There’s apparently a Nor’easter brewing for this weekend, although there’s not a ton of cold air around for the system to use, so the current forecast suggest snow will only be up near the summit elevations and fairly limited in amount.
We had some great weather for skiing last weekend, but I was fighting a cold and decided to recuperate vs. pushing myself too hard with a tour. The great weather has continued this week though, with a simply amazing stretch of sunny spring days, and this morning I had a bit of time to get out for a ski tour at Stowe.
These recent days of warm weather have been eating away at the snowpack of course, and on my trip to the mountain I didn’t encounter any snow until the resort’s main base elevations around 1,500’. I parked by Midway, and similar to about a half dozen or so other cars I saw, I was able to use the nice new parking area the resort has added just below the Midway Lodge. I’d never even noticed that parking lot before because it’s usually covered with snow, but it’s got some nice clean asphalt that makes it a very nice spot for changing gear and clothing well away from any spring muck.
Nosedive still has coverage right to the bottom at the Crossover trail, so I started skinning from there at ~1,650’, and made my way up to the junction with Cliff Trail at ~2,700’. Nosedive has continuous coverage all the way up to that point, and although I didn’t continue higher on Nosedive itself, I’d be surprised if there were any breaks in the snowpack at the higher elevations. For my tour, I decided to continue on toward the Cliff House because I saw that Perry Merrill looked to have almost continuous coverage, and the skiing there will typically run out before Nosedive. I had to take off my skis and walk for a couple hundred feet because that junction area of Cliff Trail with Nosedive has melted out, but after that I was able to skin all the way up to the Cliff House. The resort’s been clearing out some of the work roads as they get ready for summer, and that really transformed the area up near the Cliff House with massive snow piles on the sides of the trail and nothing in the middle.
“The snow quality overall was excellent though, as we’ve obviously had plenty of freeze-thaw cycles by this point and the snow if very much in prime “corn” form.”
For my descent I continued on to the other side of the Cliff House and hit Upper Gondolier, then connected onto Perry Merrill lower down. Perry Merrill has just a couple of breaks in the continuity of its snow, although one is about 100 feet long and is best navigated by taking off your skis. The snow quality overall was excellent though, as we’ve obviously had plenty of freeze-thaw cycles by this point and the snow if very much in prime “corn” form.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
With so much potential snowfall on the horizon, Dave sent us a text on Sunday inquiring about the best days to come up for some skiing in Northern Vermont this week. The forecast was still a bit up in the air at that point, but by Monday he was set to go, and just needed to decide on when to come up. He ultimately decided to make his drive on Tuesday evening, once Winter Storm Skylar was pulling away from Southern New England. He battled his way up from Boston, having a slow go of it during the first hour, but quickly found himself cruising along as the only one on the road.
“Depth checks around the mountain revealed roughly 20 inches of powder at a minimum, with many areas at 30+ inches.”
We didn’t know until this morning that E and the boys would have a snow day, but once we knew, the plan was secured for all of us to head to Stowe together. That meant that we’d want to get on the road pretty early, since when it comes to Stowe and its fast lifts and ravenous powder hounds, one definitely needs to be an early bird to get the worm. That meant we’d have to get the boys up and motivated. Dave hasn’t been up in a while, so when he saw Ty in bed this morning, the exchange went as follows:
Dave: “Do you remember me?” Ty: “Yes.” Dave: “Good… get up.” That’s classic Dave, and we LOLed about that exchange all day.
We were indeed able to get the boys motivated for an early start, and got to the mountain with no travel problems. We had a quick breakfast at the Mansfield Base Lodge, and headed right up to the Fourrunner Quad. Within a half hour of lift opening, the trails, and even the glades off the quad had been devoured. The skiing was of course still fantastic, but if you wanted untracked lines of any length, you were already having to head for those more obscure spots. We all had a tremendous time in the Tres Amigos Glades, highlighted by the boys dropping whatever ledges and cliffs they could find with powder below. And indeed it was that kind of day where you could launch just about anything you wanted. Dave really found his groove when we hit the Nosedive Glades, and had a blast.
We moved over to the Gondola so the five of us could ride the lift together as a group, and had a great couple of runs on Waterfall, Perry Merrill, and surrounding environs. Whether we were on piste or off, the conditions were simply ridiculous. On piste it was bottomless chowder and packed powder, and off piste it was waist deep powder. Ty and I took the crew to an area we’ve nicknamed “Stella”, because we discovered it during our Winter Storm Stella outing and delivered such great lines of steep and deep powder.
We had a nice lunch at the Great Room Grill, and since we were over at Spruce Peak we decided to take Dave on some runs there. What a great decision that was! Spruce Peak served up tons of untracked powder in all our favorite locales off Sunny Spruce and Sensation. Let’s just say, the skiing was so good that we spent the rest of the day there. Dylan said he really had fun skiing with today’s “crew”.
