Stowe, VT 12MAR2019

An image of ski tracks in powder below the Sensation Quad Chairlift at Stowe Mountain Resort during Winter Storm Taylor
An image of ski tracks in powder snow beneath the Gondola from Winter Storm Taylor at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Finishing off my morning with some powder turns below the Gondola after Winter Storm Taylor dropped more than a foot of fresh powder at Stowe

We’ve known about the potential upslope snow on the back side of Winter Storm Taylor for several days, and today looked like the optimal time period to get some of those Northern Greens powder turns.  But, you never know quite how much powder you’re going to get until it happens.  Scott Braaten laid out his thoughts yesterday at Braatencast, but I’d say Mother Nature delivered even better than expected.  The first thing we heard from Scott this morning in the Northern New England thread at American Weather Forums was: “The orographic lift came through last night.  That’s for sure.”  We knew it was game on, and we sure love it when the Northern Greens do their thing.

An image of the day's snow report with a foot of snow from Winter Storm Taylor at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontI was planning to head to Bolton Valley for a bit of touring this morning, but when I saw they were reporting about 4 inches overnight, whereas Stowe had early reports of 8 or 9 inches, I switched up my plans and decided to do a few lift-served runs at Stowe instead.  My snow analyses from the morning indicated that the new snow had come in around 5% H2O, which was a setup for some great powder turns.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the West Slope are of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Enjoying some powder and views as I run one of my laps on the Sunny Spruce terrain today.

I had a bit of interesting serendipity on this morning’s outing.  I parked in the upper Gondi lot, planning to do most of my skiing there, but I had a pass issue that required me to head over to Spruce.  Once I’d gotten things straightened out with my pass, I decided to just roll with it and catch some runs while I was over there.  I headed out to the lifts and noticed something surprising – the Sensation Quad was running, but the Sunny Spruce Quad was down.  The reverse is common if there are wind issues, but certainly not the combination they had today (it turns out it wasn’t a wind issue, it was mechanical I guess).  Anyway, with Sunny Spruce down, it was pretty much country club powder skiing on that terrain for the few folks that felt like accessing it.  I did an initial run on Sensation, which was pretty quiet aside from the NorAm races, and got some of the first tracks down Spruce Line.  After that I did a couple of laps on the vacant Sunny Spruce terrain, running a circuit with the Meadows Quad and Sensation Quad, and of course including a hike to the top of Spruce Peak each time to get in that extra powder and make up for the fact that I was riding lifts instead of skinning.

An image of a snowboarder riding in powder snow near the sumit of Spruce Peak at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
One of the snowboarders I encountered surfing the powder as we hit the snowfields near the summit of Spruce Peak today

“It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22 to 24 inches.”

It was snowing nice fat flakes all morning, and the increases in snowfall intensity were often quite notable as you headed up in elevation.  It typically wasn’t an intense pounding snow, but often nice and steady, and sometimes you’d have that fairly decent snowfall with sunshine at the same time.  There were a couple of times with the perfect simultaneous combinations of flakes and sun that I had to stand there in awe and soak in the mountain scene.  And it was all gorgeous upslope flakes – the 5% H2O I’d found in my morning snow analyses was probably about what we had where the snow wasn’t affected by any wind.  It was simply great snow quality with some good right-side-up nature to it thanks to some dense snow that had fallen at the beginning of the storm cycle.

An image of the "Bob's Rash" sign in the Bench Woods are at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in VermontMost off piste (and even some on piste) terrain I encountered was definitely delivering that 48-hour total of 13” that I’d seen in Stowe’s snow report.  My first depth check of the day was in the Meadows East Glades, and my measurement came right in at 12 inches.  I checked in spots off Upper Sterling and was typically getting 12-14”.  I eventually got back over to the Gondola terrain and was really impressed with the skiing in the Bench Woods.  It was skiing much deeper than a foot at times, and doing some checks I was getting powder depths of 22-24”.  I did push through some sort of slightly thicker layer in those measurements, but it must not have been too sturdy because I was definitely skiing a lot of lines where the snow had that “up to the thighs” feeling.  That’s typically in the two-foot realm vs. the one-foot realm.  I found a sign I’d never seen in that area that said “Bob’s Rash”, and I have no idea how much of the terrain that sign was meant to cover, but the lines below it were beautifully steep and loaded with the kind of powder that billows up above your waist.

An image of ski tracks in powder snow in the Bench Woods area of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Exploring the awesome powder in the Bench Woods area this morning during my ski session at Stowe

Today’s temperatures were cold enough to keep things light and dry, but certainly not January frigid, so it was an all-around great morning.  It was another world once I got back down into the valley – it was mostly sunny down low while it was still snowing away at the mountain.  We’ve had some nice storms over the past couple of Marches, with Winter Storm Skylar last March, and Winter Stowe Stella the March before that.  This year’s Winter Storm Taylor wasn’t quite as big as those, but it was an awesome sleeper storm that brought the goods without as much hypeThe snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is now sitting at around 120 inches, and the skiing is great at all elevations.  Who knows how many other big storms we’ll be getting this season, but we’ve got the rest of March and April to find out!

