Stowe, VT 21APR2018

Erica, Ty, and Dylan standing around the fire pit outside the Solstice Restaurant at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing some fresh snow in late April on the Nosedive trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Today we were able to get out into some of the powder from our recent upslope snowstorm on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield, topped off with a convenient stay right at the Stowe Mountain Lodge.

Since school was out of session due to vacation week, E’s been thinking about some sort of getaway for the family.  Quebec City and Maine came up as possible destinations, but with the Green Mountains having just reeled in some great powder due to our recent upslope event, doing something more local seemed like an obvious choice.  That decision was heavily reinforced after E and I skied some great powder at Bolton Valley yesterday, and after weighing a number of options we ultimately decided to head to Stowe for some earned turns and a stay at the Stowe Mountain Lodge.  They’ve got some fantastic amenities, and the rates this time of year are great because they’re in between the winter and summer seasons.

An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont with fresh snow on a sunny day in April
The fresh snow on Mt. Mansfield was astonishingly white today in the late April sunshine.

We kicked things off this morning with a start at the Midway Lot, which had dozens of vehicles in it from folks with similar ideas.  It was approaching mid-morning when we arrived, so I was surprised at how many people were heading right up Gondolier in the sun.  With that morning sun and warming temperatures, I was leery of how well the winter snow would hold on the Gondola side.  E and the boys and I opted to head toward Nosedive, which generally has much more protected snow when sun and warmth are a concern.  The Nosedive area had certainly seen some skier and rider traffic already, and there was a nice double skin track in place that made for easy conversation and passing options during the ascent.  Ty was feeling really good on the climb and cruised ahead of the rest of us, eventually waiting for us up around the 3,000’ mark.  We joined up and topped out at the 3,300’ plateau just below the Nosedive switchbacks.

An image of the Nosedive trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after a late April snowfall
Nosedive today

We stopped below the switchbacks because the snow quality was good, and the narrow width of the trail above that elevation meant that the snow was pretty much tracked out.  The consistency of the snow had definitely changed substantially over the course of the ascent.  At base elevations it was already getting rather wet with the rising temperatures, and by the time we finished our ascent it was fairly dry, dense powder.  There wasn’t any sharp transition zone for the snow consistency, it had just changed ever so gradually with each step we’d ascended.

“The broad upper slopes of Nosedive definitely held the best snow we found today. The powder was dense, but dry, and there were plenty of areas of untracked snow to crank out some nice turns.”

The broad upper slopes of Nosedive definitely held the best snow we found today.  The powder was dense, but dry, and there were plenty of areas of untracked snow to crank out some nice turns.  The whole descent was definitely fun, although the last few hundred vertical feet, where we’d actually switched over to Lower National to get to some snow that had seen less traffic, held snow that had gotten pretty wet in the warming temperatures.  The best snow could be found on the shady side of the trails, and I even jumped into the trees in several spots on the lower half of the run and found some excellent turns.

An image of Erica skiing some fresh snow on the Nosedive trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont with Ty and Dylan looking on
E and the boys out in some of the fresh snow on Nosedive today

When the skiing was done, we checked in at the Stowe Mountain Lodge and had some appetizers at the Hourglass Lounge.  E and the boys did some swimming, and we had dinner at Solstice, which was a real treat.  They were taking part in Vermont Restaurant Week, and my first course was an amazing smoky tomato soup.  The boys and I headed out later in the evening for some night swimming, which was definitely a bit thrilling in the chill of a cold clear evening.  Naturally we spent a good amount of time in one of the hot tubs, although the pool was also a nice temperature for cooling back down a bit after that heat.

I think everyone would be up for doing a similar trip again in the future, especially if we can order up some of these late season April snowstorms atop such a deep snowpack!

Bolton Valley, VT 20APR2018

An image of Erica skiing the Alta Vista trail in fresh April powder at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
An image of ski tracks in fresh powder on the Alta Vista trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
Our latest April storm brought another heaping helping of midwinter powder to the slopes of Bolton Valley.

April temperatures have been running several degrees below average here in Northern Vermont, and for those awaiting warmth, the winter weather must feel simply interminable.  Some of us don’t have a whisper of complaint though, since we know when we’ve got a good thing going.  While average April temperatures around here can bring snow, below average temperatures typically bring more snow, drier snow, and preserve the snowpack.  With the approach of the current storm, the National Weather Service in Burlington was already talking about the potential for the snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake to get back up to 100 inches, and as of this evening’s co-op report, indeed it’s there.  The snowpack is essentially wall-to-wall everywhere in the local mountains here, so topping that off with fresh powder is a recipe for some awesome skiing and riding.

“Well let’s just say, the turns were fantastic – we had medium to moderately dense midwinter powder covering everything, temperatures near 30 F, and an almost fully untracked resort to ski.”

It’s spring vacation week for E and the boys, so E was able to join me this morning for a tour in the new snow up at Bolton Valley.  We’ve had substantial accumulations of snow all the way to the valley floors with this latest storm, so I knew the potential was there for some dry, winter-style snow up at elevation.  We headed out this morning amidst light snow at the house, and arrived in the Bolton Valley Village to steady snow and temperatures in the upper 20s F.  A quick check on the new snow in the parking lot around 2,000’ revealed accumulations of 5 to 6 inches.

