We had some great weather for skiing last weekend, but I was fighting a cold and decided to recuperate vs. pushing myself too hard with a tour. The great weather has continued this week though, with a simply amazing stretch of sunny spring days, and this morning I had a bit of time to get out for a ski tour at Stowe.
These recent days of warm weather have been eating away at the snowpack of course, and on my trip to the mountain I didn’t encounter any snow until the resort’s main base elevations around 1,500’. I parked by Midway, and similar to about a half dozen or so other cars I saw, I was able to use the nice new parking area the resort has added just below the Midway Lodge. I’d never even noticed that parking lot before because it’s usually covered with snow, but it’s got some nice clean asphalt that makes it a very nice spot for changing gear and clothing well away from any spring muck.
Nosedive still has coverage right to the bottom at the Crossover trail, so I started skinning from there at ~1,650’, and made my way up to the junction with Cliff Trail at ~2,700’. Nosedive has continuous coverage all the way up to that point, and although I didn’t continue higher on Nosedive itself, I’d be surprised if there were any breaks in the snowpack at the higher elevations. For my tour, I decided to continue on toward the Cliff House because I saw that Perry Merrill looked to have almost continuous coverage, and the skiing there will typically run out before Nosedive. I had to take off my skis and walk for a couple hundred feet because that junction area of Cliff Trail with Nosedive has melted out, but after that I was able to skin all the way up to the Cliff House. The resort’s been clearing out some of the work roads as they get ready for summer, and that really transformed the area up near the Cliff House with massive snow piles on the sides of the trail and nothing in the middle.
“The snow quality overall was excellent though, as we’ve obviously had plenty of freeze-thaw cycles by this point and the snow if very much in prime “corn” form.”
For my descent I continued on to the other side of the Cliff House and hit Upper Gondolier, then connected onto Perry Merrill lower down. Perry Merrill has just a couple of breaks in the continuity of its snow, although one is about 100 feet long and is best navigated by taking off your skis. The snow quality overall was excellent though, as we’ve obviously had plenty of freeze-thaw cycles by this point and the snow if very much in prime “corn” form.
Since school was out of session due to vacation week, E’s been thinking about some sort of getaway for the family. Quebec City and Maine came up as possible destinations, but with the Green Mountains having just reeled in some great powder due to our recent upslope event, doing something more local seemed like an obvious choice. That decision was heavily reinforced after E and I skied some great powder at Bolton Valley yesterday, and after weighing a number of options we ultimately decided to head to Stowe for some earned turns and a stay at the Stowe Mountain Lodge. They’ve got some fantastic amenities, and the rates this time of year are great because they’re in between the winter and summer seasons.
We kicked things off this morning with a start at the Midway Lot, which had dozens of vehicles in it from folks with similar ideas. It was approaching mid-morning when we arrived, so I was surprised at how many people were heading right up Gondolier in the sun. With that morning sun and warming temperatures, I was leery of how well the winter snow would hold on the Gondola side. E and the boys and I opted to head toward Nosedive, which generally has much more protected snow when sun and warmth are a concern. The Nosedive area had certainly seen some skier and rider traffic already, and there was a nice double skin track in place that made for easy conversation and passing options during the ascent. Ty was feeling really good on the climb and cruised ahead of the rest of us, eventually waiting for us up around the 3,000’ mark. We joined up and topped out at the 3,300’ plateau just below the Nosedive switchbacks.
We stopped below the switchbacks because the snow quality was good, and the narrow width of the trail above that elevation meant that the snow was pretty much tracked out. The consistency of the snow had definitely changed substantially over the course of the ascent. At base elevations it was already getting rather wet with the rising temperatures, and by the time we finished our ascent it was fairly dry, dense powder. There wasn’t any sharp transition zone for the snow consistency, it had just changed ever so gradually with each step we’d ascended.
“The broad upper slopes of Nosedive definitely held the best snow we found today. The powder was dense, but dry, and there were plenty of areas of untracked snow to crank out some nice turns.”
