Stowe, VT 05MAY2013

An image of skis and poles on the snow at the top of West Slope at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont looking down on the Spruce Peak Base area
High above the Spruce Peak Base and ready for some corn snow turns

Our stretch of incredible spring weather continues, and today was another clear one with temperatures in the 70s F.  We had to head to Morrisville for a midday first communion mass, but we took along the ski gear in case we had the time to do some skiing on the way back through Stowe.  After grabbing some subs in Morrisville, headed up to the resort and took a look around to assess the ski options.  The most continuous snow is over on Mt. Mansfield, where the North Slope area is still looking very good, with no breaks that I could see even down to the lowest elevations.  There’s still a good amount of snow over at Spruce Peak as well though, with a lot of continuous vertical over in the Main Street area, and even snow down by the Spruce Peak Base.

“I’d say it might
be the best corn
snow I’ve skied
all spring.”

E and the boys weren’t up for skiing, but I was still looking to get in a quick run, so we decided to set ourselves up with some easy slope access right below Slalom Hill and West Slope.  We had lunch at one of the tables on the back deck of the Spruce Camp Base Lodge, and while E and the boys were off on a bathroom break, I stuck around and enjoyed the view of the slopes.  It has really been quite the run of clear spring days for us out here in the mountains – we’ve now gone 10 days without measurable precipitation at the house, and that’s very impressive for the land of upslope where Mother Nature can find a way to make some sort of precipitation more often than not.  Even if the rate of snowmelt is a bit faster than usual, we’re enjoying it, and there’s more to come this week.  After finishing up our lunch, E and the boys headed off to play some chess on the outdoor chess set, while I headed up for a run.

an image looking down toward the steep pitch of the West Slope trail at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont  on a day of spring skiing in May
On the descent of West Slope

Although I put my ski pants in my pack, it was warm enough that I just threw on my Tele boots and hiked in my shorts.  The effects of the continued warm and dry weather are very obvious on the slopes, as the areas without snow are essentially dry.  That made the hiking very easy on the grassy terrain, and it was a quick ascent up to the top of West Slope.  The views were excellent, and although I couldn’t quite make out E and the boys over by the Stowe Mountain Lodge, they said that they were able to see me.  I took a line down the skier’s left of West Slope, and the snow was beautiful – it was smooth, with a couple inches of peel away corn snow on top.  I’d say it might be the best corn snow I’ve skied all spring.  It was also nice to be back on the Telemark skis – I decided to just stick with skiing in my shorts since it was a fairly simple run, and was rewarded with some nice corn spray on the knees along with some really glorious Tele turns.  There was a final stretch of snow at the bottom of Slalom Hill, so I walked across the slope to connect to that, and it brought me right down to the car.

E and the boys timed their return to the car just right because they could see me on my descent, and when we met up I tried to tempt them into going for a run by letting them know just how great the snow was.  It didn’t work, as they were all just a little too tired from the busy weekend.  We’re watching the Mt. Washington Auto Road to see how things develop in the next couple of weeks.  There’s still quite a lot of snow up there, and the sooner they open the more options there will be on the snowfields.

Stowe, VT 29JAN2012

An image of Greg and some of the boys in our ski group on the Sensation Quad at Stowe Mountain Resort, with tracks visible in the powder on the lift line trail below
Greg and some of the boys riding Sensation today between laps in the powder below

There haven’t been any major snowfalls in the area since the storm that dropped up to two feet in the mountains around mid month, so when I assessed the monthly snowfall at the house through yesterday (27.2”), it wasn’t surprising that we were well below the January average I’ve calculated from the past five seasons worth of data (40”+).  Even without any huge storms though, the Northern Greens have been doing their thing to keep the slopes fresh as they capitalize on the moisture from more modest systems or make their own upslope snow.  Today was another perfect example, as we found ourselves amidst massive flakes when we arrived at Stowe around midday.  It was a bit of a surprise to see all the snow in the air and the cars covered in white, since all we’d seen at the house were a few flurries, but that’s Mansfield being Mansfield.

