Tag Archives: Nosedive Glades

Stowe, VT 12FEB2017

An image of some BJAMS students in the Whitewater area of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Our group of BJAMS boys pausing in the Whitewater area on Mt. Mansfield today as they enjoy their adventures in the fresh snow of Winter Storm Orson

We’ve got Winter Storm Orson underway in the area this evening, and for this afternoon’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe we were able to enjoy the storm’s front end snow as it started to unload on Mt. Mansfield.  Snowfall began around midday, and ramped up throughout the afternoon, so it was one of those days where the snow quality just got better and better with each run.  There were already a few inches of powder down ahead of the storm, consistent with what I’d seen at Bolton Valley yesterday, but it really wasn’t enough to keep you off the crusty subsurface snow in all cases.  By the end of the afternoon though, there was a good half foot of powder or more above the crust depending on elevation, and that firm subsurface was starting to become a memory.  Coming into the afternoon, the snow quality was already quite good in spots where skier traffic had pulverized the thick layer underneath, so that terrain was getting really fun.

An image of a sign indicating Wifi availability at the Octagon restaurant atop Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontFor our tour of the mountain today we headed right over to Mt. Mansfield and kicked things off with a trip down Ravine.  Some of the ice falls are hardly noticeable right now, which says a lot about the snowpack in mid-February.  We headed to the Kitchen Wall, and then down through the Nosedive Glades to Nosedive, where we discovered that the microburst zone was actually open!  No doubt that the deep snowpack is allowing that, but it’s the first time I’ve skied there extensively since it was closed.  It’s really fun in there though, naturally it’s a bit more open than it was before, but it offers up some novel lines.  One of my initial plans for today was to visit the Sunrise Glades, Chapel Glades, and Birch Glades in case lower-angle terrain was going to allow us to stay off the crusty subsurface snow.  Even with conditions much better than I’d expected, that was still on the hit list, so we had an excellent trip through all those zones.  We’d caught up with Nolan just before that during an Octagon break, and he joined us on his Telemark gear.  We finished off the day back at Spruce Peak with some Sensation Quad runs, and had Spruce Line all to ourselves.  The wind and snow were ripping up at the Spruce Peak Summit area, but down out of the wind in places like Green Acres, there was some excellent powder.

“…it was one of those days where the snow quality just got better and better with each run.”

As of this evening, we’ve picked up at least 8 to 9 inches down here at the house from Winter Storm Orson, and I expect tomorrow’s turns to be excellent.  We’ve actually got the potential for another storm in just a couple of days, so we’ll be watching that one to see what it might deliver.  The snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake was already at roughly 80 inches today, and it should continue to climb this week.

Stowe, VT 18JAN2016

An image of Erica skiing some deep snow in the Nosedive Glades at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Mother Nature has been dropping a lot of snow on Mansfield as of late, and the powder continues to build up.

We’re in the midst of a fairly snowy stretch here in the Northern Greens, and thanks to the MLK holiday, E and the boys and I were able to head to Stowe for some skiing today. They’d reported up to 4 inches of new snow overnight, and it was still coming down when we arrived at the mountain in the morning. The continued snow was a welcomed sight, but unfortunately there was also an absolutely brutal wind out there today that came along with it. We parked in the Mansfield lot and made our way to the Over Easy as quickly as possible to get out of the wind and over to the Spruce Peak Base Area.

An image of breakfast cooking on a griddle at the Great Room Grill at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe had some breakfast at the Great Room Grill while we waited for Jack and Norris, who were the reason that Ty and Dylan were so excited for the day. They were going to head off as a foursome on their own, similar to what they’d done last season. It’s hard to beat hanging with your buddies with total freedom on the slopes. That meant that E and I would get to spend some time skiing alone together, which we haven’t done in quite some time.

“Right on one of the cat tracks I checked with my pole and found a healthy 22 inches of snow above the base. It wasn’t all from the current storm, but boy where you found undisturbed snow it was very deep and bottomless.”

The boys headed on their way up Spruce Peak, and E and I were off to Mansfield to ride the Gondola. It seemed like the way to go with those ferocious winds, and everyone at the resort seemed to have the same idea so there was quite a queue. Winds were actually fairly minimal up at the Cliff House itself thanks to its position below the ridge, but I knew that in general the trees would be the place to go to seek protection. We headed toward the Nosedive Glades and found impressive amounts of powder out there. Right on one of the cat tracks I checked with my pole and found a healthy 22 inches of snow above the base. It wasn’t all from the current storm, but boy where you found undisturbed snow it was very deep and bottomless. We didn’t return to the Gondola due to the queue, but headed over to the Mountain Triple Chair and Fourrunner Quad, which were deserted. We found some excellent snow in the Chapel Glades/Birch Glades area; base depths are easily sufficient for those glades. The powder in undisturbed areas was typically in the range of a foot there, being lower on the mountain. We were warmed up enough after that run that we braved the winds on the Fourrunner Quad, and went back into the Nosedive Glades from the other side because the snow had been so good in there.

An image showing 22 inches of snow in the Nosedive Glades at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Deep snow in the Nosedive Glades

We warmed up at the Midway Lodge near the fireplace, and then made another Gondola run to hit some of the terrain in that area since the lift queue had disappeared. We checked out Waterfall and Switchback and found some pretty nice snow. I dipped into a few glades to check them out, and there are some lines that flow, but most need just another storm or two. The boys had called from the Octagon with plans to meet back at the Great Room Grill for lunch, and they made it back well ahead of us and snuck in a bit more skiing on Spruce Peak while they waited.

An image of snowy evergreens in the Nosedive Glades at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Tons of snow clinging to the evergreens in the Nosedive Glades

By the time we’d finished lunch it was after 3:00 P.M., but the boys were interested in checking out some of the lines that E and I had skied with the great snow in the Nosedive Glades. Traffic had been pretty light in the afternoon, and with continued snow falling the conditions were excellent. We even sampled a few more glades on the lower mountain on that run; it’s still hit or miss with the current base depths, but there are certainly some decent shots available. On piste conditions were generally a mix of great new snow with a reasonably soft base in areas of low traffic, but firm in areas that had seen typical levels of holiday weekend skiers. Things should only be getting better over the next couple of days with the continued snow; Winter Weather Advisories are already up for the upslope region of the Northern Greens for the snow coming into the area tomorrow.

Stowe, VT 08FEB2015

An image of the Gondolier trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont taken from the Spruce Peak area at the end of the day
A wintry view of the Gondolier trail disappearing into clouds and snow at the end of a good ski day

The snow from long-duration Winter Storm Marcus continued overnight, and although it was just an inch or so down here at the house and a few inches up in the mountains, the snow had substantially higher density than the fluff we received yesterday. Both James and Tom heeded the call I put out earlier in the week with regard to skiing, so they would be joining us for the afternoon at Stowe. It was actually great that they were able to make it today, because Ken wasn’t going to be there and they could help with managing my ski group during the BJAMS ski program.

“…untracked lines were just ridiculously deep with two to three feet of powder just like we found yesterday at Bolton Valley.”

