Tag Archives: Skiing

Stowe, VT 23MAR2014

An image of Ken skiing Angel Food at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today will go down as one of the best days of the season at Stowe

Today will simply have to go down as one of the best days of the season at Stowe; I just can’t see how it wouldn’t.  Another half foot of snow fell overnight, bringing snow totals to 20 inches in the past 72 hours, and that’s on top of the multiple feet of snow that have fallen in the past three weeks.  Off piste, people push their ski poles into the snow and they go up to and beyond the handle before they hit a firm surface, and the depth of the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is approaching 90 inches.  While that’s really just the average peak snowpack depth for the higher elevations of Mt. Mansfield on a seasonal basis, it clearly marked a threshold of sorts for the snowpack at all elevations on the mountain today.  When even the base elevations have over 40 inches of snowpack, three to six foot trees across the mountain have now simply disappeared under the snow.  All one needs to do is pull off trail, glide into the trees, and the acres upon acres of powder lines just open up.  It’s that time of year when lines appear that you forgot even existed… and they’re everywhere.  Stowe’s already incredible tree skiing simply rises to another level, and you are quickly overwhelmed by the fact that in a day on the mountain you won’t even be able to scratch the surface of what’s available.  Let’s not forget the weather that Mother Nature provided today, in the form of brilliant late March sun.  And, lest that strong sun try to mess with the quality of the powder out there, Mother Nature also saw fit to keep it just wintry and cool enough to keep even low-elevation, south-facing snow in fluffy, pristine, midwinter form.  Indeed it all came together today.

An image of Erica skiing powder in the Lower Smugglers Trees at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
The lines off piste are bottomless and everywhere

When we got the word about the decent shot of additional fresh snow overnight, we decided to get an earlier than usual start so that the family could do some runs together before the start of the BJAMS ski program.  As we ascended toward the first run of the day on the Sunny Spruce Quad, my eyes were drawn to the lines in the trees all around us, and how they were simply choked with snow.  We tried out a new line in the Lower Smugglers Trees, and then let brought Mom to one of Ty’s favorite lines in the area so that she could have first tracks in that section.  We headed under the alpine slide tunnel and onto the open terrain above Meadows, which held fantastic snow.  I tried to impress upon E and the boys just how ridiculously good the quality of that snow actually was – we’re talking essentially base-elevation, south-facing terrain in late March, and there wasn’t a hint of hard base to find under there or any effects of the full sun on the snow.  The fact that they weren’t flabbergasted like I was suggested that they weren’t quite as impressed, but there was no denying the quality of the powder we’d encountered off piste.  It was just… so… bottomless.  The powder had that density gradient that just keeps going and going, and the hard you would push down, the deeper you’d go before you’d find that there was just nothing there.  E had time for one more before she had to get ready for the ski program, so we skied some similar lines with similarly fantastic results.  Ty and Dylan and I followed up with a run by ourselves that included the Ridge Glades, and it was fun to watch Dylan drop through the deep powder in one of the steep entries.  He’s been right back on his game, even after a few weeks off his skis.

“It was
just… so…

For ski program today, we teamed up with Joe and Ken’s group, bringing in Ethan and Jack into the crew along with Ty, Dylan, and Luc.  Luc’s dad joined us as well, and we did one more warm-up run on  Sunny Spruce while my friend Chris got ready to meet us down at Spruce Camp.  Ken suggested that we head out to some of the Ridge Glades and Side Street Trees, and that was lots of fun.  Dylan followed my explorations, and naturally I managed to get us down into some ice cliffs that required some steep turns and drops, but he found a nice line to take him smoothly through.

“…it was just one
of those days where
everything came
together to make
the skiing fantastic.”

We met up with Chris, and our group of ten headed over to the Gondola with thoughts of an Angel Food run.  With the snowpack this deep and fresh snow to boot, it was an obvious choice.  The traverse was well set with many other folks having the same idea today, but the snow quality out there in Angel Food was simply excellent.  Everyone seemed to have a great time on the snow, and Ken and I nailed our desired return traverse to the letter.  One of my favorite parts of the run was spreading out among the trees on the return traverse, and getting fresh lines of powder that kept going and going and going.  It was such a good run that I was totally ready to hit it again and explore more of those are to the skier’s right with fresh powder.

Some folks from the group headed back to Spruce Peak after that, but Ken, Chris and I stuck with Ty, Dylan, and Luc for another Gondola run, this time down Chin Clip and the Chin Clip Streambed, a.k.a. “Ravine”.  Conditions in the streambed were excellent, and Dylan’s run through there produced one of the best comments of the day.  He was having so much fun jumping off all the ice waterfalls in the streambed, that he couldn’t believe he had ever spent his time going around many of them – his comment was, “I can’t believe I was missing that in my life!”  I explained to him that it’s because he’s becoming a better and more confident skier, and that a year or two ago jumping off those kinds of drops would have represented a much bigger challenge.  It can be hard to recall exactly how things appeared when you were at a different stage of skiing, but he’s certainly enjoying the streambed from a whole new perspective now.

We headed over to the quad for a run from the very top of Lookout, and it was a bit windblown in spots, but improved as we got farther down.  I don’t think we saw another person during the entire run.  We finished off with the boy’s request for a cruise down Perry Merrill, but not before we hit the Tombo Woods and the Tombo Waterfall.  The waterfall is actually getting pretty small because of all the snow that has now built up below it, but it was great fun.  We even got in a little extra powder skiing along the edge of the Hazelton Zone, and it was fantastic snow just like we’d been encountering everywhere else.

An image of Ty and Dylan jumping off a large snow pile at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
No skis, no problem.

Since Chris had some time, we stopped off for some dinner at Sushi Yoshi, and had quite a good feast with a variety of different sushi rolls.  Ty ate a lot of sushi, but I still think he was ready to keep eating more even after it was gone.  One of these days we will find out how much it takes to fill the bottomless hole he has for sushi.  It was a great cap to what will definitely remembered as one of the best days of the season, and it wasn’t even the result of a big storm, it was just one of those days where everything came together to make the skiing fantastic.

