I haven’t been following the state of the snowpack at Stowe too closely over the past couple of weeks, but Powderfreak’s recent post on American Weather forum definitely provided a nice look at some of the snow on the slopes of Spruce Peak. I probably wouldn’t have even had Spruce Peak in the mix of top spots to head for turns if I hadn’t seen how much snow was still there, but it was obvious from the post that there was plenty.
Today I had time to get out for exercise, so I chose to enjoy a hike and ski in the Main Street area. The snowpack is certainly not continuous top-to-bottom of course, but there’s several hundred vertical feet worth of nice turns with deep base as Powderfreak’s image showed. The snowpack there is starting to get a bit sun cupped, but it’s nothing that really hurts the experience yet at this point, unless perhaps you were to stray the extreme edges where the snow has taken a bigger hit and there’s been no skier traffic.
Even if natural snowpack on Mansfield is still below average for this time of year, I have to think the coverage there on south-facing Spruce had got be at least typical for this far into May. From the view across the resort, I could see that the usual spots like Nosedive and some of those areas around the Mountain Triple still have some decent coverage, so it would be fun to mix it up with something over there next. That Main Street snow has some very deep areas, but it’s just getting a bit too broken up into segments that one eventually has to make the call to go with something with a bit more continuity for efficiency and longer flow of turns on the descent.
It is always fun this time of year getting to see which parts of the resort are holding the snow best for those late season turns. It’s different each season depending on the combination of where Mother Nature deposited snow and where the guns were blowing when temperatures were optimal as has been noted in some of Powderfreak’s comments in ski-related discussions at American Weather.
Today I headed to Stowe to go for a tour on Spruce Peak, and again the weather was simply sunny and fabulous. I hadn’t been to the resort in a while since we didn’t have our school’s ski program this season due to COVID-19, so I poked around the Spruce Peak Village for a bit first. There’s a huge new building going up where the ski patrol building was at the base of the Sunny Spruce Quad, so that’s another substantial addition to the village area. I’m not sure what’s going to be going in there, or if it’s more lodging? As usual, the crowd of folks earning turns was in the MMSC lot, and I found about a dozen cars or so there and ran into Shalagh, who was there skiing with some of her friends. You almost can’t help but run into someone you know on these days.
All I can say is that Main Street delivered what were unquestionably the best turns of the weekend, and probably the best corn snow I’ve skied the entire spring season so far. I’m not sure what it is about Main Street, but year after year after year, it just seems to deliver superior corn snow. Maybe it’s because it faces south and really starts its corn snow cycling early, or maybe it’s because they blow that massive amount of dense snow for the racers, or maybe it’s because it gets so much less traffic than the trails on Mansfield. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these factors, but it just delivered ridiculously smooth, perfect peel-away corn snow turns when I was there.
In terms of the ascent route, Main Street is really the best option with respect to continuous coverage for skinning, but those steep pitches are rough. Despite the tough ascent, my legs felt great making Telemark turns on the way down. Everything just seemed to flow, and I’m sure a lot of it was the quality of the snow. The snowpack there seems quite deep, and it’s definitely worth more trips while that snow is around.
Today at Stowe I was with a group that I’ve yet to ski with this season at any of our BJAMS ski sessions; I was with Shane’s group, which included Jack, Colby and Ez in attendance. Ty is typically with this group, and was indeed supposed to be with us today, but he forgot his ski boots and the house and thus ended up spending time around the Spruce Peak Village for the afternoon. He did get to do a bunch of exploring though, which included a lots of Pokémon Go and a good analysis of all the village’s good and bad Wi-Fi spots among the various available networks. He happily relayed that to the rest of us, so I’ve got a much better sense of spots to check when I really need a reliable signal.
Temperatures were expected to be in the 30s F with lots of sun this afternoon, so I wasn’t worried about getting soft snow on the lower half of Spruce Peak, but I was unsure about its upper elevations, or what the snow would be like on Mansfield. It turns out that the snow softened all the way up to the top of Spruce, and I got to experience that quite frequently because the boys were ravenously lapping Whirlaway off the Sensation Quad. We’d probably done half a dozen runs there before we finally broke off after Shane called for a bathroom break at the base. I’m not sure if the boys would ever have moved away otherwise. Whirlaway, combined with Sterling lower down, offered pretty much everything they could have wanted though. There were bumps, groomers, some nice tree shots, and of course jumps. These guys love their jumps. Thankfully, the soft snow today was good for lots of jumps, and the ensuing crashes.
