Stowe, VT 27OCT2013

An image of Erica skiing in powder on the Perry Merrill trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after some October snow
Back out for more October powder today

Dylan and E didn’t get to head out to the slopes yesterday, but after what Ty and I experienced, it seemed like it was worth heading back to Stowe for more.  We were hoping that the quality of the snow would hold up, but rising temperatures were a concern – by late morning at our house, lengthy periods of sunshine had already pushed the temperature into the upper 40s F.  If Stowe was encountering similar conditions, the freezing line, and the availability of reasonably dry snow, was going to rise way up in elevation.

“…E was really putting  
out some great turns on  
her Teles. I was wishing
I could make Telemark
turns like hers today!”

Fortunately, Old Man Winter was still playing around just to the north.  The sun that we were encountering in Waterbury quickly faded behind clouds and increasing precipitation as we headed north through Waterbury Center, and by the time we were passing through Moscow, the temperature had dropped to 40 F and we were under moderate rainfall.  Warmer temperatures overnight had definitely melted out some of the lower elevation snows; whereas yesterday we found the first signs of snow around 900’, today they were up around 1,300’ near the Toll House slopes.  Snow had melted back a bit at the Midway Lot as well, and we had to walk a couple hundred feet up toward Perry Merrill before we could put on our skins.  Temperatures were still quite cool there at 1,600’, in fact, at 37 F it was a degree cooler than what Ty and I had encountered when we’d arrived yesterday.  The precipitation had also changed over to light snow.

In order to let both boys go with their alpine skis as Ty had done yesterday, we gave them the Alpine Trekkers, and E and I used Telemark skis.  We followed the same ascent route along Perry Merrill and Gondolier that Ty and I took yesterday.  Once we got up around 2,500’, there was an excellent skin track along the climbers left of Gondolier, and it helped us make some good time.  Dylan seemed to enjoy his ascent, getting his first chance to try out the Trekkers, and his first chance to try out his new Measurement Ski Pole.  He was keeping up a great pace, and even as I was following along behind Ty at what seemed like a decent ascent speed, I was often surprised to look back and see Dylan right there nipping at my heels.

Although snow had definitely melted back somewhat in the lowest elevations, once we got up to around 2,000’, the snow depths actually seemed like they’d gained about an inch over what we’d found yesterday.  We decided to stop our ascent at ~3,200’ on Perry Merrill based on what we saw for conditions above that and Dylan’s energy level, but we were well up into the dry snow by that point.  Here are the typical snow depths that we found in the ascent, this time with three of us teaming up to contribute to the numbers:

1,600’: 0-2”
2,000’: 4-7”
2,500’: 7-9”
3,000’: 9-11”
3,200’: 11”+

As we took a break high on the mountain and got ready for the descent, we experienced notably different weather conditions than what Ty and I had dealt with yesterday.  Gone was the pounding snowfall, we just had some clouds, and there were plenty of pockets of sunshine around.  It was still below freezing up at that level however, so everyone made sure to quickly put on their extra layers before they chilled down after the hike.  E got a call from Claire, who’d suspected that it was our car she’d seen at the base, and a conditions report was passed along.

An image of Ty skiing powder on the Perry Merrill trail at Stowe in October
Back in the powder again

Once again, Perry Merrill looked good for the descent, so we took the route that Ty and I had used yesterday, especially since we had some good knowledge of the conditions.  Ty really liked the conditions high up on the hill, while I think things were a step down from yesterday.  The snow sort of transitioned from somewhat wind-affect, upside-down powder, to thicker, spring-like snow.  I think that one less day of settling/weather affects, and the fresh snow that was falling, really helped to enhance things yesterday.  We definitely got some good turns though, and there were plenty of fresh lines left to ski.  I definitely had a more challenging descent that yesterday, switching from fat alpine skis to skinny Telemark skis, but E was really putting out some great turns on her Teles.  I was wishing I could make Telemark turns like hers today!  In later discussion, she was thinking that it might be all the extra support she’s getting from her new boots, and if that’s the case, they are definitely doing their job.

An image of ski tracks in powder on the Perry Merrill trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont after an October snowstorm
The powder seemed a bit more settled and dense today, but Mansfield was still offering up great turns.

An image of Ty finishing an October ski descent  on Mt. Mansfield in Vermont by hiking to the bottomWe decided to stop our ski descent at the 2,000’ mark, because the snow was just getting a little too thin for E and the boys to be continuing on their non-rock skis.  It was a quick walk down back to the car into what was becoming a beautiful afternoon, and it was nothing like the maelstrom of wet snow that Ty and I had to deal with yesterday.  Everyone felt like they’d gotten in a good workout, so a trip to The Whip was in order to finish off the evening.  This October weekend has really marked a great start to the ski season, and we’re hoping there are more like it to come.

