Stowe, VT 18MAY2018

A late May image of spring slowly making its way up the slopes of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont
An image looking down at some of the snow on the Liftline trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in late May
Looking down a steep pitch at some of the snow on Stowe’s Liftline trail today, with the Midway base area in the background.

It’s always fun each spring to see just how the snowpack finally melts out on Mt. Mansfield.  There are certainly those reliable, well-protected spots like Nosedive that hold snow well into the spring, but between the variability in natural snow deposition and snowmaking, you never quite know what areas are going to offer the best turns for your effort as we get farther into the spring.  I headed out for turns this afternoon expecting to make a traditional Nosedive run, but upon appraising the availability of continuous lines and low-elevation snow, it was actually Liftline that seemed to be the best bet.

“I only had time to head to the top of that large section of snow (~2,300’), but it offered up some nice steep turns and the corn snow was in excellent shape.”

I once again parked in the new lot by the Midway Lodge just as I’d done for my outing last week, and headed up the Crossover trail until I encountered Sepp’s Run with substantial snow right down to the bottom at ~1,700’.  I knew there was a break in the snow up toward Liftline, so I hiked until I hit the more substantial snow on there and then switched to skinning.  I only had time to head to the top of that large section of snow (~2,300’), but it offered up some nice steep turns and the corn snow was in excellent shape.  That section is one of the steepest of Liftline, so the skinning was a challenge without the ability to really spread out the switchbacks on the ascent, but it was doable with good support from my poles and ensuring that my skins were secure with each step.

An image of the Inspiration area at Stowe Mountain Resort's Spruce Peak in May
A view back toward the Inspiration area at Spruce Peak with a bit of snow left.

On my descent I ran into Scott Braaten out for an afternoon tour, and then Jumpin’ Jimmy and I believe Aaron Lavallee as well, so it was quite the SkiVT-L reunion!  We’re certainly past the point where you can easily skin up and get 2,000’ of continuous vertical feet of snow at Stowe, but we’re not too far off from continuous skiing from the top of the Fourrunner Quad from what I heard, so there’s definitely a lot of good skiing to be had.  Jim said that the snow in the next section above where I’d stopped was really good, so if I get a chance it would be nice to get up there and make some turns before the snow melts out.

Stowe, VT 10MAY2018

An image of deep snow piles in May up on Mt. Mansfield at the Cliff House after work road plowing by Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of the snowy ski trails on Mountain Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in mid May
May has been bringing some warmer temperatures for spring skiing, and there’s still lots of snow to play in on the trails of Mt. Mansfield.

We had some great weather for skiing last weekend, but I was fighting a cold and decided to recuperate vs. pushing myself too hard with a tour.  The great weather has continued this week though, with a simply amazing stretch of sunny spring days, and this morning I had a bit of time to get out for a ski tour at Stowe.

These recent days of warm weather have been eating away at the snowpack of course, and on my trip to the mountain I didn’t encounter any snow until the resort’s main base elevations around 1,500’.  I parked by Midway, and similar to about a half dozen or so other cars I saw, I was able to use the nice new parking area the resort has added just below the Midway Lodge.  I’d never even noticed that parking lot before because it’s usually covered with snow, but it’s got some nice clean asphalt that makes it a very nice spot for changing gear and clothing well away from any spring muck.

An image of one of the Midway area parking lots at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont, taken from the Cliff House at the top of the Gondola
I started my tour in the new parking lot below Midway, where the cars of a few other skiers were parked.

An image showing some snow formations formed in melting snow on the Cliff Trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontNosedive still has coverage right to the bottom at the Crossover trail, so I started skinning from there at ~1,650’, and made my way up to the junction with Cliff Trail at ~2,700’.  Nosedive has continuous coverage all the way up to that point, and although I didn’t continue higher on Nosedive itself, I’d be surprised if there were any breaks in the snowpack at the higher elevations.  For my tour, I decided to continue on toward the Cliff House because I saw that Perry Merrill looked to have almost continuous coverage, and the skiing there will typically run out before Nosedive.  I had to take off my skis and walk for a couple hundred feet because that junction area of Cliff Trail with Nosedive has melted out, but after that I was able to skin all the way up to the Cliff House.  The resort’s been clearing out some of the work roads as they get ready for summer, and that really transformed the area up near the Cliff House with massive snow piles on the sides of the trail and nothing in the middle.