“It turns out that the snow softened all the way up to the top of Spruce…”
With their long session on Whirlaway, by the time we’d finished our bathroom/food break in the lodge, there was only enough time for a couple more runs. I suggested we check out the Gondola, since that terrain also should have softened in the sun. By that point in the afternoon only about the bottom half of the Gondola terrain was really soft, but the upper half wasn’t actually too bad. It was partially softened, but you’d still run into some firm areas, so the soft consistency wasn’t there up high the way it was lower down.
“Snow coverage was generally fine today, and even steep, south-facing terrain was still passable.”
On the instruction side of things, all three boys are at that intermediate stage where they can certainly ski parallel, but they revert to their wedge for steep and/or moguled terrain that challenges them to control their speed. Being a bit of an interloper in the group, I didn’t work with them specifically on anything about the skiing, but I did give then a quick instructional lecture during one of our Gondola rides on what they should be thinking about if they want to progress to that next level. They need to bring short radius turns into their repertoire to be able to be able to tackled those steeper slopes and terrain obstacles like bumps and trees without using a wedge. They’re at least aware of that now, so time on snow and even mixing in a bit of that short-turn flavor will help them progress.
Snow coverage was generally fine today, and even steep, south-facing terrain was still passable. But, openings are definitely starting to appear, and if this week is warm without much new snow, those types of south-facing shots are probably going to develop gaps that won’t be passable. There are some chances for snow this week, generally on the back side of modest systems, but there aren’t any large snow events in the forecast.
For today’s BJAMS session at Stowe, Dylan and I were joined by Viviana, as well as Jessica and Sienna who were back from vacation. Viviana has progressed to the point where Erica feels confident enough grouping her up with Sienna, and I’d say that was a good choice.
Before session started, Ty, Dylan, and I had the chance to take a run off the Sunny Spruce Quad to get a sampling of the snow. Winter Storm Odell has wound down now, but it left 40 inches of new snow at Stowe, and the effects were still very obvious. When the boys and I ventured off piste, we found that the powder skiing was simply amazing, and this was after a day or two of settling. As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better. It’s hard to say whether it was simply the extra 10 inches, or if the snow at Stowe happened to be just a bit lighter and drier, but the snow quality was indeed at that next level. We skied the powder along the edge of Slalom Hill, and I just couldn’t believe the quality of it. And, this was on south-facing terrain down near the 1,500’ base elevations of Spruce Peak. One can only imagine what the snow quality was like up at 3,000’ on Mansfield. Actually, one doesn’t have to imagine too much – Powderfreak’s over-the-head white-room photos from the mountain on Friday pretty much told the tale.
“As much as I’d found excellent conditions at Bolton on Friday, and especially Saturday after their 30 inches of snow from the storm, the quality of Stowe’s off piste snow was even better.”
We started out today’s session with a warm-up run off the Meadows Quad to make sure Sienna was up to speed after missing a number of ski program days due to illness, and her skiing was in great shape. She’s skiing notably faster than Viviana, although Sienna isn’t quite progressing toward parallel the way Viviana is.
The Toll Road experience turned out to be a great success. The route was well within everyone’s abilities, and it allowed them to ski a really long, continuous run on a scale that they’d never done before. The groomed snow quality was excellent, and the quality of the powder off to the sides of the trail was simply amazing. Dylan was constantly playing around in the powder off piste, and the overall snow conditions were forgiving enough that everyone started to join in. Jessica was raving about the experience, and that was great to hear. Not every storm cycle is going to bring 40 inches of snow to set things up like what they experienced today, but they’re all certainly ready for another run over there from the top of the Fourrunner Quad.
Although Jessica and Sienna had to leave early, we got in a few more Meadows Quad runs with Viviana, and she got to do more trips through the Easy Street Trees. She also began to venture into the various little chutes and tracks that are available off the sides of her usual Catwalk run, and navigating those was actually a good challenge with respect to controlling her speed.