The broad upper slopes of Nosedive definitely held the best snow we found today. The powder was dense, but dry, and there were plenty of areas of untracked snow to crank out some nice turns. The whole descent was definitely fun, although the last few hundred vertical feet, where we’d actually switched over to Lower National to get to some snow that had seen less traffic, held snow that had gotten pretty wet in the warming temperatures. The best snow could be found on the shady side of the trails, and I even jumped into the trees in several spots on the lower half of the run and found some excellent turns.
When the skiing was done, we checked in at the Stowe Mountain Lodge and had some appetizers at the Hourglass Lounge. E and the boys did some swimming, and we had dinner at Solstice, which was a real treat. They were taking part in Vermont Restaurant Week, and my first course was an amazing smoky tomato soup. The boys and I headed out later in the evening for some night swimming, which was definitely a bit thrilling in the chill of a cold clear evening. Naturally we spent a good amount of time in one of the hot tubs, although the pool was also a nice temperature for cooling back down a bit after that heat.
I think everyone would be up for doing a similar trip again in the future, especially if we can order up some of these late season April snowstorms atop such a deep snowpack!
With so much potential snowfall on the horizon, Dave sent us a text on Sunday inquiring about the best days to come up for some skiing in Northern Vermont this week. The forecast was still a bit up in the air at that point, but by Monday he was set to go, and just needed to decide on when to come up. He ultimately decided to make his drive on Tuesday evening, once Winter Storm Skylar was pulling away from Southern New England. He battled his way up from Boston, having a slow go of it during the first hour, but quickly found himself cruising along as the only one on the road.
“Depth checks around the mountain revealed roughly 20 inches of powder at a minimum, with many areas at 30+ inches.”
We didn’t know until this morning that E and the boys would have a snow day, but once we knew, the plan was secured for all of us to head to Stowe together. That meant that we’d want to get on the road pretty early, since when it comes to Stowe and its fast lifts and ravenous powder hounds, one definitely needs to be an early bird to get the worm. That meant we’d have to get the boys up and motivated. Dave hasn’t been up in a while, so when he saw Ty in bed this morning, the exchange went as follows:
Dave: “Do you remember me?” Ty: “Yes.” Dave: “Good… get up.” That’s classic Dave, and we LOLed about that exchange all day.
We were indeed able to get the boys motivated for an early start, and got to the mountain with no travel problems. We had a quick breakfast at the Mansfield Base Lodge, and headed right up to the Fourrunner Quad. Within a half hour of lift opening, the trails, and even the glades off the quad had been devoured. The skiing was of course still fantastic, but if you wanted untracked lines of any length, you were already having to head for those more obscure spots. We all had a tremendous time in the Tres Amigos Glades, highlighted by the boys dropping whatever ledges and cliffs they could find with powder below. And indeed it was that kind of day where you could launch just about anything you wanted. Dave really found his groove when we hit the Nosedive Glades, and had a blast.
We moved over to the Gondola so the five of us could ride the lift together as a group, and had a great couple of runs on Waterfall, Perry Merrill, and surrounding environs. Whether we were on piste or off, the conditions were simply ridiculous. On piste it was bottomless chowder and packed powder, and off piste it was waist deep powder. Ty and I took the crew to an area we’ve nicknamed “Stella”, because we discovered it during our Winter Storm Stella outing and delivered such great lines of steep and deep powder.
We had a nice lunch at the Great Room Grill, and since we were over at Spruce Peak we decided to take Dave on some runs there. What a great decision that was! Spruce Peak served up tons of untracked powder in all our favorite locales off Sunny Spruce and Sensation. Let’s just say, the skiing was so good that we spent the rest of the day there. Dylan said he really had fun skiing with today’s “crew”.
In terms of overall snow, I believe the resort was reporting a storm total of 18 inches, but it snowed throughout the day and there was already much more powder than that available from previous storms. Depth checks around the mountain revealed roughly 20 inches of powder at a minimum, with many areas at 30+ inches. We’ve still got snow falling here at the house this evening, so the resorts should be reporting additional accumulations by tomorrow morning. It’s interesting to note that we’re once again at the “S” winter storm of the alphabet with Winter Storm Skylar, just as we were last year around this time with Winter Storm Stella.
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.”
We 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A 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.
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!
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.
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.
We 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.
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!
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.
“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.
We 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.
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.