Tag Archives: North Slope

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 15NOV2015

An image of melted snow pouring off the roof of the Mansfield Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Warming up after yesterday’s new snow

I wasn’t able to head out to the slopes back in October when we had our first notable storm of the 2015-2016 winter season, but the storm affecting the area this weekend looked like it was going to be a bit bigger in the Northern Greens, so I was hoping to find a way to get out to the snow. With this storm, snow started falling in the mountains on Friday afternoon as the temperatures came down, and by Saturday morning the freezing level had dropped all the way to the valley floors and we woke up with a coating of white on the ground at the house. It continued to snow at our place all morning, and with temperatures staying cold, it would have been a great day to head to the mountains and make some turns in the fresh powder. Unfortunately, I was still under the effects of a cold that had come on at the end of the week, and I was in no condition to head out into the cold and snow.

This morning though, I was feeling notably better, and it seemed like a trip to the snow would be in order. Assessing what I’d seen for coverage on the Bolton Valley Web Cam at 2,100’, and comparing the pictures that Powderfreak posted yesterday from ~2,500’ on Mansfield, it looked like Stowe had picked up the better accumulations, so I set my sights there. Around midday I was ready to head out. I knew that the snow wasn’t going to be dry in the lower elevations, because temperatures were already well up into the 40s F, but even if the snow turned out to be sticky, I’d still get a nice hike out of the deal.

The first traces of snow along the Mountain Road appeared in the 900’ – 1,000’ elevation range just below The Matterhorn, and up at the Mansfield Base Lodge there was about an inch of patchy wet snow. A quick survey of the area had shown me that North Slope had some of the best-looking coverage, and apparently, that was because the resort had actually made some snow there. I threw my skis on my pack, unsure of whether or not I’d be skinning, and headed up the stairs to the base of the lifts. I just happened to run into Claire and Luc, who were up because Luc was anxious to get in some turns on the available snow. We hiked together at various stages, and since she was hiking back down, Claire stopped at the Crossover elevation while I switched over to skins, and Luc and I continued up to the top of the next pitch of North Slope around 2,400’. There were actually a fair number of people out and about for the “day after” the storm, but I guess it wasn’t too surprising with the nice warm temperatures.

An image of a snowboarder jumping at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
One of many folks out enjoying the day at Stowe

Luc headed down before me to catch up with Claire, and when I finally started my descent, I found out that the snow conditions were quite good. I’d been worried about the warm weather making a mess of the snow, but the combination of natural and manmade snow, along with some skier traffic, turned a good portion of the route into dense, spring-like snow that skied very well. I hit Tele turns where the snow was good, stuck in some alpine turns where conditions were more variable, and had quite a good ride for a quick outing. We’ve got a warmer week coming up, with highs in the mountains generally in the 40s F, but it looks like we might have more cold and snow as we head toward the weekend and Thanksgiving week, so we’ll see what chances that period brings for additional turns. For now though, I’d say there’s enough snow on North Slope to last through some warm days for people interested in earning some turns this week.

Bolton Valley & Backcountry, VT 17JAN2015

An image looking down Randy's glade on the back side of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Heading down into the Cotton Brook area on today’s backcountry ski tour near Bolton Valley.

Best… Bolton… backcountry… tour… ever. That’s really the only way to start this trip report, because even after years of exploring the backcountry around Bolton Valley, that’s what today’s tour was for me. I can’t say that this tour was tops in every category; the powder was fantastic, but there have been numerous days that top it, and E and the boys weren’t with me, so it was a solo outing. What made the tour so great though was the combination of great powder on all aspects, the good distances covered to provide a nice workout, but most importantly, the breadth of the backcountry network used and the substantial number and variety of glades visited. The tour spanned all the way from the alpine trails of Wilderness to the Cotton Brook area, and featured nine different glades. What also made the tour so outstanding was that I could use my knowledge of the area to connect all those glades very efficiently; in terms of powder turns that meant getting the most bang for my buck.

