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!
With the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake back around the 100-inch mark, it was finally time to bring my BJAMS ski group up into the Mansfield alpine for our weekly Sunday session. My initial plan was a run down Profanity Chute with a return toward Chin Clip, followed by a trip to the Outer Planets. Nolan wasn’t going to be with me since he was still in the process of returning from Montreal, but fortunately Rick was going to join us and that gave me a second adult. With Rick’s added knowledge of the area, I felt comfortable enough to kick things up a notch and bring the boys to the Hell Brook Trail for the bottom part of the run.
The weather forecast was also a big part of opting for the alpine today – highs up around 4,000’ were expected to be in the 20s F and wind was supposed to be minimal. The Climbing Gully was in great shape, with lots of snow and one of the best boot ladders I’ve seen. The March sun had done some work on slopes with southern aspects, but up high the effects seemed to be pretty minimal – the packed snow in Profanity Chute was quite wintry, and there was some nice powder still available in the open area on the right side of the chute. I wish I’d had the camera out for when Rick skied that because the powdery turns looked fantastic.
We cut left following the normal Profanity route, and then traversed below the east face of The Chin containing the Hourglass Chute and connected to the Hell Brook Trail. The north-facing aspects in the Hell Brook area held some fantastic snow, but surface conditions deteriorated the more southerly the aspect. At times we had to ski some of those more southerly-oriented aspects, so that made for some very challenging turns on either crusty snow or powder with a sun crust on it. But the boys all did quite well on what is a very challenging run that simply goes on, and on, and on. By the time we traversed back to Gondola and headed over to Spruce Camp we’d covered over 5.5 miles and 2,900’ of vertical.
Although there are roughly 100 inches of snow at the Mt. Mansfield Stake right now, I don’t think coverage on Profanity was quite where it was on our last visit with the kids a couple of seasons ago. With Winter Storm Stella we really just made back the snow that had settled or melted during the previous couple of weeks, so the snowpack doesn’t seem to have quite the coverage of a 100-inch pack that grew throughout the full season. In any event, there’s a lot of snow up in the high elevations and things look good for the slopes heading into spring.
With the Easter holiday, we didn’t have BJAMS ski program today, but we decided to head to Stowe anyway for a bit of lift-served skiing and another run down the Bruce Trail. E wasn’t able to join us for the Bruce run with the kids last week because she was coaching her younger, intermediate-level students, but she had no such obligations today. Coverage on the Bruce was excellent last week, and this week has seen fairly typical spring weather for the Northern Greens, with some snowfall and some warmer days, so it didn’t look like there would be any major changes in that department. Not surprisingly, the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is still sitting right around that 80-inch mark, so there were clearly no issues with loss of snow in the higher elevations. However, the lower mountain valleys certainly lost snow this week, brining into question the lower elevation snowpack. And, the Bruce Trail has a good deal of southern exposure, so that means that those areas are going to lose snow more quickly than other aspects at similar elevations. In fact, I was more concerned about snow coverage on those higher-elevation, south-facing pitches in the 2,000 to 3,600’ elevation range than even the lowest elevations down near 1,000’; the snow in lowest elevations of the route is well protected by the forest and well packed, so I suspect it persists quite well in the spring.
“…I’d say the Bruce will probably still be good to go next weekend as well…”
Today we planned to flip our Bruce Trail tour setup from what we’ve done in the past; we’d park the car down at The Matterhorn, ride the Mountain Road Shuttle up to Mt. Mansfield, ski the mountain for a while, and then finish off with a run down the Bruce and a meal at The Matterhorn. We timed things pretty well with knowledge of the Mountain Road Shuttle schedule, and arrived at The Matterhorn in the early afternoon with time to get into our gear and head across the street to the shuttle stop. The plan was for everyone to Telemark since the boys could get in some lift-served practice runs and it’s generally a good fit for a trip down the Bruce, although Ty opted for alpine gear at the last minute because that’s what he felt like skiing.