The guys arrive at our house well ahead of the planned 10:00 A.M. meet up, so we had some time to catch up while our family got our ski gear together. We were on the way to Stowe by about 10:30 A.M. or so, and there was steady snowfall, but it was light enough that well-traveled roads were generally showing blacktop. We had time for some lunch in the Great Room Grill with E and the boys, and Chris even showed up to hang out and have some food before he headed back down to Massachusetts.

“The snow just keeps piling on there, and the terrain has that feeling of skiing an alpine bowl in an area that keeps getting hit by repeated storm cycles.”

We went out for an early run before program time, and checked out the open terrain above Meadows. The snow just keeps piling on there, and the terrain has that feeling of skiing an alpine bowl in an area that keeps getting hit by repeated storm cycles. The powder has been somewhat cut up by skiers, so it’s nice to have a ski with some girth that can hold its own as the variations in the surface snow try to toss you around at speed. What a great warm-up run that was though; it gave us a good feeling for what we’d be able to find out there today.

An image of Ty, Dylan, Tom, and James riding the Meadows Quad Chair at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The boys chat with the guys.

“I don’t know how he was able to fit all that stuff in his ski jacket, but I made me remember how much fun it is to have Bursey on board when it comes to food.”

Luc was sick, and Elizabeth was going to be joining our group, so it looked like it would be a total of seven students that James, Tom, and I had in our charge. We took one more run on the Meadows Chair while we waited for Jack to arrive, and then crossed over to Mansfield via the Over Easy. As we stood at the Gondola summit and I asked the kids where they wanted to go, “the Middle of Nowhere” was quickly heard from multiple voices. So, off we went toward Nosedive and into the trees. Conditions were great as one would expect, and with the three of us adults we were able to pretty easily keep tabs on the group. A technique I like to use is to watch for students that break away from the pack and take alternate lines, and then follow them. Wiley often does this during his runs as he searches out good lines and good powder, and I got to follow him through a nice section of terrain. We made more good use of the three coaches when we got to Nosedive and some of the group wanted to dive back into the trees and some wanted to stay on trail. I guided the off piste group through some of the trees on the skiers left of Nosedive, while James and Tom offered to take care of the on piste group as they continued to warm up. It was back into the trees again for some of us as we approached Liftline, and boy, untracked lines were just ridiculously deep with two to three feet of powder even down in some of the lowest elevations, just like we found yesterday at Bolton Valley.

An image of some evergreens high on Mt. Mansfield as viewed from the Octagon building at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontWe made our way to the Fourrunner Quad and by the time we got to the top some freezing fog was wreaking havoc with everyone’s goggles. Jonah asked if we could head into the Octagon to have a snack and take care of that visibility issue, so it was break time. Tom pulled out the trail mix, banana bread, and whatever else he had on board and we had a darned good feast. I don’t know how he was able to fit all that stuff in his ski jacket, but I made me remember how much fun it is to have Bursey on board when it comes to food. Everyone’s goggles had been thoroughly thawed and wiped by the time we headed back out into the weather.

An image of some kids skiing on the Upper National trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The kids enjoying the good snow on Upper National today

I’d seen good coverage on Upper National, so we combined that with a run down Goat. Conditions are excellent, but not perfect as you can still find icy areas on the back of some moguls due to Stowe’s fairly heavy skier traffic. All the kids handled the steep terrain on that run very well though, and after that, it was obvious that Elizabeth could handle both the trees and steep terrain that our group often visits. It was my first time skiing Goat since the microburst took down all those trees along the left, and the damage is very impressive one you’re up close and personal with it. It’s probably going to take a while for that damage to regenerate. One of the best parts of the run was getting into the beautiful bump lines of Lower National. It gave us all a chance to work on pole timing with the kids, and those bump lines are just some much fun because the lower pitch of the trail keeps them tighter, smoother, and the snow quality so much better.

We finished off our runs on the Quad with a Nosedive Bypass down through the Nosedive Glades. Once down through the Bypass Chutes, Tom decided that he was getting a bit too tired to keep up at the kids pace, and told us to head on down and he’d catch up with us later. It’s been at least a couple of years since he’s skied the sort of stuff we were hitting today, so it’s not surprising that it felt like a challenging pace. He chose the perfect spot to stop for a rest though; he was just entering the glades with a quiet snow filtering down. I suggested he hang out for a while and soak in the scene while he rested, and later he told me that’s exactly what he did. As the end of the day approached and he was getting tired, he was able to head through the terrain at his own pace with stops as required, and it sounded like a good way to finish things off. As for the rest of the crew, James and I brought them once again through the bumps on Lower National to work on that type of skiing and help with the timing of their poles. James and I got to play follow-the-leader with Dylan through the bumps, and he showed impressive control as James really dropped his speed and massaged his way through the bump lines. James and I later talked about how much fun those bumps are and how the amount of effort needed to ski them is so minimal when you do it right.

“…fortunately he was just enjoying (although perhaps “enjoying” is too positive a word) a deep state of being tired at the end of the ski day.”

We returned back to the Spruce Peak Base to ensure we got everyone in on time, and most of the students did a couple more runs on Sunny Spruce before they called it a day. The last couple of runs featured some speed runs by the boys of course, but they love that stuff. Back in the base lodge, E told me that she had seen Tom crashed out in one of the chairs, and before she knew it was him she thought, “Boy, that guy looks tired!” It sounded like it was pretty funny when she found out it was actually Tom. She feared he’d gotten hurt, but fortunately he was just enjoying (although perhaps “enjoying” is too positive a word) a deep state of being tired at the end of the ski day. He might feel that tomorrow though, but hopefully we can get him to come out again for another coaching session.

Stowe, VT 11JAN2015

An image of Kenny jumping off a rock as he skis in the Chapel Glades at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Kenny holds no punches as he drops into the Chapel Glades at Stowe today.

Today marked the start of the season’s BJAMS ski program at Stowe, so the whole family was excited to once again hit the slopes with friends, classmates, and faculty. I was also quite interested in finding out what the ski conditions were like on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield. We’d headed out into the Jay Peak backcountry yesterday after hearing about the good snow that the area had seen this past week, and the conditions we found certainly didn’t disappoint; there was roughly a foot of midwinter powder out there. I knew Mansfield had picked up some good snow in the past couple days based on Powderfreak’s pictures on American Weather, but was it on par with what we’d found farther north, and how would it hold up to all the weekend visitors to the resort? I hedged my bets after seeing the pictures, and decided to bring my Rossignol Sin 7 skis for the day – I had a hunch that we’d be able to spend a good amount of time off piste and I suspected I’d want my wider, rockered boards instead of my on piste carvers.

“While riding the lift I caught sight of a couple of kids skiing in the trees above meadows, and as I watched the powder spraying off their skis, I knew it was going to be game on in the off piste.”

On our way up Route 100, we could see that the Greens were lost in snowfall off to the west, and fluffy flakes soon began to fill the air down in the valley. The snow globe flakes stayed with us all the way to the resort and put quite a spirit in the air as we kicked off the ski program season. With all the construction going on for the new facilities in the Spruce Peak Village, parking is at a real premium, but our ski program participants are being allowed to use the parking area at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center. It’s a bit of a walk for the kids, but everyone was really appreciative of the resort allowing that use; I think the logistics of transferring over from the Mansfield side are even more challenging with all the little ones.