“…we just keep getting “small” snowfalls to freshen the slopes and top off the powder, but of course around here that’s meant 1 to 2 feet in the past week.”

It’s a holiday weekend, which typically means lots of visitors to the ski resorts, and the forecast today called for fairly chilly temperatures in the single digits for the mountains. That’s a combination that just calls out for some backcountry touring, and that’s the plan that gradually evolved this past week as I watched the forecast. Although we haven’t had any huge storms in the past week or two, the snow out there in the Northern Greens is simply fantastic – we just keep getting “small” snowfalls to freshen the slopes and top off the powder, but of course around here that’s meant 1 to 2 feet in the past week. And, the January weather just keeps all that powder pristine.

Ty was out at a dance until late last night, and friends came back to our house and stayed overnight to play with him and Dylan. I wasn’t about to pull them away from that this morning, and in fact, I wasn’t really planning to ask anyone if they wanted to ski with only single digits in the mountain forecast. I knew it was going to be one of those days where it could be uncomfortably cold if you didn’t keep moving, so going out by myself meant that I could keep the tour at whatever pace I chose. Knowing that I was going out solo also let me devise a more ambitious tour than if I was heading out with the whole family. After considered the many options, I decided that a lift-assisted tour out toward the Cotton Brook area would be a good option. There are glades farther to the north there that I’ve yet to explore, and at a decent pace, it looked like I’d be able to put together a solid tour out to that area and back in the three to four hour window of time I had.

The Wilderness Chair was scheduled to start running at 10:00 A.M., so I headed up to the mountain a bit after that and found that parking had reached the third tier of the main Village lot. That’s actually less than I’d expect for a Saturday on a holiday weekend, but I think the cold weather kept some folks away. I was able to wrap around and get a spot in the first tier, and then headed right over to the base of the Wilderness Chair to start my tour with a lift assist. Temperatures were certainly on the chilly side, probably somewhere in the single digits, but there was no wind, and that made quite a difference in terms of sitting out there lift. The lift ride gave me a chance to check out the on piste conditions, since I haven’t been to the resort since our trip back on the 4th of the month, and what I saw today looked really good. I didn’t hear any hard sounds as some snowboarders passed below me, and off in the Wilderness Woods to my left, I watched a boy glide through the powder in silence. I’d say ¾ of the terrain in Wilderness Woods was still untracked, so there was a lot of good skiing to be done there. I was even tempted to take a run, but keeping on track for my tour was a necessity.

An image showing a sign for the Heavenly Highway trail on the backcountry network at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in VemontFrom the Wilderness Summit I skied down the top of Peggy Dow’s to the junction with the backcountry network at Heavenly Highway. I let my momentum carry a bit of the way into the forest, and then stopped to put on my skins. At that point I definitely felt the cold – it had the bite of below zero cold up there around 3,000′, and having just sat on the lift for a while meant that I wasn’t producing much heat. As I got my skins on another skier appeared, coming from Heavenly Highway. We exchanged greetings and I saw that he was heading for a descent on the alpine terrain. I got my skins on quickly, and headed northward on the trail. My goal was to head down Devil’s Drop and get on the Catamount Trail, and I made good time through those high elevations. I checked the depth of the surface powder as I moved across the ridge line on Heavenly Highway, and generally I found about 13 inches. I saw a couple other skiers along the way toward Devil’s Drop, but as usual it was pretty quiet. For Devil’s Drop, I debated taking off my skins and really having some fun on the descent, but opted to just keep them on. I did switch my binding to ski mode so that I could make some Telemark and alpine turns as needed. I actually had first tracks Devil’s Drop, and if I’d been with others it probably would have been worth pulling off the skins and skiing it hard with some pictures.

