Similar to last weekend, Saturday seemed like the better weather day for skiing this weekend, so today I headed to Stowe for some turns on the spring snow. I visited the Gondola terrain last time, so for this outing I decided to get in some skiing on Spruce Peak while the south-facing terrain is still offering some reasonable descents.
Starting from the MMSC parking lot, I had to hike for roughly 5 to 10 minutes before I was able to start skinning, and then I eventually made my way over to Main Street for the rest of the ascent. Main Street coverage is nearly continuous over most of its course except for the very bottom down near the base of the Sensation Quad, and up in the flats near the top. So, I topped out a bit shy of 3,000’ on the ascent vs. continuing on to the summit station of the Sensation Quad. I was definitely happy to stop where I did though, because southerly winds were absolutely howling ahead of the approaching storm. Main Street faces directly south with lots of exposure, so winds were sustained up in the 30 to 40 MPH range near the 3,000’ mark. I actually pulled into the forest to remove my skins and gear up for the descent, and that gave me a break from the constant buffeting of the strong winds and helped avoid the likely frustration of things flapping around and flying away.
Main Street offered up lots of those steep, buttery spring snow carves that is typically does, and I didn’t spot any major areas of undermined snow that were of any concern. I was able to get down into the flats above the base of the Sensation Quad with just a couple short stretches of breaks in the snowpack. Although not quite 100% continuous from the Sensation Quad summit because of the break in the upper flats, the area still offers up quite a good yield of skiable vertical for the investment of the ascent. Taking in the views across to Mansfield gave me a nice look at the ski options throughout the resort, and there are still numerous ascent and descent routes for great touring. The snow on Nosedive looks a little more burnt out than I would have expected, but the melt out is different every year, which is part of what makes it interesting. North Slope and the surrounding trails in that area seem to have some great coverage, so there should be some good options around there for quite a while.
Near the end of my tour, rain shafts started to show up among the mountains to the south, and I was able to watch the peaks disappearing as the incoming storm moved into the area. The first spits of rain started to hit just as I arrived at my car, so the timing of the storm was right on with what the forecast had indicated. This past week has been seasonably cool, and it looks like that has helped to slow down the spring melt. With the forecast looking relatively cool for the next week or so, that should help to preserve the snow and ski options as we head into May.
While Friday turned out to be a bit too cool and breezy to really soften up the slopes around here, and yesterday didn’t seem much better, today saw more warmth and sunshine as the forecast had suggested. Mother Nature really wasn’t messing around, with temperatures moving up into the 60s F, a cloudless sky, and the disappearance of those persistent winds.
There was no question about whether or not the snow was going to soften up today, so I decided to head to Stowe for some afternoon turns. I hadn’t been to the general Stowe area in a while, but the usual views of Mansfield started to appear as I headed through Waterbury Center, and the alpine terrain was certainly lit up in the May sunshine.
I’d hoped that the south-facing terrain of Spruce Peak still had enough coverage to provide some nice uninterrupted turns, and indeed as I approached the resort I could see that the Main Street area and surrounding trails still had nearly continuous snow down the base of the Sensation Quad.
With the route I took on the lower part of the mountain, I ended up hiking about 1/3 of the ascent, and then skinning the final 2/3. I was initially questioning my decision to bring skins as I navigated the lower slopes, but once I hit the point where I started skinning, it was definitely the right choice in terms of efficiency; the upper slopes of Main Street have so much snow that it would take more effort to find dry areas for easier hiking.
In terms of the skiing, it was far superior to what I had experienced on Friday. The warmth and sun took care of getting the spring snow into something that was definitely worthy of turns. It wasn’t perfect, because there were still some sticky areas from recent snows on terrain that hadn’t seen the sun and/or skier traffic, but those were generally avoidable by skiing the sunnier sides of the trails.
With such a gorgeous day, I was surprised that I didn’t see a single other skier out there during my entire tour on Spruce. I did see two other cars when I first arrived at the MMSC Clubhouse parking lot, but they were just hikers. I saw them finishing up their hikes while I was ascending, and the entire parking lot was empty when I got back to my car. Everyone must have been skiing over at Mansfield!
I haven’t been following the state of the snowpack at Stowe too closely over the past couple of weeks, but Powderfreak’s recent post on American Weather forum definitely provided a nice look at some of the snow on the slopes of Spruce Peak. I probably wouldn’t have even had Spruce Peak in the mix of top spots to head for turns if I hadn’t seen how much snow was still there, but it was obvious from the post that there was plenty.
Today I had time to get out for exercise, so I chose to enjoy a hike and ski in the Main Street area. The snowpack is certainly not continuous top-to-bottom of course, but there’s several hundred vertical feet worth of nice turns with deep base as Powderfreak’s image showed. The snowpack there is starting to get a bit sun cupped, but it’s nothing that really hurts the experience yet at this point, unless perhaps you were to stray the extreme edges where the snow has taken a bigger hit and there’s been no skier traffic.
Even if natural snowpack on Mansfield is still below average for this time of year, I have to think the coverage there on south-facing Spruce had got be at least typical for this far into May. From the view across the resort, I could see that the usual spots like Nosedive and some of those areas around the Mountain Triple still have some decent coverage, so it would be fun to mix it up with something over there next. That Main Street snow has some very deep areas, but it’s just getting a bit too broken up into segments that one eventually has to make the call to go with something with a bit more continuity for efficiency and longer flow of turns on the descent.
It is always fun this time of year getting to see which parts of the resort are holding the snow best for those late season turns. It’s different each season depending on the combination of where Mother Nature deposited snow and where the guns were blowing when temperatures were optimal as has been noted in some of Powderfreak’s comments in ski-related discussions at American Weather.