The Northern Vermont ski areas picked up 1.5 to 2 feet of snow from the winter storm that hit the area at the end of the week, and we’ve been doing our best to make good use of it with some Bolton Valley night skiing on Thursday, followed by another outing there on Saturday, and a solo outing for me at Timberline yesterday. It’s been cold the past couple of days though, with a reading of -15.3 F at the house this morning for the coldest of the season thus far, but the forecast for today called for a good rebound in temperatures and we planned to get in some skiing at Stowe. We didn’t start too early due to those sub zero temperatures, but by late morning the early morning lows were already well on the rise. Knowing the forecast for great temperatures in the afternoon, we were probably like many folks; we didn’t start until late morning and focused on the second half of the day.
Ty had stayed at Kenny’s house overnight as planned, so E, Dylan and I decided to get in some runs before picking him up around midday. It was tough finding a parking spot on the Spruce Peak side of the resort in the later morning period today, probably due in part to so many people thinking like us and going with a later morning start, so I dropped E and Dylan off at the lodge and they started skiing while I took care of the car. After some searching, I eventually got lucky with a great spot right outside the Stowe Mountain Lodge. E was working with Dylan on his Telemark skiing on Easy Street, and once I met up with them it was time for E to head to Morrisville to get Ty, but I made sure to keep Dylan’s Telemark groove going. We worked in some runs off Easy Street as well as the Inspiration trail off the Adventure Triple, and I shot some video with E’s camera. As designed, the pitch of Inspiration is really consistent and good for learning, so Dylan had some nice turns there.
Once lunch time approached, Dylan and I headed in and ordered up lunch at the Great Room Grill. I tried the fish tacos for the first time and they were excellent; I suspect I’ll get them again at some point. When E returned with Ty, he got into his ski clothes, she had a quick bite to eat, Dylan switched to alpine gear, and we got ready to head back out for more turns. We also picked up Luke, since he’d been skiing with his mom during the morning, but she had to head off to take care of some work.
We headed over to Mt. Mansfield for some runs off the gondola, and right from the gondola summit, I was excited to see that the very top of Waterfall was open – with plenty of coverage and great packed powder. I’m not sure if it’s just my timing, but that area never seems to be open, so that says something about the coverage and snow quality that have been attained due to the recent storm. We worked our way down to Perry Merrill, and after poking around a bit, we got sucked into the Hazelton Zone because the coverage and powder looked so good that it was just too hard to resist. There was more than a hint of trepidation in Luke’s voice as we dove into the trees – he’s not nearly as comfortable as Ty and Dylan with being led off into the great unknown by me. He’s survived trips with me before though, so he knows that he can do it, even if we’re well outside his comfort zone.
“He came down carrying good
speed, but crashed in an
intense blizzard of white,
and when the smoke cleared,
we could only see the
bottom part of him.”
We began dropping into one of the many Hazelton gullies, and got some OK turns in the powder, but didn’t want to fully commit to the base of the gully since coverage was still a bit marginal in spots for really exploring with reckless abandon. Therefore, we kept ourselves on the slope marking the skier’s left of the gully with a healthy dose of traversing. I was leading and breaking trail, making it easier for the kids to work their way through the deep snow, but navigating the combination of steep terrain, trees, and bottomless powder was still challenging for some. At one point, E found a nice route, and suggested that Luke follow her. He might have had to back up or navigate a bit of a steeper slope, but E heard him emit some sort of exclamation, and when she asked if he was OK, he replied with and exasperated “Nooo!” Fortunately he was OK, just stuck in the powder and generally discombobulated. E asked Dylan to check on Luke, but before he could even do that, Luke had managed to regain his footing and was back on track. I think he’s learning more about dealing with powder all the time.
Not long after that, we found a nice steep pitch of powder in the streambed that we decided to ski. Ty agreed to be the guinea pig, and check out the slope for the other boys. He came down carrying good speed, but crashed in an intense blizzard of white, and when the smoke cleared, we could only see the bottom part of him. The front half of his body was obscured under the powder, and he wasn’t moving. Initially he didn’t respond to our inquiries about his status, but after a few moments he responded from beneath the snow with “Am I in heaven?” We pulled him out and he was fine, but not surprisingly, the other boys weren’t overly enthusiastic about dropping into the line themselves. We resumed our traversing along the skier’s left of the gully, and eventually made out way back out to Perry Merrill, and I’m sure Luke couldn’t have been more relieved. We saw some other riders having fun in some lines on the other side of that gully, and there are definitely lines opening up in there, but a couple more storms are going to be needed to really get all the lines flowing in there for the boys.
“After experiencing the
mountain first hand
today, I’m not surprised
that Stowe was able
to open 100% of their
terrain as of Saturday.”
We made another run off the gondola, taking it easy on the boys and not venturing off piste to any great degree, and then we worked our way over to the Fourrunner Quad. In general, there were amazing on piste conditions on the hill – I’m usually less than impressed with the conditions on the snowmaking trails at Stowe because of how that manmade snow turns to ice with skier traffic, but conditions on many of the trails were head and shoulders above what I’ve seen on them in quite a while. For whatever reason, perhaps the good combination of dense snow/mix followed by fluff, there was a layer of natural snow that really had staying power to mask the manmade stuff underneath – runs like Centerline and Hayride come to mind (I think they’ve both got snowmaking). The steepest pitches still got down to that slick stuff, but wow, last week’s storm was a great one for producing some packed powder conditions. Coverage was quite impressive as well – at one point E said she couldn’t believe that we were in the midst of a low snowfall season. After experiencing the mountain first hand today, I’m not surprised that Stowe was able to open 100% of their terrain as of Saturday. Temperatures ended up topping out around 20 F at the base elevations, which wasn’t overly warm, but certainly fine for mid January, and there were no temperature issues for any of the boys. Also, Luke survived another day with us on the slopes. When we dropped him off in town with his dad, Luke seemed like he was pretty exhausted, but I think he was satisfied with his day.