantastic views of Mansfield.
Light snow began to hit the resort in the last hour or two of the day, and we’ve got snow accumulating here at the house this evening, so I’m sure they’ll have a bit of fresh to report from the resort in the morning.
There weren’t actually any major winter storms in the forecast for the Northern Greens this week. As it turns out, that forecast was actually 100% correct. We didn’t get a major winter storm… we just got a major winter storm’s worth of snow in short order. What the forecast for the end of the workweek indicated was a general westerly flow, with extra moisture supplied from the Great Lakes to give periods of snow showers in the area. Of course “snow showers” around here in the mountains can often mean several inches of snow, and this time around it certainly did.
“…it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats”
From what I’d seen on Bolton’s snow report, Timberline may not have been running yesterday, so Ty and I headed up to catch the planned 10:00 A.M. opening this morning. E planned to pick up Dylan from his overnight at Ivan’s, then catch up with us later. From what we could tell, Timberline must have been closed or something, because aside from the strips of trails that had been groomed, there was a foot of untracked powder everywhere. Ty and I caught some great powder runs down Brandywine and Spell Binder. I figured the powder would be fine, albeit somewhat flat after a night of settling, but it was much more substantial and impressive than I’d expected – it was so good that after two runs I ran to the rack on the car and swapped out my mid fats for my full fats. For Ty, it was his first chance to try out the Rossignol Soul 7 skis he’d gotten at the beginning of the season, and they were the perfect tool for the day. It was a classic Timberline morning, with walk-on powder laps in great snow. We really haven’t hit the threshold of snowpack required to get Timberline in gear until now, so it was a welcomed return.
Ty and I hit a couple more runs with a mix of on and off piste powder, then headed in for lunch at the Timberline Lodge to catch up with E. We also took the opportunity to try out the new “South of Solitude” (no doubt a nod to the “Adam’s Solitude” trail) Mexican food offering that’s been set up at the Timberline Base Lodge this season. Ty is nuts for burritos, so I knew it would be on our hit list when I saw it announced way back in the off season. The Mexican-themed food is really the only main option now down at Timberline, so you’ll want to plan on that if you’re dining down at that lodge. I got the chimichanga (always one of my favorites), and Ty got a burrito. They’re made to order with your choice of various ingredients, and we found them good and filling!
After lunch we headed back out to get Mom some powder, and found her plenty of untracked lines in the Tattle Tale area. We took her into the Corner Pocket Glades, but discovered they’re quite brushy with the current snowpack down at that elevation. A couple more feet of snow will take care of the issue, but they’re probably going to need a trim in the off season. Ty and I headed back down to the house by around 1:00 P.M. and E stayed for another solo run on Twice as Nice where she had a good time making Tele turns in the mix of loose and packed snow.
It’s been a slow start down in the lower elevations like Timberline, but I’d say the resort is running at just about full tilt now, so get out and enjoy it. We’ve got another Alberta Clipper coming into the area tomorrow, and then a larger storm in the midweek period, so the weather pattern is staying active.
On our ski outing yesterday we got a taste of the current backcountry conditions at Bolton Valley, and today we got to see how the lift-served terrain at Stowe has been fairing since the snows from Winter Storm Petros. With additional snows falling overnight from another moderate system skirting the northern border of Vermont, conditions were improving dramatically the farther north one went. We had students in our group from Wolcott and Hyde Park that had picked up 4 inches of snow at their houses, and Jay Peak saw another 7 to 10 inches overnight.
Ken and I had a fairly large group with 7 students today, and based on the way the snow had played out yesterday at Bolton, we immediately took everyone to the top of the Gondola and into the lower reaches of the Kitchen Wall terrain to get a feel for how the powder was skiing. The snow was excellent, with a good 6 to 8 inches of midwinter powder for everyone to enjoy. The students commented on numerous occasions how good the snow was. The best powder lasted down to about the 3,000’ mark before it began to get thinner and a bit wetter. At that point we’d stick to the trails, where conditions varied from midwinter snow to spring like, to ice, depending on elevation and aspect.
