I had enough extra time today, so I headed back out to Stowe for a hike and some more turns. Based on what I’d seen on Spruce on my last outing, as well as the views across to Mansfield at that point, I decided it was time to check out something by the Mountain Triple. There’s some easy access snow right down to the base over there, and that fit the time I had.
As I walked along past the Triple, I surveyed the snow situation and headed toward Lower Standard, which seemed to have the best coverage. That area makes for a pleasant stroll because it’s generally quite grassy with modest pitches. Somebody had built the shape of a heart out of rocks on the ground near the ropes course, so that was kind of a nice accent to the area. The snow on Lower Standard is definitely more broken up than what it was a week earlier, and there are a couple of gaps near the bottom that are really best walked vs. trying to skip across on your skis.
That afternoon we had thunderstorms in the area, and as usual, there were some great views surrounding the resort and toward the Notch as the peaks worked their magic and forced the clouds around. While I was hiking I started to hear thunder to the east and northeast, off past Spruce Peak and over toward Madonna and Sterling. Eventually I started to see some tendrils of virga over there, and the thunder was becoming more expansive. I was just getting up toward the Crossover elevation, which was about where I was going to stop anyway because the snow petered out there, but the timing seemed good with the thunder building. I started seeing the first visible flashes from lightning just as I was getting back to the car, and the first drops of rain began to fall, so that timing really did work out well. I would have stayed around for some lightning photography over toward the Notch, but none if was producing visible bolts, it all seemed to be well up in the clouds or too distant.
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.
While in many areas around the state, the leaves have mostly fallen and it’s looking like stick season, there are still a lot of beautiful scenes with fall foliage. We were up in Newport today for a soccer game, and the views of foliage along Lake Memphremagog were beautiful.
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.