Tag Archives: Skinning

Stowe & Mt. Mansfield Chin, VT 25APR2009

An image of some of the trails of Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont taken from the alpine area up near the Chin of Mt. Mansfield
Looking back at the resort trails today as I head up into the alpine

The boys were more interested in planting flowers with Mom on Saturday than skiing, so unfortunately I couldn’t interest them in going out for some turns.  This meant that I was on a solo outing, but the upside was that I’d be able to do a much bigger tour than I would have been able to with Ty, or especially with Dylan.  The skies were clear and blue all Saturday morning on what was likely our warmest day of the spring up to that point.  The temperature was already around 80 F when I pulled into Stowe’s Midway lot (~1,700’) in the early afternoon, and with the forecast for temperatures in that range, I hadn’t been too optimistic about the snow quality.  My major goal was to at least get in a good workout, so I was willing to negotiate some sloppy snow on the descent if that was the way it had to be.

Snow was available right from the Midway Lodge elevation, with just a couple hundred feet of fairly flat walking on grass to get on it from the parking lot.  I was immediately surprised when I got on the snow and found that it wasn’t sloppy at all; it was all corn with just the top inch or so loosened up.  That’s the sort of corn that seems to provide some of the easiest turns, so I was immediately enthusiastic about the potential for a quality descent.  There wasn’t much of a breeze in the lower elevations, but the snow helped keep the air temperature a bit cooler and the ascent was very enjoyable.  For ascent attire I’d gone about as minimally as I felt comfortable doing, with a short sleeve polypropylene T-shirt and my ski pants with the side zippers fully open, and that worked out to be a comfortable setup for the temperature.  I hadn’t made a non-powder ascent on skins in a while, and I was quickly reminded how the lightness of Telemark gear allows you to simply fly up the slopes.  Before I knew it I was up at the Cliff House (3,625’) and feeling great, so I decided to keep going up into the alpine.

I set my skis onto my pack and hit the climbing gully.  There was a bit of rotten snow in spots, and as I didn’t immediately find a boot ladder, I had visions of an inefficient, sloppy climb with lots of post-holing.  I’d already post-holed a few times in the outskirts of the gully (it only took one of those to remind me to get my ski pants zipped up at least halfway) but fortunately, about 50 feet up the climbing gully I found a boot ladder made by some nice big feet.  That made the going fairly smooth, and the views of the Green and White Mountains continued to improve with each step.  Near the top of the gully, I ran into a guy about to descend.  He had spent an overnight or two on the mountain, and said that he’d been amazed to find fresh powder on Friday morning when he’d started skiing.  It sounds like along with Thursday morning, Friday morning had also been good in the higher elevations with regard to fresh snow.  The downside of the fresh snow was that conditions in the alpine were still a bit sloppy.  The new snow had not yet cycled to corn in the highest elevations, so it just wasn’t going to provide an optimal surface.  By the time I departed from my conversation in the gully, I was moments from the Mansfield ridge line.  Up on the ridge I enjoyed the new westerly views of the Champlain Valley and Adirondacks, and decided to stop in at the top of The Chin (4,395’) since I was so close.  There was a small group of college students enjoying the popular leeward side of the summit, and there was a pleasant breeze of probably 15 MPH or so.  The high temperature for the day at the Mt. Mansfield Stake came in at 67 F, so I suspect that the summit maximum temperature was probably close to that.  Getting an April day like that at the top of The Chin is certainly a treat.

For my descent, I wasn’t able to ski right in the summit or the West Chin area due to lack of snow, but I was able to ski down the gully where the Long Trail drops away from The Chin as it heads south.  It was quite a perspective to see the snow create a flat surface through the gully, when in the off season it’s a 10-foot deep chasm containing the hiking trail.  I had to remove my skis to descend the very top of the climbing gully, but below that point one could keep them on continuously.  As expected, the new snow up high that hadn’t fully cycled to corn wasn’t as nice as the corn snow on the bottom 2,000’, but I actually had some fun turns in the climbing gully, and it let me work on Telemark turns in steeper, tighter confines.  I still had to make some alpine turns and throw in some side slipping up there since some areas were just so tight, but overall the gully allowed a good mix of styles.  The crème de la crème of snow surfaces for the day was probably the top half of the Gondolier descent.  There must have been very little traffic up there because most of the snow surface was just a smooth layer of ripe corn.  The lower half of Gondolier still had nice corn snow, but the surface wasn’t as smooth as the top half of trail.  Perhaps the lower elevations had experienced more melting that started forming aberrations in the surface.  Based on my GPS data, it looks like my descent was 2,720’, not quite what you can get for vertical in the winter when you head all the way back down to Route 108, but still a decent run.  There were still about 7 feet of snow at the stake on Saturday, and even though that level has dropped some with the recent warmth we’ve had, skiing should available on Mt. Mansfield for a while.

