Tag Archives: Nosedive

Stowe, VT 21JAN2018

An image of Dylan, Jay, and Ty on the Sunny Spruce Quad at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The boys out at Stowe today for our first BJAMS ski day of the season

Our first BJAMS ski program day of the season at Stowe was scheduled for two Sundays ago, but we canceled it due to dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills.  That wasn’t an issue today though – with base elevation temperatures in the 30s F, it was quite comfortable out there.  On piste coverage and conditions were actually quite decent, whether it was the softened snow on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak, or the midwinter snow higher up on Mansfield.  Although natural base depths are fine, and there are definitely people skiing off piste, the snow is sort of thick and punchy out there, so the groomed runs are just a much friendlier place to be.

“Although natural base depths are fine, and there are definitely people skiing off piste, the snow is sort of thick and punchy out there, so the groomed runs are just a much friendlier place to be.”

An image of Dylans ski helmet with the Backcountry.com goat and the Turtle Fur turtleWe arrived at Spruce Peak early enough that I was able to take a couple of runs with Ty and Dylan off the Sunny Spruce Quad.  We found nicely softened snow with those temperatures in the 30s F, and it was really only those usual high-traffic areas out of the sun that we found to be slick.  We had a mixed group of snowboarders (Cole and Robbie) and skiers (Dylan and Wiley, with Norris also tagging along) today, but since we were on piste for the most part there weren’t any traversing issues for the snowboarders.  We did a couple of runs off Sunny Spruce, carving up the soft snow, and then headed over to Mansfield for some longer runs.  Being fairly old snow, and a Sunday afternoon, the best turns were definitely the sides of the trails where ample traffic had built up substantial loose, soft snow.  We did a few runs on Gondolier and Nosedive, and you could just go and go and go and rarely have to leave those edges with good snow if you didn’t want to.  I think one would have to grade the overall conditions as subpar because of the quality of the off piste snow, but on piste conditions are fairly typical for when we haven’t seen a substantial snowstorm in a while.  We had a nice break at the Octagon toward the end of the afternoon before heading back to Spruce Peak to catch up with everyone else.

A fundue sign at the Skinny Pancake at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont

For Ty’s first day as a chaperone/coach in the program today, he was helping E with some first-timers over on the lower parts of the Meadows area.  When I stopped in to check on them at the end of the day, he was just heading up the Inspiration Chair with a boy who had graduated from the Magic Carpet.  It was actually a great day to be out there with the first-timers, because he wasn’t really missing out on anything special on the steep or off piste terrain.  I think it will be a couple of weeks before we get back into some really good storms, so hopefully he’ll be able to put in some more time at our next session helping out the beginners again.

Stowe, VT 13MAY2017

An image of skiers skinning up the Nosedive trail in May at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A number of skiers were out enjoying the snow on Nosedive today.

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

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

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

Stowe, VT 15APR2017

An image of Jay skiing moguls on the Centerline trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Spring and bump skiing were in full force today on Mt. Mansfield.

The forecast for this morning was sunny, and mountain highs were predicted to be in the 40s and 50s F, so the whole family headed off to Stowe for a few runs before lunch.  Lift operations at thre resort are down to just the Fourrunner Quad and the Mountain Triple Chair, but with roughly 90 inches of snow still at the stake, base depths are in good shape and almost all the terrain on Mansfield is available.

We’ve certainly had some good cycling of the snow over the past few days with night freezes and daytime thaws, so the surfaces were generally corn, but there were still some sticky surfaces out there in some spots.  We got some steep turns on Nosedive, hit the bumps of Centerline, and even jumped into some of the terrain parks.  We got to watch one crew of what must have been a couple dozen guys running the parks together and performing lots of tricks.

An image of Dylan on the snow doing some ski photography at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan firing away behind the Canon 30D.

As usual for this time of year, folks were out in force with their spring tail-gaiting setups in the Mansfield Parking Lot, and the smells of various food being barbequed was definitely enticing when we headed back to the car.  For our lunch we headed to Doc Ponds on the way home to use a gift certificate we had, and the food was great.  Most of their offerings are done with some sort of unique flair.  I really enjoyed my falafel, which was incredibly filling and I’d recommend it if you’re a falafel fan.

Stowe Sidecountry & Bruce Trail, VT 26MAR2017

An image of Dylan Telemark skiing on the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today’s BJAMS ski program featured a great run on the Bruce Trail.

It’s March, the season for deep snowpack and long days in Northern Vermont.  That also means that it’s prime time to make use of that ample snowpack and enjoy some of our legendary sidecountry and backcountry ski routes.  For last week’s BJAMS ski session we focused on The Chin and put together a nice tour featuring Profanity Chute and the Hell Brook Trail.  Today it was time to switch action to The Nose for a combination of Old Nosedive and the Bruce Trail.  We’ve had a great run of storms and wintry weather during this second half of March, and it’s definitely time to make hay.