Bolton Valley, VT 22MAR2014 (PM)

An image of a ski track in powder snow in the trees at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Back out for an afternoon powder session up at Bolton Valley

Seeing that the Timberline Quad had recently started running as we were heading down the access road after our morning ski session, really got me thinking about heading back up to take advantage of the opportunity.  So, after a quick bit to eat, I decided to head back out for a few more runs.  It was actually pretty convenient, since I was still wearing my ski clothes, and hadn’t even unloaded the gear from the car.

I pulled into the Timberline lot to find just a handful of cars there – with the lift opening so late, it was only people who arrived in the afternoon that would even have the opportunity to park there.  I hopped on the lift and found that the snowfall was picking up again after a bit of a lull around midday.  The winds weren’t too bad at that point, but they seemed as though they were picking back up in concert with the increasing snowfall.  Unlike this morning, the winds were more from the west, vs. the south or southeast, and this meant that they were at your back while riding the lift.

I started off with a run through Wood’s Hole and the Corner Pocket Glades, and I actually had first tracks through the main entry line into the Wood’s Hole Glades.  There were just a couple of people ahead of me on the logging road, and it was skiing really well.  I eventually diverted off into the Corner Pocket Glades, and as I descended I could tell that while decent, the snow down below the 2,000’ level really wasn’t up to the quality of what was higher up on the mountain.  The powder was still good, but combination of less new snow and denser layers of powder below it was obvious.  Although I had planned to focus on Timberline since I’d skied the main mountain in the morning, the call of the premium snow quality just a bit higher up had me thinking about heading back to the main mountain for a little more fun.

I made my way to the main base, and headed up to the Vista Summit via the Vista Quad.  After about halfway up, the snow and wind really started to pick up, and they hit a level that was higher than anything we’d seen in the morning.  When I got off the lift, I headed down past the patrol hut, and before heading to Cobrass I had to just stop and watch the spectacle.  At one point, visibility was down to around 100 feet, and even though I was only 100-200 feet away from the hut, it was entirely invisible at times.  Unfortunately there’s not much point in getting an image of the building when it’s totally invisible, because all you see is white, so I grabbed a shot of one of the periods when it was on the verge of disappearing and that at least gives a sense of just how intense that snowfall was.

Down in the Villager Trees, I decided to make the hike up the crack, since E and the boys hadn’t wanted to do it this morning.  While down in the protection of the trees, the heavy snow and wind from up near the summit became just fluffy flakes filling the quiet air.  It was such a difference from the windswept summit.  The powder off the knob was fantastic, and I was happy to see that the wind hadn’t affected it at all.  Once I got back to the trail network and my way toward Timberline, I didn’t see another soul.  It was as if everyone had left, and I quickly surmised that the most recent bout of heavy wind had shut down the lifts.  I didn’t check on the others, but indeed Timberline was on wind hold.  I was heading to the car at that point, but it didn’t seem like I would have had much choice anyway – Mother Nature has really been hitting Bolton Valley with the winds over the past couple of days, but I’m glad I was able to get in those afternoon turns during the window of Timberline’s opening.

Bolton Valley, VT 22MAR2014 (AM)

An image of Dylan skiing powder snow in the Wilderness Woods area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Wind holds at Bolton Valley yesterday meant lots of untracked powder today.

We had a winter storm at the end of the week that brought over a foot to some of the local ski resorts, and it created quite a powder day by Friday morning.  Fortunately (for some of us that didn’t get out Friday) most of the lifts at Bolton Valley were on wind hold all day, so much of the powder was still sitting there as of this morning.  With that in mind, we got a relatively early start up at the mountain today, getting there by roughly 9:00 A.M.  One great aspect of the day was that Dylan has been given a clean bill of health after his recent viral illness, so he was ready to jump back on the skis and go wild with the rest of the family.

The wind was already somewhat vigorous ahead of today’s incoming storm as the four us loaded onto the Vista Quad, and although temperatures were in the 20s F and fairly comfortable, the east wind blowing in our faces on the wasn’t pleasant.  We started off on Alta Vista, and while there seemed to be less powder off to the sides than usual due to extensive grooming, the actual groomed trail had some of the best snow we’ve encountered on it.  Oftentimes, traffic and wind make it pretty scratchy at the start, but not today.  Down lower on the trail, we got into some powder toward the Vista Glades, and it was quite good.  We worked our way over toward Wilderness and caught some of the first tracks in Wilderness Woods.  The powder wasn’t overly deep, but it had such a beautiful density gradient associated with it that it was bottomless everywhere.  Indeed there’s a ton of soft snow out there now, essentially everywhere I tested the depth of snow with my measurement ski pole off piste, I was able to push it down to around 40 inches before hitting any hard surfaces.  There’s really been a good amount of snow in the mountains this month.  We eventually made our way out onto Lower Turnpike, and although it had seen a thorough grooming, even that was super soft and there was untracked powder available on the sides.

When we arrived down at the base of Wilderness there were about 15 minutes to go before they loaded it, so E went in for a bathroom break, while the boys and I went for a Mid Mountain run.  It turned out that Mid Mountain was on wind hold, so we made a Snowflake run instead.  We caught some lines in the Bonus Woods and then met up with E for the loading of the Wilderness Chair.  From the Wilderness Summit we decided on Bolton Outlaw, and from what we could see even before we got there, the good powder was in protected areas.  The Outlaw Woods yielded some excellent snow.  We worked our way down via Cougar for another run in the Wilderness Woods like our first one, and the snow was still excellent, even if we weren’t in the realm of first tracks the way we’d been earlier in the morning.

An image of Dylan skiing in the Outlaw Woods area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Finding some beautiful snow in the Outlaw Woods

E and the boys were ready for a break from the wind, so they headed in for some snacks while I took another run on Super Snow Hole.  Being by myself, it was the perfect opportunity to dial in the traverse there, and avoid having to drag the family around looking for it like last time.  This time I found one of the main traverse tracks leading to the area and hit it from the top.  The snow was beautiful in there, and so well protected from the wind.  The snow had started to pick up with the approaching storm, and in the trees I got to experience some of those big fat flakes floating straight down in the dead calm.  It was a world of difference in those protected areas.  It was a great run in which I got to hit some nice lines that I’d explored in the off season.