There aren’t any huge storms in the forecast for the coming week, but we could have snow from some smaller systems toward the end of the week, so we’ll see how those set us up for next weekend.
Today at Stowe we had some absolutely fabulous weather and ski conditions for our students in the BJAMS ski program. Temperatures were in the 30s F with plenty of sunshine, and on the slopes of Spruce Peak where we spent our time, the snow had softened to just the right consistency to be perfect for confidence building, exploration, and advancement.
Dylan and I were with Viviana, so we started her off with a couple of runs off the Meadows Quad where she’d last been skiing. I was astonished to see that in many spots on the standard Easy Street run, she was already making parallel turns – these were just happening naturally without any mention of it from us, which is a great sign.
“Temperatures were in the 30s F with plenty of sunshine, and on the slopes of Spruce Peak where we spent our time, the snow had softened to just the right consistency to be perfect for confidence building, exploration, and advancement.”
Before program today we’d taken an early trip to the Sunny Spruce Quad to check on the West Run route. We’d confirmed that there was no ice and no moguls, and with the consistency of the snow I was confident that Viviana could make the progression to those trails. While on the lift we noted that this was Viviana’s fourth day on skis, and each day she’d progressed to a new lift. Viviana did great oh her Sunny Spruce runs, although the steepest pitches on West Run were definitely pushing her. She had to work hard to control her speed, but it was challenging her to just the right level. She even got to ski trees for the first time along Easy Street and really liked that experience.
After a break for some food at the Great Room Grill, E joined us for a run to see how Viviana was doing off the Sunny Spruce Quad. Even though Viviana’s brain didn’t know it, I could tell by her body language that she needed to be done for the day during the course of that run. She had a real hard time controlling her speed on the steep pitches, and she barely turned for the last part of Easy Street. Even though she wanted to keep going, I had to explain to her dad that she needed to be done, and he understood. Viviana made excellent progress with the fantastic snow conditions today, so the last thing we wanted to do was ruin it with one of those “last run” injuries.
After dropping off Viviana to her dad, we did join up with one of the other groups for a run off the Sunny Spruce Quad. Dylan and I had an amazing time skiing the ridge off to the left side of West Slope, catching nice air with each turn for a really fun end to the day.
We may have a substantial winter storm coming to the area from midweek into the weekend that could drop a foot or more of snow in the mountains, so we’ll be watching for that as the forecast develops.
Dylan and I were assigned a different group today for our BJAMS ski program session at Stowe. Erica was planning to work with Viviana, our student from last week, and we were going with Meredith and Bella. They’re farther along in their skiing and they’re working on transitioning from wedge to parallel. After spending time with them today I’d say they’re about 50% of the way there. They still need their wedge to control their speed on more challenging terrain, but on beginner/green terrain they can make parallel turns most of the time.
“Off piste areas typically held a foot of powder or more, and Dylan and I frequently played around in the trees for short stretches while we were working with the girls today.”
Our group spent time on the Adventure Triple Chair, Meadows Quad, and Sunny Spruce Quad today, and conditions were essentially perfect on beginner terrain. There are some slick areas on intermediate terrain depending on traffic levels. Off piste areas typically held a foot of powder or more, and Dylan and I frequently played around in the trees for short stretches while we were working with the girls today. It seems that we may have more powder on the way as well – the Mt. Mansfield forecast is suggesting an additional 4 to 8 inches of snow tonight into tomorrow.
Today we were out for another BJAMS ski program session at Stowe. I was back with my student Viviana, who was a first-time skier I worked with during our initial session of the season back on January 12th. For this outing, Dylan was assigned to work with me on instruction. We’ve found that when the availability of instructors is sufficient, adding a second person for the real “first-timer” students that can’t yet be placed in another group is very helpful. It allows us to have a person in front for following, and then the other instructor usually takes the rear or has direct interactions with the student to refine their skills. In terms of the overall instruction dynamic, I’ve also found that it’s nice for the student to have a younger (non-adult) instructor along that they can relate to a bit more and put them at ease.