Our usual ski group would be growing today with the addition of Wiley and Jonah – everyone felt that they were more than ready to join us in our usual off piste escapades, and both boys were excited to get at it. Although our group had now increased to a total of eight students, Ken was joining us as well, so we had a pair of adults to keep tabs on everyone. Having a lower ratio of students to coaches is nice, but it’s especially helpful with the amount of off piste skiing our group does. It’s much easier to get separated among the trees than out on the trail, so it’s important to have as many eyes on the group as possible. We’ve found that if we have one or two of the older or more experienced students leading, that can free up one coach to be the tail guide and a second coach can then keep their eyes on things from the middle of the pack and follow individuals that might take different routes. Ken and I have done it with similar groups before, so we were ready for the increased numbers today.

“…when the powder is looking good down at the bottom of Spruce Peak, you know it’s going to be good on Mt. Mansfield.”

We kicked things off with a ride on the new Meadows Quad Chair, which has replaced the Alpine and Easy Street Chairs. This new chair is a fixed grip quad, but it has one of those moving carpets underneath for efficient loading – the chairs are spaced quite close together on the new chair, and presumably the moving carpet lets them load a higher volume of skiers overall. While riding the lift I caught sight of a couple of kids skiing in the trees above the meadows area, and as I watched the powder spraying off their skis, I knew it was going to be game on in the off piste. The boys inquired about jumping into the trees, and I told them that we’d do a warm up run on the trails first, but we’d be getting into the trees right after that; when the powder is looking good down at the bottom of Spruce Peak, you know it’s going to be good on Mt. Mansfield.

Our group made its way over to the Gondola on Mansfield and as we traversed across the initial flats of Perry Merrill, I headed off to the skier’s right to check on the depth of the powder. A quick check revealed almost a foot and a half of champagne fluff, further confirming that we were going to be able to find plenty of soft snow. We worked our way down into the north side of the Nosedive Glades, and found lots of soft snow as expected. The good conditions weren’t too surprising, since Luc had told me he’d already been in there earlier today and found it quite good. Still, it’s always nice to really get you feet on it and find out for yourself. There was a solid foot of powder on untouched lines, and I’ve got to say, there was really just about the same amount of fluff as what we found in the Jay Peak backcountry. Mighty Mansfield has clearly done well in the snowfall department over the past several days. There was the usual amount of ice in the middle of snowmaking trails, but just about everywhere else it was not only the powder that was impressive, but the underlying and on piste surface as well.

An image of Luc, Julia, and Kenny lining up to drop into the Chapel Glades area at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Lining up for the drop in on Chapel Glades today

We worked our way over to the Fourrunner Quad and visited the Chapel Glades and Sunrise Glades. As usual all you had to do to get some untracked lines was just venture a bit farther afield. As we finished off that run I started exploring any woods shot that I came across, and was very impressed to see Wiley and Jonah right behind me on all those adventurous forays. With attitudes like that, I think they’re going to have a lot of fun in our ski group. And, they weren’t just handling it, they looked really comfortable following my traverses and lines through the deep powder.

An image of Dylan's ski boot liners warming up on the heater at the Octagon building at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontAfter a break in the Octagon, and a trip down Liftline to retrieve Kenny’s gloves that he’d dropped from the lift, we worked our way over to Nosedive Bypass and down through the glades again. Wiley really seems to have a nose for powder, and I often found him poking around the same areas as me as we sought out the best snow. I think one of the best treats today, aside from the fact that Stowe had picked up such a good amount of snow this week, is how much of it people had missed over the course of the weekend. Ken and I just kept finding good snow slightly off the beaten path, and that’s really nice for a Sunday afternoon.

Stowe, VT 16APR2014

An image of Erica skiing the Duck Walk trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Some late season powder today at Stowe

It’s continued to be a fairly slow April for snowfall, even in the mountains, and through the first half of the month there haven’t been any major spring snowstorms.  The mountains received a few inches in the middle of last week, but at that point the models also started to suggest something a bit more substantial for the middle of this week.  Folks kept an eye on it in the New England Regional Forum at American Weather, and the signal continued to be there – it was a slow moving cold front, with a sharp drop in temperatures and snow falling after the frontal passage.  It still wasn’t guaranteed to be a huge dump of snow, but it did look like it had the chance to produce moderate accumulations in the half foot range, as of the early part of this week.

“I’d say there was
generally 5-6” of
snow up high, and it
was enough for some
great turns where it
had been left alone…”

Rain changed over to snow here at the house yesterday evening, as temperatures fell toward the freezing mark, and we’d accumulated over 4 inches of new snow as of this morning.  It was falling at over an inch per hour at times, and it made one wonder what was going in the mountains.  It was a cold, wintry snow, coming in at 10% H2O through midnight, and falling to 6.4% H2O by this morning with temperatures around 20 F.  I was surprised to see that Stowe wasn’t reporting too much more than we picked up here in their morning snow report, but since E and the boys are off from school this week, it seemed like it was worth heading up to the mountain for at least a few runs.

The roads weren’t too bad in terms of driving, although Route 100 seemed to get the most attention and the driving was very smooth with minimal snow.  Areas like Waterbury Center and the town of Stowe seemed to have received a bit less than we did right along the spine, but by the time we got up to Stowe’s base elevations, the snow seemed to be in the 3-4” range similar to what we’d received at the house.  The morning report from the mountain had indicated single digits F for temperatures on the upper mountain, with teens below.  It was expected to warm up, but it definitely felt like mid winter as we arrived at the Mansfield Base Lodge, grabbed our gear, and headed inside.  It was an absolute switch from the warm spring temperatures we’d experienced on Sunday, and it meant making sure that we’re returned out passes to our cold weather gear after switching some of them over to lighter clothing.  Everyone also had to re-expand their chin straps for their helmets to accommodate balaclavas after they weren’t needed over the weekend.  The lodge was very quiet, with just a few people around, much like you’d expect it to be on a midweek day during the middle of April.

Riding the Fourrunner Quad was cold and windy, and we were definitely happy with our decision to dress for those midwinter temperatures, even if it was expected to warm up later.  With the moderate accumulations of new snow reported atop what was a refrozen base, we immediately headed over toward the Mountain Triple via some of the gentler slopes to assess the conditions.  I’d say there was generally 5-6” of snow up high, and it was enough for some great turns where it had been left alone, but many of the trails had been groomed, and unfortunately this just seemed to pack the new snow down into the hard spring base.  In some areas the grooming came together with the right accumulations of snow to make areas of nice carving, but the untracked snow was far superior, and that’s what we ended up seeking out.  It was those trails that hadn’t been groomed that would up being the biggest hits, and Lower Tyro delivered for us as usual.  E and the boys did some synchronous skiing for the camera in the powder, with nice results.  Turns certainly weren’t bottomless all the time, but you could definitely get plenty of floaty turns by paying attention to where the wind had made those deeper deposits of snow.

An image of Dylan skiing powder snow on the Duck Walk trail in April at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan tosses up some of today’s powder.

