Today we were out for another BJAMS ski program session at Stowe. I was back with my student Viviana, who was a first-time skier I worked with during our initial session of the season back on January 12th. For this outing, Dylan was assigned to work with me on instruction. We’ve found that when the availability of instructors is sufficient, adding a second person for the real “first-timer” students that can’t yet be placed in another group is very helpful. It allows us to have a person in front for following, and then the other instructor usually takes the rear or has direct interactions with the student to refine their skills. In terms of the overall instruction dynamic, I’ve also found that it’s nice for the student to have a younger (non-adult) instructor along that they can relate to a bit more and put them at ease.
We did a few runs on the Magic Carpet where Viviana had left off at our last session, then took a break at the Great Room Grill in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge for food and drink. Having no familiarity at all with skiing, Viviana was very intimidated by the chairlifts, so it took some convincing by us, and reassurance from Erica, but we got her to try the Adventure Triple Chair. She was more than ready to move on, in part thanks to the fantastic snow conditions – she was able to easily stop herself at will, and even make turns in her wedge in the soft snow.
There was definitely some trepidation riding the lift, but once Viviana saw how easy it was, she became more and more comfortable each run. The lift riding was really the biggest hurdle, because her skiing was excellent. There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn. The pitch is Inspiration is also so consistent that students don’t have to be concerned about any spots that are over their head.
“There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn. ”
We did run after run after run, and we just kept it going until the end of the session to really let her reinforce the positive experience she was having. As long as the snow quality remains good, she’ll easily be able to move on to the Meadows Chair next. I’d say she should start out with some runs on Inspiration to reinforce today’s session, and then move on.
Based on what I heard from other groups around the mountain, the steepest trails offered decent conditions, but certainly not the same pristine packed powder we had in Inspiration. Ty mentioned some ice in steep terrain where he was working with his group today. We may have a storm coming later this week that could bring conditions up on even the steepest terrain, so we’ll be watching to see how that plays out.
E was short on instructors for our BJAMS ski program at Stowe today, so I took on a different group than my usual cadre of experts. I was with Jack, Emma, and Nolan, who are beginner skiers making generally wedge turns. Dylan came along to help me, and Nolan’s brother Lucas was also able to assist. Although our three beginning students have ridden the Inspiration Chair already, I started them off by ascending the small slope up to the magic carpet to let the kids work on edging. We proceeded with a couple of magic carpet runs to check speed control and wedge turns. That went swimmingly, so we moved to Inspiration and worked on wedge turns until everyone had successfully complete the short course of gates that was set up there. Then, it was on to the Meadows Chair.
Today’s visit to the Meadows Chair was the first for Jack and Emma, so naturally that was very exciting for them. Nolan was able to stick with his brother Lucas, which meant that Dylan and I were able to work with the others and give them specific attention. We took the easiest route down from the top of the Meadows Chair, which included some of the gentle terrain features (banked slalom, humps, spines) that the resort has set up for beginners. Both of the kids did a great job (Jack loves the banked slalom), and this was aided by the superb snow conditions that were available today – temperatures in the 30s F created snow that was beautifully soft but not mushy. Jack and Emma are both pretty much at the Stem Christi stage now, and I was able to start working with Emma on that during our last run after Jack had to leave. She’s in fact already done those types of turns before and is certainly ready to improve upon them, so I think she’ll only be incorporating more and more parallel components into her skiing as the next few weeks progress.
It looks like the coming week will be generally mild with some mixed precipitation, so I suspect the slopes will generally be soft until temperatures drop to more February-like levels. At that point surfaces will likely tighten up, so hopefully plenty of new snow will be on the way.
Today’s first run on Stowe’sPerry Merrill had our training group thinking of old adages such as “Life’s too short to ski bad snow.”, or perhaps “Any day at work is better than the worst days of skiing.” Yesterday featured very spring-like temperatures, and this morning’s cold weather and undercast left the snow on Mansfield locked up like one of those ice blocks on the cooling unit of a mini fridge. All of us questioned why anyone would pay for such conditions, but people were out there, and along with race training groups and other school ski program training groups such as ours it made for an incredibly crowded trail. What we had was essentially a perfect combination of dangerous snow and tons of skiers in the same place; it’s exactly where you wouldn’t want to be. We were all amazed when about 100 vertical feet above the Midway Lodge, the snow suddenly softened into something reasonable. Everyone exchanged thoughts of joy as they were actually able to carve turns; apparently we’d hit the freezing line.
Fortunately our instructor Steve knew that there was no point in going back up the Gondola, and instead led us over to Spruce Peak. The sunny slopes of lower Spruce were soft and good to go, and all of us were more than happy to stay over there and work through the progression of techniques for beginning skiers. As the low clouds broke away and the sun hit in the second half of the morning, it became a beautiful day to be out on the slopes. Spruce softened up to as high as we were skiing, which was up to the top of the Meadows Quad. I suspect that even the Mansfield side softened up, but I’m not sure how high that went since we never headed back over there until we hit the Midway Lodge on our way out.
In any event, good snow and comfortable temperatures made for a great annual training day over at Spruce Peak, and if we hadn’t had other things to do in the afternoon, it definitely would have been worth staying for some additional runs. The new construction at the base is certainly coming along, and the outdoor ice rink is already in place. It looks like that area is going to be a great core to the Spruce Peak Village when everything’s complete.
One highlight from this morning was the fantastic view of the mountains above the low clouds, which we’ve apparently been experiencing a lot in the past few weeks with the fairly benign weather pattern. It does look like storms are going to pick up in the second half of the month, but we’ll have to see how much cold air they have to work with in terms of creating snow.