An image of arriving at the Spruce Peak Village at Stowe Ski Resort in Vermont with snow falling and a couple of trails on Mt. Mansfield just visible in the background
Our snowy arrival in the Spruce Peak Village today

“Every week we seem to
get one of those mixed
storms to make a mess
out of the slopes, and
Mansfield pulls another
7, 8 , 9, 10 inches or
whatever out of the sky
to bring back the powder
skiing.”

The day was set up as a nice comfortable one with temperatures in the 30s F for the mountain valleys, and a high of around 25 F on Mt. Mansfield.  Naturally, the combination of nice temperatures and fresh snow had us excited to hit the slopes, so with some extra time before our coaching session began, I grabbed Ty and Dylan and we rode the Alpine Double for a run in the terrain above Meadows.  Consistent with the latest temperature fluctuations above and below freezing over the past week (which seems to be a theme this month) there was certainly a crusty layer under the powder, but the turns were very good with all the new snow, even down at the low elevations near the Spruce Peak Village (~1,500’).  In fact the snow was nice enough that when we met up with our group for the day, which consisted of Jack, Luke, and Greg Pause as a second coach, we headed right back up to do the same run.

An image of Greg and the boys stopping in the powdery woods for a photo during one of our trips on the Sensation Quad at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching Greg and the boys on one of our snowy Sensation runs

Seeing how nice the skiing was down low with the new snow, we didn’t want to wait too long to get higher up on the mountain, so we caught Sunny Spruce to make our way over to Sensation.  While on the lift, we saw a few tracks on Spruce Line, but loads of untracked snow, so we worked our way through the trees to get there.  The boys were challenged by some difficult routes through the trees, but Ty encouraged everyone, letting them know that they could really handle it, and they did.  Indeed the powder skiing was excellent up at that elevation with the additional depth of new snow afforded by 1,500’ of increased elevation.  One aspect of the run that had everyone grinning was the fact that nobody else was skiing the area, so we had it all to ourselves.  We continued on down to Whirlaway, where the snow remained quite good, and then decided that it would be a shame if all the untracked snow on Spruce Line went to waste, so we did the exact same run again.  We concluded our Spruce Peak session with one more Sensation run, hitting the steep terrain of Upper Smuggler’s down to Side Street, then back to the Spruce Peak Base Area to catch the Over Easy to Mt. Mansfield.

“It was a bit of a surprise
to see all the snow in the
air and the cars covered,
in white, since all we’d
seen at the house were a
few flurries, but that’s
Mansfield being Mansfield.”

The second half of the afternoon was spent over on Mt. Mansfield exploring areas serviced by the gondola.  Waterfall continues to have good snow, so we enjoyed its somewhat steep terrain as a good variation down to Gondolier.  We played around a lot in the Switchback trees, and a quick check on the powder there revealed 7 inches of depth for the mid to lower mountain elevations.  We did a run on Perry Merrill as well, and worked our way back to Switchback for a variation on the trees we’d skied before.  The snowfall had slackened during the middle of the afternoon, but it resumed for the end of the ski day, and gave everyone a renewed sense of excitement.  The boys finished off their last run as they do with most gondola runs, the requisite trip through the small terrain park below Midway.  We headed back to Spruce as the light began to fade and the snowfall ramped up.

An image of Ty jumping over a sloped box in the small terrain park near the Midway Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Catching that last terrain park run in the fading light
An image of a pair of skis leaning on a carved wooden bear at the entrance to Spruce Camp Base Lodge at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
Spruce Camp entrance

We headed to the Great Room Grill for après ski, and the snow continued to fall; the forecast calls for up to another 6 to 8 inches tonight on top of what fell today, so I suspect that conditions are going to be even better tomorrow.  It certainly makes me want to hit the slopes instead of heading in to Burlington.  I’ve got to say, Stowe really continues to impress this season in terms of conditions.  Sometimes the heavy traffic at the mountain can really wear things down, but in this season of low snowfall, big temperature swings, and mixed precipitation, Mansfield just keeps coming through.  Every week we seem to get one of those mixed storms to make a mess out of the slopes, and Mansfield pulls another 7, 8 , 9, 10 inches or whatever out of the sky to bring back the powder skiing.  I really thought this was going to be the weekend in which the conditions wouldn’t make it back in time, with this week’s mixed precipitation storm coming so late in the week, but damn if there wasn’t some fine skiing out there today.