While the upper elevation snowpack here in Northern Vermont got a bit of a boost from the snowstorm we had earlier in the week, the snow in the lower elevations is getting rather sparse. So while there’s still plenty of snow available in the local mountains overall, it’s not easy to head out on a tour that will let you ski right back to the base elevations. At the end of my tour on Tuesday though, the gentlemen I’d met out on the trail told me that there was still an impressive amount of snow available over by the Sunrise area of the resort. The terrain in that area really isn’t visible from Stowe’s webcams, or from the valley in general for that matter, but when the clouds started to rise away from the peaks this afternoon, I decided it looked nice enough for a quick ski tour and I decided to see what the area had to offer.
As soon as I walked up the access road from the Mansfield Base Lodge to the bottom of the Mountain Triple Chair, the possibilities were looking promising. A nice thick blanket of snow stretched right down to the base of the Standard trail, and coverage looked to continuous as far up the slope as I could see. There was enough open ground that I decided to simply hike vs. trying to skin, so I walked up the essentially snowless Lower Gulch as it paralleled Lower Standard. I did have to walk on snow at times as I got higher up the mountain and stuck more to Standard itself, but there were plenty of dry options as well if I’d wanted to take another route. I had only a certain amount of time, so I stopped my ascent after about 1,000’ of vertical near the top of Standard. There was plenty of snow to continue upward though for those interested in a longer descent.
“A nice thick blanket of snow stretched right down to the base of the Standard trail, and coverage looked to continuous as far up the slope as I could see.”
On the lower mountain it’s really the Standard trail that has the nearly continuous snow cover. The resort clearly made a lot of snow there this season, no doubt due to supporting the terrain park that occupies the trail. The snow cover isn’t quite 100% continuous throughout the entire length of the trail, but the only gaps are a couple of rather small ones that can be safely traversed without taking off your skis as long as you’re comfortable stepping across the ground slowly. There are a couple more spots that will likely open up soon, so watch for that if you go over the course of the next week. I do enjoy how every spring is a bit different with the trails that offer the best skiing, so being over on that side of the resort was a nice change of pace from the usual Nosedive options. The snow on Nosedive is still holding out well of course, but it doesn’t offer the same level of coverage right to the base that you can get on Standard right now, so the terrain off the Mountain Triple Chair could be a good option for touring if you’d like to check it out. It worked quite well for me, so hats off to the gentlemen I met on Tuesday who gave me the advice about the solid coverage on that side of the resort.
It turns out that we likely get a substantial May snowstorm here in the Northern Greens about every other year on average. It probably feels like May snowstorms are rarer than that, maybe because, well… it’s May. By this point in the season it typically hasn’t snowed in a few weeks, we’ve had some warm weather, Memorial Day is approaching, and people are well along into thinking about spring and summer. But I felt as though I’d been out on fresh snow several times in May since we’ve been back in Vermont over the past decade or so, and being curious about the actual numbers during the lead up to our current storm, I checked my ski report archives to see. Indeed, with today’s storm that makes at least five significant May snowstorms in the past decade. Here in the Northern Greens we also don’t catch the brunt of every May snowstorm that hits the Northeast, especially with the Presidentials in the mix, so I suspect that for the region as a whole the frequency of May snowstorms averages out to somewhere around a storm each season.
“…we likely get a substantial May snowstorm here in the Northern Greens about every other year on average.”
As expected, it was a cool, borderline wintry morning as I made my way to the mountain. Temperatures were in the upper-30s F in the mountain valleys, and mid-30s F at the resort base. I’d seen on Stowe’s web cams that the North Slope area had its typical late season residual snowpack, so I chose that for my ascent route. By the time I got out on my tour, the snow level was certainly rising relative to its lowest point overnight or this morning when there were more optimal temperatures and snowfall rates. New snow accumulations varied considerably depending on the underlying surface, with the best accumulations and retention found atop the existing snowpack.
“The amount of dense snow up high meant that you had plenty of cushion for some nice powder turns.”