As I neared the bottom of Devil’s Drop I saw a group of eight skiers below heading northward on the Catamount Trail. That’s one of the larger groups I’ve seen out there, and then seemed pretty organized; as I caught up to them they all pulled over to the right in near unison and let me pass. Within another few minutes I’d passed Birch run and reached the border of the Bolton Valley Backcountry Network. I continued on a bit more until I was just below “The Glades”. My goal actual goal was down below, but I had the time and energy, and there were few tracks in The Glades, so I continued up to add another couple hundred vertical to my descent. That’s when I really started to warm up, and I had to hit the side zips on my pants and open the vents in my helmet. I actually think the air temperature was starting to warm a bit as well as southerly flow was starting to kick in ahead of our next storm. The ascent overall there was really quick though, and soon I was at the top of The Glades switching over to descent mode.

I hadn’t really gotten the feel of the skiing since I’d had my skins on at Devil’s Drop, but now I had them off and could dive into those turns in the Glades. The turns were excellent; there was a good foot or more of midwinter powder that easily kept me floating on my fat skis. I continued straight on below the Catamount trail onto “Randy’s”, which began with a modest pitch, and then dropped right off into a nice steep, open drainage. The pitch was close to 30 degrees in spots, and I can imagine this is quite a spot after big dumps of snow. The powder there was the deepest I’d seen on the day, but even that wasn’t quite enough to keep from touching down to the subsurface in a few spots because it was just so steep. That’s some really sweet terrain down there though, and there was just one or two other ski tracks in there, so the untracked lines were plentiful. Below that I got into “Great White Way”, where the pitch mellowed out a bit relative to Randy’s. The route just kept going, and as far as I understand, you can essentially take it all the way down to Waterbury Reservoir if you want, but after about 700-800′ of vertical I decided to call it a descent so that I could stay on track with the rest of my tour.

I skinned up along the edge of Great White Way, using a skin track that others had put in place. It would great to have a skin track that was totally out of the way of the trail, but the pitch is reasonable enough that you can head straight up the trail. As I approached Randy’s, the pitch really steepened of course, and the skin track had to make some pretty tight switchbacks. Fortunately, a more official, off trail skin track is quickly offered that heads up toward Birch Loop; there’s even a sign to let skiers know where that ascent route is, and it’s marked by blue blazes. That ascent was excellent, with a well-established skin track, and it delivers you right back that the Catamount trail just below The Glades.

“The depth and consistency of the powder came together perfectly for the pitch, and by the time I hit World Cup I was saying “Yes, Yes, that’s what I’m talking about!”… mostly to myself of course.”

I left my skins on and zoomed across the flats toward Bryant Cabin. I didn’t stop inside, but instead continued along Gardiner’s Lane and up to North Slope to set up my final descent of the day. I stopped at the top of Upper JJ’s as my starting point. Since it was my final descent, I pulled out some tomato soup from my thermos, let it cool while I removed my skins, and then chugged the soup down and got on my way. The turns were beautiful, and I continued on Gardiner’s Lane, noting that there was a nice line above A1A that I hadn’t recalled seeing. I’ll have to check that out in the future. When I got to Grizzwald’s I found it completely untracked, and bounded my way down the steep pitch with some deep, fluffy turns. I contemplated a look at Alchemist, since it faces south and might be well preserved in this cold weather, but I saw what looked like just a track or two heading toward Gotham City and my skis just ended up pulling me that way. I skied Girls, and I think those might have been my favorite turns of the day. The depth and consistency of the powder came together perfectly for the pitch, and by the time I hit World Cup I was saying “Yes, Yes, that’s what I’m talking about!”… mostly to myself of course. I hit two more glades on the descent before I was down to Broadway, but I don’t really know the names of those – the snow was good to the very last drop though.

A Google Earth image showing GPS tracking data from a backcountry ski tour in the Bolton Valley backcountry in Vermont
The GPS tracking data from today’s tour in the Bolton Valley backcountry plotted on Google Earth

I really can’t think of a tour I’ve done in the Bolton Valley backcountry that delivered such a huge amount of perfect turns in so many different areas, so this one really does go down as my best tour in that regard. The lift assist really allowed this tour to fit into a reasonable window of time while covering some good distances. There are really limitless combinations to do out there in terms of tours, but I know I’ll visit parts of this one again because it delivered so well.