Stowe, VT 26OCT2013

An image of Ty skiing early October powder on the Perry Merrill trail at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Taking advantage of the October powder today at Stowe

Well, we definitely got to witness Mt. Mansfield flexing the snowfall muscles today – despite the fact that we know this mountain’s ability to reel in snow, it just never gets old.  Stowe delivers.  I’d certainly been contemplating some turns, but after catching Powderfreak’s comment this morning about how it was dumping at the ski area, and then checking the web cams myself to see snow falling hard and fast at the base, that sealed the deal.  Ty has been chomping at the bit for some skiing, so he joined me and we headed out in the early afternoon.  Temperatures were in the low 40s F in the valleys, and the precipitation was generally light rain.  The Worcester Range was visible to the east, white with new snow, but off to the west, a white haze hung over the spine of the Greens and we could see that it was definitely still snowing up there.  The precipitation remained rain as we headed up the Mountain Road, but at ~900’ elevation near Northern Lights Lodge, we started to see leftover snow accumulations along the sides of the road.  The snow on the ground continued to build, and by the time we pulled into Stowe’s Midway Lot at ~1,600’, we found 2-4” of snow on the ground up on the grassy slopes above.  The temperature had only dropped to 38 F, but the precipitation had changed fully over to a light snow comprised of small flakes.

“…despite the fact that
we know this mountain’s
ability to reel in snow,
it just never gets old.”

We changed things up in terms of equipment today, and instead of Tele, we went with alpine gear using Alpine Trekkers for the ascent. I haven’t had the Trekkers out in a while, but it was time to bring them back into service; I’ve finally moved my old Volkl CMH Explosiv fat skis to rock ski status, and I was eager to try them out on one of these early days.  My only Tele rock skis are my old skinny Rossignol Hellgates, and with a waist of just 70 mm, they’re really not a great tool for these early season powder days.  Combining Tele + skinny + variable early season powder is certainly a recipe for challenge.  Another reason to go with the Trekkers today was that Ty’s boots and bindings are now large enough to easily accommodate Trekkers.  He’s not at the stage yet with his Tele skiing that he’s ripping up early season, potentially inconsistent powder with aplomb, so going alpine on the tour would be much more enjoyable for him.  We decided to go with his carving skis instead of his powder skis for the setup, and fortunately we were able to get a good fit out of his skins from his Telemark skis.

An image of snow-covered bulldozer between the Perry Merrill and Gondolier Ski Trails at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont during an October stormAs usual, the Trekkers were great on the ascent.  Although going with alpine skis and Trekkers is notably heavier than Tele, it’s typically not a big deal unless you’ve got huge tours to do.  My biggest issue was with my skins – I’m not sure if the old skins for my CMH Explosivs have lost their water repellency, but whatever the case, today’s conditions had them catching and carrying a bunch of snow at times.  I’d have Ty clean the underside of the skins off for me when we stopped, but we could never quite keep them from re-accumulating a coating of snow.  Fortunately, Ty’s skins had no issues in that regard.  The snow on the ground was quite wet at the base, but it dried out substantially as our elevation increased.  We ascended via a bit of Perry Merrill, and then Gondolier to the Cliff House, and we observed the following snow depths with respect to elevation:

1,600’: 2-4”
2,000’: 4-6”
2,500’: 6-8”
3,000’: 8-10”
3,600’: 10-12”+

Aside from Ty’s first chance to try out Alpine Trekkers another new addition on this outing was his own Measurement Ski Pole.  I put together measurement poles for both Ty and Dylan this fall, and it was great having Ty reporting depths along the ascent – with two observers we were able to collectively decide on the best approximations of depths to create the list shown above.  It also kept Ty very interested in going higher, even if just to see how much deeper the snow was going to get.  Although Dylan didn’t go out to the slopes today because he was off with E doing some shopping, based on Ty’s experience I think he’s going to have a lot of fun with the measurements on our next outing.