“On piste coverage
at Stowe remains
100% of trails
We started off the afternoon as planned with some lift-served runs, and found some marginally sticky conditions in places. None of the surfaces were too bad in that regard, but there was definitely some snow that has not transitioned all the way to corn with the rounds of snowfall earlier this week. Temperatures were a bit warmer than yesterday, sitting in the upper 40s F down in the lower elevations, and somewhere in the 30s F at the summit elevations. On piste coverage at Stowe remains excellent, with 100% of trails open today – it’s much more typical this season, and nothing like last season when that huge March heat wave really sapped the snowpack. Dylan worked on his Telemark turns and was making strides on his bad side turn, and Ty on his alpines was throwing himself off all the airs he encountered.
Around mid afternoon we decided to head down the Bruce for our final run, and the snow was nice and soft right from the top. The only notable coverage issues were in the usual spots – those steeper pitches with southern exposure. Those areas had opened up a bit since last week, but the differences in the skiing are fairly marginal; you’ve just got to navigate those areas cautiously. As expected, the lowest elevations in the Nordic areas in the 1,500’ – 1,000’ range had perfect coverage. The only potential break in the snow cover down there is the last hundred yards or so where you use the road the leads to the Bruce House. The road has been plowed, but you can ski on the snow banks along the edge of the road and they’ll take you right out to Route 108 as usual. The whole trip down the Bruce was extremely quiet today – we didn’t see a single soul on the Bruce itself, and we only saw one family touring on the trails of the Stowe Mountain Resort Cross Country Ski Center. Perhaps the holiday kept the numbers of visitors down relative to a typical Sunday, but the resort looked pretty busy overall. I didn’t track today’s travels by GPS, but for a representative GPS/Google Earth map or elevation profile plot of the general route of the Bruce Trail, refer to my Bruce Trail trip report from January 21st.
It was fun to get E’s impressions of the trail since this was her first trip down the Bruce. She found, and I entirely agree, that on today’s outing the combination of the relatively narrow nature of the trail, the areas where the formation of moguls tended to dictate specific locations for turns, and the concave sculpting of the snow due to skier traffic, all come together to create quite a challenging ascent on Telemark gear. I noticed those aspects as well, and indeed in this case what is really pretty standard intermediate or advanced fare on alpine equipment, is much more technically demanding on Teles… or at least it is if you’re trying to make Telemark turns. Trying to navigate those concave edges while snaking down a narrow line (and even feeling narrower in a Telemark stance) among moguls on terrain with decent pitch will certainly push your skills. Fortunately one can use alpine turns as a fall back, and those are certainly a lot of fun too, but of course trying to be strict with those Tele turns keeps the bar up. Even with the great spring snow, E favored alpine turns heavily in the steep, upper sections of the trail, but there were plenty of areas where her Telemark turns would flow. I threw in good doses of alpine turns myself in spots, because sometimes it’s just too hard to plot a solution with Tele turns through certain areas. But, every run gets more turns under your belt. Dylan threw in a few Telemark turns here and there, but he already knew going in that he was going to mostly alpine and just enjoy the ride in that fashion.
The final part of today’s outing was an early dinner at The Matterhorn. I’ve actually never eaten at The Matterhorn, since I’ve thought of it generally as an après ski bar. As it turns out though, they’re a restaurant as well, and to my amazement, they’re pretty well known for their sushi. I tried for a visit to get some sushi back on Bruce Trail trip on January 21st, but the sushi bar is closed on Mondays, so I decided to wait until my next visit. Well, today was that day, and I’ve got to say that indeed the sushi was quite good. I went with a Salmon Maki Roll and one of their specialty rolls, the Crab Rangoon Roll, and both were great. E and the boys didn’t get sushi, but everything we had was good. Sitting out back by the river is also a nice perk – there was a feel of early spring watching the water roll by amidst the snow.
Based on forecast for the coming week, I’d say the Bruce will probably still be good to go next weekend as well, so keep it in mind if you’re looking for something to do as we move on to April skiing in the Northern Greens.