Continuing up from the North Slope area, I headed through the Fourrunner Quad Summit and up the Toll Road past the Mt. Mansfield Stake to the Mansfield Summit Station at around 3,850’. Precipitation was snow at all elevations on my ascent, and it was fairly light for the most part until I got to the Summit Station along the Mansfield ridgeline. While I was hanging out there refueling and changing over for the descent, the intensity of the snowfall ramped up somewhat, with lots of tiny flakes at first. Eventually though, the snowfall picked up to a pounding of much larger flakes. There was definitely a lot of liquid coming out of the sky at that point, and my Gore-Tex® was getting a workout.
Observing the new snow accumulations along my ascent, the big jump in depths really seemed to happen between 2,000’ and 3,000’. Above 3,000’ I didn’t really see too much with respect to additional accumulation, so presumably temperatures were sufficient down to 3,000’ to maximize the snow from the available moisture right from the get go yesterday.
Here’s the elevation profile for the accumulations I found this morning:
The amount of dense snow up high meant that you had plenty of cushion for some nice powder turns. Of course, the density also meant that the snow was Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete and you had your work cut out for you with respect to getting those powder turns. I had my midfat Telemark skis, and let’s just say that the Tele turns in today’s snow were a lot of work. It is mid-May though, so even dense powder turns this time of year are always a treat, and getting the workout is a big part of the experience anyway.
“…you had your work cut out for you with respect to getting those powder turns. I had my midfat Telemark skis, and let’s just say that the Tele turns in today’s snow were a LOT of work.”
In some cases it wasn’t just the descent that added an extra challenge due to the dense snow. I followed a pair of skin tracks on my ascent and noticed that in some spots the new snow had stuck to their skins. I wasn’t having that issue with my skins, but I eventually caught up to the gentlemen who were making the skin tracks, and they said for them it was an issue when they traveled over areas without an existing snowpack. I was able to pay them back for their helpful skin track by setting the track for the second half of the ascent, and while I didn’t see them on the descent, I saw them back at my car and at Edelweiss Deli where I grabbed a sub for lunch (great minds think alike) and it sounds like they had a great tour.
Wintry conditions in May are typically quite ephemeral, so I guess we’ll be back to spring skiing soon, but these late season powder days are always a treat. There’s a certain mystique with these late season elevation snow event because it feels like you were in another world when you get back to the strong sun, spring warmth, and rapidly emerging greenery in the valleys.
I looked out my office window at some point earlier this week and saw that there was quite a bit of white still visible on the slopes of Bolton Valley. So, when I had a bit of time with decent weather this afternoon, I decided to head up for a ski tour to see just how much skiing was still available.
On the drive up the Bolton Valley Access Road, the first signs of snow didn’t appear until about 1,500’ elevation near the base of the Timberline area. I was surprised to see that there were even skiable lines farther up on Timberline. Up at the main mountain, snowpack starts right at the base.
“I’m not sure if it was the hearty snowpack we had this winter, the amount of snow the resort made, the lack of any hot spells this spring, or a combination of these factors, but Bolton definitely has a solid amount of snow on the ground for this far into May.”
I was expecting to make some turns up on Spillway today, since that’s the area that tends to melt out last with respect to fairly lengthy ski lines, but there’s far more snow available than just the typical late season Spillway stuff. Multiple trails on the upper mountain have skiable snow, and the Bear Run/Sprig O’ Pine area on the lower mountain has quite solid coverage. Starting from up near 3,000’ on Spillway, I was able to ski almost continuous snow to the main base. There were a few small breaks in the snowpack, but nothing that required taking off my skis. That wouldn’t be too surprising on the eastern slopes of the Greens this time of year, but that’s quite impressive for the western slopes. I’m not sure if it was the hearty snowpack we had this winter, the amount of snow the resort made, the lack of any hot spells this spring, or a combination of these factors, but Bolton definitely has a solid amount of snow on the ground for this far into May.
In terms of the snow quality, it’s now has gone through numerous spring temperature cycles and is well consolidated into corn. The texture of the snow is excellent, with a couple to a few inches of loose snow peeling away from the surface. The only issue is that melting has creating an inconsistent surface in many areas that results in bumpy snow. The surfaces would actually benefit from a bit of skier traffic to smooth things out, so hopefully a few folks will get out there to enjoy it before it’s gone.