We started skinning right from the car up the Lower Turnpike ascent route, and found a decent skin track in place with just a couple inches of additional snow in it.  We eventually worked our way over toward Vista and the depth of the new snow continued to steadily increase with elevation.  By the time we topped out above 3,000’ on Alta Vista, my depth checks on the powder were revealing 10 to 11 inches.  We de-skinned by the trees out of the wind, and E was pretty slick with her ski-on skin removal.

An image looking up the Alta Vista trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont with a fresh coating of April powder
Looking up Alta Vista with a fresh blanket of white
An image of Erica skiing powder near the Vista Summit at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont
E throwing around some of today’s powder at Bolton Valley.

On the entire ascent the snow quality was looking really good, but you never quite know how things are going to ski until you drop.  Well let’s just say, the turns were fantastic – we had medium to moderately dense midwinter powder covering everything, temperatures near 30 F, and an almost fully untracked resort to ski.  Wind effects were pretty minimal on much of the mountain so it really was a dense, velvety resurfacing that skied like a dream.  It’s definitely a good time to get out there and enjoy those uncrowded slopes with all this new snow.

An image of a Sonar Blue lens for Anon M2 GoglesWith the continuing snowfall during today’s tour, I went with our Sonar Blue lenses for my Anon M2 Goggles.  They’ve got 46% visible light transmission and are recommended for graybird days and tree skiing, but they were definitely a good fit for today even with snowfall since we’re talking late-April light.

In an update from this afternoon, eyewall noted that he encountered about 7 inches of new snow at the Bolton Valley Village elevation, so it sounds like they’d picked up another inch or two with the additional snow since E and I had left.  That would put accumulations near the summits around a foot, so it’s definitely been a nice April event for the mountains around here.

An image of a tractor with snow in Richmond Vermont after an April snowstorm
Enjoying the snowy April views from the valley – cool temperatures have brought snow accumulations all the way to the valley bottoms with this latest storm.

Bolton Valley, VT 07APR2018

An image of Ty skiing in the Wilderness Woods area of Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
An image of Ty skiing the Cougar trail at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
A bit of snow fell yesterday and overnight to freshen up the slopes at Bolton Valley.

A modest winter storm came into the area on Friday and left up to 8 inches of new snow at the Vermont ski areasBolton Valley was reporting 3 inches up top, which seemed like a fairly minimal covering over the base snow that’s seen plenty of spring cycling, but we figured it was worth heading up for a couple of runs to see how the accumulations had settled in.  Sometimes 3 inches can ski like 3 inches, or sometimes it can ski like more, depending on how it was distributed and how densely it settled.

Ty and I headed up fairly early to find bright April sun among some on and off clouds, and temperatures in the upper 20s F.  We took an initial run on the Snowflake Chair to make our way over to the Vista Quad, and while we found the groomed terrain was skiing nicely, we didn’t really find that the snow was enough to get the skiing shaped up off piste, at least down there below the 2,500’ mark.

An image from the base of the Snowflake Chair at Bolton Valley Resort in Vermont
Base of the Snowflake Chair

We still wanted to check out how accumulations had played out at the Vista Summit up above 3,000’, and Alta Vista revealed a few good turns off the usual protected left side, but they were in the minority.  We headed over toward Wilderness and did find some nice turns in the Wilderness Woods, but as Ty nicely put it, “You just couldn’t trust it on every turn”.  Indeed you could get a few nice turns on low angle terrain, but then you’d run into a spot that had been hit by the wind and you’d be back to contacting the hard spring surface below.

“I actually had some of my best turns of the day on the left side of Cougar, where several inches of new snow had settled in.”

The opening of the Wilderness Lift had been delayed a bit due to winds, but it had recently opened as we approached the bottom, so we figured it was worth at least one trip.  It was running slow due to winds though, so we dropped off at the mid station and headed down Cougar.  I actually had some of my best turns of the day on the left side of Cougar, where several inches of new snow had settled in.  We had first tracks on the lower part of Cougar as well, and where the snow was undisturbed by the wind the turns were quite nice.  We finished off dropping in and out of the Wilderness Woods, and for some reason, (perhaps the bright sunlight, or perhaps the deep spring snowpack?) they just seemed very open and smooth everywhere.  There were very few tracks in there, so we had our pick of fresh lines.  You still couldn’t “trust” every turn, just as Ty had said earlier, but we definitely had some good smooth lines through the trees in many spots.

An image showing a Sonar Silver lens for Anon's M2 gogglesIn line with the bright April sun, Ty and I both had a chance to try out the Sonar Silver lens for the Anon M2 Goggles.  It only lets through 6% of the visible light, so it’s even darker than the Sonar Red lens that we’d used last weekend at Magic Mountain, which lets through 14% of the visible light.  We swapped between the two actually, but you could definitely notice the difference – you could easily look toward the sun with the Sonar Silver lens and not be too strained, and I can see it’s going to be another great one for these types of bright, late season days.

