Since the end of the school year was keeping E rather busy last weekend, the boys and I just made a quick day trip out to ski the Mt Washington snowfields on Sunday. The turns were good, and with things lightening up for E by this weekend, we again kept our eyes on the weather for some possible camping and skiing. The forecast ultimately looked even better than it did for last weekend, suggesting warm, dry weather both Saturday and Sunday, so we packed up and headed off to New Hampshire yesterday around midday.
“…Ty started banging out runs pretty quickly on that upper section because he really liked the short hike back up.”
We set a course for the Glen, NH area to see if we could get a site at the Glen Ellis Family Campground similar to what we’d had last spring. We’d never been to the campground before that trip, but we really liked the riverside campsite we had along the beautiful Saco River. Since the Sunday forecast looked even a bit better than Saturday with respect to the potential for clouds and wind, we headed right to the campground yesterday and found that they had a number of the riverside campsites available, even ones with electrical power, which we find great for charging up various mobile devices. It was a warm afternoon in the 80s F, and tubing on the river was a popular activity. They’ve really got a great setup there for running laps in the river; you just ride down as far as you want, and walk your tube back up along the edge of the campground. We spent a chunk of the afternoon working on Dylan’s throws and playing some disc golf in the campground’s massive grassy fields, then had dinner at the campsite, and finished off the day with some evening exploration of the shoals and islands in the river. Dylan discovered that the campground had Wi-Fi, and we had an excellent signal even all the way out by the river, which is almost a half mile away from the main office. They must have an impressive wireless setup to be able to span the 65 acres of their campground. I did a test on Speedtest.net and found that the upload and download speeds were both 1.0 Mbps, which is plenty of bandwidth unless you need to stream video or do something similarly intensive.
This morning we had breakfast, gradually broke down the campsite, and headed north on Route 16 for the quick trip to the Mt Washington Auto Road. Thanks to the available Wi-Fi at the campsite, I was able to do a check on the Ravines Cam to see the current state of the snowfields. It was clear that the main Ball Crag Snowfield had lost a lot of snow in its middle sections, and the snow had the look of a backwards letter “C”. The main area of the East Snowfields had broken up a lot, such that largest remaining section didn’t seem to have much more vertical than what seemed available on the Ball Crag Snowfield. With that information and our knowledge from last week about the ease of access, we decided that the Ball Crag Snowfield area was still probably the best bet for today’s trip. After reading another trip report at the Time For Tuckerman Forum last week in which someone monitored their gas mileage up the Auto Road, we decided to monitor ours, and found that it was right around 9.0 MPG up to the 5,700’ parking area in the Subaru; since the other report indicated that they managed 10 MPG in a hybrid vehicle, and we were loaded with four passengers and lots of camping and ski gear, I guess that’s not too bad. Presumably there’s not much gained in a hybrid on a long, continuous climb like the Auto Road, but whatever vehicle it was, it’s likely to be a fuel efficient one anyway. As we unloaded our gear, one of the Mt Washington Auto Road Coaches passed by, and the driver reminded us to make sure we stayed on the rocks so that we didn’t harm any of the fragile alpine flowers and other vegetation. I hadn’t seen much vegetation flowering last week, but he noted that some of the flowers were just starting to make their way up to these elevations now. It actually wasn’t as sunny as we thought it might be, and gray clouds almost looked like they might throw down some precipitation, so everyone packed light shells in their packs just in case. Being just a few minutes from the car, we find that one can pack minimally if they want to, but if rain really came down, we’d want to have something on hand.
It was again a short trip to the snowfield, and we could start to get a sense for how what the ski options were going to be. Since last week, we could see that there hadn’t been too much change in the areal snow coverage in the upper section of the snowfield, but the lower section showed dramatic differences due to the past week’s melting. The lower section was much smaller, and the snow was no longer continuous into that area. That made laps in the upper section most practical, and Ty started banging out runs pretty quickly on that upper section because he really liked the short hike back up. E slid out a bit on her first run and even got into the rocks at the bottom, but she was OK – it was definitely the most dramatic encounter with the rocks we’ve seen though, even more than when Dylan got into them a little bit last week. We often talk about how much we really need our helmets on these outings on the snowfields, since there are rarely other skiers around, but E’s slide was another great example of why we make sure to wear them. As she was sliding, even though she was in good shape being feet first, she was very happy to know that she had that helmet on. Ty kept cranking out the runs, and even Dylan whipped out a couple of quick runs before taking a break. I started to make some runs to see if I could catch up to Ty, but every time I’d take a run, he would do another with me, so there was no catching up that way. He was having fun with that, knowing that as long as he did a run every time I did, there was no way that I’d be able to catch up. It made for some fun runs where he worked on mirroring my turns, and although I couldn’t see him while we were skiing, now that I look at some of the photos, I can see he was doing a really nice job. For our last run, Ty and I connected down to the lower snowfield for a few extra turns on our way to hike out, so in the end we called it an extra quarter run, so Ty wound up with 7 ¼ runs to my 4 ¼ runs, with Dylan at 3 runs and E at 2 runs. We joked with Ty that he didn’t even do as many runs as the rest of us, because before that last run, he was quite proud that he had! The sky remained with one and off gray and sometimes fluffier clouds, with the occasional break of sun, and fortunately there were no signs of any precipitation.
The boys had wanted to head up to the summit of Mt Washington and visit the Sherman Adams Summit Building on our last outing, and we didn’t really have time, but this time we’d planned on it, so we stopped in at the visitor’s center for a while. We used our tickets to the new exhibit area in the museum, which is focused on the extreme nature of Mt Washington in the winter, and indeed it has been heavily updated relative to what was there before. The whole area seems very new and modernized all around, and there’s some impressive use of high-definition screens and other video technologies. It’s certainly worth a visit to the new exhibit if you have not seen it since it’s opening in May. We stopped in Gorham for a bite on the way home, and ate at one of the picnic benches on the Gorham Town Common, where the boys hit the playground for a bit. I’d say that’s just about it for the snowfields this season, so most of the activity will be shifting to Tuckerman Ravine. For some strange reason, the availability of snow only seems to decrease this time of year!
Last weekend’s weather was a bit too dicey to get us to head over to Mt. Washington for skiing, but the forecast for good weather this weekend was looking pretty solid. E was feeling the need to get other work done with the end of the school year closing in, so the boys and I decided to just go for a day trip to the snowfields. Typically we throw in some camping in the White Mountains as part of our Mt. Washington ski trips, so this would be the first time in a while that we’d be doing the out and back in a day. It’s actually just a couple hour trip to get over to the base of the Mt. Washington Auto Road from our place in Waterbury, so day tripping is certainly practical, but breaking up the driving with some camping has been the routine these past few seasons.
“The snow was great, being a bit harder in a few spots, and a bit softer in others, but the bulk of it was just right for making turns.”