We rode the Mountain Triple, and caught some turns on Duck Walk, since we’d seen that it hadn’t been groomed.  After that, there was no doubt that we wanted to seek out terrain that hadn’t seen a groomer; the turns were just so good.  With that in mind, we headed back up the Fourrunner Quad and headed for the Nosedive Glades.  We didn’t think Nosedive Bypass was going to be very good with it steeper pitches, but we did catch the very bottom of Bypass and tested out the snow on some of that steeper terrain.  It was fun to try to connect the areas of deepest snow, and I got into some shots of over a foot.  The Nosedive Glades themselves were a lot of fun – the snow wasn’t bottomless on all turns, but there was plenty of floating.  And, with so few people out on the slopes today, there were a lot of fresh lines to be had.  Right in line with my ski testing from Sunday, I was wishing I had some wider alpine skis after watching the boys scoot around through the powder and get more float out of their equipment.  Nosedive had been groomed, but there were areas in the middle elevations that weren’t scoured and offered up some nice packed powder carving.  We finished the run on the lower part of Lookout, which had not been groomed and offered a lot of powder turns.

It was still on and off snow as we headed home in the late morning period, although areas in the lower valleys that had seen sun had already melted back with respect to the new snow.  It’s been so cold today that I suspect many areas in the mountains will be holding powder tomorrow morning as well.

Stowe, VT 12APR2014

An image of Ty skiing the Nosedive Bypass Chutes at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty out in the Bypass Chutes during today’s spring adventures at Stowe.

Based on the forecast, it looked like today was the pick of the weekend for spring skiing, offering sunshine and mountain temperatures in the 40s and 50s F depending on elevation.  There was also a good freeze overnight last night, with temperatures down in the 20s F here at the house, so that bode well with respect to continued corn cycling.  Our thermometer out back struggled to get out of the 30s F for the first part of the morning, but once we got past 9:00 A.M. it was moving into the 40s F, and a check on the temperatures at Stowe revealed that they were hitting similar levels.  The snow had likely softened at all elevations by that point, so we headed off to the mountain.

“…holy cow could
those Sin 7s carve!”

The lower mountain valleys around here in Northern Vermont have fairly patchy snow coverage now, and you have to get up into that 1,000’ to 1,500’ foot elevation range for really solid snow cover.  But once you get up into those elevations, the coverage is great; there’s about a foot and a half of natural snow down at Stowe’s base elevations, and the depth simply explodes upward the higher you go.  Up around 3,700’ at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, the snowpack is in the six to seven foot range.  You can tell that coverage is great if you pan around at Stowe’s base area – even south-facing Spruce Peak is doing well.  The morning snow report indicated that the Alpine Double would be running over at Spruce, but with the other lifts there closed down for the season, and the Gondola not running either, the Mansfield Base Lodge was really the most practice place to base yourself.

An image of the Over Easy Gondola at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont with some of the Mt. Mansfield ski trails in the background
From top to bottom, snow coverage is really great out there on the hill right now.

“I’m looking for something
nimble and flexible that is
going to carve tight arcs,
fit into tight spaces, and
surf on soft snow.”

We suited up in the lodge and then I headed right up to the Stowe Toys Demo Center at the base of the Fourrunner Quad – I had a big day of checking out demo skis planned.  It’s hard to find a day to spend demoing skis, since many Sundays during the season we’re out at Stowe with the BJAMS ski program, we’ve got plans with other people on the mountain, or we’re hoping to head into the alpine terrain or out into the sidecountry for powder.  Our typical days with those types of focused runs aren’t conducive to swapping out skis every couple of laps on the lift.  Today with E and the boys though, it going to be one of those casual spring outings with no real plans, and it looked demoing some pairs of skis would work.

I’ve actually needed to do an alpine ski demo day for quite a while, but it really hit me a couple of seasons ago on February 26th, 2012 at Stowe.  It was a bluebird day after they’d just picked up three feet of snow, so I pulled out my alpine fat skis for the day – my Volkl CMH Explosivs.  They’re a fully-cambered, 120/95/112 ski from the early 2000s, and like many Volkl skis, they really like to go straight and fast.  These Explosivs have always felt that way to me, especially with the length – I’d gotten them in the 180 cm length, since E had gone with the 165 cm version, and it seemed like a reasonable choice for me at the time.  I hadn’t minded that they weren’t overly nimble, since powder can give you a lot of leeway, but it was always frustrating to have to deal with them in tighter trees, and they were essentially making that type of terrain undesirable and far less fun than it should be.  That powder day in February 2012 marked the first time I’d used the Explosivs in quite a while, and after spending so much time on shorter, much nimbler skis, their girth, length, and stiffness were oh so exceedingly apparent.  While skiing Spruce Line that day, I went over a rise and dropped rather unexpectedly at high speed into the steepest pitch of the run.  I wanted to check my speed, but the Explosivs just wouldn’t turn.  I eventually had to bail into the snow to check my momentum, and the end result was happily unremarkable thanks to the slope being powdery and forgiving, but the skis had been feeling like heavy dogs on my feet all day, and that was definitely the last straw.  I could easily see an accident arising due to the way those skis were handling.  After that experience, I don’t think I’ve used them since, and my only alpine skis currently in use are my 108/70/101 Salomon Scream 10 Pilot Hots.  They’re actually my on piste/carving skis, and they’re a joy to carve on, but that’s not really the type of skiing we spend much time doing.  I’ve focused on my Telemark gear of the past few seasons, getting the cambered 127/86/113 Atomic RT-86 as my mid fat, and the more rockered 139/115/123 Black Diamond AMPerage as my powder/backcountry/fat ski.  But, I’ve got nothing like either of those skis in my alpine gear, and alpine gear is what I’m typically on each Sunday when I’m coaching my BJAMS ski groups.  Most of our ski days each season feature some form of powder, whether it’s on or off piste, and as I watch the boys drift and smear turns in the soft snow with their fat, rockered skis, I’m realizing that relative to the types of ski that are out there now, my Salomons are aren’t optimal for the kind of skiing we typically do.

Based on my experiences with a wide range of ski widths in the past few seasons, and thinking about a typical everyday ski for the type of skiing that we actually do, something with a waist in the 95-100 mm range was my target.  After seeing many of the latest gear reviews, it sounded like the Rossignol Soul 7 was really taking a lot of the top spots.  It appeared to be my kind of ski with its light weight and ability to make short turns, so it definitely piqued my interest.  At 136/106/126, it was a little on the wider side of what I’d been thinking, but it was close enough, and I don’t mind going a bit on the wider side for the type of skiing we typically do, especially if the ski was as versatile as everyone seems to feel it is.  With that said, I also planned to check out the Rossignol Sin 7, since it was the next width down in the series at 128/98/118.  Between those two, and a comparison to similar models from other manufacturers, I figured I’d have a good idea of what I liked.