Stowe, VT 17DEC2016

An image of snow outside the Midway Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
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 29JAN2012

An image of Greg and some of the boys in our ski group on the Sensation Quad at Stowe Mountain Resort, with tracks visible in the powder on the lift line trail below
Greg and some of the boys riding Sensation today between laps in the powder below

There haven’t been any major snowfalls in the area since the storm that dropped up to two feet in the mountains around mid month, so when I assessed the monthly snowfall at the house through yesterday (27.2”), it wasn’t surprising that we were well below the January average I’ve calculated from the past five seasons worth of data (40”+).  Even without any huge storms though, the Northern Greens have been doing their thing to keep the slopes fresh as they capitalize on the moisture from more modest systems or make their own upslope snow.  Today was another perfect example, as we found ourselves amidst massive flakes when we arrived at Stowe around midday.  It was a bit of a surprise to see all the snow in the air and the cars covered in white, since all we’d seen at the house were a few flurries, but that’s Mansfield being Mansfield.

An image of arriving at the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Ski Resort in Vermont with snow falling and a couple of trails on Mt. Mansfield just visible in the background
Our snowy arrival in the Spruce Peak Village today

“Every week we seem to
get one of those mixed
storms to make a mess
out of the slopes, and
Mansfield pulls another
7, 8 , 9, 10 inches or
whatever out of the sky
to bring back the powder
skiing.”

The day was set up as a nice comfortable one with temperatures in the 30s F for the mountain valleys, and a high of around 25 F on Mt. Mansfield.  Naturally, the combination of nice temperatures and fresh snow had us excited to hit the slopes, so with some extra time before our coaching session began, I grabbed Ty and Dylan and we rode the Alpine Double for a run in the terrain above Meadows.  Consistent with the latest temperature fluctuations above and below freezing over the past week (which seems to be a theme this month) there was certainly a crusty layer under the powder, but the turns were very good with all the new snow, even down at the low elevations near the Spruce Peak Village (~1,500’).  In fact the snow was nice enough that when we met up with our group for the day, which consisted of Jack, Luke, and Greg Pause as a second coach, we headed right back up to do the same run.

An image of Greg and the boys stopping in the powdery woods for a photo during one of our trips on the Sensation Quad at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching Greg and the boys on one of our snowy Sensation runs

Seeing how nice the skiing was down low with the new snow, we didn’t want to wait too long to get higher up on the mountain, so we caught Sunny Spruce to make our way over to Sensation.  While on the lift, we saw a few tracks on Spruce Line, but loads of untracked snow, so we worked our way through the trees to get there.  The boys were challenged by some difficult routes through the trees, but Ty encouraged everyone, letting them know that they could really handle it, and they did.  Indeed the powder skiing was excellent up at that elevation with the additional depth of new snow afforded by 1,500’ of increased elevation.  One aspect of the run that had everyone grinning was the fact that nobody else was skiing the area, so we had it all to ourselves.  We continued on down to Whirlaway, where the snow remained quite good, and then decided that it would be a shame if all the untracked snow on Spruce Line went to waste, so we did the exact same run again.  We concluded our Spruce Peak session with one more Sensation run, hitting the steep terrain of Upper Smuggler’s down to Side Street, then back to the Spruce Peak Base Area to catch the Over Easy to Mt. Mansfield.

“It was a bit of a surprise
to see all the snow in the
air and the cars covered,
in white, since all we’d
seen at the house were a
few flurries, but that’s
Mansfield being Mansfield.”

The second half of the afternoon was spent over on Mt. Mansfield exploring areas serviced by the gondola.  Waterfall continues to have good snow, so we enjoyed its somewhat steep terrain as a good variation down to Gondolier.  We played around a lot in the Switchback trees, and a quick check on the powder there revealed 7 inches of depth for the mid to lower mountain elevations.  We did a run on Perry Merrill as well, and worked our way back to Switchback for a variation on the trees we’d skied before.  The snowfall had slackened during the middle of the afternoon, but it resumed for the end of the ski day, and gave everyone a renewed sense of excitement.  The boys finished off their last run as they do with most gondola runs, the requisite trip through the small terrain park below Midway.  We headed back to Spruce as the light began to fade and the snowfall ramped up.

An image of Ty jumping over a sloped box in the small terrain park near the Midway Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching that last terrain park run in the fading light
An image of a pair of skis leaning on a carved wooden bear at the entrance to Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Spruce Camp entrance

We headed to the Great Room Grill for après ski, and the snow continued to fall; the forecast calls for up to another 6 to 8 inches tonight on top of what fell today, so I suspect that conditions are going to be even better tomorrow.  It certainly makes me want to hit the slopes instead of heading in to Burlington.  I’ve got to say, Stowe really continues to impress this season in terms of conditions.  Sometimes the heavy traffic at the mountain can really wear things down, but in this season of low snowfall, big temperature swings, and mixed precipitation, Mansfield just keeps coming through.  Every week we seem to get one of those mixed storms to make a mess out of the slopes, and Mansfield pulls another 7, 8 , 9, 10 inches or whatever out of the sky to bring back the powder skiing.  I really thought this was going to be the weekend in which the conditions wouldn’t make it back in time, with this week’s mixed precipitation storm coming so late in the week, but damn if there wasn’t some fine skiing out there today.