I did a final check on the forecast for roughly the 5,500’ level on Mt. Washington this morning, and it called for leftover frost, clear skies, a high around 50 F, and light winds in the 10-15 MPH range. That’s an excellent forecast for some skiing in Mt. Washington’s alpine areas, and it’s good to jump at these sorts of days, because you never know what the next one will bring when it comes to the Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range. The boys and I headed out around 9:00 A.M. under blue skies and temperatures in the 60s F, and by midday we were up in the parking lot along the Nelson Crag Trail at ~5,700’ getting our gear together. The weather was great, and the numbers on the board showing the summit weather conditions had been right in line with what the forecast suggested. After checking the images from the Ravines Cam over the past few days, as well as this morning, I could see that one of our favorite snowfield areas below Ball Crag was of decent size, so that was our planned destination. We like that Ball Crag snowfield because it doesn’t see nearly as many visitors as the main East Snowfields below the summit, and instead of having to park above it and hike down into the snow, you can contour right across from the parking area along the Nelson Crag Trail. It can be a bit harder to find some of those lower snowfields if you’re not familiar with the area, but we usually have good luck traversing out from near the junction of the Nelson Crag and Huntington Ravine Trails.
“The snowfield was a totally clean slate of corn, with no traces of previous skier activity…”
Today the traverse out to the snowfield was incredibly quick – within 5 to 10 minutes (Ty says it was 7 minutes) we’d hit the snow. The snowfield was a totally clean slate of corn, with no traces of previous skier activity, so presumably nobody had skied it in a while. The scene was quiet when we arrived, but it wasn’t long before the boys started having fun with the snow and the activity level ramped up. The boys had a great attitude about the skiing today, certainly relative to some trips we’ve had, and although it was different since Mom wasn’t there, I think they enjoyed the “boy’s day out” sort of feel. We made an initial ski descent of the snowfield, which seemed to provide somewhere in the range of 200 feet of vertical. It was a reasonably long run in which you could certainly get a groove going, and there were a lot of different options for skiing in the various nooks and crannies of the snowfield’s footprint. The snow was great, being a bit harder in a few spots, and a bit softer in others, but the bulk of it was just right for making turns. I told the boys that I’d bring their skis back up for them so that they could enjoy the hike, and strapped their skis on my pack along with mine. It actually wasn’t a bad pack load, and I think it helped to keep their spirits up.
Back at the top of the snowfield, we had lunch, and the boys again played around in the snow for a while. There was just a bit of breeze at times, and bugs were virtually nonexistent, so it was a great day to be out on the snow. During our first run, a couple with a dog had arrived for some skiing, but they spent their time a little farther over on the snowfield, so we didn’t see them much. It was actually good that they had their own section in which to hang out, because Ty and Dylan were a bit boisterous in their play, and that way the boys weren’t too loud in their immediate vicinity. For our last run we decided to run out the snowfield to the bottom, then contour back over to the Huntington Ravine Trail and take that right back up to the car. That hike took a bit longer since we were starting out lower in elevation, but I’d say within roughly 15 minutes we were back at the parking area. The boys still played around a lot today, so that took up plenty of the afternoon, but this has to be our most efficient outing in terms of the hiking. The snow will likely be around for a bit longer based on what we saw, so there should be snowfield turns available for those that are interested as we move forward in June.
This Memorial Day Weekend certainly hasn’t been like last year, with its two feet of new snow, but even from Waterbury one can see that Mt. Mansfield still has some of this season’s snow left on it, and with today’s great weather, it was hard to pass up the chance for some skiing. We’d actually been keeping our eyes on the weather over at Mt. Washington for a potential trip to ski the summit snowfields this weekend, but the forecast for nice weather didn’t end up being quite solid enough for us to make the commitment. Of course, being around at home meant that the opportunity was there for some local turns. I thought last week’s ski trip with E and the boys might be our last turns on Mansfield for the season, but that wasn’t the case… at least for me. Even last week, the skiing payoff relative to the hike was getting pretty marginal for the rest of the family, so although I did a perfunctory check to see if any of them wanted to go, I would have been surprised if any of them said yes. This time of year, it’s typically a good idea to go into a ski tour with the intention of enjoying the hike itself, because it’s often a big part of the outing relative to the skiing. If either of the boys had wanted to go on today’s tour, they would have had their work cut out for them, because I knew that it would require at least 1,000’ vertical of hiking before hitting decent snow. They barely have the patience for earning turns when the skiing is top to bottom, so all that hiking before getting to the snow wouldn’t be well received.
“You can get a nice 300’ or so of vertical out of it, and if you wanted something to lap with the best turns, that would be the place.”
After some midday yard work with the boys, I finally headed off to Stowe in the mid afternoon. The valley temperatures were generally in the mid 70s F, and the skies were mostly clear aside from a few clouds here and there, and a surprising number of leftover contrails. From Waterbury Center I could already see patches of snow left on Mt. Mansfield near the Cliff House, so I knew that the Nosedive area would have snow. I parked in the Midway Lot at 1,600’ where I saw a few other cars, but very little activity aside from the occasional group of hikers. Temperatures were still warm, so my setup for the ascent was a short sleeve polypro T-shirt, shorts, and socks/Tele boots, and I packed my ski pants, a long sleeve polypro shirt, and my gloves in my pack for later use. I’ve been very impressed with just how flexible my Garmont Garas have been these past few warm, spring-style outings. Throw them in walk mode and add temperatures like today, and it’s like walking in a pair of stiff hiking boots. They’ve got Vibram soles, so the grip is nice on most surfaces. They certainly don’t match up to the a pair of good hiking boots when trying to hop from boulder to boulder working one’s way across alpine areas of Mt. Washington, but for traipsing around on the generally grassy or slightly rocky slopes below tree line, you can hardly tell that they’re there. For trips like today’s, being able to hike up, skin, ski, and hike down comfortably in one pair of boots makes everything so much easier, both in terms of weight and ascent/descent transition times. Of course I probably make up for some of the weight savings carrying camera gear, but the light weight of Telemark skis and bindings also cuts down on the pounds.
As far as the snow goes, there were a couple of piles here and there even down near the base, but nothing of real consequence. I didn’t start to see more consistent patches on Nosedive until I got up around the 2,100’ mark at the junction with National. What I did get to see in the lower elevations was the appearance of wildflowers, including what looked like some trout lilies on their way toward opening up. Even though we had some rain yesterday, Nosedive was really pretty dry aside from areas in close proximity to snow patches or the occasional water bar with meltwater, so that made the hiking especially easy. The mid afternoon sun was still quite strong during my ascent, so I hiked in the shade when possible. As for the insects, all I saw was the occasional mosquito, so that made for a pleasurable ascent on that front. The presence of patchy snow off to climber’s left was all that I saw until I got up near 2,600’, and just below the intersection of Cliff Trail I saw the first area of coverage across the whole width of the trail. That was only an isolated section, and it was back to grass for a while above there, but once I got up to ~2,900’ I got into the nearly continuous snow, and there was even some snow remaining in the trees on both sides of the trail. The snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake just up above that location at ~3,700’ was down to only two inches as of today’s report, although it was certainly deeper in those areas of trees I saw. I continued my ascent all the way up to roughly 3,600’ because the snow just kept going. There were a couple more breaks, but they were small enough that it kept me interested in reaching the top pile near the junction with the Toll Road (which is definitely open – I saw a car on its way down while I was up there).