Stowe, VT 18MAY2014

An image of Erica skiing on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in Mid May with an image of a pond and spring foliage in the background
Erica cruises her way down Mt. Mansfield today with hints of spring in the valley below.

There’s still snow on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield, and since today’s weather was absolutely beautiful, we decided to get in some turns while we still could. After some rain on Friday night, the weather cleared out and dried out yesterday, and today was just a continuation of that trend with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s F. We headed up to Mt. Mansfield in the early afternoon, and a quick survey of the slopes revealed that the substantial snow on Nosedive was quite a distance up in elevation, but North Slope has decent coverage all the way to the base. That seemed like the best option for turns, especially for the boys. The Mansfield Parking Lot was closed, and accessing North Slope from the Gondola lots was a bit of a hike, so we found a nice parking spot near the exit from the Mansfield Lot that gave us some quick access to the snow, and even allowed us to use the big staircase behind the Mansfield Base Lodge.

“The snow was excellent corn, from which the top couple of inches would be shaved off to produce some very nice turns.”

An image of Ty and Dylan on their skis during a descent of the North Slope trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in mid May The snow on Lower North Slope was discontinuous, but there were large areas of coverage left over from parts of the terrain park that would allow most of the descent there to be on snow. We hiked up to Crossover with our skis on our packs, and then decided to switch over to skinning above that point, since our earlier observations from afar suggested that the snow cover would be becoming fairly continuous in that area. The boys had us going at their usual leisurely pace, which included stopping at various times to either play on one of the massive snow piles, slide downhill in the snow on their knees as members of a rock band playing guitars, attach old beer cans to the bottom of their ski poles, or pick up the odds and ends that appear at ski resorts as the snow disappears. They were also quite engrossed in discussing their latest exploits on Minecraft, which helped to keep things upbeat during the ascent vs. having them constantly ask about how much higher we were going to hike. As we were putting on our skins above Crossover, a skier was just descending to us, and he told us that there was some excellent coverage and smooth snow up on Sunrise. The skin up North Slope was fun, with a couple spots having fairly narrow passageways of snow that took some careful navigation. Also of note were the occasional mini crevasses that formed where the snowpack was separating; those were an immediate source of fun for the boys as they strove to cross in wide areas without touching the ground below. The snow was just about continuous up to near the summit of the Mountain Triple Chair, where we finally had to stop our ascent due to time. I really would have liked to go a bit farther and check out Sunrise, but if I take a trip up by myself I may do that at some point. In any event, the coverage on the upper parts of North Slope was generally wall to wall and a couple feet deep.

An image of Ty skiing in spring snow on the North Slope trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in mid May
Ty slicing some new tracks into North Slope today

We only paused at the top of the ascent long enough to switch the gear over for the descent, and there was definitely a bit of chill in the air up there whenever the occasional cloud would pass in front of the sun. The snow was excellent corn, from which the top couple of inches would be shaved off to produce some very nice turns. There were occasional areas of sun cups around, but for the most part they were either minimal in size, or there was a side of the trail with very few of them, so we got in lots of smooth turns. The boys had used Alpine Trekkers today so that they could ski on their alpine skis, and they had a blast ripping through all the nuances of the terrain. Along with the smooth turns on the upper half of North Slope, one of my favorite parts was lower down on the trail where the snow was down to just a few feet wide in a couple of sections – holding a Telemark drift in those areas was a lot of fun, and we even got E doing it with some great control.