In terms of overall snow, I believe the resort was reporting a storm total of 18 inches, but it snowed throughout the day and there was already much more powder than that available from previous storms. Depth checks around the mountain revealed roughly 20 inches of powder at a minimum, with many areas at 30+ inches. We’ve still got snow falling here at the house this evening, so the resorts should be reporting additional accumulations by tomorrow morning. It’s interesting to note that we’re once again at the “S” winter storm of the alphabet with Winter Storm Skylar, just as we were last year around this time with Winter Storm Stella.
We actually had most of our regular ski group today, and with the conditions on hand I decided that we should head for some of that exciting terrain that we just haven’t been able to visit yet this season. We kicked things off with a run on Ravine, although Bob’s foot was acting up so he had to bow out at that point. The conditions on Ravine are great, and base depths are more than sufficient, although you can tell the base isn’t quite up at normal levels for this time of year based on the look of some of the bigger obstacles.
“Conditions are stellar because we recently picked up more than a foot of snow from Winter Storm Quinn, and then overnight the mountain upslope snow event brought close to another foot to the resort.”
We had a fantastic run starting on the Kitchen Wall, with some very powdery lines in the trees below, and we just kept diving into every section of woods that presented itself until we finally would up in the Hazelton Zone. We had to be a little cautious in there with only 50 inches or so at the stake, but there’s definitely enough base. The traverses are in place and looking good. That run was quite a doozy, so everyone requested a break at the Midway Lodge after that for food and drink. On our final run of the day, Wiley and Robbie switched to each other’s snowboard and skis, and we took a run through the terrain park. Wiley had plenty of falls, but really hung in there for taking his first even snowboard run right off the Fourrunner Quad.
It was really great to finally be able to get out there with the boys into the some of the exciting terrain we’ve been missing all season. It actually looks like we could have yet another winter storm affecting the area this week. This one has the potential to bring upslope snow as well, so we’ll just have watch for where this one tracks over the next few days, but ski conditions should continue to improve going forward.
I haven’t been on my snowboard for a while, but it was definitely fun being back on it for today’s BJAMS ski program session at Stowe. Dylan was planning on his first real day of snowboarding, and with Molly snowboarding in my group as well, riding today seemed to be the obvious choice.
“I’m not sure if we had the groomers or the skiers to thank for all that loose snow, but it was more than a foot deep in spots, which provided a nice surfy feeling on the boards.”
We started off in the late morning, a bit earlier than usual, so that E could work Dylan on his board a bit and get him as far as possible ahead of our session. When I caught up with the family after parking and getting changed, Dylan had just finished his third run on Inspiration and was moving on to the Meadows Quad. I joined everyone for that run and we helped him work on his heel side transitions and turns, which were definitely his weaker side.
Stowe had picked up a couple of inches from Winter Storm Riley, but the subsurfaces were generally frozen granular in the Meadows area. Fortunately, there was tons of loose granular on top of the base in many areas. I’m not sure if we had the groomers or the skiers to thank for all that loose snow, but it was more than a foot deep in spots, which provided a nice surfy feeling on the boards. It was great stuff for cushioning falls, which as anyone knows, are common when you’re learning to snowboard. Dylan certainly had his share of tumbles today, but his improvements were obvious on his last couple of runs. I was quite wary of his tumbles, as my friend recently broke his wrist after catching an edge and falling backwards. He thankfully found https://handsurgeonsnyc.com online so consulted with them about his wrist. I’m defintiely buying Dylan wrist guards for next time we get the boards out.
Precipitation in association with a minor system affecting the area had already started falling by the time we got to the mountain in the morning. It began out as light graupel, transitioned to some granular flakes as time went on, and had graduated to much fluffier flakes by the end of the day. There were some bursts of fairly heavy precipitation as well. With Dylan’s hard work learning to maneuver his snowboard around, we took plenty of breaks in the lodge. Lunch with the family was definitely a fun break – I visited the Noodle Bowl area at the Great Room Grill and got the shrimp pho… definitely delicious!
Today we were under the influence of Winter Storm Polly, a system passing through the Great Lakes that’s brought snow and mixed precipitation to the area. Although our BJAMS ski program was on today at Stowe, between the people opting out because of the questionable travel and weather, and those families that are on vacation for school break, we had substanially fewer participants than usual. My group actually wound up being just Ty and Dylan at first, although eventually Jacob joined when his group was not going to be able to meet up with him.
“Snow conditions were bolstered significantly by a couple of dense inches of sleet and snow that had fallen by the time we arrived around midday.”