This weekend we took advantage of the great off-season rates and stayed slope side at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, which I learned has now been renamed “The Lodge at Spruce Peak”. My sister and her family were in the area and staying at the Lodge for a couple of days, so this gave us a chance to catch up with them as well stay right by the slopes for some easy access to skiing on Mt. Mansfield.
We arrived at the Lodge yesterday afternoon, dropped off the car, and then got settled into our room while we caught up with my sister’s family. This time we tried out one of the one bedroom suites, similar to what we’ve had in the past at places like the Tram Haus Lodge. It’s definitely nice to have a bit more space and the multiple rooms, especially now that the boys are older (and bigger). The additional space was also convenient for when my sister’s family came over to visit. During the evening we generally relaxed, the kids headed to the pool/hot tub area for a bit, and we all had a great dinner at the Hourglass Lounge. There was snowfall all the way down to the base elevations in the evening, and as we had dinner we’d occasionally see windy whiteouts from all the blowing snow. It looked quite wintry, but temperatures were fairly marginal at the base elevations, so there was really only a trace of accumulation visible by morning.
I was the only one planning to ski today, so after we checked out of our room and had breakfast at Solstice, E and the boys dropped me off at the Midway Lodge. There were probably two to three dozen cars in the Midway parking lots, and people were heading out from there for ski tours along various routes. Chin Clip Runout looked pretty quiet, and it, along with Switchback is one of my favorite ascent routes, so I headed that way and started skinning.
On my ascent, I observed that additional snow accumulations seemed rather minimal below about 2,500’ – there was a windswept inch or two that was really scattered around atop the old base, and much of that was probably there from Saturday’s snow. The new snow had collected in pockets here and there, but I didn’t really see any substantial consistency until I started getting into the upper half of the terrain. Around the 3,000’ mark I started getting some solid 6 to 7 inch depths of reasonably dense, dry snow along the climber’s right of Perry Merrill. I saw some folks continue their ascents up above the Gondola into the alpine via Cliff Trail Gully, but I was a bit leery of what coverage would be like with the new snow over previous melting among the rocks. If the new snow depths continued to increase above the 3,600’ range then it could have been quite nice up there.
“The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas.”
Being underwhelmed by the accumulations I’d seen on my ascent of the main Gondi terrain, I headed toward Cliff Trail for my descent. The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas. That was really nice, and while the depth gradually decreased as I headed down Cliff Trail, the skiing there was quite good throughout. There were a few tracks on the trail, but only a handful of skiers had been down at that point. I’d say that the junction with Nosedive at around 2,700’ was right about where the best snow petered out. The elevation was part of it, but the change to Nosedive with its more open nature and higher levels of skier traffic made for a very obvious break in the availability of the new snow. That would have been an excellent spot to stop a descent if one was looking to lap the best snow up high.
We’ve got some fairly cool days coming over the next week, so the new snow should stick around for a while up high, although the quality may deteriorate somewhat from the typical spring temperature cycling.
After watching it snow all morning on the Bolton Valley Web cam, I decided to head up for a ski tour around midday to see how the new snow was settling in over the old snowpack. Similar to our house, the precipitation was rain and there was no snow at the base of the Bolton Valley Access Road, but driving up I encountered residual winter snowpack starting at ~1,400’. The rain changed over to snowfall right after that, around the Timberline Base at 1,500’.
I found a couple inches of new snow as I parked the car in the Bolton Valley Village around 2,000’, and that depth only increased slowly to roughly 3 inches at the 2,500’ level. I noticed a bit of a jump in depths when I hit the 2,600’ to 2,700’ range though, so that seemed to be a threshold of sorts for accumulations during this storm. .
Here’s the new snow depth profile with respect to elevation based on my observations from today’s tour:
“…with the dense snow there were actually plenty of nice bottomless turns available out there.”
On the ascent I was a bit worried that the snow was going to be sticky with respect to turns, but the temperature up top around 3,000’ was roughly 30 to 31 F. So it was certainly below freezing up there, and the new snow was dense, but definitely dry enough for some nice powder turns. I only found sticky snow to be an issue during the final couple hundred feet of descent to the main base area at 2,100’. I made my initial descent down Alta Vista, then worked my way over toward Wilderness, and with the dense snow there were actually plenty of nice bottomless turns available out there. Powderfreak reported some nice turns today at Stowe as well, and he found similar accumulations to what I encountered on my Bolton Valley tour.