“…Bolton Valley is going to open back up for a couple more bonus days of skiing.”

We finished off with a trip to the Bolton Valley Deli & Grocery to grab some subs, and it was around lunchtime, so a crowd was building.  Although temperatures were wintry today, and there was some wind, that April sunshine easily warmed you up and you could see that folks were generally quite comfortable out there on the slopes.  It looks like temperatures will be warming up next week for some spring skiing, and Bolton Valley is going to open back up for a couple more bonus days of skiing.  From what I can see in some of the weather models, we may not be quite done with snowfall in the mountains yet either.

Magic Mountain, VT 31MAR2018

An image of a resort bus with a logo at Magic Mountain Ski Area in Vermont
An image of Ty and Dylan underneath the sign for the Warlock trail at Magic Mountain in Vermont
The boys pose with the sign for Dylan’s “namesake” trail at Magic Mountain today.

I knew that our Bolton Valley All Access Season Passes were part of the Freedom Pass, getting us lift access at a number of smaller, out of the way ski areas like Black Mountain in New Hampshire, Plattekill Mountain in New York, Ski Cooper in Colorado, and Lost Valley in Maine.  What I hadn’t noticed though, that is until Stephen pointed it out about a week ago, was that Magic Mountain in Southern Vermont was also on that list.  There are very few mountains in Vermont that I haven’t skied, but Magic Mountain is one of them… or at least it was until today. 

My first impression seeing the mountain in person was indeed, “Hey, that’s steep!”

In fact, none of the family had ever been to Magic Mountain, and I don’t think the boys had even skied anywhere south of Killington.  Living in Northern Vermont with so many great ski areas close by, it takes a bit of extra incentive to head south, and finding out that Magic was on the Freedom Pass was just what we needed.  Today’s forecast for sunshine and temperatures well up into the 40s F sealed the deal, and we made plans to head down to Magic for the afternoon.

I’ve always heard of Magic Mountain being referred to as the “Mad River Glen of Southern Vermont”.  The main reason for the comparison has traditionally been Magic’s steep and challenging terrain, akin to what’s offered at Mad River Glen.  Magic’s terrain stands out especially well because in general, the ski areas in the southern half of Vermont aren’t as steep as what’s up north.  Magic bucks that trend, and now having explored the mountain I can tell you that it bucks that trend hard.  The mountain has a lot of impressively steep terrain, and I especially noticed it in their numerous areas of glades.

An image of a sign at Magic Mountain Ski Area in Vermont stating "You've now officially take the road less traveled - Welcome to Magic"On our way to Magic, we found that the snowpack was minimal down in the Connecticut River Valley, but it increased consistently as we headed westward along Route 11 into the Green Mountains.  Above 1,000’, snow depths were actually a couple of feet in some people’s yards.  My first impression seeing the mountain in person was indeed, “Hey, that’s steep!”  When we we arrived we were a little worried when we saw a sign indicating that parking lot A was filled, but we sort of laughed once we realized that “Lot A” really only looks like it holds about 30 to 40 cars, and “Lot B” is just another couple hundred feet past it.

“It was a bit tricky to find the entrance, but we eventually did, and boy did it have some seriously steep pitch.”

E really liked the feel of the base area.  The people were very friendly, and she said it had a bit of a Bolton Valley vibe with what she called a “log cabin” smell.  The woman who got us our Freedom Pass tickets was quite cheerful, and all of us adults had fun when Ty and Dylan were a little thrown off by the old fashioned metal wickets.  Ty actually remember how it worked thanks to our recent mountain biking trip to Burke, but both boys have used them many times…  it’s just been so many years since they’ve skied with one that they seemed extremely foreign.

An image taken from a trail map of Magic Mountain ski area in Vermont showing the Warlock double black diamond trailSki conditions today were an interesting mix because despite the full sun and mild temperatures, shaded areas actually remained plenty firm.  Also, there haven’t been enough freeze/thaw cycles to fully convert the snow to corn yet, so many areas in the sun featured sticky snow  The best skiing we found was between in what we called “The Goldilocks Zone” – most trails had a shady side, and a sunny side, and right in between the turns were awesome.  We really enjoyed the trail named “Trick” because of its good snow, and from what we heard it’s actually one of the main routes down the mountain.  The mountain’s trails are generally named with a magical theme, and we were all interested in checking out the “Warlock” glade, since that’s the type of character Dylan plays in the video game “Destiny”.  It was a bit tricky to find the entrance, but we eventually did, and boy did it have some seriously steep pitch.  Coverage was already getting a bit lean in there, so we had to pick our way down in spots, but it was a lot of fun.

An image showing the Base Camp 1400 area of the Black Line Tavern at Magic Mountain ski area in Vermont
At Base Camp 1400 (we’re guessing that’ the elevation in feet) you can easily order food from the Black Line Tavern.