A Google Earth/GPS map showing the route of a ski tour up through Stowe Mountain Resort to the Chin of Mt. Mansfield on April 25th, 2009
A Google Earth/GPS map of today’s ski tour up to the Chin of Mt. Mansfield – Click the image for a full size map

Bolton Valley, VT 19FEB2009

An image looking down the Vermont 200 trail filled with powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Bolton is starting off this storm cycle with about a foot of powder to greet midweek visitors.

By the time I’d left the house (495’) at 7:30 A.M. this morning, we’d picked up 0.6 additional inches of snow since the 6:00 A.M. snowboard clearing, bringing the event total to 4.1 inches.  It had been snowing lightly at the house when I left, but when I arrived up at the Bolton Valley Village area (2,100’) it was snowing moderately and still accumulating.  The mountain had reported 7 inches of new snow as of their 6:45 A.M. update, but I suspected I’d find a bit more based on the way it was coming down.  The lifts weren’t going to start loading until 9:00 A.M., so I kicked off the morning off by skinning for some turns, taking the route straight up Beech Seal.  I first checked the consistency of the snow near the base area; I couldn’t quite make a snowball out of it in my hand, so I guess I’d describe it as medium weight powder.  Beech Seal had been groomed at some point earlier, but I found about 2 to 4 inches of additional new snow on top of the groomed base.

“…today Spillway
offered up some
gorgeous steep
powder.”

When I reached mid mountain (2,500’) I checked the depth of the powder in an undisturbed location and it came in right at 12 inches.  That should represent the combination of powder from last week’s midweek system (~6 inches) as well as whatever had come down up to that point with this new event, so that seemed reasonable.  Wind doesn’t appear to have been much a factor with this system, so getting measurements was easy.  I was thinking of skinning up in the Cobrass area, but there was enough powder to keep me following one of the snowmobile tracks for my ascent.  At about 9:00 A.M. I’d reached the top of Vermont 200 (~3,000’), and when I checked the depth of the new snow there I found that it was at 9 inches.

“It was really nice
to see all the visitors
getting rewarded with
such a splendid day
on the slopes.”

I enjoyed first tracks down Vermont 200, and this new round of snow had settled in nicely.  The medium-density powder was just what the doctor had ordered in terms of getting the windswept steeps back into shape.  I was on my Telemark skis, and found that the consistency of the snow made for really easy turns.  After my initial descent I stayed around for some rides on the lift, and unquestionably the trail pick of the day for me was Spillway.  Usually I avoid it like the plague between its man-made snow, exposure to the wind, and traffic, but today Spillway offered up some gorgeous steep powder.  The fact that it has seen grooming in the past made the subsurface the most consistent and provided lots of nice bottomless turns, and since there didn’t appear to be much wind with this event, there were no issues on that front.  I had to hit it twice because it was so good, and I’d say it was better than even Hard Luck or Vermont 200.  The Wilderness Lift opened right around 10:00 A.M., and I was fortunate to catch one of the first few chairs.  The way the steeper trails had been skiing so nicely, I opted for Bolton Outlaw from the Wilderness Summit, and it was in great shape.  After that descent I traversed back toward the main mountain.  I followed a random set of tracks off New Sherman’s Pass and found a nice region of glades that I’d never explored before.

An image looking down the Bolton Outlaw trail with fresh snow at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Things were looking great on Bolton Outlaw today

The mountain definitely had more than its usual midweek handful of people this morning.  A lot of the extra folks I saw were children, and I think some of the schools in the Northeast have vacation right now because I heard what sounded like a Boston-style accent on a couple of occasions.  It was really nice to see all the visitors getting rewarded with such a splendid day on the slopes.

The moderate snowfall had gradually tapered off through the morning, and when I left the mountain around 10:40 A.M. there was just light snow and the temperature at my car (~2,100’) was 34 F.   The temperature stayed fairly stable through most of the descent down the Bolton Valley Access Road, but at the bottom (340’) it was up to 35 F.  The precipitation was light snow as I drove westward through the Winooski Valley to the center of Richmond.  The temperature there was up to 36 F however, and I was surprised to see that Richmond appeared to have picked up little if any snow from this event.  When I’d reached the I-89 rest area in Williston, the temperature was up to 37 F and the precipitation was over to rain, which was coming down at moderate intensity for a while.  In the South Burlington area the temperature was up to 38 F, and when I finally arrived at the UVM campus it had hit 39 F.

Bolton Valley was officially reporting 8 inches from this event as of their 10:05 A.M. update, so I don’t think we’ll have any trouble getting into Scott’s 10-20” inch prediction range with some upslopeIt sounds like this is one of the best upslope setups we’ve seen this season, so it should be fun to see how it plays out for the mountains and even the mountain valleys over the next couple of days.  It’s expected to start up tonight so I’ll certainly report on whatever makes it down to our elevation in Waterbury.  Images from today can be found in the gallery below, and full size versions are also available in the report to SkiVT-L from today.

