I had enough extra time today, so I headed back out to Stowe for a hike and some more turns. Based on what I’d seen on Spruce on my last outing, as well as the views across to Mansfield at that point, I decided it was time to check out something by the Mountain Triple. There’s some easy access snow right down to the base over there, and that fit the time I had.
As I walked along past the Triple, I surveyed the snow situation and headed toward Lower Standard, which seemed to have the best coverage. That area makes for a pleasant stroll because it’s generally quite grassy with modest pitches. Somebody had built the shape of a heart out of rocks on the ground near the ropes course, so that was kind of a nice accent to the area. The snow on Lower Standard is definitely more broken up than what it was a week earlier, and there are a couple of gaps near the bottom that are really best walked vs. trying to skip across on your skis.
That afternoon we had thunderstorms in the area, and as usual, there were some great views surrounding the resort and toward the Notch as the peaks worked their magic and forced the clouds around. While I was hiking I started to hear thunder to the east and northeast, off past Spruce Peak and over toward Madonna and Sterling. Eventually I started to see some tendrils of virga over there, and the thunder was becoming more expansive. I was just getting up toward the Crossover elevation, which was about where I was going to stop anyway because the snow petered out there, but the timing seemed good with the thunder building. I started seeing the first visible flashes from lightning just as I was getting back to the car, and the first drops of rain began to fall, so that timing really did work out well. I would have stayed around for some lightning photography over toward the Notch, but none if was producing visible bolts, it all seemed to be well up in the clouds or too distant.
I haven’t been following the state of the snowpack at Stowe too closely over the past couple of weeks, but Powderfreak’s recent post on American Weather forum definitely provided a nice look at some of the snow on the slopes of Spruce Peak. I probably wouldn’t have even had Spruce Peak in the mix of top spots to head for turns if I hadn’t seen how much snow was still there, but it was obvious from the post that there was plenty.
Today I had time to get out for exercise, so I chose to enjoy a hike and ski in the Main Street area. The snowpack is certainly not continuous top-to-bottom of course, but there’s several hundred vertical feet worth of nice turns with deep base as Powderfreak’s image showed. The snowpack there is starting to get a bit sun cupped, but it’s nothing that really hurts the experience yet at this point, unless perhaps you were to stray the extreme edges where the snow has taken a bigger hit and there’s been no skier traffic.
Even if natural snowpack on Mansfield is still below average for this time of year, I have to think the coverage there on south-facing Spruce had got be at least typical for this far into May. From the view across the resort, I could see that the usual spots like Nosedive and some of those areas around the Mountain Triple still have some decent coverage, so it would be fun to mix it up with something over there next. That Main Street snow has some very deep areas, but it’s just getting a bit too broken up into segments that one eventually has to make the call to go with something with a bit more continuity for efficiency and longer flow of turns on the descent.
It is always fun this time of year getting to see which parts of the resort are holding the snow best for those late season turns. It’s different each season depending on the combination of where Mother Nature deposited snow and where the guns were blowing when temperatures were optimal as has been noted in some of Powderfreak’s comments in ski-related discussions at American Weather.
With the way it had been dumping inch/hr snowfall when I headed home around noontime, I decided it would be worth another session in the afternoon. This time I went for a tour on Wilderness, which had its uphill route officially reopened as of today thanks to the accumulations from Winter Storm John. There had been additional snow, and I’d say 6-10” of powder above the base snow would represent a good summary of what I found overall in the 2,000’ to 3,000’ elevation range, which was a combination of the snow from this storm on top of the accumulations from previous events. With Bolton Valley providing access to the entire Wilderness Lift area of moderate-angle, cut trails all starting above 2,000’, I’m sure a lot of folks see it as a very good option with the rather thin base currently in place at lower elevations. That, and the fact that it was a holiday weekend, meant that there was a lot of uphill traffic. Fortunately, there was still decent access to untracked powder along the edges of trails, and the turns were quite good and bottomless on low and moderate-angle terrain with the recent snow we’ve picked up.
