My time was limited for yesterday’s ski tour on Mt. Mansfield, so I only got to try out a portion of the skiing that Stowe’sLiftline trail had to offer. Based on the intel I’d received from Jumpin’ Jimmy though, it sounded like some of the best skiing was in that big upper section of snow on the trail, suggesting that another visit was in order. I had some time today ahead of the rain that was expected to move in during the afternoon, so off to the mountain I went.
Yesterday gave me a great sense for the available snow at the resort, so I parked right near the mountain operations building below Sepp’s Run, knowing that I’d be finishing my tour there. I ascended Liftline yesterday through a combination of skinning and hiking, but the skinning was pretty challenging on some of the steeper, narrower pitches, so I wanted to try a different ascent route today. I took a gradual ascent toward the North Slope route via Lower Starr and Crossover, enjoying nice dry grass and easy walking. Using various combinations of trails in the North Slope area, I was able to put on my skins around 2,800’, and had to take them off a couple more times before reaching the top of the Fourrunner Quad.
“All told you’re probably looking at around 85% snow for a trip down from the top of the Fourrunner Quad, so it’s certainly still worth it if you’re looking for some good spring turns.”
For the descent, the main breaks in the snowpack are right at the Liftline headwall, and then about halfway down the trail before you get to the terrain I skied yesterday. Indeed the turns on the upper parts of Liftline were great – there’s a lot of snow up there on skier’s left, and plenty of terrain variety. All told you’re probably looking at around 85% snow for a trip down from the top of the Fourrunner Quad, so it’s certainly still worth it if you’re looking for some good spring turns.
When it comes to the Northern Greens, it can be hard to know when a snowstorm is complete. Just when you think an event is finally winding down, these mountains can cause it to fire back up and dump another foot of snow. In this case, that’s just what happened. After Tuesday’s great outing on Mt. Mansfield, I figured there wouldn’t be enough additional snow to lure me back out on the slopes too quickly, but I was wrong. While people anticipated a couple of additional inches to fall as the event finished up, a foot of additional snow was reported at Jay Peak, and another half foot at Stowe. There was already plenty of base in place, so after hearing first hand reports from some of our students at UVM about the great skiing brought about by the additional snow in the mountains, and seeing pictures like the one Powderfreak posted from Jay Peak, I heard the slopes calling again.
So I headed out to Stowe for another early morning session, and the temperature was definitely warmer this morning than what I encountered on Tuesday – it was even a bit above freezing in some of the mountain valleys, and around the freezing mark at the Midway Lot (~1,600’). The snow was still dry, but what was immediately evident was that the snow conditions aren’t as pristine now as they were a couple of days ago. The decrease in quality I saw was due to a combination of skier traffic and wind, and in those areas that were affected, the fresh fluff that fell yesterday was beaten down into something much denser. Since the snow had that wind crust in areas, it was a little harder to efficiently probe the snowpack depths on my ascent, but in general nothing has really melted over the past couple of days, and the snow depths with respect to elevation seemed fairly similar to the numbers provided in Tuesday’s report. I went with yet another ascent route today, and ascended the skin track up Midway that continued on to Liftline. This is the route that I had used last November, and it was a little frustrating at that point because I was using skins cut to Atomic RT-86s that were a bit too narrow for my AMPerages. I’ve got full-width skins now, so the issues from that day were resolved, but I was still slipping a bit up part of the Liftline skin track, and I’ve decided that it’s due to the fact that people have put in a skin track that’s just a little too steep. People should incorporate a few more switchbacks on the Liftline route to get a more reasonable grade on the ascent; it typically ends up being more efficient in the long run.
In any event, while I’d seen some decent, soft looking snow on Midway, Liftline was exposed and was riddled with wind crust. I watched a group of three guys descending the trail, and it was obvious from how little they were sinking into the snow that the wind crust was indeed substantial. One of the three appeared to be an excellent Telemark skier, and at one point he went head over heels dealing with the challenging snow. Seeing that spectacle, I decided to go for something more protected, and Goat came to mind. Some wind had still gotten in there, but it was far more protected than Liftline. I’m more leery about trails like Goat in the early season, since it holds a lot of interesting rocks, but as I probed along the skier’s left of the trail, I found a solid two feet of snow. That definitely looked sufficient for skiing the trail.
“The farther down I went on the trail, the more protected and fluffier the snow was…”
With still a little trickiness to the snow, and the narrow, bumpy, rough and tumble nature of Goat, I found myself making plenty of alpine turns at first. I’ve got to say, I’d love to have another pair of these AMPerages mounted alpine, because they were a heck of a lot of fun in that snow – they created such a stable platform. The farther down I went on the trail, the more protected and fluffier the snow was, and I finished off with some beautifully soft turns on Lower National, which had seen a lot less traffic than the bottom of Lower Nosedive. Coverage remains quite good, and I even passed through some woods on my traverse to Lower National that could easily have been skied. That’s certainly consistent with the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake hovering close to that 24” mark.
It was definitely warming up when I left, and I felt a little stickiness in the snow in the very lowest elevations (last couple hundred feet), so I’d say the snow down there will lose some of its fluffiness. There’s still plenty of snow out there for those that want to make turns, but you just have to pick the lesser used areas now if you want untracked snow. It also may mean going a bit higher to get into the winter snow, depending on how high the freezing line crept upwards today.