The models and forecasts suggest that after a lull this afternoon, there’s a chance for more snow tonight into tomorrow as the back side of the system comes through. We’re planning to stay at the Lodge at Spruce Peak tonight, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to head out for some turns on Mansfield tomorrow.
Temperatures have been warming up over the past several days, and snow has just about melted out in most of the lower valleys, but there’s still feet upon feet of snow in the mountains. After a fairly dreary Saturday, today was looking warm and pleasant, so the whole family headed off to Stowe in the afternoon for some spring turns.
The tailgating scene was in full force in the Mansfield Parking Lot, and the smell of burgers cooking on portable grills seemed to be everywhere. Today was definitely the day to be out there with the glorious spring weather, and as the last official day of lift-served skiing, I’m sure the Stowe faithful were all happy to be going out on a high note.
The four of us had our ski packs with us as we boarded the Fourrunner Quad, since one goal I’d had today was to check out the Rock Garden. With the ample snowfall and overall pattern of storm cycles the Northern Greens have seen this season, it just seemed to fill in even better than usual, so this was certainly a spring to pay the area a visit. As we’ve done before on other tours, the plan was to use the Fourrunner Quad for lift access, ski across through the Nosedive Glades, and then hike up Cliff Trail to get to the Gondola/Chin area. We’d initially been excited to see that the Gondola was running when we arrived, which would make for even easier access to the alpine terrain near The Chin, but we soon saw that they were just clearing off the cabins from the Easter sunrise service. As we took in the views of the Rock Garden from the Fourrunner Quad, I could see that it was no longer the large continuous snowfield that it had been just a few of weeks ago. There were still plenty of skiable lines, but I wasn’t sure if the effort was going to be worth it for E and the boys. So after an initial run all together, I split off to check it out on my own while they skied the Fourrunner terrain together.
My trip over toward the Gondola/Cliff House went smoothly, and I caught a good traverse through the Nosedive Glades over to Cliff Trail, even if the snow was a bit sticky in there at times. I’d initially planned to hike up the Cliff Trail Gully and take the Mansfield ridgeline across to the top of the Rock Garden, but as I approached the last pitch of Perry Merrill, I could see that the Rock Garden was right above me after just a short jaunt through some trees. It seemed silly to head up another route with such easy access.
The toughest part of ascending the Rock Garden was catching the occasional post hole in the snow. For the most part, the snow was consolidated, but every so often I’d hit that spot where my foot would punch through and I’d be up to my thigh. Thankfully, once I got into the open areas of the Rock Garden, I found a boot pack that someone had made, and that made things substantially easier. There was still the occasional post hole, but having pre-made, consolidated footholds really took care of most of it.
Gaining the Mansfield ridgeline at the top of the Rock Garden, I found three other skiers who were just getting ready for their descent. As they headed down, I recharged myself with a snack, and took in the views. Although it’s not as obvious as some of the others, the Rock Garden really is a lot like the various other southeastern-facing gullies on this part of Mt. Mansfield. Similar to those, it gets filled by the prevailing northwesterly winds, and it’s protected from the late day sun, so it preserves snow well. The west face of the gully isn’t quite as sheer as some of the others though, so it’s able to hold snow and take on that snowfield appearance that’s different that the narrower gullies.
“The lines were certainly more limited than they were a few weeks ago, but there were still a variety of choices through the buried and emerging trees… and of course rocks as well.”
For my descent through the Rock Garden, I started out in the main throat of the gully, and then cut right as the snowpack would allow, to take in some steeper turns along the headwall below the Mansfield ridgeline. The lines were certainly more limited than they were a few weeks ago, but there were still a variety of choices through the buried and emerging trees… and of course rocks as well. The snow was definitely corn, and I didn’t have to worry about any post-holing on my skis, but the surface was irregular due to the natural melting patterns up there. The best snow surfaces and smoothest turns of my descent were actually once I got down into the upper parts of Perry Merrill. The snow was evenly packed and there’s been little skier traffic of late. I was able to open it up and use the entire trail to arc some big wide turns as I often like to do in those wide sections of Perry Merrill when I have it to myself.