We’d been looking for an opportunity to try out The Mad Taco Bolton, so I place my order from the car before I started my ascent, and then timed my tour to be able to make the pick-up. It worked quite well, and I got to see the way they’ve set up the restaurant for the first time. It looks like there are a number of tables in there that folks will be able to use once in-person dining is back in action, although for now it’s takeout only. The food was great though, just like we’ve had from their other locations!
While in many areas around the state, the leaves have mostly fallen and it’s looking like stick season, there are still a lot of beautiful scenes with fall foliage. We were up in Newport today for a soccer game, and the views of foliage along Lake Memphremagog were beautiful.
Today at Stowe I was with a group that I’ve yet to ski with this season at any of our BJAMS ski sessions; I was with Shane’s group, which included Jack, Colby and Ez in attendance. Ty is typically with this group, and was indeed supposed to be with us today, but he forgot his ski boots and the house and thus ended up spending time around the Spruce Peak Village for the afternoon. He did get to do a bunch of exploring though, which included a lots of Pokémon Go and a good analysis of all the village’s good and bad Wi-Fi spots among the various available networks. He happily relayed that to the rest of us, so I’ve got a much better sense of spots to check when I really need a reliable signal.
Temperatures were expected to be in the 30s F with lots of sun this afternoon, so I wasn’t worried about getting soft snow on the lower half of Spruce Peak, but I was unsure about its upper elevations, or what the snow would be like on Mansfield. It turns out that the snow softened all the way up to the top of Spruce, and I got to experience that quite frequently because the boys were ravenously lapping Whirlaway off the Sensation Quad. We’d probably done half a dozen runs there before we finally broke off after Shane called for a bathroom break at the base. I’m not sure if the boys would ever have moved away otherwise. Whirlaway, combined with Sterling lower down, offered pretty much everything they could have wanted though. There were bumps, groomers, some nice tree shots, and of course jumps. These guys love their jumps. Thankfully, the soft snow today was good for lots of jumps, and the ensuing crashes.
“It turns out that the snow softened all the way up to the top of Spruce…”
With their long session on Whirlaway, by the time we’d finished our bathroom/food break in the lodge, there was only enough time for a couple more runs. I suggested we check out the Gondola, since that terrain also should have softened in the sun. By that point in the afternoon only about the bottom half of the Gondola terrain was really soft, but the upper half wasn’t actually too bad. It was partially softened, but you’d still run into some firm areas, so the soft consistency wasn’t there up high the way it was lower down.
“Snow coverage was generally fine today, and even steep, south-facing terrain was still passable.”
On the instruction side of things, all three boys are at that intermediate stage where they can certainly ski parallel, but they revert to their wedge for steep and/or moguled terrain that challenges them to control their speed. Being a bit of an interloper in the group, I didn’t work with them specifically on anything about the skiing, but I did give then a quick instructional lecture during one of our Gondola rides on what they should be thinking about if they want to progress to that next level. They need to bring short radius turns into their repertoire to be able to be able to tackled those steeper slopes and terrain obstacles like bumps and trees without using a wedge. They’re at least aware of that now, so time on snow and even mixing in a bit of that short-turn flavor will help them progress.
Snow coverage was generally fine today, and even steep, south-facing terrain was still passable. But, openings are definitely starting to appear, and if this week is warm without much new snow, those types of south-facing shots are probably going to develop gaps that won’t be passable. There are some chances for snow this week, generally on the back side of modest systems, but there aren’t any large snow events in the forecast.
For today’s BJAMS session at Stowe, Dylan and I were joined by Viviana, as well as Jessica and Sienna who were back from vacation. Viviana has progressed to the point where Erica feels confident enough grouping her up with Sienna, and I’d say that was a good choice.