At the top I could definitely feel the ascent, so I downed a GU and cracked open and Odwalla smoothie that I’d been saving for the top. Between the amounts of sugar in those, recovery and rejuvenation were quick. I moseyed around up there for a bit and got a few pictures, and then geared up for the descent. If you’ve ever wondered about why you’ve got full side zippers on your ski pants, well here’s one of those perfect situations that call for them. You don’t spend time taking off you ski boots to get your pants on, you open up those zippers, strap on your pants, and off you go. The first big section of snow right at the top of Nosedive was just a big mound, with pretty dirty snow, but the snow on the second corner was a bit better, and then better again on the third. The best area of snow though is that one leading down to 2,900’. It’s the longest area without a gap, and it’s got some of the smoothest snow. You can get a nice 300’ or so of vertical out of it, and if you wanted something to lap with the best turns, that would be the place. The consistency of the corn snow was great, although that almost seems to be a given on the remaining snow at this time of the year unless it’s just too cold to soften it at all. It was a bit dirty in spots as one might expect, and there were some sun cups and other aberrations, but especially on that lower snowfield area, the turns were quite smooth.
“For trips like today’s, being able to hike up, skin, ski, and hike down comfortably in one pair of boots makes everything so much easier, both in terms of weight and ascent/descent transition times.”
After the bottom of that section, I strapped the skis on once more for that area below the junction with Cliff Trail, and then hiked out the rest of the run. The down hike was very quick, with the generally dry, grassy trail making for great traction, and it was only about 15 minutes or so from that last area I skied to get back to the car. I actually heard a band playing during the final few hundred feet of my descent, and after swinging through the Spruce Peak Base Area on my way home, it seemed like there was a wedding event going on. They certainly got a great day for it. The long-lasting light is great on these days as we approach the solstice – it was already after 7:00 P.M. by the time I was at the car, but there was plenty of light left. I hit the grocery store on the way home, and then we cooked outside and had dinner and some time at the fire pit. It’s really nice to have some of that local snow hanging around to get in some skiing over the holiday – and as much fun as it was to have the two feet of fresh snow last year, the weather in the valleys wasn’t great for outdoor activities, so this type of Memorial Day Weekend is also pretty sweet.
There’s still snow on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield, and since today’s weather was absolutely beautiful, we decided to get in some turns while we still could. After some rain on Friday night, the weather cleared out and dried out yesterday, and today was just a continuation of that trend with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s F. We headed up to Mt. Mansfield in the early afternoon, and a quick survey of the slopes revealed that the substantial snow on Nosedive was quite a distance up in elevation, but North Slope has decent coverage all the way to the base. That seemed like the best option for turns, especially for the boys. The Mansfield Parking Lot was closed, and accessing North Slope from the Gondola lots was a bit of a hike, so we found a nice parking spot near the exit from the Mansfield Lot that gave us some quick access to the snow, and even allowed us to use the big staircase behind the Mansfield Base Lodge.
“The snow was excellent corn, from which the top couple of inches would be shaved off to produce some very nice turns.”
The snow on Lower North Slope was discontinuous, but there were large areas of coverage left over from parts of the terrain park that would allow most of the descent there to be on snow. We hiked up to Crossover with our skis on our packs, and then decided to switch over to skinning above that point, since our earlier observations from afar suggested that the snow cover would be becoming fairly continuous in that area. The boys had us going at their usual leisurely pace, which included stopping at various times to either play on one of the massive snow piles, slide downhill in the snow on their knees as members of a rock band playing guitars, attach old beer cans to the bottom of their ski poles, or pick up the odds and ends that appear at ski resorts as the snow disappears. They were also quite engrossed in discussing their latest exploits on Minecraft, which helped to keep things upbeat during the ascent vs. having them constantly ask about how much higher we were going to hike. As we were putting on our skins above Crossover, a skier was just descending to us, and he told us that there was some excellent coverage and smooth snow up on Sunrise. The skin up North Slope was fun, with a couple spots having fairly narrow passageways of snow that took some careful navigation. Also of note were the occasional mini crevasses that formed where the snowpack was separating; those were an immediate source of fun for the boys as they strove to cross in wide areas without touching the ground below. The snow was just about continuous up to near the summit of the Mountain Triple Chair, where we finally had to stop our ascent due to time. I really would have liked to go a bit farther and check out Sunrise, but if I take a trip up by myself I may do that at some point. In any event, the coverage on the upper parts of North Slope was generally wall to wall and a couple feet deep.
We only paused at the top of the ascent long enough to switch the gear over for the descent, and there was definitely a bit of chill in the air up there whenever the occasional cloud would pass in front of the sun. The snow was excellent corn, from which the top couple of inches would be shaved off to produce some very nice turns. There were occasional areas of sun cups around, but for the most part they were either minimal in size, or there was a side of the trail with very few of them, so we got in lots of smooth turns. The boys had used Alpine Trekkers today so that they could ski on their alpine skis, and they had a blast ripping through all the nuances of the terrain. Along with the smooth turns on the upper half of North Slope, one of my favorite parts was lower down on the trail where the snow was down to just a few feet wide in a couple of sections – holding a Telemark drift in those areas was a lot of fun, and we even got E doing it with some great control.
Below Crossover we had to take off our skis a few times, but the walking was easy on the grassy slopes, so the descent was very quick. Everyone got up atop one of the big mounds of snow left from a huge terrain park feature and enjoyed some turns down the steep back side. It was definitely a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, although unfortunately it doesn’t look like there will be too many opportunities left for these types of outings this season – the skiing return is going to start getting more and more marginal for the hiking investment. We all lamented that these may be our last turns at Stowe for this season. I read today that the Mt. Washington Auto Road opened to the summit, so I suspect our next family outing will be a trip to Mt. Washington to ski the snowfields if an appropriate window of weather is available.
The skiing yesterday was capped off with some dinner, water park time, and then movie watching back in the room to make for a pretty full day. Some of us were up pretty late last night, so fortunately there was no pressing need to get up early this morning. E hadn’t been one of those up late, and she got to sleep in, so that combination was a good way to head into Mother’s Day. Aside from Ty roaming around a bit in the room, there was little activity this morning until a knock at the door signaled the arrival of the pastries and juice. We hung out in the room most of the morning until the Pump House Waterpark opened up, and then E and the boys headed off for one more water session while I took advantage of the quiet room to get some work done.
Once everyone was back from the water park, we checked out of the Tram Haus Lodge and headed over to Jay Peak’sStateside area for some skiing. The weather was a bit cooler today, and the air had definitely dried out as well. With a breeze at times it felt almost chilly, even though it was in the 60s F. Once we got over to Stateside, it took a little while to orient ourselves due to the massive changes that have taken place. The removal of the old Stateside Lodge and the addition of the new Stateside Hotel and Base Lodge as well as the Mountain Kids Adventure Center have transformed the area. We actually visited the new hotel during our Jay Peak trip in December to eat at Howie’s, but we came by shuttle and it was a dark, frigid, December night with snow and wind; there was no way we were seeing anything. We had to do a bit of walking up and around the hotel via the big staircase on the side, and found some skiers enjoying the deck area. Below that there’s a lot of landscaping in progress so there isn’t currently much in the way of convenient access to the slopes right above the lodge, but eventually we found our way over to the base of the Jet Triple Chair. It’s a couple-minute walk back and forth between the hotel and the base of the chair, but the pathway has crushed rock to mitigate potential issues with mud. We also found that there were a number of cars parked right at the base of the Jet Triple Chair; there appears to be a small parking lot there, and some folks had set up for tailgating festivities.