I met up with E and the boys back in the lodge, and found out that they’d actually had a good bit to eat during their break.  I eventually convinced them to come for a run with me on Super Snow Hole, especially since I had a track in place and could guarantee that the traverse would be simple and productive.  They actually loved the run, especially with the really high quality powder, so I don’t think I’ll have quite as hard a time convincing them to go with me next time.

Everyone was game for one more run, so we took a trip up Vista and headed to Maria’s Woods.  We didn’t take the hike up the crack, but the snow was really good on the main lines anyway.  Sometimes you can get in there and find powder that just doesn’t seem to work, but not today.  In fact, I was really pleased in general at the high quality of the snow today.  I’d brought my Amperages, hoping that the snow was going to be of enough quality that they would be a good fit, and indeed they were.  They had that “no width” feeling, and everything was quick and effortless.  There’s something about the consistency of the snow that just seemed to work with them, and I’m still figuring out just what days allow them to shine.  A great example of when they weren’t a great fit was last Saturday, when the powder was dense in general, and the lower mountain having  bit of wetter snow.  One would think that fat skis would be great in that dense stuff, but I found that it was just too stiff in most places for their width.  Perhaps I’m getting used to how quickly they move around in high quality, fluffy snow, but  definitely found myself wanting my mid fats that day.  In any event, I’m definitely starting to dial in the type of days that work best, or at least “feel best” with the fats, and it’s not simply the deep days.  The quality of the powder seems to be the biggest factor.

I checked on the interest in any additional runs, but everyone was ready to leave, so we skied to the car, packed up, and headed down the access road.  As we passed by Timberline, we saw that it had finally gotten off wind hold, and people were loading.  It was very tempting to stop in and check out all the snow that had been sitting there for the past couple of days, but I couldn’t convince anyone to make the stop, they were happy to call it a day.  It did plant in my mind the possibility of heading back out after lunch though…

Stowe, VT 16MAR2014

An image of Joe skiing Profanity Chute in the alpine terrain above treeline at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
After a Northern Greens fluff bomb visited the area last night, we got some incredibly great snow above treeline on Mt. Mansfield today.

Overnight we had one of those classic Northern Greens mini upslope snow events – the kind that almost seem to come out of nowhere and drop localized fluff bombs of Champlain Powder™.  We’d been up at Bolton Valley yesterday from mid morning to mid afternoon, and by the time we left, it was really dumping up there – snow accumulation on the road was down to ~1,500’, and snow/mix was down to ~1,000’.  It was still just rain down at our house in the bottom of the Winooski Valley at the 500’ elevation, and that was essentially all I’d noted about the weather before we went on with our evening indoors.  We’d watched the second Hunger Games movie, which kept us pretty enthralled for a good couple of hours, and it was a while before I checked in on my computer to see what weather discussion was going on in the Northern New England thread at the American Weather Forum.  I noticed eyewall in Burlington reporting some snow accumulation, and it prompted me to take a look out back.  Low and behold, it was dumping snow out there, easily 1” an hour type snowfall, and there was already a couple fresh inches of snow down.  By the wee hours of the morning, we’d picked up half a foot of snow at the house, and of course that got me thinking about what was going on in the mountains.

“The snow in the
chute looked so
good it was
almost spooky.”

My thoughts of a very early departure to Stowe for me and Ty were stymied by the fact that I had to get some work done and send it off to Stephen, but we managed to get going by around 9:30 A.M.  I hadn’t eaten by that point, and we stopped in at the DD on Route 100 to really calorie up with some hearty food.  Although he’d had some breakfast, Ty followed suit with at least a cream cheese bagel; it was a good idea, because I suspected we’d need those calories, and as we’d find out later in the day… they were going to be burned.  We got to the mountain by mid morning, and the slopes were looking very good.  The resort was reporting a fresh 9 inches overnight, and they appeared to be in the sweet spot for accumulations.  We were of course really happy that the surprise dump of snow coincided with our usual Sunday visit to the mountain.  We’d dressed warmly since temperatures were around 10 F, but truth be told, the temperature just didn’t have the bite that it seems to in January.  It’s mid March, and either we’re acclimated, or the March sun just helps to fight off the cold.

An image of Ty skiing powder snow on the Lower Smugglers trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Warmin’ up for the day

Ty and I kicked things off with a run on the Sunny Spruce, featuring some Lower Smugglers Trees just like we’d done a couple of weeks ago, followed by a visit to the terrain above Meadows.  The new snow was indeed light and dry, and the skiing in the trees was awesome, although the base was stiff in low elevation areas that were unprotected from the sun.  I’d suspected that as a possibility based on the dense snow we’d found in the lower elevations at Bolton Valley yesterday, so after that warm up run our plan was to head right up into the higher elevations of Mt. Mansfield, where we knew the snow would be very well preserved.

We started off with a trip along the Kitchen Wall traverse, and hit some of the deep powder there.  There had really been minimal traffic through the area at that point, so we just picked an untracked area in one of the first snowfields and had at it.  That essentially led us on a long and meandering trip through various areas of tree skiing that brought us to the Fourrunner Quad.  From the top of the quad I took Ty down Pipeline, which I probably haven’t skied in 20 years.  I was happy that I was able to find it, but less enthused about how narrow it was.  My skis have only gotten shorter since 20 years ago, so I have no idea how I skied it back then.  It was already well packed out, which probably doesn’t take much, since in general people are going to side slip a lot of it anyway.  It was just as steep as I remembered though, and the fall away views were spectacular.  We eventually found ourselves dropping into the Hazelton Zone from the south side, and that resulted in a great run with tons of untracked snow.  Somehow we even managed to get into some of the same lines we’d hit back on the 2nd, and I think our noses naturally lead us in certain directions.  Knowing more about some of the big, north-facing gullies though, we managed to get ourselves into one of those, and that was pretty sweet.  We’ve still got several of those to explore however, the trick is just finding exactly where to enter the zone to get there.