“The snow in the chute looked so good it was almost spooky.”
My thoughts of a very early departure to Stowe for me and Ty were stymied by the fact that I had to get some work done and send it off to Stephen, but we managed to get going by around 9:30 A.M. I hadn’t eaten by that point, and we stopped in at the DD on Route 100 to really calorie up with some hearty food. Although he’d had some breakfast, Ty followed suit with at least a cream cheese bagel; it was a good idea, because I suspected we’d need those calories, and as we’d find out later in the day… they were going to be burned. We got to the mountain by mid morning, and the slopes were looking very good. The resort was reporting a fresh 9 inches overnight, and they appeared to be in the sweet spot for accumulations. We were of course really happy that the surprise dump of snow coincided with our usual Sunday visit to the mountain. We’d dressed warmly since temperatures were around 10 F, but truth be told, the temperature just didn’t have the bite that it seems to in January. It’s mid March, and either we’re acclimated, or the March sun just helps to fight off the cold.
Ty and I kicked things off with a run on the Sunny Spruce, featuring some Lower Smugglers Trees just like we’d done a couple of weeks ago, followed by a visit to the terrain above Meadows. The new snow was indeed light and dry, and the skiing in the trees was awesome, although the base was stiff in low elevation areas that were unprotected from the sun. I’d suspected that as a possibility based on the dense snow we’d found in the lower elevations at Bolton Valley yesterday, so after that warm up run our plan was to head right up into the higher elevations of Mt. Mansfield, where we knew the snow would be very well preserved.
We started off with a trip along the Kitchen Wall traverse, and hit some of the deep powder there. There had really been minimal traffic through the area at that point, so we just picked an untracked area in one of the first snowfields and had at it. That essentially led us on a long and meandering trip through various areas of tree skiing that brought us to the Fourrunner Quad. From the top of the quad I took Ty down Pipeline, which I probably haven’t skied in 20 years. I was happy that I was able to find it, but less enthused about how narrow it was. My skis have only gotten shorter since 20 years ago, so I have no idea how I skied it back then. It was already well packed out, which probably doesn’t take much, since in general people are going to side slip a lot of it anyway. It was just as steep as I remembered though, and the fall away views were spectacular. We eventually found ourselves dropping into the Hazelton Zone from the south side, and that resulted in a great run with tons of untracked snow. Somehow we even managed to get into some of the same lines we’d hit back on the 2nd, and I think our noses naturally lead us in certain directions. Knowing more about some of the big, north-facing gullies though, we managed to get ourselves into one of those, and that was pretty sweet. We’ve still got several of those to explore however, the trick is just finding exactly where to enter the zone to get there.
By the time we traversed out of the Hazelton Zone, it was time to head over to Spruce Peak for some lunch, and to meet up with Dylan, E, and all the other folks for the afternoon BJAMS ski program. After climbing and skiing the Cliff Trail Gullylast Sunday as a refresher, today the plan was to kick things up a notch and visit Profanity Chute. Skiing Profanity is a bit of a larger endeavor, since it involves going all the way to the top of The Chin, with a longer hike and a longer descent. This was a great day for it though, with a couple feet of snow midweek from winter storm Vulcan, topped off with another 9 inches of fluff from the overnight snows, the odds were favoring some really nice snow in the alpine. Joe had heard about our plans, and since he was interested in bringing his group up as well, we joined together with him, Ethan, and Julia to make a nice gondola-sized group of eight.
I’d checked on some of the boys packs down in the lodge, so once we got to the top of the gondola, the preparation for the hike went fairly smoothly. The ascent of the Climbing Gully was a little slow at first, simply because of all the fresh snow. The boot ladder was just not consolidated enough. That issue gradually waned as we got up into terrain that had been brushed by the wind a bit more. About 1/3 of the way up the gully, we stopped for a break and to let Jack and Kenny catch up with the group. In order to give them a rest, we waited a bit longer, and with temperatures in the single digits, we had to worry about getting too cold. In the upper half of the hike, I eventually had to put Kenny’s and Jack’s skis on my pack to allow them to keep pace with the rest of the group. That worked well though, and we eventually got everyone up to the Chin and the area atop Profanity Chute. Winds were probably 30-35 MPH up along the ridgeline near The Chin, but fortunately we were able to quickly get on the leeward side of the mountain by the chute.
The snow in the chute looked so good it was almost spooky. There was just one obvious ski track over on the skier’s left, but the right side was a huge field of what appeared to be powder. Just to be safe and to check on wind loading, I ski cut through that area to make sure it wasn’t going to release. It passed that test, and we let the kids just rip it up. I didn’t even have time to get my camera out because they were so quickly enamored with what lay beneath their feet. Indeed that was some mighty fine snow we hit, two to three feet of soft powder, with the denser accumulations from Vulcan topped off with last night’s fluff. I was at least able to shoot some images of Joe in the chute, since he’d waited for all the kids to go. The kids were treated to some fantastic conditions up there, with almost no tracks all the way down the second part of the chute toward Taft Lodge. There’s not much to say other than that the snow was deep, bottomless, and everywhere; that leeward side of Mansfield just really knows how to do snow right.
After following the mazes of tracks and bobsled runs through the subalpine area, getting down to Chin Clip, and then skiing all the way to the base, it was time to head back to Spruce Peak and call it a day. The kids really earned high marks today, and I was amazed at how comfortable with the exposure of the chute up in the alpine. I think that the amazing snow helped with that of course, because even when people did fall, they just immediately stopped thanks to the deep powder. The temperatures were doing a great job of preserving the snow, even when the March sun came out, and it looks like those temperatures will continue to keep preserving the snow as we head into the coming week.