The options for skiing today at Stateside were The Jet and Haynes/Mont L’Entrepide as the steeper routes back down to the base of the Jet Triple Chair, and then another route down Montrealer and Angel’s Wiggle that would bring you right back to near the base of the Stateside Hotel. Snow on the steeper runs was decent, a little thick in spots and a little scratchy in others, but classic, soft spring snow overall. Dylan really fired up some wild skiing for the camera on one of our runs, and was having a blast catching air along the edge of The Jet. It was fun watching from the chair as everyone skied The Jet, and at first we didn’t see any Telemark skiers, but then we started to spot them and some of them were really rippin’ it up. E and I got in a great workout navigating the steep bumps with Telemark turns, and E was happy to get a chance to work on her turns on steeper terrain – she’s often frustrated if we head into steep trees when she’s on her Tele gear, and it’s just too much at once to really get in much practice, but today’s snow and pitch was nice, and she commented on having some great sections where the turns flowed. I found one of the most challenging spots was at the very top of The Jet, where the trail is a bit narrower because it’s constrained by the ropes closing off the top of the lift line so skier’s don’t collide with the chair. There are a couple of huge bump lines, but if you want to ski those while deviating from the obvious troughs, it’s tricky.
We finished a final run back down Montrealer and Angel’s Wiggle, which were a bit sloppier and softer when it came to the snow, so my legs were definitely cooked by the time we reached the bottom. I burned them as hard as I could holding Tele turns until that last stretch to the lodge. We poked around the Stateside Hotel for a bit until we found a drop box for our room keys/ski passes, and then headed out.
We stopped down in the Village of Jay for some food, and although it was mid afternoon, we were happy to find that the Jay Village Inn & Restaurant was serving all day. It’s great to have places like inns that are serving food all day, because even in Stowe we’ve had trouble finding mid afternoon options for dining. For those days when you finish up skiing in the mid afternoon, or don’t want to try waiting around until 5:00 P.M. to stop in for a bite, inns with restaurants seem to be just the ticket. The Whip at the Green Mountain Inn has come to the rescue for us a number of times in that regard. It was our first time at the Jay Village Inn & Restaurant, and it’s got a nice homey feel being a combination inn/restaurant. There’s a huge couch and table in one of the main dining rooms, and the boys were quickly sucked in and passing out while we were waiting for our order. We knew they weren’t likely to be awake in the car too long on the ride home. The food was great and the portions were huge, which is pretty much the general theme you’ll see if check out the reviews for the restaurant on tripadvisor®. I had the unique “Atlantic Sea Dog”, which turned out to be a piece of cod that was about a foot long, and shaped sort of like a hot dog, on a huge bun. I didn’t quite get the name before it came out, but it was all too obvious once I saw it!
After this weekend, it’s just Killington running their lifts for skiers in Vermont, and it will be interesting to see how long they’ll keep going. In an event, there’s still a lot of snow out there for earning turns.
The season before last was our most recent trip to Jay Peak for Mother’s Day weekend, and over the past few weeks it’s been looking like this season might offer a chance for a similar trip. Although April didn’t deliver much in the way of new snowfall, the cold temperatures in March and fairly average April temperatures kept the snowpack around. Jay Peak even decided to keep their lifts running for Mother’s Day, which was not the case back during the 2012 trip, when we hiked for turns.
The lodging packages can be great this time of year at Jay Peak, and a few weeks back at the end of April, I got an email about their deals in May, which included a $229 Ski + Splash + Stay option for the entire family. Since that’s not too much more than it would cost the four of us to just go lift-served skiing for the day, it’s a great deal when you realize that along with the skiing you get lodging, two days of water park access… and two days of skiing. Unlike our last Mother’s Day package, this year’s doesn’t include the Mother’s Day brunch, but it does include fresh pastries and OJ delivered to your room daily.
“We basically had the whole trail to ourselves though, with just a couple other skiers out in the area…”
I watched the forecast to make sure that the weekend wasn’t going to be a washout, and by midweek it was looking good and we called in a reservation. The boys have fun skiing of course, but when it comes to Jay Peak, it’s really all about the Pump House Waterpark. We let them know that if they wanted to head up to Jay Peak and hit the water park, they’d have to agree to at least put in some practice on their Telemark gear. With the ebb and flow of this season, they just haven’t gotten in many Telemark days, and we wanted to get them a bit more time to work on their turns before the season came to a close.
The boys were definitely on board with that idea of some Telemark time, so in the afternoon we loaded up the gear, stopped off for some groceries, and headed up to Jay Peak. It was surprisingly warm today, with temperatures in the 70s F at the house and even a bit of humidity due to some rain that had come through. The clouds were pulling out by the afternoon though, and the sun kept the temperatures right up there in the 70s F even as we approached the mountain. We checked in at the Tram Haus Lodge with the help of some friendly lodging staff, who brought us, our bags, and our ski clothes right up to the room so that we could gear up for some afternoon turns while the lifts were still running. We had a different style of room this time than our previous trip back in 2012 – on that trip we had a 1-bedroom, which has a separate bedroom from the main area, and a full kitchen. This time we had a studio sweet, which has a smaller kitchenette area and it consists of only one room. There’s typically a higher cost for those rooms, but if you want a bedroom with privacy or the larger kitchen, it’s the way to go. In either case, both rooms we’ve been in have that same level of quality craftsmanship, with a Vermont theme in the décor. We actually only had a short time to check out the room when we first got there though, because we quickly got our ski gear on and were out the door to catch some afternoon turns.
There’s actually skiing available at both the Stateside and Tramside areas, although the areas of skiing aren’t currently connected, so you have to pick one or the other. With the late hour, we decided to ski Tramside, since we wouldn’t have to travel anywhere. Also, the skiing there was on the Interstate trail, which is just about perfect for the boys to work on their Telemark turns. We grabbed our ski gear from the car, booted up, and headed right to the Metro Quad in front of the Tram Haus Lodge. The biggest thing that struck me was how easy it was to walk in my boots; with Telemark boots at temperatures around 70 F, it felt like I was almost walking around in street shoes.
Once on the snow, the boys jumped right into their Telemark turns as if they hadn’t missed a beat, and that’s what we were hoping to see. For Dylan, identifying his strong and weak sides was more obvious, but Ty was really putting down some consistent turns in both directions. The snow was mostly decent corn, but there were a few sticky spots, and a few spots where coverage is getting narrow. We basically had the whole trail to ourselves though, with just a couple other skiers out in the area, and it was especially familiar since it was where we’d had some of our favorite turns when we visited over the holidays.
When the Metro Quad shut down, we headed back to the room and everyone relaxed for a bit. After I got some work done, Ty, E, and Dylan were still reading or playing on their tablets, so I decided to head back out for a quick ski tour before dinner. I switched back into my ski clothes, got my skins and skis from the car, and headed for a quick skin up Interstate. The sun was still an hour or two away from setting, and the snow remained quite soft. It was kind of a treat to just walk out the door and have the snow there at this time of year.