An image of Jay skiing the North Slope trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in Mid May
On the descent of North Slope today

Below Crossover we had to take off our skis a few times, but the walking was easy on the grassy slopes, so the descent was very quick. Everyone got up atop one of the big mounds of snow left from a huge terrain park feature and enjoyed some turns down the steep back side. It was definitely a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, although unfortunately it doesn’t look like there will be too many opportunities left for these types of outings this season – the skiing return is going to start getting more and more marginal for the hiking investment. We all lamented that these may be our last turns at Stowe for this season. I read today that the Mt. Washington Auto Road opened to the summit, so I suspect our next family outing will be a trip to Mt. Washington to ski the snowfields if an appropriate window of weather is available.

Stowe, VT 21NOV2013

An image of ski tracks on the Lower North Slope trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Super smooth turns today on Lower North Slope

We were last out at Stowe for turns on Sunday, and since that time there really hasn’t been much in the way of new snow – about an inch fell at 1,500’ on Tuesday, with probably a couple of inches up near the Mansfield ridgeline.  That wasn’t much to inspire one with thoughts of great ski conditions, but since I was in Morrisville today for the annual BJAMS Thanksgiving lunch, on the way home I decided to pay a visit to Mt. Mansfield and make use of the energy provided by that great meal.

“…the forecast suggests
that we’ve got three
potential systems moving
through in the next few
days…”

Temperatures that were in the teens this morning were hovering near 40 F in the mountain valleys and up at the Mansfield Base in the early afternoon.  Although it was above freezing, the air seemed quite cold and there was no melting going on – the dew points were just sitting there down in the teens.  I parked a bit north of the Mansfield Base Lodge, got my gear together and began skinning up toward Lower North Slope.  With an inch or two of natural snow supplemented by some snowmaking blow-over, the look and feel of the snow on that first pitch above the parking lot was quite encouraging.

An image of a skin track in a couple inches of snow on the Toll Road at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontThere was an occasional skier here or there on the slopes, but as one might expect on a pre-season midweek day without any obvious storms having gone through the area, it was pretty quiet.  The snowmaking lines were definitely charged in many areas, but with the marginal temperatures, the guns seemed to be on hold.  That kept the scene especially peaceful.  I ascended at first via North Slope, and while Lower North Slope had seen a massive bombardment of manmade snow thanks to the cold temperatures, above Crossover the surface was a refrozen mess that had either seen snowcat/snowmobile traffic or previous skiers.  The uneven surface was occasionally slick enough to cause some skin slippage on the steepest pitches, so at the top of the Mountain Triple at ~2,700’ I switched over to Toll Road for a change of pace.  The skinning there was delightful, with a track recently made by another skier in a couple inches of powder.  I continued on up Sunrise and Lower Ridgeview, and finally stopped my ascent at the next junction with Toll Road at 3,300’.  Based on what I’d seen during my meandering climb of the mountain, I liked the prospects for starting out with some turns in the powder along the edges of Toll Road.  In general, slopes that hadn’t seen fresh snowmaking were going to be a scratchy mess of refrozen corduroy, bumpy snow, or worse yet, snow that had been beaten up by the treads of machinery… and then solidified.

An image of partly cloudy skies behind some evergreens at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
A mix of sun and clouds today

I started down Toll Road, and indeed the surface was as expected – where vehicles had traveled it was very disheveled, but fortunately the edges held frequent untouched powder of a couple inches that made for some smooth turns on the gentle pitches.  Sunrise was steeper and held the occasional good pocket of powder off to the sides, but generally the scratchy, messy snow that marked the low end of today’s spectrum of conditions.  However, when I found myself on Gulch I was greeted with some freshly-made snow that produced some great turns.  There was quite a mix of options on Gulch, with turns on the manmade and occasional jaunts into the natural snow where nothing had been blown.  Like Sunday, at Crossover I once again found myself looking down Lower Lord at some impressive snow – it was that mix of natural bolstered by manmade, and I got about 10 turns worth of good stuff before I cut through the trees over to Lower North Slope.  Natural snow almost always trumps manmade snow, but for today, I actually might have to give top honors for most fun turns to that freshly-made stuff on Lower North Slope.  Where it hadn’t been touched by any equipment, which was fortunately most of the slope, it was billiard table smooth – and it offered up turns just as smooth.  You would shave off just a half inch or so of that snow and the turns were dreamy.  The surface seemed so durable despite its softness, and it made me wonder how a non-groomed surface like that would hold up to skier traffic.  It was a really fun way to finish off the run.