We had a fantastic lunch at the Black Line Tavern, with burgers cooked at the grill right outside on the deck, and the boys had fun on the huge “Connect Four” game they’ve got set up in the dining area.  Our lunch break was well into the afternoon, but we were able to get in a couple more runs after that thanks to the mountain running the lifts until 5:00 P.M.  Naturally with the warm temperatures and spring snow, it was only a matter of time before the boys started getting into battling with snowballs on the slopes.  E and I were the usual victims.  An image showing a Sonar Red lens for Anon's M2 gogglesWith today’s bright sun, it was a great chance for me to try out the Sonar Red lens for the Anon M2 Goggles.  It only lets through 14% of the visible light, so it’s great for days like this.  It’s also got a variable tint so that up top where the sun is going to be in your field of vision, more sunlight is blocked.  I did get to try out the Sonar Infrared lens as well today, since the boys and I were swapping lenses around to see how they fared in today’s light.  Sonar Infrared lets through 57% of the visible light and seems to give the world a much more neutral color (vs. the reddish coloring of the Sonar Red) but I didn’t find myself needing to squint with those lenses on either.

An image showing a view of the Enchanted Forest glade at Magic Mountian ski area in Vermont
The Enchanted Forest glade right up near the top of the Red Chair

As is typically the case with just about any mountain that you don’t get a chance to visit with two feet of powder, we all want to head back to Magic at some point with fresh snow to try out more of those glades.  Unfortunately, with how steep a lot of the mountain’s terrain is, and average snowfall of only about 200 inches a season, it’s got to be tough to really get those glades in prime form a lot of the time.  I can see why they are emphasizing more snowmaking to keep things going through the tougher stretches, even if that won’t help out the steep glades.  In any event, there are certainly going to be those stretches where the mountain really makes out well in the snowfall department and has sufficient natural base snow in place (such as much of March this year) to really offer some amazing skiing. 

Well, with today’s visit to Magic Mountain, the only major ski area in Vermont that I’ve yet to ski is Stratton.  Next after that would be Suicide Six, but then we start to get into the really small areas that don’t even get covered on the Ski Vermont website.  Those are still interesting places to visit, but it takes a bit more effort to track them down and find out when they’re open.

Stowe & Mt. Mansfield Chin, VT 25MAR2018

An image of Jonah skiing Mt. Mansfield below the Hourglass Chute with the Mt. Mansfield Adam's Apple in the background
An image of Robbie, Dylan, Wiley, and Ty getting set to descend the Hourglass Chute above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Robbie, Dylan, Wiley, and Ty are poised in the steep upper section of Mt. Mansfield’s Hourglass Chute as they get set to drop in on their first descents of this famed run in the alpine terrain above Stowe Mountain Resort.

Thanks to Winter Storm Skylar, the snow depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake hit the 100-inch mark around the middle of the month.  When the snowpack starts getting that deep up there, it’s time to really think about heading above tree line into the alpine, because everything is filled in and the skiing really gets good.  While last Sunday’s weather in the higher elevations was frigid, with wind chills well below zero F at the summits, today’s forecast with minimal winds and temperatures in the 20s F was looking perfect for some above tree line adventures on Mt. Mansfield.  With the weather looking good, my only remaining concern was how much spring cycling the alpine snow had seen in the recent stretch of sunny days we’ve had around here.  Either way though, that wasn’t going to be a deal breaker, so I had E inform any interested students and coaches from our BJAMS ski program that we’d plan to hike up above Stowe’s terrain into Mt. Mansfield’s alpine for our Sunday afternoon session.

An image of Dylan ascending the Climbing Gully in Mt. Mansfield's alpine terrain above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Dylan heads up toward the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline and The Chin under sunny skies as he ascends the boot ladder in the Climbing Gully.

We ultimately had a crew of eight for today’s alpine adventures, with our usual suspects from my group along with Jonah and his brother and dad, who was willing to make the trip with the boys even though he’s got one injured arm in a sling!  As soon as program started in the afternoon, we headed right up to the Climbing Gully and found an excellent boot pack in place.  With some pretty decent southern exposure, the snow in the Climbing Gully had softened in the sun and sat somewhere between winter and spring consistency.  Once we hit the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline though, the consistency of snow was all winter, and that allayed at least some of my fears about the consistency of the snow above tree line.  You could feel the nice cool breeze along the ridgeline doing its job to keep the snow from baking in the late March sun, and I knew that any terrain without strong southern exposure up in the alpine was going to be in fine midwinter form.  The views were stupendous, so we took a few minutes to enjoy the scene and fuel up.  Ty had been silly and not eaten much in the morning, so he’d been bonking on the climb up the Climbing Gully.  I made him quickly have a couple packets of GU around the middle of the ascent, and then I told him to get at least one granola bar into him on the ridge to make sure he’d have enough in the tank for the rest of the tour.

An image of Josh taking a photo of Agi and Jonah on the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline during an ascent to the Chin of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont
Josh snaps a photo of Agi and Jonah as today’s ski groups takes a break on our ascent to the Chin to enjoy the views from the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline.

“Profanity was loaded with snow, and up at those elevations, even south-facing terrain had a surface that was a chalky midwinter consistency.”