After dinner, the boys were calling for some water park time, and we had some good rides in the river and on the slides before finishing off with a sit in the indoor hot tub. It wasn’t overly busy, but there was a steady stream of people at the slides, so I suspect there are plenty of visitors to pay the bills. The attendant who was running the green and blue slides tonight was a lot of fun; he was constantly proctoring races between the two slides. I raced Ty and Dylan with me on the green slide and them and on the blue slide, and they won. The blue slide must be shorter. There was also a prom going on this evening for Richford over in the tram base lodge, and along with a hockey tournament that’s taking place, there have been a lot of people out an about around the resort grounds today. We’ll see how everything goes for Mother’s Day tomorrow, but hopefully we can check out the Stateside area and make some turns over there.
“The skiing was actually far better than I’d expected – it was three inches of dense snow atop what, even up at that elevation, was a soft spring base.”
Temperatures were in the upper 30s F down in the Winooski Valley with light rain/mist, and as I headed westward through Bolton Flats, the intensity of the precipitation picked up. The rain changed over to snow at ~1,200’ on the Bolton Valley Access Road, and first signs of new snow accumulation were at the Timberline Base at 1,500’. I suspect that accumulations had reached lower based on that image that PF showed earlier from 800’ in Nashville, but it seemed like the snow line had already risen a bit by the time I was up there. As I continued to ascend the road beyond the Timberline Base, the deciduous trees took on a picturesque coating of white, and gradually the ground began to fill in with white as well.
The Village was quiet as is typical for late April, and as I pulled into the upper lot near the base lodge, I saw a skier just returning to his car after a run. We chatted for a bit, and he said that he’d just come down Cobrass and that the skiing was great. I looked around and saw what looked to be about an inch of fresh snow atop all surfaces, and even the base snow appeared to be soft. Unsure of exactly what I was going to find, I’d brought both fat and mid fat Tele skis, and after finding out how soft the subsurfaces were, I felt confident that going with the fatter AMPerages was the call. I strapped on skins and headed upward, just as another car with three skiers arrived to take the place of the lone skier that had just left.
Light snow continued to fall as I began skinning up above the lodge, and I could see that skier traffic had been very light. There were signs of just a couple of skiers that had skinned up in the new snow, and a couple of addition sets of footprints from people that had hiked. As I was ascending near the top of Beech Seal, a skier passed me on his descent, and I definitely liked the sound of his turns… or more appropriately, the lack of sound as he came by. That quiet schuss was a good sign regarding the subsurface below the new snow, and I with the good coverage I saw, I made a note to consider Beech Seal on that part of the descent. At Mid Mountain the depth of the new snow was about 2”, and I continued over toward Cobrass on my ascent to see what that other skier had experienced. I don’t think I’ve ascended Cobrass yet this spring, so it also gave me a chance to use that route. I could see the other skier’s descent track, and pretty quickly I knew that descending Cobrass was not going to be the call for me. With its southern and western exposures, there was just too little base in various spots. I suspected things would be much better on a trail with northern exposure. I could see that the Cobrass Café picnic table had reappeared from its winter burial; it’s been looking a bit worse for wear over the past couple of seasons, but it’s hanging in there.
At the Vista Summit, I checked the depth of new snow again, and it was right around 3”. There were actually no tracks of any kind over near the patrol house or the top of the Vista Quad, and it was just pristine snow, so I suspected that whatever trail I chose, I’d be able to get first tracks. I downed a GU and some water, switched over to descent mode, and headed down Alta Vista. Aside from the wind scoured section along the skier’s right at the top, the base coverage was wall to wall, and the new snow on top was wholly untracked. The skiing was actually far better than I’d expected – it was three inches of dense snow atop what, even up at that elevation, was a soft spring base. I was very happy with my ski choice, as the AMPerages were in their element – I was planing pretty quickly atop the dense snow, and had a lot of fun drifting some of my turns. The new snow was only partially bonded to the subsurface, so you could easily let it slide as much as you wanted as you sloughed the snow away.
I thought about a number of options once I was down to Sherman’s Pass, but stuck with Sherman’s because I was sure of the base snow. It also meant that I could catch Beech Seal, which I knew was a sure thing. The turns on the lower half of the mountain were good, and certainly soft, but the upper half of the mountain took the prize for conditions. The temperature had risen at the base since I’d started my tour, and I could see that much of the snow had melted out of the deciduous trees down at the Village elevations as I departed. The snow line had risen another few hundred feet as I was heading back down the mountain, so it was definitely one of those days to get at it sooner rather than later. It’s actually continued to be a slow April in terms of snowfall, but the forecast does show the potential for additional shots of snow in the midweek period and then next weekend, so we’ll see if we get anything like this event in the next several days.
“Indeed the sun or warmth had not appeared to be issues of any sort for snow – the real enemy in terms of snow quality was the wind.”
The temperature was still in the low 20s F when I rolled into the Bolton Valley Village this morning, and it looked like midwinter as much as it did mid April. I began skinning right up the well established skin track on Beech Seal, and as one might expect from a well consolidated skin track, it meant that the surrounding slopes had seen plenty of ski traffic. There were some nice looking turns out there though – I saw some beautiful, smooth looking powder turns in the low-angle terrain coming out of the Jungle Jib terrain park. New snow depths and ski conditions were fairly similar to what we found yesterday at Stowe – I found 3 to 5 inches of new snow on the lower half of the mountain, and around a half foot up top near Vista Peak. Indeed the sun or warmth had not appeared to be issues of any sort for snow – the real enemy in terms of snow quality was the wind. In the usual spots, the new powder was scoured down to the crusty surface below, so I could see that it was going to be one of those days where choosing aspect, trail, and trail side, was going to be extremely important in seeking out the best powder turns.
“Turnpike delivered as usual, with just a few spots that had been affected by the wind, but a lot of smooth, silky turns in the slightly settled powder.”
The skin track took me up Sherman’s, Schuss, and finally Alta Vista, to where I stopped just below the top of the Vista Quad beneath where the snow was all scoured away. The skier’s left of Alta Vista offered up some nice powder turns, although I still encountered some areas of wind-packed snow. I ventured off into the lower reaches of Vista Glades, and found some smooth turns there, since the snow was generally protected. Having seen so many tracks and plenty of wind affecting the trails above the base lodge, I headed over toward Wilderness for the bottom part of my run. Turnpike delivered as usual, with just a few spots that had been affected by the wind, but a lot of smooth, silky turns in the slightly settled powder. Like yesterday, the turns weren’t completely bottomless, but there were still a lot of them, and I was happy to have the AMPerages and their floatation to help out. The Village was still incredibly quiet as I was heading back to my car, but I did run into Josh as he was heading into the office. He’s already getting ready for next season, enjoying a quieter scene now that the lifts have stopped. Based on the snow that’s up there though, there’s still plenty of skiing to be done this season.
“I’d say there was generally 5-6” of snow up high, and it was enough for some great turns where it had been left alone…”
Rain changed over to snow here at the house yesterday evening, as temperatures fell toward the freezing mark, and we’d accumulated over 4 inches of new snow as of this morning. It was falling at over an inch per hour at times, and it made one wonder what was going in the mountains. It was a cold, wintry snow, coming in at 10% H2O through midnight, and falling to 6.4% H2O by this morning with temperatures around 20 F. I was surprised to see that Stowe wasn’t reporting too much more than we picked up here in their morning snow report, but since E and the boys are off from school this week, it seemed like it was worth heading up to the mountain for at least a few runs.