“All in all that had to be just about perfect conditions today for skiing the Bruce…”
We had a little time before our group got together, so we did a warm up run on Sunny Spruce with Connor and his dad. As expected, the snow quality was excellent – it was packed powder on the trails and powder off piste, with just a few bare spots here and there on steeper south-facing terrain like Freddie’s Chute. One of the highlights of that run was West Slope, where we rode the ridge along the skier’s left with big swooping drops into the chowder on the left side. At one point I heard Luke screaming out behind me something like “That was so intense!” after launching a huge drop on one of his turns… intense indeed!
We gathered up our group, which featured Claire, Ken, Julia, Luke, Ty, Dylan, and me. Along with Joana and big Luke, we were missing Joe, Sam and Ethan today, and I suspect they would have loved to make a run down the Bruce, but hopefully they’ll get to do it next time. Apparently Joe did have a great day out on the mountain on Friday with Ken though, so he’s had a good dose of all this new snow. We debated briefly about whether we should do our Bruce run at the beginning of the day or the end of the day, but with some folks having obligations preventing them from lingering at the mountain too long at the end, we decided that we’d better start with the Bruce and fill extra time in with some other runs at the end of the day. Based on my reconnaissance day, I was going with a fairly conservative estimate of two hours for us to complete the run to the base of the Bruce. I knew there wouldn’t be any problems for anyone in terms of the skiing, I was just unsure about what our pace would be through the flatter terrain in the Nordic areas. If the kids found it tiring it might take longer than what I’d experience on my own, so I figured it was better to be safe than sorry.
We didn’t waste any time getting to the top of the Bruce, we crossed on the Over Easy and went right up the Fourrunner Quad. Unlike down in the base elevations, there was a brisk wind up there around 3,600’. Some of the boys dropped in the alternate entrance to the Bruce for a bit of powder and I grabbed a few pictures there and some more as they dropped below me on the trail. It was packed snow on the trail, but the quality was excellent, far better than what I’d experienced on my January trip, which was after a thaw the previous week. The skiing in the upper sections went pretty much as expected, the boys were having a blast with the bumps and jumps, and one could explore the powder off to the sides when areas opened up in the trees. A few of the steepest pitches were a little scraped down in spots, but that was pretty minimal because of the deep base and recent snow. As we got down into the hardwoods and the forest began to open up even more, I started venturing father off the trail into powder lines based on my previous knowledge. The powder was generally a foot plus in most places, and that worked well on most pitches – enough to slow you down on the steeper stuff, but not bog you down too much in the mellower areas. Down on the Nordic trails, the final, flatter part of the descent went very smoothly. Ty noticed one of those wavy green lines one of the trail signs, indicating beginner Nordic terrain, and with regard to the perceived flatness he said, “Oh no, that type of sign is never good!” I’d say he found out that it really wasn’t that bad. The kids did a nice job of keeping their pace on the flatter areas, and I’d give Ty and Dylan occasional boosts to keep their pace up. They started to play around and get tangled up with each other as they skated and poled their way down the trail, so that kept them entertained even on the flats. As a bonus we got those beautiful views of the snowy Ranch Brook, and the snow stayed quite powdery all the way down to 1,000’. All in all that had to be just about perfect conditions today for skiing the Bruce, comfortable temperatures, partly cloudy skies, and dry snow all the way to the base. I’m not sure what more one could ask for aside from getting first tracks!
From leaving the Spruce Peak Base to reaching the bottom of the Bruce at Route 108, it had taken a bit under 90 minutes, so we made it well under my two-hour conservative estimate, even with the large group. We were about 20 minutes ahead of the next Mountain Road Shuttle when we reached the end of the trail, so we popped into Notchbrook Convenience Store for some snacks, and enjoyed the early spring weather while we waited. The March sun is quite nice right now, and it’s the beautiful sort of weather that is keeping the snow dry instead of sticky, even with relatively warm air. Ty and Dylan loved the ride on the shuttle, and Ty only half jokingly insisted that “The Bruce was nice, but it’s the bus ride that’s really my favorite part of the trip.” He certainly does like to ride buses. For a representative GPS/Google Earth map or elevation profile plot of the travel circuit we used to ski the Bruce Trail, refer to my Bruce Trail trip report from January 21st.