An image of Ty spraying powder while skiing in the trees on Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ty sending up a huge spray of powder out there in some of the trees on the lower elevations of Mt. Mansfield

By the time we traversed out of the Hazelton Zone, it was time to head over to Spruce Peak for some lunch, and to meet up with Dylan, E, and all the other folks for the afternoon BJAMS ski program.  After climbing and skiing the Cliff Trail Gully last Sunday as a refresher, today the plan was to kick things up a notch and visit Profanity Chute.  Skiing Profanity is a bit of a larger endeavor, since it involves going all the way to the top of The Chin, with a longer hike and a longer descent.  This was a great day for it though, with a couple feet of snow midweek from winter storm Vulcan, topped off with another 9 inches of fluff from the overnight snows, the odds were favoring some really nice snow in the alpine.  Joe had heard about our plans, and since he was interested in bringing his group up as well, we joined together with him, Ethan, and Julia to make a nice gondola-sized group of eight.

I’d checked on some of the boys packs down in the lodge, so once we got to the top of the gondola, the preparation for the hike went fairly smoothly.  The ascent of the Climbing Gully was a little slow at first, simply because of all the fresh snow.  The boot ladder was just not consolidated enough.  That issue gradually waned as we got up into terrain that had been brushed by the wind a bit more.  About 1/3 of the way up the gully, we stopped for a break and to let Jack and Kenny catch up with the group.  In order to give them a rest, we waited a bit longer, and with temperatures in the single digits, we had to worry about getting too cold.  In the upper half of the hike, I eventually had to put Kenny’s and Jack’s skis on my pack to allow them to keep pace with the rest of the group.  That worked well though, and we eventually got everyone up to the Chin and the area atop Profanity Chute.  Winds were probably 30-35 MPH up along the ridgeline near The Chin, but fortunately we were able to quickly get on the leeward side of the mountain by the chute.

The snow in the chute looked so good it was almost spooky.  There was just one obvious ski track over on the skier’s left, but the right side was a huge field of what appeared to be powder.  Just to be safe and to check on wind loading, I ski cut through that area to make sure it wasn’t going to release.  It passed that test, and we let the kids just rip it up.  I didn’t even have time to get my camera out because they were so quickly enamored with what lay beneath their feet.  Indeed that was some mighty fine snow we hit, two to three feet of soft powder, with the denser accumulations from Vulcan topped off with last night’s fluff.  I was at least able to shoot some images of Joe in the chute, since he’d waited for all the kids to go.  The kids were treated to some fantastic conditions up there, with almost no tracks all the way down the second part of the chute toward Taft Lodge.  There’s not much to say other than that the snow was deep, bottomless, and everywhere; that leeward side of Mansfield just really knows how to do snow right.

After following the mazes of tracks and bobsled runs through the subalpine area, getting down to Chin Clip, and then skiing all the way to the base, it was time to head back to Spruce Peak and call it a day.  The kids really earned high marks today, and I was amazed at how comfortable with the exposure of the chute up in the alpine.  I think that the amazing snow helped with that of course, because even when people did fall, they just immediately stopped thanks to the deep powder.  The temperatures were doing a great job of preserving the snow, even when the March sun came out, and it looks like those temperatures will continue to keep preserving the snow as we head into the coming week.

A Google Earth GPS map of a ski tour in the Mt. Mansfield alpine area above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont  including Profanity Chute
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data of today’s ski tour to Profanity Chute in the Mt. Mansfield Alpine area – Click to view the full size image.

Bolton Valley, VT 15MAR2014

An image of Ty skiing in the Preacher Woods at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
The snow was quite settled today, but boy is coverage good now in Northern Vermont as we hit mid March.

It was already obvious from my outing on Thursday at Bolton Valley that the snow from Winter Storm Vulcan had fallen in a fairly dense state in this area. It hadn’t been warm during the storm, but snow growth just hadn’t been all that great around here, and the small flakes packed together to produce snow in the 10-11% H2O range. When combined with some wind, the snow had definitely been settled, and that was already evident even though I was skiing while the storm was still finishing up. And of course, snow generally just gets denser over time, so with temperatures predicted to be in the 30s F today, we weren’t expecting light and dry powder everywhere.

“…Vulcan dropped what was
likely close to two inches
of liquid equivalent in the
mountains in the form of
snow, so we knew that the
mountain had received a
full resurfacing.”

Although we weren’t expecting feathery, “Champagne Powder®” on the slopes today, Vulcan dropped what was likely close to two inches of liquid equivalent in the mountains in the form of snow, so we knew that the mountain had received a full resurfacing. That meant it was a perfect time to hit all the steep terrain that just hasn’t been well covered yet this season. Because we’re still waiting on Dylan’s physician to give him the go ahead for doing the most vigorous activities, such as skiing, Dylan and E planned to go swimming in the Bolton Valley Sports Center, while Ty and I planned to ski.

E dropped Ty and I off over at the base of Wilderness, and for me, it was quite a treat to get the chauffeur service that the rest of the family usually has. We found out that the Wilderness Double Chair was still on wind hold though, so we headed up to the Vista Quad for a run. Our first stop on the steep terrain tour was the Preacher Woods. The coverage there is definitely sufficient now, even up in the big open areas with multiple ledges. There are still some aspects of the ledges that one needs to dodge here and there, but when the terrain is small cliffs, that’s often the way it’s going to be. The snow was packed, and the untracked powder was sort of thick and dense, but the skiing up there was really pretty decent. There just wasn’t any fluff factor to speak of, so things felt very “settled”. It was really just fun to take virtually any line and not worry about coverage around the next corner; we’ve been waiting for a while to get to that stage this season. Our run brought us down through the Cobrass Woods, and then Deer Path, and finally the Bear Run Woods. The lower half of the mountain had warmer temperatures and snow that was somewhat wet, so that made it a bit more challenging. I’d brought my fat skis, and while I liked them a lot in the dense powder and chowder up high, I was less than thrilled with them on the more packed snow in the lower elevations.

