Stowe, VT 21JAN2018

An image of the ski trails of Mt. Mansfield behind the Stowe Mountain Lodge
An image of Dylan, Jay, and Ty on the Sunny Spruce Quad at Stowe Mountain Ski Resort in Vermont
The boys out at Stowe today for our first BJAMS ski day of the season

Our first BJAMS ski program day of the season at Stowe was scheduled for two Sundays ago, but we canceled it due to dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills.  That wasn’t an issue today though – with base elevation temperatures in the 30s F, it was quite comfortable out there.  On piste coverage and conditions were actually quite decent, whether it was the softened snow on the lower slopes of Spruce Peak, or the midwinter snow higher up on Mansfield.  Although natural base depths are fine, and there are definitely people skiing off piste, the snow is sort of thick and punchy out there, so the groomed runs are just a much friendlier place to be.

“Although natural base depths are fine, and there are definitely people skiing off piste, the snow is sort of thick and punchy out there, so the groomed runs are just a much friendlier place to be.”

An image of Dylans ski helmet with the Backcountry.com goat and the Turtle Fur turtleWe arrived at Spruce Peak early enough that I was able to take a couple of runs with Ty and Dylan off the Sunny Spruce Quad.  We found nicely softened snow with those temperatures in the 30s F, and it was really only those usual high-traffic areas out of the sun that we found to be slick.  We had a mixed group of snowboarders (Cole and Robbie) and skiers (Dylan and Wiley, with Norris also tagging along) today, but since we were on piste for the most part there weren’t any traversing issues for the snowboarders.  We did a couple of runs off Sunny Spruce, carving up the soft snow, and then headed over to Mansfield for some longer runs.  Being fairly old snow, and a Sunday afternoon, the best turns were definitely the sides of the trails where ample traffic had built up substantial loose, soft snow.  We did a few runs on Gondolier and Nosedive, and you could just go and go and go and rarely have to leave those edges with good snow if you didn’t want to.  I think one would have to grade the overall conditions as subpar because of the quality of the off piste snow, but on piste conditions are fairly typical for when we haven’t seen a substantial snowstorm in a while.  We had a nice break at the Octagon toward the end of the afternoon before heading back to Spruce Peak to catch up with everyone else.

A fundue sign at the Skinny Pancake at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont

For Ty’s first day as a chaperone/coach in the program today, he was helping E with some first-timers over on the lower parts of the Meadows area.  When I stopped in to check on them at the end of the day, he was just heading up the Inspiration Chair with a boy who had graduated from the Magic Carpet.  It was actually a great day to be out there with the first-timers, because he wasn’t really missing out on anything special on the steep or off piste terrain.  I think it will be a couple of weeks before we get back into some really good storms, so hopefully he’ll be able to put in some more time at our next session helping out the beginners again.

Stowe, VT 30MAR2014

An image of Erica skiing the Hayride trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Out at Stowe today in some of the dense snow brought by our recent storm

I was a little concerned about the potential ski conditions at Stowe today based on what I’d seen at Bolton Valley in the morning, and asked E if she was thinking of cancelling the BJAMS ski program in the afternoon.  But, she decided that the conditions looked reasonable enough to keep it scheduled and avoid having to do a make-up day next weekend.  It was definitely the right call, because by the time we got to the mountain, any precipitation had shut off, and it looked like the conditions on Spruce Peak were excellent.

“There were still areas
of untracked snow on
the sides of trails, and
it would just peel away
beautifully with each
turn, just like I’d
encountered at Bolton.”

At Bolton valley in the morning, the lower half to two thirds of the main mountain was the place be, with those smooth turns in the fresh shot of dense snow.  You generally wanted to be somewhere underneath the 2,500 – 2,800’ elevation range to get fresh tracks below the more substantial rain crust near the summits.  The Sunny Spruce Quad covers the lower half to 2/3 of Spruce Peak, which would be in the 1,500’ to 2,500’ elevation range, so it was likely a good option.  Indeed, any concerns about conditions on that terrain were removed when I took an initial run off the Sunny Spruce Quad with the boys.  There were still areas of untracked snow on the sides of trails, and it would just peel away beautifully with each turn, just like I’d encountered at Bolton.  The snow was so dense that it was easily bottomless and you weren’t touching down on any old surfaces.  I’d traded in my fat Tele skis for some skinnier alpine skis, and I was definitely wishing I had some cambered fats like the boys did for smearing turns in that snow.  We heard reports from others in our ski program who had ventured up higher to the top of the Sensation Quad at ~3,200’, and that turned out to be up into the crust elevations at that point, with ongoing freezing mist/rain that would coat your goggles.  In general though, the precipitation that we’d seen in the morning had tapered off, so it was just cloudy for much of the afternoon.  We joined up with E and Claire, who both had some free time to ski since there were so few participants at the program today, and we had a similarly great run off Sunny Spruce.  The snow might have been just a touch heavier on that second run.  It was either that, or I got that impression after not surfing quite as much untracked snow.

We didn’t stick around too long at Spruce because we were thinking of making a run down the Bruce Trail.  However, when we got to the entrance at the top of the Bruce, we saw that not a soul had skied it.  We could have had the entire trail to ourselves with first tracks, but between breaking trail through the high-elevation crust up top, and then potentially dealing with mushy, untracked snow down below, we didn’t think it was worth it.  We took a run down Hayride instead, which had excellent, soft snow.  Later, when we headed up to the top of the Gondola at ~3,600’, we could tell that the freezing level had definitely risen to bring those higher elevations more into play with respect to softening.  You still didn’t want to break fresh lines up there because of the substantial crust, but stuff the people had skied was in great shape by that point and the on piste runs were excellent from top to bottom.  We had great Perry Merrill and Gondolier runs; you could just carve so hard into the snow and it would hold and push right back.  In between we had a good break at the Midway Lodge, where everyone got to rest those legs that were pushing hard through the new snow.  I think that was our first stopover at Midway this season, and although E and Claire don’t get to head over there much with their usual ski groups, I let them know how quiet it typically was if they were looking for a peaceful place to give their students a ski break.  We got some snacks and hung out by the fire, and unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any of Mitzi’s granola to buy.  I mentioned it to Claire, and she pointed out a woman over by the ticket counter who was in fact Mitzi herself.  On our last ride in the Gondola around 3:30 P.M., we were noting some sleet coming down.  Normally that’s not a great sign relative to pure snow, but in this case it was a sign of some colder air somewhere up there in the higher elevations.

It was approaching 4:00 P.M. when we returned to Spruce Peak, but the boys managed to squeeze in one more run before the end of the day.  Despite this past storm not being 100% snow, the conditions came together in a great way nonetheless.  We may have some additional chances for snow coming in the next week or so, and we’ll have to see what kind of snow we’ll get out of them.  Whatever the case, the base is in great shape for a nice long continuation of the season as we head into April and May.