“The snow quality overall was excellent though, as we’ve obviously had plenty of freeze-thaw cycles by this point and the snow if very much in prime “corn” form.”

For my descent I continued on to the other side of the Cliff House and hit Upper Gondolier, then connected onto Perry Merrill lower down.  Perry Merrill has just a couple of breaks in the continuity of its snow, although one is about 100 feet long and is best navigated by taking off your skis.  The snow quality overall was excellent though, as we’ve obviously had plenty of freeze-thaw cycles by this point and the snow if very much in prime “corn” form.

Mt. Washington, NH 16MAY2017

An image of a snowboarder hiking Hillman's Highway on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire
An imae of Rob skiing Hillman's Highway on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire
Hillman’s Highway was the choice today for our trip to Mt. Washington

As the spring semester winds down, many of our graduating biochemistry majors here at UVM have been getting out to enjoy the remaining snow in the mountains of both New Hampshire and Vermont.  I’ve been hearing some fun reports, so when Rob invited me to join one of their Mt Washington adventures, I was definitely interested.  His plan was for the Tuesday of senior week, weather permitting of course.  My schedule looked good, so I was hopeful for the chance to commune with some of the seniors in the great outdoors before they’d begin departing after graduation.

“We could see that there had been some sloughing there due to the new snow, but the lower areas we could see looked quite settled and stable, and there had already been plenty of skier traffic in the gully.”

Mother Nature threw some rather interesting weather into the mix ahead of the planned trip, with Mt Washington picking up almost 3 feet of new snow at summit elevations over the past couple of days, and over a foot down at Hermit Lake.  That was a lot of new snow, and the avalanche report suggest that northerly winds would be loading the more southerly-facing gullies and cross-loading the east-facing ones.  Temperatures were expected to rise significantly today, which we knew would result in plenty of settling depending on elevation.  There seemed to be enough potential to find at least some level of safe skiing, so we decided that we’d check with the staff on scene in the Hermit Lake area, and the trip was on.

An image of water pouring from a gutter at the Hermit Lake Caretaker's Cabin near Mt. Washington in New Hampshire
Meltwater pours from a gutter at the Hermit Lake Caretaker’s Cabin as rising temperatures melt off the recent snow.

Only Rob and Emily ended up being able to make the trip, but I met them at the Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center, and after getting our gear together, we were on our way.  I’ve hiked up to the Tuckerman Ravine area many times, but with the new snow I decided to try a gear setup that I’ve never used before.  Instead of brining two pairs of boots (hiking boots and ski boots), I wanted to just wear my mid-weight Telemark boots for everything, hiking and skiing.  It turns out that the setup worked great; my Garmont Gara boots have got rubber Vibram soles so they were plenty comfortable and pliable on the ascent through a lot of dry, rocky terrain.  Ascending from Pinkham Notch at ~2,000’, we saw our first signs of snow at 2,650’, and at around 3,400’ the snow cover was continuous enough that I was able to start skinning there and made it right up to Hermit Lake.  The new foot or so of snow had certainly helped with the potential for skinning – coverage would have been somewhat less continuous on that last part of the ascent without it.

We assessed the snow/ski terrain situation from there, and while most of Hillman’s was visible with clouds just skimming the upper reaches, Tuckerman Ravine was generally socked in.  After consulting with the staff at Hermit Lake, and using what we could see, we decided that Hillman’s Highway was the way to go.  Most skiers we encountered seemed to be making the same decision.  We could see that there had been some sloughing there due to the new snow, but the lower areas we could see looked quite settled and stable, and there had already been plenty of skier traffic in the gully.

An image of Hillman's Highway on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire viewed from the Hermit Lake area
Hillman’s Highway from the Hermit Lake area

Emily and I skinned up the first part of gully, but around halfway it was just getting too steep and we had to switch to hiking.  Thankfully there was a nice boot ladder already in place on climber’s right.  I stopped around mid-gully where I figured I’d still get plenty of descent, and set myself in a good position with my camera.  Emily and Rob headed up to where the gully splits into a Y, and went a little farther up the climber’s right option before settling down in a sheltered area of rocks.  Above that point the snow hadn’t been skied and was a little questionable, and in that regard they were on the same page as other folks skiing in the area.