An image of Ty skiing some dense spring powder in the Deer Run area of Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Throwing around some dense snow out in the Deer Run area today

When we arrived back at the base, we found a big lift queue at the Vista Quad, and a similar queue at the Snowflake Chair. The Wilderness Chair was still on wind hold, so we decided to go for a run off the Mid Mountain Lift to get ourselves over to Timberline. We used Deer Run to get there, and Ty had an excellent crash in some of the powder that appeared to be to the amusement of some of the little kids in one of the ski programs. As we headed lower and lower in elevation over toward Timberline, the snow got wetter and wetter, and we could tell that it was really getting warm down in those lowest elevations. We encountered a huge queue at Timberline, probably because of other people that had left the main mountain to find shorter lift queues, but after seeing the drop in snow quality down low, I bet many of them headed back to the relative cool of the main mountain. I took Ty down the steep terrain of Lost Girlz, followed by Thundergoat Pass. We generally skipped the untracked powder down at Timberline, as it was just getting too dense and challenging. The partially tracked up snow was much easier to ski.

An image of fat skis outside the Bolton Valley Village Deli and Grocery at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
A deli lunch break for the boards

We made our way back to the main mountain after that, and finding that Wilderness still wasn’t open and there were substantial queues at the other lifts, we decided it was time for lunch. I called down to E and Dylan, and we met them for lunch at the Deli. I suspected that with all the patrons the resort had today, the lodge would be quite packed, and even the usually very quiet deli was hopping, so it was definitely a busy one out there. I actually think it’s interesting that so many people would come out after President’s Day, but Vulcan was a big storm and it caught a lot of people’s attention. After lunch, Ty headed down for some swimming with E and Dylan, and I contemplated another run or two. Finding the lift queues still fairly substantial, I decided to just call it a day. The skiing certainly wasn’t phenomenal enough that it warranted waiting in lift queues, especially since the snowfall was picking up and the possibilities for tomorrow were looking decent with cooler temperatures. I toured around the Village a bit and got some pictures, returned the pizza pans that Fireside Flatbread had lent us when we ordered pizza last Saturday, and finally worked my way down to the Sports Center. I worked on a jigsaw puzzle that was out in the recreation room while I waited for the others to finish swimming, and when they arrived, the battle was joined in a game of foosball. I forget how much fun stuff there is to do down at the Sports Center – we don’t visit to often because we’re usually headed home after skiing, but we’ll have to remember that there’s a lot more than just swimming.

Bolton Valley, VT 13MAR2014

An image of ski tracks in powder snow on the Twice as Nice trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Compliments of winter storm Vulcan

It was over a week ago that Typhoon Tip of the American Weather Forum spotted a potential winter storm of the Northeastern U.S. based on the overall large-scale weather patterns.  He started a thread that ran for dozens and dozens of pages, and as the time period in question approached, it looked more and more like Northern New England was going to be in the sweet spot for snow.  Folks up here were understandably cautious, as most storms have seemed to trend southward this season, but winter storm “Vulcan” formed, and walked right through Northern Vermont with up to 24 inches of snow at some of the local ski resorts as of this morning.  Although the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is running less than a foot below average depth, it’s actually been a pretty lean snow year for the Northern Greens, with places like Bolton Valley and Stowe not yet even reaching 200 inches of snowfall.  The on piste snow had definitely been a bit stale last weekend, so Vulcan was very welcomed with respect to both freshening surfaces and building the snowpack going into the spring skiing season.

“…this stuff put
down a ton of
liquid equivalent.”

I got the word in the morning that UVM wasn’t resuming classes until noontime because of the challenges of clearing all the snow, so after thoroughly clearing the driveway with the snow thrower, I headed up to Bolton Valley on my way in to Burlington.  I knew from the snow report that all the lifts were on hold due to the winds, so I brought my skins and planned on a quick ascent of Timberline.  Temperatures were in the single digits at the Timberline Base even as midday approached, but it actually turned out to be a very comfortable temperature for skinning with what I had on.   I generally found 14-18” of settled snow down at the 1,500’ elevation, and was therefore happy to see that there was indeed a skin track in place up Twice as Nice.  In actuality, it was a snowshoe track that had apparently been made by snow snowboarders, but it was well packed and accommodated my skins well.

I made quick time up to the top of Twice as Nice, ripped off my skins, and headed right back down.  This was definitely one of those situations where you never quite know how the snow is going to ski until you ski it, but I could tell it was probably going to be dense, so I had chosen Twice as Nice because of its more consistent pitch.  There was plenty of snow, but there wasn’t much of any fluff on top, so the powder skiing was fairly underwhelming, certainly by NVT standards.  Combined with the cold temperatures, the skiing was definitely “slow” this morning.  I’m glad I had my fattest skis at 115 mm underfoot, but even they didn’t keep me planing high enough on some of the shallower pitches.  After skiing it, I’m actually looking forward to trying the snow from this storm chopped up a bit in chowder form – the trails are going to be great at that stage because this stuff put down a ton of liquid equivalent.  There were certainly some good turns to be had, but nothing spectacular like you can get with fluffy Champlain Powder™.

On my way to Burlington on Route 2, I found myself running right alongside a locomotive, the 2674 from New England Central Railroad, and I was impressed with the way the snow was flying as it cleared the tracks of fresh snow.  I sped ahead to see if I could catch it at the Jonesville railroad crossing, and quickly parked the car along the side of the intersection there and go into position.  I was able to catch the locomotive blasting through the berm left by the plow, and the snow was flying everywhere.  Just moments after this, I saw a snow plow approach the intersection, and the driver was really excited to see if I’d gotten the shot.  I gave him a big “thumbs up” to let him know that I’d managed to get it, and couldn’t wait to have a chance to see just what it looked like.  I’d argue it looked like what a locomotive would do on a powder day.

An image of a locomotive hitting the snow at the Jonesville railroad crossing in Vermont
Catching a locomotive hitting the snow at the Jonesville railroad crossing

Stowe, VT 09MAR2014

An image of Luc above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont jumping off the ridgeline of Mt. Mansfield into powder below
It was the BJAMS boys dropping powder bombs off the Mansfield ridgeline today.