An image of the Stowe Toys Demo Center Sign at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontThere’s a thing about demo gear though – the demo shops tend to sell it off.  And this late in the season, that was a huge issue.  It turned out that the demo shop had already sold all their Soul 7s, so those were entirely gone, and the only Sin 7 they had on hand was in a 180 cm length.  I had really wanted the 172 cm or 164 cm (I’ve got little interest in long skis at this point for the type of skiing we typically do), but if the 180 cm was the only option, it would at least let me get a feel for them.  According to everything I’ve read, the Sin 7 does run short with all that rocker, so I was intrigued to see how they performed at 180 cm.  I also inquired about the next wider ski above the Soul 7 in Rossignol’s Freeride 7 series, the Rossignol Super 7.  At 140/116/130, the profile is something more similar to my Black Diamond AMPerages that I have mounted Tele.  Since I’ve already got my Salomons for carving, I’m leaning a bit on the wider side for the all around soft day ski that I’m seeking, and while the Super 7 is almost certainly wider than I want, I still wanted to try them out.  I wanted to have a feel for all their skis in that 95-115 mm range of width.  I was surprised to find out that they shop didn’t even carry them, and the guy that was helping me out in the demo shop said it’s too wide a ski if you ski on the “East Coast”.  I’m not sure if he’s just supposed to say that, whether he actually believes it, or if there’s some other reason he’s supposed to go with that philosophy, but it was probably the first sign that we weren’t going to be quite on the same page with respect to our viewpoints on skiing.  I’d expect someone from Stowe of all places to know that selecting ski width doesn’t work by drawing some arbitrary line down the middle of the country.  Some of the ski magazines try to preach that sort of approach, and maybe it’s practical for a typical low snowfall resort run on manmade snow in the eastern U.S., but we’re talking about Northern Vermont, where snowfall is as much or more than many resorts in the Rockies.  In any event, I was happy that they at least had a pair of the Sin 7s to try, so I got those set and headed for a run with E and the boys.

An image of the Sin 7 skis from RossignolFrom the top of the Fourrunner Quad, we headed out along Ridge View, and holy cow could those Sin 7s carve!  I’m not talking about carving well for a wider ski; I’m talking about carving as well as my Salomon carving skis.  I was flabbergasted.  Although awesome in powder, I’m fairly unimpressed with the way my 115 mm wide AMPerages carve when they’re out on hard snow.  They’re really what I’m used to for skis above the width of my RT-86s in that 80-90 mm range, so that’s what I had to go with in terms of fatter skis’ ability to get out of the powder and onto firmer surfaces.  Frankly, as much as I like my AMPerages for powder, even shallower accumulations of powder where their girth keeps you nicely off the subsurface, I can’t even believe that the concept of using them as an all around ski is even brought up – unless your home mountain is Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, or something equivalent, it just doesn’t seem practical based on the harder snow performance I’ve experienced.  Granted, the Sin 7 is almost 20 mm narrower at the waist, but it literally felt like you weren’t giving up anything with them on the carving front, at least in the relatively soft corn snow we had today.  I’m still smiling right now thinking about how much fun it was carving up that snow on the Sin 7.   Next up on our run was a trip down Hayride, and they handled it nicely, carving smoothly as needed in the terrain that hadn’t bumped up, or slipping and sliding through the bumps with that soft shovel.  In the bumps was where I could tell that I’d be happy to lose the extra length and come down to one of the shorter sizes, but I can only imagine how quick those 164 cm and 172 cm versions must be.  On the next run I wanted to try them off piste, so we went through the Bypass Chutes and down into the Nosedive Glades.  Even though we were heading off piste, the snow was great, not sticky like it can sometimes be on these spring days; areas that had already received a few turns were definitely the best, but even places without traffic were often decent.  It was especially fun introducing E to the Nosedive Bypass area – I’m not sure if we’ve ever brought here out there before.  We had a blast exploring the different chute options and routes down in the Nosedive Glades; I knew we’d be back there multiple times during the day.  Again, the Sin 7 was a joy to ride, and my only thought was about what they would be like if they were even shorter.  People can say all they want about how skis “run” short because of the rocker, and indeed they do, but that rocker is still never going to make a 180 cm ski fit sideways through a gap that is only 170 cm wide.

An image of the Cham 97 Skis from DynastarI popped back into the shop, told the guys about my very favorable impressions of the Sin 7, and inquired about what else I could try that would be similar to those.  After some hemming and hawing about not having much available in the 170 cm range because that seemed to be what everyone wanted and had purchased, I got the Dynastar Cham 97 (133/97/113) in a 172 cm length.  The guy in the demo shop said that he actually liked these better than the Sin 7, so based on our initial interactions, perhaps I should have been suspicious about how they’d appeal to me.  I could tell as soon as I clicked my boots into them that they were stiffer than the Sin 7.  For some people that might be a plus, but it’s not something I find to be a necessity in my skis, and I’m finding now that if often detracts from their versatility for my purposes.  I wasn’t immediately excited by the stiffness, but I still had to see how the Cham 97 was going to behave in action, so we headed up for another run.

An image from the Octagon building at the top of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont - looking southward at a ski slope and some of the Green Mountains
Looking out at one of today’s views from the Octagon atop Stowe

The boys were anxious for some lunch, and wanted to eat up at the Octagon, so we stopped in there for a midday meal.  I didn’t think they’d have the selection of food that we’d get down in the main lodge, but they really have some excellent options up there now.  I got a nice seared tuna wrap that seemed to have some sort of tzatziki sauce, and it really hit the spot, while E got a turkey wrap with turkey, bacon, apple butter, green apples, arugula, and probably more, but that’s all that she could remember.  We order the wraps at the register along with some hot dogs for the boys, and they brought them right over to us at our table once they were prepared.  The Octagon was definitely hoppin’ today with the beautiful weather, but we got a nice window seat near the deck and it was a great time.  It was little breezy outside at times, but a lot of people chose to sit out there as well.

An image of Dylan skiing one of the chutes in Nosedive Bypass at Stowe
Dylan working his way down one of the Nosedive Bypass chutes today

It was sort of strange to have the Cham 97s out there at the ski racks during lunch without even having ridden them yet, but it was nice to be able to jump right on them as soon as we were done eating.  We took them on a run through the Bypass Chutes so that I could put them through their paces.  It was nice to drop some length from the Sin 7 as we worked our way through those steep, narrow chutes, so that was a plus.  However, even in the shorter length and essentially the same width (dropping to 97 mm vs. the 98 mm on the Sin 7s), the Cham 97s were slower edge to edge and just not as nimble all around.  Once we got out onto Nosedive and I did some carving on groomed corn snow, I could certainly see that they carved much better than my more tradition CMH Explosivs which have a similar 95 mm underfoot, but they were nowhere near being on the same snappy level as the Sin 7.  One fun aspect of the Cham 97 that was noted by Dylan, was the fact that the shovels of the skis looked like chainsaws, so he was having fun trying to stay away from the fronts of my skis while we were in the tighter confines of some of the Bypass Chutes, lest he get cut in half.  One run on the Cham 97s was enough though, because it was simply no contest against the Sin 7, so I popped into the demo shop for my next pair.