“…I actually might have
to give top honors for
most fun turns to that
freshly-made stuff on
Lower North Slope.”

So, although the base depths certainly aren’t up close to the two foot mark the way they were last week, the base of 7 inches or so up high is right around average – and we’re not talking about 7 inches of fluff, this is stuff that has already been consolidated by the warmer temperatures from earlier in the week.  I think we’re going to see some interesting options in the higher elevations when natural snow moves in and starts to build upon what’s there.  And, we may not have to wait long – the forecast suggests that we’ve got three potential systems moving through in the next few days, and possibly even a fourth, larger system, in the middle of next week.  That one is still too far out in the modeling world to really be considered likely at this point, but it’s got people’s interest because it could be a coastal storm with more copious amounts of moisture.  In any event, the first three events are much more likely, and should be almost exclusively snow in the mountains.  I’m curious to see what we get out of these systems, because as we know, the Northern Greens can often take these smaller snow events, run with them, and deliver the goods.

Stowe, VT 17NOV2013

An image of Erica and Dylan during an ascent of the Lower North Slope trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Heading up part of Stowe’s white carpet today

Stick season can be a tough time to get out for exercise; there are often those cold, dreary days in the 30s or 40s F that don’t really inspire one to jump on the bike or into the kayak.  Instead of hitting the trail, it’s much easier to hunker down at home in the warmth.  Fortunately in Northern New England, when the weather reaches such a cold and dreary level, there’s often fresh snow falling in the mountains.  That wasn’t the case this weekend though, as the current storm affecting that area is fairly warm, and the precipitation isn’t expected to change over to snow until tomorrow night.  With the weather at hand, there wasn’t much calling us out onto the slopes.  However, since Stowe prepared some of their terrain and ran the Fourrunner Quad for season’s pass appreciation day yesterday, it meant that there would be some rather unutilized groomed snow out there today.  That realization hadn’t even occurred to me until late morning when I was thinking about what we might do to get in some outdoor activity today.  I brought up the idea to E and the boys, and once the house and homework were generally in order, we decided that we could spend a couple of hours getting in some turns.

“What I encountered was
an inch or two of dense
powder, it had seen some
contamination by manmade
snow, but that was enough
to keep me riding on a
smooth, supportive base.”

We headed out in the mid afternoon under cloudy skies and occasional spits of drizzle, finding temperatures in the mid 40s F in the mountain valleys.  We’ve only got a couple patches of snow left at the house, and in general there’s really nothing to speak of for snow up the Mountain Road until you get around the 900-1,000 foot elevation.  From there the snow builds until there’s decent cover at 1,200’ and above, but south-facing areas exposed to heavy sun are still partially melted out even up at those elevations.  We parked at 1,500’ near the Mansfield Base Lodge, where, we saw a few other vehicles and one skier just starting to skin up toward the quad on their ascent.  Temperatures were in the low 40s F and the snowpack looked quite respectable – there was a consistent covering of several inches or more, and the consolidated snow was only slightly softened by the above freezing temperatures.  In fact, we were thinking it would have been nicer if it was softened even more with regard to making turns.

An image of melting snow on the roof of Stowe Toys Demo Center at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A sign of today’s warmth
An image of Dylan at the beginning of and asecnt near the base of the Fourrunner Quad at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan out on the snow today

We skinned up to the base of the Fourrunner Quad and continued past it toward the bottom of Lower North Slope, which with its prodigious manmade snow was the obvious route that every other skier we saw was taking.  There was really no skin track, nor was there need for one – the whole expanse of the slope was essentially a smooth mass of consolidated snow that you could walk through like a giant field of white.  We spread out and often walked side by side, enjoying what was definitely a leisurely pace.  We really didn’t have any goal for the ascent, we figured we’d just go as far as the quality of the snow and the availability of daylight suggested.  We stopped for a quick break at the intersection with Crossover (~1,850’) – we were just starting to enter the clouds at that point and combined with the late afternoon light, visibility was very low.  We continued on up Crossover to where it met Standard at around 2,000’ and decided to end the ascent there.