When we arrived back at the Spruce Peak Base Area, we had another hour or so before the lifts stopped running, and we decided to use our remaining time for a trip over to the Sensation Quad. With the relatively deep March snowpack, it seemed like a good time to ski as much of Spruce Line as we could. The strengthening sun is only going to start beating on that south-facing terrain more and more. I was surprised to find that the steep terrain above Green Acres was fairly wind scoured, but we found a line through and the boys did some great steep turns and jumps off one of the rocks there. Dylan led the charge with an impressive jump turn off the rock, landing in a sea of deep powder. He was followed up by the other boys, including Luke who was totally jazzed at how high he went. That steep pitch used to intimidate him, and now he’s launching huge jump turns off boulders into powder. It’s great to see him expanding his skiing literally by leaps and bounds. Ken launched a beautiful air off the rock as well, although he had to deal with sloppy fourth or fifths in terms of the powder on the landing. The snow in Green Acres was excellent – powder of well over a foot in depth, which was plenty to slow you down in some of those tighter tree lines. We couldn’t ski all of Spruce Line because parts were closed, but we did get the middle section that was fairly lightly tracked with some beautiful snow. The group also enjoyed the chance to ski Main Street since there weren’t any races taking place – having Main Street open up for general traffic is one of those great things about approaching the spring season at Stowe.
“The Bruce was nice,
but it’s the bus ride
that’s really my
favorite part of
While most of the group had to leave a bit early, Ty, Dylan, and I found time to squeeze in one more run on Sunny Spruce. We dropped into Freddie’s Chute, and Dylan worked his way to the woods on the skier’s right for some powder. He ended making an impressive drop off a log, which had to be 8 to 10 feet high. He did manage to hit his chin with his knee on the landing, and it wasn’t of any consequence, but I did stress the point of being aware that that can happen and making sure that your tongue is not anywhere near your teeth. That was really an aggressive drop that he made, and between Bolton yesterday and Stowe today, he’s really been on fire with the airs this weekend. With deep bases and deep powder though, ‘tis the season for such things. We followed that up with some exploration of the trees off to the skier’s left of Lower Smuggler’s – a section that none of us have ever explored before. We found some good lines, with just a bit of a slow exit on flat terrain. We finished off with a final descent down West Slope, making use of that ridge and flying off the edge into the powder.
I just checked the forecast, and we’ve apparent got more snow on the way this week. Nothing too big is expected, but the mountains often seem to do a lot with just a little moisture in the forecast. Indeed this is turning out to be quite a March for skiing in the Northern Greens as we make up for the rather paltry snowfall of January and February.
“…it’s pretty unanimous in town here that the mountain is skiing the best of the season.”
The beckoning conditions were certainly enough to get me out to the hill, but I had another good reason to pay Mt. Mansfield a visit. Our Sunday trip out to the Bench Woods with the boys during our BJAMS ski program got me thinking about bringing them out to Angel Food. It’s been a while since I’ve been out that way though, so like I did for the Bruce Trail a few weeks back I wanted to get in some reconnaissance to ensure that the trip would go smoothly. As of yesterday, the Mt. Mansfield Stake was showing a snowpack depth of 57 inches; it was still below average, but only by a couple of inches, and it was certainly enough to provide some decent turns even on steeper runs in the Stowe sidecountry.