The roads weren’t too bad in terms of driving, although Route 100 seemed to get the most attention and the driving was very smooth with minimal snow. Areas like Waterbury Center and the town of Stowe seemed to have received a bit less than we did right along the spine, but by the time we got up to Stowe’s base elevations, the snow seemed to be in the 3-4” range similar to what we’d received at the house. The morning report from the mountain had indicated single digits F for temperatures on the upper mountain, with teens below. It was expected to warm up, but it definitely felt like mid winter as we arrived at the Mansfield Base Lodge, grabbed our gear, and headed inside. It was an absolute switch from the warm spring temperatures we’d experienced on Sunday, and it meant making sure that we’re returned out passes to our cold weather gear after switching some of them over to lighter clothing. Everyone also had to re-expand their chin straps for their helmets to accommodate balaclavas after they weren’t needed over the weekend. The lodge was very quiet, with just a few people around, much like you’d expect it to be on a midweek day during the middle of April.
Riding the Fourrunner Quad was cold and windy, and we were definitely happy with our decision to dress for those midwinter temperatures, even if it was expected to warm up later. With the moderate accumulations of new snow reported atop what was a refrozen base, we immediately headed over toward the Mountain Triple via some of the gentler slopes to assess the conditions. I’d say there was generally 5-6” of snow up high, and it was enough for some great turns where it had been left alone, but many of the trails had been groomed, and unfortunately this just seemed to pack the new snow down into the hard spring base. In some areas the grooming came together with the right accumulations of snow to make areas of nice carving, but the untracked snow was far superior, and that’s what we ended up seeking out. It was those trails that hadn’t been groomed that would up being the biggest hits, and Lower Tyro delivered for us as usual. E and the boys did some synchronous skiing for the camera in the powder, with nice results. Turns certainly weren’t bottomless all the time, but you could definitely get plenty of floaty turns by paying attention to where the wind had made those deeper deposits of snow.
We rode the Mountain Triple, and caught some turns on Duck Walk, since we’d seen that it hadn’t been groomed. After that, there was no doubt that we wanted to seek out terrain that hadn’t seen a groomer; the turns were just so good. With that in mind, we headed back up the Fourrunner Quad and headed for the Nosedive Glades. We didn’t think Nosedive Bypass was going to be very good with it steeper pitches, but we did catch the very bottom of Bypass and tested out the snow on some of that steeper terrain. It was fun to try to connect the areas of deepest snow, and I got into some shots of over a foot. The Nosedive Glades themselves were a lot of fun – the snow wasn’t bottomless on all turns, but there was plenty of floating. And, with so few people out on the slopes today, there were a lot of fresh lines to be had. Right in line with my ski testing from Sunday, I was wishing I had some wider alpine skis after watching the boys scoot around through the powder and get more float out of their equipment. Nosedive had been groomed, but there were areas in the middle elevations that weren’t scoured and offered up some nice packed powder carving. We finished the run on the lower part of Lookout, which had not been groomed and offered a lot of powder turns.
It was still on and off snow as we headed home in the late morning period, although areas in the lower valleys that had seen sun had already melted back with respect to the new snow. It’s been so cold today that I suspect many areas in the mountains will be holding powder tomorrow morning as well.
Based on the forecast, it looked like today was the pick of the weekend for spring skiing, offering sunshine and mountain temperatures in the 40s and 50s F depending on elevation. There was also a good freeze overnight last night, with temperatures down in the 20s F here at the house, so that bode well with respect to continued corn cycling. Our thermometer out back struggled to get out of the 30s F for the first part of the morning, but once we got past 9:00 A.M. it was moving into the 40s F, and a check on the temperatures at Stowe revealed that they were hitting similar levels. The snow had likely softened at all elevations by that point, so we headed off to the mountain.
“I’m looking for something nimble and flexible that is going to carve tight arcs, fit into tight spaces, and surf on soft snow.”
We suited up in the lodge and then I headed right up to the Stowe Toys Demo Center at the base of the Fourrunner Quad – I had a big day of checking out demo skis planned. It’s hard to find a day to spend demoing skis, since many Sundays during the season we’re out at Stowe with the BJAMS ski program, we’ve got plans with other people on the mountain, or we’re hoping to head into the alpine terrain or out into the sidecountry for powder. Our typical days with those types of focused runs aren’t conducive to swapping out skis every couple of laps on the lift. Today with E and the boys though, it going to be one of those casual spring outings with no real plans, and it looked demoing some pairs of skis would work.
I’ve actually needed to do an alpine ski demo day for quite a while, but it really hit me a couple of seasons ago on February 26th, 2012 at Stowe. It was a bluebird day after they’d just picked up three feet of snow, so I pulled out my alpine fat skis for the day – my Volkl CMH Explosivs. They’re a fully-cambered, 120/95/112 ski from the early 2000s, and like many Volkl skis, they really like to go straight and fast. These Explosivs have always felt that way to me, especially with the length – I’d gotten them in the 180 cm length, since E had gone with the 165 cm version, and it seemed like a reasonable choice for me at the time. I hadn’t minded that they weren’t overly nimble, since powder can give you a lot of leeway, but it was always frustrating to have to deal with them in tighter trees, and they were essentially making that type of terrain undesirable and far less fun than it should be. That powder day in February 2012 marked the first time I’d used the Explosivs in quite a while, and after spending so much time on shorter, much nimbler skis, their girth, length, and stiffness were oh so exceedingly apparent. While skiing Spruce Line that day, I went over a rise and dropped rather unexpectedly at high speed into the steepest pitch of the run. I wanted to check my speed, but the Explosivs just wouldn’t turn. I eventually had to bail into the snow to check my momentum, and the end result was happily unremarkable thanks to the slope being powdery and forgiving, but the skis had been feeling like heavy dogs on my feet all day, and that was definitely the last straw. I could easily see an accident arising due to the way those skis were handling. After that experience, I don’t think I’ve used them since, and my only alpine skis currently in use are my 108/70/101 Salomon Scream 10 Pilot Hots. They’re actually my on piste/carving skis, and they’re a joy to carve on, but that’s not really the type of skiing we spend much time doing. I’ve focused on my Telemark gear of the past few seasons, getting the cambered 127/86/113 Atomic RT-86 as my mid fat, and the more rockered 139/115/123 Black Diamond AMPerage as my powder/backcountry/fat ski. But, I’ve got nothing like either of those skis in my alpine gear, and alpine gear is what I’m typically on each Sunday when I’m coaching my BJAMS ski groups. Most of our ski days each season feature some form of powder, whether it’s on or off piste, and as I watch the boys drift and smear turns in the soft snow with their fat, rockered skis, I’m realizing that relative to the types of ski that are out there now, my Salomons are aren’t optimal for the kind of skiing we typically do.
Based on my experiences with a wide range of ski widths in the past few seasons, and thinking about a typical everyday ski for the type of skiing that we actually do, something with a waist in the 95-100 mm range was my target. After seeing many of the latest gear reviews, it sounded like the Rossignol Soul 7 was really taking a lot of the top spots. It appeared to be my kind of ski with its light weight and ability to make short turns, so it definitely piqued my interest. At 136/106/126, it was a little on the wider side of what I’d been thinking, but it was close enough, and I don’t mind going a bit on the wider side for the type of skiing we typically do, especially if the ski was as versatile as everyone seems to feel it is. With that said, I also planned to check out the Rossignol Sin 7, since it was the next width down in the series at 128/98/118. Between those two, and a comparison to similar models from other manufacturers, I figured I’d have a good idea of what I liked.