An image of the Annex 98 Ski from K2The third ski I tried was the K2 Annex 98 (131/98/119) in a 170 length – these were lots of fun, and seemed very close to the Sin 7 in terms of what I was looking for.  I rode them for two runs, first a run that Dylan requested over toward the Mountain Triple via Ridge View and Sunrise, and then another through the Bypass Chutes.  Carving was very reminiscent of the Sin 7, easy and smooth, and they were also fun in the tighter confines of the Bypass Chutes and Nosedive Glades.  I still gave the personal preference edge to the Sin 7, especially considering that I’d tried it a 180 cm ski, but the K2 Annex 98 was certainly in the running.

An image of the Mantra Ski by VolklDylan said that he was starting to feel his legs getting tired after those runs, so he and E decided to hit the lodge, but I had time for a couple more runs, and I wanted to make the most of my ski demo day.  Ty said that his legs were feeling great, so he stuck with me for more turns.  When I inquired about the next ski in the demo shop that time, I let them know that it was OK to go a bit farther afield of the type of ski that I was focused on, and they decided to hook me up with a 170 cm Volkl Mantra (132/98/118).  I’ve definitely heard about the Mantra, since it’s been around for years, and the demo guys were saying that this would be one that would require a bit more muscling around relative to the others I’d been skiing.  Imagine that, a Volkl ski with stiffness and such – I think we’ve seen that before!  I took a run over by the Mountain Triple with a more cruising theme as we’d done before, and just opened up the Mantras.  Well, those things just flew!  They were an impressively fast, powerful ski.  That was a lot of fun, even if I pushed it a bit into the scary zone at times with the high speeds.  Fortunately, the trails were getting pretty empty as we approached the end of the day, so it was easy to let it rip from edge to edge on the runs.  Ty was happy that I was going Mach 5 down the trails, because he likes to do that sometimes… or more like all the time if we give him the chance.  Anyway, those Mantras were a lot of fun, in a stiffer, less forgiving, take charge, longer turn sort of way.  I knew going in that they were not what I was looking for in new skis, but they’ll be great if that’s the sort of skiing you like.

An image of the RTM81 ski by VolklI’d mentioned to the demo guys that I wanted to try something with full rocker, and the ski that they had on hand that I could try was a 170 cm Volkl RTM 81 (126/81/108).  For me, a fully rockered ski with no camber is about smearing turns, drifting, and all that, so it seemed weird to think of it in a Volkl.  The RTM 81 also has a narrower, 81 mm waist that what I’d been skiing.  That seems more like a waist for carving, so I was flummoxed as to what the ski was actually meant to do.  Ty and I took them on a run through the Bypass Chutes and the Nosedive Glades to see if the full rocker would help with drifting and sliding through those tight spaces.  It was fine, but it didn’t really seem as though that was what it was meant to do.  I want to float on top of the snow if I’m going to be smearing turns and sliding sideways, and in a relative sense, these skis didn’t really have the width to excel at that.  I did find that they were awesomely fun to carve when we got out on Nosedive.  Talking with the guy in the demo shop later, I asked him what the target audience was for such a ski, and he said something to the effect of “Oh, only about 50% of the people that walk in here and ski at this mountain.”  I couldn’t figure that out – people want a relatively skinny, fully rockered ski – for what?  Based on my conversations throughout the day, I certainly didn’t get the impression that the shop guy and the typical clientele he spoke of are out there on rockered boards so that they can smear and drift turns in the soft snow more easily, but I guess you never know.  Later, after looking online for some info on the ski, it appears as though the Volkl RTM 81 is more of a front side carver.  I guess it was once again that theme of me not really being on the same wavelength as the guy in the shop.  I always thought that camber was what one wanted for carving, so I’m not sure why full rocker is put into a carving ski, and a Volkl to boot.  Anyway, they were fun to carve, that sort of ski would be interesting to try in firm conditions to see what they do.

“At least based on the
skis I tried, it was fairly
easy to come away from
the day with the Sin 7 as
the clear front runner for
my purposes.”

At least based on the skis I tried, it was fairly easy to come away from the day with the Sin 7 as the clear front runner for my purposes.  I’m looking for something nimble and flexible that is going to carve tight arcs, fit into tight spaces, and surf on soft snow.  The 180 cm length I tried was fine, but I’d definitely go for the 172 cm, or even the 164 cm.  Officially I’m in the 172 cm range for my weight, but I’d certainly consider going with the 164 cm, even though everyone says to go longer.  I’ve yet to encounter a ski that is too short for what I want, but I can’t say the same for skis that are annoyingly long, and I’m happy to get rid of extra length.  I’ve encountered none of the disadvantages that people speak of with regard to shorter skis as my skis have gotten shorter and wider.  That’s the shape of the tool for the type of skiing we typically do – soft snow, with short-radius turns in smaller spaces.

Prior to this outing, I’d only tried out skis on demo days, and the one thing I did learn today was that if you want to try demo skis from a shop while having a full selection of models and sizes available, you should shoot for the first half of the season.  The guy at Stowe Toys said that they actually started selling off their gear in the middle of February.  I’m thankful that they had at least one Sin 7 pair left on hand, because that ski really seemed to best hit the sweet spot I was looking for.  Unfortunately, I still don’t know what the Soul 7 feels like, but I’m sold enough on the feel and fit of the Sin 7 that I think they would be a fantastic everyday ski for our typical soft conditions, and having another alpine pair of something wider like my AMPerages for bigger days might work.  Actually, at almost 100 mm underfoot, I’m sure the Sin 7 would work fine for everything if I was going to try to go with just one pair of alpine skis.  As much fun as fat skis are in powder, they’re far from mandatory.

“…the snowpack, snow surfaces,
temperatures, terrain… it all came
together to set up some primo
spring skiing.”

The overall ski experience today was simply great – the snowpack, snow surfaces, temperatures, terrain… it all came together to set up some primo spring skiing.  One complaint would be that there were lift queues for the Fourrunner Quad; it was weird to be waiting in a lift queue in mid April, but with great conditions and only a couple of lifts running, I guess that can happen.  For the boys, it was a chance to ski with both E and I on Mansfield without the time constraints and other obligations that happen on many ski program days.  On a number of runs, we used the great bumps on Lower National to work on those technical aspects of turns like timing, pole work, rotation, etc. that moguls really bring out.  Dylan showed us some impressive runs through there as he continued to refine his upper and lower body separation, and for Ty, who has always naturally had great technique with his poles, we kept him thinking about it as we’d noticed that he tends to let it laps at times.  Although they had their fat skis today for the soft snow, you could really see how the rocker in the skis let them slide right through the moguls with whatever amount of carve or slarve the immediate environment required.  We all took turns following each other, and I had a great time on Dylan’s Heels watching him make those little personal choices about which line or angle was the best fit as the run progressed.  One of Dylan’s favorite accomplishments of the day was actually up in the Nosedive Glades, where he laid down this beautiful drift of close to 180 degrees around one of the trees.  It was one of those spontaneous situations where he came upon the right snow and terrain, and it just happened so smoothly that it was a thing of beauty.  We actually kept looking for that spot on subsequent runs to recreate the drift, but never seemed to quite find it.  We could sort of tell though that it was one of those situations where the spontaneity of the first encounter played into the experience, and you can never quite recreate it anyway.  It was a great move though, and seeing him do it couldn’t have been more apt on a day when I was trying out all the sets of wider, rockered skis that give one the ability to put those types of moves into action more easily.