After our ridgeline break, we headed up to The Chin, and I first checked out the condition of Profanity Chute, which was my initial plan for today’s descent.  Profanity was loaded with snow, and up at those elevations, even south-facing terrain had a surface that was a chalky midwinter consistency.  I knew from Powderfreak’s pictures and comments that Winter Storm Skylar had really dropped a ton of liquid equivalent on the mountain and filled everything in, but it’s still most impressive to see it firsthand.  Even more impressive to me than how filled in Profanity was, was just how plastered all the usual windswept areas of the summit were.  The Chin is so exposed to the wind that it’s more typical to see a mix of rocks and snow vs., the area being covered wall-to-wall in white, but that’s how it’s been since Winter Storm Skylar.  People were even skinning all the way to the summit, which you’ll only see when you get a storm of plentiful, dense snow that really covers all the rocks.

“From what I can find in the SkiVT-L archives, where Stephanie McConaughy reported measuring the slope of Hourglass, the pitch tops out around 50 degrees at the throat.”

While the group congregated at the summit, I also took a look down at Hourglass Chute, and I was very impressed with what I saw.  The snow quality and coverage looked excellent.  Hourglass is narrower and steeper than Profanity, and I’ve never brought to boys down it, but it was starting to look like today might be the day.  It was hard to pass up the great aesthetic look of Profanity with the current snowpack, but the boys have now skied it a number of times, and after surveying everyone to see who was interested, the boys were definitely game to give Hourglass a shot.  Looking down on Hourglass from above, it’s a pretty intimidating view with plenty of exposure.  From what I can find in the SkiVT-L archives, where Stephanie McConaughy reported measuring the slope of Hourglass, the pitch tops out around 50 degrees at the throat.  That’s a pretty impressive pitch wherever you are, and with the apparent exposure of the chute from above, I was sort of dumbfounded that none of the boys even gave it a second thought.  Jonah, Wiley, Robbie, Ty, and Dylan were all simply ready to jump right in, and they seemed confused as to why I was even making a big point to thoroughly confirm that everyone was on board.  I was worried that it might just be ignorance on their part, but they stood there right atop the chute with a clear view of everything and didn’t even blink, so it is what it is I guess.

An image looking down Hourglass Chute at the top of Mt. Mansfield above Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A look down Hourglass Chute from above as Robbie just finishes passing through the throat onto the apron below

I dropped down above the throat of the chute (Hourglass is so named because of the relatively open upper headwall and apron areas, with a tight, rock-lined middle section) and set up for some photography of the boys.  I had the wide-angle Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM on my camera body at that point, and the spot I was in was a bit too steep to comfortably change it out, so I ended up sticking with it.  Even at 22 mm it was too wide to really get nice shots of the boys going through the throat of the chute, but I did give a nice side-angle shot of everyone above the chute as they waited, and you can get a good idea of the pitch of the slope.  Everyone ultimately did fine skiing the chute, although Dylan did take a tumble at the end of the throat as he was doing a jump turn, and I heard that Jonah also had a tumble down there.  Fortunately, even with that steep pitch, it’s still not “No Fall Zone” terrain with the decent snow conditions we had.  I saw Dylan slide headfirst for a time after his fall, and Ty was below ready to help him arrest, but he’d stopped before that point.  Anyway, everyone seemed to have a great time skiing Hourglass, and all the snow was a fantastic midwinter consistency.  Even after skiing it, none of them seemed to feel that it was a very big deal, so I guess I was much more impressed with how they did than any of them.

“…they stood there right atop the chute with a clear view of everything and didn’t even blink…”

We caught some steeps along the apron, managing our descent as much as possible to make for an easy cruise over toward and around the Adam’s Apple to catch the Hell Brook Trail.  The Hell Brook Trail was in its usual state for this time of year, with terrain exposed to the south/sun getting crunchier and crunchier as one descended in altitude, but the sheltered snow on the skier’s right of the gully was continually fantastic.  The whole area is really loaded with snow now, and in conversations with Ty and Dylan during the descent, we all really loved those steep, open faces on the south side of the gully that held the protected winter snow.  Although he’d skied Hourglass beautifully, Ty was feeling off his game and heavy on his feet in the tighter sections of the Hell Brook gully (probably because of not initially fueling up properly), so he was really enjoying those more open areas that didn’t have any moguls.

An image of Robbie on a snow-covered Route 108 near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont as he returns to the ski area after descending the Hell Brook Trail from the Chin of Mt. Mansfield
You’re not going to break any speed limits returning to the resort from the bottom of the Hell Brook Trail on a snowboard, but we saw plenty of people like Robbie making it work.

The ski out was relatively quick because the snow wasn’t sticky at all, although I hadn’t noticed that Wiley and Robbie had chosen a route without a good bridge across the final stream, so they had to take some time working their way through the lower woods to find a good crossing.  Robbie was of course a trooper doing the whole thing on his snowboard, both above and below the Hell Brook Trail there are plenty of spots that are no big deal on skis, but can be a headache on a board.  Down there on Route 108 it totally felt like spring, with lots of sunshine, and winter recreationalists out enjoying any manner of snow and ice travel.  I’d had a lot of fun on today’s outing because I guess it’s been about 20 years since I last skied Hourglass Chute.  Hopefully it won’t be so long before I get to do that again!