An image of Emily paused during a ski run on Hillman's Higway on Mt. Washington in New HampshireThe best skiing was in areas where there had been some skier traffic that got down to the older corn snow surface, and the toughest turns were in the mush that had settled down near the bottom of the gully.  The Sherburne Ski Trail had actually opened back up a bit with the new snow, and we were able to ski about a third of it before we had to cut back to the hiking trail.  After that the descent was quick, and we were back at the cars saying our goodbyes.

An image of the summit snowfields of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire
A view of the summit snowfields of Mt. Washington from Hillman’s Highway after almost 3 feet of snow in the past few days

The new snow is going to get even better with a couple of freeze-thaw cycles, and it’s certainly bolstered the snowpack somewhat in the higher elevations.  Although they were in and out of the clouds, the summit snowfields looked really nice, so there should eventually be some excellent skiing up there with easy access as soon as the road opens back up.

Stowe, VT 13MAY2017

An image of a house with a "Never Summer" truck along the route to Stowe in Moscow, Vermont
An image of skiers skinning up the Nosedive trail in May at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A number of skiers were out enjoying the snow on Nosedive today.

The best weather in this weekend’s forecast appeared to be this morning, so I took advantage of the window and headed off to Mt. Mansfield for some skiing.  The temperatures been fairly cool this week, so the snow cover on Nosedive hasn’t actually changed a lot relative to what can happen during some warm weeks.  Coverage is still essentially continuous, but there’s a point in the middle that will create a gap soon.  The snow was a bit softer this time compared to my last outing on Sunday, so that made for some really smooth turns.  There are some areas with moguls, and plenty with smooth, skier-groomed snow to give you quite a variety of terrain.  While I had actually hoped to ski Cliff Trail as a change of pace, it’s disconnected from Nosedive now so I stuck with the continuous coverage of Nosedive.

An image of spring foliage making its way up the mountainsides in May near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Spring making its way up the mountainsides near Mt. Mansfield

It looks like we’ve got some warmer weather coming this week, so we’ll have to see where the snowpack at Stowe will stand by next weekend.

Stowe, VT 07MAY2017

An image at the top of the Starr trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Nosedive trail in May at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
There’s still plenty of snow on Nosedive as of today.

I was hoping to head out for a ski tour when the weather cleared up yesterday afternoon, but it happened just a bit too late to fit any skiing in among the rest of the things I had to do in the evening.  Today however, we got a more substantial break in the weather around late morning, so I decided to take advantage of that window and head off to Stowe.

An image of green grass and early spring foliage in the mountains of Northern Vermont around Stowe
Spring is slowly making its way into the mountain valleys throughout Northern Vermont

The forecast called for scattered rain showers today, but we know how Mother Nature works when it comes to Mt. Mansfield, and it wouldn’t be too surprising to find her scattering a lot more of the showers in that direction.  Indeed as I drove the final 10 minutes to the mountain, the rain steadily picked up from sprinkles to a steady light to moderate rain by the time I was at the Mansfield Base preparing my gear.

I ascended via the North Slope route, figuring there’s less time left to explore that area vs. the long-lasting Nosedive option.  I found the snow sun cupped in a lot of spots, but coverage was almost completely continuous until I got up into the areas where Toll Road crossed my route.  Unfortunately, they’re plowed the road for vehicles, so that put some substantial gaps in the coverage.  I had hoped to descend via something similar to my descent route, but eventually resolved to head to Nosedive because the plowing had just cut things up too much.

“The overall ascent was quite enjoyable with the variety of weather dancing around Mansfield and the surrounding peaks; there was blue sky, an occasional sprinkle or rain shower, breezes, low clouds skimming the summits, and everything in between.”

The overall ascent was quite enjoyable with the variety of weather dancing around Mansfield and the surrounding peaks; there was blue sky, an occasional sprinkle or rain shower, breezes, low clouds skimming the summits, and everything in between.  It was one of those days where you really wanted to have your gear for the various conditions, and I made use of just about everything I’d brought.  One minute the hood of my shell was up, the next I needed a light hat, then suddenly it was time for my sunglasses.