Before session started, Ty, Dylan, and I had the chance to take a run off the Sunny Spruce Quad to get a sampling of the snow. Winter Storm Odell has wound down now, but it left 40 inches of new snow at Stowe, and the effects were still very obvious. When the boys and I ventured off piste, we found that the powder skiing was simply amazing, and this was after a day or two of settling. As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better. It’s hard to say whether it was simply the extra 10 inches, or if the snow at Stowe happened to be just a bit lighter and drier, but the snow quality was indeed at that next level. We skied the powder along the edge of Slalom Hill, and I just couldn’t believe the quality of it. And, this was on south-facing terrain down near the 1,500’ base elevations of Spruce Peak. One can only imagine what the snow quality was like up at 3,000’ on Mansfield. Actually, one doesn’t have to imagine too much – Powderfreak’s over-the-head white-room photos from the mountain on Friday pretty much told the tale.
“As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better.”
We started out today’s session with a warm-up run off the Meadows Quad to make sure Sienna was up to speed after missing a number of ski program days due to illness, and her skiing was in great shape. She’s skiing notably faster than Viviana, although Sienna isn’t quite progressing toward parallel the way Viviana is.
The Toll Road experience turned out to be a great success. The route was well within everyone’s abilities, and it allowed them to ski a really long, continuous run on a scale that they’d never done before. The groomed snow quality was excellent, and the quality of the powder off to the sides of the trail was simply amazing. Dylan was constantly playing around in the powder off piste, and the overall snow conditions were forgiving enough that everyone started to join in. Jessica was raving about the experience, and that was great to hear. Not every storm cycle is going to bring 40 inches of snow to set things up like what they experienced today, but they’re all certainly ready for another run over there from the top of the Fourrunner Quad.
Although Jessica and Sienna had to leave early, we got in a few more Meadows Quad runs with Viviana, and she got to do more trips through the Easy Street Trees. She also began to venture into the various little chutes and tracks that are available off the sides of her usual Catwalk run, and navigating those was actually a good challenge with respect to controlling her speed.
There aren’t any huge storms in the forecast for the coming week, but we could have snow from some smaller systems toward the end of the week, so we’ll see how those set us up for next weekend.
We’ve had another storm system in the area this weekend. This one began fairly slowly with respect to snow production, but it’s starting to put down some dense accumulations of powder for a good freshening of the surfaces. The next round of snowfall was forecast to start later this afternoon, but it was already snowing at Stowe when we arrived before midday.
We had some time before the start of the BJAMS ski program today, so the family took a run on Sunny Spruce to check out the conditions. Even though there have only been a few inches of snow, we found that the slopes have seen a nice resurfacing because the snow is quite dense. The snow was a bit sticky below ~2,000’ however.
“We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers.”
A number of program participants were sick today, so Dylan, Ty, and I wound up being able to ski together for the session. We headed over to Mansfield and rode the Gondola to get some good elevation, hoping for some really nice snow up high on the mountain. After that first run on the Gondola I sent in an update to the New England Regional Forum at American Weather because the conditions at elevation were simply fantastic. It might have been only a few inches of new snow from this storm at that point, but we found that it was on top of a LOT of great snow below it. With no recent thaws, the snow off piste is actually quite deep where it hasn’t been touched by other skiers. We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers. Even if the 40” or so at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is below average, that still a lot of snow – we could routinely stick our poles into the snowpack right up to the handle. We typically stayed out of steep off piste areas below -2,500’ because they need just a bit more base to really be in prime form, but above that the skiing was fantastic indeed.
Some of our best turns were up high in the Kitchen Wall area, but surfaces were excellent all the way down to ~2,000’. That was the line where you hit some of that Pacific Northwest-style wet pack on the groomed surfaces. I’ve experienced it most intensely at Whistler Blackcomb with their relatively low base elevation, but it was kind of fun today using that snow at the end of runs to work with the boys and discuss ski technique for how to manage those turns.
It continued to snow all afternoon, and the forecast suggests it’s going to keep going right through tomorrow before tapering off on Tuesday. The conditions will likely be amazing tomorrow with the continued snowfall.