Jack had inquired about a hike to The Chin during our BJAMS ski program last Sunday, so while getting my ski group up into Stowe’s alpine terrain has been on my mind over the past couple of weeks, that really got me thinking about a hike for today.  The snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake has been sitting at roughly 60 inches for the past three weeks, so I’m satisfied with base depths, and the only other concern that would affect the quality of the skiing would be the usual suspects up there in the alpine like wind and sun crusts, etc. Temperatures also looked reasonable for today, with highs in the 10s and 20s F, and with no strong winds expected and lots of sunshine, it seemed like we were on for a trip above tree line.

“I shot a few pictures
of the accomplishment,
and then came the
highlight of the trip…
the jumping.”

Although I’d like to get them up onto The Chin into Profanity Chute at some point, with no direct knowledge of the current snow conditions in the alpine, and this being the boys’ first hike above tree line this season, something a little less aggressive was in order.  So, just like we did for our alpine outing on April 7th last season, I decided to go with a hike up Cliff Trail Gully, followed by skiing in that general vicinity.  With that plan in place, I met up with today’s group, which consisted of Kenny, Ty, Jack, and Luc, and informed them of the plan.  While Dylan is feeling quite chipper after his recent bout of illness, we want to make sure that his physician says he at 100% before we subject him to anything overly rambunctious.  So, after grabbing the feature photo on our last trip up Cliff Trail Gully, unfortunately he had to hold out in the base area today.

After a warm up run on Sunny Spruce with Connor while we waited for Jack, everyone was finally ready to go, so we headed to lockers to prepare the gear.  The guys got any water and snacks together, I did some fitting of their packs, and we were off to the Gondola.  Up at the Cliff House, I helped everyone attach their skis to packs, and in general after working with Kenny’s setup a bit, the arrangements were pretty good without too many skis hitting heads or legs.  Luc was carrying his skis, and I talked with him about switching arm positions as need and trying to let his shoulders do as much work as possible so that his arms wouldn’t get too tired.  Kenny was very excited, because he said it was the first time he’d ever hiked for skiing.

An image of Luc, Jack, and Kenny heading up the boot ladder in the Cliff Trail Gully on Mt. Mansfield above Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Up the boot ladder go the boys

There was a decent boot ladder in place, so Ty took the lead, the other boys followed, and I brought up the rear.  Ty was off like a shot, and within minutes it seemed like he was ¼ of the way up the gully and I had to reel him in a bit and tell him to hold so that the group could catch up.  He was good about that, and hung out on one of the obvious stopping plateaus created by the massive room-sized boulders that fill the gully.  Kenny was taking his time while he figured out what this whole “hiking with skis” process is all about, and I while I hung out with him, I gave him lots of tips on how to move efficiently in the terrain.  He was floored by how fast Ty flew up the gully, and I let him know that Ty had done an awful lot of this kind of hiking and that he’d be much faster as he got used to it.  The boot ladder wasn’t too bad, but in some spots you could tell that it was made by someone with fairly long legs.  That set the boys at a disadvantage, but they worked it out, and I’m sure Ty was putting in plenty of shorter steps that they got to use.  I did get to express to them how if they’re ever the first to set the boot ladder, shorter spaces between steps are the way to go, as they work for everyone.

As we climbed higher in the gully, Kenny was very impressed by the views, and I told him how they would just keep getting better with every step.  Kenny really started to catch his groove with the hiking when we got into the upper, less steep half of the gully, and he commented on how much easier it was getting.  Once into the upper half of the gully, Ty and Luc quickly gained the ridge line, and it wasn’t long before the rest of us caught up and we were there.  The wind was minimal and the sun was warm, so the boys immediately started to explore the immediate area above the gully.  I shot a few pictures of the accomplishment, and then came the highlight of the trip… the jumping.

An image of Ty jumping off the ridge line of Mt. Mansfield above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont into powder below
It was jumps, jumps, and more jumps!

There hasn’t been much snow to set up a big cornice along the ridge, but there was at least a little bit of one, and more importantly, plenty of snow deposited just below on the leeward side of the ridge.  I can’t recall who suggested it first, but the boys quickly got into a session of leaps, slides, tumbles, and bomb holing, all thanks to the deep snow deposited below the ridge.  I’d say they had a good half hour session of jumping before I reminded them of the time and pointed out that we weren’t going to get in much additional skiing today if we didn’t get going.  The boys were able to pull themselves away, and after a few snacks, we started our descent of the gully.

An image of Ty skiing the Cliff Trail Gully on Mt. Mansfield above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Finally, the boys made the ski descent of the gully.

The snow conditions were actually somewhat challenging, with a few pockets of soft snow, but a lot of wind slab, dense snow, and even pockets of leftover rain crust.  The boys really showed their technical abilities, applying a range of techniques to take on some impressively steep, tight, and scratchy lines down the gully.  I kept my eyes peeled for other options off to the skiers left, but with the current snowpack, nothing immediately jumped out that was worth pursuing.  So, the boys finished their run right down through the Cliff Trail Gully itself, and it was quite impressive.

Of course, one great part about a run down from Mansfield’s alpine areas is that you have an entire run of 2,000+ vertical feet still to go.  The boys chose Mac and Cheese, which actually seemed sort of tame after what they’d just done.  We followed that up with some trees and bumps on Lower National.  We also had time for one more run over at Spruce Peak once we got back.  Actually, despite the time taken up by the hike and the run down the gully, I’m glad the boys spent a lot of time up there, because in general, the conditions on piste were pretty unimpressive.  The off piste snow in places such as the Nosedive Glades was reasonable packed powder, even if well packed after this past week with minimal new snow, but trails with snowmaking and high traffic are really quite icy.  There’s powder in the trees, but naturally it’s getting harder to come by at this point, and the boys weren’t really missing out on too much down below.  Luc even commented on how he didn’t like the snow when we were down on Lower National, so he’s definitely refining his preference for good snow. Fortunately, it looks like we might get some storms this week, so hopefully we’ll have some softer conditions next weekend.  Hopefully we’ll be back at Stowe for more fun in the snow.