A view of the Green Mountain in spring from Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Some of today’s weather views

The snow was decent, although I actually would have like it a bit softer.  It only gets so soft without consistent the warmth of the sun though.  I did notice it softened up a bit more on the lower half of the mountain, simply due to the slightly warmer temperatures.  Nosedive does provide some of the best snow on the mountain in terms of skiing though – there have been enough people skiing it that it has a level of “human grooming” to keep the sun cups at bay.

Stowe, VT 16MAY2016

An image of ski tracks in powder from a mid May snowstorm on the slopes of Mt Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
It may be May… but the powder turns on the upper slopes of Mt. Mansfield today would be considered fantastic in any month!

It’s not every May that we get great powder to ski, but this May will certainly go down as one in which we did.  The potential for snow from this current storm cycle has been on people’s minds since last week, so it certainly wasn’t a surprise, but of course you never know exactly how things will play out until they actually get going.  For me, it was pretty obvious that things were going OK when we were picking up frozen precipitation all the way down in the valley during the day yesterday.  Reports of accumulating snow were already coming in from the mountains as well.   Then, late last night we began to get some legitimate snow at our house, and it was obvious that the local mountains were going to continue with accumulations.

An image showing an antique truck with some May snow on it in Waterbury Center, VermontSnow was still falling at the house this morning, and if anything it was becoming drier as time went on, so that was encouraging.  I decided to head out to Stowe as planned, and I brought along a bunch of camera gear because I expected there would be some fun photo ops along the way.  As I traveled to Mt. Mansfield, it was clear that the lower mountain valleys in the 500’ to 1,000’ elevation range were right around the snow line, and that produced a fantastic amalgam of snow accumulations and touches of spring greenery.  Aspect wasn’t too critical in determining accumulations since it was quite cloudy, but the type of surface and whether or not it was elevated really played a big role.  Also, you could travel just a few hundred yards and see quite a variety of accumulations depending on which areas had been hit with heavier snow showers.  Some yards had snow on the grass, some had accumulations only on elevated surfaces, and some had neither.  In some spots only the rooves, or just sections of the rooves, held accumulations.  The precipitation I encountered was all snow, but temperatures were generally in the mid 30s F, so that contributed to the variable accumulations.

An image showing tracks from various methods of snow travel on one of the slopes at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Choose your highway!

Fairly continuous coverage on the ground really started once you got above 1,000’ in elevation, and up around 1,600’ at the Midway Lodge I found roughly an inch of accumulation.  My initial plans were to skin up Nosedive, since it’s always a good late-season bet, but from what I could see, the snow depth really didn’t jump up that quickly with respect to elevation.  With that in mind, I headed along Crossover toward the main North Slope route to hopefully find solid base coverage down to lower elevations.  The coverage on Crossover wasn’t quite enough to make skinning worth it, so I hiked along until I caught North Slope at around 1,800’ or so, where I was able to start skinning.  Indeed the snow depth was building slowly, as even at roughly the 2,000’ mark there was still only 1”-2” of new snow.

I was starting to think that I was going to be out for more of a hike than a real quality powder skiing session, when suddenly I got up around 2,500’ and the snow depth really began to jump up.  Here’s my best estimates of new snow depth based on measurement pole probing along my route:

1,600’: 1”
2,000’: 1”-2”
2,500’: 4”-6”
3,000’: 7”-8”
3,600’: 8”?

I didn’t really detect any notable gains in snow depth between 3,000’ and 3,600’, and the stronger winds made the measurements more challenging anyway, but my best guess was around 8” up at the Octagon.

An image showing the depth of snow just outside the Octagon at Stowe Mountain Resort after a May snowstormI stuck my pole right in the snow by the main Octagon doorway and found 14” – this was clearly due to some drifting, but that’s a decent idea of what you could find if you were hitting the deeper spots along the trails in the upper elevations.  The winds were nice in some respects though – they had erased most tracks from previous skiers without really hammering the powder.  For the most part it was a gentle sifting in of new snow without any formation of wind crust.  You could certainly see signs of old tracks in various locations, but in many cases the trails had been wiped clean, wall to wall.

