After our big autumn storm that brought substantial wind and power outages to Vermont (including our house), cold air came into the area today and brought one last snowfall for the month on Halloween. Powderfreak is out of town, but his colleagues at Stowe kept him apprised of what was going on at the mountain with pictures of the fresh snow.
As is typical for this type of weather setup with a flow from the Great Lakes, the areas around the mountains often get the most vigorous precipitation, which can lower snow levels down to the valleys. I wasn’t home during the day to see if anything frozen fell at our house, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we got something.
It’s interesting to note that if we hadn’t picked up any frozen today that would have been the first time in the 12 years we’ve been at this location that we didn’t get any frozen precipitation in October. So that streak continues for now, but it’s still 12 days later than the mean, and of course it’s the latest “first frozen precipitation” we’ve seen here. I guess with as warm as this October was, it’s nice to even get anything frozen, and at least the snowfall season is officially underway here.
Now it’s on to November, with more substantial chances for snow growing by the day.
It hasn’t been an especially cool fall thus far in Vermont, and in fact we had some rather warm days with temperatures up to 90 degrees F for the Champlain Valley last month. It’s hard to think of potential snow with temperatures like that! Due to the heat, we actually delayed our September apple picking trip to Boyer’s Orchard with the Bennetts and the Burseys for one week to wait for a more autumnal feel. The temperatures and generally fair weather have certainly made for some fantastic outdoor activities, but the warmth may have altered the timeline for the development of the fall foliage color. In any event, by the beginning of last week I could already see that we were past peak color in the Winooski Valley. Bare trees were numerous throughout the hillsides, leaving at least small gaps in the colorful views.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The forecast for this morning was sunny, and mountain highs were predicted to be in the 40s and 50s F, so the whole family headed off to Stowe for a few runs before lunch. Lift operations at thre resort are down to just the Fourrunner Quad and the Mountain Triple Chair, but with roughly 90 inches of snow still at the stake, base depths are in good shape and almost all the terrain on Mansfield is available.
We’ve certainly had some good cycling of the snow over the past few days with night freezes and daytime thaws, so the surfaces were generally corn, but there were still some sticky surfaces out there in some spots. We got some steep turns on Nosedive, hit the bumps of Centerline, and even jumped into some of the terrain parks. We got to watch one crew of what must have been a couple dozen guys running the parks together and performing lots of tricks.
As usual for this time of year, folks were out in force with their spring tail-gaiting setups in the Mansfield Parking Lot, and the smells of various food being barbequed was definitely enticing when we headed back to the car. For our lunch we headed to Doc Ponds on the way home to use a gift certificate we had, and the food was great. Most of their offerings are done with some sort of unique flair. I really enjoyed my falafel, which was incredibly filling and I’d recommend it if you’re a falafel fan.
Initial reports from Spruce Peak as we began our ski program in the afternoon suggested that indeed the snow was getting quite sticky in the sun, so we took our group over to Mt. Mansfield to get to higher elevations and find north-facing terrain that would see the best protection from the warming temperatures. From our experience on trails like Nosedive and even Cliff Trail, we found that snow quality was quite nice on roughly the top half of the mountain, but the bottom half was certainly sticky enough to be a nuisance. It was one of those days where you wish Stowe had some upper mountain lifts.
With the sticky snow, the group was happy to take an extended break for some s’mores and a visit to the Great Room Grill before we went out for a few more runs on Spruce Peak to close out the day. A highlight of those last runs was hitting the ruts of the race course on Competition Hill. They had been well traveled, so the snow was plenty fast and lots of fun. Ty and I raced for the gold on our final run, and I won, but it was because he let me choose the track and I opted for the faster one on the left. While that’s it for official ski program days this season, there’s still lots of snow left in the mountains, so we’ll see what the rest of April brings us for skiing.