The kids had liked the first run so much that on our next one we took the high Kitchen Wall traverse and dropped into the untracked powder in one of the snowfields. There was a good 8-12” of snow up there, so bottomless turns were the norm. Even down below in the evergreens we found plenty of untracked lines and the kids’ overall energy was very positive. One line that we found ended up taking us basically through a cave, and you had to do some major body contortions to pull that line off smoothly.
Ken was thinking of paying a visit to Ravine, and I told him that we’d likely be able to ski the top ¼ at least based on what we found last week. We were all amazed to find the top entrance absolutely untracked at 3:00 P.M. on a Sunday afternoon, so some of the boys dropped in, and we eventually found out why it was being left alone. There was nice powder on top, but presumably some of the rain from Winter Storm Petros had wrecked the subsurface. It was a moonscape under there, so after skiing the available powder for a few hundred yards, we switched out to Gondolier for the rest of the run.
Unfortunately for Ken, he really brought the wrong pair of skis today. He was at Sugarbush yesterday where he found bulletproof conditions and struggled on skis with no edges. Anticipating the same thing today, he brought his freshly-sharpened, skinny, 195 cm old-school cruising skis. He couldn’t believe that we were skiing almost a foot of powder up high, and his long, skinny skis were essentially the exact opposite of what he would have liked to have in tight, powder-filled trees. We joked about how we used to ski everything on such skis, no matter how tight, but the new shorter, fatter, rockered, twin-tipped boards are so superior, and one can forget how much work it takes to push around those long sticks.
We finished off the day over at Spruce Peak, where areas in the sun were already turning to spring corn snow. The resort had made some huge snow whales on West Slope, and everyone was lapping those, which held soft snow and some great contours and drops. It’s definitely starting to feel like spring with the lasting sunlight we’ve got, but apparently we’ve still got some winter storm to come – the forecast suggests we’ve got three potential storms this week, so it should be interesting to see where things stand next weekend. Right now the Mt. Mansfield Stake is at 34”, so if things break right perhaps we’ll hit that magic 40” mark that means that most of the off piste terrain is reasonably well covered.
Temperatures at the house were in the low to mid 30s F when we headed up to the mountain in the midafternoon timeframe, and it was just a bit below freezing up at the Village (~2,100’). It’s not quite spring weather yet, but the sun is certainly getting stronger, and it was pleasant as we put our ski boots on down along Broadway in one of the tennis court parking areas.
Depth checks at the start of the tour revealed that the new powder had settled to about 2-3” down at the Village elevations, and up at Bryant Cabin it was in the 4-5” range. The Bryant Trail was pretty quiet and we didn’t see anyone else, but you could tell by the various descent tracks and a well-established skin track in spots that people had certainly been out. Up at the cabin we stopped to have hot chocolate that E had made (with a special thermos of dark hot chocolate for Dylan that he was very excited about).
I took everyone on one of my usual routes along Gardiner’s Lane, North Slope, and then down via Grizzwald through Gotham City. We skinned a bit past the cabin, and at the top of our descent everyone worked on removing their skins without taking off their skis. Everyone was ultimately successful, although I’d say Ty spent a good amount of time on the ground after things went a bit awry. We caught first tracks in some areas, and on the upper half of the terrain the powder turns were quite nice. I kept everyone off south facing terrain since I could see that it was pretty thin, but in fact I’d say this has to be the lowest snowpack that I can remember around here for the end of February. Fortunately that amount of snow is still enough to cover a lot of the glades well. Below Gotham City the snowpack and powder were notably thinner, so you had less line selection, but we still had some good turns down there. No doubt the way to go for the best turns is to stay above ~2,400’ if possible right now, but you can get some very nice powder if you know your terrain and aspects. It was really great to get the whole family out for some exercise today, since we haven’t had quite as many ski outings as usual with the low snowfall this season. The boys were in good spirits for the whole tour, I’d say probably the most positive backcountry attitude from them in quite some time!
We’ve got another system in the area tonight giving us a bit of snow right now even here at the house, but it sounds like Jay Peak might really get the best shot out of this one.