“…those turns above 2,500’ would have held up as high quality in any season.”

Anyway, that top ~1,000’ of vertical offered up simply fabulous turns – the powder was mid to heavy weight, but not sticky at all and it had plenty of buoyancy to keep things bottomless right down to 2,500’ as long as you followed the deposition patterns along the trails appropriately.  I had decent turns back down to 1,800’ at Crossover, but they generally weren’t bottomless down there – laps above 2,500’ were the way to go depending on one’s time and how they set up their tour.  You’d have consistently very high quality turns with that approach.  The turns for me were clearly some of the highest quality I encountered this season, and certainly some of the most consistent at such a high level.  Granted, we know how this season went with regard to blowing away the record books on the low end, but those turns above 2,500’ would have held up as high quality in any season.  I had debated bringing my mid-fats today since I was unsure of how the accumulations were going to play out, but there was no question after my run – the fat skis were totally in their element and delivering just like they should.

Stowe, VT 09MAY2015

An image of Erica Telemark skiing on the Nosedive trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in May
An image of Jay Telemark skiing on the Nosedive trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in May
There’s still plenty of great snow at Stowe for anyone that wants to earn some turns.

Between almost daily soccer coaching, practices, and games now stacked on top of the usual routine, the spring schedule for E and the boys has been pretty crazy, but fortunately I was able to get them to sneak in a trip to the slopes today. I saw great pictures of the coverage on Nosedive from Powderfreak’s report on Wednesday, so we knew it was a good bet for spring turns and headed off to Stowe in the mid-morning. We’d been hoping Joe would be able to join us, but he ultimately decided it was just going to be a little too much to manage the hike and still have enough left in the tank for dancing tonight at the BJAMS Bash.

An image of Dylan sitting on the snow at the start of spring skiing ascent at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe parked in the Midway Lot and had to walk about 50-100 yards over to the start of the snow on Lower Nosedive. You could definitely see the effects of the past couple days’ summer-like temperatures, because bare areas were making substantial intrusions into parts of the trail. The snow coverage is still fairly continuous though, with just one actual break of about 20 feet about halfway up. We topped out a bit shy of the 3,000’ mark, which was about as far as E and the boys wanted to push themselves with more soccer games tomorrow. In terms of the skiing, the snow quality was fine, with nothing overly mushy despite the temperatures. We’d all brought ski pants, but E and the boys were pretty gutsy and skied just in their shorts. I’ve been there before, and especially since I was Telemark skiing I decided to stick with full ski pants and knee pads. E was skiing Tele as well, but she didn’t care – she and the boys all felt that the cooling of the snow and breeze was worth it, and fortunately there were no notable falls to contend with.

An image of Erica Telemark skiing at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in May on some of the remaining snow
Nosedive is still just about continuous, but areas are starting to melt out.

There were several groups of skiers around that we encountered on either the ascent or descent, and it was quite the fun atmosphere. We tested out playing Pandora on one of the cell phones on the ascent and that worked out well – Dylan made an Imagine Dragons station that had me grooving my way up the mountain at a really quick pace.

On the way out we took a peek at some of the other routes on the mountain that had substantial snow, and the best alternative to Nosedive looked like it was that North Slope area above the terrain park. Temperatures look to cool down somewhat as we head into next week, so that should slow the melting process a bit. These warm days have been great, but they’re causing the snow to disappear quickly!

Bolton Valley, VT 07MAY2015

An image looking westward toward the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Shamplain from Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image from the Web Cam at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont in early May
A snapshot from the Bolton Valley Web Cam today – the patches of snow on the bottom half of the mountain got me interested enough to see what the higher elevations held.

Our protracted stretch of pleasantly warm and sunny weather has continued this week, and it’s allowed the ground to dry to the point that on Tuesday, I headed out for a mountain bike ride to sample some of local terrain by the house and into town. Indeed even some of the typically wettest terrain down by the Winooski was dry enough for riding, so things are ready on that front, but after seeing Powderfreak’s ski report from yesterday at Stowe, it reminded me that I should probably get back out on the slopes while the snow is available. I can still see bright areas of white snow on the slopes of Bolton Valley from my office in Burlington, but from that distance it’s hard to know exactly how continuous the coverage is. I popped up the image from the Bolton Valley Web Cam and could see that there were only patches of coverage on Beech Seal on the bottom half of the mountain, but it looked as if the snow at the bottom of Bear Run might be stretching upward for some substantial coverage.