A number of students were unable to attend ski program today, so there were some small groups, and any of them that were interested in a trip down the Bruce joined up with us. From the top of the Fourrunner Quad, those that wanted to ascend joined me for a trip up Old Nosedive, which I find is a nice way to get in a bit of hiking and extra turns before diving into the Bruce. The condition of the snow was really excellent today – all the way from around 4,000’ to down at roughly 1,000’ at the bottom of the tour. It was quite wintry up top, but even in the lowest elevations the snow was dense enough to hold up well for fresh turns, just like Dylan and I had experienced yesterday at Bolton Valley. There was still ample untracked powder available off the sides of the Bruce, and as usual once we were down into the open hardwood areas there were lots of great lines to explore in the trees.
“The condition of the snow was really excellent today – all the way from around 4,000’ to down at roughly 1,000’ at the bottom of the tour.”
This morning, Dylan said that we should go with Telemark skis for today’s session if our focus was going to be the Bruce Trail, and while I’d planned to go alpine, I agreed and ended up going Tele. It was totally the right choice, especially since the coverage and snow conditions were so optimal. I was happy because I felt really dialed in and my transitions felt incredibly quick, and Dylan was also really psyched because he skied so well today. He says that he always wants to run the Bruce on Telemark gear now. Of course he got to experience it on a great day. I’d put today in the top 25% of conditions for the Bruce – there was so much soft snow and powder around, and even those most difficult to cover, south-facing shots were virtually blemish free.
We capped off the run with a trip to the Notchbrook General Store for snacks, and a ride on the Mountain Road Shuttle back to the Spruce Peak Village. Greg said that the last time he skied the Bruce Trail was about 35 years ago, so it was really neat that he got the chance to do it again after such a long hiatus. We had time for a few more runs on Spruce once we got back, and found that the quality of the snow was still really nice. This was just the way a March ski day should be!
With the snowpack depth at the Mt. Mansfield Stake back around the 100-inch mark, it was finally time to bring my BJAMS ski group up into the Mansfield alpine for our weekly Sunday session. My initial plan was a run down Profanity Chute with a return toward Chin Clip, followed by a trip to the Outer Planets. Nolan wasn’t going to be with me since he was still in the process of returning from Montreal, but fortunately Rick was going to join us and that gave me a second adult. With Rick’s added knowledge of the area, I felt comfortable enough to kick things up a notch and bring the boys to the Hell Brook Trail for the bottom part of the run.
The weather forecast was also a big part of opting for the alpine today – highs up around 4,000’ were expected to be in the 20s F and wind was supposed to be minimal. The Climbing Gully was in great shape, with lots of snow and one of the best boot ladders I’ve seen. The March sun had done some work on slopes with southern aspects, but up high the effects seemed to be pretty minimal – the packed snow in Profanity Chute was quite wintry, and there was some nice powder still available in the open area on the right side of the chute. I wish I’d had the camera out for when Rick skied that because the powdery turns looked fantastic.
We cut left following the normal Profanity route, and then traversed below the east face of The Chin containing the Hourglass Chute and connected to the Hell Brook Trail. The north-facing aspects in the Hell Brook area held some fantastic snow, but surface conditions deteriorated the more southerly the aspect. At times we had to ski some of those more southerly-oriented aspects, so that made for some very challenging turns on either crusty snow or powder with a sun crust on it. But the boys all did quite well on what is a very challenging run that simply goes on, and on, and on. By the time we traversed back to Gondola and headed over to Spruce Camp we’d covered over 5.5 miles and 2,900’ of vertical.
Although there are roughly 100 inches of snow at the Mt. Mansfield Stake right now, I don’t think coverage on Profanity was quite where it was on our last visit with the kids a couple of seasons ago. With Winter Storm Stella we really just made back the snow that had settled or melted during the previous couple of weeks, so the snowpack doesn’t seem to have quite the coverage of a 100-inch pack that grew throughout the full season. In any event, there’s a lot of snow up in the high elevations and things look good for the slopes heading into spring.
“As one would expect, the skiing was simply fantastic – surface powder depths we found were typically 18 to 24 inches, with sheltered spots hitting 30 inches.”
Some of the biggest nor’easters are actually picked up fairly early on the weather models. These very large storms are associated with an alignment of such prominent weather features that they produce a signal that the models can really key in on. That was the case with Winter Storm Stella. The buildup was impressive on the weather boards and in the national media, and although it didn’t deliver massive amounts of snow to the big coastal cities in the Northeastern U.S., areas farther inland (such as Northern Vermont and Upstate New York) made out like gangbusters. Reports were coming in of over 40 inches of snow in Upstate New York, and the Vermont resorts.