Bolton Valley, VT 08MAR2014

An image of Ty skiing powder in the Villager Trees area at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
There hasn’t been much fresh powder this week, but there’s still plenty out there.

As soon as I got back from my backcountry ski tour in the Monroe Trail area of Camel’s Hump, I checked in with Ty to see if he was still interested in heading up to Bolton Valley for some lift-served turns.  I grabbed my fat skis off the car’s ski rack, traded them for some mid fats, and as soon as Ty was dressed, we were off.  I was unsure how the trails were going to be, since we haven’t had much snow this week, but in any event it seemed like it would worth taking at least a couple of runs.

It was already after 4:00 P.M. when we started skiing, so I was expecting we’d have just the night skiing terrain to choose from, but that wasn’t the case.  The Cobrass suite of runs was all still open, so Ty and I headed that way and dropped into the Villager Trees.  Not surprisingly with little recent snow, the main lines were tracked, but traversing out got us into some decent powder.  There was still that crust under there, but the powder was often deep enough to keep you floating above it, even though we were only on mid fat skis.  We finished off down by Snowflake, so did a run through the Bonus Woods to get us back down to the bottom of the Vista Quad.  We explored around a lot in the Bonus Woods, finding mostly nice powder, although we’d occasionally encounter some crust and it made for comical results.  When we arrived at the top of Vista on our next run, it was approaching 6:00 P.M., but the sun was still out and patrol had not yet roped off the trails in the Cobrass area.  Seeing that, we took a run down Preacher and part of Devil’s Playground.  Ty and I talked about how when he was little, he was intimidated by the steeps in Devil’s Playground, but now he just attacks them like they’re nothing.  The snow in that general was OK, but we could definitely use another storm to freshen things up.  It actually sounds like we might have some systems of various types next week, so that would really get the March skiing rolling.

When we were done skiing, we stopped in and ordered up a couple of pies to go at Fireside Flatbread.  While we were in line to place our order, Ty was face to face with some of the pizzas behind the glass that were out for slices, and being a huge fan of their crust, he was really drooling over it.  I have to say, we were both quite hungry and it did look really good.  The guys were actually out of pizza boxes, so they actually created one for me out of some other box – and gave me the pizzas to go right on their pizza pans.  Hats off to the guys behind the counter for solving the issue, and we’ll have their pans back to them real soon!

Camel’s Hump – Monroe Trail, VT 08MAR2014

An image of ski tracks in one of the glades off the Monroe Trail  on the east side of Camel's Hump in Vermont
Out for some powder on the east side of Camel’s Hump today

It’s been a light week for snowfall here in the Northern Greens; since the storm that hit the area last Sunday, we’ve had generally cold and dry weather, with just one small round of snow in the Tuesday-Wednesday timeframe. That got me thinking about a backcountry tour for today. My initial inclination was to head northward, since as our snowy Sunday outing at Stowe confirmed, the northern mountains had really picked up the most snow, and accumulations tapered off as you headed southward. With that in mind, I was thinking of heading to Nebraska Notch for some turns. However, yesterday’s and today’s weather history also needed to be factored into the mix. Temperatures reached above freezing in some spots yesterday, and today was looking similar, so I figured that something sheltered and with relatively high elevation was the way to go for the best snow. I decided to head to some of the skiing around the Monroe Trail, on the Waterbury/Duxbury side of Camel’s Hump. I had planned to have Ty come with me, but at the last moment he decided that he didn’t want to skin today, so I said we’d head up to Bolton Valley for some lift-served turns when I got back from the tour.

It’s been over four years since I last visited the Monroe Trail area of Camel’s Hump for skiing. On that outing, I followed the Monroe Trail up to the large cliffs beneath the peak of Camel’s Hump, then traversed somewhat northward to set up for a descent fairly distant from the trail and toward the glades that drop down near the trailhead. I got in some good skiing in the trees, but really just caught the end of the glades, so I knew there would be more lines to explore. This time, my plan was to simply skin up one of the descent tracks made by skiers coming down through the glades, since it would save a lot of time traversing around up high to find the best starting points.

I headed out from the house a bit before noon, and temperatures were in the mid 30s F. The temperature fell as I headed up Camel’s Hump Road, dropping to 31 F by the time I reached the winter parking area at ~1,200’. Just a couple hundred feet below the parking area, I’d seen the first flakes of snow from a small system that was expected to come through in the afternoon. From the trailhead at ~1,500’, I skinned up the Monroe Trail for a few more minutes and then as the trail started to bend southward, I jumped onto one of the ski tracks coming down out of the obvious glades in the terrain above. The tracks traversed northward for a bit, but then gradually began to make a more direct ascent up toward the east face of Camel’s Hump. I was a little worried about the snow quality, because although it was below freezing and most snow that wasn’t in the sun was still wintry and dry, there were only a few inches of powder above an old crust. I wasn’t quite sure how that was going to ski. But, the snow got better and better as I ascended, with the powder on top of any crust getting deeper and deeper. It was really nice skinning though – the temperatures were just below freezing, the wind was calm, and light snow was falling in association with the afternoon’s storm. I hiked in just a vest over my polypropylene base layer, and quickly had my hat off as well.

As I ascended, it became obvious that the lower parts of the glades represented a common track to regain the Monroe Trail, but in the higher elevations, there were a number of interconnected glades from which to choose. About halfway through the ascent, I stuck with a glade that was generally on the skier’s right of the area that had seen very little traffic. There was just one very old descent track in it, and that track was actually hard to find at times because so much snow had fallen on it since it had been made. I knew that there were other glades around to my north, because I saw a couple of skiers descending in that area. After generally rejoining with tracks from some of the other glades, I traveled for a bit through more gently sloped terrain until I hit the trail for the Camel’s Hump Challenge at roughly 2,800’. I followed that northward a bit more until I topped out around the 3,000’ mark in some of the upper glades just below the Cliffs of Camel’s Hump. The quality of the snow had definitely improved up at that elevation, with any crust buried below several inches of powder.