I headed up to the resort with plans to at least get in a hike, since the areas without snow already looked pretty dry. I saw the first signs of snow along the Bolton Valley Access Road at the base of Timberline at 1,500’, and it was clearly leftovers of manmade snow. Up in the Village it was very quiet, and I’d thought about getting a sandwich from the Deli, but it was closed. This is probably one of the quietest times of the year, so I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising. I took a quick walk up to the slopes and could see that Spillway had some large areas of snow, and it was enough to suggest that I should throw my skis on my pack and bring them along.

An image showing the remaining snow on the Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont in early May
The snow on the lower parts of Spillway ended up being rather patchy, so I headed toward Sherman’s Pass

The visible snow near the base that appeared to head up to Bear Run was the start of a reasonably long section that went about halfway up the trail, and from there to Mid Mountain the coverage was a lot more fractured or nonexistent. Above Mid Mountain I began to hike toward Spillway, since I’d seen the snow up there, but once I saw far more substantial coverage on Sherman’s Pass, I switched my route in that direction. I stopped my ascent at around 2,600’ near the top of the steeper Sherman’s Pass terrain above Mid Mountain, since there was another gap in coverage at that point.

For the descent, I found that the snow definitely had some sun cups and dirty areas, but there were a variety of areas with decent turns, and the coverage there basically brought me down to Mid Mountain before I took off my skis to connect to the lower half of Bear Run. That bottom part of Bear Run offered the longest stretch of continuous snow, and it carried me to within about 50 yards of the base lodge. With Bolton’s western exposure and more limited snowmaking than some of the larger resorts, May turns are often spotty, and this year was fairly typical in that regard. Based on what I saw, today’s turns were likely my last of the season at Bolton Valley, so that’s probably it until the fall. There’s a ton of snow left at Stowe and some of the other resorts around, so hopefully I can get out to some of those spots for more turns this month.

Stowe, VT 02MAY2015

An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont in May with snow on the ski slopes
An image of snow on the slopes of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in early May
The snow is still holding up nicely and delivering great turns on the slopes of Spruce Peak

There’s still almost six feet of natural snow at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, and with manmade snow supplementing coverage in the lower elevations and Mansfield’s penchant for snow preservation, there’s going to be skiing on the mountain for quite some time to come. There’s even a lot of snow left across Route 108 on Spruce Peak, but with the way much of that ski terrain faces south, it’s going to disappear much faster. With that in mind, I decided that today would be a great day to make some turns on the slopes of Spruce Peak before it was too late. The weather made outdoor activities a no-brainer, with partly sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s F. I’d planned to head to the slopes at some point today, but by mid morning, E could sense that none of the boys in the house were moving quite fast enough to enjoy the great day, so she quickly started ushering us out. Unfortunately she wanted to take care of some spring cleaning chores, and after a long week of soccer practices and some games tomorrow, the boys were supposed to rest their legs today. That left me en route to a solo outing at Stowe for the afternoon.

“The corn snow on the Main Street and Side Street areas was superb, with just a couple of inches being shaved off, and none of that bottomless mush that can sometimes form in the warmer weather.”

The lower mountain valleys are pretty much bare now aside from the stray snow pile, but even from Waterbury I could see the slopes of Mansfield and Spruce Peak glistening white with copious amounts of snow. The slopes of Spruce Peak were still looking good as I got close up, and with the main Spruce Peak parking area generally closed to traffic for continued construction, I headed up to the base of the Sensation Quad to start my tour. I found a few other cars, and a family playing in the snow in the Meadows area, but overall it was pretty quiet. I walked for just a minute to get to some the snow on Side Street, and then I was able to put on my skis and skin up the rest of the way. There were a couple of small breaks in snow coverage, but they were pretty inconsequential and you’ve basically got continuous snow all the way up to the top of Spruce Peak.

