On Wednesday, Mt. Mansfield managed to pull an impromptu foot of snow from the sky, basically catching everyone off guard. The potential for some accumulation was out there thanks to spillover from the big lake-effect snow event taking place to the west, but the forecasts certainly were calling for so much snow. It was even more surprising though when the same thing happened again yesterday, just two days after the first event. The lake-effect snows were essentially over by that point, so it’s hard to figure out exactly where that moisture had come from. Whatever the case, Powderfreak was giving us the usual heads up in the Northern New England thread at American Weather; Powderfreak tells it like it is, and the pictures don’t lie.
With this new snow on top of the already decent snow I saw on my trip to the mountain Thursday, it sounded like ski conditions were going to be even better than what I’d experienced. E and Dylan and I headed north to BJAMS to help moving some library books and pick up Ty from an overnighter at Kenny’s, so we got to see the changes in snowpack throughout the local mountain valleys. These last couple of storms that have targeted Mt. Mansfield have also targeted the Stowe area and points north, so from snow depths of an inch or two in Waterbury, the snowpack more than doubles in the Stowe/Morrisville area. After helping move some bins of books into the school’s new library area, we got Ty suited up, and he joined me and Dylan for a trip to Mt. Mansfield. Unfortunately E’s back has been a bit sore the past few days, so she decided not to stress it with skiing and stayed at school to work. So, it was just the boys for today’s ski tour.
Temperatures were a bit below freezing as we approached the Midway lot near the base of the Gondola, and we could see lots of activity over at main Mansfield base area due to Stowe’s opening day. The snow was definitely deeper than what I’d found at Midway on Thursday – a general 3 to 4 inches had turned into 5 to 6 inches. For today, I outfitted the boys with their alpine powder skis and Alpine Trekkers for skinning. We’ve still got to get skins for Ty’s new Telemark setup, but I’d prefer that they get a chance to ski on their alpines to get their season going anyway. The early season powder can be tricky, and I’d rather they just get the chance to have fun and not take on the added challenge of working in Telemark turns.
We followed a similar ascent route to the one I’d taken on Thursday – up Chin Clip Runout, onto Switchback and Gondolier, and some Perry Merrill as well. We finally stopped at around 3,500′ on Switchback because it didn’t look like there was much above that in the way of great snow. However, just below that, the snow was deep and soft. The depth of the powder had increased by about an inch for every 500′ of vertical during our ascent, getting up to around the 8 to 9 inch range by 3,000′ or so, but above that it really jumped up. In areas out of the wind on the upper part of Switchback, we were finding 14 to 15 inches of settled snow, with pockets over two feet in depth. We knew that was the kind of snow where we’d really be able to lay into those turns and not worry about touching down on anything.
After a break at the top of our ascent, in which the boys took part in their nearly requisite play in the snow (this time in some deep stuff off in some nearby trees), we started down. That deep snow we’d seen up there on Switchback offered up some great turns as expected, and we just worked our way down the mountain choosing the best covered and least tracked routes we could find. We hit some nice powder on the skier’s left of Gondolier, and found a lot of good turns even lower down on Switchback. Coverage was indeed improved over what I’d seen Thursday, and the powder was staying fairly fluffy even though it was a day old. On the lift-served side of things, Stowe was offering 20 trails today, and it sounds like conditions were pretty decent due to the recent cold and snow. We’ve had some nice November conditions so far, and it looks like there may be some continued storminess this month – hopefully the snowpack can continue to grow.
Today’s tour gave us the first chance to out the Canon EOS 7D Mark II DSLR camera that we’d brought along. The 7D Mark II is Canon’s new APS-C sports shooter, and it’s weather sealed, has a 65-point autofocus system that rivals the best in the world, and is built like a tank… just the way you’d want a camera to be made for dealing with the elements. It’s got twice the frame rate, two and a half times the number of pixels, and usable ISO values roughly ten times higher than what my Canon EOS 30D has, which is not surprising considering it’s about five generations newer and a step up in Canon’s performance lineup. It really is built for just the type of shooting we do, and it certainly seemed to live up to its reputation today. Late afternoon light on a cloudy Vermont day in November will give the light sensitivity of any camera a challenge, but I was still able to shoot the boys at 1/1,600 of a second due to the high useable range of the ISO. And, the ability of that focusing system in the low light conditions was very impressive. We’ll hopefully have more chance to put the camera to use this season as we learn all of its nuances and find the settings that fit our needs.