I had a snack, switched my gear over, and then began my descent. There were some decent turns above the Camel’s Hump Challenge Trail, but the best turns were definitely when I got onto that lesser used glade below that point. The highest quality snow was in the top half of the vertical, and with my fat skis it was generally soft, bottomless turns. On the lower half of the descent, even my fat skis weren’t enough to always keep me floating, as the depth of the powder decreased to just a few inches; to best handle any partially tracked and/or narrower sections of terrain, I had to inject a lot more alpine turns into the mix vs. just Telemark turns. I did venture off the main glade that I was on at times, and there was plenty of skiing to be had right in the natural trees all around. I saw one other skier as I was descending – he was ascending through the glades as I’d done. He and his dog moved out of the way when he saw me off in the trees beyond the glade, but after I let him know that I was solo and nobody else would be coming down behind me, he quickly resumed his ascent.

Just as I’d experienced on my last outing in the area, from the bottom of the glades it was an easy downhill ski on the Monroe Trail itself. I was even able to catch some turns in the powder off to the side of the snow-covered roadway below the trailhead, then shouldered my skis to walk the last tenth of a mile back to the parking area. The temperature was 31 F just as it had been when I arrived, and the light snow had mostly tapered off down at that elevation. Despite the deeper snow and lack of a defined skin track in the glades relative to the beautifully packed nature of the Monroe Trail, I almost wonder if it’s more efficient to ascend in some cases because it’s a much shorter distance due to the way the Monroe Trail wraps around so far to the south. In terms of preserving the powder and ascending if the unconsolidated snow is deep and there aren’t many descent tracks, the Monroe Trail is the way to go, but now that I’ve gone up via both routes, I’d say they are both pretty convenient options. Hopefully I can get E and the boys along on one of these Monroe Trail trips – now that I’ve had a couple of sessions out there, I think I could guide them on a great tour.

A Google Earth map with GPS data from a ski tour in Vermont on the east face of Camel's Hump in the area of the Monroe Trail
The GPS data from today’s backcountry ski tour overlaid onto Google Earth


Stowe, VT 02MAR2014

An image of Luc dropping into some deep snow in the Kitchen Wall area at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The boys out in the white stuff today on one of those sleeper powder days at Stowe

One of the early signs that Stowe has received a decent shot of overnight snow, is when Powderfreak sends out a pre-sunrise update and you see some nice depth to the snowy tire tracks in the parking lot.  That’s the way it went this morning, and since a few inches down low can mean even more up high.  It definitely piqued my interest, and suggested that we should go for one of those morning starts ahead of our afternoon ski program.  With Dylan still under the weather, and E staying home with him, it would be just Ty and I heading out today.  I waited until Ty woke up, he grabbed a quick bite, and we were off.

“Depth checks revealed powder close to two feet on north and other protected aspects, and while that crusty layer from a couple of weeks ago was presumably in there, it’s so deeply buried now that you’d never know.”

An image of Ty skiing powder in the open terrain above the Meadows trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Ripping up some big turns above Meadows

The lifts hadn’t been running too long at Spruce Peak when we arrived, and you could tell by the tracks that were appearing that there was some great fresh snow.  We suited up in Spruce Camp, and then hopped on Sunny Spruce for a quick first run.  When we saw that Freddie’s Chute was open, we headed right there and caught some of the fresh lines still available along the skier’s right.  The snow that fell overnight was some gorgeous light and dry Champlain Powder™.  There were several inches of new snow, and it skied really well, even if it didn’t have the density to keep you off the subsurface in previously tracked areas.  We grabbed first tracks on some lines we knew in the Lower Smugglers Trees, and found the turns to be mostly bottomless there.  We finished off with a run through the terrain above Meadows – there wasn’t quite enough powder to be bottomless down at those low elevations on south facing terrain, but the snow provided a good amount of resistance to make the turns fun.

“It was just me
and Ty, and a
couple hundred
acres of fluff.”

It was off to Mansfield next for some Gondola runs.  We started with a run in which I introduced Ty to a full trip through the Hazelton Zone.  With the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake above 60” now, there are no concerns about coverage.  We just let our noses guide us through the terrain, and it was powder-filled adventure through streambeds, powder fields and steep river banks.  We didn’t see another soul, and we didn’t even run into any tracks until we got down toward the main line in the bottom half of the area.  It was just me and Ty, and a couple hundred acres of fluff.  Depth checks revealed powder close to two feet on north and other protected aspects, and while that crusty layer from a couple of weeks ago was presumably in there, it’s so deeply buried now that you’d never know.  South facing chutes were where that crust was evident though – there featured conditions with more like six inches of powder with a crusty base underneath.  Once we found that out though, we stuck to the north facing terrain and other aspects where there were no problems.  Ty said he loved the explorations and skiing in the area, along with the roller coaster exit traverse at the end.  One comment he made was that the run seemed sort of long, which I’d argue is a nice problem to have.  Our next run was through the Tombo Woods followed by some of the Switchback Trees, where the snow was great all the way to the bottom.  When I did a depth check around the 2,000’-2,500’ mark on Switchback, I got a reading of 6 inches for the new snow.  Ty noticed that his fat skis were serving him well, keeping him planing atop the snow and moving even when the terrain flattened out.

An iamge of Ty skiing some powder snow in the Hazelton area of Mt. Mansfield at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
In the morning it was Ty and I getting to rip up the powder on Mansfield together.

Ty and I headed in for lunch at the Great Room Grill, getting sandwiches from the deli area, and then met up with Luc and Jack for our afternoon session.  We started them off with the run that Ty and I had skied in the morning, and Ty like the fact that he’d had both first and third tracks through the Lower Smugglers Trees for the day.  Back over on Mansfield, we took a great run through the Kitchen Wall area, and worked our way all the way through the Goatdive Woods and some of the Liftline Trees.  Jack hurt his leg a bit on a run through the Sunrise trees, so we made our way back to Spruce, where he took it easy for the last hour in the lodge while the rest of the group finished off with some runs on SensationMain Street was an interesting mix of hard manmade racing snow below the fresh stuff, but outside the racing fences was some really good powder.  We’ll definitely be back to check out some of the new routes we learned there.  This was definitely one of those sleeper Stowe powder days that sneak in under the radar – we were psyched to have it on a Sunday.