An image looking out from the sop of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Looking out at Spring in Valley from the top of Spruce Peak

It was a good ascent, and I was definitely in need of the workout with ski time slowing down over the past couple of weeks. I wrapped around by the top of the Sensation Quad and continued on the trails up by the Spruce Peak Summit, then enjoyed a good 15-20 minutes taking in the views to the south. I also consumed a good amount of food, since I was pretty tanked by the last 10 minutes or so of the hike. I sent a phone picture to E to let her know I was at the top (and of course to let her know what she was missing), and then packed everything up for the descent.

An image of May ski tracks in spring snow on the slopes of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Low traffic on the slopes of Spruce Peak made for some very smooth turns in the corn snow.

The corn snow on the Main Street and Side Street areas was superb, with just a couple of inches being shaved off, and none of that bottomless mush that can sometimes form in the warmer weather. The manmade snow was actually the best for turns because it was so dense. One great thing about Spruce Peak this time of year is that traffic is especially low, and you can really find a lot of unblemished, or very lightly tracked slopes for some excellent spring turns. I did see a couple of other groups of skiers here and there, but traffic was light as one would expect. Between the ascent and plenty of Telemark turns on the ride down, I’d say my legs got what they needed. I’m tempted to try to figure out how to get in some more turns tomorrow among the boys soccer games, because the forecast is looking fairly similar to what we got today.

Stowe, VT 25MAY2014

An image of Jay skiing the Nosedive trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont over Memorial Day Weekend
Out for some Memorial Day Weekend turns on Mt. Mansfield

This Memorial Day Weekend certainly hasn’t been like last year, with its two feet of new snow, but even from Waterbury one can see that Mt. Mansfield still has some of this season’s snow left on it, and with today’s great weather, it was hard to pass up the chance for some skiing. We’d actually been keeping our eyes on the weather over at Mt. Washington for a potential trip to ski the summit snowfields this weekend, but the forecast for nice weather didn’t end up being quite solid enough for us to make the commitment. Of course, being around at home meant that the opportunity was there for some local turns. I thought last week’s ski trip with E and the boys might be our last turns on Mansfield for the season, but that wasn’t the case… at least for me. Even last week, the skiing payoff relative to the hike was getting pretty marginal for the rest of the family, so although I did a perfunctory check to see if any of them wanted to go, I would have been surprised if any of them said yes. This time of year, it’s typically a good idea to go into a ski tour with the intention of enjoying the hike itself, because it’s often a big part of the outing relative to the skiing. If either of the boys had wanted to go on today’s tour, they would have had their work cut out for them, because I knew that it would require at least 1,000’ vertical of hiking before hitting decent snow. They barely have the patience for earning turns when the skiing is top to bottom, so all that hiking before getting to the snow wouldn’t be well received.

“You can get a nice 300’ or
so of vertical out of it, and
if you wanted something
to lap with the best turns,
that would be the place.”

After some midday yard work with the boys, I finally headed off to Stowe in the mid afternoon. The valley temperatures were generally in the mid 70s F, and the skies were mostly clear aside from a few clouds here and there, and a surprising number of leftover contrails. From Waterbury Center I could already see patches of snow left on Mt. Mansfield near the Cliff House, so I knew that the Nosedive area would have snow. I parked in the Midway Lot at 1,600’ where I saw a few other cars, but very little activity aside from the occasional group of hikers. Temperatures were still warm, so my setup for the ascent was a short sleeve polypro T-shirt, shorts, and socks/Tele boots, and I packed my ski pants, a long sleeve polypro shirt, and my gloves in my pack for later use. I’ve been very impressed with just how flexible my Garmont Garas have been these past few warm, spring-style outings. Throw them in walk mode and add temperatures like today, and it’s like walking in a pair of stiff hiking boots. They’ve got Vibram soles, so the grip is nice on most surfaces. They certainly don’t match up to the a pair of good hiking boots when trying to hop from boulder to boulder working one’s way across alpine areas of Mt. Washington, but for traipsing around on the generally grassy or slightly rocky slopes below tree line, you can hardly tell that they’re there. For trips like today’s, being able to hike up, skin, ski, and hike down comfortably in one pair of boots makes everything so much easier, both in terms of weight and ascent/descent transition times. Of course I probably make up for some of the weight savings carrying camera gear, but the light weight of Telemark skis and bindings also cuts down on the pounds.