I’d kept in touch with E and the boys by updating them on my progress with a few text messages indicating my tour mileage and location. And, just as I was reaching Perry Merrill on my descent they let me know that they were at the car, so I gave them an update and told them that I’d be down soon.
The tailgating was rolling right along as I got back to the car, and I took in more of the sights while packing up my gear. That’s a wrap on the lift-served ski season at Stowe, but there’s still a ton of snow left, so now it’s time to move on to 100% human-powered ascents of Mt. Mansfield. There even appear to be some snow chances coming up over the next week or so, and we’ll be watching to see if Mother Nature decides to send along any more April powder for us.
Today seemed to be the better option for some sunny afternoon weather this weekend, so the family headed up to Bolton Valley for a bit of spring skiing. Timberline, with its western-facing slopes and lower elevation, is starting to melt out in areas, but coverage on the main mountain is looking quite good. Temperatures were into the 60s F, even up at the 2,000’ level, so there were no concerns about whether or not the snow would soften enough for good turns.
“We descended Spillway on the upper mountain, and it had some beautifully smooth corn snow that everyone seemed to enjoy. E commented that the snow was some of the best she can recall in quite a while with regard to spring touring.”
There were several cars in the upper lot near the main base lodge, and it was obvious that most of them belonged to people who were out ski touring because you could seem them coming and going with their gear as they enjoyed the beautiful sunny afternoon. Our goal for today’s tour was to head up to the Vista Summit, and the boys rocketed right off ahead of us as we ascended Beech Seal. They didn’t pull any punches, and went right up in the Hard Luck area to get to the summit as fast as they could. That’s a pretty steep approach, but they told me they did put in some switchbacks. E and I headed over a couple of trails and took Schuss to Alta Vista, which makes for a more reasonable grade overall. At the summit we all paid a visit to the Vista Peak Fire Tower, and while it was still relatively warm, the wind was certainly blowing strong.
We descended Spillway on the upper mountain, and it had some beautifully smooth corn snow that everyone seemed to enjoy. E commented that the snow was some of the best she can recall in quite a while with regard to spring touring. Temperatures today were just right for the state of the snowpack to soften up an inch or two of the corn snow without getting too far into the base. The fact that there hasn’t been much skier traffic on the mountain also helped to make for such smooth surfaces.
It looks like the mountains could have a bit of fresh snow coming on Monday night into Tuesday, but longer term we’ll hopefully have several more weeks of spring skiing to enjoy.
I haven’t been out for any turns since our Bruce Trail trip at Stowe on the 24th because we’ve been in one of those periods of spring weather doldrums. There haven’t been any substantial winter storm in the area, but we also haven’t had any of those obviously warm and sunny days that really soften up the snow. Today was warm enough to tempt me out for some turns at Bolton Valley though.
We were relatively cool and cloudy at our house in the valley, but I saw that temperatures had already climbed above 40 F at the weather station alongside Sure Shot by late morning, so I headed up to Timberline. Temperatures were warm enough to soften the snow from top to bottom on Timberline, and the best turns I found were on snowmaking terrain that had seen skier traffic. In those areas, the snow had seen sufficient temperature cycling combined with compaction and manipulation that it was granulating to reasonable spring corn snow. In other areas though, the snow was less consolidated, and recent spring accumulations added to make it a bit sticky. It was still serviceable snow in terms of skiing, and a lot of people were skiing the trees, but it certainly wasn’t the premium surface that I was finding on the groomed terrain.
Today was Bolton’s last official day of lift-served skiing, but we’ve got more potential snow in the forecast this week, and the weather models indicate additional storms beyond that. So, we’ll hopefully have plenty of good long run of spring skiing as we head farther into April and May.
It’s March, and the snowpack is deep here in Northern Vermont, so we planned to take a trip down the Bruce Trail today during our BJAMS ski session. E had recently been chatting with Brian and Joe in the program, and they were both interested in taking their kids on the Bruce, so we all joined together as a group for the run.