An image of Joe and Gianni out on the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontA number of students were unable to attend ski program today, so there were some small groups, and any of them that were interested in a trip down the Bruce joined up with us.  From the top of the Fourrunner Quad, those that wanted to ascend joined me for a trip up Old Nosedive, which I find is a nice way to get in a bit of hiking and extra turns before diving into the Bruce.  The condition of the snow was really excellent today – all the way from around 4,000’ to down at roughly 1,000’ at the bottom of the tour.  It was quite wintry up top, but even in the lowest elevations the snow was dense enough to hold up well for fresh turns, just like Dylan and I had experienced yesterday at Bolton Valley.  There was still ample untracked powder available off the sides of the Bruce, and as usual once we were down into the open hardwood areas there were lots of great lines to explore in the trees.

“The condition of the snow was really excellent today – all the way from around 4,000’ to down at roughly 1,000’ at the bottom of the tour.”

This morning, Dylan said that we should go with Telemark skis for today’s session if our focus was going to be the Bruce Trail, and while I’d planned to go alpine, I agreed and ended up going Tele.  It was totally the right choice, especially since the coverage and snow conditions were so optimal.  I was happy because I felt really dialed in and my transitions felt incredibly quick, and Dylan was also really psyched because he skied so well today.  He says that he always wants to run the Bruce on Telemark gear now.  Of course he got to experience it on a great day.  I’d put today in the top 25% of conditions for the Bruce – there was so much soft snow and powder around, and even those most difficult to cover, south-facing shots were virtually blemish free.

A map showing the GPS track overlayed onto Google Earth from a ski tour on the Bruce Trail near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The GPS track of today’s tour down the Bruce trail overlayed onto Google Earth

We capped off the run with a trip to the Notchbrook General Store for snacks, and a ride on the Mountain Road Shuttle back to the Spruce Peak Village.  Greg said that the last time he skied the Bruce Trail was about 35 years ago, so it was really neat that he got the chance to do it again after such a long hiatus.  We had time for a few more runs on Spruce once we got back, and found that the quality of the snow was still really nice.  This was just the way a March ski day should be!

Stowe, VT 17DEC2016

An image of snow building up on a skier during a snowstorm at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
We got to enjoy the new snow from Winter Storm Decima today on our annual school ski program training day at Stowe.

Each year in December we head to Stowe for the training day that gets us ready for our school’s ski program.  E is the director for the BJAMS program and typically takes care of the logistics on one of the weekend days, while a co-director would manage the other.  In the past, when the boys were younger and couldn’t stay home alone, we’d either set up to have someone watch them, or split the two training days between us and each go alone.  On those occasions, even though selecting the days was done well in advance, I always seemed to luck out and get the great conditions – comfortable temperatures, fresh powder, soft surfaces, etc., while E on the other hand would get refrozen crud, frigid temperatures, or whatever else you can think of that would make the ski experience less than stellar.

This year though, we were going to the training day together, and it looked like E was going to go for a ride on the luck train with me.  Winter Storm Decima was marching across the country, and the timing looked just about perfect for a great powder day on Saturday.  In fact, the National Weather Service Office in Burlington even felt strongly enough about it to incorporate a statement in their forecast discussion on Thursday:

“Should be a glorious powder day with mean snow ratios around 18-20:1 and temps gradually warming into the lower 20s valleys and upper teens mountains by early afternoon.”

By this morning, Winter Storm Decima had already begun to deliver snow as we headed off to the resort.  The snowfall rates weren’t outrageous, but it was a good steady snow and you could see that little bit of extra spring in everyone’s step knowing that training day was going to feature fresh snow.  As we gathered outside the Midway Lodge for the morning’s announcements, you could just see the snow piling up on the anxious skiers ready to get underway.

“There are only so many superlatives one can use, but you’re basically talking about the snow of a fresh storm on top of two weeks’ where it snowed every day.”

We had Steve for our group leader, similar to some previous seasons, and he regaled us with his usual assortment of giving lessons to celebrities and assorted well-heeled folks.  We did a quick first run off the Meadows Quad, and that was our first chance to experience the snow.  Oh was it glorious!  There are only so many superlatives one can use, but you’re basically talking about the snow of a fresh storm on top of two weeks’ where it snowed every day.  Stowe’s already hit 110 inches on the season, and we’re only about three weeks or so into it.

We had several runs on Spruce Peak before we broke for some lunch, then got a couple more runs in over on Mansfield.  Even after a day of weekend ski traffic, conditions were still amazing in the afternoon even on the most heavily-used areas.  The snow is deep-down good.  The only downside today was the chill in the morning at elevation with the wind, but it was still a small price to pay for such consistently awesome conditions.

Stowe, VT 09MAY2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 25MAY2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.