A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for a backcountry ski tour at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont and the Mt. Mansfield Chin featuring Hourglass Chute and the Hell Brook Trail
A Google Earth map with GPS tracking data for today’s ski tour at Stowe Mountain Resort and the Mt. Mansfield Chin featuring Hourglass Chute and the Hell Brook Trail

Both Dylan and I got to try out our new Anon M2 Goggles, the same model of goggles that Ty got at Christmas with the magnetic interchangeable lenses.  Dylan and I were both in need of new goggle for various reasons, and it seemed like a no brainer to get the same model that Ty has to be able to quickly share all the lenses between us.  We even got a few extra lenses for various conditions – we’ll just have to be good about not fighting over them! 

an image of Ty, Jay, and Dylan wearing Anon M2 goggles with various lenses with the trails of Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont in the background
Dad and Dylan joining Ty as they try out their new Anon M2 goggles today!

By the time we got back to Spruce Camp, the program session was just about over.  I do like that a typical hike to The Chin with a Hell Brook run is just about perfect for one of our afternoon program sessions, since everyone is pretty cooked by the end anyway between the hike in and the traverse out.  Ty was famished, so we headed up to the Great Room Grill for some food with Mom, and Ty got one of their huge burgers.  He devoured it, not surprisingly, and E and had time to remind him not to try pulling ski outings like that on a nearly empty stomach.  There’s nothing quite like a hearty meal after being famished from a good winter tour, but you have to know your metabolism and where the empty line is on your tank or you can easily get into trouble before you get to that next feast.

Mt. Washington, NH 16MAY2017

An image of a snowboarder hiking Hillman's Highway on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire
An imae of Rob skiing Hillman's Highway on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire
Hillman’s Highway was the choice today for our trip to Mt. Washington

As the spring semester winds down, many of our graduating biochemistry majors here at UVM have been getting out to enjoy the remaining snow in the mountains of both New Hampshire and Vermont.  I’ve been hearing some fun reports, so when Rob invited me to join one of their Mt Washington adventures, I was definitely interested.  His plan was for the Tuesday of senior week, weather permitting of course.  My schedule looked good, so I was hopeful for the chance to commune with some of the seniors in the great outdoors before they’d begin departing after graduation.

“We could see that there had been some sloughing there due to the new snow, but the lower areas we could see looked quite settled and stable, and there had already been plenty of skier traffic in the gully.”

Mother Nature threw some rather interesting weather into the mix ahead of the planned trip, with Mt Washington picking up almost 3 feet of new snow at summit elevations over the past couple of days, and over a foot down at Hermit Lake.  That was a lot of new snow, and the avalanche report suggest that northerly winds would be loading the more southerly-facing gullies and cross-loading the east-facing ones.  Temperatures were expected to rise significantly today, which we knew would result in plenty of settling depending on elevation.  There seemed to be enough potential to find at least some level of safe skiing, so we decided that we’d check with the staff on scene in the Hermit Lake area, and the trip was on.

An image of water pouring from a gutter at the Hermit Lake Caretaker's Cabin near Mt. Washington in New Hampshire
Meltwater pours from a gutter at the Hermit Lake Caretaker’s Cabin as rising temperatures melt off the recent snow.

Only Rob and Emily ended up being able to make the trip, but I met them at the Pinkham Notch Visitor’s Center, and after getting our gear together, we were on our way.  I’ve hiked up to the Tuckerman Ravine area many times, but with the new snow I decided to try a gear setup that I’ve never used before.  Instead of brining two pairs of boots (hiking boots and ski boots), I wanted to just wear my mid-weight Telemark boots for everything, hiking and skiing.  It turns out that the setup worked great; my Garmont Gara boots have got rubber Vibram soles so they were plenty comfortable and pliable on the ascent through a lot of dry, rocky terrain.  Ascending from Pinkham Notch at ~2,000’, we saw our first signs of snow at 2,650’, and at around 3,400’ the snow cover was continuous enough that I was able to start skinning there and made it right up to Hermit Lake.  The new foot or so of snow had certainly helped with the potential for skinning – coverage would have been somewhat less continuous on that last part of the ascent without it.

We assessed the snow/ski terrain situation from there, and while most of Hillman’s was visible with clouds just skimming the upper reaches, Tuckerman Ravine was generally socked in.  After consulting with the staff at Hermit Lake, and using what we could see, we decided that Hillman’s Highway was the way to go.  Most skiers we encountered seemed to be making the same decision.  We could see that there had been some sloughing there due to the new snow, but the lower areas we could see looked quite settled and stable, and there had already been plenty of skier traffic in the gully.

An image of Hillman's Highway on Mt. Washington in New Hampshire viewed from the Hermit Lake area
Hillman’s Highway from the Hermit Lake area

Emily and I skinned up the first part of gully, but around halfway it was just getting too steep and we had to switch to hiking.  Thankfully there was a nice boot ladder already in place on climber’s right.  I stopped around mid-gully where I figured I’d still get plenty of descent, and set myself in a good position with my camera.  Emily and Rob headed up to where the gully splits into a Y, and went a little farther up the climber’s right option before settling down in a sheltered area of rocks.  Above that point the snow hadn’t been skied and was a little questionable, and in that regard they were on the same page as other folks skiing in the area.