With the combination of new snow and relatively low, midweek skier traffic, the traverse out to Angel Food was in good shape. I stopped in a few spots along the traverse to check the depth of the powder, and found anywhere from 12 to 20 inches in the high elevations. The main route was certainly tracked up, but there are just so many acres and acres of terrain around it that fresh lines were everywhere for the taking. Even though it was tracked and packed, the snow in the central areas was so good that I actually spent a lot of time there working on turns. When I did venture off the sides of the main route into other trees, the powder turns were divine, but the depth of the powder definitely started to drop as I went down in elevation. Down near the 2,000’ elevation there was also a thin layer of crust somewhere between the layers of powder. It was often quite subtle, so I suspect it was simply a bit of melt crust from when temperatures in the lower elevations rose above freezing on one of these past few days. I decided to take the traverses that got me back to the base of the resort instead of venturing down to Route 108, since that’s most likely what we’ll do with the boys at first, but we’ll work our way up to some of the other stuff. There was just glade after glade after glade off the main Angel Food route with few if any tracks, so the resort is really set up well for the coming holiday weekend.
“There was just glade after glade after glade off the main Angel Food route with few if any tracks…”
After getting back to the base, I decided on one more run on Gondolier to really burn out my legs – I was on my Telemark skis so it really wasn’t going to take much. On piste conditions were very good. I’d still encounter the occasional firm spot, so I can’t quite put them down as top notch, but they were way up there. As they have been much of the week, temperatures at the base were right around 30 F, and somewhere in the 20s F up top. Between the fresh snow, midweek levels of visitors, and the perfect temperatures, people who chose this week for their vacation are really getting that quintessential Stowe experience. I think a couple more feet of base snow would really get everything to that upper echelon of conditions, but it’s essentially powder and packed powder everywhere as far as I could tell, so it’s somewhat splitting hairs on the exact level of snow quality. We’ve got some chances for snow going into the holiday weekend, and I’m leaning toward some backcountry turns barring a big storm, but front, side, or backcountry – the skiing is looking good in the Northern Greens right now.
Well, the weather setup leading into this weekend was a 4 to 6 inch snowfall yesterday; so it came just in time for weekend turns. Somehow, there came to be a bit of a crust on top, but unlike last weekend, it was paper thin and didn’t really affect the non-groomed terrain.
Today I caught up with Shawshank at Stowe sometime between 7:30 and 8:00 A.M. and we hit the usual stashes with other folks that we knew. The big event came in the afternoon with a 1:00 P.M. meeting at the top of the Gondi and a hike into the swirling mists of The Chin. Let’s just say, without the guidance of Shawshank, there would have been no way to find anything up there in the near zero visibility. The wind was probably gusting to 40 mph at times, but it wasn’t bad for the top of a mountain, and by the time we reached the Hourglass Chute, we were protected altogether. Hourglass was fun, although it seemed to be over so quickly. I remember reaching this one point about as wide as the length of my skis (the narrow part of the hourglass) and four turns later we had to bang a left to make the connection to Hell Brook. We traversed for about 50 feet, took a quick step up a short incline, then dropped a nice little section into the low point between the Adam’s Apple And The Chin (so I was told; still socked in). After a bit more of a traverse, we found ourselves at the top of Hell Brook. I thought that it was going to be a singletrack adventure down into the Notch; I was definitely wrong there. As it turns out (at least at this time of year) it is much like an interconnected patchwork of trails, snowfields, and gullies which gradually narrows into a single gully towards the end. Actually, a lot of it reminded me of the gullies at Alta or Snowbird, except that it was a lot longer and there were hardwoods about. One could take this thing 20 times and still not know the whole maze; it makes for some very fun exploration. A word of caution: there were numerous spots where a wrong turn would mean a big drop or other hazards that could ruin your run so take it easy. Shawshank lost his goggles in a little open water spot and before anyone knew what was up, they were down the brook and under the snow. Damn. We finally wound up on Route 108 for a mostly (one bit of uphill) downhill traverse back to the Gondola and nearly 3000′ of vertical in one run. By the time we got back to the quad it was about 3:30 P.M. and we were kaput.
I stopped in at the Stowehof where my friend Chris was staying. It’s a real quaint place with great views. I think that the bar and restaurant are open to the public, but just walking around in there is a lot of fun.