Bolton Valley Backcountry, VT 11FEB2007

An image of part of the VAST (Vermont Area Snow Travelers) used as part of a backcountry ski tour in the Bolton Valley backcountry
Out on the VAST trail during today’s tour

Today I headed out for some backcountry exploration in the Bolton area. I was sure that James would still be resting his ankle, so once again I made it a solo outing. After exploring part of the Cotton Brook drainage the previous week, I decided to switch it up and check out something on the other side of the valley. A convenient starting area for reaching the terrain on the western side of the valley is one of the VAST (Vermont Association of Snow Travelers) access points. The ample parking lot sits at an elevation of roughly 1,000 feet on the Bolton Valley Access Road. My plan was to start out on the VAST trail that heads west from the parking area, and make my way up to the ridge line that extends north from Stimson Mountain. The summit of Stimson Mountain is at 2,002 feet, and the ridge maintains roughly that elevation for several miles as it heads northward toward the Bolton Mountain area. If I was able to find a suitable route to the ridge, and the terrain was appropriate, the tour would provide about 1,000 vertical feet of skiing.

I arrived at the trailhead in late morning to sunny skies and a temperature of 19 degrees F. There was only one snowmobile trailer in the lot at that time, so the lot looked pretty deserted. I started skinning westward on the nicely maintained VAST trail, which at first had a fairly gradual slope. Then, I crossed a large bridge, and the trail steepened. After maybe 50-100 vertical feet, the trail flattened out and turned to the south. At that point I decided to break away from the VAST trail and head westward up the ridge. The going would be slower once I had to get off the trail and break my own way through the powder, but as far as I could tell without a VAST map, the VAST trail headed more southward and was not going to get me up the ridge where I wanted to be. I finally broke off the VAST trail at the intersection with an old logging road. There was a sign indicating that the logging road was not open for VAST travel.

Despite breaking my own trail, the going was pretty smooth. I’d checked the depth of the powder just after I started my hike, and found it to be 9 inches over whatever thicker layer was below it. At the bottom of the logging road, the snow was still in the 9-12-inch range, so I wasn’t bogged down by too much depth. I continued upward, following a network of logging roads and taking the route that seemed to best direct me toward my destination on the ridge. I spied plenty of great ski lines along the way, and I marked a few of the more attractive ones on my GPS. The logging road seemed to have been maintained and it made for quick travel; at least it appeared that way with the snowpack at the time. If there was a forest of saplings growing on the road, they were long buried under the snowpack. There was only one obstacle that forced me to detour from the logging roads, a huge tree that lay across the trail near the middle of the hike. It took a few extra minutes to work my way around that one. Currently, with the additional 3 to 4 feet of new snow from Wednesday’s storm, that tree is probably not even an issue.

My route took me generally westward up the ridge, with a bit of northward movement toward the end. About 2/3 of the way through the hike, I came across a large flat area, and above it was some of the steepest terrain I’d seen on the day. The terrain there actually looked a bit too steep and rocky for skiing, so the slight northward trend worked well to keep me in more skiable terrain. Near the top of the hike I attained nice views of the Timberline area across the valley. I could even hear the announcer for the ski race that was taking place over there. The race was presumably a continuation of the event that Ty and I had seen the previous day. High clouds had been building in throughout my trip, so at that point the sunshine was no longer as brilliant as it had been when I started the hike.

After several minutes of additional climbing, I finally hit the ridge. While the powder just below the ridge had built up to a depth of around 15 inches, on the ridge itself, the snow was heavily compacted and drifted. In some places, the snow had been scoured down to just a few inches in depth. Small trees all across the ridgeline had been bent over and snapped by the strong prevailing winds that raked the area. To the west below me was Bolton Notch, and I could see what looked like some skiable lines dropping eastward toward the Bolton Notch Road. I actually thought I heard the voices of a couple of people below me in the notch, but it was very faint and I couldn’t get a fix on their location. I hiked around the summit ridge for a bit while I had a snack and a drink, then removed my skins and started down.

To ensure that I’d be able to get right back to the car without having to do any hiking along the access road, I followed a downhill route in the same general area as my skin track. Sometimes I traversed out above my skin track and skied back down to it, but for much of the run I was able to stay off to the skier’s left of my skin track and follow the natural contour of the terrain. Even with the snowpack below average (as gauged by the snow depth at the stake on Mt. Mansfield being at only ~54 inches), one could pretty much ski anywhere in the area I explored. There were always some lines that seemed to be the pick of the crop, but there were few areas where the vegetation was too thick for turns. There was plenty of powder for bottomless turns throughout the descent, and the depth of the base let me tackle the lines with a fair degree of confidence. With the potential for 3 to 4 feet of snow from the storm this coming Wednesday, I suspect there will be even more wide open lines. A storm of the size expected would likely bring the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield stake close to 80 inches, which would actually be above average for this time of year.

For the final pitch down to the VAST trail, I actually skied the last part of the logging road I’d ascended. It was steep enough that it made for some pretty nice turns. The Avocet recorded 920 vertical feet of descent and the Suunto recorded 958 vertical feet of descent, a difference of 4.0%. The high clouds had continued to build in throughout the tour, so the temperature at the end of my run was pretty much the same as it had been when I started skinning. It was a fun and easy trip with great access.