An image of Emily paused during a ski run on Hillman's Higway on Mt. Washington in New HampshireThe best skiing was in areas where there had been some skier traffic that got down to the older corn snow surface, and the toughest turns were in the mush that had settled down near the bottom of the gully.  The Sherburne Ski Trail had actually opened back up a bit with the new snow, and we were able to ski about a third of it before we had to cut back to the hiking trail.  After that the descent was quick, and we were back at the cars saying our goodbyes.

An image of the summit snowfields of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire
A view of the summit snowfields of Mt. Washington from Hillman’s Highway after almost 3 feet of snow in the past few days

The new snow is going to get even better with a couple of freeze-thaw cycles, and it’s certainly bolstered the snowpack somewhat in the higher elevations.  Although they were in and out of the clouds, the summit snowfields looked really nice, so there should eventually be some excellent skiing up there with easy access as soon as the road opens back up.

Stowe, VT 13MAY2017

An image of a house with a "Never Summer" truck along the route to Stowe in Moscow, Vermont
An image of skiers skinning up the Nosedive trail in May at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A number of skiers were out enjoying the snow on Nosedive today.

The best weather in this weekend’s forecast appeared to be this morning, so I took advantage of the window and headed off to Mt. Mansfield for some skiing.  The temperatures been fairly cool this week, so the snow cover on Nosedive hasn’t actually changed a lot relative to what can happen during some warm weeks.  Coverage is still essentially continuous, but there’s a point in the middle that will create a gap soon.  The snow was a bit softer this time compared to my last outing on Sunday, so that made for some really smooth turns.  There are some areas with moguls, and plenty with smooth, skier-groomed snow to give you quite a variety of terrain.  While I had actually hoped to ski Cliff Trail as a change of pace, it’s disconnected from Nosedive now so I stuck with the continuous coverage of Nosedive.

An image of spring foliage making its way up the mountainsides in May near Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Spring making its way up the mountainsides near Mt. Mansfield

It looks like we’ve got some warmer weather coming this week, so we’ll have to see where the snowpack at Stowe will stand by next weekend.

Stowe, VT 07MAY2017

An image at the top of the Starr trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
An image of the Nosedive trail in May at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
There’s still plenty of snow on Nosedive as of today.

I was hoping to head out for a ski tour when the weather cleared up yesterday afternoon, but it happened just a bit too late to fit any skiing in among the rest of the things I had to do in the evening.  Today however, we got a more substantial break in the weather around late morning, so I decided to take advantage of that window and head off to Stowe.

An image of green grass and early spring foliage in the mountains of Northern Vermont around Stowe
Spring is slowly making its way into the mountain valleys throughout Northern Vermont

The forecast called for scattered rain showers today, but we know how Mother Nature works when it comes to Mt. Mansfield, and it wouldn’t be too surprising to find her scattering a lot more of the showers in that direction.  Indeed as I drove the final 10 minutes to the mountain, the rain steadily picked up from sprinkles to a steady light to moderate rain by the time I was at the Mansfield Base preparing my gear.

I ascended via the North Slope route, figuring there’s less time left to explore that area vs. the long-lasting Nosedive option.  I found the snow sun cupped in a lot of spots, but coverage was almost completely continuous until I got up into the areas where Toll Road crossed my route.  Unfortunately, they’re plowed the road for vehicles, so that put some substantial gaps in the coverage.  I had hoped to descend via something similar to my descent route, but eventually resolved to head to Nosedive because the plowing had just cut things up too much.

“The overall ascent was quite enjoyable with the variety of weather dancing around Mansfield and the surrounding peaks; there was blue sky, an occasional sprinkle or rain shower, breezes, low clouds skimming the summits, and everything in between.”

The overall ascent was quite enjoyable with the variety of weather dancing around Mansfield and the surrounding peaks; there was blue sky, an occasional sprinkle or rain shower, breezes, low clouds skimming the summits, and everything in between.  It was one of those days where you really wanted to have your gear for the various conditions, and I made use of just about everything I’d brought.  One minute the hood of my shell was up, the next I needed a light hat, then suddenly it was time for my sunglasses.

A view of the Green Mountain in spring from Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Some of today’s weather views

The snow was decent, although I actually would have like it a bit softer.  It only gets so soft without consistent the warmth of the sun though.  I did notice it softened up a bit more on the lower half of the mountain, simply due to the slightly warmer temperatures.  Nosedive does provide some of the best snow on the mountain in terms of skiing though – there have been enough people skiing it that it has a level of “human grooming” to keep the sun cups at bay.

Bolton Valley, VT 29APR2017

An image looking down the Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Vermont at the end of April
An image of the Spillway trail at Bolton Valley Ski Resort in Northern Vermont at the end of April
Spillway at Bolton Valley still has a decent amount of snow for getting in some late-season turns.