Unfortunately Dylan was a bit under the weather today with a cold, and while he was bummed to miss out on some great powder, he probably made the right decision to stay home and rest up with the way he felt. Although he could stay home alone, E felt that if she was home with him he’d do a much better job of taking care of himself. So, Ty and I headed off alone to Stowe for some turns this morning.
“We’re talking white vest-wearing, powder cascading over the shoulders deep.”
It was still snowing steadily at the house when we left, but the roads weren’t bad because the plows were out working hard. In terms of snow accumulations and snowfall rates around the area, they tapered off somewhat as we headed from the house to Waterbury and Waterbury Center, and surprisingly, snowfall rates dropped to just flurries along the Stowe/Waterbury line. That was the nadir in terms of snowfall intensity, and then it gradually ramped back up as we headed through Stowe Village and up to the mountain.
We decided to focus on the Gondola terrain today, so we parked in the Midway area, and got suited up in the Midway Lodge. There were very few people in the lodge at that point, which was probably a good sign with respect to crowds. At the Gondi, the lift queue was a few minutes long, but that’s really not bad for such a storm day.
As one would expect, the skiing was simply fantastic – surface powder depths we found were typically 18 to 24 inches, with sheltered spots hitting 30 inches. This storm gave the whole resort quite an impressive resurfacing. We started off with Waterfall, and then headed to Gondolier and eventually we found ourselves on Ravine. That’s where we started getting into the untracked powder, and boy was it deep. We’re talking white vest-wearing, powder cascading over the shoulders deep. It was actually pretty easy to get buried in the snow if you fell, so we were definitely watching out for each other.
We’d skipped breakfast to save time, with the intention of getting it at the Midway Lodge. So, we stopped in quickly for a couple of really good breakfast sandwiches, and then got right back into some additional Gondola runs. We actually spent a lot of time over by Perry Merrill skiing the powder along the sides of the trail and exploring new terrain along the edge of the Hazelton Zone. We found a lot of untracked shots, and I pulled out the camera for some of our favorites. On our last run Ty blasted me with a massive wall of powder and covered everything, my clothes, my camera, my open bag, all of it. He described what I looked like all covered in white with my mouth agape.
We stopped to grab some sandwiches for lunch on the way home at Edelweiss Mountain Deli, one of Ty’s favorite options. I could tell that it continued to snow at home because I’d check on our web cam while riding the Gondola, and watched it as the snow got so deep that all the camera could see was white. The settled snow on the deck is now deeper than the level of my web cam, but I pulled away some snow and adjusted the angle so the settled height of the snow is once again visible.
As of this evening, we’re approaching 40 inches of accumulation at the house, and earlier, Jay Peak was already reporting 72 inches of accumulation, so Winter Storm Stella has been quite the event around here.
This was really a good day not to ski, since our recent warm spell came to an end last night and tightened up all the snow on the slopes. Many families are actually out of town because of winter break, but our BJAMS ski program was still on, so we headed to Stowe in the afternoon. We weren’t in any rush based on the anticipated conditions, so the boys and I had a good lunch up at the Great Room Grill before our session began.
The only redeeming aspect of the conditions that we found today was the couple of inches of dense new snow that fell on the back side of Winter Storm Quid. Areas with the new snow were actually pretty nice as Powderfreak showed in his pictures from this morning. I actually found some areas with even deeper accumulations than just a couple of inches, and turns were actually quite good with the density of the snow, but we didn’t spend too much time hunting down those areas with the best conditions. We joined up with another group today and just did some runs off Sunny Spruce to at least see what the main runs had to offer.
With the general conditions the way there were, the guys in my group were pretty much done after about an hour or so, and we headed to the s’mores area for a while, then up to the Great Room to hang out. Dylan brought his playing cards, and we got in a good session with various games, and of course some card tricks thrown in by Norris. The guys definitely enjoyed the indoor session, so we’ll keep it in mind the next time conditions are somewhat lackluster on the slopes.