“I’ve been quite impressed
with their sushi so far, and
it was great again tonight.”

For the descent, we began our way down Crossover, finding the snow pretty much as we expected based on what we’d felt beneath our feet on the ascent and heard from the descents of other skiers.  It was soft enough to get a nice bite with the edges, but not as soft as you’d really like it to be for spring skiing.  Temperatures around 40 F just weren’t enough to get it to soften that far.  Crossover has some irregularities in the surface from snowcat, snowmobile, and skier traffic, so it also wasn’t as smooth as if it had been freshly groomed.  The snow had enough issues that it had me looking elsewhere, such as the natural snow on Lower Lord that I’d seen on my way up.  As Powderfreak mentioned with regard to yesterday’s opening at the resort, even some natural terrain trails were open, and there was clearly enough coverage even down below the 2,000’ level to make that a reality.  I decided to make a few turns down Lower Lord, just to check it out, and then I could shuffle back up to Crossover if the skiing was horrible.  Well, those first few turns had me sold.  What I encountered was an inch or two of dense powder, it had seen some contamination by manmade snow, but that was enough to keep me riding on a smooth, supportive base.  I told E and the boys to dive in and check it out, and if they didn’t like it we could head back up.  Everyone enjoyed the snow – the only thing was the after a few more turns, the extra density that had been imparted by the manmade snow disappeared.  The powder became much wetter and the base less supportive.  We made a few more turns before deciding to cut through the trees onto Lower North Slope because it was just going to be too difficult for the boys to be trying Telemark turns in that challenging snow.  Snow depths were certainly sufficient on the natural terrain; Dylan and I both checked the snow depths and found 7-10 inches in that 1,800-2,000’ elevation range.  It was a tough call switching over to the groomed snow though, I could have gone either way personally – it was a choice between slightly too firm manmade, or slightly too soft natural snow.  Lower North Slope ended up delivering some decent turns, and the boys got to make some Telemark turns on the more supportive surfaces.  There was still plenty of uneven terrain since the snow hadn’t seen a re-grooming, but it was smooth enough for some good flowing turns.

Rain was starting to pick up as we returned to the car, and we quickly put the skis on the rack and tossed the rest of the gear in the back to get out of the rain and on our way.  With the temperature around 40 F, it was certainly a raw rain as well.  This outing was decent, but we’re certainly watching the forecast for the potential to get back into the powder by next weekend.  The computer models suggest that the possibility of snow is out there, but they’re definitely not all in agreement yet so we’ll have to wait a few more cycles to see where things settle out.  More cold air is definitely on the horizon though.

An image of the logo for the Sushi Yoshi Asian restaurant in Stowe, VermontWe stopped off to grab some take-out from Sushi Yoshi on the Mountain Road, they’ve only been there a few months, and this will be their first ski season.  While ordering, I was talking to the hostess about the anticipation of the business during the ski season, and she said that they’re actually planning on running their own shuttle bus to allow people to go to and from the restaurant without having to worry about driving.  It will be interesting to see how people like that feature, but in any event, I expect business will be picking up greatly in the next few weeks as visitors start to hit the resort.  I’ve been quite impressed with their sushi so far, and it was great again tonight.  We also got some of their hot dishes tonight as well, and they were fine, although they didn’t seem to stand out the way the sushi has.  They also have hibachi-style dining options as well, so one of these days we’ll have to bring the boys and try that out.  I’ll definitely be getting more sushi though whenever I go, from what I’ve experienced I think they’ll be getting plenty of patronage from sushi lovers this ski season.