An image of the logo for the Sushi Yoshi Asian restaurant in Stowe, VermontWe capped off the afternoon with a trip to Sushi Yoshi, where Ty was able to get his sushi fix, or at least a partial fix, since it’s been hard to find the limit on his consumption.  I did get to eat a few pieces without losing my hands to the fray on the sushi board.  We’re now eyeing the potential for a winter storm around midweek, so we’ll see if we can get some powder infused into this April.  E and the boys have the week off, so we may be able to take advantage of the storm with some family skiing if it comes together.

An image of some sushi rolls on a platter at the Sushi Yoshi restaurant in Stowe, Vermont
Catching the scene just before Ty went to town

Stowe, VT 24FEB2013

An image of Ty skiing in soft snow on Angel Food at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont.
Ty on Angel Food today – conditions are simply fantastic at Stowe right now and it’s a great time to hit the slopes.

Today was back to ski program at Stowe, and with the recent snows we decided to make it an early day and get in some turns in the morning before our actual sessions started.  After charging the boys up with a good breakfast, we headed off to Stowe under cloudy skies and temperatures running a pretty consistent 35 F in the lower mountain valleys.  The temperatures slightly above freezing created a cascade of wet snow slowly slipping off trees, roofs, and most other objects as we traveled through those areas.  As we ascended to the resort base elevations, the temperatures finally cooled down to around the freezing mark, and we were greeted with light snow falling.

“…now is the time
to go if you’ve been
waiting to ride the
Northern Greens.”

After my reconnaissance run on Angel Food on the 14th, I was planning to bring my group out there today.  I figured it would be fun to give E a chance to ski the area since she’d never been out that far, and it would provide Ty and Dylan with a preview so that they could be helpful with guiding when we brought the other boys out there.  Descending from the top of the gondola on Upper Gondolier, it was immediately obvious just how good the snow surfaces were.  The combination of the past two storms has really done a great job of resurfacing the on piste areas.  Conditions out on Angel Food were quite good – we skied the standard route and mostly tracked snow, but it hardly mattered because the snow was so soft.  E hasn’t skied Stowe on alpine skis with the boys in quite a while, and she was very impressed with the pace at which they seemed to fly through the challenging terrain.  She’s definitely worried that the boys are starting to surpass her in aspects of their skiing – at least on alpines.  One of the interesting things we noticed while out on Angel Food today was the number of people using the route to skin up the mountain.  I guess it’s a convenient way to go so that one stays out of bounds for an ascent.  We made one more gondola run on Perry Merrill so that E could check out the potential for some of her intermediate students, and I noted that with conditions being so good, it could be a real confidence builder.  Ty and Dylan kept up their fast pace of ascent, even racing on the last pitch of Perry Merrill with E’s approval, but I assured her that we did not do things like that during our regular session time.

Our next stop was lunch at the Great Room Grill – I tried the salmon burger for the first time and it was quite good.  It comes with an interesting side of coleslaw that has some unique raisins in it.  We wanted a good meal because we were expecting to push hard all afternoon with the great snow that was out there.  We’d already learned that Ken wasn’t going to be able attend our afternoon session, and in the end we found out that Jack was also out, so it was jump me, Ty, Dylan, and Luke.

Our first stop of the afternoon was the standard Angel Food run, and it was a huge success with Luke.  After difficulty in the Bench Woods, he was very impressed with how much better Angle Food was.  We continued on next with his selection of the Nosedive Glades from the Cliff Trail side, and then another selection he’d mentioned – Hackett’s Highway.  We sampled some great woods in various places off the Fourrunner Quad – the off piste is skiing really well right now and you can essentially jump into any line you want.  Back at the Gondola we had a long run through some of the Gondolier trees and the  finished off the day back at Spruce with some trees and most of the terrain above Meadows.  Even that terrain right down near the base was skiing stupendously.

We had dinner in Stowe on the way home, trying out Charlie B’s Pub and Restaurant.  It’s associated with the Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa, and has a nice cozy atmosphere.  While we were there, we also got to watch footage from the Stowe Derby that had taken place today.  It’s fun to watch people try to negotiate those curves on the Toll Road on Nordic skis – that takes some serious skill.

As an overall comment on the day, I’ve got to say that the skiing is simply fantastic right now in both a qualitative and quantitative sense.  The snow from the current storm was denser than fluff, and even though it hasn’t been a huge storm, it’s contributed quite a resurfacing when combined with the midweek storm.  For me, today’s skiing at Stowe had a bit of a Whistler Blackcomb feel to it; the peaks were shrouded in clouds, snow was falling, and the snow underfoot was semi-dense with plenty of meat to it that covered up the subsurface.  I’d say the part where the experience differed was that you could head all the way down into the village elevations and you wouldn’t get into that sticky snow that can so often be an issue as you get down toward Whistler Village.  While dense, there wasn’t any stickiness from top to bottom – at least down to the 1,500’ elevation.  Part of the Whistler Blackcomb issue of course is that they’re covering 5,000’+ of vertical, but today’s snow was like a good slice of 2,000’+ from somewhere up in the higher elevations.  In terms of quantity, the stake is at 65”, so right around that average mark, and average for this time of year is pretty sweet.  These last two storms have clearly pushed things to another tier of coverage off piste; we were skiing and seeing lines that we’ve yet to this season, and the skiing in many areas has taken on an entirely new dimension.  Anyway, now is the time to go if you’ve been waiting to ride the Northern Greens.

Stowe, VT 03FEB2013

An image of a ski track in powder in the Tombo Woods area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Mt. Mansfield somehow still delivering that good snow

Since the roughly half foot of snow that the mountains picked up at the start of the midweek period, there really hasn’t been much in the way of additional snow.  Temperatures aren’t nearly as cold as they were when that arctic air was here a week or so back, but we’re in a similar dry, zonal flow weather pattern.  We’ve had just an inch of new snow at the house this past week, and the mountains haven’t had much more.  There certainly hasn’t been enough moisture for a full resurfacing of the slopes since the warm temperatures that came through midweek, so there wasn’t a lot of incentive to head out yesterday for turns.  I did get a lot of stuff done around the house though, and that’s a typical benefit of these snowfall lulls.  Today was a different story though – we had our BJAMS ski program at Stowe in the afternoon, and with temperatures predicted to be near 20 F at the base elevations with minimal winds, there was no reason to cancel like we had to do last weekend.  I wasn’t too optimistic about the snow conditions though – I actually pulled out my diamond stone and ran it along the edges of my Salomon Scream Hots just to make sure they were ready to hold an edge on firm surfaces.  I can’t remember the last time I was tempted to do a mid season sharpening of my edges, but today definitely had me worried.

“To my amazement, it was
far more than just good, it
was great. It was again that
2-3 inches of powder over a
fairly spongy base.”