We did a few runs on the Magic Carpet where Viviana had left off at our last session, then took a break at the Great Room Grill in the Spruce Camp Base Lodge for food and drink. Having no familiarity at all with skiing, Viviana was very intimidated by the chairlifts, so it took some convincing by us, and reassurance from Erica, but we got her to try the Adventure Triple Chair. She was more than ready to move on, in part thanks to the fantastic snow conditions – she was able to easily stop herself at will, and even make turns in her wedge in the soft snow.
There was definitely some trepidation riding the lift, but once Viviana saw how easy it was, she became more and more comfortable each run. The lift riding was really the biggest hurdle, because her skiing was excellent. There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn. The pitch is Inspiration is also so consistent that students don’t have to be concerned about any spots that are over their head.
“There’s no doubt that her comfort on the Inspiration Trail was in part due to the excellent packed powder she had to work with – there was never a time where she had to deal with ice or worry about her ability to stop and turn. ”
We did run after run after run, and we just kept it going until the end of the session to really let her reinforce the positive experience she was having. As long as the snow quality remains good, she’ll easily be able to move on to the Meadows Chair next. I’d say she should start out with some runs on Inspiration to reinforce today’s session, and then move on.
Based on what I heard from other groups around the mountain, the steepest trails offered decent conditions, but certainly not the same pristine packed powder we had in Inspiration. Ty mentioned some ice in steep terrain where he was working with his group today. We may have a storm coming later this week that could bring conditions up on even the steepest terrain, so we’ll be watching to see how that plays out.
We’ve had another storm system in the area this weekend. This one began fairly slowly with respect to snow production, but it’s starting to put down some dense accumulations of powder for a good freshening of the surfaces. The next round of snowfall was forecast to start later this afternoon, but it was already snowing at Stowe when we arrived before midday.
We had some time before the start of the BJAMS ski program today, so the family took a run on Sunny Spruce to check out the conditions. Even though there have only been a few inches of snow, we found that the slopes have seen a nice resurfacing because the snow is quite dense. The snow was a bit sticky below ~2,000’ however.
“We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers.”
A number of program participants were sick today, so Dylan, Ty, and I wound up being able to ski together for the session. We headed over to Mansfield and rode the Gondola to get some good elevation, hoping for some really nice snow up high on the mountain. After that first run on the Gondola I sent in an update to the New England Regional Forum at American Weather because the conditions at elevation were simply fantastic. It might have been only a few inches of new snow from this storm at that point, but we found that it was on top of a LOT of great snow below it. With no recent thaws, the snow off piste is actually quite deep where it hasn’t been touched by other skiers. We generally found 18 inches of powder up high before we’d encounter any crusty layers. Even if the 40” or so at the Mt. Mansfield Stake is below average, that still a lot of snow – we could routinely stick our poles into the snowpack right up to the handle. We typically stayed out of steep off piste areas below -2,500’ because they need just a bit more base to really be in prime form, but above that the skiing was fantastic indeed.
Some of our best turns were up high in the Kitchen Wall area, but surfaces were excellent all the way down to ~2,000’. That was the line where you hit some of that Pacific Northwest-style wet pack on the groomed surfaces. I’ve experienced it most intensely at Whistler Blackcomb with their relatively low base elevation, but it was kind of fun today using that snow at the end of runs to work with the boys and discuss ski technique for how to manage those turns.
It continued to snow all afternoon, and the forecast suggests it’s going to keep going right through tomorrow before tapering off on Tuesday. The conditions will likely be amazing tomorrow with the continued snowfall.
Today we were at Stowe for our first BJAMS ski program day of the season. In terms of weather, this was one of those days where we probably wouldn’t have ventured out to the slopes if it weren’t for the program. We’ve been in the midst of Winter Storm Isaiah over the past couple of days, and it’s been a warm storm that has switched last week’s wintry conditions over to spring conditions. That actually wouldn’t be a deterrent for skiing, but the anticipated strong winds and temperatures dropping into the 20s F through the afternoon were concerning.
We were at the mountain early enough that I took a couple of runs with E and the boys, and we found conditions to be spring-like and decent. We had a touch of rain, which quickly changed over to snow in the higher elevations and made its way down to the base.