An image of Ty in 19 inches of October snow up near the Cliff House at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
A shot from up near the Cliff House

It was around 4:30 P.M. when we hit the top of the Gondola at ~3,600’, and the snow was coming down with some good intensity.  It wasn’t quite inch an hour snowfall since the flakes were still fairly small, but it felt like it was somewhere between ½ and 1 inch/hr and it was quite impressive.  We took shelter under the Cliff House to gear up for the descent because of the intensity of the snowfall, but there was almost no wind, so it was nice to hang out and watch the flakes pour down.  With the late hour, thick clouds, and hefty snowfall, it had that dusky feel of December in the north.  Ty and I discussed how it just as easily could have been December with all the snow.  Another great milestone for Ty was the fact that this was his first full ascent to the Gondola, and it was nice to see that he still had plenty left in the tank at the top.  We put a call in to Mom to let here know that we’d be descending soon, but also to let her know about Ty’s accomplishment.

An image of Ty throwing a handful of October powder into the air at the Cliff House at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont
Extolling October Snow

We fueled up with some food and drink, but didn’t loiter too long because we knew the light was going, and we had to get in some shopping for dinner on the way home.  Soon, we headed off down Perry Merrill, and one of the more challenging aspects wasn’t the snow, but the intense snowfall and reduced visibility.  I’d been sort of soured on my CMH Explosivs the last time I’d used them, because they felt heavy and long and I just didn’t want to push them around, but today I’d say there was a newfound love for them.  For whatever reason, perhaps because we were out on open trails instead of tight places, they felt great today – fat and stable, and just what one needs for the inconsistent early-season snow.  Ty had to work hard on his skinnier skis to handle the powder, but we worked on technique on the way down and he made some great turns.  I told him that if he could ski the powder on these skis, he’ll be cranking away when he’s on his powder skis.

An image of Ty skiing away in an October snowstorm at Stowe Mountain Resort in VermontThat more intense snowfall was with us on the entire descent, and the freezing line had gone down as well.  Back at the car, heavy wet snow was falling, and the temperature was down to 35 F, three degrees below where it had been when we’d arrived.  It was the sort of precipitation that soaked you very quickly once you were out of your Gore-Tex, and we both got pretty wet putting away the gear and switching out of clothing.  The precipitation eventually changed back to rain as we dropped into the valleys on the drive home, but it was raining quite hard at times.  There had already been some additional snow accumulations down to lower elevations by the time we were leaving, and the snow in some of the lower elevations actually looked better than it had on the way up due to some new covering.  Overall the quality of the skiing was quite good, especially up high, and it could be even better tomorrow with more snow falling tonight.

An image of heavy, wet snow falling near the Midway area at Stowe Mountain Resort in Vermont during an October storm
Temperatures at the Midway area had dropped three degrees while we were out on our ski tour, and a driving, wet snow greeted us back at the car.

Kicking off the snow season in Vermont

An image of Mt. Mansfield in Vermont hidden behind the first snowfall of the season in October
Our first “white wall” of the season

We’ve had a pleasant, mild, and relatively dry fall season so far in Vermont, and the only frozen precipitation of note was some ice back in September. That all changed this week however, as more seasonable temperatures moved in along with some moisture. Whereas the cooler weather can produce beautiful landscapes, it does make getting out an about a little more dangerous. You can’t plan for accidents but they can and do happen, especially in adverse weather conditions. Knowing first aid is one way to put your mind at ease. Why not consider a Brampton Cpr Training course, or one closer to home, where you can learn the basics of first aid? You might even save a life one day. Back to the weather for now though and the first reports of snow started to appear on Tuesday, with Jay Peak revealing some white accumulations, and by yesterday evening, Powderfreak sent in a picture of snow falling down to the 1,500’ base elevation of Stowe Mountain Resort. The snow levels really dropped overnight though, with reports coming in this morning of snow accumulations in some of the valleys. From there it was off to the races with updates as the world woke up, with more reports and pictures of snow in the local valleys and at the ski resorts. Around midday I saw snowfall descend on Mt. Mansfield, and there were some heavy bouts of snow captured on the web cams at Stowe Mountain Resort. Eyewall got a beautiful shot of the snow falling up at Bolton Valley, and Powderfreak posted nice images of the snow in Smuggler’s Notch and the base of the Stowe Gondola. Jay Peak even put together an artistic video of the falling snow, and it really gave you that feel of the season’s first event. As of this evening, the report from the Mt. Mansfield stake was indicating 3 inches of snow depth, but with the way it’s continued to snow this evening, there will likely be more out there by tomorrow. The forecast looks decent for additional snow this weekend as a clipper system moves through, and snow could continue even into next week. Killington opened with lift served skiing today, and if the forecasts are on track, I suspect we’re quickly going to see people out there on other mountains with sliding tools on their feet.

For an extended follow up on our October snows, head to the full report on the snow that affected the valleys on October 26th.