There’s a thing about demo gear though – the demo shops tend to sell it off. And this late in the season, that was a huge issue. It turned out that the demo shop had already sold all their Soul 7s, so those were entirely gone, and the only Sin 7 they had on hand was in a 180 cm length. I had really wanted the 172 cm or 164 cm (I’ve got little interest in long skis at this point for the type of skiing we typically do), but if the 180 cm was the only option, it would at least let me get a feel for them. According to everything I’ve read, the Sin 7 does run short with all that rocker, so I was intrigued to see how they performed at 180 cm. I also inquired about the next wider ski above the Soul 7 in Rossignol’s Freeride 7 series, the Rossignol Super 7. At 140/116/130, the profile is something more similar to my Black Diamond AMPerages that I have mounted Tele. Since I’ve already got my Salomons for carving, I’m leaning a bit on the wider side for the all around soft day ski that I’m seeking, and while the Super 7 is almost certainly wider than I want, I still wanted to try them out. I wanted to have a feel for all their skis in that 95-115 mm range of width. I was surprised to find out that they shop didn’t even carry them, and the guy that was helping me out in the demo shop said it’s too wide a ski if you ski on the “East Coast”. I’m not sure if he’s just supposed to say that, whether he actually believes it, or if there’s some other reason he’s supposed to go with that philosophy, but it was probably the first sign that we weren’t going to be quite on the same page with respect to our viewpoints on skiing. I’d expect someone from Stowe of all places to know that selecting ski width doesn’t work by drawing some arbitrary line down the middle of the country. Some of the ski magazines try to preach that sort of approach, and maybe it’s practical for a typical low snowfall resort run on manmade snow in the eastern U.S., but we’re talking about Northern Vermont, where snowfall is as much or more than many resorts in the Rockies. In any event, I was happy that they at least had a pair of the Sin 7s to try, so I got those set and headed for a run with E and the boys.
From the top of the Fourrunner Quad, we headed out along Ridge View, and holy cow could those Sin 7s carve! I’m not talking about carving well for a wider ski; I’m talking about carving as well as my Salomon carving skis. I was flabbergasted. Although awesome in powder, I’m fairly unimpressed with the way my 115 mm wide AMPerages carve when they’re out on hard snow. They’re really what I’m used to for skis above the width of my RT-86s in that 80-90 mm range, so that’s what I had to go with in terms of fatter skis’ ability to get out of the powder and onto firmer surfaces. Frankly, as much as I like my AMPerages for powder, even shallower accumulations of powder where their girth keeps you nicely off the subsurface, I can’t even believe that the concept of using them as an all around ski is even brought up – unless your home mountain is Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing, or something equivalent, it just doesn’t seem practical based on the harder snow performance I’ve experienced. Granted, the Sin 7 is almost 20 mm narrower at the waist, but it literally felt like you weren’t giving up anything with them on the carving front, at least in the relatively soft corn snow we had today. I’m still smiling right now thinking about how much fun it was carving up that snow on the Sin 7. Next up on our run was a trip down Hayride, and they handled it nicely, carving smoothly as needed in the terrain that hadn’t bumped up, or slipping and sliding through the bumps with that soft shovel. In the bumps was where I could tell that I’d be happy to lose the extra length and come down to one of the shorter sizes, but I can only imagine how quick those 164 cm and 172 cm versions must be. On the next run I wanted to try them off piste, so we went through the Bypass Chutes and down into the Nosedive Glades. Even though we were heading off piste, the snow was great, not sticky like it can sometimes be on these spring days; areas that had already received a few turns were definitely the best, but even places without traffic were often decent. It was especially fun introducing E to the Nosedive Bypass area – I’m not sure if we’ve ever brought here out there before. We had a blast exploring the different chute options and routes down in the Nosedive Glades; I knew we’d be back there multiple times during the day. Again, the Sin 7 was a joy to ride, and my only thought was about what they would be like if they were even shorter. People can say all they want about how skis “run” short because of the rocker, and indeed they do, but that rocker is still never going to make a 180 cm ski fit sideways through a gap that is only 170 cm wide.
I popped back into the shop, told the guys about my very favorable impressions of the Sin 7, and inquired about what else I could try that would be similar to those. After some hemming and hawing about not having much available in the 170 cm range because that seemed to be what everyone wanted and had purchased, I got the Dynastar Cham 97 (133/97/113) in a 172 cm length. The guy in the demo shop said that he actually liked these better than the Sin 7, so based on our initial interactions, perhaps I should have been suspicious about how they’d appeal to me. I could tell as soon as I clicked my boots into them that they were stiffer than the Sin 7. For some people that might be a plus, but it’s not something I find to be a necessity in my skis, and I’m finding now that if often detracts from their versatility for my purposes. I wasn’t immediately excited by the stiffness, but I still had to see how the Cham 97 was going to behave in action, so we headed up for another run.
The boys were anxious for some lunch, and wanted to eat up at the Octagon, so we stopped in there for a midday meal. I didn’t think they’d have the selection of food that we’d get down in the main lodge, but they really have some excellent options up there now. I got a nice seared tuna wrap that seemed to have some sort of tzatziki sauce, and it really hit the spot, while E got a turkey wrap with turkey, bacon, apple butter, green apples, arugula, and probably more, but that’s all that she could remember. We order the wraps at the register along with some hot dogs for the boys, and they brought them right over to us at our table once they were prepared. The Octagon was definitely hoppin’ today with the beautiful weather, but we got a nice window seat near the deck and it was a great time. It was little breezy outside at times, but a lot of people chose to sit out there as well.
It was sort of strange to have the Cham 97s out there at the ski racks during lunch without even having ridden them yet, but it was nice to be able to jump right on them as soon as we were done eating. We took them on a run through the Bypass Chutes so that I could put them through their paces. It was nice to drop some length from the Sin 7 as we worked our way through those steep, narrow chutes, so that was a plus. However, even in the shorter length and essentially the same width (dropping to 97 mm vs. the 98 mm on the Sin 7s), the Cham 97s were slower edge to edge and just not as nimble all around. Once we got out onto Nosedive and I did some carving on groomed corn snow, I could certainly see that they carved much better than my more tradition CMH Explosivs which have a similar 95 mm underfoot, but they were nowhere near being on the same snappy level as the Sin 7. One fun aspect of the Cham 97 that was noted by Dylan, was the fact that the shovels of the skis looked like chainsaws, so he was having fun trying to stay away from the fronts of my skis while we were in the tighter confines of some of the Bypass Chutes, lest he get cut in half. One run on the Cham 97s was enough though, because it was simply no contest against the Sin 7, so I popped into the demo shop for my next pair.
The third ski I tried was the K2 Annex 98 (131/98/119) in a 170 length – these were lots of fun, and seemed very close to the Sin 7 in terms of what I was looking for. I rode them for two runs, first a run that Dylan requested over toward the Mountain Triple via Ridge View and Sunrise, and then another through the Bypass Chutes. Carving was very reminiscent of the Sin 7, easy and smooth, and they were also fun in the tighter confines of the Bypass Chutes and Nosedive Glades. I still gave the personal preference edge to the Sin 7, especially considering that I’d tried it a 180 cm ski, but the K2 Annex 98 was certainly in the running.