“It looks like the mountain picked up about an inch of snow from that back side precipitation of the storm, and we’ve got a potentially good week of additional snow coming. ”
During my instruction session today I was working with a student named Viviana, an absolute first-time, never-ever skier. We worked on the magic carpet all afternoon, with one break in the middle where we got to hang out with E and the boys, their ski groups, and a number of other people from the program while we had some good food at the Great Room Grill. Viviana spent her ski time figuring out how to pressure her wedge to slow herself down and make turns, and she had progressed quite a bit by the end of the day in having the strength to stop herself. That actually says a lot, because the soft conditions we had at midday gradually changed to very hard conditions by the end of the afternoon. The cold air moved in, the groomed surfaces became much slicker, and the ungroomed surfaces became a frozen moonscape.
Strong winds put the Over Easy Gondola on hold at the end of the day, so we had to take one of the shuttles back to our car at Mansfield, and the wait for the shuttle felt like forever because of the frigid winds. It was only about five minutes of course, but many of us had dressed for the gondola vs. being out in the open. We found our car was encased in quite a layer of refrozen material from the wet snow that had fallen, so it took a bit of time to warm it up and melt that off.
This weekend we took advantage of the great off-season rates and stayed slope side at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, which I learned has now been renamed “The Lodge at Spruce Peak”. My sister and her family were in the area and staying at the Lodge for a couple of days, so this gave us a chance to catch up with them as well stay right by the slopes for some easy access to skiing on Mt. Mansfield.
We arrived at the Lodge yesterday afternoon, dropped off the car, and then got settled into our room while we caught up with my sister’s family. This time we tried out one of the one bedroom suites, similar to what we’ve had in the past at places like the Tram Haus Lodge. It’s definitely nice to have a bit more space and the multiple rooms, especially now that the boys are older (and bigger). The additional space was also convenient for when my sister’s family came over to visit. During the evening we generally relaxed, the kids headed to the pool/hot tub area for a bit, and we all had a great dinner at the Hourglass Lounge. There was snowfall all the way down to the base elevations in the evening, and as we had dinner we’d occasionally see windy whiteouts from all the blowing snow. It looked quite wintry, but temperatures were fairly marginal at the base elevations, so there was really only a trace of accumulation visible by morning.
I was the only one planning to ski today, so after we checked out of our room and had breakfast at Solstice, E and the boys dropped me off at the Midway Lodge. There were probably two to three dozen cars in the Midway parking lots, and people were heading out from there for ski tours along various routes. Chin Clip Runout looked pretty quiet, and it, along with Switchback is one of my favorite ascent routes, so I headed that way and started skinning.
On my ascent, I observed that additional snow accumulations seemed rather minimal below about 2,500’ – there was a windswept inch or two that was really scattered around atop the old base, and much of that was probably there from Saturday’s snow. The new snow had collected in pockets here and there, but I didn’t really see any substantial consistency until I started getting into the upper half of the terrain. Around the 3,000’ mark I started getting some solid 6 to 7 inch depths of reasonably dense, dry snow along the climber’s right of Perry Merrill. I saw some folks continue their ascents up above the Gondola into the alpine via Cliff Trail Gully, but I was a bit leery of what coverage would be like with the new snow over previous melting among the rocks. If the new snow depths continued to increase above the 3,600’ range then it could have been quite nice up there.
“The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas.”
Being underwhelmed by the accumulations I’d seen on my ascent of the main Gondi terrain, I headed toward Cliff Trail for my descent. The deepest accumulations I found were up around 3,500’ along the skier’s right of Perry Merrill, where 7 to 9 inches was pretty typical in undisturbed areas. That was really nice, and while the depth gradually decreased as I headed down Cliff Trail, the skiing there was quite good throughout. There were a few tracks on the trail, but only a handful of skiers had been down at that point. I’d say that the junction with Nosedive at around 2,700’ was right about where the best snow petered out. The elevation was part of it, but the change to Nosedive with its more open nature and higher levels of skier traffic made for a very obvious break in the availability of the new snow. That would have been an excellent spot to stop a descent if one was looking to lap the best snow up high.
We’ve got some fairly cool days coming over the next week, so the new snow should stick around for a while up high, although the quality may deteriorate somewhat from the typical spring temperature cycling.