Snow conditions were bolstered significantly by a couple of dense inches of sleet and snow that had fallen by the time we arrived around midday. There was definitely a good shot of liquid in those couple of inches, and it helped to keep you off the subsurface in some areas, but the firm surface below definitely made its presence known.
The Gondola and Fourrunner Quad were both on wind hold due to the strong gusts associated with the storm at elevation, so we started the afternoon off with a Sunny Spruce run to get a feel for the conditions. We found the edges of the runs quite good in some areas where the new snow was either untouched, or skiers had pushed the excess from the trails there. I decided to bring the group across to Mansfield to ride the Mountain Triple Chair where I expected to find that type of snow on trails like Tyro, and indeed we found some of that smooth snow and had some fun runs. The biggest hassle of the day was some freezing drizzle that would frequently crust up one’s goggles and reduce visibility, but fortunately it wasn’t really affecting the quality of the snow surfaces.
February snowfall has been off to a roaring start here in Northern Vermont, with Stowe just coming out of a stretch that dropped 30 inches in 8 days. The quality of the skiing both on and off piste has naturally taken a huge jump, and unlike the great snow we had back around the holidays, this snow didn’t come with subzero arctic temperatures. Everyone seemed quite excited to get out for our first BJAMS ski program of the season where the mountain was really delivering in quality and quantity of terrain.
We had most of our usual group today, along with Johannes, since he and Stephen were at the mountain to watch some of the Bolton Valley Freeride Team take part in the 2018 Stowe Freeride Challenge. Ty was also with us, since he wasn’t needed for any other coaching responsibilities today.
“February snowfall has been off to a roaring start here in Northern Vermont, with Stowe just coming out of a stretch that dropped 30 inches in 8 days.”
I wanted to make the most of the great conditions and get our crew into some fun terrain, so I set my sights on getting them over to Lookout. Coming over from Spruce Peak, we took the Gondola to Cliff Trail, and I’ve got to say, Cliff Trail had some of the best conditions I’ve seen there in a long time. You could just lay those edges over and dig in, and there was nothing there but packed powder. Lookout was closed from the top, so I brought the group around via Hayride and we wound up skiing through much of Tres Amigos Glades. There are still some icy sections in there on the heavily used lines, but there were a lot of great soft lines present as well if you just ventured out to the sides a bit. I hadn’t been in Tres Amigos for quite a while, and I’d forgotten how steep and fun it is in there.
As we neared the end of the day we’d whittled down the group to just Wiley, Ty, Dylan, and I, and we finished things off back at Spruce Peak with some runs off the Sensation Quad. Green Acres yielded what was definitely the most consistently great snow of the day, with deep bottomless powder that had us stunned with the fact that it was still untouched after the whole weekend.
“You could just lay those edges over and dig in, and there was nothing there but packed powder.”
Temperatures were great today, running in the range of probably 25 to 32 F, so comfort wasn’t at all an issue there. What was an issue though was the low clouds that were thick on the upper half of the mountain, making visibility really tough in open areas. There was also some light mixed precipitation in the afternoon that compounded visibility issues by leaving droplets on people’s googles and causing fogging. We had to ski with goggles up at times because the visibility was so tough, but fortunately temperatures were warm enough to make that feasible. The snow surfaces stayed nice at just about all elevations though, since the mixed precipitation we were picking up was fairly light.
Base depths are great right now, with five feet of snowpack at the Mt. Mansfield Stake, so as long as we can keep refresher storms coming we should be in great shape heading into the rest of February.
Snow from our incoming winter storm began in the area this morning, and maintained a steady light intensity through our arrival at Stowe a bit before noontime. After the family had some lunch at the Great Room Grill, everyone gathered up for the afternoon’s sessions. With the past couple of week’s program sessions having rather stale snow, there was a bit of a buzz in the air with the incoming storm, even if new snow accumulations were still on the minimal side at that point.
Molly was continuing with her snowboarding, so Ty snowboarded as well, while Dylan and I went with Telemark skis. E feels that Molly is progressing really well with her turns, and just needs time on snow, so that’s exactly what we gave her. We did several runs off the Meadows Chair, which provided Molly with great terrain for her boarding, and it was an excellent area for Dylan’s Telemark practice as well. I drilled him using a technique that he actually invented, which involves skiing all turns in both directions in the same Telemark stance. In this case I made him work on his weaker stance, which is left foot in the back.
We had a good hot chocolate break back in the Great Room Grill before finishing off with a couple of bigger runs off of Sunny Spruce. The snow continued to fall lightly, but ended up adding a couple inches to freshen up surfaces before we left. We only took the occasional quick jaunt into the off piste, but it skied quite nicely with about 6 inches of powder, even down near the base elevations. The snow’s been chugging right along this evening at a slightly invigorated pace, so tomorrow should be another excellent day for turns.