Dylan and I were assigned a different group today for our BJAMS ski program session at Stowe. Erica was planning to work with Viviana, our student from last week, and we were going with Meredith and Bella. They’re farther along in their skiing and they’re working on transitioning from wedge to parallel. After spending time with them today I’d say they’re about 50% of the way there. They still need their wedge to control their speed on more challenging terrain, but on beginner/green terrain they can make parallel turns most of the time.
“Off piste areas typically held a foot of powder or more, and Dylan and I frequently played around in the trees for short stretches while we were working with the girls today.”
Our group spent time on the Adventure Triple Chair, Meadows Quad, and Sunny Spruce Quad today, and conditions were essentially perfect on beginner terrain. There are some slick areas on intermediate terrain depending on traffic levels. Off piste areas typically held a foot of powder or more, and Dylan and I frequently played around in the trees for short stretches while we were working with the girls today. It seems that we may have more powder on the way as well – the Mt. Mansfield forecast is suggesting an additional 4 to 8 inches of snow tonight into tomorrow.
Today we were out for another BJAMS ski program session at Stowe. I was back with my student Viviana, who was a first-time skier I worked with during our initial session of the season back on January 12th. For this outing, Dylan was assigned to work with me on instruction. We’ve found that when the availability of instructors is sufficient, adding a second person for the real “first-timer” students that can’t yet be placed in another group is very helpful. It allows us to have a person in front for following, and then the other instructor usually takes the rear or has direct interactions with the student to refine their skills. In terms of the overall instruction dynamic, I’ve also found that it’s nice for the student to have a younger (non-adult) instructor along that they can relate to a bit more and put them at ease.
We did a few runs on the Magic Carpet where Viviana had left off at our last session, then took a break at the Great Room Grill in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge for food and drink. Having no familiarity at all with skiing, Viviana was very intimidated by the chairlifts, so it took some convincing by us, and reassurance from Erica, but we got her to try the Adventure Triple Chair. She was more than ready to move on, in part thanks to the fantastic snow conditions – she was able to easily stop herself at will, and even make turns in her wedge in the soft snow.
There was definitely some trepidation riding the lift, but once Viviana saw how easy it was, she became more and more comfortable each run. The lift riding was really the biggest hurdle, because her skiing was excellent. There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn. The pitch is Inspiration is also so consistent that students don’t have to be concerned about any spots that are over their head.
“There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn. ”
We did run after run after run, and we just kept it going until the end of the session to really let her reinforce the positive experience she was having. As long as the snow quality remains good, she’ll easily be able to move on to the Meadows Chair next. I’d say she should start out with some runs on Inspiration to reinforce today’s session, and then move on.
Based on what I heard from other groups around the mountain, the steepest trails offered decent conditions, but certainly not the same pristine packed powder we had in Inspiration. Ty mentioned some ice in steep terrain where he was working with his group today. We may have a storm coming later this week that could bring conditions up on even the steepest terrain, so we’ll be watching to see how that plays out.
“I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up.”
This morning revealed a storm total of 3.3 inches of snow at the house, and 4 to 5 inches at the local resorts of the Northern Greens. We were eager to find out how well the new snow had covered up the old base as we headed off to out afternoon session at Stowe, so as soon as I’d grouped up with Molly and Dylan, we took a quick run off the Meadows Quad to get a sense for the conditions. I found several inches of new snow and bottomless turns along the trees to the skier’s right of Upper Meadows on my snowboard, so things were definitely looking up. I could see that snow options must have been pretty nice in the morning when the trails were relatively untracked, but there was definitely enough snow for use to head over to the Toll House terrain and surf some of the new powder on the boards.
E was potentially going to join us on her snowboard once she’d taken care of ensuring everyone was in their ski groups, so our group picked up Molly’s friend Julia on her skis and did a quick run off the Adventure Triple to take in some of the powder that remained below the lift. We all got together with E, and immediately made our way over to the Mountain Triple Chair on Mansfield to take in what we hoped to be a nice long run full of surfy powder turns down to the base of the Toll House Lift. I was a little leery of brining everyone into the Sunrise Glades because I wasn’t sure about their comfort level in the trees on their boards, but once we got past the Stowe Mountain Chapel and could see all the untracked powder in the various Toll House trees, everyone just dove right into the woods. There were a good 3 to 5 inches of powder with few if any tracks, and with that amount of cushion, I had no concerns about people’s ability to make turns or experience the tumbles we would all inevitable take. We rode the usual assortment of trees down much of the length of Toll House, and everyone had a great time surfing their way along. The moderate pitches there were just what the doctor ordered for the amount of powder we had available, and the exploration and practice riding in the trees made the experience a huge hit. We wouldn’t have been in there riding that fresh powder if it hadn’t been for the overnight snow.
We worked our way back to the Spruce Peak Village to end the day with a food break, and another one of my old straps on my snowboard broke, so that made for an adventurous return trip. I really do need to invest in some new bindings since mine are 20+ years old and the plastic is obviously getting brittle. Perhaps I’ll find an end of the season deal on something. I wouldn’t mind some of those Burton Step On® bindings – I’m so sick of dealing with those snowboard binding buckles, especially my broken ones!