It was partly cloudy and looked quite pleasant as we arrived at the mountain around midday.  The Spruce Peak parking lot was rather full as usual, and there was a race going on, but it certainly didn’t seem too busy.  We were able to grab one of those parking spots just a stone’s throw from the old Day Lodge, as there seemed to be a lot of people leaving midday.  I suspect anyone from Southern New England that wanted to get home to catch the Super Bowl would probably want to leave around that time.  I know that the resort has been making snow this week, so I figured trails that had seen some snowmaking might be the best bets for some reasonably soft ski surfaces.  I inquired about snowmaking at the guest services desk, and they knew that Perry Merrill had seen some, but they gave me the number for the snow phone and suggested that I call it to get the rest of the snowmaking information.  I can’t remember the last time I called the snow phone, but I dialed it up and I got to hear all the details.  It was a noontime update, and snowmaking had most recently been done on Upper Perry Merrill, Gondolier, and Centerline last night.  I think it may have even been Powderfreak on the other end that was giving the message.  Anyway, that was just the information I was looking for, so I put those trails on our hit list for the day.

“…it marked a big change
in our ski plans. I’d been
thinking it was going to
be an on piste day prior
to that, but clearly the
off piste was in play.”

Our ski group was large today, with the addition of Sam, Ethan, Luke, Julia, Joanna, Ken, and Joe, we had eight students and four coaches.  With the snowmaking information in hand, we headed right over to the Gondola for a run on Perry Merrill.  Conditions turned out to be far better than I’d imagined.  Up at the top of the Gondola I did a quick check on the depth of the unconsolidated powder snow, and found roughly three inches over the old base.  On top of that, the subsurface wasn’t even that firm; it had that spongy character that I’ve been finding at times lately, possibly due to assistance from the dry air.  The top steep pitch of Perry Merrill did have some good snow, but there was certainly a lot of ice as well.  Down below it was much better though, there was plenty of packed powder, although certainly some granular snow in areas as well.  That seemed to be most prevalent in the center of the trail where traffic was high.  However, the minimal natural snow that has come down in the past few days, plus whatever snowmaking had been done, plus the snow that people had pushed to the sides of the trails after a morning of traffic, made for some really nice turns overall.  Short radius turns along the skier’s right tree line of Perry Merrill were generally excellent – far, far better than I’d expected.

For our next run we did the same start and then moved over to Gondolier.  The skier’s right there was even better than Perry Merrill, with lots of loose snow and shots holding a couple inches of powder when one would dive in and out of the trees along the edge.  About halfway down the trail, Ken’s son Luke inquired about heading into some of the Gondolier Trees at an obvious line he noticed.  I was definitely leery of going in there; I couldn’t imagine that it would be that good with a fairly steep pitch and not much new snow.  I agreed that I’d check it out though, we could pop in briefly and any students that wanted to go could go with me.  Well, almost everyone came in because they wanted to see what it would be like.  To my amazement, it was far more than just good, it was great.  It was again that 2-3 inches of powder over a fairly spongy base.  Based on the weather we had during the middle of the week it’s hard to say how it was so well preserved, but as is often the case, Mansfield delivered again.  Dylan took his own line high along the skier’s left wall and got into some great powder.  All the boys twisted and turned their way down through the gulley, until I finally called for an exit back onto Gondolier.  The gulley did continue on, but I knew it got narrower down there and the exit more difficult, and I didn’t want to push our luck.  Everyone was excited by that run though – Sam commented how he loved going up and down the steep walls of the gully, and I told him it was one of nature’s half pipes.

“Based on the weather we had
during the middle of the week
it’s hard to say how it was
so well preserved, but as is
often the case, Mansfield
delivered again.”

I have to credit that snow discovery to Luke, and it marked a big change in our ski plans.  I’d been thinking it was going to be an on piste day prior to that, but clearly the off piste was in play.  The goal was to next head over to the Fourrunner Quad from the top of the Gondola, and I said that we could check out the north part of the Nosedive Glades (a.k.a “The Middle of Nowhere”) en route.  The snow wasn’t quite as good in there as it had been over by Gondolier, but it was certainly decent and easily held an edge.  There was the occasional icy patch in there, presumably where skiers had pushed away the new snow in higher traffic areas, but some of those lines were pretty steep, so the fact that they weren’t simply hard park was impressive.  Connecting onto Lower Nosedive we found the snow in the middle of the trail horribly hard packed, but fortunately the skier’s left held a good amount of soft snow that had been pushed there by the day’s skiers.

After flying down to the base of the Fourrunner Quad, Dylan said that he was just too cold for a ride there, so Ken headed up with the rest of the group, and I took Dylan back toward the Gondola base.  We warmed up by poling our way over, and he was in good spirits at that point and wanted to take a run on the tow to hit the Midway Terrain Park.  He was still feeling good after that, and was keen to do a Gondola run, where the ride would be warmer than sitting out on the quad.  I also asked if he’d show me all that powder he’d found in the Gondolier Trees, and he was excited to get back to that.  On our way down Perry Merrill, we stuck to the skier’s left and explored a lot of off piste shots at the bottom of the Tombo Woods area.  There was certainly some nice snow in there – just those 2-3 inches over the base, but that base was quite soft.  Back down in the gulley along Gondolier Dylan took me though his powder stash, and indeed we had some good turns.  We both stuck our poles into the snow and beyond the powder, you could push right through the spongy subsurface and get to softer snow below.  There really is a lot of good snow down there that doesn’t seem like it was affected by the recent warm temperatures, so that’s probably helping keep the quality of the off piste skiing reasonably good if people do get down and start busting up the subsurface.  Another nice aspect of the current conditions is that the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, while certainly below average, is still right around that 40-inch mark.  That means that coverage is quite good in most off piste areas.  I’m sure some areas that are more exposed to the elements could have an icier subsurface that what we experienced, but with the off piste in decent, skiable shape already, it’s primed to be really good as soon as we get a decent storm in here.

An image of Dylan skiing a steep line in the Gondolier Woods at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan drops in on his stash.
An image of Apres Ski time in front of the fire at the Spruce Camp Bar at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Spruce Camp Bar

Dylan and I called it a day after that, and headed back to Spruce Peak for s’mores and hot chocolate at the fire pit.  Dylan loved the late day atmosphere and the fact that he and I were getting gondolas to ourselves.  I think those rides in the cabins really helped him to ward off the chill that he’d been building.  We caught up with Ken and the other boys outside the Spruce Camp Base Lodge, and I found out that Ken had been working with Ty and the others on tip stands.  Ken has done some freestyle/ballet in the past, and he said Ty was quite taken with working on the tip stand.  That sort of stuff is indeed right up his alley, so we’ll have to work on that some more with Ken.  We had a good Après session by the fire at the Spruce Camp Bar with Claire and Sue, as E and Claire debriefed each other on the logistics of the day.  We actually had the entire place to ourselves today; I bet it was because most folks were heading home to check out the Super Bowl.  I’m more optimistic for snow this coming week, it seems like we’ve got a shot at snow tonight into tomorrow, another one midweek, and then a potentially larger one at the end of the week.  With conditions as decent as they already are, even a half foot of snow this week will elevate the off piste a lot.  It would be great if that system at the end of the week could do a bit of magic in the Greens and produce something a bit more substantial as some models are hinting at, but we’ll just have to watch and see how the models develop it throughout the week.