Stowe, VT 27APR2012

An image of ski tracks in late April powder on the Sunrise trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Catching some turns today in the virgin powder on the Sunrise trail at Stowe Mountain Resort

For this latest spring storm, the temperature dropped below freezing on the Mt. Mansfield ridgeline in the wee hours this morning, and presumably any precipitation changed to snow around that point as well.  I found close to a half inch of liquid in my rain gauge at my 6:00 A.M. CoCoRaHS report, and even if part of that was snow up in the higher elevations, it was going to mean some decent accumulation.  There were definitely some winter-like temperatures moving into the higher elevations though, and that even translated down into the valleys to keep the lower elevations in the 30s F all day.  It was pouring rain at the house when I left around 7:00 A.M., and snow was even reaching down into the lowest valleys at times.

I checked on the Bolton Valley Web Cam a couple of times during the day today, and knowing that it was snowing the whole time in the mountains, I headed off to Stowe in the afternoon to do a tour and ski some of the new powder.  Temperatures remained in that upper 30s F through the Winooski Valley and into Waterbury Center; and although it wasn’t accumulating, it snowed continuously in the mountain valleys.  It was right around 1,000’ near the Matterhorn that I first started seeing accumulations of snow on the ground, and by the time I’d reached the base of Mt. Mansfield at around 1,500’, the temperature was near freezing and the snow was accumulating easily.  I found an inch or two of new snow outside the Mansfield Base Lodge, and even down at that elevation it was quite dry.

I put on my gear and skinned up in the North Slope area, knowing that it had a decent base of snow thanks to Powderfreak’s snow reports from the past few days.  Light snowfall continued during my ascent, but the wind wasn’t bad, and temperatures just a few degrees below freezing were pleasant.  I followed the vestiges of a skin track that while presumably fairly recent, wasn’t very deep, and indeed the new snow and at least some wind erased it in many spots.  There was visible grass poking through the snow in the lowest elevations below Crossover, and even a bit above that level, but at around 2,000’ atop the bottom steep pitch of North Slope, the coverage got more consistent and things really started to look appealing.  The snow depth didn’t really increase all that rapidly with elevation; there were probably 3 to 4 inches in the middle elevations, and some areas were scoured a bit, but some areas were also a bit deeper.

I continued my skin on up on Lord and Lower Ridgeview, and the snow had reached a depth of about 5 inches at 3,500’ where I stopped my ascent just a bit below the top of the Fourrunner Quad on Lord Loop.  It was a little tough to get an accurate measurement of the snow depth due to drifting, but I’ll go with 5 inches as my best guess for up near the top of the quad.  I did find areas where accumulations were as deep as 7 inches, but those seemed to be spots where snow had collected efficiently with help from the wind.  As of 5:20 P.M., the depth of snow at the Mt. Mansfield Stake had gone up by 4 inches, so that certainly seems to be in the range of what I found up in the higher elevations.  I saw a couple of small groups of skiers and riders during my ascent, but there really weren’t too many people out on that North Slope route.

I descended generally in the region of my ascent, since I’d seen the state of the base coverage there, although I did make a side excursion onto Sunrise because I was presented with a huge expanse of unbroken snow that looked like it had decent base.  I touched down on firm stuff a couple of times, but it was definitely worth it.  I was unsure of the coverage lower down on that route, but I was able to make my way back toward the main North Slope route by using what I think was part of Toll Road.  Anyway, the snow was nice medium-weight powder, and although this storm hasn’t delivered as much as that last one a couple weeks ago, the powder is of much higher quality.  It’s not totally bottomless powder skiing everywhere, but in many areas it is, and with the nice base snow below, it makes for some smooth and effortless turns.  In the last few hundred vertical feet of the descent below Crossover, there are certainly areas where there’s no base, but the snow is deep enough and of enough substance that the turns are smooth all the way to the top of the stairs above the Mansfield Base Lodge.  You certainly want to be careful to watch out for rocks, but one doesn’t really need rock skis unless they really want to venture well off the beaten path into areas that don’t have any sort of base.

An image of spring powder turns on the Sunrise trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
There were a few obstacles to navigate around today, but the rewards were some really sweet powder turns on the slopes of Mt. Mansfield.

Back at the car, I spoke with another guy who had skied in the Nosedive area, and he said it was fabulous in the upper elevations, and OK toward the bottom, but I’m not sure if there is quite as much base in the lower elevations there based on what I’ve seen from afar.  Temperatures were dropping when I left the resort around 6:30 P.M. or so, and I saw accumulating snow all the way down to The Gables Inn on the Mountain Road, which is around 750’.  I met E and the boys for dinner at Frida’s, and when we were done, snow was accumulating right in the center of Stowe at around 700’ as the temperatures continued to drop.  It snowed on and off all the way back to our house in Waterbury (495’), and I found a couple of tenths of an inch of accumulation on the snowboard as of 8:00 P.M.  It’s continued to snow all evening, it’s still been light, but there’s another tenth of an inch or two on the board now.  It’s going to be quite cold the next few nights, and not really that warm during the day, so the new snow should be around for some good skiing during that time.

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