Ty had stayed at Kenny’s house overnight as planned, so E, Dylan and I decided to get in some runs before picking him up around midday. It was tough finding a parking spot on the Spruce Peak side of the resort in the later morning period today, probably due in part to so many people thinking like us and going with a later morning start, so I dropped E and Dylan off at the lodge and they started skiing while I took care of the car. After some searching, I eventually got lucky with a great spot right outside the Stowe Mountain Lodge. E was working with Dylan on his Telemark skiing on Easy Street, and once I met up with them it was time for E to head to Morrisville to get Ty, but I made sure to keep Dylan’s Telemark groove going. We worked in some runs off Easy Street as well as the Inspiration trail off the Adventure Triple, and I shot some video with E’s camera. As designed, the pitch of Inspiration is really consistent and good for learning, so Dylan had some nice turns there.
Once lunch time approached, Dylan and I headed in and ordered up lunch at the Great Room Grill. I tried the fish tacos for the first time and they were excellent; I suspect I’ll get them again at some point. When E returned with Ty, he got into his ski clothes, she had a quick bite to eat, Dylan switched to alpine gear, and we got ready to head back out for more turns. We also picked up Luke, since he’d been skiing with his mom during the morning, but she had to head off to take care of some work.
We headed over to Mt. Mansfield for some runs off the gondola, and right from the gondola summit, I was excited to see that the very top of Waterfall was open – with plenty of coverage and great packed powder. I’m not sure if it’s just my timing, but that area never seems to be open, so that says something about the coverage and snow quality that have been attained due to the recent storm. We worked our way down to Perry Merrill, and after poking around a bit, we got sucked into the Hazelton Zone because the coverage and powder looked so good that it was just too hard to resist. There was more than a hint of trepidation in Luke’s voice as we dove into the trees – he’s not nearly as comfortable as Ty and Dylan with being led off into the great unknown by me. He’s survived trips with me before though, so he knows that he can do it, even if we’re well outside his comfort zone.
“He came down carrying good
speed, but crashed in an
intense blizzard of white,
and when the smoke cleared,
we could only see the
bottom part of him.”
We began dropping into one of the many Hazelton gullies, and got some OK turns in the powder, but didn’t want to fully commit to the base of the gully since coverage was still a bit marginal in spots for really exploring with reckless abandon. Therefore, we kept ourselves on the slope marking the skier’s left of the gully with a healthy dose of traversing. I was leading and breaking trail, making it easier for the kids to work their way through the deep snow, but navigating the combination of steep terrain, trees, and bottomless powder was still challenging for some. At one point, E found a nice route, and suggested that Luke follow her. He might have had to back up or navigate a bit of a steeper slope, but E heard him emit some sort of exclamation, and when she asked if he was OK, he replied with and exasperated “Nooo!” Fortunately he was OK, just stuck in the powder and generally discombobulated. E asked Dylan to check on Luke, but before he could even do that, Luke had managed to regain his footing and was back on track. I think he’s learning more about dealing with powder all the time.
Not long after that, we found a nice steep pitch of powder in the streambed that we decided to ski. Ty agreed to be the guinea pig, and check out the slope for the other boys. He came down carrying good speed, but crashed in an intense blizzard of white, and when the smoke cleared, we could only see the bottom part of him. The front half of his body was obscured under the powder, and he wasn’t moving. Initially he didn’t respond to our inquiries about his status, but after a few moments he responded from beneath the snow with “Am I in heaven?” We pulled him out and he was fine, but not surprisingly, the other boys weren’t overly enthusiastic about dropping into the line themselves. We resumed our traversing along the skier’s left of the gully, and eventually made out way back out to Perry Merrill, and I’m sure Luke couldn’t have been more relieved. We saw some other riders having fun in some lines on the other side of that gully, and there are definitely lines opening up in there, but a couple more storms are going to be needed to really get all the lines flowing in there for the boys.
“After experiencing the
mountain first hand
today, I’m not surprised
that Stowe was able
to open 100% of their
terrain as of Saturday.”
We made another run off the gondola, taking it easy on the boys and not venturing off piste to any great degree, and then we worked our way over to the Fourrunner Quad. In general, there were amazing on piste conditions on the hill – I’m usually less than impressed with the conditions on the snowmaking trails at Stowe because of how that manmade snow turns to ice with skier traffic, but conditions on many of the trails were head and shoulders above what I’ve seen on them in quite a while. For whatever reason, perhaps the good combination of dense snow/mix followed by fluff, there was a layer of natural snow that really had staying power to mask the manmade stuff underneath – runs like Centerline and Hayride come to mind (I think they’ve both got snowmaking). The steepest pitches still got down to that slick stuff, but wow, last week’s storm was a great one for producing some packed powder conditions. Coverage was quite impressive as well – at one point E said she couldn’t believe that we were in the midst of a low snowfall season. After experiencing the mountain first hand today, I’m not surprised that Stowe was able to open 100% of their terrain as of Saturday. Temperatures ended up topping out around 20 F at the base elevations, which wasn’t overly warm, but certainly fine for mid January, and there were no temperature issues for any of the boys. Also, Luke survived another day with us on the slopes. When we dropped him off in town with his dad, Luke seemed like he was pretty exhausted, but I think he was satisfied with his day.