An image of thunderclouds off to the east in New Hampshire as viewed from near the Octagon summit building at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Enjoying the mountain views of storm clouds off to the east
An image of a trout lily wildflower in spring on the Nosedive ski trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Signs of spring during the hike

As far as the snow goes, there were a couple of piles here and there even down near the base, but nothing of real consequence. I didn’t start to see more consistent patches on Nosedive until I got up around the 2,100’ mark at the junction with National. What I did get to see in the lower elevations was the appearance of wildflowers, including what looked like some trout lilies on their way toward opening up. Even though we had some rain yesterday, Nosedive was really pretty dry aside from areas in close proximity to snow patches or the occasional water bar with meltwater, so that made the hiking especially easy. The mid afternoon sun was still quite strong during my ascent, so I hiked in the shade when possible. As for the insects, all I saw was the occasional mosquito, so that made for a pleasurable ascent on that front. The presence of patchy snow off to climber’s left was all that I saw until I got up near 2,600’, and just below the intersection of Cliff Trail I saw the first area of coverage across the whole width of the trail. That was only an isolated section, and it was back to grass for a while above there, but once I got up to ~2,900’ I got into the nearly continuous snow, and there was even some snow remaining in the trees on both sides of the trail. The snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake just up above that location at ~3,700’ was down to only two inches as of today’s report, although it was certainly deeper in those areas of trees I saw. I continued my ascent all the way up to roughly 3,600’ because the snow just kept going. There were a couple more breaks, but they were small enough that it kept me interested in reaching the top pile near the junction with the Toll Road (which is definitely open – I saw a car on its way down while I was up there).

An image of some leftover snow on the Nosedive ski trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont over Memorial Day Weekend
The bottom section of today’s snow on Nosedive

At the top I could definitely feel the ascent, so I downed a GU and cracked open and Odwalla smoothie that I’d been saving for the top. Between the amounts of sugar in those, recovery and rejuvenation were quick. I moseyed around up there for a bit and got a few pictures, and then geared up for the descent. If you’ve ever wondered about why you’ve got full side zippers on your ski pants, well here’s one of those perfect situations that call for them. You don’t spend time taking off you ski boots to get your pants on, you open up those zippers, strap on your pants, and off you go. The first big section of snow right at the top of Nosedive was just a big mound, with pretty dirty snow, but the snow on the second corner was a bit better, and then better again on the third. The best area of snow though is that one leading down to 2,900’. It’s the longest area without a gap, and it’s got some of the smoothest snow. You can get a nice 300’ or so of vertical out of it, and if you wanted something to lap with the best turns, that would be the place. The consistency of the corn snow was great, although that almost seems to be a given on the remaining snow at this time of the year unless it’s just too cold to soften it at all. It was a bit dirty in spots as one might expect, and there were some sun cups and other aberrations, but especially on that lower snowfield area, the turns were quite smooth.

“For trips like today’s, being able to hike up, skin, ski, and
hike down comfortably in
one pair of boots makes everything so much easier,
both in terms of weight and
ascent/descent transition times.”

After the bottom of that section, I strapped the skis on once more for that area below the junction with Cliff Trail, and then hiked out the rest of the run. The down hike was very quick, with the generally dry, grassy trail making for great traction, and it was only about 15 minutes or so from that last area I skied to get back to the car. I actually heard a band playing during the final few hundred feet of my descent, and after swinging through the Spruce Peak Base Area on my way home, it seemed like there was a wedding event going on. They certainly got a great day for it. The long-lasting light is great on these days as we approach the solstice – it was already after 7:00 P.M. by the time I was at the car, but there was plenty of light left. I hit the grocery store on the way home, and then we cooked outside and had dinner and some time at the fire pit. It’s really nice to have some of that local snow hanging around to get in some skiing over the holiday – and as much fun as it was to have the two feet of fresh snow last year, the weather in the valleys wasn’t great for outdoor activities, so this type of Memorial Day Weekend is also pretty sweet.

An image of Erica, Dylan, and Ty by the fire pit in Waterbury Vermont
Today’s weather made for a great evening outside.