Knowing the round trip would take most of the afternoon, we started right off heading over to Mansfield and up the Fourrunner Quad. I brought everyone up for the requisite visit to Old Nosedive to enjoy the views and add a bit of bonus vertical to the run. Old Nosedive was packed with snow from our recent storm. It was dense powder similar to what we experienced yesterday at Bolton, but it skied quite nicely.
“The Bruce is in simply fantastic shape. That’s not surprising with over 10 feet of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, so even the Bruce’s steep, south-facing slopes that lose coverage first are covered with literally feet of snow.”
The Bruce is in simply fantastic shape. That’s not surprising with over 10 feet of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, so even the Bruce’s steep, south-facing slopes that lose coverage first are covered with literally feet of snow. The snow consistency varied from dense powder and skier-packed powder up high, to thick creamy snow in the middle elevation trees, to more spring-like snow in the lower elevations. The powder in the lower-elevation hardwoods was definitely getting a bit sticky with sun and warming temperatures, but it still skied quite well in all but the very sunniest spots. Even in the lowest elevations down near 1,000’ on the Nordic area terrain, the snowpack is substantial. Crossing over the bridges along the Nordic trails we found the snowpack to be at or above the level of the bridges’ railings – which are four to five feet tall! You can literally stand on the railings simply by moving to the edges of the snowpack.
The spring snow made the final part of the Bruce descent through the Nordic areas a bit slower than when the snow is more winter-like, but we all simply took our time and enjoyed the casual pace along the meanderings of the Ranch Brook on such a glorious late winter/early spring day. We had plenty of time for snacks while we waited for the Mountain Road Shuttle, so we made ourselves some seats in the snowbanks near the Notchbrook General Store and soaked in some rays as we waited for the bus and discussed our day’s adventure.
Well ahead of our current winter storm, the weather models were predicting it to be quite a whopper of a system. Multiple upper-level lows were expected to consolidate over the area, then a low pressure center would move up the coast and into Northern Maine before finally departing. Low pressure systems in that area are in a very sweet spot for our local mountains, since it’s excellent positioning to allow Atlantic moisture to be grabbed and wrapped around to the north until it slams into the Green Mountain Spine. It wasn’t surprising that storm totals were expected to approach 30 inches in the mountains. Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.
Our plan was to head up to Bolton for some turns today, but all the lifts were initially on wind hold except the Mighty Mite, so we packed Tele and alpine gear and were all set to skin at Timberline until they started running things. By midmorning though, the resort was announcing openings of the Mid Mountain Chair and the Timberline Quad, so we’d be able to start lift-served skiing once we got there. Unfortunately, they were still plowing out the Timberline parking lot and asking people to park up at the main base. This meant connecting over from the main base to ski Timberline, however the Snowflake Chair, which is the best way to connect over, was down for maintenance. This made for a big line at the Mid Mountain Chair, and that connection still requires a short hike anyway, so we made the hike up Villager to get over to Timberline. We chatted with a patroller coming down Villager, and he wasn’t thrilled about our hike because it wasn’t a designated uphill route, but he understood under the circumstances. He just reminded us to stay to side, well out of the way of any resort vehicles that might be using the trail. It’s not really a long hike, but it did have the benefit that we got in some of our cardio today even though we didn’t end up skinning.
“Indeed the local peaks got pounded with snow yesterday and overnight, and when the reports came in this morning, storm totals reached and even exceeded 30 inches.”
In terms of the skiing, I’d say that the quantity of the new snow was absolutely there – it was a fantastic resurfacing and the groomed slopes were skiing as beautifully as one could imagine. The powder skiing definitely left something to be desired relative to our typical off piste conditions from a storm though. The snow was quite dense, and often windblown. We found that the trees offered some protection from the winds, so we typically got our highest quality turns there, but it was still Sierra Cement/Cascade Concrete type stuff and it would toss you around easily if you weren’t on your game or as it became more chopped up. It actually looked like a nice day to be on a snowboard with the dense snow. The skiing was still awesome of course, but it was just surprising that the backside champagne never developed enough to set the impressively right-side-up turns we’d anticipated. Presumably the parameters for optimal snow growth didn’t come together everywhere as the storm was finishing up