Dylan said that he was starting to feel his legs getting tired after those runs, so he and E decided to hit the lodge, but I had time for a couple more runs, and I wanted to make the most of my ski demo day. Ty said that his legs were feeling great, so he stuck with me for more turns. When I inquired about the next ski in the demo shop that time, I let them know that it was OK to go a bit farther afield of the type of ski that I was focused on, and they decided to hook me up with a 170 cm Volkl Mantra (132/98/118). I’ve definitely heard about the Mantra, since it’s been around for years, and the demo guys were saying that this would be one that would require a bit more muscling around relative to the others I’d been skiing. Imagine that, a Volkl ski with stiffness and such – I think we’ve seen that before! I took a run over by the Mountain Triple with a more cruising theme as we’d done before, and just opened up the Mantras. Well, those things just flew! They were an impressively fast, powerful ski. That was a lot of fun, even if I pushed it a bit into the scary zone at times with the high speeds. Fortunately, the trails were getting pretty empty as we approached the end of the day, so it was easy to let it rip from edge to edge on the runs. Ty was happy that I was going Mach 5 down the trails, because he likes to do that sometimes… or more like all the time if we give him the chance. Anyway, those Mantras were a lot of fun, in a stiffer, less forgiving, take charge, longer turn sort of way. I knew going in that they were not what I was looking for in new skis, but they’ll be great if that’s the sort of skiing you like.
I’d mentioned to the demo guys that I wanted to try something with full rocker, and the ski that they had on hand that I could try was a 170 cm Volkl RTM 81 (126/81/108). For me, a fully rockered ski with no camber is about smearing turns, drifting, and all that, so it seemed weird to think of it in a Volkl. The RTM 81 also has a narrower, 81 mm waist that what I’d been skiing. That seems more like a waist for carving, so I was flummoxed as to what the ski was actually meant to do. Ty and I took them on a run through the Bypass Chutes and the Nosedive Glades to see if the full rocker would help with drifting and sliding through those tight spaces. It was fine, but it didn’t really seem as though that was what it was meant to do. I want to float on top of the snow if I’m going to be smearing turns and sliding sideways, and in a relative sense, these skis didn’t really have the width to excel at that. I did find that they were awesomely fun to carve when we got out on Nosedive. Talking with the guy in the demo shop later, I asked him what the target audience was for such a ski, and he said something to the effect of “Oh, only about 50% of the people that walk in here and ski at this mountain.” I couldn’t figure that out – people want a relatively skinny, fully rockered ski – for what? Based on my conversations throughout the day, I certainly didn’t get the impression that the shop guy and the typical clientele he spoke of are out there on rockered boards so that they can smear and drift turns in the soft snow more easily, but I guess you never know. Later, after looking online for some info on the ski, it appears as though the Volkl RTM 81 is more of a front side carver. I guess it was once again that theme of me not really being on the same wavelength as the guy in the shop. I always thought that camber was what one wanted for carving, so I’m not sure why full rocker is put into a carving ski, and a Volkl to boot. Anyway, they were fun to carve, that sort of ski would be interesting to try in firm conditions to see what they do.
“At least based on the skis I tried, it was fairly easy to come away from the day with the Sin 7 as the clear front runner for my purposes.”
At least based on the skis I tried, it was fairly easy to come away from the day with the Sin 7 as the clear front runner for my purposes. I’m looking for something nimble and flexible that is going to carve tight arcs, fit into tight spaces, and surf on soft snow. The 180 cm length I tried was fine, but I’d definitely go for the 172 cm, or even the 164 cm. Officially I’m in the 172 cm range for my weight, but I’d certainly consider going with the 164 cm, even though everyone says to go longer. I’ve yet to encounter a ski that is too short for what I want, but I can’t say the same for skis that are annoyingly long, and I’m happy to get rid of extra length. I’ve encountered none of the disadvantages that people speak of with regard to shorter skis as my skis have gotten shorter and wider. That’s the shape of the tool for the type of skiing we typically do – soft snow, with short-radius turns in smaller spaces.
Prior to this outing, I’d only tried out skis on demo days, and the one thing I did learn today was that if you want to try demo skis from a shop while having a full selection of models and sizes available, you should shoot for the first half of the season. The guy at Stowe Toys said that they actually started selling off their gear in the middle of February. I’m thankful that they had at least one Sin 7 pair left on hand, because that ski really seemed to best hit the sweet spot I was looking for. Unfortunately, I still don’t know what the Soul 7 feels like, but I’m sold enough on the feel and fit of the Sin 7 that I think they would be a fantastic everyday ski for our typical soft conditions, and having another alpine pair of something wider like my AMPerages for bigger days might work. Actually, at almost 100 mm underfoot, I’m sure the Sin 7 would work fine for everything if I was going to try to go with just one pair of alpine skis. As much fun as fat skis are in powder, they’re far from mandatory.
“…the snowpack, snow surfaces, temperatures, terrain… it all came together to set up some primo spring skiing.”
The overall ski experience today was simply great – the snowpack, snow surfaces, temperatures, terrain… it all came together to set up some primo spring skiing. One complaint would be that there were lift queues for the Fourrunner Quad; it was weird to be waiting in a lift queue in mid April, but with great conditions and only a couple of lifts running, I guess that can happen. For the boys, it was a chance to ski with both E and I on Mansfield without the time constraints and other obligations that happen on many ski program days. On a number of runs, we used the great bumps on Lower National to work on those technical aspects of turns like timing, pole work, rotation, etc. that moguls really bring out. Dylan showed us some impressive runs through there as he continued to refine his upper and lower body separation, and for Ty, who has always naturally had great technique with his poles, we kept him thinking about it as we’d noticed that he tends to let it laps at times. Although they had their fat skis today for the soft snow, you could really see how the rocker in the skis let them slide right through the moguls with whatever amount of carve or slarve the immediate environment required. We all took turns following each other, and I had a great time on Dylan’s Heels watching him make those little personal choices about which line or angle was the best fit as the run progressed. One of Dylan’s favorite accomplishments of the day was actually up in the Nosedive Glades, where he laid down this beautiful drift of close to 180 degrees around one of the trees. It was one of those spontaneous situations where he came upon the right snow and terrain, and it just happened so smoothly that it was a thing of beauty. We actually kept looking for that spot on subsequent runs to recreate the drift, but never seemed to quite find it. We could sort of tell though that it was one of those situations where the spontaneity of the first encounter played into the experience, and you can never quite recreate it anyway. It was a great move though, and seeing him do it couldn’t have been more apt on a day when I was trying out all the sets of wider, rockered skis that give one the ability to put those types of moves into action more easily.
We capped off the afternoon with a trip to Sushi Yoshi, where Ty was able to get his sushi fix, or at least a partial fix, since it’s been hard to find the limit on his consumption. I did get to eat a few pieces without losing my hands to the fray on the sushi board. We’re now eyeing the potential for a winter storm around midweek, so we’ll see if we can get some powder infused into this April. E and the boys have the week off, so we may be able to take advantage of the storm with some family skiing if it comes together.