I was in Montreal yesterday, generally doing more eating that exercising, so I definitely wanted to fit a ski tour into the day today if possible.  The weather was good much of the day, with some sun, but plenty of clouds to keep it cool as well, and I made my way up to the mountain in the midafternoon timeframe.

My initial views from the Bolton Valley Village area didn’t reveal much snow, but one I got moving up the mountainside I could see that there were some good areas of snow around.  The Butterscotch Terrain Park has probably the most snow on the lower mountain, but I found Bear Run actually has some decent areas with snow as well.  The biggest surprise on the upper mountain was actually Spillway, which had initially looked like it only had a strip of snow left along the skier’s right.  Once I got above mid mountain I could see that there was substantial coverage on a lot of the trail.

I hiked up Spillway to where the continuous snow ran out, which was just a bit below the 3,000’ mark, and started my descent from there.  Spillway held some of the best areas of corn I found today.  There were some sun-cupped areas and a few spots where the snow remained coalesced like ice, but in general the turns were nice in the corn snow.  I was actually able to continue all the way down to mid-mountain on snow, and then even a bit farther on Beech Seal before I had to throw the skis back on my pack and hike down.

Based on my initial sights, I was thinking this was likely the last weekend for reasonably plentiful skiing at Bolton Valley, but based on what I saw, I think there might be some snow around next weekend depending on how the temperatures run this week.

Whiteface, NY 23APR2017

An image of Erica and the boys on the podiums at the Lake Placid Olympic Jumping Complex
An image of Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid New York
Majestic Whiteface in the Adirondacks

Prior to today, it had been over 20 years since I’d last skied Whiteface.  It was January 30th, 1994 when Dave and I headed across the lake for a day, and I’ve still got my pictures from that trip (film, not digital of course) but I believe the text of my report was in some of the SkiVT-L archives that were lost.  As of a few days ago, I never would have thought I’d end up skiing Whiteface today, but E proposed a trip to Lake Placid for the weekend, and although I couldn’t interest anyone else in the family in skiing, I brought my skis along with the hope that I could fit in some turns.

An image of some appetizers at Smoke Signals restaurant in Lake Placid, New YorkWe stayed at the Courtyard Lake Placid, which has a really neat pool/hot tub complex that appealed to the boys, but our visit to Smoke Signals for dinner was definitely a highlight in town.  I selected it because of all the rave reviews online and, their amazing barbeque did not disappoint.  Everything we had was outstanding, but as the reviews often indicated, their brisket is especially amazing.

This morning I headed out early to Whiteface while the boys were still asleep, and as I arrived at the base of majestic Whiteface in the early morning light, I was definitely reminded of my last visit.  It’s surprising how long it took me to get back to such a famous Olympic mountain with huge vertical that’s really just across Lake Champlain.  Granted, we were away from the Northeast for several years during that period, but a much bigger factor was simply that we live at the foot of the Northern Green Mountains, and from a strictly skiing perspective there’s just not enough incentive for use to head over to the Adirondacks.  Relative to the snow we get in the Northern Greens, it just seems that Whiteface suffers in both quantity of snowfall and quality of the ski surfaces.  I have to say, my perception was only reinforced further today when I approached the mountain and my main thought was, “Where’s all the snow?”

An image of the slopes of Whiteface Mountain in New York in late April
Based on what I saw at Whiteface today, the mountain was definitely having a hard time holding onto snow even after what was reportedly a record season for snowfall.

The resort has only been closed for a week, but it was extremely slim pickings with respect to skiable snow on the lower slopes of the mountain.  Even up high, while I could see that there were some better lines of manmade snow on the trails, it looked like there was very little natural snow remaining.  I was astonished, after what the Whiteface website says was a season with a record-breaking 281 inches of snow, that there was so little of it left.  Meanwhile, the natural snow at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is still six feet deep.  It’s sometimes hard to figure out why Whiteface doesn’t get, and I guess in this case even retain, more snow.  It’s an impressive peak, rising up to nearly 5,000’, and it’s certainly downwind of the Great Lakes so that they can serve as an extra supply of moisture.  It’s even closer to the Great Lakes than the Green Mountains, so one would think that it would make out even better.  Somehow though, the resort has an annual average snowfall of only about 180 inches according to Tony Crocker’s website.  With some of the resorts in the Northern Greens reporting annual snowfall averages of nearly twice that amount, the disparity is quite dramatic.

I had to stick to the lower mountain today based on my available time, but fortunately I was able to piece together a fairly decent amount of turns using the remains of some of the terrain park snow.  I’d been worried about encountering stiff snow by going early in the morning, but it had actually softened enough to make the turns quite pleasant.  I just wish I’d had a bit more time to go higher and get into some of the more continuous lines of leftover snow.

An image of people in the Lake Placid bobsled track at the Shady II turn
The Shady II turn

This afternoon we visited both the Olympic Jumping Complex and the bobsled tracks at the Olympic Sports Complex.  The jumps were impressively huge and offered some amazing views of the area, but I think we were most blown away by the size of the bobsled tracks.  The track structure at the Shady II corner with the Lake Placid logo must be 20 feet high, putting bobsleds at an impressive height as they barrel through it at speed.